Monday, October 15, 2018

Influence and the Constitution

Today is a very exciting day for me. I took a break from any significant amount of fiction writing the last few months, but I have been doing some editing. I am pleased to announce that book one of a series that already has three books written is available for purchase on Amazon!

Influence is a tale set nearly 300 years from now, in a future I don't think is too far off-base from what we might potentially be heading towards.

Marshall Strickland is the self-declared Majaristo of Springland, otherwise known as the remains of the United States after the Third World War.

Lydia Butler is the star of the show. She will take you through her journey from the Academy where she spent her entire life to meeting Majaristo Strickland and what follows.

Influence: Book One of the Marshall Law Series will keep your interest from start to finish.


For other countries, go to your local Amazon website and search 'Alison Insco' and look for Influence. And hey, feel free to check out my other books while you're there!

In the next day or two, the book should also be available on Kobo, iBooks, Nook, and through a variety of other retailers.

Also in the next day or two, some supplementary material relevant to the story will be available for purchase - specifically the Constitution of Springland. It's not a necessary purchase to enjoy or understand the series; it's just something I enjoyed putting together, and thought people might want to check out.

Have a great week, everybody!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Freak

With an influx of people on social media deciding lately that it's OK to comment negatively on someone's looks, this poem I wrote almost exactly 19 years ago came to mind, particularly the last half dozen or so lines.

Freak 
We are the wayward people
the loners
the different
the strange
We roam around in packs or singles
individuals
among clones
Where we're from is seldom answered
Who we are is unanswerable
You cannot truly know us
before being us
Each is different from the norm
and the others
Each is unique in some little way
We all retain our sense of self
flying one day
lazing the next.
If you encounter us,
remember the words:
"Judge not lest ye be judged,"
Judging of any kind is not accepted
by the judged
and condemned
and abused
Beware:
We can fight back.
© 10/09/99 Alison Insco

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

WORDS

I stumbled across a poem I wrote almost 18 years ago, when I was pregnant with my oldest son, and wanted to share it with my readers.

WORDS
I keep strange bedfellows.
Words are my lovers.
Words embrace me,
and yet they push me away.
They are my terror,
and they are my passion.
Weeping, crying,
softly wetting the sheets with
the salt of my soul…
I want to be a vampire…
I want to be a child…
I want to be everything,
and yet I am nothing.
The music plays in the harmony of the words.
They have a rhythm,
a cadence,
a tone,
a way of running away with themselves,
never letting you catch up to them until it’s too late,
and they’ve been spoken
shouted
screamed
cried
said
whispered
So many ways to say the simple things,
yet no way at all.
What is it that dreams are made of?
Words.
Thoughts are images,
images are bred from words.
Words nullify me.
I want to own the words
I want to use the words
I want the words to lay with me,
caress me,
be me…
It’s late…
I sleep poorly alone,
but there is nobody here.
Everyone who has ever lain with me has succumbed
to the words.
The evil
vile
nasty
perfect
words.
One word
holds such perfect beauty
within its letters
and yet I see ugliness
disease
decay
rot
everything I detest
is held all at once
within a word
a name
a sound
a song
a poem
a story
a blurb
What is the difference
between now and forever?
What is the meaning
of love gone sour?
Can hate and love exist in the same place?
Aberration of nature,
describable only by words.
Something doesn’t cut it.
Something won’t give.
I can’t tell you what it is.
I can’t explain it to you.
Words betray me
and my tongue.
I’m left incapable of communication
without words.
And I can’t write a poem without words,
so instead I write a poem about words,
and wish words didn’t exist…

Coyright © 02/26/01

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Universe?

Tell me if I'm losing it
But I think that the universe was written for the two of us
I'm not that young, but I'm new to this
Burying my problems at Vesuvius
Ain’t nothing that could ruin us
In a time where everyone's quitting
Oh they're huddled together, hurting and never committing
We are growing intertwined molecularly
We are trying for forever, no end or beginning
I don't wanna breathe or eat unless you are with me
I could be your sea breeze, weather permitting
I know I'm the worst sometimes

Worst Girl by Amy Shark


The Universe was waiting for us to meet. Everything up to this point in each of our lives was carefully orchestrated by whatever it is that takes care of these things, from birth through childhood, awkward teen years, kids and marriages, separation and divorce, until that night.

And then everything shifted.

I never expected to meet anyone. I mean, I hoped I would, but my expectations were quite low as to anything coming of any of the conversations I would have that night. I logged into POF, of all places, and swiped left and right and up and waited for people to message me. 95% of the messages I received started with, "Hey sexy," which was, curiously enough, not a turn on.

Then I got the most polite, charming, and sincere-sounding first message I've ever received in all of my years using online dating sites. I wish I had taken a screenshot. It made my night, and I made sure to let him know. We messaged back and forth for a while, and then we both went to sleep, him promising to message me the next day.

And he did, first thing in the morning. We exchanged phone numbers later that day, and not a day has gone by without a text (or kiss) good morning since. I can't imagine my life without him in it now that he's here.

I'm not used to this whole 'love' thing. I'm not used to wanting to be with someone so much that it hurts. I'm not used to any of this. I don't remember any of my previous relationships feeling like this.

I've written stories about soulmates in the past, but I was never sure if I actually believed in them. The longer I'm with him, the more I'm convinced we are soulmates, or made from the same stardust, or are connected somehow, or maybe all three...

All I know for sure is that I adore him, am madly in love with him, in fact, and don't want to find out what life would be like without him now that I know what it's like with him.

And I ask you 'cause I wanna to know
Not because I'm psycho
Just because I care a lot
And I touch you the way I do
'Cause I'm falling in love with you
And I don't do this every day

Psycho by Amy Shark

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Notebook Theory

There are a lot of different ways to describe what it's like to live with a chronic illness, and the spoon theory is one that's gone around the internet quite a bit. I find it doesn't quite work for me, however, so I've come up with my own theory.

Being a writer, my first instinct was to refer to notebooks.

So, imagine that each day, you are given a small notebook. It has 24 pages in it. Each page has 60 lines on it. You get one line per minute of the day. Your job with the notebook is to detail how you spent each and every minute of that day.

Your notebook quality varies from day to day. Some days, it's a gorgeous leather-bound journal, well-made to the point of near indestructibility. Other days, it's a simple spiral notebook that may or may not have missing pages. And on yet other days, it's a cheap glue-bound notepad from the dollar store that has pages that fall out at the slightest touch.

How do you detail what happened on those missing pages?

Let's go back a moment. How, I'm sure you're asking, does detailing every minute of your day have anything to do with living with a chronic illness?

I'm glad you asked.

The quality of the notebook is what determines the quality of your day. The better the quality of your notebook, the less your illness(es) will impact your day. There is a major caveat, however. The more you take advantage of the better quality notebooks, the more likely you are to receive one that is falling apart the next day.

So, back to the question - How do you detail what happened on those missing pages?

The short answer is: To the best of your ability. Some people gather up the missing pages and tuck them into the notebook haphazardly. Translated to real life, this would be a chaotic and hectic but not terrible day. Basically an average day with a chronic illness, if none of the pages actually go missing.

