Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dying ain't much of a living.

An old friend contacted me out-of-the-blue after losing touch years ago. We caught up on old times. In doing so, she relayed to me her ongoing struggle with an addiction to pain pills, and repeated last-ditch efforts in rehab to get clean, a fight that started long before we met. My younger self would have latched on and immediately tried to figure out a way to save her. My older, wiser self has stayed several arms lengths away, cringing each and every time the conversation went to how bad things are, how tight money is, because I now believe that she wants something from me. Money, a place to stay, I’m not sure, but I believed it wouldn’t stop at one request. The trust is gone, bled away from so many years apart and knowing that truth in our past wasn’t a shared offering, so it's hard to accept that all she could possibly want is a friend. I hadn’t spoken to her in months when she texted last night to say she’d gone back to rehab. My first thought was what does she want. She knows me well enough to know how to manipulate my emotions, or at least used to be able to, so this is obviously a ploy to get something. In my head I’m screaming, why can’t you rise above this?

I don’t believe I’m addicted to anything, so I’ve never been able to fully comprehend addiction and how powerful it is. I grew up with an alcoholic father. Two of my former relationships were with addicts. I know a lot about trying to fix the person and feeling like a failure when I can’t. I know about the overwhelming urge to sacrifice myself to make the person happy enough to not need whatever it is they are addicted to. Their crutch. It is a very helpless feeling to watch someone fight a losing battle and knowing you aren't enough to make them happy.  

In the most recent contact, she asked me if she was a positive or poisonous influence in my life. I have struggled with an answer. I can’t honestly reply based on recent experience as it’s been limited at best. From our past lives, perhaps it is a bit of both. Positive, because she helped me realize I can’t fix people, or that she knew me well enough to know that’s what I was doing and could tell me I couldn’t have saved her. They have to fix themselves, which includes wanting to get better. Have I hung up my sword and put my trusted steed out to pasture, the white knight somewhat jaded by feelings of worthlessness? Jaded, but wiser, at least in regards to what I can do for others. If I did, I can take that as a valuable lesson. Poisonous in that I feel guilty. Is it guilt that I can’t fix her, don’t want to fix her or guilt that I no longer trust her enough to believe that she isn’t playing an angle? I’m not sure. But it’s there, whatever it is. Every I hear from her, I get turned sideways, caught between this obligation from a past so far away that I struggle to remember details about our friendship, and the need to save myself from obsessing over her well-being. I sound cruel, but I can’t decipher the “cries” as someone legitimately asking for help or someone looking for a handout.

My father-in-law once told Sarah that I will give pieces of myself away trying to save others until one day I won’t have anything of myself left. That scares me, because it has caused issues in the past. I wonder if a lifetime spent trying to save everyone will doom me to losing myself. That I never really learned to look after me and what’s important in my life, including my partner. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I am an addict. I’m not addicted to a substance, but a behavior. If so, I can begin to appreciate how compelling the craving is. Is the inability of saying no an illness? Does this  epiphany help me sympathize or will the need to protect myself put the final nail in the coffin? I have to remind myself it’s not my responsibility to save her, nor can I. I can remind her that her son’s life is worth getting better for. For that matter, so is hers. I can’t make her see it, despite the itch to try. Perhaps, the right answer to her question is she was an eye-opening influence, in that I finally see my behavior is a pattern, an issue. Not so dangerous as drugs or alcohol,  but self-threatening maybe. I can’t thank her for the lesson, because it sounds callous to say thank you for coming back in my life to teach me that I need to let go of this desire to save people. Thank you for helping me see that my life is pretty good, and I don’t need to seek out people who are broken like I did before, seeking fulfillment in saving others. Will I stop helping people? No, I know I won’t. But I won’t do it if it means sacrificing myself and my family.

