Friday, February 9, 2018


Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: stuck, lock, everlasting, rock, and roll. They were submitted by:

There's probably something wrong with me. I have no other explanation for the following...


The Black Keys' tune Everlasting Light popped into her head suddenly out of nowhere exactly 136 days 7 hours 23 minutes and 42 seconds ago.

She remembered her alarm going off at 10 a.m. to walk the dog before her last gyno visit with that song blaring between her temples, bouncing around and seemingly waking up all her synapses...well as much as they woke up these days. At the time, it was welcome. She hadn't actively listened to the opening track from the Brothers album in quite awhile, but it had always inexplicably been one of her favorites. She loved Dan Auerbach's soulful, bluesy crooning, but his voice on this track was so entirely different from most of their library of songs that it belonged, really, to an entirely different band. Still, it never failed to make her smile and sing along.

Well... until it had been stuck in her head, indie rock with no roll in too high a pitch, for over 4 months with no breaks, no pause, no other music forcing its way through no matter what she listened to, how loud, or for how long.

Stoner rock, fuzz metal, sludge, hip hop, soul, blues, garage rock, alt country...the classics...Nothing worked. It was just there on repeat, and she was absolutely losing her fucking mind over it.

In desperation after the first month, she saw a psychiatrist who sent her back to her regular doctor who sent her to a neurologist who sent her back to the psychiatrist who shook his hands of her with monthly prescriptions of Xanax and Celexa. He'd still happily make money off her, you see, even if he couldn't tell her why it was happening or how to stop it. It was all in her head, he said. Pun not intended.

In any case, she took the Celexa faithfully while nothing changed except weight gain and a steep decline in her sex drive (yes of course she still wanted to. It was the Black Keys in her head for fuck's sake not tom waits). She took the Xanax every night without fail, and she slept...but the song was in the background of every dream. She even took 4 of them one night (they were only .5 mg. Chilllll). Nothing. Not-a-gd-thing.

So. She channeled her best Hunter Thompson and tried shrooms, acid, cocaine, weed, ecstasy, ketamine, bought antipsychotics and Adderall from some high school kid who most definitely needed to be taking them herself. She had briefly even considered giving meth a shot, but a bitch has to draw a line somewhere and bathtub drugs made by rednecks with batteries and fertilizer and whatever else were apparently that line.

She wasn't the praying type, but she did return to Church for awhile until she was asked not to come back for laughing hysterically during the preacher's sermon about gay sin. So then she stayed home did the rituals, talked the talk, read a Dollar Tree bible and prayed. Hard. She asked others to join in--every Facebook prayer must obviously magnify your specific claim no matter how generic the request may appear on social media ( how do we know what to pray for?) judging by the behavior of the religious folks on her list. No answer. No change. She didn't even feel heard or warm or have clearer skin (which she also prayed about).

She posted the specifics last month online and got the usual recommendations from the armchair physicians on Facebook: yoga, drink more water, exercise, go for more walks, get outside, enjoy the sunshine, smile more, stop worrying about it, meditate, take B12 and D, acu-fucking-puncture, a chiropracter. You know, all the regular suggestions people give when they don't know shit but think they do. She. did. them. all.

Yet here she was, song still playing like the repeat button in her brain was on lock mode. 136 days 7 hours 26 minutes and 12 seconds. Torture. If the government could harness this power (scary to consider really) they'd never have to waterboard anyone again.

She had watched this documentary type show on Amazon called Lore some time ago, and one of the episodes was on the history of the lobotomy. If she hadn't ever seen a woman get an icepick through her eye to destroy part of her brain to make her more docile and subservient to her husband, she might be more inclined to joke about needing one, but after that, the whole idea was too dark even for her sense of humor.

Electroshock therapy was a consideration maybe... but then she'd seen what it could so on shows and documentaries and how often it was used to keep women in line when they were "hysterical." She'd rather deal with this song on repeat for the rest of her life than be completely locked inside her own head because of some mishap with a therapy that probably shouldn't have ever been used in the first place.

136 days 7 hours 29 minutes and 32 seconds

"Let me be your everlasting light.
The sun when there is none
I'm a shepherd for you
And I'll guide you through"

So she took the lyrics literally. Finally.

She sat on the floor pillow she bought for meditating purposes and let Dan Auerbach be her guide through her own imagination. They were in some sort of vast Middle Earth realm where the sun had been blocked out, and Dan literally shone like a star guiding her to an oasis of sorts. They sat under date palms on a log near a little pond listening to its creatures' mating calls. And as Dan turned to croon the song to her as he had in so many Xanax fueled dreams before, she pulled out a dagger of moonstone (whatever the fuck that is) and cut out his tongue.

Everything was silent. In fact the silence was so sudden and so complete she fell off her pillow back in reality and startled herself out of the meditated fantasy. When she opened her eyes, for a moment she saw the oasis, the stilled part of tongue just inches from her face as she lay in the sand. She jumped up and away from the sickening thing and found herself back home in her apartment surrounded by her things and in complete nothingness until some asshole blared his horn on the street below. She hurried and thought of any song at all besides THAT one and was pleasantly surprised to "hear" Benjamin Booker's Violent Shiver playing in her head.

We found a way, indeed.


The next morning though when she picked up her phone like she always did and flipped through Facebook, a headline from Rolling Stone jumped out at her.

Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys and The Arcs Found in Hotel Room Missing His Tongue


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Friday, February 2, 2018

Cupid Swap

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 10 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

Tell us about a time you witnessed an act of love.

It was submitted by:

I'm not sure the following short story strictly adheres to the prompt, but I wasn't feeling especially lovey-dovey this month, and this story had been rolling around in my mind for awhile now, so here we are.

A few things before you start: Reddit is a social site. Let's Not Meet is a particular area of that site where people share stories about creeps they met in the wild. The stories must be true and often require some sort of verification to stay up. Downvotes are basically dislikes on Reddit. A Chad is a term used by men with issues to describe any man they see as successful but especially a muscled jock type. Normie is a "normal" person so far as I can tell--someone who isn't an incel (involuntarily celibate person who things sex is a right and owed to them). If you spend any time researching it....well, you're just going to get angry. But sometimes being angry is a good thing.

Herman's pudgy, pasty fingers moved furiously over the keyboard. His cheeks shone a vibrant red, his brow sweaty with rage and concentration. It was another Friday night spent playing World of Warcraft and obviously NOT getting the respect he deserved or that cunt Bitchicorn on Reddit wouldn't have tried to give him any shit on the Let's Not Meet sub. And what was with all the fucking downvotes? Anyone with half a brain cell would agree--if the guy stalking the op, CandiedGams, was a Chad with 6 pack abs and a 5 figure bank account his daddy gave him, she wouldn't be complaining. And really if you think about it, all she wanted was a pity party. Attention whore. So fucking what if that Uber driver killed her dog when she wouldn't go out with him?! Who the fuck did she think she was anyway? A queen? Hardly. She was less of a lifeform than the last shit he took. If she wasn't such a stuck up bitch and went out with the Uber driver who was out of his way nice to her during the ride, she wouldn't have had this problem. CoD is call of duty, and WoW is World of Warcraft. Both are games.

