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No Strings Attached

I prefer to work behind the scenes as a Puppet Mistress because I’ve had my fill of being controlled. Yessir, up to ‘ere, I tell ya! I’m only a meter and a half high so that’s a bloody lot! No more headlining in Freak Shows for me.. full time anyways. Gotta start somewheres, I guess. I’d rather create me own fantasies than live in this depressing reality, as a freak. Ya see, I was born with a facial deformity and bowed legs, which me own Mother capitalized on by sending me away to a traveling Circus Freak Show when I was a wee lass, just six years of age, for a whoppin’ two shillings! Me Mum never looked back, I only remember seeing the back of her bright blue and yellow floral sundress and wide brimmed straw garden hat as she strolled away from the railroad station.. away from me. I wonder if she ever missed me, her one and only daughter?

The Ringmaster took me in as his own, but he’s a businessman at the end of the day and I’m not the only orphan in the Circus Freak Show. His time’s spread thin with booking shows, breaking down and putting up tents, traveling here and there, everywhere really, kissing audience members’ arses, wrangling the performers, hiring and firing the crew, refereeing quarrels, and of course.. putting up with us freaks. The Ringmaster, we call him “Burly Burke,” he’s the closest to kin I’ve had for the past two decades. Even though he’s the lad is charge and I’m just one of his many workers, we get on just fine. I can’t say the same for the naughty kids, they call him “Burke the Jerk” behind his back. I don’t believe any of their hogwash about Burke being a jerk though. I choose to believe this unsavory nickname came about because Burke is always chewin’ on beef jerky.

One day soon, I hope to be promoted from Puppet Mistress (like an Apprentice) to Puppet Madam; I just gotta prove my stuff first, impress Burke and Gertrude, win over the audience, and not muck up too much. If I do all that, I just might transfer from Freak Show to Puppet Show. I’d have more creative responsibility as a Puppet Madam: writing scripts and crafting the puppets, which is much better than untangling the puppet strings. What a shite gig! Seriously, a monkey could do it. I mean, we do have a thirty-three year old chimp named Marmalade, we call her Ol’ Marm, she doesn’t seem to mind, as long as you don’t look her in the eye. Her full time job is being the Ringmaster’s right hand. She follows Burke around carrying a satchel with anything he may need. Rumor has it that Ol’ Marm is a retired undefeated boxing champ. I cannot imagine Burke putting her in the ring with a drunkard for three shillings a round! Well, I guess if this is all true, that would make her Burke’s unofficial bodyguard too. I read in a mustard stained, ale soaked National Geographic magazine that I found in a bin that a chimpanzee has 1.35 times the strength of a human being.

Reading seems to be the only escape I can get from this place. The Puppet Madam, Gertrude, begrudgingly taught me how to read and write a couple years ago. I think she saw potential in me because she’s never taught anyone else before or since. Crippling arthritis robbed her ability to write Puppet Show scripts and craft the puppets. Her previous illiterate pissants were able to memorize the scripts from her dictation. She still dictates, but now I’m beginning to write for her. I’m still learning how to craft. Gertrude has quite a few strict rules. Top of the list is: “No Improvising” as she thinks it mucks up the whole production.

“Bloody hell Deirdre! What’d I tell ya?” Gertrude demanded while stomping her cane with one hand and wiping her twisted fingers across her face with the other. “Rule number thirteen: “Do Not Be Seen.” We’re meant to be invisible to the audience because it creates a sense of believability that the puppets are performing on their own.”

“S-sorry M-mum,” the new puppeteer, Deirdre, quickly apologized, avoiding eye contact and shuffling her feet, ready to retreat. “A-anything else before I g-go?”

“No child,” Gertrude softened with a tight lipped smile. “Off with ya,” as she waved her moth eaten handkerchief and plopped down on an uneven footstool. Deirdre vanished before Gertrude finished her second syllable. I don’t blame her because when an elder comes at you like that, we expect to be beaten, and if you can outrun ’em.. You might as well give it a go.

“Brilliant show tonight, Mum,” I said while pouring two cups of hot tea and handing one to Gertrude.

“Eh. We still have two more to go,” she muttered with a sip and a yawn. “I don’t think I can muster through.”

“Oh, w-well, I-” I began, gathering all the courage to continue. “Y-ya know, I-I could take over for ya so you can r-rest?”

“That’s awful kind of ya,” Gertrude breathed with a sigh, her wrinkled face relaxed as she leaned against a splintered tent post and closed her eyes; teacup still in hand.

I carefully wiggled the warm teacup out of her tight grip and tucked a frayed quilt around her. She started to snore and drool, which were signs she was out. Over the years, I’ve learned the saying: “The wise man doesn’t poke a sleeping bear with a stick.” Wonder if there’s a story behind that? Maybe someone published their unpleasant experience in an issue of National Geographic? Which reminded me that I needed to rummage through the bins later for something new to read.

“Well done, mate,” I said, patting Deirdre’s shoulder as we both stood from kneeling on footstools for what seemed like hours.

“Thank ya?” Deirdre hesitantly replied, motionless, waiting for more to come.

“I mean it,” I continued, handing Deirdre the puppets and props one by one. She placed each of them into a steamer trunk. “I think you’re gonna fit in here. Don’t worry about Gertrude. She’s a tough ol’ broad, but she grows on ya.”

“If you say so,” Deirdre replied, locking the trunk and sitting upon it. “So, what’s your story?”

“M-me?” I asked, not expecting the conversation to turn. “Oh, ya know, um, classic runnin’ away to join the circus story. I heard something about you stealing some bread from one of our tents? Couple weeks ago?”

“Yes’m, I’ve been on the streets for as long as I can remember,” she reminisced while twirling her short greasy golden locks between her stubby fingers with one hand and pocketing the steamer trunk key. “This traveling circus gig seems to go with my nomad lifestyle, so we’ll see how it goes..”

“So, you’re a gypsy?”

“More or less.”

“More of a thief? Less of a gypsy?”

“Jury’s still out on that one,” Deirdre said with a quick grin. She shifted her weight to the edge of the steamer trunk and her shiny penny-less loafers rhythmically tapped the ground. “Anything else before I go?”

“Uh, aye,” I started, clearing my throat, and leaning against a tent post. “Those are some nice shoes ya got there.”

“Thank ya?” Deirdre questioned the compliment, as she crossed her legs and arms.

“Lookit, I live in a grey world,” I put my hands up in surrender. “I was just gonna ask if ya could maybe be on the lookout for a size three and a half for me?”

Deirdre uncrossed her arms, leaned back resting her palms on top of the steamer trunk, stretched her still crossed legs out, and squinted her blue eyes up at me.

“I-I’m way overdue for a new pair. I g-gotta hole in each sole. These damn bowed legs need b-better s-support. W-whenever it rains, I c-catch a cold. I can’t a-afford losing anymore work.”

“What’s in it for me, eh?”

“I’ll put in a good word for ya with Gertrude and Burly Burke?” I proposed while absentmindedly thumbing through the puppet show scripts in my burlap apron.

And teach me how to read?”

“Think you’ll be around long enough to learn?”

“I’ll see to it that I do. Haven’t had nothing to look forward to in- -,” Deirdre trailed off, averting her gaze, and quietly chuckled to herself. “I’ve never had nothing to look forward to.”

“Got yourself a deal,” I agreed.

“Aye,” Deirdre leaned forward to her feet and extended her hand towards me.

I slowly lifted my hand out of my pocket, Deirdre firmly shook my hand, and I instinctively winced.

“You okay?” Deirdre loosened her grip and looked me in the eye. “Didn’t mean to hurt ya.”

“O-oh, n-no, um, it w-wasn’t t-that,” I began, voice trembling, and letting go of her hand. “I-I, uh, d-don’t have a lot of p-physical c-contact.. with a-anybody.”

“Not even Gertrude? Y’all seem friendly,” Deirdre’s assumption prompted me to shake my head. “Burke?”

I slowly shook my head again, feeling uncomfortably awkward.

“I’m sorry,” Deirdre whispered, grabbing my hand again, and squeezing it gently.

“Blimey! Look at the time,” I blurted to end the lingering silence, disconnecting our hands. I fumbled to open my cracked pocket watch and closed it in my jittery hands.

“Are you turnin’ in?”

“I think it’s best. I’m knackered,” I excused myself in a hurry and stumbled out from behind the dusty maroon velvet curtain into the twilight air. “Oi! Watch it,” I exclaimed as I bumped into a wee lass.

“AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!” the toddler screamed, her eyes wide as saucers. “A-a m-monster!”

“Oh, bugger.. I’ve been called worse,” I mumbled under my breath, as I attempted to bend down to her level and comfort her. This only made matters worse. She shrieked again and scurried off towards a woman wearing a faded blue and yellow dress and tattered straw hat. Safe to say, her Mum.

“Aw, what’s the matter, love?” the woman calmly asked her distraught daughter while tenderly stroking her hair. The wee lass hid behind her Mum’s leg, peering out with one eye, and pointing her index finger in my direction. The Mum locked eyes with me, she tilted her head, mouth agape.

“Apologies, Miss,” I stepped forward. “Didn’t mean to give her a fright- -,” I trailed off as I witnessed the Mum guiding the wee one away from me towards the exit. Thrice, the woman glanced over her shoulder back at me before she disappeared amongst the crowd.

“Whoa, whoa, what’s going on?” Deirdre flew to my side, checking her surroundings, wondering what the commotion was all about. “Thought you turned in?”

I didn’t hear her. I was lost in thought. Replaying what just happened. That woman’s bewildered face.

“She looked familiar,” I murmured as I stared after the departing visitors, hoping to catch one more glimpse of her. “Vaguely, and yet.. still familiar.”

“What are babbling on about?” Deirdre beseeched, still looking around for any clues to piece together.

“I accidentally bumped into a kid and when she ran screaming to her Mum- -” I cut off, remembering where I’d seen that dress and hat.

“Then what?” Deirdre pressed, holding onto my shoulders and trying to make eye contact.

“I-I t-think,” I sputtered, repeatedly blinking and my knees began to buckle. Deirdre caught me before I tripped over myself.

“What? C’mon, spit it out,” Deirdre demanded, repositioning her hands on my shoulders, not letting go.

“I think that w-was m-my M-Mum,” I said, my mind whirling with uncertainty, but my gut gurgled with assurance.

“Did you really?” Deirdre asked, unsure how to respond to such monumental news.

“A-And m-my s-sister,” I stated, surprising myself, finally putting the pieces together.

“Wicked!” Deirdre celebrated, patting me on the back with one hand, and resting the other on her hip.

“N-No, no, it was h-horrible- -,” I divulged, deciding whether to share my past with her.

“Oh, so, uh, those weren’t screams of a happy reunion, then?”

“No, no, definitely not.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“I don’t know.”

“C’mon then, let’s go for a pint,” Deirdre insisted, while putting her arm around my shoulder and we walked side by side.

“Don’t be daft! It’s almost curfew.”

“Bollocks! Curfew, shmurfew.”


“It’s Gibberish or Pig Latin,” Deirdre chuckled, while bumping her hip into mine.

“You’re thick. Those aren’t real languages.”

“Rubbish! Says who?”

“I, for one. And I’m sure everyone at the pub will agree,” I stated matter-of-factly as we entered O’Sullivan’s.

“You’re on,” Deirdre declared with a wink and squeezed my shoulder as we approached the bar.

“What’ll it be lasses?” the bartender asked with his back to us.

“Two pints, please,” Deirdre said, holding up her thumb and index finger.

“I’ll put it on your tab,” the bartender stated, now facing us, taking two coasters from.. Ol’ Marm who popped up out of nowhere from behind the bar!

“Burke?” I asked, while positioning myself on top of a sticky barstool. “What brings you two here?”

“Oh, well, y’know, when somebody’s a no-show; we gotta pick up the slack,” Burly Burke expressed with pride while gently petting Ol’ Marm’s head. Like an assembly line, Ol’ Marm filled two pint glasses and she handed them to Burke. He slid one full pint glass across the shiny walnut bar top into my hands. Then to Deirdre.

I smiled while lifting my sweaty pint glass in agreement with him. Burke half-smiled back at me and was off in a flash to take the next patron’s order.

“That chimp’s a cheeky bastard,” Deirdre teased in a hushed tone. She abruptly cleared her throat and raised her glass towards me. “Cheers, mate!” We clinked pint glasses, took long sips, and “aahhh-ed” with satisfaction.

“So, what’s your real story?” Deirdre craved for the full scoop on my life.

“We’re gonna need another pint,” I admitted, while downing the rest of my beer. “Burke! Fill ‘er up?”

“That good, eh?” Deirdre followed suit.

“Settle in. It’s gonna be a long night,” I burped and we both burst into laughter.

Side Hustle & Bustle

I joined a new writing community called The Narrative Method (TNM), which is a nice change of pace in regards to agenda, structure, timing, and group dynamic. Whilst in the Zoom waiting room, a silent short video played on a loop explaining TNM’s mission statement, rules, and what to expect. The TNM Host was engaging, intelligently versed, and to-the-point. The one hour Zoom session was thoughtfully planned out to maximize the literary and interactive experience.

The TNM Host promptly commenced by greeting as many attendees as possible, then they quickly summarized their mission statement, rules, and what to expect. They briefly shared their screen with an image as inspiration (I was fast enough to take a screenshot for my reference), then they verbally announced the first writing prompt (as well as writing it in the Zoom chat) and we wrote silently for seven minutes. Once time was up, the TNM Host verbally announced the second writing prompt (as well as writing it in the Zoom chat), we again, wrote silently for another seven minutes. The TNM Host separated us in small Breakout groups, of 3 or 4 people for about 15mins, to share with one another.

We re-joined the entire group (of about 45people) and I believe the TNM Host stated that whomever would like to share the first sentence or their favorite sentence from their writing could do so by “raising their [Zoom] hand.” I didn’t hear this possible announcement or instruction, most likely due to technical difficulties, time delay, &/or because I am hard of hearing.

The first person to share asked: “Can I cuss?” and the TNM Host replied: “Fuck yes!” which tickled me more than it should have, haha! Another person who shared said: “I noticed my writing turned dark and I became uncomfortable so I just stopped writing, reading.” The TNM Host replied: “It’s okay that you felt that way! I, personally, like the dark because the depths is what’s real and rich. Embrace who you are!” Later the TNM Host said: “Share what’s inside you, if it offends someone.. [shrugs] ..oh well!” This was refreshing to hear because while I do understand the reasoning behind giving “trigger warnings” before sharing, I feel this somehow “censors” and prohibits creatives to fully express themselves. We should be able to create and share without boundaries. Without judgment. Let’s just color outside the lines! If you can’t be yourself here or there.. then where?!

The TNM Host was also open to hearing feedback in regards to suggestions to improve The Narrative Method writing sessions. There were quite a few attendees who commented on how the below inspiration photo was pixelated, fuzzy, blurry, difficult to decipher, etc. I quietly wrote in the Zoom chat that this added to the mystery of the corresponding writing prompts. This unclear image forces you to fill in the blanks. Some agreed with me. Others were neutral, I suppose. I wasn’t trying to sway anyone in particular, because everyone is entitled to their opinion. As a graphic designer, I totally understand, however sometimes clarity and high-quality imagery isn’t always obtainable when it comes to a.. free writing workshop. I did however, give some suggestions at the end:

"You could include the prompts on the image (in lieu of verbally repeating & writing in the chat because when others write, you have to scroll to see the prompt(s)), however I recall the TNM Host mentioning they didn't want to have the image on the screen the entire time (~14mins of writing prompts).

Another suggestion could be creating a Google Slide deck (or Microsoft PowerPoint presentation) with three individual slides showcasing:

1st slide = Image
2nd slide = First writing prompt
3rd slide = Second writing prompt

This may help those who are hard of hearing, like me, and eliminate the scrolling up and down in the Zoom chat to see the writing prompts."

The TNM Host seemed to appreciate my suggestion(s) and replied something to the affect of: “Oh, not to make light of your hard of hearing, but you have made me see the light!” something like that, I can’t remember exactly what she said. It was funny that she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously. I could see she thoroughly enjoyed interacting with a diverse group of creatives. This group seemed to be courteous of others time and brought it to the TNM Host’s attention if they skipped over someone by mistake.

The TNM Host briefly shared the above image as
inspiration for the below prompts

Prompt #1: What secret past is unknown to his colleagues that they’d never suspect? (~7mins of writing)

In the Muggle world, he’s a Concierge at a four star hotel in downtown London from June to August. In the off season, he is the Caretaker of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. His name is Argus Filch and no.. he’s neither Witch or Wizard. He’s a Squib, he was born to at least one Witch or Wizard parent, however he cannot perform magic. A dud, if you will. Nonetheless, his scholastic wage barely covers living expenses so he needed another job to make ends meet.

Prompt #2: What one small slip breaks his cover? (~7 mins of writing)

On a long, dark, and stormy humid summer night, Argus was escorting two hotel guests from the lobby; his 48th trip during his double shift. “Merlin’s beard! Ten more minutes to go and I’m off,” Argus thought to himself with a yawn as he ascended the last step and turned the corner into the hallway. The tall slender lady handed her portly gentleman companion something from her pocketbook and he handed it to Argus. They tipped him Muggle money for carrying their luggage to their room.

“Yessir, thank you, Headmaster,” Argus automatically replied, pocketing the tip.

“H-hang on, w-who?” the male hotel guest replied, glancing to Argus, and then to his lady.

“Oh, a thousand apologies, s-sir,” Argus blurted, he slowly realized he slipped up, and attempted to recover. “I-I’ve m-mistook you for s-someone e-else.”

“I know very well who you mistook me for- -,” the middle-aged man sternly stated, unwavering, stepping closer to Argus.

“Ahem,” the lady interrupted, tip toeing in between the two men, resting one hand on her companion’s shoulder, and the other on the hotel room door knob. “I’m sure it was an honest mistake.”

“Yes, Mum,” Argus whispered, with his head low, eyes fixed on the floor. As he slowly backed away from them, he heard the man make an indistinct remark with a grunt.

“C’mon Vernon, Mummy needs to be oiled and spoiled!” she squealed, while pulling his necktie like a dog leash toward her.

“Oh, Petunia!” he pleaded, panting and whimpering; they disappeared behind the hotel room door.

Bloody Muggles! It’s time to clock out,” Argus thought to himself with a sigh of relief as he began to descend the stairs to the lobby.

Sob Storyteller

My now husband and I creatively collaborated for a fourth time! I re-introduced him to another one of my childhood favorites; the movie called Cry-Baby. It’s a raunchy spoof sprinkled with a classic charm! We utilized this flick for his new-ish magazine called: Rob’s Video (you can purchase it here).

We’re taking a time warp to 1954! No, not to Rocky Horror Picture Show, but.. you’re getting warm, haha! Alright, so, just picture it: a high school gymnasium with two long lines of teenagers anxiously waiting to be stabbed with a giant needle, which I presume to be for the polio vaccine. There are two distinct cliques: Drapes and Squares. Drapes are provocatively and darkly dressed, greased back haired guys in jeans and black leather jackets, girls in form fitting, short dresses, high heels, and with heavy makeup. Squares are conservatively and brightly dressed, guys in zoot suits, girls in cardigans, poodle skirts, saddle oxfords, with minimal makeup.

A Drape falls in love with a Square at first sight. The pair later discover they’re both orphans; the Square, Allison (played by Amy Locane), her folks died in an airplane crash. The Drape, Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (played by Johnny Depp), his folks met their demise in Old Sparky. Cry-Baby’s sister, Pepper, is a pregnant teen mom who “can fight like a man,” played by John Waters’ Hairspray lead actress, Ricki Lake; she gives birth to baby #3 in the back of a car that’s playing chicken. Guess the adrenaline rush induces labor, haha! The bloody crazy punk rocker OG, Iggy Pop, plays Cry-Baby’s & Pepper’s uncle. Former underage porn star, Traci Lords, plays a Badass Drape Bitch, who uses her “bazooms as weapons” to ward off creepy, predatory geezers. Her “Mrs. June Clever” mom is played by none other than Patty Hearst, a former convicted felon (bank robber) whilst under the influence of a terrorist organization who kidnapped her. Another Drape gang member named Hatchet-Face plays a mean saxophone. I mean, who can resist a sexy sax?! I know I can’t, haha!

In my first two movie reviews, 1986’s Troll and 1988’s Mac & Me, they each had random musical/dance numbers that had no relevance to the storyline whatsoever; however this 1990 flick is a.. ♫ MUSICAL! ♪ This flick is where Grease meets Jailhouse Rock, minus the authentic singers. That’s right, Johnny Depp lip syncs every number in Cry-Baby! Even though Depp can sing.. he has provided vocals in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie in a drunken duet ditty of “Yo Ho a Pirate’s Life for Me.” Years later, Depp reveals his singing chops in the musicals: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Into the Woods. Johnny Depp is in touch with his musical side, he’s played guitar in a couple rock bands: Rock City Angels, Pink Grenade, & Hollywood Vampires. Johnny Depp doesn’t dance either, however John Waters somehow talked him into briefly cutting a rug with his fellow juvenile delinquents. Depp has openly admitted that he has two left feet. Even his Mad Hatter’s Futterwacken dance in Alice in Wonderland was CGI! I’m sure the bone bending moves and 360° head spinning had a little to do with it, haha!

This provocative parody packs a punch! And the punch is spiked, so watch at your own risk! You can expect the following and more: Unwanted panties thrown onstage. Licking a lover’s lonely teardrop. Graffitied cars with sugar poured down their gas tanks. French Kissing Lesson 101. A blown up jukebox. Unforgiving noogies. An inflamed, runaway motorcycle. Obnoxious, too-much-tongue-makeout session. A flat tire on an iron lung and then being jacked up to put on a spare. Dropping a trio of F-Bombs, two of which are comedically bleeped so they could keep their PG-13 rating. A glass jar filled with overdramatic, low-spirited tears, and drinking them. An inmate’s ass unexpectedly smacked by a guard as he hops up on a top bunk bed. A boosted helicopter. A three story dumpster dive. Repeatedly pressing personalized license plates of the same name: “Allison.” A needle prick prison tattoo of a lonely teardrop. A pair of tighty whities scooting through a manhole. Giggling vermin. Faux Siamese twins on display in a painted freak show circus glass cage. And a ziplining bunny.

Cry-Baby had a budget of $12M, it grossed $8.3M domestically by the end of its theatrical run, making it a box office flop; even though it was shown in 1,000+ cinemas — an unprecedented number for a John Waters film. Rotten Tomatoes gave Cry-Baby a rather high rating of 73% and its Audience Rating is 77%, which I think is quite generous considering these “professional movie reviewers” seem to despise the majority of my childhood favorites. This one may be the exception. I believe the reason why Cry-Baby resonates with me is because.. sure it’s a silly parody; however, it cleverly pokes fun at the ridiculousness of cliques, colorful language, and anybody who’s.. different. I can relate to not fitting in with the crowd and ruffling feathers along the way just like the Drapes do. I can proudly say I am the only person in my family with a mohawk who went to public school. On a personal note, everytime Cry-Baby says Allison’s name, I swoon and imagine Johnny Depp is speaking to me. He can press my license plate anytime! Check out this crazy camp cinematic tearjerker. I’ll be damned if there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

‘Twas such an honor that Jaimie asked me to collaborate with him, again, on his creative project, Rob’s Video ‘zine! As I mentioned in my Vintage Trolling, Intergalactic Pals, and Imaginary Frenemy blog posts, we were originally inspired to create vintage good/bad movie posters whilst watching the documentary: 24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters (highly recommend). Jaimie decided to take the lead on the overall design of the movie poster because I was drawing a blank on any suggestions or critiques. I was struggling with how to situate the two main characters that made sense for the storyline and to think of an original idea. Of course, it hit me like a bolt of lightning! Right before Jaimie was going to print, I had a last minute suggestion for a entirely new composition! Jaimie was a good sport, he begrudgingly went back to the drawing board, and created the final concept I pitched to him. Luckily, he’s a quick illustrator. I formatted the movie title, advertising slogan, and billing block. We may not color this movie poster, because we think it stands on its own in black and white. We have officially displayed our four movie posters in our living room. We finally made some wall space! Feels good to have a collaborative display piece that you can brag about when guests visit!

Through Thick and Thin

Well, a lot has happened in the past year. I’ll try my best to give you the SparkNotes version. Last May, I proposed to my partner on our 4yr anniversary. If you click the previous sentence that is underlined (hyperlink), it will direct you a website showcasing how I proposed.. and his answer.

Nine days later, I had an unfortunate misstep and injured my ankle. Whilst x-raying my ankle, I injured my other ankle, thus I was physically inept. I needed surgery on one ankle, however my temp job did not want to give me time off to do so, therefore they let me go.

