Yes, I’m giggling. Really!

Waaaaaaay back earlier this year, the heavens decided that my little part of the fetid taint of Hell needed to exit the current drought and all of Nature conspired to Make. It. So. This, I took as a not-so-direct way of the Universe allowing me to view and review some of my more glaring defects of character by trapping me within the confines of Cat’s Paw Acres and the Alumi-Turd 2000.

merit badge sekrit squirrel

Enter the saving grace of a fellow author and friend Cherie Noel and the Super Sekrit Squirrel Project. (Named because once I get cabin fever, it is not that far of a stretch for my psyche to become nuttier than squirrel shit.) Since those early days, my beloved co-author has placed the onus of the Super Sekrit Oath of Shut-Upped-Ness upon me and our joint foray into published proof of mental instability lest I invoke Her Wrath Almighty. (What the Hell do I know? This woman lives in upstate New York, and I figure that the only thing crazier than someone who lives in Central Texas and COPS to it, is someone who can claim French speaking Canadian Yeti’s as relatives!)

Thus, the fervor of Hint Dropping. Which, I have on good authority, is “supposed to make waves stronger than a large turd from a tall cow.” Again, I will claim willful ignorance. It’s safer.

There are those of you who KNOW that I have the reputation to drop metaphors so colorful they could show up a Pride Parade. Likewise with the creative adjectives of cussing. But, this Oath of Shut-Upped-Ness?

Shit Fire and Save The Matches. This is harder than keeping your virginity at the Senior Prom and every available candidate to do the dirty with is not only available, but has been the subject of ‘those’ dreams for weeks.

Almost makes me glad I’m not Catholic. (Seriously, my imagination and the resulting confessions would have driven some priests into taking a vow of silence in a desolate monastery far, far away!)

Ok, dammit all to Hell and back. I’ll just look at the little sticky note that reads “Keep Thy Mouth Shut” but that little squirrel bastard? Oh he’s gonna die a bloody, certain death very, very soon.

As in, “he’s gonna be Celtic Dragon Mama Poop” verra, verra soon. Or I MIGHT recycle his little nut sack as a bladder for the World’s Smallest Bagpipe…

Ah, the joys of planning his demise. In the meantime, let me just say that the Hint Dropping shall commence like mulberry fueled bird shit – It Shall Leave Stains Upon Thine Memory. <Insert evil laugh here.>

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Sometimes You Have To Laugh – Guest Post by Angel Martinez

Yeah, it’s that dreaded day of the week, Monday. However, to make it a tad bit easier on some of us, it’s also Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start to the summer.   Some of us look forward to those long, lazy days – and some of us greet them with a feeling akin to nails scratching on a chalkboard. However and whatever your particular perception, it’s always better to find a good book and curl up somewhere shady and cool. Let your imagination spread its wings on those lovely summer breezes and glide where it may take you.

Angel is a Gift of Serendipity that I met at GRL 2014, and had seen online a couple of times. She’s come to be a friend and someone I can count on to give an honest opinion when those matter most. Without further ado, here’s her lovely guest post!

************************************

Secret Vampire Shame – or Things Paranormal Authors Don’t Want You to Know 

LimeGelatin

My writing’s about half and half – half serious, half not. Even the serious pieces have comedic moments, funny lines, and the occasional absurd situation. Even the humor pieces have moments of doubt and disaster. But I have a serious soft spot for the satiric, especially when something’s big and loud and popular.

Pack shifters, anyone? I keep saying I’ll write a send up of all the pack shifter tropes out there. You know, the whole Alpha/Beta, fated mates, knotting, mpreg, thrown out of the pack and needs a new one/ has to reclaim pack from evil overlord/stepfather/uncle-who-married-mom. Haven’t had time to do it yet, but some day. Some day…

Another paranormal send-up I think about involves vampires. Oh, come on. So, so much to make fun of. Though I certainly wouldn’t be the first. But one thing I’ve never seen discussed is vampire eating restrictions. Seriously, the transition to immortal can’t be an easy one. There have to be some. What if a vampire was afraid of a certain blood type? Or couldn’t feed from someone wearing a certain scent? Or thought that feeding directly from a vein is icky? What if a vampire had a bad reaction to certain blood components?

Since Lime Gelatin isn’t about a vampire, but has a vampire as a secondary character, I picked that last one. Poor Carrington can’t consume whole blood, so he has to obtain washed RBC’s (red blood cells washed with saline to remove most of the plasma and white blood cells) from the blood bank. Just not quite the same effect, trying to be a Prince of the Night when you can’t sink your teeth into someone. Can you imagine the try at a hookup conversation in a bar?

“Hello there, I’m a vampire.”

“Oh, cool! That’s such a turn-on. Wanna go out to the car and you know, I’ll suck you off while you suck on me?”

“Um. No, that is, I can’t. You’d make me sick.”

*potential hookup stomps off in an offended snit, possibly after punching aforementioned unfortunate vamp*

Now…about that shifter piece…

Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters

Offbeat Crimes 1

(part of Amber Allure’s 77th Precinct Pax)

Blurb:

Officer Kyle Monroe’s encounter with a strange gelatinous creature in an alley leaves him scarred and forever changed, revealing odd abilities he wishes he didn’t have and earning him reassignment to Philadelphia’s 77th Precinct where all the cops have defective paranormal abilities.

Just as Kyle’s starting to adjust to his fellow misfit squad mates, his new partner arrives. Tall, physically perfect, reserved, and claiming he has no broken psychic talents, Vikash Soren irritates Kyle in every way. But as much as he’d like to hate Vikash, Kyle finds himself oddly drawn to him, their non-abilities meshing in unexpected ways.

Now, if Kyle and Vikash can learn to work together, they just might be able to stop the mysterious killer who has been leaving mutilated bodies along the banks of the Schuylkill.

Excerpt:

Kyle sat up straighter, shifting to see between the heads in front of him. Soren looked like a poster boy for the model police officer, tall and straight, uniform crisp and sharp. He stood at parade rest beside the lieutenant, impassively surveying his new colleagues. A little knot of resentment lodged in Kyle’s stomach. At his own introduction to the 77th, he’d been nervous and fidgety, freaked out by the collection of…freaks. How can he be so calm?

“Officer Soren transferred from the Harrisburg PD—”

“Don’t they have enough freaky shit of their own up there?” Wolf called out in his rasping growl.

“Since Harrisburg is in our jurisdiction,” she continued with a quelling glance. “He’ll start out partnered with Monroe.”

“What does he do, ma’am? That it’s safe to put him with Kirby, er, Kyle?” Shira Lourdes asked as she flicked nervous glances across the room at Kyle. An empty chair slid away from her and fell over. Her partner, Greg Santos, shook his head and righted the unfortunate piece of furniture.

“Officer Soren’s abilities are his business, which he may or may not choose to share if you ask. And don’t bully him about it either, any of you.” Lieutenant Dunfee swept the room again, pinning each of her officers with her needle-laser gaze like captive butterflies. “Monroe, my office after briefing. Info on your current case.”