He was so angry by this point his chest felt tight. He wanted badly to shut Bitchicorn up forever, but she had an army of feminist harpies backing her up by then, and his breath was shortening to the point he had to reach for his inhaler. He logged off, a flood of self-loathing for not even being able to deal with women online and put them in their place rising up through the Baja Blast Moutain Dew and 12 pack of tacos he had for dinner. It was all he could do not to punch the wall, but the last time he lost control like that he bruised his knuckles and couldn't kick anyone's ass on CoD for a week.

So, he turned to the one place he could always count on to make him feel at least somewhat sane. He logged right back into reddit under his alt account and hit the Incels subs--the few that were left after Reddit's hypocrisy anyway. It didn't take long for him to realize his mistake. The first few threads were filled with stupid normies who would never fucking get it telling them all to get therapy, wash, and workout. Like that was going to rearrange his facial aesthetic, give him a fat wallet, or make his dick big enough to satisfy those whores.... he could feel the pressure in his chest again, couldn't catch his breath through the weight of the rage, and felt the pain travel in bursts down his left arm before his room started looking hazy and dark.

And that's when he passed out. Apparently.

When he woke up, he wasn't in his room anymore. Maybe. All he knew was he was sitting on a plush, velveteen lounge, and that was definitely not part of his decor. After looking around a bit, he noticed a few hanging plants, some golden lamps, a harp... weird shit. There were hearts of various shapes plastered on the way and in a wide array of styles from realistic to pixelated.


He spent a panicked few minutes on the verge of tossing his Taco Bell trying to figure out where he could possibly be when a door opened in the wall across from him where no door had been before, and in walked a guy who looked vaguely familiar. He was well dressed in a white suit with a blood red shirt, pink tie, and matching fedora perched jaintily on his head. His dark brown hair was cut short, beard full but trimmed, and he was in decent shape. Not built but not fat. Not really slender but healthy. He walked gracefully without the labored breathing Herman was used to.

The dude stopped a couple feet from the lounge and waited.

"Well... who the hell are you?" That was Herman.

"I'm you. Well, I'm not really you. I'm me, but I look what you might if you gave two shits about that sort of thing and gave it any effort."

Herman's mouth hung open. That was his only reaction. No words, no grunts, no bodily reactions, or change in his slumped posture...his oily double chin had lowered to it's maximum width, and there it stayed.

"Nice look on you, that slackjawed, slow-minded wonderment. Look, I'll save you some trouble. It doesn't matter who I am so much as who you will be when we're done. No, you aren't dead, but you DID have a bit of a heart attack. No biggie. No real damage. But I saw my chance to make a difference in the world, and now I have a job for you. Ok maybe not so much the world but for me."
"Wh-wh-what? A heart attack?"

"You weren't exactly living a healthy lifestyle there, Herman. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Too much grease and rage being pumped into your body with no effort being expended on, well, anything. For fuck's sake, man, when's the last time you brushed your teeth?"

Herman snapped out of his daze then and felt the usual rage rushing through his veins. "None of your fucking business, you stupid Chaaaaaad."

"Hahaha just what I thought. Either way, yes, heart attack, not a big deal. You'll be fine physically IF you make some changes like eating better, getting out of your house, exercise, medication....OR you can take my job and I'll fill in for you. You can look any way you want, eat anything you want...oh, and you'll be immortal."

"Wait. What?"

"Either you keep on progressing your heart disease because we both know you aren't going to change and die of a heart attack when you're 39 or 40 or you can be me and be immortal."

"What does it involve?"

"Well. I'm in the business of love. Have you ever heard of Cupid?"

"Stop fucking playing. There is no way I'm buying this. Cupid is a myth. A story. A load of bullshit."

"I assure you, Herman, the story is real. I'm real. The offer is real."

"So what exactly does this involve? Going around making people fall in love with each other? If that's the case why the hell did you choose for me to spend my whole life alone?"

"Look, I don't match people up who expect to get laid or only looking to get laid. I bring together couples who under ordinary circumstances could last forever. True loves. Boy, you don't love so much as your pinky toe. That's part of the job...learning what love is and means to other people. Do you know how much like you I used to be? I have been doing this 200 long years trying to figure out what this girl saw in that one or what this boy saw in that girl, and let me tell's not what YOU think it is with your internet posts droning on about Chads and normies and women only loving rich, built assholes. It's not so neatly defined. It's actually NEVER like that. Not for couples who will actually make it, who are actually in love. Shit. Listen at me going on like this. Man, I used to hate the very idea of love. Like you."

"Am I trolling myself in my own nightmares? Is that what this is?"

"No, I assure you this is very real. And it's a serious matter. And you don't have much more time, so I'm going to need your decision."

"Why me?"

"Because you've ruined yourself really. You need an out more than anyone I've ever seen in my time doing this. And you probably have the least idea what love actually is than any poor sap I've ever met. So as my final act of love I'm passing the torch to someone who needs the lesson."

"Fuck you."

"Take the deal or go back to WoW and hating women until you die alone jerking off to sex robot porn. Those are your options."

"Oh. How do you know about.... uh. Deal."


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

Friday, January 12, 2018

Life Soundtrack (updated)

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: mapping out, change is hard, decision, accomplish, dead end, indisputable truth

They were submitted by:

Buckle up, kids. It's a long ride. 


It’s difficult to get to know someone, who they are now, without knowing where they have been, who they have been. Nearly impossible, really. The version of ourselves we are at the present is illuminated by and carries the baggage of the past. We’re a sum of experiences, memories, genes, views. Everything we are is shaped, at least in part, by everything we have been. Mapping out all that personal tragedy (in my case) isn’t all that good a time. But a soundtrack… A soundtrack is something else. It’s like a mixtape for your life—using someone else’s words and art to relate the journey you’ve been on, where it’s brought you, and where you see the road headed.

So here we are, seeing the landmarks on road I've traveled from beginning to end and beyond. 

Cyndi Lauper—Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

”Some boys take a beautiful girl
And hide her away from the rest of the world
I want to be the one to walk in the sun
Oh girls they wanna have fun
Oh girls just wanna have”

I don’t have very many memories of my childhood. Those that do exist are foggy snapshots in time, moments that fail to complete the full picture. They provide just enough to know what things were like but spare me the details I really don’t think I want anyway. But one of the true ones, an absolutely crystal clear memory rare as they are, is of a very young me, maybe 3, dancing to the video for this song, amused and laughing…free. Maybe the memory has stuck with me through all these years because it was the first time I connected to music in a real way. Or maybe it was one of the few times I felt safe and happy and unconcerned with the volatility that haunted most of my childhood. Either way, that relationship with music still exists, lighting my way through even the darkest times and making sure I remember where I came from.