I found myself.. having a lot of time on my hands so I could heal, recover, and reevaluate the direction of my life. Literally, one step at a time. I took the advice of my therapist(s): redirect my negative thoughts into productive, positive thoughts/actions and.. start wedding planning. Every girl’s dream! Well, almost every girl, haha.. I’m a simple gal who has been a bridesmaid in a few weddings and I know I’m anything but traditional.. including the groom-to-be.

In preparation of proposing, I had an inkling that Jaimie would ask me if I had a date in mind. I thought a year engagement would be sufficient, so I looked a calendar year ahead, and discovered the day before our 5yr anniversary was.. Friday the 13th! It just so happened to be.. Jaimie’s favorite horror film, his favorite number, he has the number 13 tattooed on his forearm, and his previous cat’s name was named Thirteen. Plus, it was close enough to our anniversary date to where we didn’t have to remember two different dates. Just a day apart. Not bad. Without even realizing it, we had our wedding “theme.” Most people predicted I would have a Disney themed wedding, however I didn’t have any real expectations or preconceived plan or elaborate dream wedding in mind. I knew I wanted our day to be a collaborative event. Representative of both Jaimie and I. Jaimie not only said yes, but he was on board for the Friday the 13th date and theme. I mean, I knew he would be. How could he not be intrigued? I also knew he’s not a fan of weddings, in general, so it was effortlessly easy to entice him with a fun concept!

I knew Jaimie was the one on our first date. Not exactly “love at first sight,” but I had a gut feeling that our chemistry had potential to be off the charts. I later discovered this feeling is called:

This overwhelming feeling drove me to do some pretty presumptuous things.. such as.. buying a wedding ring for Jaimie.. after dating for only a year. I was helping a recently engaged friend of mine pick out a wedding ring for her future husband at a jewelry store near where we just had brunch. This jewelry store was having a sale. A store closing sale. Up to ninety percent off. My friend chose a ring. The ring she didn’t choose, but I had liked, I asked the sales clerk how much it was. She said it was originally five hundred something, but it’s sale price was less than fifty. I couldn’t believe it. Seemed too good to be true. I consulted with my friend and before she could answer, an older gentleman overheard us and interjected: “If you were proposing to me, I’d say Yes. Go for it!”

I let my folks know of my recent purchase and my half baked future plan to propose with no further details. They insisted that I ask for Jaimie’s parents’ blessing. I shrugged off their suggestion as it was an outdated, old fashioned tradition. And yet.. I couldn’t shake the thought that his folks are old fashioned, so it made sense to ask them. They laughed.. and.. laughed. Ultimately, I did not get their blessing. And I didn’t blame them. We had only been together a year, so I understood their hesitancy.

This minor setback did not deter me from purchasing my wedding dress a couple months later. I was on my way to the produce section at Meijer, I had to pass the women’s clothing dept, all their new Easter/spring dresses were out.. there I saw.. the perfect little white dress.. I grabbed it, bought it, put it in the back of my closet, and forgot about it.. Couple weeks later, I was putting laundry away.. in the back of my closet.. and I saw that perfect little white dress.. which reminded me, I needed to try it on. I hung it up on the back of the bathroom door, unbuttoned it, and noticed.. Well, let me preface by saying Jaimie doesn’t usually sign his artwork. He signs: “As you wish.” A quote from the movie The Princess Bride, which means “I love you.” So, I noticed the dress tag said: “As U Wish.” The company name is what Jaimie signs on his artwork! Like I said, “perfect little white dress.” I just didn’t know how “perfect.”

I knew I wanted to propose in a creative way.. since Jaimie and I are both artists in our own ways. I had numerous ideas: custom photo puzzle of us with a comic bubble coming from my mouth, “Will you marry me?” Or a photo slideshow of us throughout our relationship, maybe even recruit our family members and friends to contribute with their approval of our relationship by spelling out “will you marry me” in each photo. I also knew I wanted to propose on our anniversary. Originally, it was going to be on our 3yr anniversary during our vacation in New York City, however COVID threw a wrench in that plan. We cancelled our trip. Also, I had lost my job of 5.5yrs. I was in between multiple temp, freelance jobs and I did not have the confidence to follow through with my proposal plan(s).

Luckily, with the encouragement of a dear friend, he told me: “Just go for it because love doesn’t wait for the right time.” I decided a week before our 4yr anniversary to make plans to propose. Once everything was ready, I asked Jaimie’s folks again for their blessing and this time.. they did not laugh. His mom happily cried and they gave their blessing. Whew, I couldn’t believe I had sat on that ring for 3yrs! I asked Jaimie the biggest question I had ever asked.. Anyone. Ever. Click here to find out how.

I designed our wedding invitations, I created a Facebook event, for those who weren’t on social media, I texted them or emailed them.

Our friend was kind enough to offer his services as our officiant. He was dressed as a Camp Crystal Lake Counselor: polo shirt, short shorts, tube socks, whistle necklace, ball cap, sunglasses, and clipboard. We collaborated on the wedding ceremony officiant script. If you click the previous sentence that is underlined (hyperlink), it will direct you to it.

We sprinkled the spooky throughout: our attire, accessories, shoes, props, décor, food, even my hair! See if you can spot ’em all!

Our hockey masked flower girl was Jaimie’s 11yr old niece who did a fantastic job of creepily stalking about the park. Speaking of the park, I had researched multiple local parks that would compliment our Friday the 13th theme. A lot of them were connected to the city or county and they wanted thousands of dollars for five minutes, which was crazy! I finally found a park, Lindner Park Nature Preserve, that did not have a website, only a phone number that they never answered; nor was there a way to leave a message, thus I deemed it.. the park. We decided since we couldn’t ask permission for having our wedding ceremony there, we’d have to go Guerrilla Style.

Click here to see more of our wedding photos & videos synced with music.
*killer photography by: Bird & Rose
Click here to see our photo slideshow that played during our reception.
Click here to see our honeymoon in Salem.

Left Right Ignite Write

I have internally debated over the years about sharing this story on social media, however I have only shared it with a few select individuals from time to time when the occasion called for it. I consider myself a private person for many reasons, number one being for my safety and well being. As I type this, I keep editing it and then promptly deleting it and thinking: “Who cares? I mean, really? But then.. Maybe.. I’ll do it for me because I can’t stop thinking of its importance.. all these years later? Yeah, that’s enough, right? Well, here it goes..

It was the year 2000, I was in the seventh grade, first period music class was being held in the cafeteria, we had a substitute, thus it naturally became a free study period to do as we pleased. I chose to catch up on homework, being the studious kid I was. I found myself caught in the middle of a paper wad fight between two boys. I quickly became annoyed so I collected the stray wads on and around my work-space as they came and sat on them. The bell rang, one of the boys demanded I give him back the paper wads, I stubbornly refused, he persisted, but I stayed put. The bell rang again, he finally acknowledged my unwavering tenacity, and he retreated in a panic per his tardiness which garnered an automatic demerit.

My never-ending curiosity was ignited, so my girl friend helped me open each paper wad to discover the reason for his persistence. One by one, we unraveled doodles, rough drafts of assignments, blanks, and then finally.. There was an organized hit list in his handwriting, first victim was the music teacher who was absent that day, who coincidentally was a neighbor of mine. The list continued: fellow classmates who held popular statuses, infamous teachers, an unpopular Office Administrator, and the rest were unbeknownst to us. How I knew it was his handwriting was because I knew this kid, we grew up down the block from one another, we were in the same classes together, our sisters were in the same Brownies/Girl Scouts troop, I had been to his house numerous times, I knew his father was a Police Officer and an avid gun collector (recalling his locked wooden/glass case in the living room).

My girl friend and I quickly discussed what we should do: she asked, “Is that a..?” I nodded. She proceeded, “Do you think he’s capable of doing something like this?!” I nodded. [crickets] I had flashbacks, seeing black and white surveillance footage of kids fleeing their school cafeteria the year before on every TV channel and thought: “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let this go.” I handed her the hit list wad and said: “Give this to that substitute, tell him everything, if he doesn’t seem interested, then take it to your dad!” Her father was our Math teacher and the head football coach who tolerated no nonsense. I continued in the same breath whilst gathering my books, “I better hurry so he doesn’t suspect (“he” as in the boy), we have second period together too!

He was expelled from Butler County schools for two years, I heard from my mom that he was home-schooled by his mother, and attended counseling until.. he was deemed safe to return to the public school system. We saw each other again in our ninth grade Civics class, he sat right behind me, I silently feared for my life everyday for a year, never speaking of it again until well after my academic career.

Fast forward years later, I decided to move out on my own, I went to a local furniture store to compare prices, I saw him from across the sales floor, he was their delivery employee, sporting a lower lumbar back brace support belt with suspenders, I abruptly averted my gaze, formulated a quick exit strategy, so I “browsed” in record time and left before he noticed me.

I find myself thinking of this often, now more than ever, and I think it’s important to.. Go with your gut, listen to your conscience, and act. I think I was meant to be there. I was at the right place, at the right time, and under the right circumstances to.. Help this boy, my school, and myself. I felt a duty to do so because I was fortunate enough to realize this was a serious matter. At the age of 12. Yes, 12. I am proud of myself for acting. I could have just.. disregarded it, went on with my day, maybe gossiped about it to a couple classmates, or occasionally pondered.. But by then, it may have been too late. This was an invaluable lesson that taught me.. That the real world is a scary place, but one person can make a difference. I chose and choose to be that one person. I implore you to be that one person. I’m counting on you. You can count on me.

*To those few who are my junior high classmates (their parents too), you may or may not of heard of this almost happening at our/your child's school, but it's true. I thought of you and am thankful you're still here today. I am thankful I am still here. I hope you are too.

**Originally posted via social media on February 15th, 2018
***Re-shared via social media on May 25th, 2022

****Utilized writing prompt to share via blog:
"Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? 
Were you scared? 
What ended up happening?"

Imaginary Frenemy

My fiancé and I creatively collaborated for a third time! I introduced him to another one of my childhood favorites; the movie called Drop Dead Fred. At surface level, it’s a complete ridiculous bonkers film.. yet it’s deeply and colorfully good! We utilized this flick for his new-ish magazine called: Rob’s Video (you can purchase it here).

A doting mother reads her sweet daughter, Elizabeth, a wholesome bedtime story. The youngster asks: “Did they live happily ever after?” The mother replies: “Of course, if the beautiful, young girl had been naughty; the Prince Charming would’ve run away.” The little girl’s natural response was: “What a pile of shit!” Kids say the darndest things! And.. cue the early 90’s animated opening credits sequence! That’s how ya know it’s the start of an awesome flick!

The little girl, Elizabeth aka Lizzy, grows up to be dumped by her cheating husband, her car is stolen, along with her purse.. all on her lunch break! She returns late to work and.. she loses her job too! She’s forced to leave her apartment she shares with her douche husband because her overbearing Mother demands she come home with her. Elizabeth sleeps in her childhood bedroom where she finds her forgotten, closeted childhood toys, and one of them starts to play a musical tune in the middle of the night. As she opens the taped up Jack-in-the-Box, an orange and green puff ball poofs out, bounces about the room, and rolls under the pastel pink twin bed. Lizzy investigates this mysterious dust bunny and is startlingly reunited with her long-lost playful imaginary friend named.. Drop Dead Fred! He wreaks havoc.. and chaos ensues! You gotta check this flick out to see how!

Drop Dead Fred is not a movie for children, yet the trailer paints it to be quite innocent. How misleading, I know! This could be the reason why my folks let me watch this movie as a kid. It has a PG-13 rating, where the Mother is referred to as “The Mega Bitch” a couple times, however is later referred to as “The Mega Beast” so they could keep their PG-13 rating.

The brilliant portrayal of Drop Dead Fred was played by the late Rik Mayall, an English stand-up comedian, actor, writer, author, narrator, voice actor, and stage performer; the majority of his credits are from British productions. This is his only American role that I remember seeing him in growing up. Rik Mayall’s quick wit, comedic timing, and slapstick is the best I’ve seen next to the late Robin Williams, which makes sense as Williams was initially offered the role of Drop Dead Fred, however he chose to play Peter Banning in Hook instead.

The mousy Lizzy aka Elizabeth aka Snot-Face is played by the 80’s hottie Phoebe Cates best known from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins. Lizzy’s best friend, Janie, is played by none other than.. Princess Leia! Ahem, I mean.. the late Carrie Fisher; she originally auditioned for Lizzy, but she was considered “too old.” Ugh, how rude!

In my previous movie reviews, of 1986’s Troll and 1988’s Mac & Me, they each had random musical/dance numbers that had no relevance to the storyline whatsoever; however this early 90’s flick, Drop Dead Fred, doesn’t have any of that. It’s unusual and immature all on its own! The humor is as lowbrow as it gets with picking of noses then wiping snot on faces, purposely walking in dog shit then stepping on freshly shampooed white carpet, looking up women’s dresses, brief male bare bottom nudity, and serving steamy mud pies for breakfast and dinner.

There are numerous special effects (for its modest budget of $6.7M = £3.6M) such as Drop Dead Fred pinballing around rooms along with cartoon sound effects (Boink! Aoogah! Splat! Zoom!), appearing/disappearing with a magical twinkle, a head being smashed by a fridge door, being run over by an oncoming fire truck and leaving only a pair of bright red shoes behind in the middle of the street, a deflated car whizzing about like a balloon, a magical tree growing out of a staircase, a body engulfed in flames, a set of eyeballs bulging out, and steam blasting out of some ears. Drop Dead Fred grossed $13.8M over its entire theatrical run and £1.7M in the UK.

I believe the reason why Drop Dead Fred resonates with me (still, after all these years) is because on the surface, it seems like a silly comedy; but it’s deeper than you can imagine! This movie is about embracing your inner child, using your imagination, and standing up for yourself even if no one believes in you. Speaking of “not believing,” Rotten Tomatoes gave Drop Dead Fred a rating of eleven percent (super lame), however it has an Audience Rating of seventy-seven percent, which I think speaks volumes to the mass of dedicated Drop Dead Fred fans who are more open-minded to this amazing dark fantasy screwball dramedy cult classic! You should give this one a try. It’s a goodie with a hilarious, fun loving baddie! I pinky promise you won’t be disappointed!

‘Twas such an honor that Jaimie asked me to collaborate with him, again, on his creative project, Rob’s Video ‘zine! As I mentioned in my Vintage Trolling and Intergalactic Pals blog posts, we were originally inspired to create vintage good/bad movie posters whilst watching the documentary: 24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters (highly recommend). Immediately after viewing the movie, Drop Dead Fred, we brainstormed the overall design of the movie poster: Fred popping out of the jack-in-the-box toy/prison, picking his nose, and wiping it on Elizabeth. Our final concept paints a clear yet disgusting picture of what kind of film this is: immaturely fun yet brilliant! Jaimie drew our ideas to life and I formatted the movie title, advertising slogan, and billing block. We will, for sure, color this movie poster, because it’s the most interestingly fun illustration we’ve conceptualized thus far. We will absolutely display it somewhere in our home. We just gotta find the wall space.. Ugh, haha!

I’m looking forward to collaborating with Jaimie again soon for his next issue of Rob’s Video! Please stay tuned. You don’t wanna miss it!

Kaiju Crew

From a distant planet named Kerfuffle

Where it always snows, but never sticks

Many asteroids, many moons, and many stars ago

A strange creature arose from a steaming pile of…


That’s how Nosilla got her fiery red locks

Perfectly quaffed in a stripe on her head

She smashed her way around the village

Making waves amongst everyone she encountered

Nosilla seems like a villain

But she’s not

She always cleans up her messes

She makes peace with all the villagers who got a bad first impression of her

What Nosilla lacks in gracefulness

She makes up for in her super power of creativity

To solve the unique challenges Planet Kerfuffle has to offer!


If you brought a dish that represented "you" to a dinner party, what dish would you bring and why?

Deviled Eggs

Pooped out by a fowl creature


Not born

Boiled from the inside out

Guts and all

Cracked out of my delicate shell

Strategically dissected, disemboweled, and separated from myself

Whipped with a creamy sauce

Stained with a yellow squirt

Seasoned with a dash of black pepper and a circle of salt

Sprinkled with paprika

A little spice and everything nice

A spiritual invocation sung upon my final phase

Hail Satan for I am Deviled Eggs!


Intergalactic Pals

My now fiancé, Jaimie, and I creatively collaborated for a second time! I introduced him to another one of my childhood favorites; the movie called Mac and Me. It’s such a bad movie.. it’s good! We utilized this flick for his new-ish magazine called: Rob’s Video (you can purchase it here).

Across the universe, a family of four search to quench their thirst on their barren home planet by poking hollow tubes into the ground. Their meal is interrupted by a NASA robotic rover that landed nearby to collect rock and soil samples. This curious family communicates with one another by whistling as they carefully approach this foreign vehicle. The youngest child accidentally gets sucked up in its suction hose along with rocks and soil. The parents and sibling try to rescue him but get sucked up themselves! The family travels to an unknown land, they emerge from the dissected rover, unsure of its residents, escape their dangerous grasp, and get separated from one another. The youngster tumbles into traffic causing a three car pile up (as well as a major traffic jam), he becomes squashed on the windshield, and is described as: “omelets.. with eyes!” He becomes a stowaway in a nearby van, which is occupied by a family of three, the Cruises, who are moving across the country from Chicago to LA. The first sign of the stowaway’s presence is when he steals a can of Coca-Cola (with a straw) from the youngest boy, Eric, who blames his older brother, Michael.

Numerous signs follow indicating that there is an unknown life form lurking about their new house: unplugged TVs turn on, remote control cars drive without batteries, wet footprints leading away from an empty/steamy shower, power tools modifying walls/doors, a hundred-year-old heirloom painting ruined, trees/flowers replanted throughout their living room, etc. Eric’s mom and brother do not believe him when he says: “It wasn’t me, it was the little creature! I saw it!” Upset-yet-determined Eric follows the little creature into the backyard (he names him: Mac, short for: Mysterious Alien Creature), down a treacherous hill, and into a deep pond below (oh, by the way, Eric is wheelchair-bound, so this incident is life-threatening as he cannot swim, so Mac dives in, takes him ashore, and saves his life). The girl next door, Debbie, sees Mac rescue Eric, but she’s afraid to tell the grownups because nobody would believe it! Eric and Debbie team up to catch Mac and prove his case, but they didn’t plan for the government to show up, who are trying to take Mac, and do who-knows-what to him! Will this physically disabled boy and his pals evade the bad guys and help Mac reunite with his long-lost family?! You’ll just have to watch Mac & Me to find out!

Mac & Me is a complete rip-off of.. you guessed it.. E.T.! This movie came out six years after E.T. Ironically, this film was made by Orion Pictures, which filed for bankruptcy in the early ’90’s.. maybe because Universal Studios sued them?! Whoa, I’m seeing stars.. Far out, dude!

Mac & Me is so bad.. it’s good! The epitome of an 80’s bad rip-off action adventure, sci-fi cult classic! Fun for the entire family! Speaking of family, they stole E.T.’s older brother’s name, Michael. I mean.. C’mon, they definitely cheated off someone else’s paper! The rip-offs continue, they even pulled a “Marty McFly” move when Eric grabs a hold of a truck and strolls down the street; the music playing during this scene sounds eerily similar to the Back to the Future theme song. Bet they wish they had a time machine so they could reconfigure the space time continuum and get back some of their dignity!

IMDb’s description of Mac & Me: “An alien trying to escape from NASA is befriended by a wheelchair-bound boy.” I mean, goodness gracious, can ya get anymore unnecessarily specific?! This was the first time I saw a physically disabled character who was played by a real life wheelchair-bound actor. Still, to this day, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this on screen since! Representation matters, however knowing where to highlight and being tactful about it is important.

This movie’s small cast has a few unknown gems: The mom is played by Christine Ebersole, a soap opera star from One Life to Live and Broadway stage performer. The older brother, Michael, is played by Jonathan Ward who voices Zak from the animated film Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. The actress who plays Debbie’s sister, Courtney, is played by Tina Caspary, who has been in 1982’s Annie, Can’t Buy Me Love, and Teen Witch. The lead who played Eric, Jade Calegory, had a short acting career with only three credits to his name; Mac & Me was his film debut.

As I’ve said before, what’s a bad movie without a couple random dance numbers that have no relevance to the storyline whatsoever? Oh, and we can’t forget the blatant product placements: Coca-Cola, Skittles, and McDonald’s! Debbie and Eric attend a birthday party, which so happens to be at.. McDonald’s! Where Debbie’s sister, Courtney, works. Even Ronald McDonald himself shows up to entertain the kiddos; he infamously won a Razzie award for Worst New Star for this film. I remember going to many birthday parties at Mickey D’s! Hey, I’ll bet it’s no coincidence that Mac is named after their famous Big Mac burger. Mac joins in on the fun and dances, in disguise, as a robotic teddy bear along with the McDonald’s staff, party goers, and customers. The uniformed footballers dancing by the front door is randomly hilarious.. because they’re grown men trying to pass as teenagers!

My favorite scene is when their silver VW van cruises through the desert with wild horses running alongside them while the song “Waves” by Debbie Lytton plays. Waves in a desert, how ironic! Such a beautiful scene, with this catchy tune, gets me pumped every time! I’m a sucker for a sexy sax solo!

Actor Paul Rudd has a running gag with late night talk show host Conan O’Brien where he plays Mac and Me’s trailer, again and again, instead of showing a clip from his upcoming film. Rotten Tomatoes gave this flick a five percent rating yet the Audience Score is at thirty-eight percent. This just goes to show that maybe lovers of this bad movie, like Paul Rudd and I, are a little more gracious than the harsh film critics.

SPOILER ALERT: Mac & Me ends with a pink chewing gum bubble that says: “We’ll be back!” and then bursts. It didn’t do well in the box office, only making back half of their budget, and a portion of its box office intake was donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Maybe the clown is to blame for this major flop?! For obvious reasons, the proposed sequel was never made. Go figure! I wonder if they thought about how iconic that final scene is.. because ya know how the saying goes: “I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but..” Haha!

‘Twas such an honor that Jaimie asked me to collaborate with him, again, on his creative project, Rob’s Video ‘zine! As I mentioned in my Vintage Trolling blog post, we were originally inspired to create vintage good/bad movie posters whilst watching the documentary: 24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters (highly recommend). I just let Jaimie go with creating the illustration of this Mac & Me movie poster. I didn’t have much input because the storyline (ahem, E.T.’s storyline, ahem) was pretty straight forward. He did make sure to include the obviously obnoxious product placement with Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. This design does differ from the VHS &/or DVD covers and other posters because it doesn’t include any Earthlings or suburban California skyline. I do like that Jaimie changed it up and included Mac’s silhouetted family in the background. I formatted the movie title, advertising slogan, and billing block. I don’t think we’ll color this movie poster, no real reason as to why, however Jaimie did color the Troll movie poster so we can display it somewhere in our home. We just gotta find the wall space.. Ugh, haha!

Internal Climate

Eerily quiet, chilly breeze, soft drizzle, and heavy clouds

My mind has surprisingly quietened

Just like the empty streets in my neighborhood

Oh, how good it feels to be home!

I feel a gentle nuzzle at my side

It’s just Hex

She hasn’t left me alone since I walked..


Walked in the door two weeks ago

She even follows me into the shower now

She sits on the tub ledge in between the two shower curtains

As a woman who runs naturally hot, this change in temperature has been nice

I’ve had the windows open and been enjoying the cool fresh air

I know Houdini does too because he’s sitting in the window sill

The rhythmic beat of rain drops calms my soul

Reminds me of the consistent chirping crickets I play on my sound machine at night to fall asleep to

It’s soothing



The lack of sunlight is reassuring that I have control of the brightness, if I so choose

To lamp or not to lamp?

That is the question

The wet forecast swells

Weighing heavy on my heart

They increase together

In sync with Mother Nature

I take this as I am in tune with my surroundings


The natural music to my ears and mindfulness

I softly whisper to myself:

“This won’t last forever.

Things will get better.

Get yourself together.

Light as a feather.

Simply enjoy this weather.”