I texted. I didn’t ask how I could fix it. I told her I’m sorry she had a relapse. I hope she realizes she has a lot of reasons to live. I hope she understands it’s not too late to save herself. I’m hoping…

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Anne Shirley

Friday marked the end of a personal era for me. When I started my current job almost ten years ago, I was new to the city and new to the company. Sarah was the only person I knew in Indy. My first day, I moved quietly into a cube surrounded by unfamiliar faces. I was introduced to the nearest ones, praying that within time, I might make a new set of work friends, as I’d left my old ones behind in the move.

I couldn’t have prepared myself for the overwhelming welcome I received from a woman whom I would come to call a dear friend, so much more than just a work friend. She would become a bosom friend, of which Anne Shirley so fondly referred to: “a bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.”

This dear friend nursed me through mental and emotional rough patches. She lugged me to the ER when my nose bled for thirty minutes straight and wouldn’t stop, delighting in the fuss of fixing me. She was the person I was with when I found out my dad had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and held me as the initial shock wore off. In turn, I forced her to the med check when she threw her back out and couldn’t stand up straight. We were close enough I could drive her home, get her changed into pajamas and put her to bed. We’ve weathered many a storm together, ever thankful for a soft shoulder and a strong hug when we needed it. Many a day, she would kiss me on the forehead and tell me she loved me. I based one of my first characters on her. She read that book and every one after, sharing her opinion, good or bad. She brought me into her world and in doing so, opened the company to me. She has been one of my fiercest supporters and truest friends.

Friday was her last day here. As I sat across the desk, completing the last of our tasks together, I realized how much I would miss her. Our friendship won’t go away with her leaving, but I will miss the daily hugs, the I love you’s, the pick-me-ups, all the get your head on straights.

I have been blessed with a handful of friends I would consider kindred spirits, who have enriched my life in ways I can’t even fathom. I’m reminded in a world that is often shaky and unreliable, I have a port to seek shelter in. It’s made me realize that the best gift a true friend can give you is unconditional love and support, and a world possessed of these generous creatures is a good world indeed. I hope for everyone to have their own Anne Shirley, for “kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”  

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Very Unusual Mind

I was recently tagged by fellow author, Kathleen Wheeler, in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Kudos to her on her GCLS nomination and being a finalist in the Poetry category. A big thanks to her for checking in with me before she tagged me, as she understands wearing a lot of hats and trying to find extra time for an additional one. Kathleen penned her first novel Changing Shapes, which was well-received, and an anthology of poems entitled The Immaculate Chaos of Being, which is a finalist for a Goldie…in case you missed that earlier. Read about her current WIP, Blindsided, which will hopefully drop sometime in 2014, in her “writing process” blog post. I understand she also dabbles in pottery, music, and has an affinity for fried chicken. Thanks to Kathleen Wheeler for tagging me! Hope you enjoy!

1. What am I working on? My current work in progress has been slow to say the least. Made to Love is a continuation of sorts to Someone Like You. I started writing it before my dad got diagnosed with esophageal cancer and passed away this past January. I had my mind set on a romantic comedy of sorts, the opposite of Someone Like You. After a break from writing that lasted longer than I would have liked, I picked up the story again. I found that writing the story became cathartic for me; a part of my healing process. Hopefully, I can wrap this one up sometime this summer, as it is long overdue.

2. How does my work differ from others in the same genre?
  I think it’s hard to say that what I write is uniquely different from the genre as a whole. I like to think that different story twists add something to my novels that you may not see in another book of this kind. I like to put something of myself in each person, mostly vulnerabilities or personality flaws, which make the characters believable. I share a lot of my embarrassing moments with the world, so you will usually find those dents in the armor of my characters as well. I feel like it makes them more real and more likeable and makes them more believable. I tell stories of people. My books aren’t just the love story about the main characters. I love to tell the stories of everyone in the book. I was told once that I spent too much time on developing side characters, but those are people I enjoy writing as well. To me, the love story without the “fluff” isn’t the same. I also love to capture the details about the areas where the stories take place. I realized, probably as a result of my granddad being a builder and following him around as a kid, that the house in every book is a crucial part of the setting. I am fascinated with architecture and you will see that in my books. Nothing super different, but just enough to bend the mold.