Eric Clapton—Cocaine

When I was 3, my parents were arrested for distribution of cocaine. To be clear, it was my dad’s cocaine, but my mom lived there so when the police took him off for the loads of it they found in our house, they took her too. And then there was tiny me, a pawn in all of this, dressed and in court every day to play on the sympathies of the jury. Between me and the money my grandparents shelled out for an attorney (and possibly to grease palms a little), I didn’t lose either of my parents for any real length of time. Was that for the best? Eh. Jury’s still out on that one.

The cocaine though was an ever-present character in my childhood. My dad loved the stuff. It didn’t love him, but he couldn’t get enough. His nickname was Stormy because of his reputation for being a mean motherfucker with a volatile temper. Maybe he would have been that without the cocaine…maybe not. Either way, he lived by this song, man.

“If you want to hang out, you gotta take her out, cocaine. “

It was never my thing. Despite the nights I saw him ride on with a little powder, fist-pumping like a champ to this song, I saw how much destruction it can cause, and I took a different path. I suppose sometimes our parents are the best ways we learn how/who NOT to be.

Nirvana—Smells Like Teen Spirit

Given I spent my teens in the 90s it seems a bit cliché to include this song on the list, but I can live with that. Around the time I was 12ish my parents finally split. My mom put up with his drugs and drinking and abuse for far too long and spent quite some time squirreling away money from her weekly paychecks trying to save up enough to move out and leave him once and for all. It took a long time for me to not fault her for staying so long, but good fucking god, leaving was terrifying. He would show up at our little rented place out of his mind with rage and drink and drugs and threaten to rain hell down upon us if she didn’t return, but she stayed strong through it. I don’t know how any of us did really. But even then I knew I would never let myself be in her shoes.

It wasn’t long after their split that my mom took me shopping. I had some money burning a hole in my pocket like it always seems to do for kids who have no concept of money, and I wanted music to soothe the ache of life. This was the first album I ever bought with my own money—that I picked out for myself. I didn’t even really know who the fuck Nirvana was at the time, but when my mom saw the album cover while shopping with me, she did that thing Moms do, that gasp of disapproval followed by a whole bunch of naggy words about not understanding the world today or some such shit. Things old people do. Of course that meant I had to have it whether I knew who the fuck they were or not. I needed that rebellion. I needed to assert who I was outside of who she was, who my father was, who all the adults were that I knew. I needed to be something else, something different, something…more.  That was the indisputable truth of the matter.

It just so happened that putting this tape in, yes I said tape, awakened all that in me and more. I don’t know if I can claim it was life-changing, but it sure did its part to make me feel at home in my own skin, and I still treasure the decision I made that day to get it. Music has done its part during so many times in my life to help me figure out what it means to be me, and this was certainly one of those times. The gritty, grungy sounds worked like sandpaper to soothe my soul and help me escape the road I was too young to have much control over. The only thing I could get a handle on was how much I really needed to be my own person. 

“She's overboard, self assured. Oh no I know, a dirty word.”

Stone Temple Pilots—Sex Type Thing

My mom moved on really fast after my parents split. She had been with my dad since she was super young, had never been on her own, and didn’t really care to be on her own ever. It just wasn’t for her. I could say a lot of things about that and the man she chose to marry as soon as the divorce was final, but some things are better left off the Internet. What I will say is they’re still married over 20 years later or whatever, and I guess that’s something.

Her choice wasn’t easy on 13 year old me, though. Change is hard, you know. I started drinking at that age to cope with all these things, stealing alcohol from my soon to be stepfather’s stash and refilling the marked bottles with water. It was a daily thing. I liked that fuzzy feeling and how it smoothed out all the rough edges in my mind that wouldn’t quite fit together like a puzzle should. I liked how it quelled my anxiety for a little while and made me sleepy and forgetful and unfazed by the dead deer hanging on the walls and the times I could hear them having sex in the next room. It's funny I'd get in trouble for drinking the few times i was caught, but no one ever seemed concerned about *why* I was drinking or even wanted to at that age--it was more a problem about me "stealing" someone else's alcohol. I was my father's child, and I guess being a drunk was just expected of me.

Anyway, I suppose my point is that I wasn’t exactly making good decisions, and my dad’s house was the place to be for bad decision making. That’s really the only reason I have for moving back in with him when I was on the cusp of 14. I wanted my home, my bedroom, my things… I wanted something to be the way it had always been, the comfort of that. And of course there I would have unlimited access to all the booze. He’d been giving it to me in front of company as a gag since I was a baby. Why would he ever have a problem doing so when I was older?

That’s where I was alone the weekend I was “date” raped at 13. He had gone to Miami to pick up some drugs to sell and left me in charge of myself with a fully stocked fridge and my grandparents just a few minutes down the road in case of an emergency. So when this boy I knew, an older boy, stopped by on his four wheeler insisting to come in, me on the cusp of 14 and getting into boys already, I kept the bad decision train rolling steadily on its tracks and let him in. We watched a movie together though the title seems to evade me, and when he moved closer to me on the couch I thought I might die. When he kissed me, I internally girl screamed so loud I just knew he would hear it. He didn’t stop there though.

“I know you want what’s on my mind. I know you like what’s on my mind.”

No matter how many times I said no more, I can’t, don’t, I’m scared, please no, please don’t, please seriously I can’t do this or the fact that I tried to get away from him stopped him from having what he wanted. No matter what I said, he was sure I wanted what was on his mind, and he would accomplish that goal whether he had to tackle me and take it or not.

The person I was died that night. I’m a wholly different person than I ever would have been without that hanging over me more than 20 years later, but I’ve accepted this phoenix I am, reborn from the ashes of that night with anxiety and a guilt complex that has stuck with me no matter how many times I had to start over, no matter how much I think I have overcome it.


Everyone handles sexual assault differently. I didn’t really know what to do. I just knew it wasn’t right. I confided in a friend who ended up telling her mom, and she, despite me begging her not to, told my dad. He blamed me and raged which I tried to tell her would happen—the raging anyway…I honestly didn’t expect the blame. It was my fault for being such a whore, he said, and refused to hear anything else about it.

I was already on track with bad decisions. By this point, I was smoking weed, still drinking, hanging out with older kids (the kids of his many girlfriends actually), and I took that to heart, I suppose. Sex no longer meant anything to me. It was just a thing to do…a fun thing to do. 

