mental health awareness month

April 24, 2016

in addition to the flowers, may brings many things to our conscious' surface...

may day, may the fourth be with you (for star wars geeks such as myself), cinco de mayo, mother's day, v-e day, armed forces day and memorial day, of course... and then there are the more unusual designations of lumpy rug day (the third), no socks day (the eighth), lost sock memorial day (the ninth) (apparently we need two days for honoring socks), clean up your room day (also the ninth), limerick day (the twelfth), frog jumping day (the thirteenth) and dance like a chicken day (the fourteenth).

there's weeks dedicated to nurses and police and emergency medical services. it's a month dedicated to foster care, barbecue, bicycles, hamburgers, blood pressure and salad... among other things. according to this site and the ever-reliable wikipedia.

it's also mental health awareness month.

i question the need for such a thing. of course, my mental health isn't the soundest. anxiety and depression association of america made a list of facts and statistics regarding the most common types of mental disorders.

i've been seeing this therapist, and i love her. she is amazing. but she can only do much to help me. she can only offer so much counsel... can only hear so much of my story... can only contribute so much to an attempt at recovery.

if i'm not willing to make the effort... to do the homework she's assigned, tasks that are not difficult things, yall... read a pamphlet. walk for twenty minutes one day a week... write little notes to myself of positive affirmations... recognize when my thoughts are tanking and change their course... if i'm too reluctant or to disinterested in doing the work... then what good does visiting with her do? i'm wasting her time. i'm wasting mine.

i've told her the ugliest stuff... things i've never told anyone... and she still thinks i'm awesome, which i love. but my thoughts have been circling around the knowledge that i'm not learning from my mistakes. that i'm still making the wrong choices, even though i know better.

my brain is categorizing all the ways my mind is damaged. wikipedia's got a comprehensive list of all the mental disorders, and i'm sure were i to read the symptoms of each, i could say i'm plagued by the majority of them. the mental anguish from which i suffer could be caused by a genetic predisposition, it could be because i incurred trauma during birth, resulting in that mild case of cerebral palsy which has necessitated the need for a handful of medical procedures and treatments... but i honestly believe the bulk of it is that i've spent too much time by myself... from the time i was to eight to now. i never really learned how to interact with others. i never learned how to get out of my head... because that was the only place i had to go in my childhood and adolescence, and whenever i try to venture out of it, i'm awkward and clumsy, and so like the hermit, i scurry back inside.

what i want to say... what i really, really want to say is we're all a little bit crazy in our own ways. and dedicating a month to recognizing the crazy in hopes that the recognition could inspire others to care... designating a month to all the ways a person can be classified as crazy... how does that help a person cope? because i promise you, the last thing i need to be doing is looking at information about histrionic, narcissistic and dependent personality disorders.

the last thing i want ANYONE doing is finding ways to label someone. part of the reason my mind is what it is is because too many people labeled me too many things in my childhood, and so often. i can't peel them off. they're tattooes.

sometimes i think i'm a lot less messed up than i feel like i am (like when i am visiting with her or spending time with my friends). and others, i feel like i'm too messed up to be a part of this world (like today). but i also think everybody has days where they might feel like that, even if it's just for a second. EVERYBODY.

i'm not trying to sound like i'm belittling the importance of this. i swear i'm not. there are most assuredly people in need of the help specialists can provide. it's just that i'd rather focus on the flowers and the fun. because ultimately, that's how you cope with this shit. thinking about it doesn't do any good. distracting me with things like frog jumping and dancing like a chicken... laughter really is the best medicine, yall. that and the good times friends can provide... like when you're celebrating may the fourth be with you and cinco de mayo. just be good to each other, dammit. i feel like if we were to do that, if we focused on the GOOD in people rather than in what makes them BAD, the world would be a much better place.

someone who's good for me

April 23, 2016

i should be getting in the shower right now. should've done that half an hour ago, actually because this thing i'm going to starts in sixty-three minutes, and i've to wear a damned dress and heels and paint my face, and it takes me about twice as long as it does other girls to mess with that shit. the things we do to make ourselves pretty...

i should be getting in the shower, but i gave blood this morning, and i think the loss of some of the stuff flowing through my veins paired with all the damned rain we've gotten this week added to the fact that i was listening to prince's let's go crazy, when doves cry and purple rain... pile all that onto my already depressed shoulders and... 

there's good news. i probably should've started with that. two of my poems, the second and the third in this here post, were selected for publication in montgomery college's swirl: literature and arts journal. i think it comes out next month. those poems, they are the best things i've ever written, in my oh, so humble opinion, and i love that someone else has thought enough of them to ink them on paper. 

they are also the saddest things i've written. it gives me pleasure to know that i've taken something hideous--the death of my brother and the death of the only romantic relationship that's ever mattered to me--and made something beautiful of them. it pleases me that i could pull those words from me. it pleases me that the writing of them was so incredibly effortless. it pleases me that maybe more of the world might think them beautiful.

it pains me to know that i've written such beautiful things about two men to whom i've been horribly unkind. it's never occurred to me before... until today... that maybe my use of these tragedies is vanity on my part, still... too proud to have loved my brother when he needed me to, i have to make it sound like i loved him immensely... and i did for most of my life, but not when he needed me to.