Sometimes you can't find all of the pages, or some have become unusable. The best option is as above - gather what you can and tuck it into the notebook. The real life counterpart would be a bad day with regard to the chronic illness.

When you are given a notebook that is incomplete to begin with, and pages go missing due to the poor quality of said notebook, these are the days that the chronic illness is at its most debilitating. Chances of getting these are higher when you've already gotten one, or when you've recently received a really nice notebook.

What kind of notebook are you using today?

FEAR

FEAR.

What is it?

FEAR is the mind’s first effort against risk. It's the subconscious' way of asking the physical self to pause and reevaluate because the first evaluation appears risky. It is filled with frustration, ego, anxiety, resentment, and so much more.

Fear isn't a bad thing in and of itself. The important thing is that we need to remember that it can affect us more than we realize. We don't realize it, but our former expectations affect rationale when it comes to decision making. We also need to remember that first experiences aren’t representative of future opportunities. There is room for change and growth nearly everywhere in life. There is functional, evolutionary action required in order to initiate that change, however.

Some people don't care. Some people are content to forfeit their RIGHT to change and grow, and in the current political climate, forfeiture endangers American rights. As a Canadian citizen watching the American system butting heads constantly, I can't help but shake my own head. The fear is overtaking both sides. I know there are a LOT of people out there who are fighting to have the blue wave cover the US, but there have been a lot of cases of false events appearing real in the last 2-3 years, which can and will impact the midterms and going forward.

So. My question to my readers is this: Are you going to say, "Fuck Everything!" and run? Or are you going to face everything and rise?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Adversity

I find it fascinating how we all react so differently when presented to the same stressor, the same adversity. Take, for instance, the story of the potato, the egg, and the coffee bean.

Expose all three to the same adversity: 20 minutes of boiling water. What do you have when the time is up?

Touch the potato.

Peel the egg.

Smell the coffee.

The potato went in strong, hard and unrelenting, but after time in the boiling water, it became soft and weak. The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. While the water boiled, the inside of the egg became hard. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they didn't change. Instead, they changed the water and created something new and strong in its own right.

When adversity rings your doorbell, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?

Shit happens around us and to us. The only thing that really matters is how you react to it, which is ultimately your choice, and what you make of it afterwards. Learn from each experience. Overcome and adapt, and choose to make the best of them all. Be a coffee bean. Make something new and strong.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Vanishing

I wanted to share a ~5000 word piece that I wrote a few years ago as an exercise in using prompts and other story helpers to get me started. It's a kind of fun little piece, but there is a caveat: It ends abruptly. I never finished it. Please enjoy what is here, and PLEASE leave feedback!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Vanishing

Here we are, the last two people on earth, sitting at the table in the tired old Hungry Rail Diner that’s empty save for us, playing chess like we do every day. What else is there to do when there’s nobody but the tumbleweeds and each other to keep you company?

“Checkmate,” I said, moving my bishop in for the kill.

“Well-played,” Chuck said, seeming appropriately impressed. “You’re learning.”

I gave him a lopsided grin. “Thanks, I think.”

“It’s a compliment,” he assured me. “Are you done for the day?”

“Yes, I believe I am.”

He plucked each frosted glass piece off the board and laid them lovingly in the velvet-lined wooden box that lay under the board. He replaced the board and patted the wood with his fat little hands. “Are you hungry? I’m hungry.”

I twisted my lips and took stock of my body. My stomach was starting to rumble as it had been several hours since we’d cooked up some eggs for breakfast. “Yeah, I’m hungry. What’s on the menu for lunch?”

Chuck winked one of his ice blue eyes at me and whipped his green hair out of his face as he struggled to stand. He grabbed his crutches and swiftly made his way on three legs to the kitchen. “We’ve got rice, beans, or peanut butter and honey sandwiches.”

“We may as well use up the bread before it goes bad.”

“Smart thinking.”

I slid out of the booth and followed my one-legged friend into the kitchen. He was leaning against the counter, his chin barely clearing the top, his rotund belly protruding into the open cupboard space beneath. “Let me help you, Chuck.”

“I’m fine.” He used his crutches, specially made back when the world still made sense, to push himself up onto a stepstool. “Up we go. Whoops. Careful, Chucky-boy, keep those crutches even.”

I shook my head. We’d been together for weeks, and I still hadn’t gotten used to Chuck talking to himself as he moved around. I watched him as he expertly threw together two sandwiches for me and three for himself. Once again, I shook my head. For a little person, he was a big boy. I was pretty sure his doctors had never approved of his weight when they’d been around.

“What are you shaking your head at, wench?”

I took my sandwiches and simply said, “Thank you, Chuck.”

“Thank you, indeed. That’ll be the best peanut butter and honey you’ve ever had, I’ll tell you that much.”

There was an acerbic edge to his voice, but despite that, I knew he was mostly content. Well, as content as he could be, given the circumstances.



Three months earlier, I had woken up one morning to discover that everyone around me was just… gone. I stuck close to the house for a month, hoping someone would turn up eventually, but then I ran out of food. I panicked. I was prone to anxiety to begin with, but come on – I’m only seventeen years old. Seventeen-year-old girls are not meant to be left to their own devices long-term.

There was no radio chatter, no television, nothing that could tell me what was going on. There was just me. I went through the classic stages of grief in short order, and dealt with fast and hard depression when reality really set in.

Six weeks after the vanishing, I ventured out of the house to find food. The first place I encountered was the old train car diner, painted brownish-orange inside and out, but the paint was faded and peeling, and there were rust spots on the outside. Still, I’d eaten there many times with my dad and sister on Sundays after church for brunch, and knew they had good food, so I stepped inside and hoped they used some sort of indestructible non-perishable food that I could pilfer for my own use.

Sitting at the first booth inside the door when I came into the diner, the very same booth we were now eating our sandwiches at, was Chuck Hatton. It was difficult to place his age thanks to his avocado green hair and plump round face. He had no wrinkles and with his hair such a unique colour, he had no obvious signs of being sixty-three years old. At first, though, I didn’t see him so much as hear him.

“What’s that, then? I heard a bell. I haven’t heard a bell in weeks. Am I losing my mind?”

“Hello?”

His head popped up suddenly over the back of the booth bench, and then he toppled over to the left, as he had neglected to support himself on his legless side.

“Are you okay?” I rushed to the table and saw him lying on his face on the bench, pushing himself back up.

“Fine, fine.” He pushed himself partway up and pulled his leg under him with his hands. “Who’re you?”

“I – I’m Gayle.” I had to think about the answer for a moment. It had been a while since I’d heard my name said aloud.

“Well, hello Gayle. Gayle what? I didn’t know there was anybody else. I’m Chuck Hatton.”

“Me either,” I admitted. “Hello, Chuck. It’s Gayle Warner.” He sat up all the way and looked at me for the first time. His face was instantly fear-stricken. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

He skittered backwards in the booth until he hit the wall. His hands scrambled to find purchase on the smooth vinyl. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” he mumbled to himself.

His reaction to me caught me off-guard, and sent me into a tizzy. I could feel my heart beating faster already, trying to pound its way out of my chest. “Chuck, what did I do wrong??”