The first time I had sex after the rape at 14, it was with a guy almost 5 years my senior who I snuck out of the house to see. I knew it wasn't supposed to mean anything much, and I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel something, anything other than the pain. I wanted that control. We listened to this album during it—one of my favorites—and I managed to sing along at some points. I don’t know what it was about that night, but something that should have been cheap and mean nothing for either of us actually connected us in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Sort of like the characters in Zach and Miri Make a Porno. We kept in contact for a lot of years through his stints in prison and even after he finally returned home. He even asked me to marry him at one point. I fucked a guy in a Cavalier or something equally as shitty when I was far too young listening to Bush of all things and still get butterflies if I see him around or hear from him.

“Must be your skin that I'm sinking in
Must be for real 'cause now I can feel.”

As much as I have told myself sex is just that over the years, that song still makes me think of that boy and that night, and I get a rush. That’s certainly not “just sex” or just getting off, and if I’m completely honest there are some people, some connections, some intimacy worth letting your guard down for no matter how much pain it causes you in the end.

Neil Young—Rockin’ in the Free World

My dad had these two girlfriends once…. How someone like my dad had two women who didn’t mind each other  screwing around with him and traded time with him is beyond me. The drugs maybe? Either way, their kids were a bit older than me and had friends who were in a band. Do you know how awed I was at 13/14 to have friends who were INABAND?!  They did a few original songs and a couple covers. One was Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So and the other a version of this song that actually wasn’t bad.

Picture it, a field somewhere in South Georgia, 1994. “Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive.”

My life was kind of like the Moontower party on Dazed and Confused at the time. I was staying out too late with kids far too old to really be my friends, having sex and doing drugs, fucking up… I suppose that’s why I still love that movie—nostalgia. I was also super awkward, unsure of myself… I tried too hard to fit in instead of being me. I was Mitch and Sabrina all rolled into one with an extra dash of social ineptitude. I couldn’t see it then, but I learned a lot about myself during that time or rather what kind of person I really didn’t want to be. It was important to figure my own shit out, to be my own person rather than just going along with whoever I was around because those motherfuckers did NOT have their shit together no matter how much I looked up to them for awhile, and the longer I was around the more able I was to see it.


“Kill the headlights and put it in neutral.”

When I was 15, 9th grade, my dad came back from a stint in prison, a short one even, for trafficking, and he was worse than ever. I had managed to pretty much stay out of his hair enough and did enough of his housework and laundry to keep him from beating my ass too often, but that changed. He was doing more drugs, driving himself drunk more often instead of making me drive (I drove for him even at 13), and one night he pinned me to my bed and headbutt me hard enough to bust my lip luckily missing my nose in a rage I couldn’t even begin to fathom. He kicked one of my new stepbrothers across the yard for being fat breaking a few of his ribs. He broke my stepmom’s clavicle erasing all that shit she ever said about my mom just not loving him the right way. It was either move out or risk something more serious happening to me.

By then my mom had been remarried for awhile, my stepdad had nearly killed my dad in a drunken fistfight, and they moved into a rich, white neighborhood in town. I didn’t have good options, but I went where it was at least not violent, and oh man did my friends make fun of me for it. Good naturedly of course. A couple of my stoner friends really made this my theme song, and I loved, like really loved, this girl who used to sing it to me. She was funny and beautiful and jerked me around. She was the first girl I ever really had feelings for, and it opened up a whole new world for me.  I suspected before then that maybe I was different, but with her I knew it for sure. Back then I didn't really know much about how to label myself. Bi was as close as it came, but reclaiming "queer" as a label has been fitting and important, and it works better than anything else. 

RHCP—Under the Bridge

“I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day.”

So there was this boy… THE boy of my teens probably. We met in 8th grade when I transferred schools after my parents’ divorce, and despite me being a fucking weirdo (I’m still a weirdo. I just dress better now.) he overlooked it and saw me for who I was. I went to all his soccer games, traded notes with him in every class we shared, watched movies with him on the phone when we were both grounded from actually hanging out… he was the first person I ever had phone sex with and someone I naively thought I was in love with for a long time.

When he was 20, someone broke into his apartment while he was gone. He came home while they were still inside, and the guy murdered him. He never really made it past his doorway. The call I got that he was gone nearly killed me. I fell to my knees in my apartment floor begging it not to be true, and for a long time, I spent a lot of nights visiting the cemetery where he was buried pouring my heart out about what was wrong with the world and how much I missed him.

His death, the way he died, him being so young when he died, and the fact that I never really got a chance to say goodbye had a deeper impact on me that I still don’t really understand--from my career goals to the types of guys I end up being drawn to.

I had known for a long time that I wanted to go into the criminal justice system, but that event pushed me even harder and warped my thinking for a long time. I was angry and emotional. I supported the death penalty, long-term prison sentences, and mandatory sentencing laws which are pretty much the opposite of who I am today. The research I did in school eventually caused enough cognitive dissonance to get me to look at my stance objectively instead of tied to his memory, and I was able to see things more clearly. For so long, letting go of my anger seemed like a betrayal to his memory, but that was never who he was. This event changed my life in so many ways, and even now, even with all the changes and even though it’s been 15 years, I miss him so much. Sometimes I still dream about him and wake up heartbroken all over again.

He loved this song. We listened to it so many times together, and all it takes is a couple seconds in for all those memories to flood my mind, make me smirk, and feel the sting of tears in my eyes. He may be gone from this world physically, but a part of him lives in me always and forever. 

The Deftones—Passenger

The change I made in my beliefs about “justice” didn’t happen overnight. It was a process I honestly fought tooth and nail for a couple, few years. Towards the end of that, I came across a pen pal site for inmates that focused mostly on death row inmates who had murdered people in cases not much different than the one that had cost me Mat.

My anger about that was scary. How dare these people reach out and expect to find friendship they didn’t deserve… But I kept going back to it. My morbid curiosity was undeniable, and eventually I decided to write someone. I think part of me wanted to meet a monster, so I could still hold onto that righteous anger and stand on my judgmental soapbox, but that’s just not the way it worked. Don’t get me wrong—it was a completely emotional decision. The person I chose to write looked and acted a lot like my fallen friend and was accused of a crime not that far off from what took him. I honestly could come up with a million different reasons why that was my choice, but either way, looking back at all the irrational and emotion-based steps that led me to it, I still feel like it was the right choice. 11 years now I have been writing people, and even though I lost that guy, Robert, in October 2017, to execution, even though he and I had our ups and downs as friends and didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, writing him and others has made me a stronger, better, more well-rounded person, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Even battling chronic fatigue syndrome since 2016, I still find time and spend some of my spoons on writing and helping and taking care of my pen pals (who are more than just pen pals).

It’s not an easy thing, though. You go into it not knowing where you’re headed, how long you have, or how it will go. It’s always a gamble, and you’re never the driver. You’re just along for the ride.