She dismissed them, stalking from the room with thunderclouds in her eyes. Kyle found himself approaching the new guy and trying his best not to be awkward. Did he offer to shake hands? Was it safe? Would the guy flinch like so many people did at the sight of Kyle’s scarred hands? Soren was even taller up close, six-foot-three of lean inscrutability, his blue eyes startlingly bright against smoky bronze skin.

“Um, hi, I’m Kyle Monroe.” Kyle fidgeted when Soren didn’t offer his hand either. “You’re with me, I guess. I’ll show you our spot in the squad room.”

Soren followed him silently and Kyle was starting to wonder if he was like Krisk in the not-speaking department until he finally spoke in a smooth, soft baritone, making Kyle startle and miss a step. “Why do they call you Kirby?”

“You’d hear it sooner or later, I guess.” Kyle shrugged. “It’s this thing I do, absorbing other people’s talents temporarily. If they’re close to me. Or touch me. Like Kirby, the little pink dude in the video game.”

“Ah.”

Just that? Soren didn’t edge away, or change expression at all. Was he made of stone? “It’s a thing. Everyone here has a thing.”

After a few more steps, Soren asked, “Always?”

“What… Oh, was I always like this? Who knows? I mean, maybe I’ve picked up stray thoughts or something, but no. It’s pretty recent. Knowing that I do this.”

Kyle took a wide arc around Vance as he entered the squad room, pointing to the double desk in the far corner, well removed from everyone else. “That’s ours. Coffee’s over there, but you might not want that coffee. Let me grab my file and we’ll go see the lieutenant.”

“So what’s your story, Soren?” Vance called across the squad room. “What flies your freak flag?”

“Yeah, what do you do?” Jeff Gatling stopped ’porting his banana from one corner of his desk to the other.

“I don’t really do anything,” Soren answered as he hefted the empty coffeepot. “Guess I’ll make fresh since I’m the new guy.”

He opened the top to remove the filter and every human voice in the squad room yelled out, “No!”

Most people would have startled, maybe dropped the carafe. Soren just blinked at the roomful of people gesturing wildly. He took the filter out and emptied it over the trashcan. “Why not?”

“You don’t want to do that.” Kyle stayed by his desk, a nice safe distance from the coffee station. “That’s Larry’s job.”

“Larry’s not keeping up then.”

The container of sweetener packets began to rattle. It shivered across the counter and leaped to a messy end, ceramic shards skittering across the floor. The desk that Krisk and Wolf shared rose from the floor several inches and slammed back down. Wolf fled with a squeaking yelp just before the desk flipped on its side.

Soren glanced toward Kyle. “Larry’s not a cop, is he?”

“He is…he was! A dead cop. Larry’s a ghost. He gets ticked if anyone else makes the coffee. Put the stuff back, please!”

“Larry?” Soren raised his voice but to all appearances remained completely unruffled. “I’m new here. I’m very sorry I invaded your jurisdiction. See? I’m putting the carafe back. Closing the top. Are we good, Larry?”

A breeze ruffled through a stack of papers, but no further mayhem ensued. The carafe slid from its pad on the coffeemaker and floated to the water cooler where Larry, who never manifested in a visible form, whistled tunelessly while he filled the carafe.

From his dim corner of the room, Carrington said in his dry, genteel way, “Welcome to the Island of Misfit Freaks…”

Giveaway:

2 commenters will be chosen at random (’cause I have a formula to do that and everything) for their choice of backlist Angel Martinez book!

About the Author:

Angel Martinez is the erotic fiction pen name of a writer of several genres. Her experiences as a soldier, a nurse, a banker, and an underpaid corporate drone give her a broad view of the world and a deep appreciation for the astounding variety of people on this small planet.

She currently lives part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head. She has one husband of over twenty years, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.

To contact Angel with praise, adulation, sarcasm, and complaints to the management (any management, she’s not picky, but it might not solve your flight reservation issue) please try these linky things:

Email: ravenesperanza@yahoo.com

Website: http://angelmartinezauthor.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amartinez2

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/angelmartinez

Watch This Space

galaxy

I’ve been so scattered of thought, body and spirit of late that I nearly totally blanked that I even had a blog. No worries though; there’s this little e-mail notification that tells me that the spam-meisters have been hard at it again. I really do wish that I had less of an ethical filter at times, because whamming the crap outta their blatant promo would just thrill my little dark heart.

At some time in the VERY near future, I will be hosting a wonderful author & friend on this site, so if you are following me, please be nice to her. Read some of her work and feel free to fawn all over her awesomeness. (Hope you’re blushing pink at this point, Angel Martinez….<evil grin>) Further, to all the beloved author friends hammering the good times gong at the Romantic Times 2015 convention in Dallas this week, huge and gentle hugs. Sorry you folks had to hit here during the rainy season!

This is the time of the year that the Dane and I shift gears into parental mode because the college kidlet is at home for her final summer break before kicking off her senior year at Cornell College. We are incredibly proud of her and just KNOW that she’s going on to incredibly awesome adventures (especially if the posse’ she’s surrounded herself with is any indicator!) Beyond that, there are other opportunities that are dragging us away from Cat’s Paw Acres. It’s time for us to re-connect, re-consider, re-new and re-vamp. That being said, I’m having to learn about some time management wherein health concerns are part of that equation. Did I ever mention that I SUCK at algebra?

We’ve lost some more of our barn cats due to a bumper crop of coyotes and my heart is heavy with their loss. Until recently, both the coyotes and the cats were fine having co-opted a truce that included George the Anatolian being the gatekeeper of goodness. Once George was taken out of the picture by incarnated slime parading as neighbors, everything fell out of balance and relative peace. While I totally despise the idea of returning to being apartment dwellers, it appears that this will be our temporary respite until we leave the State. Which means I get to explore the outer limits of Creative Downsizing.

On a happier note, a completely different surprise in that I’m actually hitting my stride with “Lyriel’s Moon” – a novel that I’ve had in my head to write ever since I narrowly escaped the clutches of the Evil Day Job with my very life. If you are ever victimized by an evil supervisor, boss or co-worker, I heartily recommend exacting revenge through the medium of writing. Nothing feels quite so invigorating as creating your own version of Karmic Payback to bless them with. I’ve created a playlist on YouTube that consists of all my beloved 80’s hair bands, some late 70’s rock, and a few of the latest happy musical creations that has me chair dancing and rocking out as I put my characters through the blender of human experience. The Yorkie thinks I’m two biscuits short of a snack, the cats are conversing about my shredded threads of sanity, and the neighbors are nervously avoiding me. It’s all good.

Sending out love and gentle hugs to one and all. Billy Joel and the rest are tuning up, and the Muse beckons.

The Year’s End

New Years celebration

 

Tomorrow is my 57th birthday. I still have no wish to “grow up” because to me, the next thing would be “growing old” and I refuse that judgment upon my person. I still believe in love, I still believe in the magic of those Unseen to affect beauty all around me, and I still believe (somewhat) in the goodness of the human race. I believe in romance; the kind that leaves you teary-eyed and breathless after a tender kiss. I believe in long-lasting relationships because the nature of love is compromise, care, comfort and consideration for one another. Oh, to be sure we all mix it up now and again to keep things fresh, funny and delightful to our beloveds.