and the other? he was a scientist of sorts--an electrical engineer. and i loved that i, the artistic one, could capture the attention of someone so much more intellectual. oh my god, that man was clever. and he had the most beautiful, green eyes. seriously. they were stunning. i've not seen such beauty since. i loved the sound of his voice. i loved how when he held me, i didn't hurt. i loved that when i was with him i was the best possible version of myself. i was in love with him. but i could not love him. because you don't shatter things when you love someone. you don't think of yourself. and all i could think of was how much i loved who i was when i was with him. i should've been thinking of him. but i couldn't. and now that's all i do. everyday, i am reminded of him. and it's been more than a decade since i lost him. since my hands, shaking from the fear of losing him and oblivious to just how fragile his opinion of me was, clutched too tightly what i felt and broke it. that coldplay album, a rush of blood to the head, every time i hear green eyes and the scientist and warning sign, i'm thrown back into the month after i'd lost him. next to my brother's passing, that is the worst period of my life. it trumps the decade of ugliness i experienced as an adolescent. and yall, that decade was fucking hideous.

he told me later that i should find someone who's good for me.

i've been trying. i swear to god i have.

but the ones i find are the ones who think it's okay to fight with me about my family or cut a date short because they've to meet a "friend" or unload all of their own family drama onto the dinner table while on a first date. they're the ones who only want me around to suit their purposes and meet their needs. 

and i'm probably getting what i deserve, come to think of it, for having been so selfish and careless with that one man. 

i think i'm going to have to read these poems in front of an audience at montgomery college one day in the coming weeks. i've been practicing. and i can read the one about my brother well enough. but the other.. when i say those words aloud, i sink just as i had on that night i'd been lying with him. i sink, still, because i'm trying and failing to find the good.

the puzzling picky pack... also called teeny tiny

April 21, 2016

maybe yall recall that i used to raffle off picky packs once a month. some of these things were HUGE boxes filled with all sorts of goodness.

i've kind of missed shopping for those. i've kind of missed shipping them out knowing that somebody was gonna come home with a fat, hefty batch of YEE! on his or her doorstep.

what i haven't missed is the hit my bank account's taken--both from the shopping and shipping.

so i've devised a way that i can do the picky packs without forking over much fundage.

the mailing address posted in my sidebar... that's for a box at a shipping store i use. i live with the folks, and so to kind of make me feel a little bit less like a loser because of that and because secretly, i've longed to be as cool as christian slater's mark hunter in pump up the volume--who had his own mail box where people would write him nice (or not so nice) notes... ramble. i'll stop.

i've a thing for fresh cardboard boxes. that's probably the biggest reason why i did the picky packs, actually. it wasn't just because i like to give. it's because the boxes are pretty and perfect, and then i get to take something pretty and perfect and put yummy yummy goodness inside, and it looks even prettier and perfect-er... again with the ramble.

THEY MAKE A BOX THAT'S TEENY TINY. and every time i go in there, i take one of those flat pieces of cardboard and fold it to make the teeny tiny box and imagine what kinds of cool things i could stuff in there, and wouldn't it be cool to open up your mailbox and find teeny tiny inside?

picky packs will return, come may first. once a month... just like before... only smaller. there will be no announcement of what's inside. there will be no rafflecopter widget to click, no big reveal of who gets it. just... SURPRISE! one winner. once a month. teeny tiny for you! i think it'll be more fun this way... at least for me. hopefully for you, too.

random quarter: the q&a edition-april

April 16, 2016

one. what are you a geek about? film.

two. what do you crave? at present? fried shrimp.

three. what was the last bad movie you watched? how to be single.

four. in three words describe your love life? pathetic. nonexistent. disappointing.

five. what question makes you anxious? why isn't this finished yet?

six. you have no patience for explaining technology to my parents.

seven. what expression do you overuse? you know what i mean?

eight. how much time do you spend commuting? thirty minutes total.

nine. you woke up at nine a.m.

ten. what was your last credit card purchase? nyquil and dr. pepper.

eleven. camping or hotel? hotel.

twelve. are you able to tell when you've had enough? yep.

thirteen. do you have any new friends? yep.

fourteen. are you happy with your choices today? meh.

fifteen. what is your biggest dream? the twins' happiness and well-being.

sixteen. you want new denim comforter.

seventeen. write down the name of someone you had a good conversation with recently. greg davis.

eighteen. what makes you feel wonderful? a good night's sleep.

nineteen. one word for today? catch-up.

twenty. what's the most valuable thing you own? antique icebox my great-uncle restored.

twenty-one. what famous living person would you want to meet for drinks? ricky gervais.

twenty-two. who do you count on? you mean whom. my parents.

twenty-three. who is the last call in your missed call list? my parents.

twenty-four. what's the most honest thing you've said today? she's a bitch. :]

twenty-five. how do you feel about your body? meh.

fifty flicks before fifty

April 6, 2016

erin is on a quest to watch fifty films before her fiftieth birthday.

fuck. i laughed when i typed fiftieth. like hahah... you're gonna be old then. and then i remembered... my birthday's before hers. it's not so funny, anymore...

anyway. she asked me to make a list of fifty films i feel are worthy of the attention. i know she's seen at least one i would recommend, dedication, so for yall, i say if you've not seen that movie yet, you should totally do so. it's about a children's author and his illustrator, and it starts in a porn theater. good stuff -- wholly and completely irreverent and wonderfully original. also amy sedaris has a cameo.