”Mirrors sideways
Who cares what's behind?
Just like always
Still your passenger”

To be able to do this the right way no matter whether the person may have a life sentence, a shorter one, or a death sentence you have to be prepared to relinquish control and let the journey take you where it will. 11 years I invested just to lose someone, and I wouldn’t change it. He wasn’t even the first I’d lost, and he won’t be the last. Others I have written have beaten their death sentences and proven their innocence or had their life without parole sentences reduced… You just never know. And that’s kind of the beauty of it. The friendship comes without pretense simply because you have no fucking idea how anything will ever turn out, and once you embrace that, once you make the commitment to let yourself really be open and vulnerable and genuine since you really have no idea how long it will last and you don't get the comfort of hiding behind conventions, you can forge the kind of human connection that changes lives—theirs but also your own.

”Roll the windows down this
Cool night air is curious
Let the whole world look in
Who cares who sees anything?
I'm your passenger”

Don Henley—Heart of the Matter

Oh man Don Henley fucking sucks, okay? I know it. You know it. There was nothing good that came of that album, but I have a lot of memories tied to that song. My dad played it every time he was drunk (every day) and always about my mom, and I never understood it. He surely hadn’t forgiven her. Maybe it had a lot to do with them listening to it together when towards the end of their marriage. Maybe he figured out it meant something different to her even then… who knows. Maybe it was crack or meth or cocaine fueled psychosis. Or maybe this first stanza hit him especially hard right in the feels no one ever thought he could possibly have:

“I got the call today, I didn't want to hear
But I knew that it would come
An old, true friend of ours was talkin' on the phone
She said you found someone
And I thought of all the bad luck
And the struggles we went through
And how I lost me and you lost you”

I can’t ask him why that song was such a big one for him because he died in 2006. I got the call I didn’t want to hear in March of that year. He’d been diagnosed with cancer at 52. It had progressed to, well, pretty much everywhere, and with treatment, if he was lucky, he had about 6 months to live. I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel at the time. Mostly I was just numb. We never had a great relationship, but part of me did and always will love him, so in my own way, I also took it pretty hard.

He opted for treatment and lasted almost exactly 6 months being buried on *my birthday* (thanks to my darling of a stepmother to that idea) in September that year. I visited him more in that 6 months than I had in the 10 years since I’d moved out of his house. I called to check on him, let him spend time with my son, and hoped somewhere along the way that I would get some kind of apology for the hell he caused me. Hope in one hand and shit in the other, you know?

Not long before he died, the radiation he went through to shrink the cancerous spots on his brain made it so he couldn’t really talk much anymore. The words just wouldn’t come. I called late one night and talked to him on speakerphone with my stepmom there. He wouldn’t say much of anything, but towards the end he took the phone from her and kissed it. He loved me. I never really felt it in life, but on his deathbed he managed to communicate it in little ways.

After he was gone, I felt like the best thing I could do for either of us was to forgive and move on, to let go of the resentment and anger and just let his memory rest if not for him, for myself. But the harder I willed it to happen, the further from it I got, and even with a tattoo on my arm to signify his passing and my badge of courage for making it through the shitfest he made of my life, I still couldn’t get to a point where I felt okay.

My stepmom called my brother and I out to the house to pick up a few of his things she felt we might want (and let’s be clear it wasn’t much. She kept as much as humanly possible for herself and had burned all our things long before). In it was a stack of records (including that Cyndi Lauper I loved to dance to so much) and a whole box of 45s. Most of the singles were warped from being in the attic in the South Georgia weather and unplayable, but I couldn’t part with them, so I used them to form this huge music note on one of my bedroom walls with it stuck between framed copies of some of *my* favorite albums and posters from shows I’d been to and the Cyndi Lauper, of course.

Somewhere along the way coming home to that note on the wall and listening to his old records, I found the peace I needed. He’d given me that connection to music. He showed me how good it feels to share a song with someone you know they’ll really love or one that changes everything for them. He gave me my assertive, take no bullshit attitude, my will to be weird, my potty mouth and dirty sense of humor. So many of the things I love about myself were his influence. He didn’t really know how to be a good father, but in the end, he’d taught me more than I ever realized about who I wanted to be not just the things I knew I’d never become.

“There are people in your life
Who've come and gone
They let you down
You know they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you baby
'Cause life goes on
You keep carryin' that anger
It'll eat you up inside baby”

I guess Don Henley got one thing right—it is about forgiveness.


I was married in 2004 at 22 ½ years old to someone I had been dating for a year. I got pregnant the next year, and my kid was born in October of 2005. Somewhere in that time and in the years of losing my dad, dealing with my lingering emotions about Mat’s murder, picking up writing, and trying to work full time, go to college full time, be a first time, new mom and still take care of most of the housework and cooking and bill paying and yardwork….I lost myself. I lost connections to music that was my own and just sort of gravitated to whatever my husband was into or whatever my friends suggested or what played on the only decent radio station around. I saw a lot of bands in that time. I loved a lot of songs, but it wasn’t the same kind of feeling as the first time I played Nirvana. None of it released my demons and made me feel like the Earth was on fire or made me feel like a part of me was flying free untethered by the bullshit of everyday life. I was Mom/Wife/employee/friend/student. I played roles. But I had failed to keep ahold of my true self, and it showed. I. Was. Fucking. Miserable.

To maybe no one’s surprise we divorced in 2008. It was too much for me to take care of a grown ass man and a child along with everything else I was doing. I was resentful and angry and unable to move past the fact that in all those years even with a child he hadn’t grown. If anything, he regressed. The fighting was too much; I put up so many walls he couldn’t feel a thing from me but icy rejection, and it ended. It wasn’t one big thing; it was a thousand tiny cuts that bled the life from me little by little day after day, and I think we both finally had enough. We’re still friends. We raise our kid together fairly well for people who were once married and couldn’t hack it, but my god it was fucking heaven being free.

Not long after I joined this social media site away from people I knew in real life (at the ex’s recommendation actually). I met a lot of folks through it (some I still keep in touch with) and that’s where I really started rebuilding. I wrote things I actually let people read. I talked openly about the horrors of marriage and dating as a single parent. I was a bit of an exhibitionist. And I fell hard for a guy from the Boston area who antagonized me purposely at every turn…like Mat and I used to do to one another. We’re still close. He’s just one of those people who left his mark on me that I can’t let go of nor do I want to. A part of me will always, always belong to him and vice versa.

But when he told me that I didn’t know real music early on in our friendship, I took great offense to it. I mean, I was kind of livid. I didn’t want to admit it that he was right about anything ever for one thing, and for another, music had always meant so much to me that it felt like a punch in the gut to hear those words. He sent me the link to this song though, and I sat back in my computer chair with a glass of wine in hand to listen, fully expecting to hate it on principle alone.

But my god it spoke to me on a level not much else had ever done. I was lost. I listened to everything the band had available and I wanted more. I wanted that feeling over and over and over again, that fluttering rush of something that resonates so well it shakes something loose in your brain and wakes you the fuck up.