“Face… your face…”

My hands fluttered to my face, and I ran my fingers over my features. My cheekbones, though padded more than I would like, were high and prominent. Did this offend his sensibilities? My nose was petite and didn’t slope too much or too little. My lips were on the thinner side, but I had no complaints about them, personally. Still, Chuck was cowering in the corner as if he was terrified of me, muttering, “Your face…” repeatedly.

“What’s wrong with my face? Have I cut it? Did I injure myself without knowing it?”

He shook his head vehemently. “No, no, no, no, no.”

His reaction had my anxiety levels sky-high. It was my turn to back away from him, which I did, until my backside was resting against a stool at the bar. Chuck seemed to calm down the farther away from him I got. “Your face,” he whispered. “Your face, your face, your face.”

I’d had such high hopes that I had met a new friend, someone with whom to while away the long, lonely hours. Instead, it seemed that I had only met up with a crazy little person who had taken great personal offense at my face. I perched myself up on the stool and turned away from the booth and from Chuck’s meltdown. I buried my offensive face in my hands, clenching them into fists and allowed the trembling of the anxiety to overtake me. I was gasping for breath when I felt a hand on my leg. I hadn’t heard Chuck’s crutches squeak across the floor through my panting.

“Don’t look at me,” he said. “Just keep your hands on your face and listen.”

I let his words sink in, nearly removing my hands from my face for a moment before I realized what he’d actually said. “Okay,” I said through my hands, my face and fists damp with tears.

“I must apologize,” he said, his hand still resting on my leg. “I suffer from Asymmetriphobia, and one glance at your face… well, have you ever been told that your face is incredibly asymmetrical?”

I blinked behind my balled-up fists. “No. Never.”

“It is. Your left eye is slightly lower than your right. Your left cheekbone is slightly higher than your right. Your upper right lip is slightly fuller than your upper left, and your lower left lip is slightly fuller than your lower right. Your hair is, obviously, not symmetrical, what with those bangs covering half your forehead. And your right ear is a tad higher and back farther than your left.”

I was amazed that he had managed to soak up that much detail about my face in the brief glance he had taken at me. “Um. What exactly is asymmetriphobia?”

“It’s the extreme fear of asymmetrical things. I’m afraid your face sent me into a full-blown panic attack.”

“I’m… sorry?”

He lifted his hand off my leg and I heard him take a few halting steps away with his squeaky crutches. Curious, I turned and looked at him. He had his back to me now. His already-pale skin was now absolutely pallid. I wondered if I was going to have to leave in order to afford this man some peace.

“Don’t be sorry,” he said over his shoulder. “It’s not your fault. You were born with that face as much as I was born to be four foot nine. As much as I was born with irrational fears.”

“I guess so.”

“I’ll have to get over it. After all, I can’t let a young woman such as yourself wander this big empty world all by herself, now, can I?”



And that was how Chuck and I had started our friendship six weeks ago. Now, I was sitting in the corner booth closest to the door with two peanut butter and honey sandwiches made by the man himself. We’d come to an understanding early on that Chuck would avoid looking at me whenever possible, and I would do what I could to avoid direct contact whenever possible. Our daily chess games were played with Chuck facing the window or the restaurant while I sat as far into the corner as I could get, trying to stay out of his peripheral vision. There was the odd time when Chuck would catch a direct glimpse of my face, and nearly every time, he would recoil in horror or something akin to abject terror, but then he would employ some breathing techniques and distraction tools and inevitably be okay.

We spent our days hanging out together every day, only separating to take care of delicate situations. I learned a lot about Chuck, but I learned even more about myself. Being half the known population left on Earth affords you a lot of time for self-reflection.

“Could you PLEASE close your damned mouth when you chew? For how prim and proper you act, you certainly lack common manners when it comes to eating!”

I was snapped out of a reverie by Chuck’s harsh tone. “I’m sorry?”

“You should be. Listening to you smack your gums every time you eat is getting really old. Did your parents really never teach you to chew with your mouth closed?”

“No, they didn’t. I don’t know what to say.”

“Just try. TRY. Try to chew with your mouth closed. It’s bad enough that I can’t even look at you without a panic attack, but please don’t make it so I can’t even be in the same room as you when you eat.”

“I’ll try.”

“And for pity’s sake, you don’t have to moan with pleasure every time you enjoy what you’re eating!”

I felt my cheeks burn, and was glad that Chuck wouldn’t look at me. I looked at the half sandwich I had remaining on my plate, and suddenly I had no appetite. I set the food down and slid out of the booth. I swung my backpack over my shoulder and paused for just a moment. “I’m going to go for a walk.”

Chuck snorted as I walked out the door, the high pitch of his voice making the huffy sound less derisive and more horse-like. I had to smile to myself at the image it brought to mind.

I stepped down out of the old rail car and strolled down the street, gazing out over the barren roads, silent and scary. I wandered until I came to the playground I used to play at with my friends as a young child. The swings swayed lazily in the slight breeze that was blowing through the park. I took a seat on one of them and dragged my toes in the sand beneath the seat. “Swing low, sweet chariot…” I sang glumly.

“Comin’ for to carry me home,” continued Chuck as he perched on the swing next to me.

“Swing low, sweet chariot,” we sang in unison, “comin’ for to carry me home.”

“Why did you follow me?”

“I didn’t. I knew you’d end up here, so I just came here. Your legs happen to be twice as long as mine, so you got here before me.”

I nodded. “I see,” I said when I remembered that he wouldn’t be looking at me.

“How tall are you, anyway?”

“Five eight.” I watched him for his reaction. He just stared straight ahead as he swung idly.

“You’re not likely to get any taller, you know.”

“I don’t really want to get any taller,” I retorted. “I tower over – I mean towered, past tense, over all my friends. I guess I still do,” I teased.

“Ha ha. Very funny.”

I stood up off the swing and walked over to the dome of triangles that was the jungle gym. I climbed to the top and laid backwards against the dome, stretching myself out as far as I could stand it. “I wish it was night.”

“So you could drag your telescope out?”

“Yes sir.”

“What’s so fascinating about the night sky?”

“There are hundreds of stars up there, waiting to be seen. The naked human eye can’t see most of the stars that exist out there, especially with all the light pollution that we used to have. Now…”

“Yeah, it’s not as big of an issue now that the lights are down.”

“But even still, some of them are so far away that even the biggest ones are too dim to see without the aid of a telescope. Plus I like to view the constellations.”

“Ah, I see.”

I slid down the jungle gym, careful not to scrape my back on the rusted metal. I climbed aboard a weird shaped metal animal that now only vaguely resembled a yellow duck, its paint long ago having chipped and faded away. I rocked back and forth with my feet on the ground, digging my toes into the sand.

“Do you ever think…”

“What?”

“Never mind, it’s stupid.”

Chuck hopped off the swing with the aid of a crutch and carefully made his way over to me on my sick-looking duck. “No such thing as a stupid question.”

I snorted. “I disagree.”

“Come on, ask your question. Nobody here but us chickens, and I’m not going to ‘bawk’ at it.”

I sighed. “Fine. I was just going to say, do you ever think that maybe they’re all up there, among the stars?”

Chuck gazed up into the blue sky, unblemished by clouds, and shook his head. “I really couldn’t tell you, Gayle. I just know I miss my Chiquita something fierce.”

I twisted so I was sideways on the forlorn duck. “Tell me about her.”

