Friday, April 13, 2018

Empathy Costs Nothing

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: trash, construction, Elvis, without, retrieve

They were submitted by:

You might be entitled to your opinion, but maybe consider if that opinion makes you sound like an asshole before you spew it.

I read a few articles recently about the documentary on Elvis that Priscilla Presley was recently involved in and stories a few months ago about suicide notes he left behind. It's a new revelation in his story that puts to rest all the conspiracy theories and mystery. After years in the spotlight, Elvis, like many others before him, felt the need or desire to take his own life.

Now, if you're one of those people who thinks it's weak or selfish or who questions how someone who seemingly has it all could still get to the point of suicide, my suggestion to you now is to close this out and move on. Your opinion won't be welcome here and is, factually, trash. My best advice is for you to retrieve your head from your ass and find some semblance of empathy within yourself and stop with the blame/selfish commentary because every time you do it, someone you know who has had suicidal thoughts realizes they can never come to you about their feelings without being judged. You're helping no one, and it is you who is weak and selfish.

But, what I really want to say is that suicidal thoughts aren't necessarily abnormal. Shit happens, and sometimes it gets the best of you. You have a bad month or a bad year and the depression sneaks up on you like a monster coming out of the shadows. It's not out of the ordinary when everything is piling on for that thought to lurk in the back of your head. It's there and gone like a morbid peek-a-boo session with your darkest self.

Sometimes you can't pull yourself back out of the muck on your own. And that's ok. I've been there. You get stuck on a loop of awfulness, and no matter how much you try to wiggle free you are just caught in it like a fly in the spider's web calling it to dinner. There's nothing wrong or weak or broken about asking for help even if you just need a quiet body to lean on who won't judge how long you've gone without a shower or how long it has been since you washed the dishes. Spider battles are not solo ventures. They're meant to be fought holding someone's hand with every available resource you can grab onto to help. Yes, even medicine. And no, not always more sunshine or grabbing onto your bootstraps and sucking it up--anyone who says that has never fought a spider like this before.

There's no perfect construction for how a person must be. Sometimes regardless of our station in life, our fame, glory, how much money we have or don't have, no matter how much we have or haven't gone through, as evidenced by Elvis and Robin Williams and all the others, those thoughts creep in. Sometimes they stick. Sometimes they can't be patched. Sometimes the patch fails and the roof caves in, and you can't find your way out of it. And maybe you don't want to.

Even then...especially then... judgment has no place in stopping it from happening again to someone else. Nor does it help those people you may know who lost a loved one that way and can't bear to hear those opinions and fucked up jokes and condemnations.

Love. Kindness. Empathy. Know them and use them. Or simply shut up.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

Cognitive Script

Friday, April 6, 2018

Me, Myself, and I

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 9 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:

Who is the one person you admire more than any other? Why?

It was submitted by: 

Maybe it's ego. Maybe it's just appreciation. 



And I absolutely realize it sounds pretentious at best and narcissistic as hell at worst, but it's deeper than that, bigger than that, so let me explain.

I feel like a lot of folks might choose a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a celebrity, but anyone who knows me well also knows that I learned a lot about who I didn't want to be from my parents. And to be honest while I love my friends and do admire the occasional activist celebrity, I also realize celebrities are not super human and no better at this struggle than I am by way of having had more opportunity, and my friends I think of as my equals--flawed but trying our best all the same to be the best we can with the time we have. These might be easy choices for any number of people, but it just doesn't cover it for me. I have strong, talented, woke as fuck friends. I write some people who have made complete turnarounds with their lives, and while I admire those qualities, I also appreciate that we are all works in progress.

Given the prompt it would also be fairly easy to come up with a cutesy answer about my child, and while I do love him to pieces and admire the person he is becoming, I also know his reason for becoming that person is my influence. I'm his teacher, mom, ethical guide, moral philosopher, and often a substitute for a dad. When he chooses kindness over hate, when he discusses current events with me or points out how someone else is ignorant in their thinking about others, when he gets lost in books about other worlds and gets excited about writing papers on his favorite characters or shows, he's reflecting back to me the things I have taught him are valuable and the work I taught him would make the world a little better.