I believe in reincarnation because I am very much a work-in-progress. It would be absurd, with all the flaws inherent in my being, to expect me to conquer them all in a single mortal lifetime. Especially if your lifetime has been foreshortened in a flash, with an unexpected crash. I believe in Wonder; because if I have forgotten what it looks like, all I have to do is find a four-year old to remind me.

When all the Ugly of this world descends upon me, all I really have to do is reach out to another. This has been the hardest lesson of all, because for years, I only interacted with others thru a narrow window of a bubble – refusing more than the scant contact of a phone call, a brief meeting in a small cubicle, the direct dryness of an e-mailed message. I wrote my stories at home, safely tucked away from the rest of the world in a 9 X 6 office, 30 miles from the nearest hub of human commerce. I liked it that way because those that deliberately looked for folks like me to harass, annoy, tease, belittle or outright bully could not reach me here; and I could illumine their souls with my limited understanding in the vain attempt to discover why they felt so compelled.

When you least expect it, Serendipity waves her magic wand and you find yourself bed-rest bound with a scary prognosis and an interminable wait for a follow-up CT scan and MRI. However, because of the Common Thread of Mercy, you also end up entertained by a lovely series of urban fantasy books. This was to be only the outside of the nesting dolls of discovery, but so little did I know.

Then, I discovered what a wonder a blog could be, and my eyes were sure to be as big as that four-year-old upon seeing fireworks from the top of a hay bale in a moonlit sky. Oh, the Universe wasn’t through with me, because then I had the joy of a writer’s retreat. Not before a near-complete meltdown, however. This little country mouse was secretly terrified of leaving her safe nest under the huge ash tree in the middle of the prairie. It took a lot of hand-holding, some serious acceptance of limitations and a warning of a bruised ego should she turn around and run back to the safety of the sun-dappled shadows, but Country Mouse not only navigated the airport and the rental car kiosk, but Chicago traffic and her own limited knowledge of getting maps to work on a smartphone.

There were some disappointments along the way as well; Google Maps is never accurate, hindsight is always better than gut-level panic, and re-think what you really need to pack before you have to schlepp it all over Creation. Learning your new limits or finding a new normal have been watch phrases for me; and in the spirit of being honest, not exactly welcome. The trade-off, because we do live in a Universe of Balance, is that I made some friends that have felt like they will and have always been a part of my heart.

The next stage of my life is a complete unknown – it’s like standing behind the curtain at an improv. You have no clue what you’re going to do, but you have a gut level feeling that you can wing it if you can just get over the fear factor. Every muscle in your body is both relaxed and tensed at the same time, your mind is racing and your breathing skips a bit along with your heart. However, there is that still, small voice telling you that “You. Got. This. You’ve had it your whole life. Now. Is. The. Time.”

To be sure, there is a wonderful happy part of me that is simply aching to share some good news. (I’m going to be published!) Of course, there is the part of me that simply wants the mess out of the house so she can sit down and finish writing some of the stories that fizzled to a whisper because of the distractions of crap she simply cannot abide! (Obsessive/compulsive, much?)

Here I sit, at the end. A sudden realization tearing my eyes; I am the only one with this voice, this perspective. Should I be too shy to sound out, the whispers of what I see will dim and face into the emptiness of Chaos, with no one to note that I even sat here at all. The fear of silence being more than the shyness of sharing a beloved’s touch on my neck, shoulders and the tentative kiss of “good morning” on a still sleeping face.

Soundtracks of a hundred movies sit in my queue, background music to a chattering brain flexing verbiage and feathered synonyms to paint the mind pictures. The window frames the sere grass overgrown for lack of a sufficiently powered mower to tackle the front acre. Naked limbs of crepe myrtle, mimosa, ash and tallow give depth to the framing, and within a golden pool of illumination, the fingers move and then still; here creation moves one phrase at a time.

Tomorrow, my heart will still waltz to an unheard tune, my eyes still looking for the miraculous, and my hands will still reach to learn that next, more difficult crochet pattern. Getting the brain to engage will always be the new challenge that the new normal has become, but I refuse to ‘grow up.’ No one ever said it that it was mandatory anyway; I prefer to grow better.

Mays the Bells of the New Year bless you and yours with their soul stirring chimes.

Gentle Hugs,

 

Rhae

A Yuletide Pagan Primer for the non-Pagan

Yule-log-entry

 

Time and again I’ve posted on Facebook and elsewhere NOT to wish me a “Merry Christmas” please, I’m not Christian. I don’t say it to sound mean or callous or Goddess-forbid engage in some feeble minded attempt to make war on a holiday held sacred by others. I’m simply asking that a level of civility be observed and to please extend to non-Christians the same courtesy extended to Jews, Muslims, and other non-Abrahamic individuals. In return, I’ve been asked “What DO you observe?”

I am only timidly going to stick my toe in the Pagan waters here, because I can only speak for our Druidic tradition and some of the Wiccan and Asatruar traditions that we share hearthkin with. Ah, yes…I can see that some definitions are going to be in order as well.

Shall we jump in? Primarily there are as many Pagan traditions as there are stars in the sky – and probably just as many variations in Druidry, Asatru and Wicca, so this is not gospel. It is a generality and should you have a burning desire to know and question that you just have to have answered, feel free to ask. Likewise, if I don’t have the answer, I can usually point you in a solid direction for where to discover the answer. Witchvox.com is a likely resource, but not the final answer by any means.

Let us start with “community” – this is not as cohesive (although a crap-ton of us wish it were) or as inclusive as the word suggests. “Loose confederation” is closer, more holes that your granny’s doily is a better description. This mutually-agreed upon truce betwixt and between traditions and spiritual paths tends to generate a consensus gathering for most, if not all of the 8 “Holy Days” that revolve around an agricultural/astronomical calendar. Neither are the dates ‘set in stone’ per se. Because of a large amount of religious bigotry still running unleashed and rampant in a good part of America, most Pagani tend to utilize “the weekend closest to” the actual date/day/time for observance.

Let us also add an additional warning here. Because of the aforementioned problems with the distinct lack of general acceptance, if you’ve made an acquaintance of an individual that follows The Old Ways, please keep that information to yourself, unless that individual has acknowledged to you that they are “Out Of The Broom Closet” with regards to their spirituality. It’s a big no-no to expose someone who could very easily lose their job, their home, their children, their school funding or even their lives. No, I’m not going over the top here. It’s happened.

OK, definitions. “Heartkinship” – this is an established relationship between two separate groups of pagani; sometimes, two covens or circles, sometimes Druid and Wicca, sometimes Asatru and Druid. There is an agreed upon joint relationship for observance, prayer, feasting, even extending to informal fosterage of children during the summer months or sometimes during the school year. Yes, my family and I fostered our girls with an Asatruar hearth and likewise accepted their children into our household. It works very well when there are shared values and morals, with shared goals and expectations of the children involved. The benefits are amazing all around; but the trust and ability to compromise required of each side promotes a level of maturity that is admirable. Once upon a time, when there were extended families that knew each other just as well, informal fosterage was simply a given status. Modern America has lost something it could do well to rethink and regain.