“Earth burns
Earth turns
Coeur dans la mer (heart in the sea)
Corps dans le vert (body in the green)”

And so my relationship with music was reborn along with a part of myself I hadn’t even realized I let die all thanks to a boy I still call “cricket” just because.

Classico—Tenacious D

There was never really one aha! moment when it comes to being a geek mom with a geek kid that links our relationship to just one song or one band. I wasn’t ever sure I even wanted to be a mom, then all of a sudden I was pregnant. Having him almost killed me, and it took awhile for me to get into the swing of things. I read all the books. I know how other moms are and how they completely adopt “mom” as their main (only) role, but I had to do it my own way. I don’t know if most people would really understand it—I homeschool him, let him swear at home, and discuss things with him that a lot of parents seem to avoid i.e. what being gay/asexual/trans means, racism, systemic oppression, feminism, how U.S. involvement in foreign affairs has funded and created a lot of terrorist groups, why I am atheist, what my past was like… I don’t keep a lot from him, but I also make sure all of this is used for good and try as much as I can to foster empathy and the heart of an activist within him. In that same vein, I don’t really moniter what he listens to (though I don’t have much to worry about there since it’s mostly game soundtracks) nor what he watches (as long as it isn’t extremely graphic in terms of violence and/or sex). That’s how he came to be such a Tenacious D fan. We watched the movie together one night, and he was hooked. Most days you can hear him rocking it while he does schoolwork, and he knows all the words to most of the songs from the movie as well as others.

But most of all it just fits with who we are, him being a little mini-me—music-loving, weirdo geeks with inane and often dark senses of humor. Goofballs. Masters of the Swear. Often inappropriate at home. And massive nerds.

“'cause when you rule, you fucking school all of the fools, out of their jewels,
'cause if you think it's time,
if you think it's time,
if you think it's time to fucking rock.”

It’s always time to fucking rock.

Childish Gambino—Redbone and Shakey Graves—If Not For You

”But stay woke, but stay woke”

I’ve come into my own in my 30s in a way that was so unexpected. I was so used to seeing the trope of women crying and screaming and being dragged into the big 3-0 that I really had no idea that it would be this amazing to be a 30-something. I have felt more at home in my own skin at this time in my life than any others, and I have given fewer fucks than ever about the opinions of others when it comes to what I do personally while still managing to give all the fucks about what a state the world is in.

I can’t pinpoint a time when it all became clear to me, but I feel like I woke up one day after having just said “I’m not like other girls” the night before to being an intersectional feminist with fervent interests along the sociopolitical spectrum and highly focused on identity politics. It’s been a slow transition. I know that intellectually. But it doesn’t feel that way.

And along the journey, that growth led me to other arenas mostly focused on self-love. I struggle with it. I struggle with discussing my past, my demons, my mental health, my chronic illness, where I am from, my biases, and my self-image, but I fight the battles every day (and mostly I win).

Music has been a big part of the struggle.

I listened to a lot of hip hop in my teens. I also listened to a lot of metal. I don’t know how to tell you those two things work together, but I suppose a large part of it was rebellion. I dropped the hip hop along the way at some point, and I could never bring myself back to it. For a lot of reasons that are probably “obvious” to a lot of people, the genre itself seemed at odds with my politics.

“I used to know but, now that shit don’t feel right. It made me put away my pride.”

 Someone I wrote for awhile had me digging a little deeper on the genre sharing songs he loved. The lyrics were often politically driven and just as much about love and relationships and every day trials as any other genre I loved at the time—maybe even more so. It wasn’t the kind of misogynistic and violent tone so many people often associate with both the genre and culture surrounding it. I found myself sorting through all kinds of artists who saw things like I do, who had actually felt those experiences that I know need to change, that wanted something better for all people… Music didn’t have to be just an escape, but a way to feel less alone in your own thoughts and to give you the energy to keep fighting. That was the origins of hip hop anyway—activism and revolution. I know better now. I put away my pride and learned a thing or two even about a subject I thought I already knew everything about (music).

Childish Gambino was one of the first artists of the genre that I really fell in love with, but this album in particular is everything. It has so many roots in the kind of 70s black culture and music that felt like a strike back at the volatility of the times and something sorely needed today given the way things are now. If anything could represent that part of me that wakes up every day wanting to fight the good fight, it’s this album with this being the first song I heard off it. It gets stuck in my head for days, and sometimes I find myself craving the experience this album is. It's not just a record. You live it from start to finish when you put it on.

In a similar vein, I never really wanted to listen to anything too country or folk sounding because I needed to set myself so far apart from everything I know in South Georgia. Being comfortable with every part of yourself means not denying something you enjoy just because of how it might make you look to an outsider (like a country bumpkin hipster pretending to be cultured perhaps).  But when my closest friend and I first heard Shakey Graves we fell in love with the sound. I mean, we were full on obsessed. If Not For You was that song, and while the lyrics might not really apply to our friendship, I can honestly say if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know how I’d make it in this world. We threw caution to the wind about a genre so far outside our norm that day (his being punk and mine being stoner metal or really anything but that), and it was beautiful, and it bonded us even more. I will never hear Shakey without thinking of him no matter whether life keeps us together or throws us a million miles apart, and my story wouldn’t be complete without at least a chapter for him. But even more than that, embracing the sounds that I have so often rebelled against with everything else imaginable under the sun was just one more way to really be my own self, and that’s been the overall theme of my 30s. Give zero fucks and be genuine to the core.

The Staves—Tired as Fuck

I’ve been battling chronic fatigue syndrome since May of 2016, and honestly for the first year of it, I felt like my journey might have hit a dead end.

“Oh, I'm tired as fuck
Nothing no one ever can do to bring me back up
Oh, I'm tired as fuck”

Tired as fuck doesn’t even really begin to cover the kind of severe fatigue that’s one of the main symptoms of the disorder. There are days I’m not even sure how I am going to make it out of bed (I always do…because who else is going to get shit done?). It’s been a fucker of a thing, and it’s taken a lot out of me to come to terms with the idea that this is a lifelong chronic illness with no cure and symptoms that are spread across nearly every bodily system. My immune system, muscles, joints, gastrointestinal system, endocrine system, my cognition, my vision, cardiovascular system, and personality have all been affected. I’ve had to spend a lot of time and energy I don’t have relearning who I am and what my limits are and how to not equate my worth with my productivity levels. It’s not something I asked for, but it’s something I still have to keep a handle on it. And I do…mostly. It’s been a life changing, me-changing illness ever since it started. The pain, brain fog…feeling everyday like I am drunk with the flu when I rarely even drink…it’s almost surreal. 