I've done a lot of searching, changing, and work to get to this point in life where I can pass down these important lessons, and it's really that line of thinking that made me choose myself. Sometimes in life being humble or modest isn't the best choice, and I think with the way American culture has headed over the last few years, 2016 to now especially, it's prudent to be as open and honest as possible. We sure as fuck aren't getting that kind of honesty elsewhere.

I didn't have someone to teach me those lessons at his age--how to love, how to embrace difference, what differences really mean. And while my family might not have been actively hateful, they weren't exactly the best examples either. I had to relearn everything, start as fresh as possible, and be real with myself about what biases I picked up on the way. And I've done that through some of the worst obstacles a person can face. It would have been easy to let the world turn me into a cold, hate-filled monster. Surely that's what it taught me humans are more than capable of... But I didn't let my experiences hold me back. I've swallowed a lot of self-pity and picked my ass up off the ground over and over to keep pushing through, keep striving to be better, to reach out to people who have no one, and continually evaluate my self, my behaviors, and my intentions.

I'm proud of myself for not letting where I came from dictate who I would be. I'm proud that I didn't let the things I went through harden me, that I choose empathy over apathy every single day rather than give in or give up. I'm proud I never let fear dictate how I would live my life and see others. I admire myself for being able to hand those lessons down to my own child both by words and actions. And I admire that I do so knowing I am in no way perfect and will always have room to grow, learn, improve, and better the world one action at a time.

So yeah on the outset maybe it sounds a like ego to say the person I admire most in the world is myself, but I also know how far I've come, and I think it's perfectly ok to be proud of that fight.


Here are all the submissions! Enjoy.

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

The Blogging 911

Never Ever Give Up Hope


My Brand of Crazy

Friday, March 16, 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:

inevitably ~ first ~ differently ~ fiesta ~ routes ~ hosted

It was submitted by: 


The house was pretty quiet when she heard the scratch at the back door. She closed her book about one of America's first female serial killers reluctantly, sat it on the arm of her chair, and chuckled to herself. Voorhees, her big ginger kitty, couldn't be kept inside no matter how hard she tried and had learned to scratch the door like the dogs when ready to come back in for a soft spot to nap and a bite to eat. The lines between species had inevitably blurred in this house, and she couldn't help being amused by it.

She made the short journey across the kitchen to the back porch, flicked on the light, and opened the door for His Dark Majesty. He trotted, sass fully on display. She waited for his usual chirp--a rolling half purr, half meow--that meant, "Hi, Mom. Pamper me." It was one of her favorite sounds and even in front of company she found herself chirping back in full conversation embracing the crazy cat label happily. People were okay and all that, but animals seemed to love differently, wholly and without the baggage humans brought to the table, so even though she loved her friends, she'd take a night in with her furry nuggets over a fiesta full of people any day of the week.

Voorhees was quiet though. Instead she felt him flop onto the floor. He had a tendency to plop down in front of the food bowl and eat laying down. (What a life). So she snuck a quick look behind her to make sure the bowl was Vorhees full. Super full. A half empty bowl would never do for her fat boy...not without him howling for more as soon as she sat down at least. But when she looked.... was that something moving? In his mouth?

She took a step backwards, flipped the light on, and felt her jaw unhinged in shock, tiny noises of protest wheezing out.

She looked harder but refused to step closer. Voorhees held it tightly in his mouth for the moment, but no way was she getting any closer. She'd read sci fi novels for fuck's sake. She'd seen the movies. The woman always warned them to leave the thing alone, and she was always right. Before you knew it everyone in the story had hosted some parasite or alien or been eaten alive. She wasn't going down like that. Nope. Not a chance.

It was a pink, fleshy color kind of like an earthworm. She couldn't see much of it except the writhing mass of tentacles trying to pull itself to freedom, gripping the cat's whiskers but failing to get purchase enough to pry open his jaws. While she watched, Voorhees bit down harder, and a split second after she heard the squish of meat, a piercing screech rolled through her brain so loudly she fell to her knees. She didn't hear it so much as felt it, and as soon as she regained composure she saw the cat had been completely unaffected.


She stayed on the floor watching the thing a little longer when the cat dropped it out of his mouth and squished it to the ground with his claws. Because of course. Cats. Fucking cats playing with their food...even if it looks like an alien earthworm octopus. Maybe especially an alien earthworm octopus.