‘Ghosti’ or Guestright – this is the set of acceptable behaviors between guest and host that stretches back into time. In a nutshell, it describes what is expected of a good guest; no breaking of the good china, lamps or host’s bones, no wrecking of the house, cars or property, no allowing the remainder of the household to come to harm through action or inaction on your part. In exchange, your host is expected to grant you a meal free from poison, vermin or inordinate gossip, a place to sleep should you require it, and a bath should you need one. Additionally, protection from anyone who would harm you while within the boundaries of their property is also an expectation. It sounds so simple, and yet too many times the members of the pagan community have seen both guests and hosts wreck the parameters of appropriate behavior on the order of a sleazy talk show.

As much as I hate to illumine the single underlying cause of the majority of these rampages, it must be outlined that alcohol can breed just as much antipathy as cheer. Setting firm expectations/boundaries with guests is a welcome foundation that can insure many happy holidays to come – be they Pagan or not. Oh yes. One more item. Set firm boundaries with regard to sex and sexual behavior. If you’re going to have a grown-up party, act grown-up and discuss consensus and protection.

Ah, so you’ve been invited to “circle” or “ritual” – Chances are the person that invited you will inform you of their particular traditions with regards to dress, time to show up, etc. Want to impress the person who invited you or officiates at the ritual? Bring a bottle of mead, or good wine, or something to eat. Clueless as to what would be appropriate? Do a bit of research on the ritual being observed. Many of the Full Moon/Dark Moon observations are closed – which means “no one outside the immediate group unless permission has been given.” So, if you are invited to a Holy Day observation, (one of the Big Eight) you’re going to be there with others who are likewise clueless or are attending their first event. Accommodations should have probably been made for your presence. Relax, keep an open mind and enjoy. Participation in the event is always voluntary, save for a preliminary ‘smudging’ or cleansing. Never be afraid to ask your host/hostess about appropriate attire, what to do once inside circle, if you can ‘sit this one out’ and where, etc.

What is this “Yule” thing anyway? For our hearth, Yule, is an ancient Germano-Celtic tradition that celebrates the return of the Light and is observed from sunset the day before the Winter Solstice to sunset the day of the Solstice. An hourly vigil is kept at the Hearthfire by the Yule Log to insure blessings to one and all that come to observe, offer prayers and seek blessings. There are some that keep an all-night vigil when seeking wisdom of importance. While there is gift-sharing, it is minimal and observes a protocol of “one gift to Share Your Light” (i.e. an artist receives expensive brushes, a chef receives a prized carving knife, etc.) There is often story-telling (the cycle stories of Munster, the Children of Lir, etc.) and there is often a recounting of the year’s events similar to Samhain.

At midnight, every light is turned off, the fire is ritually tamped out, and a new fire re-kindled upon the ashes of the old, with the exception of the Yule Log. Additionally, the Yule Log is never allowed to burn away completely; one piece of the log is saved to use to kindle the next year’s Yule Log, else the family line dissipate never to be spoken of or remembered again. Usually, only “hearthkin” (kindred accepted by rite) are allowed to share Yule as they are familiar with and answer to the traditions of “ghosti” or guestright. (This is a complicated set of traditions that have to do with hospitality – how to behave as a guest and/or host.) We usually roast a ham, a brisket and a salmon to offer on the table for the main feast. There’s baked apples, sometimes a roast goose, it all depends on a.) what we can afford and b.) what we can get at the butcher’s. It’s very different from Christmas, but very family oriented.

By far, this isn’t an in-depth description…because there is so much more. The names of all whom I’ve sent Yule cards to will be recited at the Hearthfire in order that the Exalted Ones extend a Blessing to them. There are bayberry candles that adorn the altar (for prosperity – “A bayberry candle burned down to the socket brings health to the family and gold to the pocket.”) Mistletoe is carefully hung over doors, holly and pine over windows (to honor the Ancestors & the Shining (Fae) Ones) and often the kitchen and pantry is ritually cleansed with salt & mint to keep pests away, the floor cleansed with herbal tinctures and homemade soap….It’s a JOB…but the laughter, the sense of community and the camaraderie makes it so worth the effort!

Yule is probably the one Holy Day wherein we open the hearth and door to any who care to share because we feel it’s only right to Share in the Light. To us, sharing the sacred with others connects us to them in a way that no other form of communion can. When you share a meal, a ritual observance, stories and song, you being to understand another person’s perspective, and their lives begin to have worth and value to you. A common understanding goes a long way towards acceptance and inclusivity.

Blessed Yule, Y’all…..from our Hearth to Yours.

On The Road to Shambala

 shambhala

With a joyful heart and spicy, wicked grin for planting the earworm of the Three Dog Night classic in your mind, let me tell you where my body, mind and spirit wandered from four o’clock in the morning on Thursday to this Sunday afternoon. Let me help you get your bearings in the “Land Beyond your Imagination” – or where I live in my mind. I am a hopeless, shameless romantic that will occasionally ooze angst. I believe in the Power of Love to overcome all but the most Evil, and perhaps at that to have a fighting chance. I am also dealing with the aftereffects of a nasty cerebral vascular event which tends to make my life play out in vignettes of wonder strung along with tears and laughter.

Love is love is love and should be celebrated and held as Holy no matter how it manifests amongst consenting individuals of legal age. When I learned of the GRL Retreat being held this October, AND that not only would some of the individuals of like mind would be there but my favorite authors as well, it became like the Sacred Quest to attend. Fearlessly and courageously I cleared the mental chess board to ‘make this happen’ in spite of financial, physical and emotional limits. What I failed to consider, no toss that; what I denied even existed was the possibility of my short term memory loss manifesting adventure where I did not need it!

I was so proud that I’d made flight arrangements AND arranged for a rental car. I was going to do this like an adult! Did I LOOK at those reservations closely? Was I aware that I was shorting myself of re-coop time from travel? Did I know I was travelling before the chickens were awake BOTH ways and would miss the closing breakfast? Aww Hell, no!