anyway. fifty... and i'm omitting things like the lord of the rings, the notebook, star wars, schindler's list, shawshank redemption, silence of the lambs and when harry met sally because honestly... who hasn't seen those? if it's you, ESPECIALLY YOU, ERIN, well... then... that's just lame as shit, and you should WATCH THOSE, dammit.

about time
apollo thirteen
a beautiful mind
charlotte gray
cinderella man
the client
the count of monte cristo
dead poets society

donnie brasco
eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
the family stone
a few good men
(five hundred) days of summer
for love of the game
fried green tomatoes
gangster squad
the great raid
good will hunting

the help
the hundred foot journey
life as a house
lone survivor
memoirs of a geisha
mr. magorium's wonder emporium
murder in the first

the painted veil
people like us
playing by heart
pump up the volume
a river runs through it
saving private ryan
the secret life of walter mitty

spy game
star trek
steel magnolias
a time to kill
the way way back
we are marshall
you're not you

so... my challenge to you, dear readers, is to make me a list of films to watch before i reach that damned milestone. what's your must-see movie list made of?

fifty questions

March 30, 2016

one. what are you wearing? black, v-neck, short-sleeved, knee-length, cotton night shirt with, in white letters, i don't like morning people. or people in the morning.
two. ever been in love? yep, but not with anyone who was in love with me.
three. ever had a terrible breakup? yep.
four. how tall are you? five foot seven.
five. how much do you weigh? the last time i stepped on the scale, it read one eighty. i'd guess it's a few pounds past that now. i am a F A T A S S.
six. any tattoos? nope.
seven. any piercings? one in each ear.
eight. favorite show? the west wing.
nine. favorite band? van halen, just because i've loved them longest.
ten. something you miss? being held.
eleven. favorite song? u2's with or without you, just because i've loved it longest.
twelve. how old are you? forty-three.
thirteen. zodiac sign? aries.
fourteen. quality you look for in a partner? kindness.
fifteen. favorite quote? i think we live our lives so afraid to be seen as weak that we die perhaps without ever having been seen at all (james spader as alan shore in boston legal).
sixteen. favorite actor? johnny depp.
seventeen. favorite color? green.
eighteen. loud music or soft? loud.
nineteen. where do you go when you’re sad? the backroads.
twenty. how long does it take you to shower? twenty minutes.

one. how long does it take you to get ready in the morning? thirty minutes.
two. ever been in a physical fight? yep.
three. turn on? thoughtfulness.
four. turn off? selfishness.
five. fears? this picky post will tell you about almost all of them.
six. last thing that made you cry? stupid boys.
seven. last time you said you loved someone? about an hour ago.
eight. last book you read? cover to cover? carry on by rainbow rowell.
nine. the book you’re currently reading? nothing at the moment.
thirty. last show you watched? kprc news two houston.

one. last person you talked to? mom.
two. the relationship between you and the person you last texted? gentleman i'd interviewed for an article about some art students and the pods they're painting for the woodlands waterway arts festival.
three. favorite food? chicken spaghetti.
four. place you want to visit? monterrey, california.
five. last place you were? a friend's house.
six. do you have a crush? nope.
seven. last time you kissed someone? romantically? at approximately nine a.m. sunday, march twenty-second, twenty-fifteen. platonically? i can't recall.
eight. last time you were insulted? at approximately eight fifteen a.m. monday, march twenty-eighth, twenty-sixteen.
nine. favorite flavor of sweet? chocolate.
forty. what instruments do you play? the vocal chords.

one. favorite piece of jewelry? london blue topaz ring.
two. last sport you played? i can't recall.
three. last song you sang? big head todd and the monster's broken-hearted savior.
four. favorite chat up line? i'm sorry, what? favorite chat up line? howdy?
five. have you ever used it? sure.
six. favorite film? star wars: episode v-empire strikes back.
seven. favorite time of day? dusk.
eight. favorite candy? hershey's milk chocolate with/out almonds
nine. favorite soda? dr. pepper.
fifty. who should answer these questions next? erin, you're up.

i found these questions on daisy in the willows (though i had to add a few because she didn't actually post fifty of them) because of this view from the third floor post.

tales from the dating world

March 28, 2016

so i'm on this stupid dating website, right? every six weeks or so, i rewrite my profile, mostly because i'm a bored perfectionist. i fork over the funds each year, and nothing ever really comes of it, and that's probably my fault, but i'm starting to think that it's more that dating websites are redonkulus (kind of like that word... only i like the word... it's kind of fun to say). sometimes i write just enough. you have to have two hundred characters, and so once it was:

I work for a weekly community newspaper as a reporter and editorial assistant, writing about upcoming events in the area and raising awareness for organizations that and individuals who do great deeds.