3. Why do I write what I do?
 The voices in my head tell me to! Seriously, I think that we lean toward what we know and what interests us. I write the stories that I love to read. It’s probably cliché to say I write stories about lesbians because I am a lesbian, but it’s the truth. I don’t imagine I would do Gay Fic justice. As far as the ideas, I write them as they come to me. I will do that until there aren’t any more in my head. Then I won’t feel like the Mad Hatter lives in my brain, laughing maniacally and tossing out stories willy-nilly with no regard for time!

4. How does my writing process work?
  See the Mad Hatter comment. It’s very chaotic. I have a general idea of how I want the story to end or highlights that I want to include and I write to that end. I don’t have an outline, because I’m not very good at following rules and I would certainly veer from it anyway. There are times I will actually skip chapters and go back and write them once I’m comfortable with where the book goes from that point. I crave quiet when I write. I don’t do well with distractions, as I actually play every scene in my head as though it is a movie and I’m playing the roles. It helps to get up around 4 AM and write before work. I’m at my freshest before my life and job seep in and occupy the small amount of free space. The other odd thing I do is I have to have my cover done before I start to write the story. I may change font, but the cover is narrowed down to 2 choices, if not the final version long before I write the first words.

So now it’s time to tag the next Blog-a-thon vic…er, I mean ready and willing participant and I chose Penelope Grey
to pick up the torch. She penned her first novel, Infinity’s Song, in 2013. She promised me that the follow-up to that, Caught & Kept, would be out before her most recent jaunt around the world. She owes me $5.  :)  

Monday, March 31, 2014

The best fried clams I’ve ever had!

I originally started this blog as a joke for a friend of mine who hates social media. I’ve been craving lobster rolls lately and finally worked myself up to making them, in lieu of flying to Maine to get one. When I get an idea in my head, I become a one-track thinker, with a narrow-minded purpose that translates into every conversation (or as Sarah likes to say – a broken record), so my plans to make the perfect lobster roll did not go unnoticed. Rather than text with details of my project, I promised her I would blog and she could read about my adventures there.

What started as a simple quest for a good lobster roll turned into a trip down memory lane. One of my favorite vacations ever was the time that I took my parents and most of my siblings to Maine. Growing up, we didn’t have the means to take family vacations, so when I got old enough, I rounded everyone up for a trip to one of my favorite places to make some of our favorite memories. During that wonderful week, we drove through the town in New Hampshire where my dad up, hiked in Acadia National Park, shopped at L.L.Bean, visited every lighthouse along the coast and remembered how much we loved growing up in a big family.

We feasted on fresh lobster for a week straight. I remember every morning, my dad would gather everyone up and make the ½ mile walk to the pound at the end of the peninsula and buy our lobsters for the day. They would sit in the fridge until we were all worn out from sightseeing and starving. Then Dad would fire up the stove in the old Victorian and start churning out lobsters with the regularity of the peanut man at a major league baseball game tossing bags of hot peanuts to hungry fans.

So with memories of that trip and my taste buds dancing wildly, I began my search for the perfect lobster tail. Yes, I could have purchased a whole lobster, but I am squeamish about some things, so the very idea of tossing a live lobster into a pot of boiling water was not high on my bucket list. No, frozen lobster tail would suffice, and, after trips to multiple stores and several days of disappointment, I managed to round up some impressive tail. 

I had read that boiling and steaming weren’t the best ways to cook the lobster, as it pulls so much of the flavor out of the meat. I opted instead for roasting them in the oven. There is some debate about how long one should actually cook lobster. I cooked them for ten minutes in a 400 degree oven then let them finish with the residual heat. I finished them off in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

When they chilled to room temperature, I started to pick each sweet, succulent bit out of the perfectly reddened shells. Each lump brought me closer to the elusive lobster roll. Finally, finished I added just a dollop of Mayonnaise, leaving the recipe as pure as possible, and put it in the fridge to chill. 