My cranium is in a desolate, vast disarray:

Torn out pieces of crumpled paper littered about for as far as I can see

Puddles of spilt milk

Dry, cracked foundation

Overgrown, luscious poison ivy

Echoes of constant barking dogs

Fluttering birds dropping their poop everywhere

Herds of brittle tumbleweeds rolling through the chaos

I start by picking up, flattening out, piling, and filing the pieces of paper

Organizing them largest to smallest

Setting out the wet, transparent ones to dry

I turn up the heat and brightness to help the drying process along

This settles down the birds as they perch upon the file cabinets

This distracts the loud, obnoxious dogs to not focus on the now still birds

The dogs begin to fetch and bring me the strewn parchment

The birds start using their beaks to neatly place the papers in the drawers

I can use all the help I can get

Other pups catch and dismantle the stray tumbleweeds

Other fowls pull the botanical vines and fill in the cracked ground

I discover that who/what were annoyances are now helping me rearrange my messy thoughts

I realize that I’m feeling grateful for silence

I remember that even shit is useful

It fertilizes crappy situations into something beautiful

I notice how even spilt milk nourishes the thirsty mind and body

I carefully glove both hands to push the poison ivy down, further into the cracked crevices

I close my eyes and concentrate as I make the surface tremble together

The pieces align into a smooth leveled path

Illuminating my way to the combined “Enter / Exit” sign

I no longer feel confined in my own streamlined, refined design

The sun begins to brightly shine upon my face

I divinely breathe, “I’m fine.”

Open thine eyes

I sense my feline intertwined nearby

I now decline this benign deadline

I desperately pine for myself

I define this life of mine

Shivers down my spine

I refuse to resign

Rhythm and Rhyme

What songs are on your self-care playlist? 
Choose your favorite lyrics and tell us your story using those lyrics.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” -Hans Christian Andersen

I’ve been struggling with being able to write my blog recently, so this seemed fitting to share. This first song is also featured on my About Blogger section as my self-proclaimed anthem.

♫ ‘Cause I’m a warrior, I fight for my life
Like a soldier all through the night
And I won’t give up, I will survive, I’m a warrior
And I’m stronger, that’s why I’m alive
I will conquer, time after time
I’ll never falter, I will survive, I’m a warrior ♪

I worry about the future because of my anxiety. I’ve redefined myself as not a worrier anymore, but a warrior.

♫ Hush, just stop
There’s nothing you can do or say
I’ve had enough
I’m not your property as from today
You might think that I won’t make it on my own
But now I’m
Stronger than yesterday
Now it’s nothing but my way
My loneliness ain’t killing me no more
I, I’m stronger
Then I ever thought that I could be
I used to go with the flow
Didn’t really care ’bout me
You might think that I can’t take it, but you’re wrong
‘Cause now I’m
Stronger than yesterday ♪

Crying can be perceived as a sign of weakness, however crying demonstrates how strong one is. I’ve been struggling with my emotions. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m mad. I cry when I am in pain. I cry when I am.. overwhelmed.

♫ (Ou mata e matagi)
I have crossed the horizon to find you
(Ou loto mamaina toa)
I know your name
(Manatu atu)
They have stolen the heart from inside you
(Taku pelepele)
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are ♪
[whispers] Who you truly are

The mix of languages being sung sends chills across my skin. This slow motion scene of the hero/protagonist, Moana, confidently walking toward the villain/antagonist, Te Kā, shows courage because Moana knows deep down that Te Kā will not harm her.

“Hurt people hurt people.”

“Her bark is worse than her bite.” Means that they seem much more unpleasant or hostile than they really are.

I struggle with the light and dark within myself. I am taken back by people who show me grace and understanding during my difficult moments.

♫ I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
‘Long as I can remember
Never really knowing why I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water
No matter how hard I try Every turn I take
Every trail I track
Every path I make
Every road leads back
To the place I know where I cannot go
Where I long to be
See the line where the sky meets the sea?
It calls me
And no one knows
How far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know
If I go, there’s just no telling how far I’ll go ♪

Why do humans like shiny things? (haha, I know how ironic)
Researchers in the evolutionary aesthetics tradition have suggested that people prefer shiny objects because glossiness connotes water.”

I am drawn to water. I feel at peace when I am near a body of water. I am most comfortable in water. Weightless. Free. My dream home is waterfront.

♫ This is for my girls all around the world
Who have come across a man that don’t respect your worth
Thinkin’ all women should be seen and not heard
So what do we do girls, shout out loud
Lettin ’em know were gonna stand our ground
So lift your hands high and wave ’em proud
Take a deep breath and say it loud
Never can, never will
Can’t hold us down
Nobody can hold us down
Never can, never will ♪

The double standard of how a girl/lady/woman/female should feel, think, speak, behave, &/or dress is exhausting. We are worthy just as any other man.

♫ The whole world’s scared, so I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer
So cool in line, and we try, try, try
But we try too hard and it’s a waste of my time
Done looking for the critics ’cause they’re everywhere
They don’t like my jeans, they don’t get my hair
Exchange ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that, why do I do that?
Why do I do that?
Yeah, oh, oh pretty, pretty please
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than fuckin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing
You’re fuckin’ perfect to me, yeah
You’re perfect, you’re perfect ♪

“You may not always be perfect, but you will always be perfect for me.”

Accepting someone as they are, flaws and all, is true unconditional love. Cherish it. I appreciate those who are patient with me. “Thank you for putting up with me.”

♫ Never win first place, I don’t support the team
I can’t take direction, and my socks are never
Teachers dated me, my parents hated me
I was always in a fight cuz I can’t do nothin’
Everyday I fight a war against the mirror
I can’t take the person starin’ back at me
I’m a hazard to myself
Don’t let me get me
I’m my own worst enemy
It’s bad when you annoy yourself
So irritating
Don’t wanna be my friend no more
I wanna be somebody else
I wanna be somebody else, yeah ♪

I am my own worst critic. I get stuck inside my head often. I cannot stand to look at my reflection. Being at war with myself is exhausting. I am the bully and the victim. Sometimes, I need to be rescued from.. myself.

♫ When I was a young boy I was scared of growing up
I didn’t understand it but I was terrified of love
Felt like I had to choose but it was outta my control
I needed to be saved, I was going crazy on my own
It took me years to tell my mother, I expected the worst
I gathered all the courage in the world
She said, “I love you no matter what
I just want you to be happy and always be who you are”
She wrapped her arms around me
Said, “Don’t try to be what you’re not
‘Cause I love you no matter what”
She loves me no matter what ♪

I didn’t have to come out to my parents. My mom said she already knew:

“Ever since you were young, I noticed you have so much love to give. I knew your love was for.. everyone. Not just the opposite sex.”

If that doesn’t explain accepting and loving me “no matter what,” I don’t know what does. As for my dad, when my mom asked him about my sexuality, he simply said, “Her sex life is none of my business.” Well, there ya have it. My folks accept me “no matter what.”

♫ We don’t have time left to regret, hold on
And well take more than common sense, hold on
So stop your wondering, take a stand, hold on
‘Cause there’s more to life than just to live, hold on
‘Cause an empty room can be so loud
There’s too many tears to drown them out
So hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
One single smile, a helping hand, hold on
Its not that hard to be a friend, hold on
So don’t give up, stand ’til the end, hold on
‘Cause there’s more to life than just to live, hold on
‘Cause an empty room can be so loud
There’s too many tears to drown them out
So hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on ♪

When I am in physical pain, I hold onto my own hand and squeeze it. I hold on. I hold on for dear life and endure until it passes.

♫ I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreaming
But, there’s a voice inside my head saying
You’ll never reach it
Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking
But I, I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high
There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb
The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down, but
No, I’m not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments, that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, I gotta be strong
Just keep pushing on ♪

Progress isn’t a straight line or level for that matter. It’s an upwards climb with many obstacles along the way. There may be times where I lose, but I have to keep trying and not let my struggles break my spirit. Rise above the bullshit and face it head on.

♫ Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn?
I push it down, push it down
I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love

One, two, three, one, two, three, drink 3x
Throw ’em back ’til I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier
From the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night
Feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier
From the chandelier

But I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight, on for tonight

Sun is up, I’m a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

One, two, three, one, two, three, drink 3x
Throw ’em back ’til I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier
From the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night
Feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier
From the chandelier

But I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight, on for tonight

‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Oh, I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight, on for tonight
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Oh, I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight, on for tonight ♪

I included all of the lyrics for this song because the repetition is important for addiction. It’s a vicious cycle. Filling up on a substance to feel empty inside. Where your ultimate goal is to forget your own memories. Unfortunately, all you’re doing is creating more problems instead finding a healthy solution.

This and That

If money didn't exist and there were no limits, what would your dream occupation be? 
How would you spend your days?

I would spend my days sitting upon a fluffy cloud, behind a large wooden desk, and before a mile long line of frustrated people who have come to me for.. ideas! I’d be the “Idea Person.” A Creative Problem Solver or Creative Consultant, if you will. These people have hit a roadblock, brain fart, or dead end and need assistance with an idea or ideas about anything under the sun: what outfit to wear, what dish to fix for dinner, how to respond to that person who’s been ghosting them, what to gift whoever for whatever occasion, how to decorate their home, what to name their new pet, what topic to write about on their school paper, what to say in their upcoming speech, how to arrange their furniture, etc. My brain never turns off and I love to come up with innovative/creative ideas to help people solve their unique obstacles!

Imagine your life is now a best-selling book. Write a summary for the back or inside cover.

Three steps forward and two steps back. Allison couldn’t walk until she was two years old. Hell, she was terrified to crawl! The rumor amongst the locals is she descends from mermaid or shark ancestors because of her numerous rows of sharp teeth. Nonetheless, she’s a Mythical Goddess! She may be a fish out of water, but she goes with the flow.. to survive. This heroine has to decide whether to rescue the Dominus in Distress, the stray animal, or the lonely child while trying not to lose herself along the way. Go ahead, turn the page to find out what “Dominus” means because now you’re curious. Come on down the rabbit hole and enjoy the fall. You’ll fall in love with Allison’s Adventures. Her name literally spells: “all is on.”

Recipe for Healing

Prep time: 30 minutes


Lifetime to execute

Handful of Patience

Drop some Bad Habits

Sprinkle Kindness generously*

Pour your Heart out

Crack a Smile or two

Rise to the occasion

Hint of Sarcasm

Smidgen of Forgiveness

Heap o’ Self-Love*

Give zero Fucks about what others think of you

*Don’t scrimp on that Good Shit

• Knead it all together

• Fold in the heap o’ Self-Love carefully

• Chill in the fridge for an hour

• Bust a move to your favorite tune

• Alcohol optional

• We recommend Ginger Ale as an alternative

Once you achieve a solid foundation, use cookie cutter shapes to make your own individual piece to taste test. Now, take that perfectly shaped piece and.. throw it on the ground! You are meant to live outside the Cookie Cutter World!

Fuck those unrealistic expectations others put on you. Life is what you make it. Might as well make it interesting! If it’s edible and you can stomach through it, then..


Set aside time to make more peace, music, art, memories, and room for those who fulfill you.. not drain you. Weed out the undesirables. Healing begins and ends with Y-O-U!

We don’t just deal to heal.

We feel.

Not conceal.


Wheel of emotions.

Kneel to The Guy in the Sky.

Peel back the layers.

Some may not be appealing.

Others.. surreal!

You’ve gone through quite an ordeal.

Whoa, unreal,” they squeal!

Do everything with zeal.

Don’t be afraid to steal the spotlight!

I’ll save ya the spiel.

You’re right, it’s not ideal.

I’ll reel ya in with a Meal Mobile.

Overflowing with bread heels.

Hope your stomach is made of steel.

Let’s seal it with a Chef’s Kiss!

Dear Ms. Lloyd

Write a letter to a former teacher about where you are [now] and what impact they had on you.

I ran into my elementary Speech Therapist at the grocery store a couple years ago
So, I did get a chance to tell her what I was up to at that moment and thank her
In honor of Teacher’s Appreciation Week this week May 3rd – 7th

Dear Ms. Lloyd,
I travel the world as a Communications Specialist. I interact with dozens of Design Engineers from all the over the country, Canada, Mexico, France, and India. Being able to speak with every level of people, that’s all thanks to you!

You helped teach me how to speak so others can understand me and comprehend my words. This means more than I ever thought about before. I see others struggle speaking because of their speech impediments and getting lost in translation with others.

Spending those two years with you was time well spent with how I am now able to communicate with the world! You helped give me confidence! I’m no longer afraid to raise my hand or speak up for myself! Some would say I’m a Chatty Cathy, haha!

You’ve helped open so many doors for me in regards to career opportunities! I mean, come on, a “Communications” Specialist! My job title is verbally communicating in front of a group of people. How crazy is that?! I’ve also given a Maid of Honor speech, a Valedictorian speech at my college graduation, and [now] I speak/share my writing with a virtual Journaling Workshop every week.

I’d say I’m a success story! And I’ll say it again, “I’m a success story!” because I like being able to pronounce words correctly. It feels good!

Thank you again,
Your Grateful Student

Spare Change

I don’t do well with change. I like order. I live by my schedule. I prefer structure. I love consistency. I think it has to do with my OCD. Any type of interruptions to my routine is like wreaking havoc to my very core. I have to talk my irrational mind down from the ledge because I know it’ll all work out and things will be okay. I. Will. Be. Okay. After some convincing, I see another day without giving up.

I would like to change my job situation because I am underemployed. While I’m thankful for being paid to do a temporary job that is in high demand during this global pandemic; I assist registered nurses and respiratory therapists with onboarding to hospitals and now vaccination clinics across the country. We’re busy, which is great.. “job security,” whatever that means. I’ve applied/interviewed for four permanent positions at this company I’m temping for and haven’t gotten an offer yet, which is frustrating. Trying to maintain work/life balance, keep my sanity, yet trying to prove I’m worth hiring. It’s taking a toll on my confidence. I’m afraid I’ll keep hearing: “No,” or hearing nothing at all. It’s just discouraging.

I’d like to have a change of scenery: a long overdue, extended, overseas holiday to explore nature, museums, seeing all the sights, and fall in love with life again. It may help put things in perspective. Do I work to live? Or live to work? I live to.. live! Money may make the world go round, but I create the currency and I spend my time the way I so choose!

I refuse.. to conform.

I’ma light a fuse.. under my ass.

Not to amuse you.

Don’t get it confused.

No more excuses.

All the interviews.

Ya know, the who’s who?

Gotta pay my dues.

Year long blues.

Fuck the news!

All I wanna do is cruise and schmooze.

Plot another ruse.

Where’s the booze?

Hit the snooze.

Prepare to lose.

Step in my shoes.

I’ll be your muse.

We’ve all got screws loose.

We need to diffuse society’s warped views.

Just don’t abuse.. your power.

I bruise.. easily.

Care Bear Stare

Share a moment of kindness from a stranger that meant a lot to you.

Summer of ’96, the sun was shining, birds were chirping, and my block was busy with activities. Neighbors washing their cars, mowing their lawns, planting flowers, catching some rays, running in sprinklers, and music blaring from open windows. I chose to ride my bike with no helmet, no pads, and no worries! I was a mismatched nine-year-old sportin’ neon patterns and untamed frizzy hair.

I didn’t care.

Just getting some fresh air.

My destination was: Nowhere.. in particular.

I was caught unaware of the uneven concrete square up ahead.

I was sent airborne.

Every kid’s nightmare.

Aaahhh!!!” I declared.

All I could do was stare.. in despair.

How unfair!

My banged up hardware.

A pair of bloody elbows, knees, palms, and I swear..

a solitaire scrape on my chin.

Quite a few tears on my now tattered clothes.

To be fair, I looked scared!

I heard a sudden stop of a vehicle on my left, which I thought was in err.

My brain was signaling: “BEWARE!

Guess my accident sent up a simultaneous flare for urgent care.

This prepared young couple glared at me, they tended to my wounds, and bandaged me up here and there.

I felt safe seeing they traveled as a family affair; with toddlers in their mobile chairs.

How rare of these parents to share their kindness with me.

I dare to spare a moment for children’s welfare.








Smooches from my man as he turns off his alarm is the best way to start the day.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

He means more to me than I could say.

I know.. how cliché!

Okay, here we go.. Another weekday.

Oh, how I wish I could stay in bed, but nay.

Gotta slay the day!

Gotta pay those bills!

Oy vey!

Hit that snooze display.

Ugh, a ray of sunshine!

Creepin’ in to say: “Hey! Don’t delay!”

I just splay across the semi-empty bed and play with my kitties!


To my dismay, they betray me by biting and scratching.

How rude!

The array of thoughts swimming in my head: “What time is it?”

“How many hours of sleep did I get?”

“What time did I pass out last night?”

More questions than answers.

Broadway zen reggae fleeting from that magical pocket box.

I hit the snooze display.. again.

My mind has gone astray, probably off playing croquet, instead of having morning foreplay.

Oooh, how risqué!

I’m in need of a three-way soirée with a gourmet brunch buffet:

a hot tea tray, fluffy soufflé, granola parfait, sweet sorbet, alcoholic puree, and all the sautéed entrées!

I may even need an after sex cigarette. Where’s the ashtray?

Ugh, I smell padre’s coffee café from the hallway.

Balancing ballet breathing from the parquet.

I hit the snooze display.. again.

Instant replay.

Gotta get up to portray myself, simply obey, and not stray from the gray.

I’m gonna hit that Life Runway.. and sashay away!

Dude, Where’s My Valet?

Vintage Trolling

My boyfriend, Jaimie, and I creatively collaborated for the first time! I introduced him to one of my childhood favorites; the movie called Troll. It’s such a bad movie.. it’s good! We utilized this flick for his new magazine called: Rob’s Video (you can purchase it here):

The first issue of Rob’s Video has arrived! Lovingly named after the local neighborhood video store from my childhood. This zine is a love letter to crazy genre films and video store culture. With a wide array of contributors giving interviews, reviews, and stunning artwork. All made with a passion for those bygone eras of insanity in film. Conversations about horror, westerns, gore, etc. leap from the page. Plus artistic tributes to films like Puppet Master, Hammer Films, and even Troll. Take a deep dive into B-movie culture by opening the pages of Rob’s Video.

The Potters just moved into an apartment complex, filled with interesting neighbors: a beefcake veteran, a playboy, a professor, an actress, and a princess. An enchanted ring finds Wendy Potter, the young daughter, who doesn’t seem like herself upon wearing it. Her older brother, Harry Potter Junior, is the only one who notices the changes in Wendy. Their folks presume she’s homesick and/or upset about the move. Harry Potter Junior seeks refuge at his neighbor’s upstairs apartment, Eunice St. Clair. At first, Eunice seems to be just a grouchy old lady who isn’t fond of visitors, especially uninvited kids, but Harry grows on her. Her apartment is decorated in medieval style, which intrigues Harry’s interest in learning more about her and thus divulging about his familial woes. Eunice begrudgingly decides to take Harry’s worries seriously and help him save his family. She not only believes Harry, but trusts him enough to let him see her magical mushroom that she’s been hiding under a lamp shade. He’s adorable by the way! He reminds me of Beaker from the Muppets; squeaky comedic relief with expressive facial features.

Eunice gives Harry a history lesson: she tells him the story of what or better yet.. who has possessed his sister.. a faerie of sorts, mean, and very strong.. a troll! The troll’s name is Torok, who was human (Eunice’s estranged lover), he’s vowed his revenge to wipe out humanity and rule the world.. once again! Torok chose one token specimen to be spared, Wendy, who will serve as the Princess of the Faeries. Eunice supplies Harry with a magical spear to defeat the biggest, most powerful creature he can find for which it represents the heart of Torok’s universe. “It’ll be mean, it’ll be ugly, and it will not be glad to see you!” Harry embarks on an epic journey, going from apartment to apartment that Torok transformed into different faerie worlds. Will Harry find his sister in time and save all of humanity?! You’ll just have to watch Troll to find out!

Troll is the ultimate 80’s bad movie with a horror fantasy charm! It’s sprinkled with a couple people you may recognize: Sonny Bono, the mom from Lassie, Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story, and Elaine from Seinfeld. There are some brief, gross transformation scenes that I can’t help but look away from.. Hey, I have a squeamish stomach. Sue me. Hahaha, I haven’t used that phrase in forever!

What’s a bad movie without a couple random musical/dance numbers that have no relevance to the storyline whatsoever? The faerie creatures chant a mystical song called “Cantos Profanae,” that I thought was just gibberish or Latin, but according to the internet.. there are lyrics, which make no sense:

Time of Tempest tu… He hath heard of this 

Pierce of weary ache and pain. Time on! 

Herba Way, herba herba, herba herba way. Tempest!

Harken hen, harken, harken, harken, hen! Ahhhhh!

Oh sirrah save us save us. Oh sirrah oh la fey la [repeat a dozen times]

Harry Potter Senior takes a Kit-Kat break (not really) by poppin’ on a Blue Cheer record and jammin’ out to Summertime Blues. His freestyle dance moves (I’m sure he choreographed himself) are chilling: from his lip syncing, wide legged stomping, puckered lips, air guitar, and his squirrely eyes bare into your very soul. Mrs. Anne Potter is startled by the sudden bass that shakes her dish rack into the sink. She attempts, and fails, to tell her husband to turn it down, because she sees him enjoying his tunes in his own unique way. Everybody has their own way of settling in. Hey, moving is one of the most stressful life events!

This bad movie holds a special place in my heart because I first watched it as a child and I related to Wendy Potter because I was also a curious little girl who could see herself venturing off by herself, exploring a new place, interacting with every person, losing her toy down a dark, scary basement, and daring to retrieve it.

The setting sparked my interest in “communal living” because of the apartment building the Potters move into. So much in fact that every time I’d play the fortune-telling game M.A.S.H. (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House), I hoped for “Apartment” and made it come true because the first home I bought was a.. condo; shocking, I know! 

SPOILER ALERT: four years later, a sequel was created, Troll 2, which is infamously described as the worst movie ever.. with only a five percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.. if that gives you any clue as to how gnarly it is. You have been warned.. proceed at your own risk! By the way, no one from the original cast returned for the second installment of the Troll saga.

It was such an honor that Jaimie asked me to collaborate with him on a creative project, let alone on his new magazine! We were first inspired to do this project whilst watching the documentary: 24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters (highly recommend). Immediately after viewing the movie, Troll, we brainstormed the overall design of the movie poster: the ringed Troll holding Wendy’s stray ball, his mismatched shadow on the apartment door (foreshadowing when he embodies Wendy.. gotta love the wordplay, haha), and the overgrown railing leading up the staircase. Jaimie drew our ideas to life and I formatted the movie title, advertising slogan, and billing block. I did not initially envision our movie poster to be in black and white, but it makes sense in regards to a simple, cost effective, moderately produced magazine. I am interested in seeing our movie poster in color and I hope we can display it in our home some day!

I’m looking forward to collaborating with Jaimie again soon for his next issue of Rob’s Video! Please stay tuned. You don’t wanna miss it!


Grab your partner, do-si-do!

Life is a dance; whether you have two left feet or..


“Happiness is only real when shared.”
-Christopher McCandless

I highly recommend this movie (or book, if you rather) because it resonated with me on many levels. As good as your intentions are, no matter how knowledgeable you may be; life is unpredictable.

What's something you had to learn the "hard way" - but that you're happy you know now?

Not to stew in my own misery.

I had to learn that the hard way.

I had to learn to not to feed the monster.

Conflict with myself.

Internal battles.

Fight against my rational mind vs my OCD.

Every little thing bothered me.

They built up rather quick and I had to address every single one.

I took it out on everyone around me too.

Watch out.

I was always on a warpath.

Better brace yourself if you were in my way.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman [scorned].”

You’ve been warned.

Avoid being thorned.

I have not mourned..

who I was.

I have only adorned..

my progress.

It was easier to just lash out and drink myself into the bottom of a bottle.

I’m happy I recognized I needed help.

Sought it.

Fought it.

Bought it.

And thought it..

all started inside..


Feelings become thoughts.

Thoughts become words.

Words become actions.

Actions become habits.

Habits have consequences.

I learned to follow the trail.

Stop it in its tracks.

I had to be taught how to function properly..

for my own sanity.

If I didn’t enjoy my own company..

why would anybody else?

It took years of therapy, deep digging, and internal reflection to learn how to be alone.

It was scary being by myself and not hate myself every second.

Every second seemed like an hour.

I’m happy to know now that I was worth the trouble.

I deserved a second chance.

A second glance.

A second enhance.

A second romance.

Happy dance!

What are the non-negotiable traits that your [future] partner cannot have? What are the things they must have?

Perfect manners
Un-stocked TP
Refuses to engage in any sort of PDA
Toxic masculinity
Poor hygiene habits
Strong hatred toward any group of people
Too political
Too religious
Gym Rat
Wants a trophy wife
Wants me to be their Mama
Has no room for compromise

Silly sense of humor
Has common sense
Financially responsible
Good tipper
Gives constructive criticism
How they treat the wait staff
Animal lover
Likes to play board, card games
Avid reader
Has their own friends/hobbies/interests
Listen = Silent
Does dishes
Not afraid to frolic

The traits I listed above are not for a future partner as the prompt asked because I already have a partner. We’ve been together for four years this upcoming May. Yet, it feels like a lot longer.. in a good way. In the best way, of course! I was also asked: “So, how does your partner compare to the list you wrote?”