(side note: why do i always type individuals like invididuals? EVERY time.)

i can't remember how it was before what's to follow, but it wasn't that up there.

i don't get a lot of reaction from guys on this site. that could be because i'm forty-three. it could be because i've never been married (because, hey, never walking down the aisle with someone is so much worse than having done so and then broken the vows you'd made). it could be that i don't have kids and don't want any. whatever.

it could be that i have trouble saying what it is i want.

it could be because they're douchebags. :]

in the month of february, i got one email. i got frustrated and so i wrote this:

Can we talk for a minute? I keep rewriting this thing because I'm not saying it right. All my life I've tried to be what people wanted me to be -- the laid-back, go-with-the-flow, happy-go-lucky gal. I'm not that person. I'm a writer. My job is to figure out where the flow is going and what's getting it there. I'm not meant to stand on some stage, reading the lines. I'm the one in the corner booth of some pub, writing the script, and I'm damned good at what I do.

Trouble is when you're sitting in a corner booth in some pub with paper and a pen or a laptop and your only company's the character(s) you've created, when you're not the laid-back, go-with-the-flow, happy-go-lucky gal, when you're inherently shy, it's hard to get people to see you. My eyes are small and dark, and they're usually scrutinizing the surroundings because observing things is what writers do. I'm so much more content to sit back and watch the camaraderie going on around me than I would be were I to engage in it. I'm not the life of the party, but then I don't want to be. That's not my role. I'm supposed to tell the story about the party, and I can't do that if I'm in it. My smile is amazing, but I don't share it with everyone. Yes, I'm serious, but I also possess a surprising wit. I am gifted when it comes to writing dialogue, but I'm shit when it comes to talking to men I find attractive. So that's why I'm here.

I'm a hopeless romantic. I love love. I love reading and writing about it. I love thinking someday I'll get to know about it. Because that's the thing... I've never had a love story. Once, I met a guy on St. Patrick's Day, and I was sure that was gonna be it -- that was my story. It wasn't. So I gave up and settled for more casual affairs. I tried to write a simpler, less exciting tale for myself, but that one's ended more tragically than any other, save one. So now, I'm more hopeless than romantic, and that's not at all what I want.

I have no game, but then, I don't want to. I'm not some chess piece, and neither are you. I'm not looking for some man to put a ring on my finger -- I don't even like diamonds. Having said that, I don't want just any guy. I want a relationship with some semblance of substance. I'm not looking to hook up with someone just to have someone around for nocturnal lighting purposes. I am brilliant -- I can light the night perfectly fine by myself. But... my heart is heavy, and I am weary. I don't need you to take the weight. I can carry it. But I would love it if you would walk with me.

i published it and took a shower. and when i got out, i saw that i'd gotten four emails from three different guys -- one of the emails was a comment on a photo about how my smile is amazing.

that was a month ago. i wish i could tell you i'm still talking to the three, but alas i am not. i can tell you i did go on my first date in a year. with a guy who was five foot four and thrice divorced -- a former pentecostal and seventh day adventist with four biological children and six step-children. he cut our date short because he had to go meet a "friend". whatever.

random quarter: the q&a edition-march

March 26, 2016

i haven't done one of these in seven months. my friend tina, god rest her soul, she did love these posts. (i think she liked'm better when i was rambling, and i'll get back to that... eventually.) she would've missed them. she would've been so glad to be reading one today. i'm kind of glad to be writing one. (also i'm procrastinating mucking out my room for a w-two or transcribing notes from a recorded interview.)

so... in case yall need the reminder... the questions are from a book, q and a a day: three hundred sixty-five questions, five years, eighteen hundred twenty-five answers.the following questions are from, ahem, september. i've put a limit on the responses to five words or less.

one. teacher or student. student.

two. is your home/apartment clean? home? yes. room/car? no.

three. where have you found evidence of a higher power? everywhere. seek. ye shall find.

four. what was the last online video clip you watched? sad ben affleck video.

five. what's the newest thing you're wearing today? reading glasses.

six. who are you jealous of? strong, beautiful, affable, funny women.

seven. what comes to mind when you think of fear? drowning in rapids.

eight. what advice would you give to a second-grader? do your homework.

nine. who can help you? myself, if i let me.

ten. who are the most important people in your life? mom, dad, joph, bambam, shazam.

eleven. what would you want to study at school? photography or film.

twelve. what's your favorite snack food? hershey's milk chocolate with/out almonds.

thirteen. a decision you made today? choosing this post over responsibility.

fourteen. when was the last time you went dancing? summer cruise. eighteen years ago.

fifteen. do you plan, or are you flying by the seat of your pants? flying. planning frustrates and disappoints.

sixteen. do you handle rejection well? no.

seventeen. how hungry are you right now? not. need dr. pepper, though.

eighteen. bad news: sugar-coated or straight up? straight up.

nineteen. how do you get out of a rut? slowly.

twenty. where do you see yourself in five years? same place. different job, maybe.

twenty-one. this is utterly confounding: men. always and forever.

twenty-two. what's your favorite television show? west wing. always and forever.

twenty-three. write down a quote for today. be gentle with yourself (ehrmann).

twenty-four. write down a chronic but minor problem. depression. minor? compared to others'.

twenty-five. where do you think your road is going? heaven, i hope.

this post brought to you by ericka

March 23, 2016

Hey, there!  I'm Ericka and I blog over at A Quiet Girl's Musings of a World That Talks Too Much.  I blog about books, travel, movies, current events, and life in general.  I'm very excited to be Jenn's guest blogger today!