Amy Lane is an author hiding her Goddess nature well, and as her birthday was close to the event, I packed a gift and card for her along with the books that literally saved my life for autographs. I packed clothes for cold weather, I packed clothes for hot weather. I packed shoes (which upon unpacking, I FORGOT I brought!) I packed all my electronic toys, and by the time I was done, I needed a wagon train with pack mules. Alas and alack, TSA doesn’t allow those on flights. Ok, time to reconsider and re-pack. Ummm, rethought and ended up packing even more. This wasn’t working. Finally, 8 hours before flight time I managed to get it together enough to have a reasonably bulky, but two item burden to schlep….and a purse….and a cane! Oh I was ‘Stylin’ – not!

packing list two

It was off the plane, onto a bus which took me to the rental agency and then into my chosen chariot for the weekend, a 2014 Kia Soul….but I did look lustfully and longingly at the Chrysler minivan as my evil heart had alternative plans flying around. I’d agreed to pick up another FB friend at Union Station whose train would arrive after my flight. This was not to happen simply because a.) The trains do not run on time and b.) Chicago depends on parking fees to pay its debts – simply outrageous! Looking at the maps on Google, my quest appeared to be quite easy. Allow me to interject here that while I have a snazzy Android style phone, the damned thing lost its mind AND it’s voice simultaneously at soon as I landed at O’Hare. Let us also interject that Chicago in its’ eternal wisdom of metropolitan angst decided to re-arrange ALL of the access roads, highways and byways with which one navigates any mass transportation area. I managed to get myself lost TWICE in the span of 4 hours despite having the latest in electronic navigation equipment via cellular device. Some would call it “creative ineptitude” – I prefer to term it as “The Tolkien Effect” – I was not lost, I was merely wandering with a purpose, because I eventually got to where I needed to go. Not without unnecessary drama, and I’m sure that there’s a certain member of Chicago’s finest who will NEVER forget the creative epithets that I have given him gratis for life in describing my cell-phone-that-doubles-as-a-flotation-device.

curse bubble

When I arrived, 4 hours AFTER I arrived, I was in no emotional state to do more than find a cool corner and quiver like nervous dessert (think jello) but I stowed the nervous breakdown for a later date and managed to get myself registered and responsibly present for book-stamping duty. Even though I missed the Swag Room and the Newbie Meeting, thus began the lovely adventure that ended all too soon but was marked by meeting Facebook friends and some new faces. Those I was in awe of: Shira Anthony, Rhys Ford, Amy Lane, Sara York, Ariel Tachna, Cherie Noel and Angel Martinez. Folks that I will share heartspace with forever: Dana Piazzi, Tame Anna, LE Franks, Kazy Reed, LM Somerton, Christy Duke, Kris Gray, JP Bowie, Tim Brehme and so many more that I simply cannot remember names. Allow me to take this moment to drop a deep curtsy of respect to the event organizers – you’ve earned a respite from incarnation as anything less than a pampered adored demi-deity for the next term of Eternity.angel-halo

The biggest development of sheer surprise to me? I sang karaoke without needing copious amounts of pharmacopeia to do so! That was ME – without Zoloft or Klonopin, (I’d brought them with in case I needed to return to the regimen I’d so carefully weaned off of…) and I remember just letting GO. Wow. Niki Massey and I did breakfast together….after schlepping the ¼ mile jaunt down the hallway that reminded me of the labyrinthine passages of a bad sci-fi movie. It was the only negative to a fantastic 4 day adventure that passed as a blur – the eternal jaunts back and forth and having to school the gnat brain into consideration of “things future needed”…(gnat brain barely speaks English on GOOD days. The cold weather and the fireplace gather pit was a welcome refuge that allowed me to enter into conversation as I was able to without an inner nervous breakdown/freak out.

Speaking of which, LM Somerton – honey, you were an angelic intervention when I was on the edge of implosion/panic attack. There simply not enough words to express the gratitude I feel for you being there when the press of the crowd was about to send me screaming off into the shadows. (Turns out that missing that particular highlight was a good thing….after the crush of the crowd, the temptation of alcohol would have been too great…Ya’ just never know when the Goddess will use you for emergency purposes!)

Lessons learned for the next gathering of my beloved, eternally adopted Tribe:

  • Bring your OWN pillows. Trusting others for your sleep comfort is foolhardy.
  • Pack simple basic outfits, not entire changes of wardrobe. Thou art not a clotheshorse.
  • Make room for every comfortable pair of shoes you usually schlep around in. Pack them.
  • Jammies trump t-shirts in cold weather.
  • Remember to send up good prayers for roomies with the patience of a saint – (LOVE YOU, Kris!)
  • There will simply never be enough time, hugs, smiles or tears when you spend time with the weirdos, misfits, and miscreants you call Tribe. That simple seed of Love will grow in my heart forever.
  • Find the courage to go outside your comfort zone – you’re amongst your people!
  •  HUGS. Give them, get them, seek them out. It’s how we stay sane.

Finally, I came home with a secret, glowing happy sheltered in my heart….Amy said my crochet was ‘Beautiful work’…..! I saw her fingerless gloves and was totally in AWE….Thank you, my new beloved adopted peoples, my Tribe!!!

PS: “Unicorn shifters? Ouch!”

unicorn funny

Quiet Lives of Desperation

Three guesses about what I spent my afternoon watching. Oh Hell, I can’t keep anyone in suspense – which is why I buy Yule gifts at the last minute. I used to claim that it was because I spent so much time finding the perfect gift. Bullshit. Pure and utter bullshit. I simply can’t wait to see the look on their faces when they see what I just had a gut-felt feeling would rock their world the instant it was in their hands.

The husband and I were broke newlyweds of 4 years when “Good Will Hunting” debuted at the theatre. We had three kids, one with the genetic birth defect of PKU and her metabolic needs required weekly trips to a San Antonio hospital to make sure I was “getting it right” with blood tests and frequent adjustments to her diet. Had we been able to afford seeing the movie, perhaps my venture into writing would have occurred earlier and I wouldn’t have had to spend a week in ICU and two months learning to walk without appearing inebriated.

Let’s start with a fairy tale, then. It will start with the frightening little kernel of Truth Robin Williams stated as Sean Maguire when he’s telling Will that he could do anything freakin’ thing he wanted to – “No, you were born with it. So don’t cop out behind “I didn’t ask for this”.

As all good fairy tales begin – Once upon a time, there were twins. Born in the middle of the nastiest coldest sleet storm you can imagine. They were also six weeks premature in an era where preemies just didn’t have good odds of survival. It wouldn’t have mattered to the mother of these children. After all, she didn’t marry the sire of her kids. He was Mormon and a good Southern Baptist girl didn’t do that sort of thing. Then again, neither did she get knocked up on her first Spring Break fling from college. So she lied to the grocery delivery boy after some serious seduction on her part and bada-bing bada-bam, the 4th generation of a Founding Family failed to handle the legacy and instead married a butcher’s apprentice.

The twins, you ask? Ah, yes. One little girl with curly red hair and a little over 4 pounds, one little boy, with dark hair like his momma at about 5 pounds. Neither had good chances of survival, and the attending physician told the anxious husband “Don’t get too attached to the little girl. She’s far too fragile to last the week.” Surprisingly, the little girl did last the week, and the next one and so on until after two months they were told to “come and get her, she’s quite capable of taking on the world now.” Only, they didn’t take their daughter home. No, they took her to the husband’s grandparents in a far flung rural area where the only advances beyond electricity were regular postal delivery and automobiles. They left her there, with aging individuals that had done their share of raising children, 13 to be exact. What energy did they have left for another? Oh, of course the little boy would stay in town. Better access to doctors and all, and he was the heir, right?