“About Chiquita? Well, she wasn’t what you’d expect. Her last name, for example, was B-R-E-A-U-X, which sounds French and is pronounced ‘Breeoh’, which doesn’t match with her Spanish-sounding first name, but get this: she’s Irish. Straight from the Emerald Isle when she was twenty-three.”

“That’s fascinating. What a mix. What else can you tell me about her?”

His eyes misted over as he thought about his beloved. “She was a wee bit shorter than me – oh, there I go, falling into her brogue even though she’s not here!” He cleared his throat and started again. “She was two inches shorter than me, and slim.” He got a faraway look on his face as he spoke. “Her hair was a deep auburn red, and it was all natural. She kept it cut short and well-trimmed. Her eyes… oh, they were the most beautiful shade of violet. Her face was a perfect oval. So amazingly symmetrical.”

“That must have been very soothing for you.”

He glanced at my feet. “That’s a very astute observation.”

“Thanks. So, tell me more about her? What was she like? Not just her looks, but her personality?”

He stared up at the empty sky again. “She loved to watch the clouds. She spent hours laying out on the grass, just watching the clouds. When everyone else was complaining about the clouds blocking their sun or raining on their parade, Chiquita would be there, face turned upward, eyes wide open, drinking them in like she would never see another one.” Chuck swiped a tear away from the corner of his eye. “All that cloud-watching made her very absent-minded, though, you see. She was so scatter-brained. I was forever reminding her about everything, from the minutest details to the big, important things.” His voice broke and he cleared his throat again. “She had a bad habit, though.”

“What was that?”

“She liked to gamble. Especially blackjack. She would go to the casino and play for hours.”

“Did she lose a lot of money?”

“Actually, no, she usually ended up being up by about a hundred dollars each time. She did know to quit while she was ahead most of the time. But it was a real time suck. When she wasn’t watching the clouds, or when it was a clear day like today, she was in the casino, watching the dealer flip those cards and desperately chasing those twenty-ones.”

“How old was she?”

“She had just turned fifty-eight when… everyone left. But you’d never know it to look at her. She dressed more like a woman in her thirties, and she wasn’t wrinkly or shriveled up like most women nearing sixty.” He paused and smiled as if he were remembering something particularly funny. “She always used to say, ‘If you were able to count up to infinity, I’ll bet you would never get over it.’”

I smiled politely. “I’m sorry, I don’t really get it.”

He laughed. “Neither did I, at first.”

“But you did eventually?”

“She explained it to me. You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that I can be a tad, shall we say, pretentious?”

“I hadn’t noticed,” I said drily.

“Well, I’m aware of this particular… flaw… of mine.” He waved his hands around as he talked, leaning heavily on his crutches, swaying back and forth in the sand. “What she meant was that I am so pompous at times that I would never be able to stop crowing over counting up to infinity, over doing something nobody else had ever done before.”

“I see.”

“Tell me.”

“Tell you what?”

“Who do you miss?”

My mind swam through the faces of everyone in my life, trying to pick just one out. I couldn’t settle on just a single person, so I said, “Everyone.”

“That’s a cop-out, Gayle. There’s gotta be one person who really stands out. Who did you spend most of your time with? Did you have a boyfriend?”

I lowered my head and smiled sadly. “Herb Luster.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere. Tell me about Herb Luster. Was he older than you? That sounds like an old guy name. I had friends named Herb.”

When I opened my mouth, my voice was quite a bit softer than I expected it to be. “He was named after his grandpa. He was my age. We were actually only two months apart. I was older.”

“So, you met in school?”

“Yeah, back in, like, second grade or something like that.”

“Long time. You’re supposed to be in twelfth now?”

“Yep.”

“Was he tall like you?”

“Taller. He was eleven inches taller than me, actually.”

“So like the difference between me and you?”

“Exactly like it. His hair was ginger blond, which was funny because it made his hair look dirty more than it made it look red.” I could feel my eyes crinkle up as I thought about Herb’s mop of hair. “He had long hair, which he kept pulled back in a ponytail or a braid most of the time. Much longer than my own hair is. His eyes were a rich, deep brown that were easy to get lost in. He had, now that I think of it, an unusually symmetrical face.”

“He sounds handsome. What kind of disposition did he have?”

“Quite a sunny one. Actually, he was fond of saying, ‘Smaller the man, bigger the anger.’” I watched Chuck carefully for a reaction.

“I take a certain amount of umbrage with that statement. But on the surface, he’s not wrong.”

“He simply meant that big guys like him were more apt to be… oh, jolly, for lack of a better word. He was a solid guy, too. Barrel-chested, I think they call it.”

“What kind of things did he like to do for fun?”

“Mostly he played on the internet and people-watched. He observed things and commentated on everything around him. It was a bit irritating at times, but not nearly as bad as him cracking his knuckles every five minutes.” I had to smile in spite of the displeasing memory. What I wouldn’t give to hear a good knuckle pop from Herb right now. “The funniest thing about him, though, was that he was terribly afraid of bald people. They creeped him out, he said. Never gave a really valid reason why. But he would shudder and shake every time he saw one, and would avoid interacting with bald people at all costs unless they had a scarf or something on. It made me laugh every time.”

“That’s interesting. I can’t fault him for an irrational fear. I’ve got more than one, you know.”

“Really?”

“’Fraid so.”

“You’ll have to tell me more someday.” I stood up and walked haphazardly through the soft sand, out of it and over to the picnic table on the grass. I laid down on my back on top of the table and rested my head on my hands. The old wood, smoothed by the elements and time, rubbed against the backs of my hands. I was acutely aware of everything touching my body suddenly. Every inch of the table that pressed against my clothing felt like a hot iron working its magic to get the wrinkles out and produce a smooth garment. I stared up into the air, at the deep azure sky unmarred by clouds, and I was floating, spinning, weightless and buoyant. I started to feel dizzy, so I closed my eyes and shuddered, turning my head to the side. I opened them, expecting to be drifting in the air near the tops of the park’s trees, but found myself staring straight into Chuck’s eyes.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked, looking at me very nervously.

“Nothing,” I muttered, and I pushed myself to a stand and started walking away from the little man.

I heard him rushing after me. “Don’t tell me ‘nothing’!” he commanded. “I know you well enough by now to know when something’s wrong.”

I stopped walking for just a moment. “I just don’t feel well. I got dizzy.” I started walking again.

I didn’t hear him follow me, so I walked back to my house. I had yet to tell or show Chuck where I lived. I believed that he had followed me at least once, and there was nothing I could do about that, but I felt safer being the only one who knew exactly which house I was in each night.

I locked the door behind me, as I did every time I entered the house, double-checking it three times. Ever since everyone had vanished, I had taken very few risks when it came to my personal safety, but even fewer when it came to the safety of my home.

I carried my backpack up to my bedroom and tossed it on my bed. I walked back down the hall to my parents’ bedroom and laid on their carefully-made bed. Every morning since as far back as I could remember, my parents had made their bed to picture-perfect quality every morning. I hadn’t cared about it much, and had frequently left my bed a mess as I was growing up, but now that I was on my own, a switch had flipped in my brain, and I felt the compulsion to make my bed every morning now.