But at the same time, it’s taught me to do some serious self-care not just fake it, to take time for myself, and to always appreciate the little things (I don’t have the fucking spoons for the big things more times than not).  I had to give up being independent to a fault and learn to ask for and accept help instead of trying to do it all (still a struggle not to feel guilty over that). I’ve had to unlearn the pressure I put on myself to get ALLTHETHINGS done in one day or in a certain time period, and now I have to get to it when I get to it. I still sometimes feel that pressure. I have a long way to go, but even with this monster of an illness I feel more in tune with life and myself. I even give myself breaks from the news (whoa!).

I can’t say it’s been good for me because let’s face it I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but I’ve been able to make some good out of the situation, and that’s all you can really ask for out of life.

Daddy Issues—Unicorns and Rainbows (boyfriend)

If I had to pick just one song to be my theme in life, it would be this one. The sound, lyrics, girl power, angst and grunge are everything that I have been and am from that little girl dancing to the very countercultural icon Cyndi Lauper to 36 year old me still wearing flannel and Dr. Martens with purple hair and tattoos and an eat shit attitude covering up a pretty soft interior.

“Haven’t you heard
I’m a sheep underneath all this fur
You should have known
I am full of shit not unicorns and rainbows”

There is nothing much else to say about it, but that I feel so ridiculously happy every single time I hear this song, and I am happy it’s mine. (thank you to Tommy for sending this band my way and so many others and how much that friendship means to me)

Rolling Stone--Can’t Always Get What You Want

I don’t know what the future holds for me. Most days I’m just working on getting out of bed and doing what I have to do lately. Who has the energy to imagine what the future might be like when you never have enough to make it through the day you’re working on without a pot of coffee and careful planning? I’ve had to re-evaluate my goals—career and personal. I won’t ever accomplish the things I set out to do when I was in my early 20s, and I’ve kind of come to terms with that. I’m happy with who I’ve become. I have people I love that love me. I have all kinds of fur kids, massive record and book collections, and a good support system. I have taught myself to sew and create as much as possible, and my letters keep me pretty fulfilled. I can’t say I have everything I could ever want, but I’m good. Despite where I’ve come from and the c.f.s., things are good. Life is alright. And that’s enough.

“No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need”


If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. Here are the links to the rest of today's participants:

Baking In A Tornado

Bookworm in the Kitchen

On the Border

Cognitive Script

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

The Blogging 911

Friday, January 5, 2018

As I Meme and Breathe

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 10 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My subject is: Post a few favorite pictures and tell us why they’re your favorites.

It was submitted by:


If you look on any article about millennials, most say that generation covers birth dates starting in the mid-1980s through the mid-90s and possibly up through the early 2000s with the preceding generation, X, covering birth dates from the mid 60s through the late 70s possibly the early 80s. So what about those of us born in 1981 like me? We’re kind of left out of things finding ourselves with commonalities with both X and Millennials. Xennials. We’re not quite either one but some hybrid of the two pulling influence from both generations—killing things like millennials and bitching about them like Generation X at the same time. The culture of the times is a huge influence on who we are and who we become, how we behave. Social media, blogging, living our lives so often online has been a big part of that, and learning to use photo and gif reacts in conversations has become normal. Sometimes nothing captures your reaction better than a meme, a gif, or a photo even while older generations struggle to pronounce “meme” correctly. Shit changes, and as far as I’m concerned, this is one of the things that makes life better. So without further ado, here are some of my absolute favorites. They get used repetitively, and I laugh every damn time.  

Feel free to steal any of these any time you need a salty comeback. 


Here are the links to the rest of today's submissions.

Baking In A Tornado

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Cognitive Script

The Lieber Family Blog

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

The Bergham Chronicles

My Brand of Crazy

Southern Belle Charm

Friday, December 15, 2017

On Rituals and Loss

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words were: prison, austerity, lurking, skunk, snuggles.

They were submitted by:


Recently someone very close to me lost his grandmother. I'm certain the whole world felt that loss. She was an amazing lady whose 89 years were filled to the brim with love, warmth, and kindness.

This loss has been hard on him, and I've tried every way possible to be supportive (but to be honest I am just not equipped to be all that great at things like this. Maybe I'm just too dependent on rationalizing things, on throwing out emotion for logic). I did the whole family/visitation/funeral stuff even though I wasn't feeling well and had zero energy to do it, and I tried to provide as much of an emotional shield from it all as I could, but I know it wasn't enough. We sat at the funeral in stony silence as two non-family members took turns talking about generic traits and repeating the same stories over and over again. Despite saying her pastor saying he'd known the woman for over 2 years, he didn't have a clue that her entire family calls her Maw-maw and mispronounced it several more times even after he was corrected. Small town cliches about everyone knowing everyone else are simply that--cliches.

We've talked often since then about how weird our death traditions are and how unsatisfying it was for him to be a part of it. A skunk could have sprayed right on him, and I think it would have been more fulfilling than the things these two men shared about the #1 love of his life. Why let a strangers' broad descriptions be the last memories created about you?

So in the spirit of sharing something more real, I want to share my own Maw-maw story.

Brandon and I had been friends/hetero life mates for a few years before I actually met his grandma. The thought of it alone was extremely intimidating. I knew how much he looked up to her and loved her, and I also knew how most of the rest of his family felt about me--that I was some kind of horribly bad influence with my liberal ideas and tattoos. I certainly wasn't up to many of their perceived social status.

We had been walking the woods on her property looking at some of the outbuildings and enjoying being outside when he asked if I'd like to come in to meet her. It was a hot Georgia evening, and I had on short sleeves. I asked him if he was nuts. There was no way I would meet her without having more of my arms covered. He pulled me toward the house anyway and told me it would be fine.

If I'd known how lovely she would be, I would have met her a lot sooner. She didn't double take or even so much as let her gaze linger on my tattoos. It was like they were just...any other part of me. She talked to me like she had known me for ages, asked about my son who she already adored after just a few meetings, and respected me like she would anyone else. She offered cake and something to drink and to teach me how to sew anytime I wanted. There wasn't so much as a hint of what other family members had been like towards even the idea of me. She was the same every time I saw her. Even sitting around the house in her pjs at 89 years old on her bad days, she was the epitome of beauty, and it absolutely radiated from her. There was no way you could leave a visit with her and not be affected by her, inspired.

That's who she was--an unconditionally loving, nonjudgmental, warm, caring, compassionate, independent (and sometimes stubborn), inspiring woman who was beautiful inside and out, who provided for her family with hard work for years on her own, through easy times and those of austerity. Her faith was strong, but it wasn't the crutch to be judgmental the way so many people seem to use it. And the times she grew up in while so different from the culture in the time in which I knew her were never a prison of excuses to be ugly or spread hate. She was the person to go to if you needed snuggles no questions asked and always had the goods if you needed to eat your feelings. In every possible way, she was good. And she was wholeheartedly loved.