Fast forward 18 months, and the spring of that year was delayed by cold and windy weather. The little girl got to see her twin brother about once a month, sometimes twice. They delighted in each other, but the little girl was clearly an instigator if there was trouble to be found, gotten into, and created. She stood up and by virtue of being able to jostle the playpen by sheer tenacity, she was able to reach both the lipstick (Ruby Red) and the dusting powder (My Sin.) It was time to explore creativity with her brother as a canvas, and then herself. This display of mischief was captured by a relative with a camera and the resulting photo would surface many years later after all the lies began to unravel. In the meantime, it meant a bath for both in a house poorly heated, and by a mother who was more about appearance than care or concern for her offspring. After all, she was about to give birth to another child, it was about time that the girl went back to her country home. Then, there was that nagging cough that the little boy had developed. It was the last time the little girl would see her twin, ever.

Time to jump ahead a couple of more years. The little boy had died with complications of pneumonia and the little girl didn’t see her parents for over a year. “It’s far too hard on her mother to see this child when the other didn’t make it. He was such a healthy child, too!” But the little girl didn’t understand the emotional distance, she didn’t know exactly what was missing, and it was just easier to stay with Nanny and Papaw. The farm was her world; the gentle chuckling of the chickens, the earthy smell of the cattle, the warmth of being on the broad mule’s back when Papaw plowed up the garden for Nanny, standing behind Papaw’s shoulder on the rides into town once a month to “take care of business.” It was an easier existence than having to stand still in a starched pinafore and black patent leather shoes and “be good.” Being barefoot in a simple cotton sackcloth shift, having her unruly curls braided into pigtails, and squishing her toes in the warm dirt while looking for the first of the ripe cherry tomatoes was a better fate than anything anywhere else could offer.

All too soon, the big brown leather suitcase came out of the dark recesses of attic and when Nanny opened it up, there was a tiny wristband from the hospital, a small pink receiving blanket and 3 neatly folded tiny diapers. A tear escaped from Nanny’s eye and the little girl didn’t understand why her Nanny’s eye leaked. Papaw gruffly mumbled, “Come on woman, let’s get this done and over with. It’s not like she can go to school out here.” All the little girl’s clothing and possessions were being packed and when Nanny went into the bathroom to get the small toothbrush, the little girl grabbed a small stuffed lamb from the belongings so carefully arranged in the suitcase. Her small sneakered feet took her to the living room where she handed the lamb to her Papaw. “Here Papaw. You said that Nanny always would need a lamb to look after. Give her mine, please.” She turned and went back into the small bedroom she’d always known as hers to help her Nanny finish.

That was when the night terrors began. Every time the little girl saw the suitcase, she’d start crying. When she cried, the spankings, the whippings would start. So she learned to cry silently; to sit up in the horrible metal crib and smell the night air through the zinc screening on the window and sob in silence. She had a younger relative that would often show up and bully her by taking her clothes to wear them, even though he was a boy. She misjudged the ominous click of the gas floor heater and suddenly flames were melting her tiny feet to the metal grid because he’d stolen her slippers and dared her to come get them. Two weeks alone in a hospital burn unit with only nurses to see to her cries because, the husband was too busy working to support his family and the wife was too emotionally fragile to see a child of hers in this setting. There was also the matter of a younger sibling, who was often sick and screaming.

It was there that the little girl heard classical music; her godfather brought her an album and a child’s phonograph to listen to it in her room. The little girl soon learned that it was better to sit still and listen to “Scheherazade.” She could sleep, she could dream happy dreams, and she could heal. When she got home, another album joined the first, and strains of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” could be heard echoing down the hall. Her godfather and her grandmother began to take the little girl to symphonic presentations, much to the jealous dismay of her mother. Soon, all the little girl wanted to do was go to school so she could read and learn all about the music she was hearing, the stories that the music told. She even ran away one bright September morning to get on a school bus that was picking up other neighborhood children. However, 6:30 was really very early to an excited young lady and she fell asleep before they ever made it to the school. Upon being discovered by a bus driver and escorted to the police station to hopefully be reunited with her parents, the little girl steadfastly refused to give her name, her address or any other information that would help in the process.

Eventually, a panicked grandmother verbally sparred with her old school mate, the current Police Chief, and the little girl was returned to her home; but not without some string pulling that resulted in a placement in a private school. Even that day would have some distinct consequence, as the little girl had to be tested for placement. While she couldn’t yet write her name, she could effectively draw a man, anatomically correct of course, but with a hat to keep his ears from sunburn. The docent and school administrator had to walk away from the little girl for a moment to keep from laughing, so serious was the child about the addition of a fedora to her rendering. So, into the first grade went a child 5 ½ years old, but with a wisdom far older about her.

First grade flew by and so did the opportunity to continue in private school. The little girl overheard the heated arguments that resulted in her going to a public school for second grade, but she had to be “tested” again. Again, it was a sultry summer day when she was walked into the nearby elementary school, all her paperwork presented and then the testing commenced. She looked up as she’d completed the last question and saw the others still working. Her confusion must have garnered the attention of the proctor, because a tall blonde lady came and took her small hand into a much larger, cooler one and they walked out of the room with her completed paper. There was a softly spoken conversation and she was told she could go home, they’d be calling her mother later. It was frightening, but she would walk home alone for the first time in her young life. True, it was only a block, but at 6 ½ the world is a pretty big place. She would soon get used to walking home alone; and by then she would learn to love the solitary nature of each step.

Soon, the third grade came around, there was a heated controversy going on about “new math” and how it was going to cripple some children because they simply wouldn’t be able to make the transition from the older methods. German measles was also going around and this time there simply wasn’t a vaccine for this form of the virus. Both the little girl and her younger brother were stricken with the disease and both ended up spending two miserable weeks in a darkened room as the virus had “spread to their eyes” and there was a danger of going blind. Other children in their neighborhood had contracted the disease and one of the neighbor’s children was in the hospital fighting for his life. Three weeks later, short one neighborhood child and 15 days of valuable lesson time, the little girl returned to her classroom. She’d never really liked her teacher, sensing that the woman had favorites, and then overhearing her say “Well, wouldn’t you know that the white trash would survive?” An inner fear that this woman was not going to help her catch up with the lessons she’d missed began to grow and was well founded when she wasn’t promoted to the fourth grade with her classmates.

The teasing and gossip would begin, and it was simply better to turn inwards and read. The little girl, skinny from illness, began to take on some height which resulted in an awkward gawkiness. It was just better to curl up in a corner of the library and read rather than attempt to play kickball or four-square or hopscotch. The librarian appreciated the assistance in re-shelving books, and re-filing reference cards. Things at home turned darker, however and now a young lady beginning to bloom into a young woman at the young age of 9 began to hide her library books. However, there was yet another sibling joining the already crowded nest, and sometimes library books were forgotten in the mad scramble of the mornings. When the late notices began to show up in the mail box, the beatings commenced. When the young lady brought home books for a book report, she had to ask the teacher for a written assignment stating such, else face the inevitable belt whipping.

Somewhere in all of the blur of elementary school, all the children were set down with Stanford Binet IQ tests. It was just another test, the young lady thought; never even comprehending that this would change her life from “get by” to “unbearable” when her parents were contacted by the school. “We don’t have the capability to educate her properly,” her parents were told. “We can’t afford to send her to private school,” came the reply. What had been just a “deal with the child until we can marry her off” attitude, changed overnight to “how do we deal with the freak?” Then came the joys of a Yule where all her dreams of being a scientist came true with a small German microscope, a huge chemistry set, and a telescope all showing up under the Tannenbaum. There was so much to see, to observe, the sheer joy of making a “wet mount” slide and then sharing her finds with anyone she could coerce into looking thru the small oculus. So what if her grandmother was permanently sickened by the sight of chicken fat enlarged 200 times under the lens?