I responded without hesitation: “If I had to dream up the ideal partner, Jaimie wouldn’t even compare. He’s more than I ever dreamed of. He set the bar high in teaching me how to be loved; thus helping me love myself.”

“Do you like hanging out with me?”

If you look closely, there’s a bird’s nest in the dinosaur’s mouth!

Sipping on wine, enjoying the view, & singing along to Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore.”


See more alleys here
What are some labels other people have given you? How well do they fit?

Teacher’s pet

Worry wart

Easy going
Black sheep

Free spirit

Down to earth
Smart aleck
“Life of the party”

Good listener

How well do these labels other people have given me.. fit?

Well, not so well.. Appearance alone, people presume I’m attention-seeking because of my mohawk and bright fashion style.

I believe I’m just expressing myself. Letting my freak flag fly so other “black sheep, weirdos, and different” people feel comfortable around me. An unspoken icebreaker. We all belong.. somewhere.

“Come sit over here next to me.”

I think if we took the time to get to know each other, we’d label each other less.

I’m not a fan of labels.



“Labels are for cans, not people.”

– Anthony Rapp

Soft Embrace

Someone gives you a big hug and whispers just what you needed to hear.

“You’re enough.”

“You’re worthy.”

“Because you’re worth it.” -L’Oreal.

Thank you for clipping me coupons.

“There’s that bright smile!”

“Both hands,” I always say when you try to give me a half hug..

It’s just..


It’s been awhile since I’ve had a two handed hug..

I know.


You’re not a touchy-feely-kinda-guy and..

I get it.

You don’t want to break me.

Lose me.

Well, more hugs the better.

Maybe if we squeeze each other tight enough all of our broken pieces will stick back together.

Bring it on.

Let’s give it a go.

I welcome your hugs, half hug, two handed hugs, or any hug you wanna give me.

Time is against us.

Let’s not waste it.

I’m here.

I’m still here.

I’m your baby girl.

No matter what.

Bring it in, Big Guy.


Hug. It. Out.

Warning, Warning

See more alleys here
What are some "warning signs" that let you know you pushed your body &/or mind too far?

Locked knees

Strained eyes

Full bladder

Sore ankles

Greasy hair

Heavy heart

Dry, cracked skin

My patience is wearing thin

What have I gotten myself in.. to?

Same lounge wear

Dammit, a tear!

It isn’t fair

Shaky hands

Elastic waistbands

I’m in such high demand

Yet, any day, I’ll be canned

Getting lost.. in Wonderland.

Brain fart

Stumbling to speak.. my mind.

Word vomit




Beyond needing a rest

I’m doing my best

It’s weighing on my chest

All. Of. It.

I can’t seem to keep up.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

Don’t press the red..head[ed] button!


I used to cry to get out of trouble as a kid.

When I was scared.

When I didn’t get my way.

I would cry myself to sleep..

Because I’d be worrying..

About what happened that day..

The day before..

The next day..

Or my days in the future.

I used to say: “Well, I didn’t cry today, so it’s a good day!”

Hell, I still say that..

On my bad days.

I don’t cry at funerals.

That’s when I laugh the most..

To be honest.

I feel I have to lighten the mood.

Even though..

“It’s super inappropriate [to do so],” some say.

I cry when I get mad because I’m a lover..

Not a fighter.

And I’m terrified of jail.

Ugly crying.

Snotty crying.

Can’t breathe, can’t speak crying.

Non-stop wet tears.

Dry tears..

Because I have no more tears left to cry.

Secluded crying.

Look at yourself in the mirror crying.

Group crying.

Public crying.

It all feels the same.

It’s an emotional release.

Screaming crying.



Not wiping your tears crying.

Short burst crying.

Too long crying.

Hiding your tears.

Hiding your fears.

Beet red ears.

Soaked in embarrassment.

Doing the walk of shame.

Shrugging it off.

Dusting it off.

Faking it.

Denying it.

The evidence is there.

Own up to it.

Audience or not.

Just let it flow.

Get it out.

Don’t bottle up your emotions.




Bottle up your tears..

And drink it.


Two Cents

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Don’t over-think it.”

“It’s not you, it’s them.”

But the common denominator is..



They, them..

Me, me, me, me, me..


There I go..



“No one thinks more about you.. than you. They’re too busy thinking about.. themselves.”

I’m sure I don’t even cross their mind.

You’re right.

That’s true.

“Don’t be blue.”

“Be you.”

Be unapologetically you!

“Only say sorry with purpose and sincerity. The more the word “sorry” is thrown around, it loses its value.”

“Less is more.”

In more ways than one.







My anxiety and depression make it difficult to follow the pieces of advice I believe in because it’s a constant internal battle.

I care too much..

About everything.

I don’t care..

About anything.

It’s like living in my own personal hell.

I am the bully and the victim.

Sprinkle in my OCD to keep things interesting.

I kick my own ass.

Knock some sense into myself.

Hey, it’s okay..

I deserve it.

“Instead of giving yourself a pep talk in a mirror. Look at a photo of yourself.. as a child.. and give her a pep talk [your best advice]. It forces you to change your tone, huh?”

Be kind to her.

She’s you.

“Be kind to yourself.”

She’s doing her best.

And so are you!

Knock, Knock

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


I open the door to see the back of her head..

Walking away..

From me.

Knock, knock.





I hate being ignored.

She’s a real piece of work.

It’s been five years since we’ve seen each other..

And spoken to one another.

I’ve seen her numerous times in between then.

I’ve tried reaching out.

All I’ve gotten is..






It’s deafening.

It hurts my ears.

It hurts my..


What a heartless person.




I try to see her perspective.

She may have her reasons.

She must have her reasons.

I’ve theorized quite a few.

If any/all are true..

I’ve accepted it.

I’m an only child.

Don’t even get me started on my brothers.

I’m an only child.

I’ve accepted it.

I do miss her.


I miss..

Certain parts of her.

Definitely not her..



Loose lips.

Superiority complex.


I’d rather adjust to her absence..

Than be frustrated by her toxic presence.

My message to her that may very well forever go unanswered:

“Thank you.




Thank you for showing me how not to be a sister.

Thank you for making room for other people..

Who have stepped up..

Who have chosen to be in my life..

They are my chosen family.

And you’re..



Oh, well.”

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


I don’t care anymore.

This piece I wrote during another Journaling Workshop virtual event hosted by The Mighty that I attended earlier this week. Again, I can’t say enough about this group. They’re such a breath full of fresh air. I enjoy their company. We let all the feelings out on the floor. As I mentioned in my last post and the post before that, I highly recommend checking out their virtual events (&/or articles, social media posts, etc).

I debated about attending this virtual event since I’ve been under the weather, but I powered through it because I knew.. I needed it. It’s one of the few things I look forward to these days. Besides, nobody there could catch my germs, even if I was contagious.. Well, maybe their computer could catch a virus or two! Haha.. I’m glad I stuck it out and joined because a good piece came out of it. Go figure, even with my irritability and fatigue. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to churn anything out.. besides.. nonsense.

I chose the above photos to complement my piece because the covered bridge represents the care I had taken to preserve our estranged relationship. To bridge the gap.. between us. I kept hope alive longer than warranted. I didn’t want to burn any bridges. I’ve decided to take the high road. The covered bridge has a plaque that reads: Hyde Road. How fitting! How punny. Road. High road.

The covered mailboxes are taken care of too. To protect those precious messages. Each mailbox is different. Varying in size, design, color, material, condition, and even how it’s attached to the post. Some by nails, brackets, or bungee cord! Some are barely holding on by a thread. Some are enclosed. Some are open ended with no cover. How symbolic of how we, humans, are.

Every family is dysfunctional.
I have chosen to function through the dysfunction.

Every relationship takes a hiatus.
I have chosen to make the most of the time I have.. with the people who choose to be.. Present.


Roses are red
Violets are blue
What does self-love mean to you?

Taking a breath.

Breathing in..


Breathing out..

Just as deep.

Taking a break.

Breaking a bad habit..

Or two.

Breaking a dish.

Breaking out in song.

Break dancing while..

Not breaking..

Any bones.

Breaking the silence.

Breaking a barrier.

All. The. Breaks.

Sitting up straight.

Eyes closed.

Concentrating on the now.





Breathing in..



Thinking about..



Trying to concentrate on clearing some space for the good memories..

And re-homing the not so good.



On. Every. Muscle.

Roll your head clock wise..

Counter clock wise.

Where has the time gone?

It’s self-love time..


You deserve this time.

You’re the longest relationship you’ll ever have.

Might as well take care of yourself.

Enjoy your own company.

Don’t wait for the right one..

Be the right one..

And your life will change for the better.

Brighter days are ahead for you.








Embassy Suites Hotel with lit up rooms forming a heart

This piece I wrote in light of the upcoming holiday, Valentine’s Day, during another Journaling Workshop virtual event hosted by The Mighty that I attended earlier this week. I can’t say enough about this group. They really are such a lovely bunch to hang out with! I thoroughly enjoy being amongst them. Sharing and caring with them. As I mentioned in my last post, I highly recommend checking out their virtual events (&/or articles, social media posts, etc).

There are so many different types of Love:
Affectionate, enduring, familial, romantic, playful, platonic, obsessive, selfless, empathetic, nurturing, and.. Self-love.

I think we tend to forget the last one, which I think is the most essential.

We. Are. Important. Too.

It’s vital that we take care of ourselves.. every day.. and not just on holidays. Please share what self-love means to you and how you practice self-love in the comments. I’m interested to hear from you!

[Pull the] Trigger[ing]






Curl up.



Play dumb.



Compliment them!

Say anything to make them go away..

To make this..


Go away!


That’s how I feel..

Inside my head when I’m recognized for..

All the wrong reasons.

I want to blend in.

Fade into the background.

Be invisible.



I can hear my mom saying: “Aww, baby girl.. you’re meant to stand out!”



Time and place is important though.

Not now.

Not then.

But when?

I don’t know.

It may never end.

I’m spent..



Not with quantity but with quality.


My circle is smaller; some by choice and others..





She’s so far..


So close to my heart.

How could I let her go..

That way?

I know..

Tough choices had to be made.

I wasn’t mad.

I’m not mad.

I understand.

That’s where the gray comes in.

I do not live in a black and white world.

Nothing is as it seems.

And everything seems as it is.


This is..


Deep within.

I hide.

Not wanting to be seen..

As I am.

For who I want to be.

I am me.

An empath who lives and loves.

Hey there.. It’s been awhile. I’ve been writing.. and not publishing. “The struggle is real.” This couldn’t be more true than anything I could possibly.. make up. Feeling is a process. I think.. it’s safe to say.. that we’ve all been feeling a lot in the past year. Damn. Has it been that long? Crazy. Crazy times. Crazy world. “We’re all in this together.” Yet.. we’re separated by space, time, and.. misunderstanding. Not to bring the mood down any further.. if that was possible! Haha..

So, I’ve been writing the same blog post since May. I accidentally scheduled to post it publicly before I was ready. Before it was complete. Whoops! Haha.. I quickly changed the visibility from public to private the next day (I plan on finishing it soon). Nonetheless, I hope my readers, followers, subscribers haven’t.. forgotten me (my blog).. and haven’t given up on me (my blog). When I felt like.. giving up. So many times. Those particular feelings are less and fewer in between nowadays. Took awhile to climb out of that.. dark hole.. yet.. it still lingers.. nearby.. like an old frienemy. I wave at it as I step.. on the edge. Other times, I stick my tongue out at it, flip it off, or lunge at it.. wanting to start a fight.

The writing piece above I titled: “[Pull the] Trigger[ing]” I wrote in a group Zoom video call organized by The Mighty Facebook page. I registered for their Journaling Workshop virtual event. The host created a couple writing prompts that we could utilize in a ten minute timeframe. Two rounds. Participants could share, or not, no pressure. Some drew in lieu of writing. Some recorded their voice per dyslexia in lieu of writing and read it to the group. Felt like a safe space. I tried to attend previous virtual events they held, but I couldn’t.. I wasn’t in the right head space to make that happen. I kicked myself quite a few times. But.. last night.. I made it happen. It was nice. I stayed online with this group for hours.. even joined their “After Hours” Zoom room.

Such a diverse group of creatives. All over the country. All. Over. The. World. So refreshing. We looked and sounded so different from one another.. yet.. felt similar feelings.. when we shared our pieces. If that doesn’t shake you, wake you.. Up. I don’t know what will. Thank you to the host of The Mighty. Thank you to the participants for sharing their stories.. and thus.. helping others in the process. Helping me. I highly recommend following The Mighty Facebook page. I know I’ll be joining more virtual events in the future. Hope to see ya there, maybe!

This blog post is definitely different in regards to style; compared to the previous I’ve written. It’s not a lengthy story. It’s a short journal entry. It breaks all the “rules” I’ve created inside my head of what my blog is supposed to be about.

Speaking of breaking, I chose the above photos to complement my broken writing. A fallen tree. Root and all. We’ve all been there, am I right? The fallen tree blocks paths needed to move.. on. To move forward. Somehow. There is a solution. You can go over it, under it, around it, or.. THROUGH IT. The people affected by this fallen tree decided to solve the problem by going through it. They cut through the trunk to get out.

My original blog theme:
“A picture, photographed or graphically designed, by yours truly attached with a creative written response of a thousand-ish words. Could be a tall tale, inspired by a true experience, a random journal entry, or an analysis of the photograph or design itself! Dealer’s choice.

A random journal entry. Check.
Picture(s)/Photograph(s). Check.
Dealer’s choice. Check.

I wrote something. I accomplished something. About damn time! Haha.. Glad to be back. Hope you enjoyed this blog post. Hope you’re hanging in there. Let’s do this. This thing called.. Life.

Struck a Chord

Looking back, it could have gone either way. It didn’t work out, which makes it look like fate, or a stupid decision, or both. But at the time, I did have a few things in my favor. I had everything in my name, sole access to the vault, and a clear conscience. The ending of a business partnership is taxing: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. It feels just like a breakup: arguments are spat, tears are shed, and the yearning for closure. My mother warned me about the risks of running a business. I’m not looking forward to hearing her say: “I told you so.” Ugh, just save it and give me a hug. A silent hug is what I need. Maybe it’ll mend all the broken pieces inside of me and I’ll feel whole again. I’ve cut off all contact with my business partner per my lawyer’s advice. Better be worth something for three hundred dollars an hour! Jiminy Christmas!

Calliope and I first met in 1984 when we were both sixteen years old. We attended Juilliard together. We were assigned dormmates during our first year. We only had common core classes together because we were in different majors. She was an instrumentalist, specializing in cello. She knew how to play all the string instruments and then some! I was a vocalist, specializing in opera. Calliope’s dream was to be in the Philharmonic. My dream was to be on Broadway. We were both bookworms and abnormally dedicated to our studies. I mean, our folks were shelling out eighteen grand per year for our tuition, not including housing costs! We had to take it seriously. Neither of our families were rich by any means, but we weren’t poor either. Our parents worked and so did we. I was thirteen when I got my first job, at a corner market down the street from my house in Hicksville. Yes, that’s a real city, look it up! I rode my purple banana seat bicycle there every weekend. If I remember correctly, Calliope’s first job was bagging groceries at a Mom and Pop Shop in the Bronx.

Our high school and college years weren’t stereotypical such as attending pep rallies, football games, or frat parties. We went to concerts, comedy and/or improv shows, or hung out at local coffee shops for Open Mic nights. Neither of us ever drank, but we did socially Puff the Magic Dragon. We casually dated several people, but nothing serious because we’d encourage each other to take advantage of our unique experience at Juilliard. Boys were dime a dozen. Hell, you could get a guy for a nickel on 66th and Amsterdam Ave. And I don’t mean the Red-light District! Haha.. Calliope and I used to alternate hosting Game Nights, Movie Nights or Book Club meetings in our common room. Mostly because we were the only students who had large collections of board games, VHS tapes, and books! We would also have jam sessions and help each other record our own audition tapes! When we turned eighteen, Calliope became part of the Professional Apprentice Program and I became an RA. The free room and board helped cut costs when my dad became sick with Asbestosis and was put on disability. Our time was stretched thin with our new collegiate jobs and responsibilities. We were still friendly, but we gradually drifted apart towards the end of our educational careers.

As I was checking in at the front desk and putting a “Hello, My Name is” sticker name tag on my coral peplum dress; I thought about how society forces us to relive our youth by creating school reunions. What a concept. I wanna meet the person who invented this social event. Were they socially unpopular way back when? And then.. they wanted to rub their current successes in their enemies’ faces? I mean, I get it, but still.. unhealthy.

“Piper!” I heard a boisterous yet familiar voice behind me. “Piper, is that you?!”

I turned around and gasped, “Oh. My. Poseidon! Girl, you haven’t change a bit!”

“Oh, right back at ya,” Calliope squealed as she twirled me around. “Yep, still got that bubble butt!” She smacked my behind and gave me a tight squeeze.

“Oh, stop,” I blushed, swatting at her playfully. “Calliope, this is my husband, Joel. Joel, Calliope.”

“Lovely to meet you Joe,” she daintily extended her hand.

“Joel,” I corrected.

“Isn’t that what I said?” she asked, exchanging confused glances with Joel and I.

“She’s hard of hearing,” Calliope’s date chimed in. “All those loud concerts really have done her in.”

“What?” Calliope shouted, cupping her ear towards him.

“I’m Ed. Calliope’s fiancé,” he shook my hand and then Joel’s.

“Oh! Yes, this is Edwin,” Calliope re-introduced us, still shouting. “Shall we get a drink?”

We all agreed and made our way over to the open bar, which was starting to get busy. A big blue banner hung above the stage that read: “Welcome Juilliard Alumni!”

“So, what’ll ya have?” the lanky bartender asked me, placing a cocktail napkin in front of me.

“Sex on the Beach, please,” I said, strumming along to the beat playing throughout the crowded banquet hall.

“Oh, my Poseidon?” Joel asked me, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes,” I answered, rolling my eyes. “You know I don’t like to say the G-O-D word so I improvised with another deity. He may be Greek, but hey.. So am I!”

“You’re not Greek,” Joel corrected, putting his hand on my hip. “You’re Italian. Unless your 23andMe lied.”

I stuck my tongue out at him.

“Here ya go ma’am,” the bartender said, placing my pink beverage down.

“Thank you,” Joel said, placing a fiver in the tip jar. “Guess you’re in a nautical mood tonight.”

“What?” I asked, in between sips of my drink.

“Your Sex on the Beach,” Joel answered, tapping my glass. “And.. your bubble butt!” He breathed in my ear, discreetly rubbing my ass.

“Oh, right,” I giggled and snuggled his neck, we made our way over to a quiet table.

“What’ya drinking, Ed?” Joel asked.

“Oh,” Edwin fiddled with his olive sword. “Dry martini. How about you?”

“Scotch on the rocks.”

“So, what’ya do for a living, Joel?”

“I, uh, am a chef.”

“No shit? I need some cooking lessons! You teach?”

I nudged Calliope, “Looks like the boys are just fine talking amongst themselves.”

She nodded whilst sipping her red wine, “They’ve hit it off! Hey, maybe we can double date sometime!”

“Oh, for sure!” I instantly agreed, fiddling with my straw. “So, tell me,” I reached out and touched her forearm. “What have you been doing with your life for the past.. twenty years?!”

Calliope smiled, putting her hand on top of mine, “Oh, ya know, this and that!”

“No, I don’t know,” I laughed lightly. “That’s why I asked, silly!” I tilted my head, sipping my drink again.

“Well, I did get in with an orchestra after graduation. Traveled the States and a little in Canada- -“

“That’s exciting,” I interrupted, patting her forearm. “I knew you’d achieve your dream of being in the Philharmonic!”

“Thank you,” she replied, adjusting in her seat closer to me.

“So, what are you doing now? Still playing cello here in New York?”

“Oh, no, I’m a freelance music teacher.”

“Oh, fancy!” I exclaimed, holding my pinky up as I finished my drink. “You’re your own boss. Calling the shots! I can dig it.”

“Yeah,” Calliope agreed, twisting her necklace. “It has its ups and downs being self-employed.”

I straw slurped my drink dry, catching the guys’ attention for a split second. “Excuse me,” I apologized, then reverted back to Calliope. “How so?”

“Well, you gotta wear many hats: teacher, human resources, therapist, market strategist, and accountant. I’m not good with.. money.”

“Oh, I understand that,” I blinked slowly, nodding my head. “I let Joel balance the checkbook.”

“Ed is the same way,” she declared, zoning out into the crowd.

“Oh, yeah? What does he do?”


“Ed. Your fiancé.”

“Oh, yes, um, Ed is a retired Naval Officer.”

“You always did love a man in uniform!” I winked at her. “How did you two meet?”

Calliope looked up, trying to recall the moment. “We met about two years ago in Atlantic City. Ed was celebrating his retirement with his Naval buddies at the Golden Nugget, where I was performing- -..”

“What’s the Golden Nugget?” I interrupted again.

“It’s a hotel casino at the marina.”

“Gotcha, sorry go ahead.”

“Yeah, so we met there. He caught my eye because of- -..”

“The uniform,” we said together.

“I guess he was checking me out too because he put a large tip in my tip jar and winked at me,” she said with a sigh, reminiscing that moment. “So, I slipped him my spare hotel room key and the rest is history!”

“Girl, you didn’t waste any time!”

“You gotta test drive the car before ya buy it!”

“Too true, too true,” we clinked empty glasses. “Looks like we’re due for a refill!”

As we waited for our second round at the semi-empty bar, I updated Calliope of my short-lived, yet successful Broadway career.

“Wow, you toured with Andrea Bocelli?!” her jaw dropped. “Sounds like you achieved your dream too, huh?”

“Yeah, I suppose so. Ten years was a good run with Andrea.”

“So, how’d Joel handle you touring all over Europe without him all those years?”

“Oh, no, Joel and I met on tour. He was our gourmet chef.”

“Aw, that’s adorable! Who asked who out?”

“I worked up the courage one evening after dinner and asked him if he’d like to get some.. dessert.”

“Well, well.. Look at us, we were assertive as hell. Going after what we wanted!”

“Yeah,” I said. We laughed lightly, averting each other’s gaze. “What happened to us?”

We rejoined the conversation with our men, drank another round, and wandered onto the packed dance floor with our classmates. The end of the night turned into a blur. I blame it on having too much Sex on the Beach. At least I didn’t wake up with sand in my undies!

I did wake up in our hotel room above the reunion banquet hall. I slowly rolled over to check the time. Wow, it’s half past twelve! I had received a text from Calliope:

"Morning Pipes! How ya feeling? Hungover? Yeah, me too. Last night was so much fun! C'mon down to the café, I gotta mimosa with your name on it, and I'll pitch you my business idea over brunch! 💡 See ya soon!" 12:16pm

Hmm, business idea? I don’t recall her mentioning anything about a business idea, but.. how much do I really remember? Not much. Joel was still sleeping beside me so I left him a note by the night stand. Wonder if Edwin will be with Calliope? Guess I’ll find out when I get there and I’ll call Joel to join us, if need be.

I washed my face with cold water, wiped off my makeup from last night, rubbed on some lotion, brushed my teeth, flossed, mouth washed, rolled on some deodorant, spritzed some perfume on my neck, and slipped into some sweats. Hope the café doesn’t have a dress code because I am not in the mood to argue with a maître d’ this morning.. I mean, afternoon.

“Pipes! Pipes, over here,” Calliope shouted, waving her hand over her head. “Morning sunshine, how ya feeling?”

“Good afternoon,” I drowsily greeted. “Edwin still sleeping too?”

“Yeah, he’s more of a night owl. You know me, I’ve always been an early bird!”

“I remember,” I said, popping an Ibuprofen with a swig of ice water. Our waitress came over, I ordered an omelet with hash browns and a cinnamon roll. I noticed Calliope either already ate or was on a liquid diet. I didn’t bother to ask. She always had odd eating habits, so I brushed the invading thoughts aside.

“So, what’s this business idea you got?” I asked, sipping the mimosa Calliope ordered for me.

“Right,” she answered, shifting in her seat across from me. “You mentioned last night about how you’re craving a creative outlet since you became a stay-at-home Mom. I understand how you feel because my freelance gigs haven’t been a steady enough income. Ed has had to pick up the slack for our expenses and I don’t want to deplete his retirement or take his social security. So, I propose we.. you and I.. go into business together!”

I choked on my mimosa and dribbled all over my sweat pants. “And what would be the business?” I asked, dabbing my sweat pants with a cloth napkin.

“A music studio! We’d both teach. I’d give instrumental lessons and you’d give vocal lessons!” Calliope exclaimed, propping her elbows on the table, holding her head in her hands as if she was daydreaming about this business already.

“I- -I,” I began. “D- -don’t know, Calliope. I’d have to discuss this with Joel.”

“Oh, Joel seemed on board last night!”