We’re little over one week into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and there's already been many upsets. Probably the most unexpected upset occurred when #12 Yale defeated #5 Baylor. The Bulldogs, who hadn’t made a NCAA tournament appearance since JFK was President, not only broke their 54 year tournament appearanace drought, but made history by achieving the school’s first ever tournament victory. Although Yale went on to be defeated by Duke in the second round last Saturday, their tournament appearance and first round win are the makings of a small scale, underdog feel good story.  I don’t know about you, but I love a good underdog story.

Undeniably, one of the best underdog movies of all time is the movie Hoosiers.  Hoosiers, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, is the story of a basketball team from a small town in Indiana who wins the state championship against a team from a much larger school. The movie was inspired by the true story of the 1954 Milan H.S. basketball team, who won the Indiana high school championship that year becoming the smallest school to ever win a single class basketball title in Indiana.

There are many lessons that can be learned from underdog movies, the most common being perseverance, which is a evident in Hoosiers.  Even though Hoosiers is not my favorite underdog movie, I consider it one of the most endearing and most valuable because of the lessons it teaches that has nothing to do with perseverance, lessons that are often easily overlooked.  These deeper lessons, in my opinion, are what makes the movie a timeless classic.

Before you can be successful at something, you must possess strong, fundamental, foundational skills. 
During one of the team's first practices, Coach Dale, played by Gene Hackman, runs the team through countless drills - passing drills, dribbling while weaving through chairs, and running what we used to call "suicides," but I think are now called “down and backs” or something.  It’s apparent that the boys are not used to this kind of practice and one of them asks when are they going to scrimmage. Coach Dale explains, "We don't scrimmage and no shooting either. I've seen that you guys can shoot, but there's more to the game than shooting. There's fundamentals and defense."  These fundamental skills are to playing basketball as crawling and cruising while holding onto furniture are to independent walking - fundamental prerequisites.  Also, the physical conditioning he puts the boys through is essential for stamina and endurance, two vital skills that are needed to play a game from start to finish, especially when you only have seven players.

While winning is important, how you play the game is more important.
We play games for fun, but there is no denying the desire that most of us have deep down inside that drives us to win. Despite this, Coach Dale knew that there was more to basketball than just winning.  He knew that many of the skills learned on the basketball court, such as impulse control (passing the ball four times before shooting), discipline, good sportsmanship, and synergy (working cohesively together as one team rather than as five individuals), are lessons that are also beneficial off the basketball court in the real world.  

“Don’t get caught up in thinking about winning and losing,” he told them before a big game. “If you put your effort into playing to your potential, to being the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re going to be winners.”

Second chances are powerful.  
Coach Dale had coached college before in another state, but was suspended after an incident with one of his players.  The principal at the Hickory knew Coach Dale because they attended college together.  He knew of Dale’s suspension, but that didn’t deter him from giving Coach Dale a second chance at coaching, something that Dale was apparently good at.  It’s obvious that the principal thought enough of Coach Dale and his abilities to give him the opportunity of having a clean slate.

Coach Dale goes on to give to one of his players, Whit, a second chance at being on the team after Whit was coerced by a fellow teammate to walk out of practice on the first day. This is something that he did not have to do, but he understood that teenagers sometimes make poor choices and gave him a second chance. 

Later in the movie, Coach Dale offers Shooter, one of the player's father who has a drinking problem, the chance to be his assistant under the condition that Shooter remain sober. Despite his drinking problem, Shooter was very knowledgable of the game and Coach Dale recognized that along with the fact that no one believed in Shooter, not even Shooter's son.  Giving him a shot at being his assistant (and later getting himself thrown out of the game so that Shooter had to take over as coach) allowed Shooter to utilize his knowledge, gain confidence, and start to redeem himself in his son's eyes.

  Had Coach Dale not given him that opportunity, then he and his son's relationship would probably have remained strained and he probably would not have entered alcohol rehabilitation. Because Coach Dale believed in him, Shooter, we assume, was able to turn a new leaf.

There are many more subtle lessons that he movie Hoosiers teaches, such as taking responsibility, having respect for authority, and standing up for others. These are just the three most important lessons in my opinion and, as they say, opinions my vary.

Have you seen the movie Hoosiers?  If so, what lessons do you feel the movie has to offer?

Thanks for stopping by and thank you, Jenn, for having me. It was fun!

and the hits just keep on coming

March 20, 2016

i have gotten through the worst of this month, though i have to tell you, it's been more a challenge this year than usual. i've seen a lot of three-twelve in my day-to-day activities in the past couple of weeks, and before yall say, you're just noticing it more because of the time of year, please know there is never a time i don't notice that number. i've written about this before. but whatever... i'm doing it again.

three. twelve. march twelfth -- the day my brother died. i can tell you where i was for every hour of that day. i can tell you where i was when he died, where i was when my parents were notified, where i was when they'd told me. i can picture that moment -- especially that one -- with painful, awful clarity. i wrote a poem about it. it's probably the best thing i've ever written. i can't tell you how grateful i am that i could take something so hideous and make it into something worthy.

i can tell you my younger brother was vacationing with his then wife and their friends when my parents called him, and when they'd called him another time during his brief stay there, he hadn't wanted to take the call because he was in the exact same spot as he'd been when they'd told him of jon's death.

i'm not noticing it more because of the time of year. every time i notice it, i think it's his way of saying hello. of somehow finding a way to be present in my life. 