Santa had also brought a bicycle and it was a joy and a danger because the young lady’s mind would wander frequently while riding, thus ensuring many cuts and scrapes along the way. Other neighborhood children would gather in wheeled packs and thus conquer the adjoining streets and driveways on daily rides. Of course, shortening the distance by “cutting across” the corner lawn was a given, but so also was the anger of the lawn’s owner and Mrs. Baum was very likely to take her complaint directly to a parent. The resultant disciplinary correction inspired the creation of smoke bomb with the chemistry set that would ultimately blow a 3 x 4 foot hole in the bedroom wall of the young lady. This explosion ended the gifting of any additional scientific equipment for fear of curiosity levelling the dwelling by flood, fire or some other mishap.

The remainder of her education would pass fairly unremarkably save for the constant impediment of chronic depression. When she would ask for direction, or guidance with where her education should go, there was the stand-by answer of “oh, you’re so bright you can do anything” with never an interest taken to see where her heart might lie, what might make her sigh in the joy of completion. Somewhere in high school, an English literature teacher took an interest and challenged her to write a screenplay for a 5 minute movie. Something ignited and a joy burst forth. While the end result was a cheesy Grade B science fiction 8mm creation, that it was done and a small figment of a germ of an idea sat in the dark shadows of a heart.

It would be a dream denied not because of the young lady’s wishes, but because of parents too self-absorbed to guide their child beyond what was “expected of a young female after high school.” They’d never noticed that she’d turned her back on religion after a playmate’s grandfather molested both of them before either was 12. They’d not given much credence to a letter sent to them by the school counselor stating that their daughter had earned no less than 5 scholarships and would they please consider making an appointment for college placement?

When the young lady brought home all the paperwork from her counselor, her ‘father’ sneered and challenged, “You don’t have the guts to get your education the way I did. You and all your pot smokin’ friends are too lazy to even consider the military.” Something inside the young lady snapped; she’d worked damned hard to master Spanish classical guitar, 6 and 12 string, and spent endless hours researching the correct translations of Chaucer. Lazy? Then, there was her mother who told her that the “most correct path” for her to follow would be for her to attend a junior college and then transfer to the local university to obtain a teaching degree. A correct path? Whatever happened to “you’re so smart you can do anything you put your mind to?”

This young lady instead went to a recruiting office, with a signed age waiver and raised her right hand. Nothing prepared her for basic training, but then nothing prepared them for her intelligence when it came to radio communications. Somewhere in the marching and drill, between the rifle range and personal defense lessons the bookworm found her voice and her spine. Nothing prepared her for the politics and personal gamesmanship that the military foisted upon its cadre, however; she opted to leave when she made an issue of a misplaced hand on her thigh, and the resulting career backslap would have had her on a mountaintop listening to alpine goats take a piss.

All of her training and credentials amounted to nothing on the civilian market when she came back home; it was by happy chance that she landed a technician spot in a naval laboratory….until the funding was cut and she was facing eviction from her first small apartment. This young lady sat in the quiet of her own dining area and thought…numbers had always been difficult for her, but basic maths were nothing. Her grandmother had told her that folks would always need someone to keep their books straight, and she could at least do that. Thus began 30 plus years of taking care of other people’s money, credit cards, bills, and insurance. The dream of writing thus deferred again; sometimes it couldn’t be silenced and came out in strange little poems written in a journal or a diary. Or sometimes in a ballad or two when a guitar found its way back into her hands. Then came an accident, and accidental addiction to the pain pills…and just as quickly, the young lady found a resolution to the addiction, but the pain remained.

The years stretched out; three then four marriages failed and as a single mother, the daily grind for survival and sobriety outpaced her inner muse. Until, one night she fell off the tailgate of a U-Haul truck while helping a friend move. She hamstrung both ankles in the accident, and a sober friend took her to the ER and thence to a couch with a nearby monitor and keyboard attached to a dial-up modem and a BBS bulletin board. There, the young lady met the one, the one who would be there for her through two more babies and 20 years of marriage. He would also be there for her when her old nemesis depression came back with a vengeance and a new angle of horror known as PTSD. Then, in the long shadows of an October afternoon, after a particularly fractious phone call with the insurance company, she would stand up and a blood vessel that had formed a deadly bubble in her brain would burst. He would find her unresponsive and unconscious after coming home because ‘something didn’t feel right.’

Everything she had every taken for granted would be gone within 3 days of bleeding within her skull. Gone was the near instantaneous recall of minutiae required for her job, gone was her sense of balance, gone too was the surety that she could just “move on” when she found her way back from conquering the re-awakened demons of depression. After 10 days in the hospital, she was home – to nothing. She was on total bed rest until they could do a “follow-up” CT scan to determine the nature of a tumor discovered in her stay. Somewhere in the drab grey dullness a friend put a series of books in her hands to read and something stirred to life, something long denied stood up and said “No. Not this time.” Then, her beloved echoed the same words that her heart had been saying. “No. Not this time.”

Behind the eyes of every writer, there is a simple trigger; a switch, if you will. It takes us from those “quiet lives of desperation” that used to echo around me in every morning’s traffic, to a life spent describing the moment that a simple dragonfly landed within the landscape of my inner eye, and I want to share that moment with you. The little girl, the young lady, the single mother of this narrative was me. The story is still unfolding, but like Matt Damon’s character, I have learned my lesson about denying what you love and who you are. Hello, I am a writer.

Excerpt from WIP – “Of Snips & Snails”

As promised, the YA story is coming right along, and as what always happens, the cast of character sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night demanding that I get their yarn woven into the current tapestry of tale….

Enjoy! (As always, feedback is deeply appreciated!)

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Odie & Anya

The school year progressed and Odie, under Dr. Belling’s tutelage, had become a much better student through the hours of time spent around his mentor and friend. Honors Chemistry was a course that strained the gray matter of all its’ attendees, but Odie it appeared, had a natural gift for working the most difficult of problems.  Excelling at schoolwork is not exactly part of the formulary for dealing with bullies, however. Especially if your bullies are on the football team and grades below a C got you benched for a game, or until you brought your average up. While he’d managed to escape the usual crush tactics at his locker, and the expected trip in the school cafeteria, Odie had his own set of tormentors who delighted in tagging him with the name “Slug-Boy.” This year, they were not above including his friend Anya in the abuse; pulling her hair, grabbing at her breasts, slapping her on the seat of her jeans, teasing her in derogatory innuendo and making racist remarks about her half-breed status by yelling out “Hey, Tomahonky! Slug-Boy treating you right?” She’d not revealed the depth of the bullying to Odie; he was working so hard on his own scholarship that she wasn’t going to let his defense of her honor get in the way of college opportunities for the both of them. But reporting the bullies wasn’t going to stop them if she went to the trouble. Anya was a “half-breed rez kid”, and anyone that cared for her welfare was a rarity.