“Really? What’d he say?” I asked, digging into my omelet that had just arrived. “Last night’s kinda hazy to me.”

“Joel said that you deserve to reignite your passion for music. You’ve been in a rut lately and that you miss being a contributing member of society. Not just contributing to your son, Reed, and the household. You crave to contribute more!”

“That sounds- -” I trailed off, pulling on my earlobe. “About right. Well, I still need to talk to Joel about this.”

“Of course,” Calliope agreed, swishing her mimosa glass around. “Ed’s already agreed to be an investor so there’s little to no risk, financially speaking.”

“I’ve never been a business owner or partner before. What would we call this music studio?”

“Oh, I got the perfect name,” she paused, gesturing with jazz hands. “Freshen Expression!”

“Whoa, I love the rhyme! Music is a form of expression: rhythmically and vocally- -”

“And our teaching, their learning is freshening up one’s skills,” Calliope finished my thought.

“Right! I’m in. Let’s do it!” we shook on it.

“Mommy,” Reed said, pulling on my dress. “Mommy?”

“Yes, honey?” I asked, shuffling a pile of sheet music on my desk at the music studio.

“I find jell-wee beans” Reed answered, clapping his hands in excitement. “Check it wike my Hallo-wee candy!”

“You did? Show me what ya found,” I said, following his lead as he held my hand.

“What happened, Reed? Where did you find the candy?”

“I help sweep floor ‘n I ass-identall-wee knocked ova tuba ‘n jell-wee beans falled out!”

I picked up half a dozen little baggies full of multi-colored pills.

“Gimme, gimme!” Reed squealed, jumping for his “candy.”

“Oh, no, sweetheart,” I raised them out of his reach. “I checked these jelly beans and they’re bad. Someone poisoned them. They’d make you sick.”

Reed cried, pouted, and decided to put himself in Time-Out near the other wind instruments. He turned around aggressively to yell at me some more and knocked over another tuba. More baggies spilled onto the wooden floor.

“Jell-wee beans!” Reed exclaimed, reaching for the baggies.

“Reed! No!”

“All rise for Honorable Judge Panicucci,” the Bailiff announced, booming across the courtroom.

“Let’s do this,” I muttered to myself, shaking like a leaf as I stood up.

“The court calls Mister Edwin Ripa to the bench,” the Prosecutor stated.

“I discovered the Defendant, Calliope Lotto, was not attending her weekly Gamblers Anonymous Meetings,” Edwin testified, tightening his tie. “But she was meeting with her Bookie at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City- -..”

“Please officially state the Bookie’s name for the court,” the Prosecutor requested.

“Rufus Vizzini,” Edwin continued. “I noticed our joint bank account was overdrawn more often than not. I confronted the Defendant and she confessed to gambling away my entire retirement fund. That was the last straw, our relationship was already on the rocks, so I called off our engagement, and demanded the ring back. She pawned it..”

Ed continued and completed his testimony, then a couple witnesses gave their testimonies, and the Judge called for a short recess for lunch.

“The court calls Mrs. Piper De Luise to the bench,” the Prosecutor stated.

“Three days after I reported the drugs to the police, I was approached by the DEA to go undercover, along with the defendant’s fiancé, Edwin Ripa, to find out who her suppliers were- -..” I testified, shaking in front of the jury. I continued and told my entire side of the story.

“Thank you for your official statement, Mrs. Piper De Luise,” the Judge said, pulling on her robe. “You may step down. The jury will now deliberate and we’ll reconvene to deliver the verdict.”

I received a text from my lawyer that the jury had come to a decision and I needed to return to the court room.

“Your Honor, the members of this jury, find the defendant, Miss Calliope Lotto,” the Juror paused, making eye contact with Calliope. “Guilty on all counts of drug trafficking. The defendant is sentenced, under NY law, to twenty-five years imprisonment.”

The gallery erupted in gasps and scattered applause. Edwin and I hugged, celebrating that justice had been served. Calliope appeared to be sniffling as she was being handcuffed. She looked our way as she was being escorted out of the court room.

“Members of the Jury, this Court dismisses you and thanks you for a job well done,” the Judge said, banging her gavel.

“So, what’ll you do now?” I asked Ed, walking to the parking garage.

“I think I’ll teach,” Ed replied, showing his validation ticket to the parking vendor.

“Really?” I asked, opening my car door. “What would you teach? A Naval course on base?”

“Oh, no. My sister helped me get a job at PS 118 in St. Albans.”

“That’s nice! What’ll you teach there?”

“You know what they say: those that can’t do, teach and those that can’t teach, teach gym!”

I laughed out loud with a snort, “I have heard that!”

“We both needed a good laugh,” he chuckled in between words.

I sighed deeply, pulling out my sunglasses to mask my tears, which were a mixture of sad tears and laugh crying tears.

“My sister said they’re also looking for a new music teacher,” he said in my ear as we hugged goodbye. “I think you’d be perfect.”

“Sounds like a challenge to me,” I said with a smile. “Count me in.”

Chasing Moonbeams

A persistent voice faintly echoed. It sounded like a foreign language. Could be Yiddish or Gibberish, hell if I knew. I only knew that I felt wet. I tried to wipe the dripping liquid from my brow, but my left arm was.. numb. I couldn’t lift my arm. I concentrated with all my might. I still could not move my arm. I grunted in frustration as my eyes remained closed. I finally managed to decipher the relentless voice, “Ma’am, can you hear me? You’ve been in an accident.”

I moaned in despair.

“I know that hurts. We’re going to help you feel better.”

I woke up in a brightly lit room and noise that could wake even the dead. I whimpered as I attempted to shield my blue eyes. I noticed my dominant left arm was wrapped in a sling, still numb, but I was able to move my right arm somewhat. I peered through my pale fingers and saw only fuzzy images. “Has my lazy eye gotten.. lazier? C’mon, jeez.. Or could it be my Nystagmus.. Ugh,” I thought to myself as I concentrated on focusing my vision. I closed my eyes tight as if to “restart” my peepers, I gently shook my head, and blinked them open a couple times.

“Well, there she is!” I heard a familiar, yet groggy voice on my left. “Opal, how ya feeling?” It was my younger brother, Onyx, who always wore a smile and forever smelt of Bod cologne and stale coffee.

I smacked my lips to respond, but had the worst case of dry mouth and could not utter a syllable. I weakly pointed to a water pitcher near Onyx’s Styrofoam coffee cup. He quickly picked up what I was putting down and started to pour me some ice water then abruptly stopped.

“Opal, I- -I, um,” Onyx fumbled to find the words. “I- -I don’t think I- -I’m allowed to g- -give you a- -anything.. just yet. Um, let me go ask a nurse real quick. They need to know you’re awake anyways.” He stood slowly, stretched with a yawn, and shuffled out into the busy corridor. My hospital room just happened to be near the Nurses’ Station, which explains the noise that woke me up. He returned with a glum look, “They said you can have ice, but no water.” His famous smile reappeared, he gave me a playful wink, and skipped back over to my bedside.

“Hey! I’m sure you have lots of questions, so I’ll give ya the gist, okay?” He asked softly yet eagerly.

I nodded weakly as I guzzled down a couple ice cubes he spoon fed me.

“Okay, cool,” he talks with his hands.. a lot.. so it was “dinner and a show” for real. “Well, you.. fell asleep at the wheel.. again,” he rolled his eyes and shook his index finger at me. “But this time you rear-ended a taxi. You hit them pretty hard because your, pardon my unintended joke here, your dead weight hit the gas and accelerated your speed, which the cops estimated at about 60mph.”

My mouth opened with a light gasp and the melting ice cubes almost escaped my chapped, white lips.

“I know right?! Good to know your airbags work!” Onyx touched my wrapped left forearm lightly. “The taxi driver and their passengers weren’t hurt because they, again pardon my unintended joke here, they had too much junk in their trunk to make a dent!” He toppled over slapping his knee as he roared with laughter.

I aggressively cleared my throat while side eyeing him. I opened my mouth for more ice cubes, Onyx obliviously obliged and continued on, “You fractured your collarbone, dislocated your left shoulder, broke three bones in your left wrist, severely bruised your elbow, and a broken finger.. hence the arm sling!” He dramatically gestured towards my mangled body. “Girl, you’s a hot mess!” I fiddled with my long, white dreadlock strand that dangled in front of my face. Onyx absentmindedly placed the strand behind my left ear. “You’re welcome, sis,” he carried on as he fixed his own hair of short black dreadlocks. “Your insurance will cover all the damages to your car. It’s in the shop right now, they expect it to be ready in two weeks. You’re eligible for a rental car, but- -” he trailed off and averted his gaze from mine.

“Wh- -what,” I hoarsely whispered. “Onyx?”

“I- -I don’t think you should be driving anymore,” he solemnly admitted as he looked at me with tears in his big brown eyes. I knew he was right. This was my third Asleep at the Wheel car accident. “There are so many public transportation options here in New York City, Opal. Subway, taxi, Uber, Lyft,” he held my pale, IV-ed, scratched hand. “You used to ride your bike everywhere! Why’d you stop?”

“G- -graveyard s- -shift,” I muttered with a cough.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Onyx said. “That’s another thing! You need to get more sleep.”

“Yeah, right.. in The City That Never Sleeps!” I thought to myself.

I clutched a wrinkled business card my brother gave me against my chest in hopes to calm my supersonic beating heart. I methodically closed my eyes, inhaled deeply through my nose for five seconds, and exhaled through my mouth for five seconds. I gradually opened my eyes, adjusted my shirt, and carefully stuffed the business card inside my left arm sling. I sighed and rhythmically rapped on the door with my right hand. “This is it,” I muttered to myself.

The natural wood grain door opened to a short, slim, stylish señorita who spoke softly, “Good afternoon. You must be Opal Whitley, I presume?”

I nodded weakly.

“Swell, I’m Amber. Please come on in. Make yourself comfortable,” she stepped aside and motioned with her arm towards a plush peach couch with a dozen throw pillows.

I cleared my throat and removed my sunglasses. “Shall I lay sit or.. lay down?” I hesitantly asked as I hovered around the couch.

Amber chuckled as she adjusted her asymmetrical tortoise eyeglasses. “Whichever makes you feel most comfortable,” she sat beside me equipped with a clipboard and pen in a gradient armchair. “If you do decide to lay down, I do ask of you to please remove your shoes first.” She crossed her slender legs and I admired her sequins sandals with perfectly pedicured toes.

I slipped off my beaded moccasins, laid down with my head toward Amber, and stared at the ceiling. I was pleasantly surprised to see there were tree and cloud diffuser covers on the fluorescent lights, which seemed to help my sensitivity to light. “Oh, wow, I really like these,” I pointed up.

“Thank you, I’m glad to hear that! My other patients seem to like them too. I find they help create a calming, safe environment,” said Amber. I could hear her flipping through the clipboard papers. “So, I see you were referred to me by- -,” she paused. “Onyx Whitley. How do you two know each other?”

I adjusted a throw pillow under my head and crossed my ankles. “I’m his older sister,” I automatically responded. “I don’t take the role lightly either.” I forced a laugh to break the ice. “Get it? It’s an Albinism joke!”

She chuckled, “Oh, that’s clever! You have a witty sense of humor, Opal.”

“Thank you. Onyx has the dark sense of humor in the family.”

“You’re two for two, Opal!” Amber giggled. “Hey, I just realized we three have mineral names.” She pointed at me, “Opal.” Then pointed to her clipboard, “Onyx.” And pointed to herself, “Amber.”

“Well, how about that! Oh, I got one. Why do people trade with minerals?”

“Hmm,” Amber pondered carefully. “I don’t know. Why?”

“Because they take everything for granite!”

“Good one!” Amber giggled again. We both gradually fell into silence and averted each other’s gaze.

“Awkward!” I thought to myself. I’m sure it read all over my face.

She cleared her throat and straightened her posture, “So, why are you here today, Opal?”

I explained my three Asleep at the Wheel car accidents, how my most recent accident caused my injuries, which put me on short term disability and of course.. Onyx’s concern for my well-being. He strongly, annoyingly is more like it, suggested I seek professional help.

“I see,” she paused. “Why do you think you fall asleep at the wheel?”

“Well, I- -I think it’s because- -,” now it was my turn to pause. “I work the graveyard shift. I requested to change shifts because of my Photophobia. Guess my sleep schedule is all messed up,” I trailed off.

“How many hours do you sleep per night?”

“I don’t know,” I calculated in my head. “About four or five, maybe. If that.”

“Did you know drowsy drivers are more dangerous than drunk drivers?”

I gasped and wrung my hands together.

“Opal, this is your wake up call, no pun intended. Can you describe your incubation site for me?”

“My what?” I asked. “Oh, you mean my bedroom. I live in a tiny studio apartment. Ya know Harry Potter’s room? The cupboard under the stairs?” I craned my neck to see Amber and she nodded while she scribbled on the clipboard. “About the same size, but New York City style: includes a singular window and a fire escape.”

“Your homework tonight is to create a space that’s relaxing and comfortable. Try burning incense. Purchase black out curtains or a sleeping blindfold. Splurge on luxurious bed sheets. Get a white-noise machine. Kick out your snoring partner,” she laughed at herself.

I joined in on the laughter, “I don’t have a partner.”

“The less obstacles the better,” Amber continued. “Sleeping in a colder environment helps. Try taking a nice hot bath before bed. In lieu of taking Melatonin, you could drink a glass of milk, it’s rich in tryptophan. Turkey is too. That’s why you fall into a food coma on Thanksgiving Day!”

I gobbled and flapped my one good arm.

“Oh, masturbating releases endorphins, which are hormones that relax you, making it easier to fall asleep. These are just some suggestions. Feel free to utilize any of them to incorporate into your lifestyle.”

“Welcome back, Opal! How have you been sleeping since we first met?” Amber inquired during our next appointment.

“A lot better!” I sighed with relief as I adjusted in my seated position on the couch. “But- -” I trailed off, fiddling with my long white dreadlock strand in between my pale petite fingers.

“But what?” Amber posed.

“I’ve been.. dreaming.”

“Do you normally not dream?”

I shook my head no, maintaining eye contact.

“Why do you think that is?”

I shrugged, “I- -I don’t know.”

“What was your childhood like?”

I stifled a laugh, “How much time we got?”

Amber checked her watch, “Fifty-nine minutes.”

I sighed deeply, “Well, my father left when I was born because he didn’t think I was his- -“

“Because of your Albinism? Or because he thought your mom was unfaithful?”

“All of the above.”

“Did you dream as a child?”

I nodded.

“What did you dream about?”

“The usual stuff, I guess. Flying, showing up to class naked, and monsters in my closet.”

“Have you been having those types of dreams again recently?”

“No,” I shook my head. “I’ve been dreaming of my teeth falling out, being stalked by a shadow creature, and being trapped in an elevator.”

“I see. How do you feel when you wake up from those dreams?”

“I feel,” I paused and twiddled my thumbs. “Humiliated. Scared. Anxious.”

“Understandable emotions,” Amber scribbled on her clipboard. “Do you feel humiliated, scared, and/or anxious on a regular basis under normal circumstances?”

“Sometimes, I guess, but not regularly, no.”

“Tonight’s homework assignment is to start a dream journal. Keep it at your bedside. Write the dates for the next two weeks on the first several pages. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you remember. List three adjectives for how the dream made you feel. Immediately after jotting down your dream details and feelings, create a one or two line title for it. At the bottom of your dream details, note the associations you have to the dream.”

“Okay,” I unintentionally enunciated. “How is this going to help?”

“I think you’ll begin to notice certain elements, symbols, and feelings that crop up in your dreams. This is one way to begin to name your dream themes.”

“I still don’t get it. I’m sleeping better,” I began to get defensive. “Why does it matter if I dream?”

“I think it matters because,” Amber adjusted in her armchair. “You hesitated to share that you’re dreaming.”

“So what?”

Amber set her pen and clipboard aside, removed her glasses, and scooted to the edge of her armchair closer to me, “We spend a third of our lives asleep; if we’re lucky enough to reach the age of ninety, that’s thirty years! On average, we have several dreams each and every night, so over the course of our lives, that’s a hundred thousands dreams.”

I made a non-committal noise.

“I think deep down, you suspect these unique dreams you’ve been having recently express something very important about you. You can feel it, but you can’t seem to articulate it. Am I right?”

“I suppose. I mean, I don’t know. I do find it interesting that I’m dreaming again since I’ve been sleeping better.”

“As do I, Opal, as do I,” Amber returned to her regular sitting position. “Let’s just see how this goes. Who knows? You may learn something new about yourself.”

February 24th

Outta This World

I was outside playing with a Smurf and Swamp Thing, who was deaf. It was too hot. The Sun had a distorted face. I was angry with the Sun for burning me into a deep purple. Smurf and Swamp Thing didn't seem bothered by the Sun. Before we knew it, day turned into night with the Moonlight shining upon our faces.

I felt confused, angry, and helpless.

I used to watch Smurfs as a kid.
Swamp Thing is my favorite movie.
I do burn easily because of my Albinism.
I enjoy the moonlight far more than the sunlight.

“Do you have any other associations to your dream?” Amber asked after I read my most recent dream journal entry to her.

“Nah, not really,” I sighed with frustration, handing her my journal. “This is my thirteenth entry. I don’t think I’m getting the hang of it.”

“I’d have to disagree with you,” Amber quickly stated.

“Oh, yeah?” I asked cynically.

“I think you’ve made great progress thus far.”

I scoffed and shook my head into my hands.

“What’s your mother’s name?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I spat.

“Opal, please,” she peered over her glasses at me. “Indulge me.”

“Fine,” I scoffed again. “Topaz.” My eyebrows shot up and I met Amber’s gaze. Her eyebrows rose too.

“If I may?” Amber asked, tapping her clipboard with a pen.

I nodded, “Please.” I slid closer to her armchair, propping myself up on the couch’s armrest, and held my chin with my right hand.

“I theorize the Smurf represents your mother, Topaz. Swamp Thing could be your br- -” she began.

“But Onyx isn’t deaf,” I interrupted. “Onyx isn’t green either. He’s black. It’s black. Ya know, the the- -” I snapped my fingers trying to think of the word. “The mineral. Onyx, the mineral, is black.”

Amber glared at me, “Please allow me to finish.”

I nodded and waved my right hand in the air.

“Swamp Thing could be your brother, Onyx,” she continued. “Not everything is so literal, Opal. “The Sun had a distorted face.” Hmm, that’s interesting,” she paused. “This is called personification, which is the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman.”

“Okay,” I said. “So, I gave my arch-nemesis, Albinism, a face.”

“No, I think the Sun represents your.. father.”

My white lips parted and I let out a soft gasp.

Amber nodded at my non-verbal response and continued, “His face is distorted because you’ve never seen him, correct?”

I nodded.

“You’re angry with your father, the Sun, for burning you. Burn could represent disrespect. He disrespected you.. because he left you.. and your mother.”

I shook my head and rolled my eyes at the ceiling in disbelief.

“There are a lot of colors at play here. A Smurf is blue, your mother, Topaz. Swamp Thing is green, your brother, Onyx.”

“Yeah, the sky is blue and the grass is green,” I muttered under my breath.

Amber paused, lost in thought, “The Sun is yellow. Blue and yellow make green, Swamp Thing, your brother, Onyx. You are burnt to a deep purple. Blue and yellow don’t make purple. This “discoloring” could, again, represent your father leaving you.. and your mother.. because of your Albinism and his accusation of her being unfaithful.”

“This is some deep shit,” I admitted, rubbing my right hand across my forehead.

Amber exhaled softly, ““Smurf and Swamp Thing didn’t seem bothered by the Sun.” Do your mother and brother talk about your father?”

“Nope, it’s like an unspoken thing,” I confessed.

“I see,” Amber stroked her chin. “Did your mother ever remarry? Presuming your mother and father were married, of course.”

I nodded, “Clay.”

“When did they marry?”

“When I was five years old,” I clicked my tongue and looked out the window.

“Okay,” she began wiggling in her armchair with excitement. “Okay, okay.. I think the Moon represents your step-father, Clay.”

“Well, I’ll be damned!” I exclaimed, smacking Amber’s armrest.

“I believe we may have unearthed some deep seeded abandonment issues here,” Amber declared as she astutely placed the end of her glasses’ arm in her mouth.

“Girl, ya mean I got daddy issues!” I exclaimed.

Sanctuary, eh?

The yellow lines on the highway sped by in a blur, and we flew through the night, and we felt free. But we weren’t, and we knew it. We were running away from something, and running away was never the path to freedom. I thought about telling John to turn back. I thought about suggesting to stop at the next Rest Area because I really had to piss, but I know he’d just toss me an empty container and sarcastically say: “You’re welcome, dude.” Besides, I’m sure all the Rest Areas were closed. I decided to bypass that conversation with him, so I just wizzed in an empty Gatorade bottle. He turned up the radio with a scoff to drown out the sound of my tinkling. An oldies station was playing Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees, how fitting! haha.. I barely made it without spilling it all over the Cadillac’s purple velvet upholstery. Luckily, we didn’t hit any potholes, or I’d be hearing John’s wrath. I noticed my urine color was a healthy shade of pale yellow, so I felt a rush of relief knowing I was hydrated. We had to ration our limited drinking water. Well, Gatorade was our closest alternative. Tastes like watered down juice to me. Not my first choice, but as my Granny always says: “Beggars can’t be choosers.” Her wise words of advice couldn’t ring any truer than right now.. hope my sister and brother-in-law are taking care of Granny. She’s a gem. She lived through the Great Depression and I’m sure she’ll just add this hiccup to her Survival Stories to entertain us grandkids and great grandkids.

As John stopped at a red light in Seaford, I took this opportune moment to empty my piss bottle. How I differentiate between my piss bottle and drinking bottle is one has a label wrapper and the other doesn’t. Kinda like a spit bottle, haha.. but not. Fortunately, I never touched the stuff. Tobacco that is. Well, I’ve never drank piss either. Not my bag. No golden showers for me either. As if on cue, John absentmindedly adjusted his ballsack with a grunt and then blew a puff of Black & Mild cigar smoke in my face. I coughed into my bulging bicep and gave him the death stare. My phone alarm went off to remind me to take my vitamins, fiber supplements, and probiotics. As I silenced the noise, I muttered to myself: “Ugh, time doesn’t exist anymore..” As I began to open the childproof cap, I remembered that I cannot take these on an empty stomach, so I broke into my stash of MREs and grabbed the one on top.

I prepped my makeshift food station by wiping down my seat area with 90% rubbing alcohol because.. anti-bacterial wipes/sprays are sold out everywhere. My dinner tonight: veggie burger in BBQ sauce cooked with a flameless heater, lemon tea brewed with a hot beverage bag, dried fruit, chocolate banana muffin top, wheat snack bread, and a piece of gum. I leisurely consumed the contents. Under normal circumstances, I naturally engulf any food in front of me, but now.. I savor every bite. It was quite satisfactory. Surprisingly not bad. I’d give it a solid C+ on the Taste-O-Meter. I stared out the car window at the passing street lights, their luminescence was hypnotic, and the soft sultry song soothed my soul into a swift slumber.

We hit a pothole that disturbed my dream of having a round of drinks with the guys at a random dive bar. Suddenly, I felt an unexpected pressure on my protruding abdomen. Ugh, I had to make. I grabbed a stack of my old Auto Trader magazines. These will have to do.. doo.. because TP is outta stock everywhere!

“Hey, yo, man, I gotta build a log cabin. Pull over, dude,” I thumbed to the shoulder.

“Make it quick, Dick,” John said with a yawn as he put the Caddy in park. He then realized he unintentionally rhymed and choked laughing at his impromptu joke.

Rule 32: Enjoy the little things,” I chuckled to myself.

I decided it was time to break out my N95. We just happened to park next to an empty bus stop with a trash can so it helped when I needed to change my blue nitrile gloves. I cautiously finished up my business and returned to find John drooling all over himself. I nudged him with my elbow across the long front bench seat and whispered, “C’mon, my turn to drive.” We did a midnight Chinese fire drill and John fell back asleep as soon as he closed his eyes. His deafening snoring prompted me to crank the music, which didn’t seem to stir him at all. I decided to take the scenic route so I could have the windows down and feel the chill air. I’ve always found driving to be relaxing. Before I knew it, the Sun began to rise. My stomach growled, which oddly awoke John. Guess he was hungry too. Our internal clocks were the only things on time nowadays.

“Coffee?” John asked with a yawn and a stretch.

I ducked out of his stretched reach. Guess he’s just thirsty. “I see a drive thru cafe up ahead,” I said as I pointed to an orange brick building down the street. As I pulled around, I noticed a chalk outline of a woman with a steaming cup of o’ joe. Go figure the cafe was closed, as was almost everything else around, so we had to make do with MRE instant coffee. It just wasn’t the same. We utilized this time for some recreation. John decided to walk around the block a couple times while I stayed inside the Caddy. I listened to some Miles Davis on my iPod and organized my scrapbook. I took a photo of the chalk woman with my Polaroid camera and slid the picture into the designated corner slots. I wrote a couple sentences about our pitiful breakfast.