She tried to fake some calm in her voice, "Voorheeees, baby.... please don't let your little friend go."

And because he's a cat, Voorhees stared her dead in the eyes and let the little fucker go.

It screamed again causing her to kind of double over and grasp her temples, but she kept her eyes on it as it defied gravity and climbed the kitchen cabinets like a spider up to small shelf where she kept some kitschy kitty cat figures she'd had since she was a kid. It seemed to stare dead at her as it pushed them off one by one so they shattered on the ground .

"Hey knock it the fuck off!"

It reared back on a few of the tentacles and roared inside her head, so she slid over to the cat, grabbed him in a bear hug and ran for the living room through the only exit from the kitchen and one of its only escape routes from the house.

She'd grabbed a chair from the dining room and placed it under the doorknob leading to the kitchen and pulled her chair to sit in front of the door and keep watch. That was hours ago now...

The sun was coming up, the first rays of light peeking through the windows behind her. Her eyes felt heavier than the gun in her hand, but she couldn't sleep. Voorhees was prowling and meowing in front of the door begging for his prey like he knew somehow it was still there, too. It hadn't made a sound, but she felt it. Waiting.


Check out the other submissions this week!

Baking In A Tornado

Bookworm in the Kitchen

On the Border

Cognitive Script

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tea Cup

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 8 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:

If you woke up to find you were still 16 years old and you had just been dreaming of what adult life might be like, how would you react?

It was submitted by:

This was difficult for me, but I think I hammered this thing out into something worth reading.


16 year old me had already lived through some difficult shit in her short few years. There's no sugarcoating it. From an abusive alcoholic of a father, a mother affected a lot by him and her own abusive parent, their divorce, the violent aftermath of the divorce, rape, and living with people at 16 who absolutely did not get her, did not want to, and hid her (the highlight reel), 16 year old me was broken into tiny pieces that a later me would have to try to put together into a whole being. Imagine a tea cup shattered on the floor being held together by a little glue and spotty self-love, missing the handle, chipped, the cracks minute but visible yet still standing, still stout. Fragile but determined. That's 36 year old me, that surgically reconstructed tea cup that will never accomplish what it might have been meant for but is still beautiful, still going, and still has purpose.

Also imagine some filthy word like "fuck" painted in delicate calligraphy across the front because it's me we're talking about...

16 year old me, though, was still in shatters. Waking up to find she'd gone from the me I am now back to who she was then... torture. Still understanding there were nearly 20 years standing between where she was and the part where she, I, we reconstruct the tea cup and find ourselves happy and at peace with where we are would bring a lot of pain, torment that she couldn't go to sleep like a princess in a fairytale and wake up when things are better. To feel the warmth of a life being lived and lived with love and wake up back in the cold of a castle tower, brick and mortar walls constructed to keep everyone out and protect those tiny shards of tea cup, Trust No Bitch flashing neon across the outside would almost be enough to push her over the edge.

At first.

But maybe it would give her hope after the first few moments of realization hit hard but while she was still awash in the glow of what would be. She might not be out of the thick of it, but there were a lot of nights she didn't want to live anymore at all, plenty of barren, hopeless nights when the tears had dried up long ago and the isolation was too much, too alienating, too cold. Seeing that future and its possibilities and how loved she would be; how fulfilled surrounded by her little family (chosen and not), the animals she saved and adored and gave new lives to, her letters keeping her fulfilled, in good conversation, and with purpose; and, how much she would laugh instead of cry even with a few more hard times ahead would give her strength to keep going and live life on her own terms.

That's not to say she wouldn't be slightly confused, young me. Married? Divorced? A kid? She wanted none of those things. A degree but no job from it? She was supposed to do G r e a t T h i n g s with it, you know. And a chronic illness? That was never in the cards. But she would see herself making the best of all of it, learning from her mistakes, carving her own path, and I think she would find herself at peace with where she is headed once she made terms with the fact that she was still stuck in the pit for awhile longer. Those things, even the illness, made her a better person, mentally stronger. And the kid...his long-haired, anime-loving, too smart for his own good weirdness would be something she never could have planned for anyway. He gave her purpose stronger than anything else she would ever know and every giggle would renew her life. It was a tragically flawed but beautifully constructed puzzle, her tea cup, and it was better than anything she thought she would have.


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 Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

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