Odie was weaving his way through the maelstrom of students leaving class just before the Christmas holidays when he saw Anya hiding her face in her coat. From her defeated posture and the shaking of her shoulders, he could tell she was sobbing. He reached out to gather her close to him, “Anya! What happened?”

When she turned to face him, it was apparent what the problem was as a large swath of her hair was chopped off in front to make ragged bangs.  A volcanic rage roiled up in his demand through a gravelly harsh voice, “Who did this to you?” His anger was just below the surface but rolling through his body. Anya was stunned almost out of her tears; she’d never seen him so enraged. Haltingly, through the tears she explained, “Those jocks, the ones that are always teasing you were mouthing off, and I told them to shut up. Billy pulled a knife, while the rest of them held my arms and…OH, Odie, my hair!!” She dissolved into tears again, and Odie gingerly pulled her into a gentle, if awkward, embrace, placing a gentle kiss on her forehead.

A sudden, complete understanding flooding him; if the thugs couldn’t stop him one way, they’d use their tactics on whomever he cared for as an additional tool.  In their obscene need to dominate through testosterone and fear, they’d either forgotten or failed to care that there are consequences for outright assault on another student if you left enough evidence. With a firm voice Odie wrapped his right arm around his girlfriend, “Come with me, Anya.” As if he was a force of nature, Odie separated the traffic flow of students and pulled her along back into the Chemistry lab. He wasn’t going to stop, he wasn’t going to allow anyone to stop them either. With a hard edged voice he announced into the nearly vacant classroom as they entered, “Mrs. Turner? I need, um, we need some help, please.”

Amanda Turner was hard pressed every year to explain why she returned to teach High School Chemistry, however every year there was some student that showed some sort of promise that confirmed her commitment to teaching one more year. Odie Fentner was her reason for this year and possibly next year unless he tested out; he had a natural gift for understanding the most difficult of problems, and she was looking forward to writing his recommendations for college. With possible cut backs in budget and layoffs, retirement was looking like a better option; besides, the local school board had always been slightly hostile to math and science teachers.

But there was another consideration when Amanda Turner began seriously considering drafting her resignation letter.  Students were always getting themselves into situations that would have been better handled with a good sex education class or sometimes a lawyer, but it appeared that Fate would hand her those challenges to handle with her calm good sense and an intuitive sense of human nature instead. Upon hearing her prize student’s voice cut through the between-class vacuum Mrs. Turner was a bit startled, but the no-nonsense experience within her took over.

“How can I help you, Odie?”

When she turned around to see a tear-streaked young woman that had clearly been assaulted, that calm good sense abandoned her and a sense of indignant rage boiled up. Anya Zoltiz was one of the “rez” kids – students from the local reservation that were incorporated in the school district when the Bureau of Indian Affairs shut the funding off for the reservation schools. Because most of them were from impoverished families, the children of local stockmen and ranch owners had been told they were the equivalent of human detritus. It wasn’t any better for Anya that even the “rez” kids wouldn’t talk to because “half-breeds” were considered lower than cockroaches. Anya was one of the better students, one that Amanda Turner knew would be able to make it out of the reservation given a chance.

“Who did this, Odie? Oh damn, come here young lady!” Anya burst into tears again as Amanda Turner enveloped her with a swift hug, and then held her at arm’s length to look at the damage. Odie and Anya began to detail the identities of the offenders and Mrs. Turner interrupted them, “Ok, first things first; Odie, use the classroom phone and dial the front office. I want Mr. Kingley here, now. And I want him to call the sheriff; they have laws against this kind of thing.” She quickly took Anya back to her office and set her down, then opened the connecting door to the classroom next door to speak to a colleague. “Ann, can you cover my next class? I have another situation.”

 

Time to OWN it….

roast goose

OK…Time to “come out of the pantry” so to speak. While I am NOT any type of Domestic Goddess by any stretch of the imagination, I am the Goddess of Comfort Food. The kind that has folks hanging around our campsite for a bite of whatever I’m whipping up to feed the Horde of the Half-NeKkid when they return from wheedling vendors, fly-by huggings of folks that they haven’t seen for moons, and just to keep the hands busy because dammit, I forgot my damned crochet at home and my freakin’ brain is wound up tighter than a virgin’s knees at Beltane!

I suppose I was sorta shy to do more than admit to it, but after some reflection on the whole thing AND the fact that my far-flung offspring have been calling me for recipes and “how-to” tips, I’m gonna OWN IT, DAMMIT.

I COOK…and I cook DAMN WELL. Ya’ want Roast Goose with Apple-Walnut stuffing and savory gravy? Fine – get your ass out of the kitchen unless you’re willing to help under my direction (that means you can take orders and follow directions EXACTLY) and be prepared to worship me properly when I’m done. Unfamiliar with a spice? Ask me – I can probably tell you what it is, what it’s used for, any alternative you can use if you’re out, and the best varietal to purchase when shopping.

Other people count their wealth with CD collections, gold, silver, stocks, mutual funds and Universal Life insurance policies. I take stock in a well-stocked spice cabinet, pantry, fridge and freezer. My chef’s knives are worth more than your IPhone, and I lust for cookware and stoneware like other women lust after designer pumps! I have a choice of an alabaster slab, a hard rock maple cutting board, and a beautiful block of crafted glass with which to begin,  to fashion and perfect my culinary creations upon.

Recently, I have discovered and am returning to “the joy of aprons” after one too many mishaps of braising the boobs with hot broth. I tend to prefer cheesecloth dishtowels, and hand-crochet dish cloths to hand wash my more prized containers, bowls, and cookware. All of this descriptive phrasing leads me to another eye-opening personal observation: some folks paint literary masterpieces with words, I prefer to create 7 course meals complete with finger dishes of lemon-scented water adjectives and palette cleansers of minty metaphors.

This alone has enlightened me as to why there are sudden long stretches between my writing. I’ve mastered the art of feasting upon creativity to create gluttonous wonders, but I’m still in the apprentice stage of crafting the thin, meager portions of famine sentences and the simplicity of a daily meal of prose. Further – this is OK, because a well-rounded human being needs to learn throughout the lifetime granted in order to keep itself viable as a contributing member of humanity. There is no final graduation ceremony until your loved ones bid you goodbye until your next incarnation.

Additionally, a well-seasoned meal and a well written composition should have all the flavors of life incorporated from bitter tears to sweet laughter and all the rich fullness of existence layered in-between. In truth, we can neither write nor cook a meal without the influence of others. Whether they are in our heads, hearts or by our side, the presence of those who inspire us are as much a needed ingredient as the entrée to a dinner or the healthy plot bunny who leads us a wild chase in the merry meadow of metaphor.

We desperately need all the shades and shadows of humor and pathos, we need to both stand alone and be woven together as the tapestry we are; and we dare not deny ourselves the basic nature of identity, either. Looking at the whole tableau and table, there is no place nor space for judgment, just simple acceptance of what is placed before us.

Now, all that being said, shall I put the kettle on?