I could hear birds chirping and the wind whistling. The world was alive, but silent with the absence of homo sapiens. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. She’s restoring balance. Letting nature repair itself while we, neanderthals, re-evaluate our priorities. This was our reminder to “Slow down and be grateful.” I finished scribbling my Mother Nature thoughts in the scrapbook. Since John wasn’t back yet, I decided to venture about for a bit, stretch my legs, and take more photographs.

I remember passing through Dover, Delaware yesterday afternoon because we got stuck behind a horse and buggy. John recited some fun facts about Dover’s Amish community to me as we decreased our speed. I voiced my concern for the Amish’s well-being considering they are cut off from the modern world and may not know about what’s going on. As we slowly maneuvered around the horse and buggy, we noticed they had handkerchiefs tied around their faces, covering their nose and mouth. Kinda like Amish robbers.. especially since they were toting several large packs of.. TP! We determined they were indeed informed and well aware of the current state of the world. We simply waved and drove ahead of them. I think that was the first time I heard John laugh!

As I exited the vacant parking lot, I walked upon a patterned path, half concrete and half grass: where nature and man intertwine. They seem to be shaking hands. This analogy reminded me to change my gloves and to bring an extra pair along with me.. just in case. A parking pass dispense machine caught my eye on the way back that I didn’t notice before. I looked around and thought: “Hmm.. Meter Maids have bigger fish to fry right now than to give me a parking ticket.” But you’d be damn sure, I locked up all of our provisions in a large charcoal trunk in the backseat. I locked the car doors too. I decided to take a different way out of the parking lot the second time round. A dirt path led toward a bridge that I just had to cross. A plaque on the side of the stone entrance read:

"The town of Crawford in Washington County, Maine, United States was incorporated in February 28, 1828. Named after William H. Crawford, the Secretary of the Treasury. Population 105."

It wasn’t saying much that we upped Crawford’s population to 107. We.. I haven’t seen a soul.. yet. Well, I ain’t counting the chalk woman, haha.. Whoever drew her may be around here. Hiding. Or they perished from the pathogen that’s sweeping the nation.. the world. John and I were the only soldiers to escape the Seaford National Guard Military Base.. alive. We’re MIA, we’ve gone AWOL, Desertion; whatever you wanna call it. John’s only family lives in Nova Scotia on a remote island. His aunt, Zoe Lucas, has spent more than 40 years living on Sable Island, a large smile-shaped sandbar measuring around 26 miles long. The only other residents on the patch of land are around 400 horses, 300,000 grey seals and 350 species of bird. She has assured us our health and safety there. The closest thing to freedom we’ll ever get. We couldn’t pass up this opportunity.. to survive. You cannot put a price on that.

After I walked the bridge twice, I explored their quaint “downtown” area; I snapped a photo of an alluring segmented three story building. One section was cathedral-esque stone with a triangular top. Another section was a newly renovated rectangular modern white storefront. The end section was rounded and red bricked. What a unique cluster of architecture! The street was deserted, the potted plants were wilting, and the traffic lights were still changing. Guess they didn’t get the memo, haha.

“Hey, yo, dude,” a booming voice echoed through the empty street.

I jumped and turned around, while almost dropping my camera. “Dammit, John!” I exclaimed as I clutched my chest and sighed. “Don’t do that!”

“Sorry, Dick,” John apologized as he patted my back a little too hard. “Did ya know we’re only twenty minutes from the border?”

“Ya don’t say?”

We gathered together to look at his wrinkled Maine state map. “Yeah, look,” John pointed with his index finger. “If all goes well at Customs and Border Patrol.. it’s about a.. six hour drive to Nova Scotia. Aunt Zoe said she’ll meet us with a boat when we’re about.. an hour out.”

“Sounds good to me,” I replied as I put my Polaroid camera strap back around my neck. “I feel like a real tourist now.”

“You sure look the part. Let’s go,” John and I exchanged looks and he shook his head. I bet he smiled under his N95.

I took a final scan of our surroundings as John was unlocking the Caddy. I snapped one last photo of a nearby building. I lowered the Polaroid camera from my eye slowly.

“J- -John?” I stuttered.

“Dick?” John mocked.

I pointed up. “Do you see that top middle window?”

John gasped.

“It’s open.”

“And the Christmas lights are on.”

We exchanged looks again. “L- -let’s g- -go,” I stuttered again. I unlocked the large charcoal trunk in the backseat while simultaneously conducting a routine check. “Whew. Rule 31: Check the backseat.”

“What?” John asked in a panic.

“Nothing,” I breathed. “Let’s go.”

Two Canadian officers in bright red uniforms with tan ranger hats approached our vehicle, one on each side, and they both motioned for us to lower the windows. We obliged.

“Afternoon, gentlemen,” John greeted them as he presented his dual citizenship paperwork.

I followed his lead, “Afternoon, gentlemen.” I presented my US Passport.

Each officer thoroughly inspected our documents and handed them back.

“Sanctuary, eh?” the younger officer asked us in a hushed tone.

“Yessir,” I politely answered.

“Godspeed, gentlemen,” he replied with a salute.

We drove through the gates, over the border, with the United States in our rear view mirror.

The TGIF that turned into a WTF

The road map of life gives us countless avenues, U-turns, alleys, side streets, ol’ dirt roads, highways, exit ramps, bypasses, detours, overpasses, fast lanes, railroad crossings, pit stops, and forks in the road. We’ve all hit a fork in the road in our lives at some point. Some more than others. I hit one recently. A pretty big one, at that. It’s going to change how I spend most of my time. I lost my job. I guess there’s a first time for everything. I always have a plan, a backup plan, and even a Plan C. Just in case. I’m a planner. It’s what I do. It’s how I operate. My anxiety is mostly worrying about the future.. because the future is unknown, unpredictable, and scary.

I gotta admit.. I was blindsided. Hell, I’m still recovering from whiplash. Luckily, the damage that’s been done hasn’t diagnosed me as totaled. I’ve been given a severance package, which is nice. I will receive a payout for my unused PTO. Awaiting to hear whether I will receive my bonuses I earned/accumulated from last year. Pretty sure I won’t, which sucks! I keep forcing myself to focus on the positive and be thankful for how this ended. I’m fortunate to have such a strong support system in my life. Sure, the road flares are lighting up the dark night sky; but my air bags deployed properly, my hazard warning lights are flashing, and my road crew is taking care of me.

I first spoke of my job in my first blog post:
“For the past five years, I’ve been desperately craving a creative outlet because my day job, while it has great benefits and flexibility, is at an IT company that I find monotonous; however provides me the luxury of ample spare time to express myself outside of the cookie cutter IT world.”

Maybe this is my opportunity to explore creative positions the world has to offer.. well, at least in the metropolitan area. I am open to a remote position where I can work from home. With the way technology is advancing nowadays, remote positions seem to be more common than not. I theorize, someday soon, if we must report to the office or meet a client that our presence will strictly be in hologram form.

In Kindergarten, I was assigned a project where I had to lay down on a large sheet of paper, trace my body outline, and draw/color in my future-grown-up-self. The stereotypical “What do you want to be when you grow up?” assignment that every kid in the world is asked at some point in their young lives. Most kids’ answers were: firefighter, rock star, athlete, veterinarian, astronaut, president, etc. Nope, not me. I wanted to be a Planeteer. Specifically, Linka who had a magical ring that could create and/or manipulate the element, Wind. I have cared about the environment from a very young age because my parents recycled way before it was the “cool” thing to do. I’m proud to say that I’ve never littered in my life and don’t intend to.

Interesting how kids’ answers change throughout their young lives because they are asked that stereotypical question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” over and over. I remember changing my answer several times. I wanted to be a Veterinarian once when we got our first pet, a black and white bunny named Oreo. I believe I changed my mind about that career path because I couldn’t stomach blood or putting an animal down.

I remember briefly wanting to be a singer in junior high. We had a guest speaker in our Health class, they tricked us into thinking that our answers would be confidential and placed in a time capsule for however many years. I thought.. I had a good voice, but now.. I’m sure it’s only good enough for karaoke, haha.. Disney karaoke, specifically! I highly recommend visiting the bar formerly known as Video Archive, now known as Tiki, where they have Disney Karaoke on the last Thursday of every month.

I was not fond of being forced to take a Study Hall period in junior/high school because we weren’t allowed to talk or get up from our seats whatsoever. I volunteered to work at the Library as an assistant in lieu of study hall. That was where my love of reading and books skyrocketed! I thoroughly enjoyed organizing, alphabetizing, and categorizing books on shelves. Creating displays, coordinating events, and interacting with faculty/students. This is where I obtained my exceptional skill of multi-tasking! I wanted to be a Librarian! I’d love to be a Librarian today. I happen to know a couple librarians and they rock! You know who you are!

I decided to accompany my junior/high school classmate to try out for our school’s dance team. This classmate was one of those people who couldn’t go anywhere or do anything by herself. She didn’t drag me there, but I wouldn’t have tried out on my own. So, in a way I thank her for helping me discover my love of dance! I tried out and made the team! I had never done any formal training before, so I was quite surprised to say the least!

I remember one pep rally; our Dance Coach couldn’t attend for whatever reason so the Cheerleading Coach stepped in to assist the Dance Team during our performance. I was super nervous, as I always was before any routine in front of whatever size audience. The Cheerleading Coach decided to turn us a different way, away from the bleachers, and toward the Freshmen class (including the marching band). These were my people. My Freshmen class. Some friends of mine cheered us on. Cheered me on. It helped shake my nerves, so.. I just let loose. Put it all out on the floor.

The crowd was ROARING! I think it also helped that our routine was the longest one in our arsenal and.. it had a lot of pelvic thrusts and booty shakin’ moves. When we changed formation positions, I noticed the other girls weren’t really putting their all into each move and their facial expressions weren’t lively or animated. This made me feel good that the crowd’s positive, loud response was most likely for me. My theory was proven to be correct after our performance as I tried to leave the gymnasium. I had several of my classmates, some I knew and some I did not, come up to me, pat me on the back and compliment me on my dancing skills. I felt a little taller as I walked down the hall. Made me feel good.

Then.. the Cheerleading Coach (who coached our undefeated National Champion Cheerleading Squad) came up to me and asked if we could speak in private. I always initially have that stomach dropping moment where I feel like I’m in trouble and am being sent to the “Principal’s Office,” even though nine times out of ten, I haven’t done anything wrong. She asked me if I was interested in transferring over to the Cheerleading Squad! I. Could. Not. Believe. It. What a compliment! I knew the majority of the Cheerleaders were having issues landing their back handsprings. They were having issues with gymnastics, in general.. and that was hurting their squad. They were losing their edge.. and of course, increasing their chance of losing their undefeated title in the upcoming championships. I politely declined because I did not know how to do a back handspring or any gymnastic move for that matter. Also, my cheering voice was not great, haha.. She seemed disappointed, but I knew it was the right decision.

Even though dance was a short-lived experience in my adolescent life, I did want to be a Dancer when I grew up (not so much anymore since my knees gave out on me, haha..). Being a Dancer was up there on the list. Right next to Librarian. If you’ve read my first blog post, Once Upon a Blog, (go on, click it.. read it, I’ll wait.. I got all the time in the world now.. #FUNemployment); I talk about how I developed my passion for creative writing and photography, which spawned into my Graphic Design college major. I like to think that I am a creative person all around who has to wear many hats. Graphic Design includes being your own photographer, creative writer, web designer, social media specialist, print designer, etc.

I was apprehensive to publicly share my career setback this week, however, am glad I took the risk because I think humility can be a compelling attribute. I admire those who possess and share this quality. I hope the next time you hit a fork in the road and you just can’t seem to make it safely over to the shoulder; know that your road crew will be there for you: previous colleagues, professors, classmates, and/or family members. It’s important to network til you land on your feet. It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” -Proverb. Trust that you are not alone. Please share your fork in the road stories in the comments. I’m interested to hear about them!


Reporters are trained to develop a sixth sense, a nose for when a story smells fishy. And something about this one wasn’t right. First of all, the only witness changed their statement multiple times. Second, the witness’ estranged family presented damning evidence: psychological issues. Several psych ward stays. All of them where the witness left against medical advice. And third, this is my first job out of college. Need I say more?

“What was the witness’ initial statement?” my boss asked as she swiveled in her chair and clicked a blue Bic pen.

“The witness, a neighbor, in summary, stated – – and I quote: “The house was raving like it was 1999,”” I responded, trying to say it with a straight face.

“And their most recent statement?” my boss inquired further.

“The witness stated the house’s activity was because the occupants were aliens from planet.. Lunarous,” I stifled a laugh.

“How many differing statements did the witness give?”


“Lois,” my boss swiveled to face me. “Looks like you’re back at square one.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m on it!” I gathered the case files in a bankers box, snatched a protein bar out of my snack drawer, and picked up my thermos of leftover coffee from my cluttered desk. “It’s gonna be a long night,” I sighed to myself as I headed out the door.

I struggled with my apartment key as I juggled everything in my arms. My jingly keys cued loud yowling and cries on the other side of my front door. “I hear ya, Coco!” I breathed in the door crack. I finally managed inside without dropping the box.. or spilling stale coffee all over.. my case files. “Little successes count too,” I thought to myself. I need a win. In life and at work.

I clapped on the lights once my hands were free. Coco silently scurried under the coffee table because of the startling sound of my clapping. “Oh, you scaredy-cat!” I teased as I tossed a handful of food into his.. or.. her bowl. I haven’t had the time yet to take Coco to the vet to determine what Coco is. I found him or her at my doorstep last week and we became instant friends. Hell, I sure needed one. Funny how that works out, huh? Animals just know when humans need.. company.

“Now, it’s my turn,” I said to myself as I opened the fridge. Unfortunately, there were only condiments. Expired at that. I rested my head on top of the fridge door and lightly banged it in frustration. I sure am hangry. My cell phone rang and vibrated in my jeans back pocket. I answered it without looking at the caller I.D.

“This is Laney Lois, how may I help you?” I undeniably needed a new greeting. I sound like a customer service representative at a department store. I rolled my eyes at.. myself. “Another residential explosion in Kew Gardens?! I’ll be right there.” I shut the fridge door, patted Coco’s little chocolate head and mentally mapped where to grab a quick bite on the way.

“What do we know, Terry?” I unofficially announced my presence as I came across the police tape.

“Sheriff. Sheriff Bayard. We’re on the clock, Lois,” Terry retorted as she scribbled on a pad of paper and met my gaze.

“What do we know, Sheriff?” I correctly asked. “Same as the last explosion?”

“Looks that way,” Terry nodded towards the smoking remains. “Another vacant house, due to be demolished, exploded.”

“Oh, my,” I muttered in awe. I expeditiously cleared my throat and straightened my posture. “Mind if I interview the neighbors, Sheriff?”

“No, g’head. One less thing I gotta do. Make sure to share their statements with me before you leave. I’d appreciate it,” Sheriff Bayard ordered.

“Yes, ma’am. Will do,” I replied. “Thanks Terry.”

Sheriff Bayard scowled at me. I flashed my cheesiest grin at her as I walked away and back under the police tape. I noticed she eventually cracked a thin smile, shook her head lightly, and returned to her scribbling.

I knocked on a couple doors across the street with no answer. Either these neighbors worked the graveyard shift or were heavy ass sleepers. Locals know to cooperate (new residents are educated by the locals) when an incident happens around here. Sixty plus years ago, a homicide occurred where over three dozen witnesses saw or heard the attack but none of them called the police or came to their aid. This infamous incident helped create the 9-1-1 system.

Third time’s a charm because the third house and after the third knock, the inside lights flickered on. “W- -who is it?” a drowsy old timer with a Southern accent answered their side door in camouflage pajamas with matching slippers.

I hurried about the wrap around porch from the front door to greet him. “Hello, sir. I’m Laney Lois, a reporter from Queens Chronicle. Sorry to disturb you at this time of ni- -,” I began as a nearby train whistle interrupted my professional spiel.

“W- -who? What?” he shouted while cupping his ear in my direction. I could see a hearing aid in his ear. The train’s wheels squeaked on the track.

I loudly repeated myself and in the middle.. I determined he couldn’t have heard anything, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t see anything.

“Oh, yeah, hell of a sight! Felt like I was at a disco. All those colors!” he exclaimed while gesturing with his hands toward the crime scene. The nearby train’s farewell whistle echoed as it retreated down the hill.

“A disco? You don’t say?” he nodded, so I continued. “What do you think the colors were?”

“Ya know, I don’t know. Now, I wish I did. I just closed the blinds and hit the sack,” he concluded.

“Thank you, sir. Please call me if you remember anything,” I handed him my business card. “We’re going to figure out what’s going on around here,” I guaranteed as I stepped down from his lopsided porch.

“Godspeed kid,” the old timer saluted before he closed the door between us.

I had better luck with the neighbors on the same side of the street as the taped off house. I wrote down their statements of what they saw, however they didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary.. especially since, one neighbor pointed out, that they have noisy railroad trains passing through regularly during the night.

How could I have missed this important detail?! Whoever is behind these crimes could be utilizing the loud railway to muffle their activities in this otherwise quiet, quaint neighborhood. I kept this theory to myself as I shared the neighbors’ statements with Sheriff Bayard before I headed home.. to my lonely queen size bed. Oh, and Coco. I’m sure they miss me too!

“Ugh! Could you not?” I whined as Coco licked my hand and then.. savagely demanded their breakfast. I literally rolled out of bed onto the dusty hardwood floor. I leisurely crawled the short distance to the kitchenette, and sprinkled some kitty chow on the tile floor. Totally missing the bowl. Oh, well. I’m not a morning person. That’s why they invented coffee. Java. Cup o’ Joe.

I began rifling through the case file.. again.. hoping to find something I may have missed. I took a bountiful sip of bean water and sighed deeply at its dark, dangerous deliciousness. This moment of bliss was short lived because I noticed a fresh, wet coffee ring on one of the case file papers.

“Ahh, shi- -,” I exclaimed as I dabbed it with my over-sized brown bathrobe. As I examined the damage, the stain encircled the word: “barefoot.” I read the entire paragraph and noticed a detail from my most recent interview with the only witness that somehow didn’t add up. I had noted: “The witness, Veruca Knutt, was barefoot at the time of the interview. She mentioned she had thrown her shoes at the house in question because that’s all she had to defend herself from the “alien attack.”

“How odd.. Huh, Coco?” I asked my oblivious cat who was still munching on their breakfast throughout the kitchenette’s nooks and crannies.

“Alright, Coco,” I leaned back in my chair and twiddled with a packet of sugar.

“Veruca Knutt must’ve had other items inside or outside her house to throw,” I couldn’t break the habit of thinking out loud.

“W- -wait,” I paused. “Did I simply assume she was a next door neighbor?” I sat upright at my revelation.

"You know what assume stands for, Lois?" I faintly heard my late journalism professor and mentor, Dinah Preston, quizzing me on my error. 

“Yes,” I answered back as I looked around the kitchen. It was just me and Coco. They meowed and pawed at the empty chair next to me.

“You’re haunting me, huh?” I laughed nervously.

“It’s called rest in peace, ya know,” I mockingly impersonated her posh British accent.

"When you assume, it makes an ass out of you and me," Dinah continued. "Have I taught you nothing? C'mon Lois, think!"

I sorted through Veruca’s thick pile of psychiatric records. All of her Doctors stated that Veruca’s family showed grave concern for her well-being because she’s been a long term vagrant. I couldn’t dial Terry Bayard’s phone number fast enough.. well, maybe I could’ve just dialed 9-1-1.. No, no time for any of that nonsense.

Sheriff Bayard confirmed Veruca does not have a residential address, however has a registered P.O. Box downtown. Terry did mention Veruca has been arrested and convicted numerous times for drug related charges. I cross referenced this with her psych diagnoses: “bipolar, bulimia, depression, drug-induced psychosis per positive test of methamphetamine use and withdrawal.

“What was Veruca doing in Kew Gardens?” I pondered aloud as I ran my hands through my greasy black hair.

“She couldn’t have been visiting her family because they’re estranged.. have been for years,” I rhythmically tapped my favorite purple Paper Mate pen across the case file piles.

"Keep going, Lois," Dinah's raspy voice encouraged me.

“Okay, okay.. maybe, m- -maybe she was visiting friends? Do drug addicts have friends? Maybe. Until she had worn out her welcome; couch surfing or bumming off them for a ride. She could have been servicing a john?” I gagged at the thought of having sex for money.

"Keep going, Lois," Dinah repeated. 

I took another sip of coffee to keep from vomiting and regain my focus. “Perhaps.. she was trying to score s- -some m- -meth?” I forced the words out. It was a long shot.

"Keep going, Lois," Dinah echoed.

“Drug addicts do stick together. Drug dealers are.. drug addicts’ friends!” I stood up from the table and started pacing.

“I gotta go take another look at that place!” I announced to Coco who was still preoccupied with attacking the empty chair.

I arrived just before sunset; the recent daylight savings time change made the day fly by. Kew Gardens was empty and eerily silent at 5pm. My theory of residents working graveyard shifts seemed to be dead on. Pun intended! Haha.. I decided to retrace my steps: first stop was at the first burnt down house where I interviewed Veruca Knutt about the explosion. I grabbed a long, sturdy stick to poke around the ashes. I felt something move. It was a shoe. I examined it closer: no laces, holes in the toe, blackened on the tongue, and.. the handwritten letters “VK” on the sole.

"Yahtzee!" Dinah cheered her cheesy catchphrase.

I sprang forward at the sudden shrill of my cell phone’s ringtone and vibration. “Hello?” I hesitantly answered in the dark and felt as though I was being watched.

“Is this, uh, what does that say? Huh.. Lucy Lewis?” a familiar voice asked.

“Uhhh, no, this is,” I paused. “This is Laney Lois.”

“Oh! Well, apologies. I can’t seem to find my glasses,” the Southern accented man continued. “This is Hogarth. You woke me up last night.”

“Yes, yes, again, I apologiz- -,” I began. “W- -wait, what’s your name, sir?”


I slapped my forehead and popped a squat on the curb. How could I be so stupid to forget to ask his name? Hell of a reporter I am..

"We learn from our mistakes." Dinah reminded me.

“Yes, yes, Hogarth, I remember you, sir,” I squirmed on the concrete to remove my notepad from my back pocket. I added his name to the address number, 5649. “How may I help you?”

“Ya said I should call ya if I remember anything.”

“Yessir, I did,” I lingered onto his every word as I sat on the edge of the curb.

“Well, go figure in the middle of my Hungry-Man dinner,” he coughed. The anticipation was killing me! “Excuse me. I, uh, remembered that my son setup a security camera a couple weeks ago.”

“Really?” I stood up, slid my notepad in my back pocket, and started walking across the street.

“Really,” he continued. “And uh, a couple of ’em just happen to point toward the two houses that exploded.”

I knocked on 5649’s door.

“Hold on, Miss, someone’s knocking on my door,” he accidentally hung up on me as he put the phone down.

“Evening, sir,” I smiled as he opened the front door. “May I come in?”

“Boy! You got here awful fast!” Hogarth blurted. “Well, you surely may! Would you like some coffee?” He was sporting an Army t-shirt, black sweats, and the same camo slippers.

“I’d love some, thank you,” I followed him through the living room and into the kitchen. I gasped and clutched my chest because I was caught off guard by a handsome young man sitting at a round table typing on a laptop.

“Oh! I didn’t expect to see anybody else in here,” I extended my hand while lightly laughing and introduced myself. “Excuse me, uh.. I- -I’m, uh, Laney Lois.”

“I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Hogarth’s son, Judge,” he spoke with a British accent. He stood up to shake my hand and flashed a beautiful smile.

“Judge? After.. Judge Reinhol- -?” I chuckled as I lingered in his personal space.

“No, no,” Hogarth interrupted. “After Judge Judy! My wif- -.. my late wife and I loved that program.”

“Really?” I inquired as I sat down to join Judge.

“Really,” Judge answered softly as he shrugged his shoulders. “You know what they say? You can’t choose your parents.”

“What’s that?” Hogarth shouted while cupping his ear in our direction.

“I’d like some sugar, please,” I answered for Judge.

He mouthed: “Thank you,” as he resumed typing and clicking on the laptop.

I smized at him as I sipped the mug full of instant Folgers coffee.

“I’m still trying to figure out the security camera program,” Judge admitted as he went back and forth between a paper manual and the laptop. “I should have the last couple week’s worth of video feed up soon.”