I curled up on my side with my head on my mom’s pillow and my left hand under my dad’s pillow and my right hand atop the same. This was my nightly ritual for the past three months. I breathed in her scent, what was left of it. I imagined him smiling at me. I sobbed now and then, missing them with an ache so sharp and deep that I was sure it would impale my heart and kill me on the spot.

When I was spent, I rolled over and slipped into my sister’s room. Elia had been three years older than me, but still lived at home while she worked and went to school. Where my hair was cut into a pixie style and dyed silver, Elia’s was long, curly, and our natural sandy brown. She was my total opposite in almost every way, and she was my best friend. Where my room was always a cluttered mess, with nothing where it belonged, hers was neat and orderly at all times. She took after our parents in that regard. We always joked that I was left by the stork at the wrong house, or that our parents picked the wrong cabbage from the patch and just didn’t have the heart to take me back.

I had told Chuck that I missed Herb most of all, but in reality, it was my sister being gone that was tearing the biggest hole in my heart. She was many things – cryptic, paranoid, and a liar – but she was also sweet and would never hurt a fly, either with words or violence. Elia would tell a lie in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, without thinking about the consequences for her actions. She spoke as tactfully as she could at all times, even if it meant “bending the truth”, as she put it.

I turned away from my sister’s perfectly-arranged bedroom and walked back into my own room. My telescope was set up in front of the window, and I noticed that the sky was getting darker. I sat down in my computer chair and slid over to the window. I peered through the telescope into the darkening sky. I could spend hours looking through the looking glass, and I did just that, finally falling into bed around eleven that night, exhausted and famished, but knowing I had no food in the house, I decided to go to bed hungry yet again, and decided to hit up the grocery store in the morning to grab some canned goods or something that I could eat cold before bed at night, since I had no power in the house anymore.



“Gayle, wake up, honey. It’s time to wake up. You’ve been out for far too long. We need you here with us.”

“Come on, Gayle. Come back to us.”



The dream was a recurring one. The disembodied voices of my friends and loved ones were begging me to come back to them, to wake up from a long slumber. Everything in the dream was hazy and grey, and I could never make out anything more than vague shapes and fuzzy movement. Still, it was nice to hear their voices in the night when I was so alone all day long.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The End (so far)

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Semicolon


Do you know the significance of the semicolon?

Project Semicolon explains that "a semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life."

Many people around the world have chosen to tattoo a semicolon onto themselves as a sign of solidarity with those who have dealt with suicidal thoughts and feelings, who have attempted suicide, or who may have lost a loved one to suicide.

I know too many people who have attempted suicide. I knew too many who are now gone to suicide. I want to eventually get a semicolon tattoo, too.

I've made my own attempts, and I'm still here... I was unsuccessful, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Despite every nasty thing that has happened, I am still glad to be alive, glad to be where I am today. I'll proudly wear my semicolon when I get it, because depression needs to be talked about more. Mental illness needs to be destigmatized.

Check out Project Semicolon (linked above) and see for yourself.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Wolves

The wolves come out in droves when there's an injured prey hanging around, don't they? Especially the weaker wolves who couldn't do the initial dirty work themselves.

I often wonder what joy it brings to people to torment anonymous strangers in another part of the country and/or world. What kind of bliss do they experience while acting like the trash that's been sitting in the can for three weeks, stinking up the place with their festering, rotten stench?

The first wolf realized its prey was not a desirable target, and left it alone, albeit limping along a bit. This new pack, though, seems not to have learned the lesson that the lone wolf did, and so we have a few choices of what to do. I'm not going to disclose my choice, or even what the choices are, but I have hope that I'm making the correct choice.

These wolves will be taken down. They will not destroy sheep where there are none. The wolf made the mistake of thinking its prey was yet another sheep. The wolf was wrong.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sheep

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me, considering the whole concept of Twitter is a bunch of followers, and not people who walk side-by-side, but still, the number of sheep I've encountered on Twitter recently surprises the hell out of me.

People who blindly block someone they once called 'friend' at someone else's urging baffle me. Whatever happened to reasoned thinking, not jumping the gun, making decisions for ourselves?

My heart hurts today over yesterday's bullshit. I've gained a lot of traffic to my blog and my website thanks to Twitter, but I am seriously considering deleting my account. If someone can slander an innocent human with no proof, and spread the lies throughout the twitterverse for all to see, I don't know if I want to be a part of it.

Going from trusted friend to hated enemy in the space of less than a day is out of my realm of reasoning. Nothing changed. Just sheep blindly following a wolf.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Contemplating the Navel

I'm having one of those nights where I'm thinking about everything that I usually try to not think about because it causes me to just think too much overall. I'll start on Topic A and slide into Topic B without warning, then drift onward into Topic C, and thus it goes until my head is such a jumble that I don't even know where I started.

And that's the point I'm at now. I had something in mind to write about, so I grabbed my computer, and while it loaded up, my mind floated away onto five different topics, and so, now, I have no idea where I started.

I do know that this introspection is no longer an uncommon thing for me, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, I'm gaining a lot of insight into myself and the ins and outs of the way my mind actually works these days.

On the other hand, my head is a scary place.

No, really.

If I could translate what goes on in my head to paper (or screen) with half the detail that goes on up there, I wouldn't be a struggling author. I'm working on improving this skill.

Anyway, I can't explain where I was going with all of this. It's just a little navel-gazing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The One Behind The Camera

Today, my kids start the new school year. My eldest is off to the first day of his last year of high school, and my youngest is entering high school for the first time. They left for the day, and I got looking at a stack of pictures that I'd stumbled across while cleaning the other day. The stack ranged from 2002 through 2004, from when my oldest was a year old to when my youngest was a year old. It was about a 2" thick stack, and within that stack, I found exactly 3 images of me.

Three.

Think about that for a moment.

Now, I'm not 100% sure how to navigate the waters on this, so my apologies up front if I am offensive or hurtful in my language. I just need to get this out. My youngest son was born a girl. For 15 years and 6 days, I had a daughter. For 4 months and 12 days, I have had a second son. I sometimes have a hard time wrapping my head around it still. I actively try to think of him as a male, and use the proper name, but I have been slipping up more and more lately, and I'm not sure why, other than the fact that I'm just...

I'm in mourning.

I have 15 years worth of pictures of my daughter, and I can't look at them without crying.

And to now realize that I'm not even IN most of the pictures...

Folks, if you're starting a family, or if you've got young kids, make sure you take turns taking the pictures. Because if only one person takes all the pictures, that person will never BE IN the pictures. And the one behind the camera is important, too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Broken Crayons Still Colour The Same

I'm not exactly sure why, but today I feel broken.

Something inside of me feels not-quite-right.

There are a lot of things it could be. I've narrowed the list down to a few different things. Perhaps it's all of them combined. Sorry for the vagueblogging. The point is the title - broken crayons still colour the same.

I'm still me.

I may not do the same things I usually do.

I may not chatter as much as I usually do.

I may not engage as much as I usually do.

But I'm still here, still me, and still want to be heard, held, talked to, listened to.

I still WANT to do everything, but I can't.

Days like today are the days where I hide out in my bedroom and write and smoke and cry (or not - that one varies) because I just can't take being around people.