it happened just today, for example, when i'd bought my king-sized hershey's milk chocolate bar and my twelve-ounce can of dr. pepper. and the clerk rings it up and says three twelve. 

there was a time i used to freeze at that. i'm getting better.

you could say the depressed gal is choosing depression. whatever. i'm grieving, dammit... still. i'm grieving because goddamn i miss that man. because right now the thing i need most is his laughter and even the memory of it is gone. i can't recall it anymore. i'm grieving because i still can't fucking figure out why god stole him away from us and has kept me here to wallow in this bullshit. me who seems to be so unnecessary...

someone asked me the other day how i'm doing... how'm i doing? i fucking hate life right now. that's how i'm doing. i hate that i can't be the beautiful one, the light one, the good one. i hate that there's this gaping hole in my world, and i can't fill it. i hate that i crawl into an empty bed at night and have to bunch the pillows about me so as to have some semblance of being held. i hate that i have to, have always had to provide my own damned comfort. i hate that others who have an impact on my family dynamic can continually find new ways to hurt us, that it's being done out of the purest spite and malice... that there are more ways to cause death than just taking a life. someone can change a name, too, and in so doing, a tree dies. i know that's vague. i can't be more direct about it. just... there's been enough death in this house... i don't think i can stomach anymore... and yet... the possibility of it swirls about me in the murky abyss of my conscience, clouded by ursula's cruelty... a real-life version of that heinous bitch from the little mermaid. 

i hate life right now, but more i hate how powerless i feel to change the things that matter most to me. that i can't say what i'd most like to say. that doing so would only evoke more ugliness, that the ursula from my world is eager for just that sort of thing. and how much i don't give a rat's ass to change the things i can.

that serenity prayer? i know that thing well. it was beer that killed my brother. i have his chip somewhere. i'd rather have him. those words though... they mean nothing to me. and it hurts my heart to write that, because i'm a writer. words are not empty things to me. but those... they are nothing. this life... it's not a whole lot more than that. 

this post brought to you by the lovely texan-turned aussie, erin

March 14, 2016

The following was originally posted on my blog (TexErin-in-Sydneyland) in January 16, 2014; two plus years later, it still stands true.

We can all relate - whether we grow up or grow apart - life changes, interests change, priorities change - so friends change too.  Sometimes it is necessary.  Sometimes there are toxic people in our lives that we need to get rid of.  Sometimes it's just a part of life, and that's okay.  Sometimes it's very sad, even hurtful to lose a friend.  Friendships experience an array of emotions, so why shouldn't there be a variety of emotions experienced when we lose that friend too?

During the last several years, I've experienced a crazy, stupid amount of change.  Some as a normal part of life; some based on my own decisions (good, bad, or really ugly); and some unexpected.  I've mentioned on my blog before, and I'll probably mention again, that I have done a lot of self-analysis.  I've grown a lot.  I've worked hard at it.  And, I acknowledge that I will continue to analyze, work, and grow.  I'm happy about that path too.

With that growth, I've learned how to look at some things in a positive way.  Sometimes, I have to force myself to do it, but I feel better for it.  Losing some friendships along the way, I've learned to not focus on the sadness, the hurt, the void that is left behind.  I've learned to focus on the memories; to appreciate and value some of the amazing experiences I've had with some tremendous individuals.  There are a handful that I thought would be in my life forever.  Yes, it's sad, even hurtful, and I do feel their absence.  But, I choose to remember those special times, those treasured moments, and consider myself lucky to have those memories. 


color analysis

February 26, 2016

a few weeks ago, i had the pleasure of interviewing a professor at the university of texas at san antonio.

that same institution to which i'd run in the months following the demise of a relationship with the only man who's ever really mattered to me (he mattered too much, which terrified me, and i didn't matter enough, which i knew... and so the thing was doomed to fail) and the cessation of my employment at borders (turns out i'd had the sense to jump ship before the thing sank) and the months prior to the death of my older brother.

to this day, i want to weep with the gratitude that i had that place to turn--i made wonderful friends there, and i learned from some of the most incredible professors i've had the privilege to know. i'd not been blessed to know barker--not until the other day. she'd been invited to speak at the small college here in town, to read her poetry. i'd been tasked with writing an article advancing the event. i sent her questions; she sent me answers.

i'd never read her work until a few weeks ago. she'd written a poem called color analysis. here are some excerpts that resonated with me:

Swatches of fabric held to my face
I am a “Summer,” am told
I mustn’t wear winter, clear, sharp
colors of gems: rubies, sapphires, emeralds

Nothing too strong, definite
I am semi-precious: amethyst, aquamarine, colors
of sky. I am probably an air sign
Think of breezes, says my color counselor

I am told to have nothing to do
with the press of bright yellow, liquid greens
that rush the landscape in April and May.

Autumn would overwhelm me. 