Several hours of yard work later, it was time to make dinner. I added a dash of celery salt, some pepper and a bit of sliced celery. I toasted the top split buns with butter and assembled the lobster rolls. Anxiously, I took a huge bite of the finished product. Was it everything I built it up to be?? Make no mistake, it was delicious! But as I munched my way through, I found myself remembering that it tasted better on the deck of an old lobster dive, overlooking the coast, with my family by my side. And as it is with lots of things, it was better experienced where the memory was made.  

My dad always said he wanted to go back to Maine. That was the best vacation he’d ever had and the best fried clams he’d ever eaten. We never made it back to Maine. Something always came up. I told Sarah this summer I was going to order a bunch of lobsters from Maine, have them shipped to my parents’ house and my dad could cook for us once again. We haven’t made it to summer yet, and I’ll need to find someone else who doesn’t mind cooking lobster, but I will keep our plans for our own family lobster-fest. I’ll probably even grab Dad off the mantle and bring him out to the porch to enjoy the party. I figure that’s the only fair thing to do since it was his idea to go back to Maine.  And like my lobster rolls, maybe they won’t taste as good as they did all those years ago, but I know the memories we make will be just as sweet!  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fired up!

There’s been a lot of going back and forth on recent events surrounding comments made by a reality TV star. This is my take on it…which, as everyone is so quick to point out, I have a right to express. What a wonderful nation we live in!

I look at it this way. Replace the words he actually said with different, but similar in that they are based on someone’s opinion. Mick. Guido. Chink. The N-Word. Cracker. Jew. Feel differently now?

Maybe those are too harsh. Let’s try these instead. Stupid. Fat. Ugly. Queer. Slut. Retard. Now are you a little outraged? I was, and I still am. I don’t believe the debate is about freedom of speech, as so many are quick to point out. It’s about human decency. It’s about having an opinion, but doing so respectfully. We have policies in our workplace that prevent bullying. We stand up for a our children when they are called names. We try to instill in them respect for others and hopefully discipline them when they are unkind to others.

For those of you who think who cares what one hillbilly from the South says?? Try this: Duck Dynasty has 14 million viewers. GQ has almost a million subscribers. Add the millions of viewers that have seen the story on the news, countless more who saw it on social media, the subscribers to online newspapers and magazines and you start to see the scope and impact that his negative words have.

Was A & E out of line in suspending him? In my opinion, which I will again reiterate, I am allowed to have, no. We are living in a society that criticizes people for differences. For A & E to allow him to remain on TV after his disparaging remarks would have said to the public that it’s okay to be hateful. Is he allowed to his opinion and beliefs? He sure is. I don’t condone the way he went about expressing it. We all have human will and the blessing of Freedom of Speech, which ensures we can express an opinion. But it doesn’t give us the right to be hateful assholes.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A pint low!

Today not only marks Spirit Day and the fight to end bullying, but my first foray into donating blood. Normally, this wouldn’t be blog worthy, but as I do with most normal things, I turned this into the Thursday fiasco. I apologize for any misspellings and missing words…I’m still feeling a bit woozy.

I coerced the girl that works for me into joining me…we’re still not back on speaking terms. I started off by pulling the poor young man that was checking us in into a five minute conversation around our perfect stripper names. Mine is Citron or Juicy or something like that, Susan’s is Angel Bayard and Brad, God love him, chose Candy. I think that is a whole other blog.

Next, I tortured the poor women testing my hemoglobin to make sure my blood was healthy enough to donate. I told her I was a good bleeder, as my many attempts at free running produced better than average results.