I know with every fiber of my being that she had no lurking doubts about that--about how much love she had felt and shared in her lifetime. Perhaps we all have questions towards the end. Maybe we wonder if we got it all right, if we could have done more or done things differently. Maybe that's a part of it all. But she died the same way she lived--surrounded by love. And that's the best thing any of us could ever hope for.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

Friday, December 8, 2017

No Travel, No worry

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 10 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is: Planes, trains and automobiles . . . which is your favorite and why?

It was submitted by:


Anxiety is no joke.

You know that feeling when you're watching a horror movie and the music changes? Sometimes it's subtle and builds to a crescendo, and you know a jump scare or some equally fucked up shit is about to go down. Your body tenses, and your heart races, and you feel a little sick knowing it's coming, something bad, but you don't know quite what it is. Your mind is running with the possibilities. You're trying to convince yourself of what the future holds so at least you'll know and can prepare.

Now imagine the thing never comes... the music builds and builds. The tension rises to the point every muscle hurts. Your heart rate is out of control. You're out of control.

That's anxiety.

I don't remember when exactly it started. I know it's partly genetic. I know a few close-together events probably acted as triggers. But the source doesn't really matter as much as dealing with it. Sometimes I deal by avoiding things that make it worse which is, at best, a bandaid, but it certainly makes things easier. Sometimes I do a little self-guided exposure therapy. Sometimes I take supplements to ease it off when I've been stressed and exhausted from other things my body fights with on top of trying to manage something that is often wholly unmanageable.

Being in a rural area like I am means I can avoid so much. I mean, I can go days without seeing anyone else besides those that live in my household. No crowds. No bullshit. Unplug when I need a break from the news. Lose myself in letters and put my passion somewhere at least to keep me from going stir crazy. But that also means getting basic necessities requires, at the very least, a car. There's no public transportation here. The closest store--and it has zero fresh produce or meat--is a 6 mile bike or walk away. To get anything I haven't already bought online, I need to go by car. And cars are kind of a trigger. Fuuuuuuuuuun. I do okay with routes I know well most of the time, but any amount of traffic and I feel that slow burn of panic welling up inside.

And yet...I still love a road trip as long as someone else is driving. Thanks for always keeping it weird, brain.

We don't have trains here. I've never been on one. Flights without drugs are really out of the question. Being locked in a space for however many hours with strangers?! I'd rather pull out my own eyeballs with a dirty spork.

None of the above is really the only answer I can give to this. I might be perfectly fine without ever being in any of the three ever again to be honest and while that's not necessarily feasible or healthy--complete avoidance--it's still.preferable.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, November 10, 2017

Off the Beaten Path

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: cottage ~ divine ~ bluntness ~ sphere ~ red

They were submitted by:


The little white cottage called to her. It wasn't hers. She'd actually never noticed it before on her hikes through these woods, but now it seemed almost like divine intervention for her to spot it. She'd stepped off the path dying to pee, literally in pain and unable to continue the hike, and there it sat just far enough from the path for her to never have noticed before now.

She took a step closer.

The forest floor in this area was pretty overgrown, but the cottage had it's own sphere of existence. It boasted an immaculate, if tiny, lawn. Even from here she could see the detailed statues and bird baths and well-tended flower beds. And maybe it was all in her head but she could swear she smelled freshly baked cookies.

The dividing line of forested chaos and well-tended landscape wasn't a creeping transition. It had a certainty, a bluntness. There was no mistaking where forest and lawn separated. It was almost miraculous. She couldn't help wondering how much work it took to keep that boundary so distinct, and curiosity won out over common sense.

She took another step.

The red windowboxes were filled with multicolored variations of poppies and peonies and flowers she had never seen before anywhere else, and the small chimney in the back puffed a steady stream of smoke. Obviously someone was inside. Maybe they would let her use their bathroom. Mysterious cottage or no, she still had to pee.

Her next steps, tentative as they were, brought her across that line between forest and yard.

The air was different inside the line...heavier, thicker. It smelled like nothing. Not even the smoke from the chimney registered. It was silent, too--not just quiet. Silent. She didn't hear so much as the lone buzzing of an insect much less the usual ruffles and chatter of these woods. It wasn't until she crossed over that threshold that she realized everything was wrong. Something snapped in her brain waking her up from a trance. The peaceful little cottage had cast a spell when she first saw it but now....she had to get away.

She took a step back.

And bumped into a barrier.

What the....

She turned frantically searching but she saw nothing. She could feel it--a solid form beneath her hands--but there was nothing she could see separating her from the forest. She'd come in...why couldn't she get out?

Trying to contain her panic, she made her way around the circular yard hoping, praying, and searching for a break in whatever was holding her in. No luck. When she again reached the front of the house, sweaty and in tears with raw knuckles from beating on something she couldn't even see, she finally heard a sound--a long unbroken creak.

She willed herself not to turn around like a kid hiding under the covers refusing to look at what might be peeking out of the closet. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and made her weak. She turned and found the front door of the place standing wide open and felt her bladder give way. Nothing about this was right.

It would be dark soon. She never had a phone signal out here. She was hungry and soaked with piss and tired.

So she walked in the door. Fuck it, she thought. If I'm going to die let's get the show on the road.

She took a few more steps inside. The cottage was warm and definitely smelled like cookies. "Hello?" she called, but of course there wasn't an answer. There was really only one large room. The logs in the fireplace across the room were smoldering. A couple of highbacked armchairs sat across from it, backs to her. The tiny kitchen was to her left and a small twin sized bed to the right that was perfectly made with a handsome floral quilt. Nothing was out of place, simple as the decor was, and yet....she could feel the anxiety creeping through her chest. Every instinct told her to run, but where could she go?

She took another step inside.

The door slammed shut behind her and a mad cackling filled the room. It seemed to be coming from everywhere all at once. She backed into the front right corner of the room and folded herself into a tiny ball.

The cottage grew cold around her. The temperature had to drop 30 degrees in a matter of seconds. Her body shivered from fear and tension and cold. She tried to yell "STOP." She could see her breath puffing into the room with every effort she made, but it was futile. Not a sound escaped her lips while the cackling turned to howling screams so shrill she thought her ears would burst. She longed for it--deafness--and then the world went black.

When she woke up, there was no cottage, no immaculate lawn. Morning rays were breaking through the misty darkness when she sat up and looked around. The forest was the same chaos of undergrowth she had always remembered it being. Birds were beginning their daylight rituals. Insects buzzed around her.

She blinked rapidly, sat up, and staggered back towards the path. She was literally a few feet from it just like she intended when she went to pee. Confusion set in. Disbelief. Did she pass out? Dream it? Was she losing it?

She turned back towards where the cottage had stood once more and felt a heaviness in her chest, a roiling living thing writhing like a snake. It's just residual fear, she told herself, and turned to go home.

She smelled like cookies and cackled like mad the whole way.

Here are the links to the other participating blogs!

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Part-time Working Hockey Mom