To what season, then, am I linked
apparently forever, floating
rootless on pale air? Am I simply
to sway here on wisps of gray
pale cloud, a little gasp of pink

i read this, and the whole time i thought... i am a winter.

i am winter
who longs for summer, for the warmth
the heat and the light
the brightness, the airiness, the softness
of the pinks and the pale yellows
the sweetness of baby blue
the joy and the fun and the peaceful easy
the long and lazy sunny day
i am winter clothed in sapphire
i am cold and stark and barren
frigid and chilling and dark
i am winded. i am crisp and sharp
bold and brutal, bleak and depressing
i am howling and blustering, wounded
and haunted. ruby red from the rage
and the weeping. i am bitter and broken
emerald green from the envy
i cannot for the life of me fathom
how anyone could want to be winter

the journalist and the novelist: two writers talking

February 22, 2016

the woodlands college park high school will host the montgomery county teen book festival feb. 27. in the past couple of days, i've corresponded with a few of the authors featured at the event. the one with whom i most enjoyed communicating is kathleen baldwin, author of a school for unusual girls, the highway came waltzing, diary of a teenage fairy godmother, lady fiasco, mistaken kiss and cut from the same cloth. here i have for you my questions and her beautiful responses:

when did you discover an interest in writing, and how difficult, or easy if that’s the case, has it been for you to pursue that interest?

As far back as I can remember I’ve enjoyed telling stories and writing poems. Early on my mother and my teachers were convinced I would be a writer. On the other hand, I thought I would grow up to be a heart surgeon. Looks like they won the bet. It’s a good thing, too, because I love writing. In some respects, I still get to work on people’s hearts – just not with a scalpel.

Twenty years ago, I sold a few nonfiction articles and poems, but my real love was short story. Unfortunately, the short story market was dwindling by the time I started submitting. But I kept trying and garnered a tall stack of rejection notices. Later, the humor of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen drew me to writing full length novels and that’s when I met with some publishing success. My very first Regency romance novel was published by Kensington’s Zebra Books and voted best traditional regency by Cataromance readers.

what do you feel is your greatest honor or achievement, and why?

I am over the moon excited about being chosen for the 2016 Spirit of Texas Middle School Reading ProgramThe reason is: I absolutely adore talking with young readers and writers. Kids who like to read are incredibly fun to interact with – the astute and quirky questions they come up with amaze me.  Every time I get to visit a school I come home inspired to write more.

what do you love most about writing? what keeps you doing it?

Writing itself is a joy for me. I love developing characters, weaving them into a story and blending in themes that are important to me. I like integrating tongue-in-cheek humor in my books. Humor helps me deal with difficulties in life, and that’s one theme that drifts through everything I write.

Reader letters keep me going, too. It seems like every week I get one or two very emotional letters from readers, readers who are struggling with tough problems in life. They take the time to write me and tell me about how one of my books lifted their spirits for a few hours. If I can do that for a fellow human being I’ll keep doing this the rest of my life. 

what’s been the biggest challenge?

I am a highly visual/experiential writer, which takes and enormous amount of time. This can be challenging when on a deadline. Sometimes it takes me days to visualize a scene before I can write it. Then, I go back in and rework it over and over again until it aligns with my vision.

My second biggest challenge is your next question. 

how do you balance your work as a writer with the other roles, whatever those may be, you play in life?

Like most people, I have difficulty balancing life. I’m married to a man I adore, we have four wonderful kids and I like to spend time with them. Writing could absorb my entire life if I let it, and sometimes it does. There’s a huge danger in that, the danger of writing from an empty place. Living life balanced is essential for a writer, taking time to play – and for me that means getting out in nature – taking time to reflect, spending time with God, family and friends, helping those in need, taking long walks, exploring new places, all these things gives me the depth perspective I need to write full rich stories.

who are some authors you revere? what stories do you hold close to your heart—what i mean by that is… i am in love with rainbow rowell’s eleanor and park and landline, vanessa diffenbaugh’s the language of flowers, audrey niffenegger’s the time traveler’s wife, john green’s the fault in our stars, ellen shanman’s right before your eyes, dickens’ our mutual friend, rowling’s harry potter series and several of nora roberts’ novels. i go to these stories when i have lost faith in my craft, in love, in life… when my internal landscape is at its darkest. i have read some of these stories dozens of times and others only once or twice. i aspire to write as beautifully as these authors do. maybe someday i will achieve that goal, maybe not. regardless, these stories bring me much joy. what stories do that for you?

I loved Eleanor and Park, too! and Time Traveler’s Wife and Fault in Our Stars. Right now, I’m hooked on Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles – it’s almost living inside an anime. I’m blown away by how she weaves multiple story lines together. That’s extremely difficult to do.

I grew up reading Dickens, Alcott, Daphne du Maurier, and Twain. They’re my literary heroes. Mom didn’t allow a TV in our house when my brothers and I were little. Instead, she read to us at night, all those great old classics: Oliver Twist, Little Women, not to mention Heidi, Black Beauty and The Amazing Miss Polifax (I think that’s when I fell in love with spy stories).

In college I read C.S. Lewis, Frank Herbert and Tolkien for pleasure. However, I studied and fell in love the great humorists, in particular O’Henry, Wodehouse and Oscar Wilde. You can see why Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer later became inspirations for my own work.

who's your favorite character in your work; in the whole of the literary realm?

That’s like asking me to choose a favorite from among my children. Can’t do it. But I have a really big crush on Lord Wyatt in A School for Unusual Girls.