Music is iffy. I can listen to it for hours, or it can be too much stimulation.

Feeling broken used to be a permanent state of being for me. For a long time, I didn't feel broken so much as cracked. I guess I'd started healing. But something has opened that old wound today.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. But in the meantime... just remember... I'm still here... whether or not you can hear my voice.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Never In Your Wildest Dreams

I want to know what your wildest dreams for your life are. Do they involve being rich and famous someday? Going to a particular destination for a vacation? Moving somewhere you've never been?

When I was a kid, 8-10 years old, my big dream for myself was to be an inventor. I was absolutely convinced that I was going to create something that was going to change the way the world worked.

When I was 12-19, my big dream was to be a writer. Again, I was convinced I was going to create something that was going to change the world.

At 21, I had my first son. My big dreams shifted and changed, and now my big dream was to be the best mom I could be.

At 23, I had my second baby. My big dream became having a happy family with my kids and my fiance.

At 24, I married my kids' dad. My big dream was to maintain a happy family environment.

At 28, we split up. My big dream was to hold it together for the kids' sake.

At 31, I started writing again. The dream of being a writer wasn't a big one, but the ball was rolling.

At 34, I self-published my first book. The dream of someday becoming known in the world of fiction writing suddenly seemed more viable.

Over the next year and a half, I self-published 4 more books, for a total of 5. The idea of maybe being famous someday terrified me, but intrigued me at the same time. It wasn't really a dream, but a thought that kept nibbling at the back of my brain.

Right now, I am 38, and my life has changed dramatically in just the last 6 months. I have a few different wild dreams right now, but the only one I'm willing to admit publicly is that I think it'd be pretty fuckin' cool to be famous someday. To be sought after. To be admired. It's the least likely of my current dreams to come true, though.

C'est la vie. That's life.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Just A Little Something

Get me a drink I get drunk off one sip 
Just so I can adore you
I want the entire street out of town 
Just so I can be alone with you
Now go when your ready my heads 
Getting heavy pressed against your arm
I adore you
(Adore - Amy Shark)

She flicked the overhead light off and sat down on the edge of the bed. The little LED lights she had tied to her headboard cast a soft glow over his body. He watched her quietly, as she watched him in return. I adore this man so fucking much, she thought. I wonder if he really understands how much I love him? She picked up a water bottle off the nightstand and took a sip.

She laid down on the bed next to him, laid her head on his chest. She listened to his heart beating strongly in his chest. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. It sounded powerful and mighty, and its cadence soothed her soul. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. She held back tears as she listened to his breathing slow down and even out. How did I get so lucky to have this man in my life? She mulled the question over and over in her head until she finally fell asleep in his arms, exactly where she wanted to be.

Morning came fast, and she woke in his arms still. When she looked up at him, he smiled at her and tucked a small chunk of her hair behind her left ear, out of her face. She smiled back, and they exchanged a brief but electrifying kiss. They held each other’s gaze for a long moment after their lips separated, each unwilling to tear their gaze away.

She finally gave in and  broke the silence first. “Morning.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“Good morning, beautiful.” His voice sent shivers down her spine, and the words made her heart skip a beat.
She smiled back at him, just a small smile. She was afraid that if she smiled any bigger, she would start crying. She could feel the tears fighting to come to the surface behind her eyelids. He was going home in a few hours. That was never an easy time for her.

She knew that he could tell she was forcing herself to hold back tears. He just held her gaze while she waited for him to say something. “Do you want to get up?” he asked.
She chuckled a little and said, “No, not really, but we probably should.” She sighed and tried to roll away from him, but there was resistance as he hugged her close, preventing her from moving away.
“Just wait… We can put it off for ten more minutes.”

*****

She smiled cheerfully at him as they walked through her house together. She really enjoyed having him here. Wherever he was, she felt safe, which meant her home felt extra safe when he was there. She prepared them each a cup of coffee and they settled in beside each other on the loveseat in the living room.

She listened raptly as he showed her a selection of his favourite songs, and the couple chatted together quietly while her teen children moved about their day around them. After lunch, they went upstairs to her room so she could smoke a joint and they could have some privacy.

She lit the joint, and they chatted while she smoked and he scrolled around on his phone. As she inhaled the last puff, she glanced at the clock. It was almost time for him to leave. Her heart was suddenly sitting firmly in her throat, exactly where it did not belong. She put the ashtray and lighter away and laid down on her stomach as gently as possible. She tried to swallow, and found it difficult over the lump in her throat.
After what felt like forever to her, he noticed that she had gotten quiet. He maneuvered his body so he could look at her eyes. They were glistening with tears that hadn’t yet fallen. “You okay?” he asked quietly.
She didn’t answer, just closed her eyes, releasing the tears. She felt him shifting his position, and then he swiped gently at her cheeks, wiping away the tear streaks. “I love you,” he said, his voice gentle and genuine.
More tears fell, and she sniffled. “I love you, too,” she whispered.
“Why are you crying?” he asked softly.
She was quiet for a while, turning her head to stare at the clock radio on the nightstand. She knew that if she looked at him right now, she would start bawling. Finally, she had composed herself just enough, so she looked back at him and sighed quietly. “I don’t want you to leave.”
The unspoken “Ever.” hung in the air between them. He kissed her, looked her in her eyes, and said, “I don’t want to leave.”
And again, that unspoken word hung between them.

It’s you, babe
And I’m a sucker for the way that you move, babe
And I could try to run, but it would be useless
You’re to blame
Just one hit of you, I knew I’ll never be the same
(Never Be The Same - Camila Cabello)

The Rollercoaster That Is My Life

I've started this post three different ways already, and none of them have felt right to me. I've always found it hard to talk about this subject; it's always been my private shame, though I know there's nothing to be ashamed of.

I live with bipolar disorder. A lot of people refer to mental illnesses as something they suffer from, and more power to them if that's how they feel. For me, it's more like a constant companion - one that is always with me, whether I want it or not.

And that's the interesting thing - sometimes... sometimes, living with bipolar has its benefits. It doesn't take out the garbage or wash the dishes or laundry, but it's good for an unexpected energy burst every so often to get those oft-overlooked tasks done, and it certainly aids in my writing and other creative tasks on occasion.

There are downsides, too, as there are to everything in life. I haven't personally had to deal with crippling depression in many years now, but I am certainly familiar with a lack of interest in formerly enjoyable activities, an overpowering lack of motivation to do anything that is not absolutely necessary, and getting easily overwhelmed when a little bit of motivation is found, or when too much is asked of me.

I got into an argument once about whether I suffer from bipolar disorder. The other person seemed so wrapped up in their troubles that they absolutely could not take the time to see any of the small blessings that could potentially be hidden within the illness.

Bipolar and I have walked, arms linked together, for almost 30 years now. I look forward to more than 30 more.

(this whole thing is done kind of stream-of-consciousness...)

If they are to come up with a cure for bipolar disorder, be it a one-time pill, a course of medication, some other medical intervention, or something entirely different... I am not convinced that I would partake of the cure. My brain is a little skewed, but it's what makes me uniquely me. I don't think I'd like to change who I am after 40 or more years of developing this Me.