“Okay, great,” I wandered about the quaint kitchen. “So, um, where are you from, Judge?”

“I’m currently studying at York College in Jamaica Bricktown for my Masters in Architecture,” Judge replied.

“Oh, n- -no, I- -I meant- -,” I fumbled over my words.

“Oh, you mean my accent?”

“Yeah, do you get that a lot?”

“I do,” he laughed lightly and pushed away from the table. “I was born in Ipswich, England; when my Father was in the service. That’s where he met my Mother.”

“Sorry to hear she’s passed,” I said sincerely.

“Thank you,” Judge said as our eyes became transfixed on one another.

I cleared my throat. “You have a magnificent magnet collection, Hogarth,” I complimented the old timer, who seemed left out of the conversation.

“Why thank ya kindly, ma’am,” Hogarth joined me to admire the eclectic fridge magnets.

“Is this your wife?” I asked as I pointed to an obituary newspaper clipping.

“Yes, it is,” Hogarth breathed. “My Dinah.”

My stomach dropped. I lost the ability to speak. I couldn’t believe it.

“♪♫ Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah,” Judge softly sang.

“♫ Someone’s in the kitchen I know,” Hogarth joined in.

“♪ Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah,” they sang together. “Strumming on the old banjo, and singing. Fie, fi, fiddly I o! ♫”

I applauded when they finished the chorus.

“Thank you, we used to tease her by singing that song every time we were in the kitchen together,” Hogarth commented.

“This is a small world,” I announced.

“How small, my dear?” Hogarth inquired.

“Small,” I uttered as Judge’s eyes met mine again. “Dinah was my college professor and mentor. She taught me everything I know about journalism, which inspired me to be a news reporter for the Queens Chronicle.”

“Wow.. you’re.. you’re Little Miss Firecracker?!” Hogarth gave me a tight squeeze around my shoulders. “Dinah talked about you all the time! She called you a firecracker because you were gonna light your way in this world.”

“We feel like we know you. Mother talked very highly of you. She admitted you were her favorite pupil,” Judge added as he stood to join Hogarth and I at the fridge.

“This is crazy! I’ve been hearing Dinah’s voice all day today,” I blurted.

Judge and Hogarth exchanged concerned glances.

“No, no, I mean.. I’ve been feeling her presence all day and remembering the wisdom she pounded into my head,” I rephrased so I didn’t seem insane. Especially in front of Judge. By the way, I didn’t see a ring on his left hand.

A loud computer ding startled all of us and we gathered back around the kitchen table. Judge at the helm. I at the ready with my notepad. Hogarth supervised and sipped his instant Folgers coffee.

“Here it is,” Judge announced as he swiveled the laptop toward me so I could see the video feed.

“Thank you, Judge. Thank you, Hogarth. I really appreciate all your help!” I squealed in excitement for solving my first case. “I emailed the video to my boss and to Sheriff Bayard. They said it’s enough to arrest the local squatter who wasn’t just a witness, but.. who was responsible for exploding the two houses because they were cooking meth.”

“You are everything Dinah said you were and more,” Hogarth beamed ear to ear as he hugged me again.

“Thanks again, Judge. I- -,” I glanced over at Hogarth. He looked at the two of us and sensed we wanted to be alone so he left the kitchen and fiddled with the living room TV.

“Congratulations, Laney,” Judge said. “I’m glad to hear you solved the case. Now, you can write your article about what happened. I hope you make the front page.”

“I was wondering if- -,” I continued. “If you’d like to have dinner with me tonight? To celebrate? My treat.”

“Uh, yeah, I’d like that,” Judge answered. “Ya know, my Mother did say, more than once, that you and I would be perfect together,” Judge smiled. “I’m starting to see why.” He winked at me and grabbed my hand. “Let’s go, I’ll drive.”

"Keep going, Lois," Dinah cheered me on.

Stand Out

A couple years ago, my work developed a new, reoccuring, monthly meeting called “Innovation Incubator” and the event invite read: “What you’ll need: An idea for a project. A three minute presentation about the idea. An open and positive mind. A WWE style entrance/walk up music – if you could, direct message me on Slack with the song ahead of time or get creative!

Since I work at an IT company, I was super excited about participating in something outside of the technical! As I mentioned in my Once Upon a Blog post, I took a Disney college class called Innovation & Creativity so I was thoroughly prepared to bring it! Or.. so I thought.. [insert cringe face here].. the vague description was misleading to say the least. I decided to go last because everyone else presented a technical project proposal that our company could present to one of our clients to remedy any outstanding issues they’re currently facing.

My walkup song you just heard is called “Stand Out” from the Disney animated film “A Goofy Movie,” which inspired my project idea! Being a former Disney Cast Member, we were taught the Basics: pro-ject a positive image and energy, be courteous to all Guests (including children), stay in character, play the part, and go above and beyond! Or as I like to say: “To infinity and beyond!” in my best Buzz Lightyear impersonation. We weren’t just employees, but Cast Members. We didn’t help customers, but Guests. We weren’t working, but performing. We weren’t wearing uniforms, but costumes!

Take a gander at my outfit. It’s colorful yet professional, right? Well, I’ve incorporated my own spin to make it fun because it’s more than meets the eye! This is what’s called Disney Bounding! Did you know it’s against the rules for an adult to wear a costume at any Disney Park? Except during Halloween of course! Therefore, devoted Disney Fans have invented a way to dress up as their favorite characters with their everyday clothes! I’ve been doing this for years without realizing it was an actual thing! Anyone care to take a guess as to which Disney character I’m Bounding? Ariel, from The Little Mermaid!

I’ve carried these Disney Basics with me to every job because I feel it enhances the professional environment experience. My project mission statement is to incorporate FUN into our everyday tasks here in the workplace. Starting with the clothing we wear because at the end of the day we are “selling ourselves” as Consultants, and right now I think we’re selling ourselves short! I believe a sense of style is the reflection of one’s personality. Make an impression: a good one is fine, but a memorable one is better! I’ll conclude with my song’s lyrical intro, which is FITTING, pun intended for this Fashionista’s cheesy sense of humor:

Open up your eyes take a look at me
If the picture fits in your memory
I’ve been dreamin’ by the rhythm like the beat of a heart
And I won’t stop until I start to stand out
Some people settle for the typical thing
Livin’ all their lives waitin’ in the wings
It ain’t a question of ‘if’, just a matter of time
Before I move to the front of the line
And once you’re watchin’ ev’ry move that I make
Ya gotta believe that I got what it takes
To stand out
Above the crowd
Even if I gotta shout out loud
‘Til mine is the only face you see
Gonna stand out ’til you notice me!

Of course, my coworkers were polite, they smiled lightly, and their applause was scattered. They all agreed that internal and client meetings were.. boring.. and they needed to be pepped up in a creative way. Nothing official has been implemented, however I’m sure the attendees made a mental note to liven up their appearance and presentations so they.. STAND OUT!

I Disneybound anywhere I can: at plays, work, Halloween.. it’s SUITable for any occasion really! Color blocking and accessorizing are key to pull off these looks. For example: I dressed up as Bobby Zimmeruski from A Goofy Movie at work for Halloween. I already had the red mohawk, borrowed a pair of circular framed sunglasses, added a singular earring, plain white tee, shark tooth necklace, white gloves, and a can of Cheese Whiz.

Speaking of cheesy, check out that cheesy smile fangirling out! I saw The Little Mermaid on Broadway at LaComedia Dinner Theatre (highly recommend Sunday brunch, best of both worlds!) and met the cast afterwards. I already owned a purple tank, seagreen dress slacks (from Target, love their dress collection!), brown fish scale heels, topped with a fish net style jacket, and polishing it off with an Etsy “Part of Your World” necklace with a seashell and dinglehopper charm.

I’ve even recruited my boyfriend, Jaimie, to join in on the fun! We were Beaker and Bunsen from the Muppets this past Halloween. I scored a couple white lab coats from a Greenlight 4 Girls event at UC, I volunteered at last year. Jaimie already had a dress shirt, tie, glasses, and a bald head, haha.. I owned a tuxedo t-shirt so that was as close as I was gonna get, haha. I messed up my red mohawk a little. Turned on our tornado-ish lava-ish lamp (from Cosi Museum, check out our trip here) for a finishing touch!

Off the Disney path and into the Nickelodeon universe.. I’ve even cosplayed as Chuckie Finster from The Rugrats! I already owned a green pair of shorts, Hot Topic had the planet t-shirt, generic red sneakers, and finishing it off with a Reptar slap bracelet. Oh! Not to mention, my red hair helped! I even tagged E.G. Daly, the actress who voiced Tommy Pickles, on Instagram. I met her a couple years ago at a convention. Who knows if she saw it? Oh, well, at least she dug my red mohawk!

I’m most complimented on my unique sense of style rather than my physical attractiveness, which I think speaks volumes to my character. I try my best to be approachable: I let my freak flag fly so others know it’s okay to be themselves around me. Some may say that I dress to seek attention, sure. If what I’m wearing starts a conversation, I’m okay with it because I can be somewhat of a Chatty Cathy so I don’t mind the casual small talk.

I hope the next time you’re playing dress up, Disneybounding, or cosplaying that you’ll be inspired to include little details.. such as accessorizing! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own versatile wardrobe. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share your outfits on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too!

The Gift Exchange

The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with winter came Santa Claus! I have been a good girl all year.. Well, except when I was at a pool party over the summer. A girl named Ingrid pushed me into the deep end on purpose.. because she’s jealous! So, I put a water beetle in her ice cream. She deserved it. No regerts! I skipped three grades last year. I have a robust vocabulary, sure, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my immature moments. I don’t have many friends in my high school AP classes. I am all the teachers’ favorite, though, so that’s something, I guess.

“Franny, are you ready to go to the mall?” Mom called from the bathroom as she carefully applied her scarlet lipstick. I lost track of time staring out the window! I was admiring the dripping icicles and sipping on my hot cocoa (with mini marshmallows!) while I was writing my letter to Santa. I got sidetracked because of.. Ingrid Petrillo. That brat. Bet she’s on the naughty list!

I signed my letter, shoved it in my pocket, and shouted, “Coming!” I slid out of my room in my Christmas penguin socks and down the hall towards the bathroom. I rhythmically frolicked about while singing Jingle Bell Rock to my Mom’s back. She smiled at me through the bathroom mirror. She sang along with me and booped me on the nose with her makeup brush. “Hey! Can I put on some makeup too?” I asked.

“Wh- -, no, not til you’re in high sch- -,” she trailed off.

“I. Am. In. High. School.” I stated matter-of-factly.

“No,” she laughed in between words. “I mean.. Y- -yes, you are.. b- -but I- -I meant when y- -you’re.. older,” she replied.

I paused. “Sooo… how about now? I’m older!” I teased as I checked my watch.

“Very funny, young lady!” She bent down and pinched my cheek.

“Mooooommm!!!” I swatted her hand away. I loathed being treated like a child. I put my hands on my hips and gave her the look.

“What? Oh! C’mon..” She teased and resumed applying her makeup. “How’d your letter come along? Did you write it in crayon or with a feather quill from your new calligraphy set?” She winked at me and bumped my hip with hers.

“I wouldn’t recommend submitting my letter to Santa for the Nobel Peace Prize, but yet.. it is satisfactory,” I plopped myself down onto the tub’s ledge and plucked loose strings from a towel hanging up nearby.

“Aw! I’m sure it’s more than satisfactory! I bet it’ll be deemed Fridge Worthy. I shall make a copy of your letter and showcase it properly for all to see in the kitchen!”

“Abigayle Lynn Brighton!” I threatened.

“Francesca Lily Bri- -” My Mother mocked.. me.

“You two ready to skedaddle?” My Dad interrupted from the hallway.

“Hey yo, Daddy-O!” I sprung up and gave him a tight squeeze.

“Oh! I missed ya Franny! Ready to see ol’ Saint Nick?”

“I am, but I don’t think Mom is,” I announced.

Mom froze mid-stroke while applying her mascara and leered at me.

I whispered into my Dad’s ear, “She’s been naughty and Santa’s planning to put coal in her stocking.”

“I heard that!” Mom blurted and stuck out her tongue at the both us.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the line to meet Santa Claus was shorter than it was last year! My parental units bid me farewell and wished me luck whilst they shopped nearby. As I tried to calculate the estimated time that I would reach the front of the line.. I noticed.. Ingrid Petrillo and her gaggle of Mean Girls were there without any parental supervision. Maybe their folks were shopping nearby as well? Who knows..

“Well, well, well.. look who it is! Franny the Tranny!” Ingrid chortled as she and her posse got out of line and surrounded me.

“Well, hello Ingrid.. and ladies. I’ll have you know that that is politically incorrect. The appropriate term is “transsexual,” which.. I am not because I emotionally and psychologically feel that I belong to the sex I was born, female. Thank you very much. If you could be so kind as to step aside so I may rejoin the queue,” I stated as I folded my arms across my chest. I maintained eye contact.

“What a freak! I mean, like.. you don’t even know how to speak American,” Ingrid spit back.

“It’s called English, but how would you know? You failed fourth grade.. twice,” I muttered under my breath as I pushed past Ingrid and her fellow comrades.

“What did you say to me?!” Ingrid barked as she grabbed my shoulder and swung me around to face her.

“Hey! I don’t want any trouble, okay?” I pleaded with my hands up.

Ingrid scoffed and stepped closer. “Listen here, you little dork,” she grabbed my collar. “You better watch your smart mouth because.. Santy don’t visit the funeral homes.”

I cowered while thinking about what she said. It sounded familiar. “Isn’t that a line from Home Alone?”

“Ugh! You’re gonna get it!” Ingrid raised her right fist back at a forty-five-degree angle towards my squinty face.

I prepared for the worst. I thought about the defrosting steaks in the fridge at home.

“Santa’s not real,” Ingrid breathed in my face as she let go of my collar.

I fell on my buttocks and yelped as I met the tile floor. I finally opened my eyes and felt tears streaming down upon my fire red cheeks.

“C’mon girls,” Ingrid called as she glared at me. “Later dweeb. Go cry yourself a river.” They disappeared around the corner towards the Food Court.

I eventually managed to stand up on my unsteady feet, dusted myself off, and wiped my wet face. I sulked over to watch all the other kids take turns sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what they wanted for Christmas. Oh, my.. Ignorance is bliss. Those poor kids. I hope they find out the truth in a better way than.. I did.

A voice behind me interrupted my internal dialogue, “Honey, why aren’t you in line?.. Or did you already see Santa?!”

I steadily turned around to face the fabulists. “Is it true?” I whimpered.

“Oh, sweetie, what’s the matter?” My Mother.. Gayle bent down to comfort me.

“Is it true?” I loudly repeated.

“What? Is what tru- -” Gayle shook her head in confusion and caressed my wet cheek.

“She knows, Gayle,” my Father.. Wallace interrupted.

“Aw, Franny,” Gayle whispered as she guided me away from the crowd to a bench.

“Why? Why did you lie to me?” I cried and pounded my fist on my thigh.

“Well, I- -” Wallace hesitantly exchanged a glance with Gayle. “We. We wanted to treat you like any other eleven-year-old kid.. not like a prodigy. We wanted you to experience the joyous Christmas spirit because Santa is.. a special figure who represents the religious holiday.”

“That’s right,” Gayle took over. “Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings formed the basis of Christianity.”

I pondered this new information I was fed and paused with a finger on my chin. “So, Jesus Christ isn’t real either?”

Wallace and Gayle exchanged another glance. Their mouths were agape. Their lack of response made me feel uncomfortable. The longer it went on, it became unnerving, so I had to break the silence. I straightened up, wiped my face, inhaled, and exhaled deeply.

“Ooookay.. I’ll do my own research on the subject and let you know what I’ve concluded,” I gingerly rose from the bench, and headed towards the Food Court. “I could go for a high fructose corn syrup confection.”

I twirled around and asked, “You two coming?”

They nodded.

“Okay, it’ll be your treat,” I said over my shoulder as I trotted along.

“How was your day at school, Franny?” Gayle asked absentmindedly as I entered the house shivering off the snow from my hand-me-down parka, mittens, extra large scarf, over-sized hat, earmuffs, leg warmers, and galoshes.

“It was enlightening to say the least, Gayle!” I announced.

“Mom. Franny, please call me Mom,” Gayle pleaded. She still couldn’t even look at me. Disappointed in herself, I’m sure. “I’ll take Mother at this point.”

“Okay, Mother. I’ll have you know that I’ve completed my research, calculated all the data, and have come to a conclusion about the Santa Claus debacle.”

“You have? And?”

“I consulted with my Science teacher. I interviewed my high school classmates. Chatted with Mrs. Farley, you know her. The lunch lady, I sit with.”


“Mister White stated that his religious beliefs conflict with his Scientific findings, therefore he declined to comment.”


“My high school acquaintances shared their stories of how their guardians deceived them as well. They had various theories as to why. Some believe their parents felt obligated to conform with societal expectations or pressured by commercialism to taint their offspring.”

“Wow, okay. And what’d Mrs. Farley have to say?”

“She simply stated that adults utilize the mythical Santa Claus to trick adolescents to.. behave.. all year long!”

“Oh? So, what have you concluded?” My Mother, Gayle, finally turned around and noticed my rough condition. She gasped with both hands over her mouth.

“I concluded that,” I paused for dramatic effect. “I will be naughty whenever I please!” I cheered and pumped my bloodstained mittens in the air. I smiled widely with ichor smeared across my teeth and it spewed down my scratched chin.

“Francesca Lily Brighton! Wh- -what happened to y- -your mouth?!” My Mother exclaimed in sheer terror.

“I ran into Ingrid on the way home. She was alone. I decided she needed to meet Coal and Stocking,” I responded, still holding my fists in the air.

“Coal and Stocking?” Mother inquired as she tilted her head curiously and examined my fat, bloody lip from afar.

“Yes!” I kissed my left fist. “Coal.” I kissed my right fist. “Stocking.” I roared into laughter and victoriously pumped my fists in the air again.

“Just wait til your Father sees you, young lady.”

“Oh, relax, Gayle,” I pulled off my over-sized hat, brushed aside my long bangs, and unveiled my black eye. “Wallace will be proud.”

Knotting and Cutting Ties

“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she bought all my excuses for working late, extended business trips, and being stuck in traffic. I was caught. She caught me. Not red-handed but caught in one too many lies.

“You butt dialed me and I heard everything,” Winifred responded with her arms folded across her chest.

I knew I should’ve turned off my phone instead of putting it on silent. Rookie mistake. This was my first time cheating.. on.. anyone.

“Why?” Winifred asked, her voice shook, and tears swelled in her hazel eyes.

I shoved my fidgety hands into my pockets, shuffled my feet, and looked at anything but her. I thought about our wedding night and how madly in love we were. How hopeful. Then it all changed. The sudden shrill of screams from down the hall interrupted my thoughts. I closed my eyes and sighed. Winifred turned around, mumbled something, wiped her face, and disappeared down the hall into our toddler’s bedroom. I could hear faint whispers that turned into a soft lullaby song.

I plopped myself down into a brown leather armchair and buried my face into my shaking hands. My swimming thoughts escaped me as I felt something rub against my leg. I cautiously peered through my fingers and saw our Italian Greyhound. She was giving me the puppy dog eyes. I sighed again. “You’re not helping, Freckles,” I whispered playfully as I patted her head.

“Leon, why?” Winifred had swiftly returned, which startled Freckles and I.

“Winnie, I- -I,” I stammered, unsure how to put my feelings and motives into words.

“You’re unhappy,” Winifred simply stated.

I nodded and dropped my head.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Winifred continued.

“I- -I didn’t know where to start. I- -I couldn’t find the right time.. or place.. I- -I,” I trailed off.

“You’re a coward,” Winifred shot back.

I deserved that because it was true.

“Do you want a divorce, Leon? Do you want to be with her?”

My silence amplified the tension between us. Winifred impatiently tapped her foot on the hardwood floor. Freckles scurried over to her because she thought this was an invitation to play. Winifred bent down and rubbed behind Freckles’ ear; she itched at her ear with her hind leg, and tumbled over. I smiled faintly. I thought about how innocently easy a dog’s life is compared to the complicated human’s life. This was a prime example. I shook my head and forced myself to remember the seriousness of the situation I was in. I finally managed to look at Winifred. “I- -I don’t know. I- -I don’t know what I want.”

Winifred stood with a sigh. “Well, you better figure it out, Leon,” she sniffled, and tossed a throw pillow at me. “It’s late. You can sleep in here. We’ll continue this in the morning.” She tippy toed down the hall and softly closed the master bedroom door behind her. The loud turning of the door lock made me jump. Freckles came over and nuzzled up against me.

“What am I gonna do, girl?” I breathed to Freckles. She curled up into a ball at my feet, she looked up at me, again, with her puppy dog eyes and whined. I couldn’t help myself. I stifled a laugh and covered my mouth. “You’re so lucky you’re cute!” I reclined the brown leather armchair and stretched out my feet. I patted my leg and Freckles jumped up to join me. “Will you get settled already!” I playfully ordered Freckles. She circled my lap three times, sniffed my crotch twice, licked my face once, and finally settled down.

I checked the time on my Seiko wristwatch. It wasn’t that late. Just past midnight. “Wanna go for a walk, girl?” Freckles’ ears perked up, she leaped down and ran for the front door. “I’ll take that as a yes. C’mon then.. Let’s go!” I wasn’t tired yet. I thought, maybe some fresh air will do us some good. I put on our matching ponchos and headed out into the brisk night. We made a couple pit stops before reaching our destination, Cock ‘n Tails, a corner bar around the block that I knew was dog friendly.

“What’ll it be?” a heavyset, hairy, rugged masculine bartender politely asked while drying a beer mug with a towel and then throwing the towel over his shoulder. Stereotypical bartender move.

“An Old Fashioned, please,” I automatically answered while I removed my soaking poncho and set it beside me. Freckles licked the water drops off the poncho.

“You got it,” he poured the whiskey in slow motion. Or so it seemed. I was mesmerized by the smooth transitions in his preparation process. He twirled a shiny tool from his black leather pants pocket and began peeling the orange into my glass. He topped it off with a cherry and slid the glass toward me.

“What’ll the pooch have? An Evian?”

I chuckled lightly, “In a dirty martini glass.”

“Sure thing,” he even garnished it with a toothpick of olives! “Here ya go,” he handed me the drink with a wink.

“That’s very kind of you,” I laughed in between words. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Hey, even a dog’s gotta hydrate!”

“You got me there,” I carefully set down the full martini glass between my bar stool and Freckles. She was lapping up the water and splashing it onto the sticky hardwood floor. I discreetly removed the olives from the toothpick and put the toothpick in my mouth. She’s still a pup and doesn’t know the difference between edible and inedible things yet. Better safe than sorry. I sure as hell didn’t want to be spending the rest of the night at an emergency vet clinic.

I sipped my Old Fashioned and exclaimed, “Aaahhh.. this has to be the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had! You’re a master at your craft, sir.”

“Thank you, I appreciate that,” the bartender replied. “I didn’t go to Bartending School. I’m self-taught.”

“Really? That’s impressive.”

“Really. I had to teach myself,” he admitted. “Nobody will teach a fag how to make cocktails.”

“Oh.. th- -that’s a sh- -shame,” I paused. “Hey! Bet you could teach your own Mixology class!”

“That’s a hell of an idea,” he pondered aloud.

“Hell to the yes, Nico!” a patron shouted from a nearby booth with his buddies. He was dressed in only suspenders, Daisy Dukes, and knee high boots. “You would totally rock it!” They all raised their glasses to toast, with their pinkies up, and clinked their glasses together in unison. “To Nico!”

I raised my glass as well and turned back around to face the bar. “Well, sounds like you have the support of the community,” I extended my hand. “I’m Leon.”

“As you heard, my name’s Nico.. it’s short for.. Nicodemus,” he shook my hand firmly and then rolled his eyes. “My parents named me after- -.”

“Hey, Nico! The usual,” a feminine voice interrupted from behind me.

“Hey, Reggie, how’s it?” Nico asked as they did an elaborate handshake that included finger guns and pounding the rock. I half expected paper and scissors to be involved.

“Same old, same old. Ya know.. In between clients,” Reggie flailed his French manicured hand about and held his wrist limply. He redirected his gaze towards me as he settled into the swiveling bar stool. “Do I know you?” He looked me up and down. He rested his head in his hand and squinted.

“Mmm- -I- -I,” I was choking on my cocktail. “d- -don’t think s- -so.”

“Yeah, you’re one of my regulars,” Reggie started snapping his fingers. “Levi, Leo, Liam..”

I shook my head after each name, “N- -no, y- -you must have me confused with s- -someone else.”

“Luke, Lewis, Leon! It’s Leon, right? How ya doing?”

“Sir Reginald?”