Finally, I made it to the chair, well, the first one anyway. I told him it was my first time, so go easy. He told me it was his fourth time and they stopped and picked him up under the freeway on the way there. Funny guy! He wrapped my arm and checked for a good vein. Fail. I swapped chairs and gave the left arm a try. Also a fail. So he tried a blood pressure cuff to amp up the pressure. Finally, he called his supervisor over and said he didn’t like it, didn’t like the way my veins ran. How they ran? What possible way could they run besides straight down my arm? I told him to just go ahead and say it, I’m weird. Then I cracked a stripper joke to ease the tension. Something about veins shifting from using my arms to hang upside down so much.
They finally got me flowing and all was well. I was ten minutes behind Angel and I was intent on showing them just how good a bleeder I am. Three minutes later, my bag was halfway full.  Another hree minutes and I was done. They got me bagged and tagged and then the nausea set it. Apparently, they are super worried about first-timers. They gave me my token 8 oz lemon-lime soda, a red plastic bag, and told me there would be an incident report. Of course there will be. Why not!

When I finally felt better, they led me out of the chair and told me to tend to “my friend”. Apparently, despite many trips to the blood bank, she fainted, fell out of the chair and was now lying on the floor, yellower than the purse I was carrying. I sat down, offered encouraging feel-better comments like “You’re so yellow” and “I guess you won’t be working tonight”.

I found out that in addition to an incident report, they really don’t like to leave you alone. When the next wave of nausea came, I tried to sneak away to the bathroom, which was somewhat akin to trying to break out of prison. I was escorted to the bathroom, with apologies for invading my privacy, but “we just can’t have you passed out on the cold floor by yourself.” Finally, I felt almost whole and Angel was at least off the floor. We walked out with a shred of dignity, a bag of fruit snacks and a pretty darn good excuse not to work out.

We figured out all the wrong things to do, but as I looked at that pint of blood and heard that I may have just saved three lives, I felt pretty darn proud of us, fainting and all! And somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I think I remember listening to Fat Bottom Girls and telling them I felt fine because I was listening to big fat fatties. My apologies to Queen. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Almost Famous

If you haven’t had a chance to see Kiki Archer’s latest interview, you missed out on the opportunity to see her eat a worm. Yep, you read that write. She was dared to either twerk or eat a worm. She actually chewed up and swallowed a wasabi flavored worm and kept it down. Mad props to you, Kiki.

The vid got me thinking about the day hell freezes over and I score an interview. Chances are, it won’t take place on the finals course of American Ninja Warrior and my dare won’t be to navigate the Spider Wall with my mad parkour skills. Insert previous post about an injury to my leg from an attempt to parkour at a local park. All that aside, I know for me, worm-eating seemed to be the less pleasant of the two dares, so I set out to make myself a twerking expert.

First, I searched youtube for an educational video about the do’s and don’ts of twerking. I’d like to say for the record, it should be just the don’ts of twerking. I found one with a woman who certainly looked as though she would have mad twerking skills and I set about to follow her step-by-step instructions and turn myself into a dancing queen.

With important key phrases like “drop it like it’s hot”, “arch” and “thrust”, I knew I had found a gem. Phone in hand, loose jogging pants for freedom of movement and a willing spirit, I worked my hips in concentrated slow motion in time with my talented “teacher”. She taught me how to twerk both cheeks at the same time, twerk one at a time and the all-important side-to-side twerk. Magic was happening, I was becoming a twerking queen.

After learning each important, but disconnected step, she encouraged me to put on some fast music and put those moves together in a move that can only be described as someone having convulsions while standing up. But I ignored my saner side and continued on. I knew this was a social movement and I was a butterfly. With perfection in hand, I tested those moves on Sarah, even threw out my own “drop it like it’s hot.” In my eagerness to show off my newly acquired skill, I had neglected to realize the torque of my twerk and I propelled Sarah into the counter with all the finesse of a 300-lb sumo wrestler trying to win Dancing with the Stars. I had failed. More importantly, my mad dancing skills had failed.

I did apologize and even offered to kiss it and make it better. As I put my dancing shoes and stretchy “twerking” pants away, I realized, as did the daring Ms. Archer, that perhaps the lesser of the two evils really was the poor little worm. So like Wesley from The Princess Bride, I am building up my immunity to iocaine powder on the off chance I do receive an outrageous dare, because twerking will never, ever happen…again.