I interact with a lot of of fabulous mentally ill folks online. If you have a mental illness yourself, you should come check out our little community... it's at http://www.rollercoasterroom.com. Tell them caly sent you 😉

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Bad Influence - A Eulogy

Today, I paid my last respects to my oldest friend. I've been crying for a week, since I found out about her death. She was the toughest bitch out there. We all thought she'd outlive us. She beat the odds in birth - preemie in 1979, born smaller than a pop can.

We had one of those friendships where you can go for years without seeing each other, and it'll be like nothing has changed when you do see each other. We could go months, and sometimes years, without talking at all, and still pick up like nothing had changed.

She didn't give a shit what anybody thought of her. She was full of sass and spunk and passion. She told you what she thought of you, whether you wanted to know or not. She didn't beat around the bush. If you pissed her off, you knew it, and you paid for it.

She did know the meaning of respect, however, and would call people out on disrespecting the very young, the disabled, and the very old, in particular. She also demanded to be shown respect in her home, and would only give you as much respect as you showed her.

In the last 2 yrs, she became religious. I mentioned my feelings on that two posts ago, so if you haven't read that far back yet... I'll just leave it at that. But as I listened to the preacher dude talk about how she had come to find Jesus and accept him into her life, all I could imagine was her sitting beside me with her arm around me, her other hand making the "yapping" motion, and saying, "Blah, blah, blah... this guy is so full of shit." It brought a whisper of a smile to my face.

We had a lot of adventures over the years. She was my bad influence. Everybody needs one, or needs to be one.

So now, it's time for me to learn how to come to terms with never again receiving a text from her... never again getting a random phone call from her... never again seeing her name come up in my Facebook feed... never again getting to see her, hug her, touch her. Time for me to come to terms with time being up for her.

Rest in peace, Blaine. You were well-loved.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Every Which Way...

There has always been chaos in my head. There were very few rare moments where there was little chaos in my head, but during those times, there was excessive chaos in my life. I suppose Life has decided that this time, I'm well-equipped enough to handle chaos in both my head and my life.

Excessive chaos.

Something's gotta give eventually, though.

So, it's me. I've been crying every night and at least a few times a day since I found out my friend died. A dam has broken.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will attend her funeral. I will cry again, along with a bunch of other people. And then I will hold it together again while I am in public, until I am behind closed doors, where I will probably cry again. And again. And again.

Until I start to forget to cry. Until I start not thinking about her so often. Until the grief has changed from a sharp stabbing pain to a dull ache. Then I won't cry as much. Then I will smile more.

Until I stumble across her name on Facebook. Until I get lost in our text message thread. Until I see something she gave me that I'd forgotten was from her. And then I will shed a tear, I will maybe weep a little, but I won't get lost in days or weeks of grief again.

At least... I hope.

I have to find some way to calm the chaos in my head, because the chaos in my life is not settling down anytime soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Terrible Beast

I feel like Death has been hovering over my shoulder the last several years. I and the people closest to me have been losing loved ones at what feels like a rapid pace to me. 1 of my last 2 living grandparents passed away. My best friend's ex-husband, who was still a good friend of hers in addition to being the father of her three older kids, was tragically taken at a fairly young age. I lost 2 beloved cats to sudden illnesses. Then Blaine died, and I am sitting here wondering what the hell is going on?

I know there are people out there who deal with so much more death, and destruction, and pain... but I can't wrap my head around the point of the so-called God my friend embraced in her last months... I can't wrap my head around the point of this God causing her to suffer as much as she did, and taking her a month before her 39th birthday.

I had some Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door the other day. Their explanation is that Jehovah is currently letting Satan prove that Satan cannot rule the Earth successfully, and that is why there is so much suffering and pain and negativity here.

So was Satan torturing her until she finally broke? Or was God finally merciful, and took her out of her misery?

It bothers me... I grew up in a Christian household, but if I were to describe my belief set now, it would be more along the pagan-leaning-towards-wiccan line. I have crystals and tarot cards and pendulums and candles and the makings of a small but decent altar. But if you were to come into my home, you probably would have no idea. I'm quiet about what I believe, because it is so deeply personal to each individual. I don't have a problem with Christianity in general. I just have a problem with the idea of a supposedly loving God that could allow such suffering to continue for such a long time, and then end it so abruptly.

I have a problem with a God that would take 2 cats who were so loved and cared for by us...

I have a problem with a God that would allow a young man, a father of three kids 12 and under, to be taken in such a terrible way, leaving scars that will never heal...


I once went down a psychological rabbit hole, during which time I believed I was the second coming of Christ. It's hard to recover a Christian mindset once you've had that delusion. It goes hand-in-hand with my persistent belief a little later that God was a schizophrenic alien, and we were the voices in its head.


I can't pin down exactly what I believe in. I just know it's not a singular God that is countered by a devil. But I do know there is this that I embrace wholeheartedly: An it harm none, do what ye will.


Maybe I'm just noticing all of the death more now because I'm creeping closer to 40. Or maybe it's just because it's finally hit me where it hurts - someone who was only 4.5 months older than me, someone who I knew for more than 25 years, someone whom I considered to be one of my best friends, despite all of the squabbles we had over the years.

Grief is a terrible beast.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Puzzle Pieces

The puzzle pieces of our lives can fit in many different ways, and the way in which we fit them together is what forms the picture of us. Sometimes, it takes picking up a piece and turning it over to change the picture we present to the world.



When I was young, I knew I was different. I was thinking about things like the cleanest way to kill myself while my friends were dreaming about which boys would ask them to the school dance. When I realized this difference, it made me feel a little special. Unique. But ultimately, it made me feel alone. Like my puzzle had jagged edges sticking out instead of the nice, clean edges everybody else seemed to have, and so I couldn’t sit nicely beside anybody without poking into them somehow.

After my first suicide attempt, I was put on an antidepressant. I was scattered as to when I took it, frequently forgetting, but when I did take it consistently, oh how did I feel like I could do ANYTHING! I was smiling, making friends, cracking jokes. And thus, they declared my depression CURED!



Did that mean my edges were any cleaner? I still felt pretty jagged.



A few years later, I started hallucinating. I remember the moment I saw my first hallucination. I was sitting in a library/sitting room in a church at a weekend youth group, listening to a story about Hiroshima or something similar, and all of a sudden, the room was filled with a god damn mushroom cloud!!! I was strangely not scared. Just absolutely fascinated that nobody else seemed to be scared, and confused by the lack of sound. It dissipated, disappeared, and it was gone, gone, gone. But over the next 5 years, I would see mushroom clouds everywhere, along with a handful of other images that persisted. That was one piece of my puzzle that I kept a hand over most of the time, only letting my very trusted friends see it.

With my free hand, I was juggling keeping my puzzle pieces in place while knowing that I was still different. I wasn’t CURED! I was more different than ever before. So I turned to sex and alcohol when I could get either or both to mask what I was feeling. Stuff it down. Throw a paper bag over the puzzle for a while, and it won’t matter that it’s scattered to the four winds, and there are no edge pieces, and everything is just plain WRONG.

Inevitably, adulting had to occur. There became children and a husband involved. I tried different medications, and they would work for a while, and then we wouldn’t be able to afford them, so I would have to go off of them. And the longer this went on, the more jagged and misshapen my puzzle became, with pieces sticking off the edges willy-nilly. I was trying so hard to fit in to the life I’d built for myself that I was searching desperately for edge pieces to complete me, and only finding more inside pieces that didn’t fit quite right.