I still love Heidi. She became my best friend when I was five, and I still love her.

coincidence... and the six ounces or so

February 13, 2016

today would've been a good day. it would've been. the weather in texas is glorious right now, which is a rare thing in february. i'm caught up at work. as in... not only did i turn in all the calendars i create each week, but also two of the three stories i'm to write for the upcoming edition. two of three because the folks i'm interviewing for the third failed to provide me with responses to the questions i'd posed them by the time i'd requested, which means come monday morning, i'll have to nag them, and that's not something i enjoy doing. but yall, usually i'm turning stories in on tuesday morning; that i got two of them turned into today is also a rare thing.

it should've been a good day. i know by others' standards it would be. one in five children go hungry... so far this year, two-hundred forty have lost their lives on the texas roads... there are children battling horrible things like osteosarcoma, and when i think of them, i think of john green's the fault in our stars, of gus who loses a leg and is fine for a while, of some line in that book where the narrator, hazel, says something about how that particular cancer takes a limb, and then if it likes you, takes the rest, and it takes gus... it could very well take the little girl i'd interviewed not so long ago, could be a tease and let her live ten years, could be a sneaky bastard and hide and then all of the sudden be everywhere at once. it could. i've met her mother. i've met her father. i've been to their house... there are people dying every second of the day.

one of my friends from high school... her mother died yesterday. there's a visitation on valentine's day. a day meant for love... for her it will be one of leaving, of loss.

last night, i put a picture of some ranunculus on her facebook wall because i couldn't give her the real thing, and i thought she needed the light and the love. ironically, she'd just finished ordering the flowers for the service right around the time i'd posted it.

i've no right to say it's not been a good day. none whatsoever.

but i'm going to say it anyway.

tonight i went to the come to the garden event at the woodlands united methodist church. i sat in the second row near the center and watched while a woman i'd interviewed a week or so before talked about her experiences with divine dreams and things, talked of how she'd dreamed of having five children to learn she can't have any because her body won't let her. she's made do. she's somehow found some sort of peace. or at least she seems to have done so. and it occurred to me tonight that maybe i'm not meant to know love... not that kind. it occurred to me that perhaps i need to let that dream die. it's been forty-two years, after all. almost forty-three.

i can do this life by myself. i can. i've endured decades of emotional and mental abuse. i've buried a brother. i've stood by the other while his family fell apart and his so-called friends fell away. i've traveled overseas by myself. i've moved from apartment to another... one city to another by myself. i. can. do. this.

that list of reasons i have for living? the one i failed to mention, the only one that's truly kept me going is that i've had hope that i could know love, if i just wait. i just have to wait.

the woman i'd interviewed... i'd told her about the experience i'd had two days after my brother's death, of how i'd been coming home from running some errands, of how i'd taken the long way because i needed some time to myself, of how i'd all the sudden heard his voice like he was sitting right next to me:

you can do anything you wanna do, jenny.

i know that, you dolt. that's not the problem.

well, what do you wanna do?

the only thing i've ever known that i wanted for myself was to get married and make babies.

you will.

how do you know that?

because i'll find you someone.

and i believed him. i believed he could. i was twenty-nine and grieving and in the throes of some pretty significant inner turmoil before he'd departed this world, and his death, of course, compounded all that. but i believed him.

i don't wanna make babies anymore. but i do wanna know love.

and the men i've known... they've not been good to me. but i've had hope, despite this. i've prayed. i've clung to the dream even though i've known it's foolish to do so.

but tonight, i kept thinking, you should really let this go. it's time. it's time.

so i went to baker's street to see a friend who works as a bartender there. she's battled cancer. twice. she's spunky as hell, and i needed to see the smiling face of a strong woman... only it's been some time since i've been, and she's not there anymore.

and here's the coincidence...

the spot of bar i'd managed to snag was a patch near where my younger brother stood. my younger brother who's engaged, whom i learned tonight will be getting married--for the second time--in ten days. my younger brother who's there with some of his friends--those who have stuck by him--for his bachelor party.

i'd meant to have one drink. three ounces of liquor on ice: vodka, bailey's and kahlua. one drink, the first i've had this year.

i had two. the second didn't sit well with me. so i walked to the movie theater and watched how to be single.

and it's all about how you have to relish the moments... you have to be able to enjoy that time... those seconds when it's just you.

yeah. i don't have a problem doing that. i've been places. i've seen things. i've stood on the side of a very big hill in wales and marveled at the countryside. i've stood on the shores of the carribean, the atlantic and the pacific and reveled in the glory of the sun on the sea. i've driven the backroads at sunset and hiked in the mountainsides. i've sat in my father's chair in the living room and read and watched as the sun sunk below the black of the pines in the pale blue sky. i've known that kind of glory, thanks. i'm good. i know how to appreciate it. i have no trouble doing so.

a man has told me of how i'm beautiful twice in my life. twice. two different men. and both times they were drunk. the first time i didn't realize it was because he was trying to get in my pants. i'd never heard it before. it was so pretty. the second time, i didn't care why he'd said it. both times, when they'd said it, i'd believed them. foolish girl that i am. foolish because i keep wanting someone to send me some ranunculus. and not just anyone. someone special to me. but that never happens. foolish because i keep thinking a man could care. because i keep wanting one to do so.

one of the things the woman had discussed tonight was that coincidences... maybe that's god talking. if that's so, i'd really like to know what he's trying to say. of course, even if i could tell, i'm not sure i'd believe him.

how do i let go of a dream when it's kept me alive?