My marriage ended, because of me but not by my hand, and I was devastated. My puzzle fell apart completely, and it was up to me to pick up the pieces and reorganize them to make sense of the mess that was supposed to make up ME, however that needed to occur.



June 2018 was 10 years since the collapse of my marriage, since I began picking up the pieces. I don’t know how it happened – some of these pieces must have broken in the fall – but I have edge pieces now. They don’t form a flat edge like “normal” people do; they go off in their own direction and look more like a spiky flower than a rectangle or square. But I feel more complete than I ever have before. I feel like the pieces of me that I was chasing for so long are finally in place, and I can see the full picture finally. It just took flipping over some pieces and dropping a lot of others to get them into their current shape. I long ago realized that I am one of those people who needs to be on medication for life, and I happily take my pills every day in order to maintain this feeling of completion.

There will always be loose pieces, and the medication will not work forever. I will need to go through med changes. This is something that I’ve opened my mind to and am willing to endure for the end result.

My puzzle has changed form and picture many times throughout my life, and I’m sure it’s not done changing yet. Nobody glue down my puzzle till I’m done changing it!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Paragon of Beauty

The way the string of led lights tied to the headboard illuminated his face made me gasp. This man… he was not classically attractive, but I thought he was pretty darn cute. When he was being serious, he was downright handsome. But what I saw this time… the only word that came to mind to describe him was 'beautiful'.

My world changed on April 19, 2018, and I wasn’t even aware of it for another month. I guess I should start at the beginning, and then get back to my beautiful man.

My best friend, my “wife” of many years, Pam, came to visit shortly after my daughter’s 15th birthday. We would occasionally share a joint when we spent the night at each other’s house, but that night, she couldn’t spend the night, so she left me one as a  4/20 gift.
I smoked ⅔ of the joint on April 20, and enjoyed a nice high. I was a lightweight by even the lightestest of lightweight’s standards at that point, so that ⅔ was plenty. Saturday, the 21st, my daughter had a friend spend the night. Said friend is transgender, and at one point in a conversation, the friend said to my daughter, “So, you still go by ‘she’?”
Alarm bells went off in my head. Three years of post-puberty angst flashed through my head. The therapist she’d been seeing for just over a year… did she know something she wasn’t allowed to tell me?
I hate my boobs.
I fuckin’ hate having periods.
Being genetically female fucking sucks.
I had sympathized with every complaint because I agree fully… but maybe they were more dysphoric statements than bitchy girl comments.
I mulled it over in my head all day Sunday, and while she was at school on Monday. There were some symptoms that had cropped up recently that came to mind, plus she was hiding in her room a lot. I added everything together. I was pretty certain that I no longer had the daughter I had yearned for.

Serra decided not to go to her Pathfinders meeting that night, feeling uncomfortable in churches and with the younger girls that would be attending with them that night. She hid in her room, and I sat at my computer, as we both did so often. Finally, I went up to that level of the house to use the bathroom, but stopped at her door, first.
“Mom, when you’re done, can I get our book?”
We have a journal that we pass between so we can communicate with less immediate pressure.
I paused for a moment before I answered. That was the perfect opening. “Sure, but before I get it for you, I have a question.”
“Okay…”
I inhaled deeply and looked at her. “Are you transgender?”
She wrapped her arms around her reddening face, slammed her head into her pillow, and gave me a thumbs-up.
I nodded, said, “Okay,” and tried not to let on that my heart was cracking down the middle.
We chatted a bit, and he told me his name was Phinn. It felt ludicrous to be asking my own child, at 15 years old, what their name is. But here I was.
“I’m leaving it up to you to tell everybody else. You do it however you feel is best.”
“Okay.”
And so, Phinn chose to change his facebook name from Serra to Phinn, and his gender on facebook from female to male.

A shitstorm fell upon me after that, but we won’t go into that today. What we’re here to talk about today is my beautiful man.

The 23rd was the day everything actually started to change. That was the day I was introduced to my second son and told I no longer had a daughter. The 27th was the end of the beginning. After fielding questions and thinking about everything that had to be done and doing as much research as I could think of where it came to my new son, when I went to bed on the 27th, I smoked the last third of that 4/20 gift and pulled out my little blue computer.

Full disclosure: I am writing this while stoned.

What I did that night, though… I logged onto pof.com and started talking to whoever messaged me. This one guy was really polite, and stuck around more than a handful of messages. He never pushed for pics from or to me. He was just an all-around sweet guy. The next day, I woke up to a good morning message from him. I don’t think a day has gone by since then that I haven’t received a good morning message from him. Dawson, as I was to learn was his name, and I chatted on the pof app for a few hours, until I suggested we switch to texting. We exchanged numbers, and I got to know this sweet guy.
After about a week, we met for the first time. My first thought upon seeing him was that I thought his face looked longer than in his pictures. We had a good first visit, but when it came time for another visit, I chickened out.
I really really liked this guy. A lot. But I was feeling smothered, which made no sense. After a week, I finally figured out what was going on. I’m a meds-for-life kinda gal, and one of my meds got switched at the pharmacy from extended release to suspended release, and for some reason, the suspended release really screwed with my anxiety levels. So I arranged to procure some natural remedies to tide me over until I could get my meds fixed, and met him a second time.
As soon as he walked into my house that morning, my stress melted away. I felt safe. I felt like I was where I needed to be with whom I needed.
That same night, my kids and I went out to Pam’s place for the weekend, and while I was texting Dawson and talking to Pam, Pam and I were almost convinced that Dawson was going to drop the 'L' bomb on me. Pam advised me to drop him like a hot potato if he did. To run. Run far, far away.
Honestly, at that point, I probably would have said it back if he had said it. For the record, he didn’t.
We got together again, and later, after I had gotten home from his place, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I agreed, and the more time that went by, the more I was thinking that I wanted to tell him I loved him.
I was back at his place, and I told him I wanted to tell him something, but… I couldn’t get the words out. I was nearly in tears, I wanted so badly to tell him I loved him. My heart was bursting with love for this man, and I couldn’t get my mouth to open and pop out three little words.
A deep breath. “Iloveyou.” All in one breath. Did he hear me?
He leaned down and said, “I love you, too,” and kissed me.

Every single day, I fall deeper in love with him. Every time I have to say goodbye to him, a piece of my heart rips out and stays with him. I don’t think he realizes quite how tight his grip on me is.

Today was supposed to be a celebratory day. It was my older son’s 17th birthday. He’s not home to celebrate with, but I could have pretended. Instead, I found out that someone I have been friends with for more than ⅔ of my life...is dead. She’s gone. I’ll never see her again. I’ll never hear her voice again. She’ll never assure me that her medical problems are no big deal again.
Rest in peace, Blaine.

Today has been a really hard day. The birthday kid isn’t here. My friend is dead. Phinn spent most of the day holed up in his room (typical teenager). So, I was quite alone most of the day. But still, despite having to work, Dawson still checked on me to make sure I was doing ok.

I think he is a beautiful man. I wish he (and everybody) could see what I see.