“That’s me,” Reggie exclaimed as he flipped his non-existent long hair over his shoulder. He batted his eyelashes at me. He was sporting bedazzled false eyelashes.

“Wow! You sure look different outside of your royal garb, scepter and crown.”

“Well, I only wear that getup for my role-play clients,” Reggie winked and caressed my forearm. He leaned closer, snatched the cherry out of my glass, seductively bit it off the stem, chewed and swallowed the cherry while maintaining eye contact the entire time. “Wanna see a party trick?” He waved the cherry stem around my face like he was trying to hypnotize me.

I gulped. “Y- -yes, Y- -Your Majesty.” I bowed my head toward him.

Sir Reginald put the entire cherry stem in his mouth. Half a minute later, he pulled it out of his mouth slowly and placed it on a white cocktail napkin between us. It was tied in a knot!

I gulped again. I was transfixed with his charisma and exuding confidence. Borderline cocky.

“You wanna get outta here? I can show you more of my tricks.”

I nodded with my jaw on the floor.

“I’m in room 813 at the Sparkling Swan downtown,” Reggie warmly purred into my ear as he rubbed my inner thigh. “See ya there, peasant.” He patted Freckles’ head as he twirled out of his bar stool. I followed his gaze as he elegantly floated out the door into the drizzling moonlight.

“Check please, Nico,” I downed the rest of my Old Fashioned.

“It was nice meeting you Leon. Have a good one.”

“You too. Good luck with your Mixology school,” I left him a big tip and scribbled my signature. “C’mon Freckles.”

I hurried home. No pit stops this time. Freckles shook the rain droplets off, stretched, yawned and got comfortable on the denim love seat. I rummaged through the infamous junk drawer in the kitchen. All I could find was a pad of pink post-its and a purple metallic pen. I wrote a Dear John letter to Winnie, which included my cheating secret.

I knocked three times on the hotel room door, number 813. I anticipated Reggie to open the door, but ’twas Sir Reginald standing there in all his Royal Glory. He took my breath away.

“Please join me in my Royal bed chamber,” Sir Reginald gestured toward the king size bed with one hand and with the other gave me a drink.

Fit for a king,” I declared as I took a sip.

“I order you to disrobe, peasant.”

“Anything for you, Your Royal Highness,” I downed the entire drink and dropped to my knees in front of the bed.

“You shall be Knighted,” Sir Reginald announced while straightening his jeweled crown. I bowed my head. I felt being tapped on my shoulder and then on the other by his gold scepter.

The next morning, I woke up alone, naked, and confused in the cheap pastel hotel room. Ow, my head was pounding! I felt wet. Was I sweating? Nope. Blood was streaming down my face. “Son of a bitch,” I screeched because my mouth was parched. Knighted and knocked out. I looked around through a crimson blur. I couldn’t see my wallet, keys, watch, or clothes anywhere; but it seems that Sir Reginald was kind enough to leave me my grass stained tennis shoes. Thanks asshole.

There was a soft knock at the door. “Housekeeping!”


Winifred was carrying her tot on her hip into the kitchen and notices a pink note on the counter. It was in Leon’s handwriting. What she read was shocking. “Son of a bitch,” she scoffed. The toddler wiggled in her arms to be let down and burst into tears. Freckles decided to go into a barking fit. The phone rang and rang and rang.. Winifred blinked, sighed and forced herself to snap out of it. She picked up the receiver and almost dropped it because her hands were sweating with great fervor.

“Hello?” Winifred answered.

“Good morning, this is Officer Winslow from Seattle Police Department. Are you Winifred Linkovich?”


“Okay, we have been notified by the Sparkling Swan Hotel manager that your husband, Leon Linkovich, was found by housekeeping.. tied up to a bed. Can you come downtown to collect him?”

“Oh, no, that’s my ex-husband, sorry,” Winifred hung up and cackled like a villain. “Karma’s a bitch, Leon.” She dialed her attorney’s number.

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

Have you ever been in a funk that you can’t seem to shake? We’ve all been there. I’ve been in a funk ever since I returned from overseas. Jet-lag isn’t to blame as some of you may suspect. If it was, that’d have to be some serious jet-lag; considering we were only away for a week and have been back to the States for months! Haha..

In my Transformation post, I mentioned that I have intermittently utilized medication to help with my therapeutic process. Upon our return from the across the pond, my therapist and I decided it was time to revisit medication. I admit, it helps take the edge off my anxiety, which was at an all-time high. Dangerously high. It scared me. The new medication allows me to relax, and sleep comfortably; however, it has fogged my creativity. Being in this fog has affected my life in numerous ways. One of which is of course.. being able to write/create this blog. My boyfriend, Jaimie, suggested, more than once: “Just write about the fog!” It took some convincing. I pondered the idea for a while and thus.. this long overdue blog post was born! Welcome back readers/subscribers! I hope you missed me! As I have missed you all so! I’m curious if you had any theories as to where I went and what I was doing.. in lieu of writing. Please feel free to share any theories you may have had! I’d love to hear them!

I believe the winter weather has also contributed to my funk, the fog, and severe lack of motivation to be creative. I just want to curl up into a ball, under a pile of blankets, and hibernate until spring. I find myself sleeping more than usual (medication side effect), which has put the household chores on the back burner. Speaking of, I have a dirty pan literally on my back burner at home. Hey! At least I scraped the leftover egg particles out of it.. haha! No judgment. Oh! “No judgment” reminds me of my beloved Dance2Fit studio that closed last month. It was where I reignited my love of dance. I found my tribe of women friends there. It did hurt my soul not being able to attend as often as I would’ve liked since I moved an hour away.

I’ve gained quite a bit of weight since autumn, which has affected my self-esteem and confidence. Turns out that weight gain is also a side effect of the medication I am taking. I’ve modified my food choices and portions. At work, I try my best to stand at my desk as much as possible. Sometimes, I sneak in some squats and stretches too. I sit occasionally when my knees bother me. I walk around the office to complete various tasks throughout my workday. I think every little bit helps, for sure.

I’m in the process of looking into a new studio to dance at. Exercise must be a fun activity so I can trick myself into staying active and becoming more fit. I think I’ve narrowed it down to one fitness center that has a little bit of everything: various group fitness classes, which include dance and yoga (I’ll be attending these, maybe try some others), exercise equipment, and my favorite: massage machines to help relieve sore muscles after working out! Oh! I can bring a workout buddy for free, however they have to pay for the classes, if that’s what they want to do. All the other perks are available for them. I’m sure my boyfriend, Jaimie, will be utilizing their treadmills when it’s too cold or too hot outside. I don’t blame him. Hell, I don’t even run! If you ever do see me running, something is chasing me, and you should run too!

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my new Little from Big Brothers Big Sisters. We hang out once a week for a couple hours. She’s a quiet, shy little nine-year-old, which is fine by me because I talk enough for the both of us! Haha.. I try to change it up every week: physical activity, arts and crafts, board games, culinary, theatrical, educational, volunteer, etc. I thoroughly enjoy volunteering, BBBS included, however I’m looking forward to sharing that with my Little. We’re due to volunteer at a food pantry soon. This may be her first volunteering experience. She mentioned at the beginning of the year that she has a 2020 Goal of reading twenty chapter books, so I added a trip to the library once a month so I can help her achieve her goal! I’m a bookworm, so this adjustment to our scheduled activities doesn’t bother me a bit! I did support/accompany her (and her family) when she ran a 5K for Girls on the Run. Her mom and I walked that, haha! We’ve attended a couple BBBS sponsored events, which are nice because they’re free! Free is always good. We met another Big and Little at these BBBS events and we recently had an arts and crafts play date. The girls seem to enjoy spending time together. They’re complete opposites and there’s a couple years difference between them. Guess opposites attract! I should know because I think we’re a good Big/Little match! Kudos to our BBBS Match Support Specialist! I highly recommend volunteering for BBBS nearest you! It is rewarding and fun!

There was a health scare in my family that did put things in perspective for me about how every day of life is precious. My dad had to have his left kidney removed, which was scary because we weren’t sure if his body would adapt to operate with one kidney or if he would need to be put on dialysis. He’s recently retired from twenty-five years of service driving for a transportation company (fifty years in the workforce). He transported mentally and/or physically disabled, elderly, dialysis patients, etc. He may have been in his clients’ shoes. I’m happy to report he is doing well post-surgery! I’m glad that my mom is retired as well so they can keep each other company. Oh! They did recently get another dog, so their dog now has a playmate. This makes my heart happy because he really did need a buddy to run around and play with in their large backyard.

Speaking of playmates, Jaimie and I recently got another cat, so our cat, Hex, has some company while we’re away at work. She had separation anxiety issues when we would leave every day. She would get sick and tear up the carpet. It took time for them to adjust to one another. Our new cat, Hairy Houdini, is a lot younger and more kitten than cat. He’s very playful and rambunctious. Complete opposite of Hex. They tolerate each other at best. There were hierarchical issues when it came to food, however she has reclaimed her role as Alpha and he is the Beta. I’m happy to report that Hex has not gotten sick or torn up the carpet as often as she used to, so I consider this as a win! She has been too distracted with chasing/bullying him around that she’s forgotten how anxious she was about being separated from us. I must admit, I’ve transformed into a cat lady. I enjoy snuggling my cats and being a homebody. Toss in a good book and tune in to WMKV 89.3FM.. and I’m content for hours!

Another thing that affected my motivation, mood, and creativity was having a life-changing adventure with Jaimie in London and Amsterdam. We had so much fun together exploring, spending real quality time together, and experiencing a lot of firsts together; that when the trip ended and we came home to reality.. it deeply affected me. We’re both empathetic people so we kind of fed off one another and kept asking each other: “What’s the matter?” We concluded that we were inadvertently bringing one another down. We believe things will lighten up a bit when we start planning our next vacation. We decided to add a couple mini vacations or weekend road trips in between to keep ourselves in check. We desperately crave something to look forward to. Time away from work. We need that work, play, life balance. We are both consumed with wanderlust!

I took the two above photos of a vulture on a roof and flying off awhile ago when I was entering my office building one foggy morning. I noticed the vulture’s intense concentration: waiting for the opportune moment to fly. I’m sure it had an internal, instinctual checklist: adjust for the wind’s speed and direction, factor in visibility per foggy conditions, and be clear of all air traffic obstacles. I edited the two photos into one photo, edited their shape into ovals, added a blur effect on the edges, and adjusted to fifty percent transparency to exaggerate the fog. I tend to edit photos individually and then post them as a single image within WordPress, however this process seems to be better. I did utilize Microsoft PowerPoint this time around. I’ve previously used the application called Polish (on my Android smartphone) to edit photos quickly. If any of you follow me on social media (Facebook or Instagram), I post an announcement photo that somehow relates to my weekly blog post. This week’s announcement photo just makes me giggle! Feel free to check it out!

I was anxious to publicly share my ongoing internal struggles after this long of a hiatus, however, am glad I got back up on the horse; in more ways than one! I admire and respect those who’ve been knocked down but refuse to give up. I hope the next time you feel stuck in your head and you just can’t seem to shake it; that you’ll take the time to seek the help you deserve, whichever avenue you choose: therapy, medication, exercise, meditation, diet, etc. Trust that you are not alone. Please share your foggy stories in the comments. I’m interested to hear about them! We can help and support each other in our trying times.

Black Leather Jacket

WordPress decided to publish my blank draft last week when I tried to delete it, therefore I apologize for the tease! If you are a subscriber, you gotta sneak peek of the post title and I’m sure you’ve been mulling over the mystery of it: “Black Leather Jacket.” What does it mean?! Well, you’ll soon find out. As you may have noticed, I’ve been M.I.A. for more than a couple weeks now. Life has been kinda hectic: traveling, recovering, surgery, and recovering.. AGAIN! Haha.. Alright, let’s get to it!

This was my first time across the pond to London and Amsterdam! My boyfriend, Jaimie, and I had a grand time! One of our first stops was at Green Park. We popped a squat in one of their lawn chairs under a tree and watched people walk, jog, congregate, read, etc. This gentleman below to the right was reading and smoking, which seemed odd, however I did notice quite a few smokers in Europe. We did find out at dusk, at a different park, that these chairs are “rentals,” however didn’t see any signage. So, you’ve been warned!

Weather was perfect. ‘Twas so peaceful!

Parks, parks, and more parks! Nature everywhere…

We were those stereotypical tourists; we saw Buckingham Palace! Lounging at Victoria Memorial

We discovered an interesting tree along the walk path so we decided to explore it!

Sir James Barrie Peter Pan statue in the Italian Gardens

On our way to our Air BnB in Kensington, I noticed a row of Doctor Strange-esque buildings, better known as the Sanctums. Not really, but I’m sure these could’ve been inspirational architecture pieces for the comics and/or films. A lot of buildings are shotgun style with multiple levels as different residences. I did occasionally peer down into people’s makeshift patios, which were quite cute with AstroTurf, hammocks, potty pads for their pets.

I saw a poster that read: “H-Town & Friends,” which reminded me of my hometown because the locals have given it the nickname: “H-Town,” so I felt right at home. Come to find out this poster was promoting an upcoming concert for an R&B band called H-Town. They’re from the States. Houston, Texas to be exact, so now we know what the “H” stands for. Haha! Guess my hometown isn’t so original. Just like Cin City. Cincinnati didn’t get the memo about Vegas.

I’ve always found the European red telephone booth the ultimate Kodak moment as a tourist, however in this day of age with mobile phones and telephone booths becoming obsolete aka non-functional, but still around for nostalgic purposes. I found it humorous that the phone booth that we passed regularly to catch the Tube (the subway to you bloody Yanks) was literally inoperable because the receiver was missing and there were exposed wires just dangling about.

Perspective has multiple meanings: literally and figuratively. The European architecture was something to be in awe of with each step we took around the city. I truly believe travel enriches your character, cleanses your soul, and opens your heart for new opportunities and adventures! It feels nice, yet terrifying, to be reminded that we are yet a speck in the universe.

Unfortunately, Big Ben was under construction so.. I was pretty bummed because I specifically wore my red, white, blue and black cut film t-shirt of Big Ben just for this outing! Oh well.. Things happen. Jaimie and I enjoyed strolling across the London bridge (unsure if this is the “official” London Bridge or just a random London Bridge, haha). We decided to have lunch at a burger joint Jaimie had eaten at a couple years ago during his first trip to London. It did not disappoint! It was nicely shaded, ideal for people watching, and with a waterfront view to boot!

The Eye was massive! It rotated/moved like molasses. We did not go up on it because it seemed overpriced to wait in a wicked long line and slowly go around. It was an interesting piece in the London skyline because it could be seen all around at different sights. If you look closely, in the last photo in the Buckingham Palace collage, you can see The Eye, vaguely, in the background behind the trees!

The Natural History Museum was classically grand! The exhibits were spread out, which helped move along traffic because every museum we went to was packed! Jaimie told me later that all the London museums were free, so it made sense. We ducked into a museum whenever it started raining for a couple hours. It worked out. If you have cable and the Travel Channel, I highly recommend checking out the show called Mysteries at the Museum. It’s one of my favorite educational shows! I could watch it for hours, they do have marathons on the weekends, which is amazing!

Oh! I just had to get a photo with the Easter Island head sculpture at the British Museum (or better known as the Moai) because I love the movie Night at the Museum. The scene where the Moai calls Ben Stiller’s character a Dum Dum and requests he bring him some Gum Gum, cracks me up!

Besides museums, another must for Jaimie is to go to as many comic shops as possible. We went to Gosh Comics multiple times, highly recommend! At Forbidden Planet, we noticed a Stranger Things “Visions from the Upside Down” Art Book signing poster as we were descending the stairs to the lower level. This was such a coincidence because Jaimie is one of the 200 artists featured in the book! If we had only known, we could’ve planned our trip better and he could’ve signed some copies while we were there! Feel free to follow Jaimie on Instagram here, purchase some of his bad-ass art here, and listen to his comic book podcast called Comics Rule Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.) here.

This Barber Shop definitely caught my attention with their rad neon light: “You’re so f*cking Soho.” I mean, I would get my ears lowered here! There were multiple signs that sparkled, which I initially thought were digital screens flashing, however.. they were simple circular sequins pinned to a board moving in the breeze! Clever, inexpensive, and effective advertising design. Jaimie and I shared a celebratory kiss on a Double Decker bus because I happily checked riding in one off my Bucket List. We sat up top, in the front row! I was worried that maybe riding in a double decker was going to be overrated like it was when we rode in a San Franciscan trolley last year, but it wasn’t! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sights and traveling at the same time. Luckily, the Oyster card can be used for both the tube and the bus. Aw, look at us.. Sweetly snogging at Snog dessert parlor. I don’t scream for ice cream.. I swing for ice cream!

The moment you’ve been waiting for! I’ve kept you in anticipation long enough.. The meaning behind this post’s title: “Black Leather Jacket” is because every other European I saw wore a.. Black leather jacket! It became a game to me, similar to when I see a dog in public, I stop mid-sentence and say: “Dog!” But during this trip, I changed it up and whispered: “Leather jacket” to Jaimie every two seconds. When we saw this Leather Garments shop, I just had to take a photo of it and share it with y’all.

Camden Market is partially underground, it was originally a set of horse stalls; now turned market shops. Oh! The public toilets in London.. Fun fact: you gotta pay approximately 40 pence to use, no change given, so I recommend collecting all the change ya can for such pit stops.

We had lunch at a very busy, happenin’, and delicious joint called: Dirty Vegan. We lucked out and got a high top table in the middle of the open restaurant so we were able to watch people outside walking by. At one of the many shops, I snapped a photo of some Punky Brewster style apparel that reminded me of something I would totally wear when I was a kid.

Jaimie’s favorite photo of me.. thus far, haha.. I felt one with the people.. finally.. I just had to represent my love of Elton John in London with my RocketMan t-shirt (highly recommend the movie, by the way). This was the first time during the entire trip that I felt appropriately dressed (considering other places we went, the locals wore plain or patterned clothing). I’m sure I felt more comfortable there because the people were mostly tourists and they had graphic tees on too. I like to think some Europeans like graphic tees too! Maybe? Who knows.. If any readers are European, please comment and let me know! I just gotta know..

We ate lunch on the second floor of Ichibuns overlooking rainy Chinatown in Soho London. Packaged magazines covered the walls in a detailed, stylized pattern. Anime figurines lined the top shelves around the dining room. My go to Asian menu items are: edamame, sushi, and hot (temperature, not spicy) sake. It was lovely to feel a gentle, misty, cool breeze through the open windows while sipping some steaming sake on a rainy day.

I noticed the lanterns align almost perfectly across the first and second photos after I arranged them in the tiled gallery style. How cool is that?! “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” -Bob Ross. You’re so right, Bob, thank you for your creative wisdom!

Next stop: Amsterdam! We decided to fly instead of taking a train simply because time was of the essence (1hr flight vs a several hour train ride) and the cost was pretty much the same. The Amsterdam Schiphol airport had these cool bicycle booths sprinkled throughout their food court. I did find something odd; right smack dab in the middle of the food court was a.. Yotel. It does make sense to be close to food for immediate room service. Maybe it’s simply take-away. Uber Eats? Door Dash? Haha..

Fun fact: no balloons allowed in the airport or tube. I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind how this rule came about. Maybe a clown ruined IT for the rest of us? “We all float down here” eerily echos from the tube stairwell.

I found the tube in Amsterdam to be slower paced than the busy, bustling city of London (I have multiple theories, haha, as I’m sure you do too). I noticed a lot of interesting and creative details while we waited. The metallic insect cut outs crawling along the wall and ceiling. Oh, how the sunlight shone on and through them! The outdoor semi-domed skylight was a nice touch for admiring clouds, sun, birds flying, planes soaring, etc while being sheltered from the elements. I was surprised it was so clean and not speckled with bird poop. Oh! The fold-able bicycle. This blew my mind! But.. it makes sense because the Dutch do love their bicycles, which leads me to the last photo: the phallic and bulging bicycle seat.

The Albert Cuyp Market is the largest open air market in Europe! Highly recommend! We just had to get an XXL stroopwafel because they’re a Dutch delicacy! Oh, yes, just trust me on this one, place one over your hot coffee cup (tea or chocolate); let the hot beverage warm the stroopwafel, flip it and eat it. You’ll thank me later. Check out these fashionable bum bags! You can’t say f*nny packs here, it’s a naughty word. Yep, click here to find out why. Adorable little botanical jellyfish. Adorably dope, Italian, sweepeh kitteh on a bench. I mean.. c’mon! Too adorable.

We had the best lunch at Sonny’s Falafel and Vlaamse Frites! Highly recommend. Cute little mom and pop joint where the staff gives ya a hard time with a smile. Makes ya feel just like family. I tried my best to read and speak Dutch when I ordered. The lady stifled a laugh, I asked if I pronounced word(s) incorrectly, she quickly said: “Close enough.” We both chuckled. Jaimie was sitting at a table nearby watching our backpacks. When our orders were ready, the lady shouted at Jaimie to come and fix his falafel because he needed to work too. She winked at me. He was apprehensive because he didn’t want to leave our stuff unattended. She shook her head at him and confidently said with a wave: “Your stuff is fine, come fix your food.” Fun fact: the Dutch serve mayonnaise with their chips (fries to you Yanks)! There was a mother and young son having lunch at the table next to us. He was about seven or eight years old. After they finished eating, he decided to sit on his mom’s lap. The lady who served us shouted: “Aww, wittle baby on his mummy’s lap!” So precious. I enjoyed their sense of humor and banter.

The National Flower of the Netherlands is the Tulip. The National Footwear of the Netherlands is the Clog. Not really, haha..

We stayed in a little, quiet, quaint city called Weesp (pronounced Veesp). Cute little shops along the water, bicyclists everywhere, and the friendliest vibes. The best I can describe Weesp is like a European Mayberry. Our Air BnB was unbelievably breathtaking! I would live there in a heartbeat. It was above a flower shop with a gorgeous floor to ceiling window, but I don’t know if I’d call it a “window” per se. Just admire the view. Oh, how I miss it!

Museumplein Park near Van Gogh Museum, paint brush chandelier, the Smartest car, interesting angles, skylights, staircases, and a fancy tunnel

We visited the Red Light District! I didn’t know much about the Red Light District before we went, which is usually how I prefer to go into things, haha.. How Jaimie and I mutually described it in one word: B-A-N-A-N-A-S! I highly suggest clicking on the hyperlink to learn more about the RLD, simply because you’ll understand why I’m being incredibly vague and why there aren’t a lot of photos.. even though this was my favorite part of the trip!

In the fourth photo, top middle open window, you can see a pair of barefeet dangling out. I’m sure that person is higher than the third story! What do you think? I’ll bet ol’ Mary Jane had too many brownies.

We did manage to squeeze in some museum time.. at a naughty yet natural themed: Sex Museum. I only took one photo because I thought it’d be funny if I had dish platters like these; I would serve them at a party, as my guests devoured the food and revealed the illustrations, I’d find their reactions priceless and giggle like a school girl!

Jaimie and I discovered a tour group.. in the Red Light District.. (yeah, I know), which we found extremely odd, so of course it peaked our interest and we just had to stop and listen for a minute. The tour guide was speaking in front of a barber shop. A plump cat sat in the open doorway. The tour guide stated that feral cats are treated very well in Amsterdam because they help exterminate river rats, which is why they’re so fat and well fed. Store owners welcome them into their businesses. Kind of a quid pro quo deal. As she was speaking, she leaned down to pet the cat and it angrily smacked her hand several times. She quickly withdrew her hand and laughed it off in front of her tour group. I asked: “Did it scratch ya?!” She replied: “Oh, no!” But I noticed she quickly put her hand in her pocket, so I’m sure it did get her. That smug cat confidently stalked out of that barber shop, into the street, and down an alley like it owned the Red Light District. Man, that alley cat had style! I knew I had to get an alley photo in here somewhere! An alley cat in an alley, oh, yes! Score.

I hope the next time you’re planning a trip, especially international, that you’ll take some extra time and effort to learn, appreciate and adapt to their customs! Who knows? Maybe you’ll pick up how to speak Dutch easily and be fluent in no time! Please follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see more photos and videos of our trip! I’d love to hear about any/all of your international travels! I’m sure the other readers would too!

Throwback Thursday #TBT

My boyfriend and I are currently across the pond vacationing in London and Amsterdam! I’ve prepared a Throwback Thursday blog post in advance to keep on schedule for all my readers to enjoy. Throwback Thursday is a popular internet trend used among social media platforms. Users will often post nostalgic pictures of their past accompanied by the hashtag #TBT or Throwback Thursday. It is used by people all over the world to share and relive their past experiences with anyone they want. While most posts reflect positive moments in someone’s past, the term throwback can be attributed to anything in the past.

“…You have a unique view of things and you are able to express it well. Just saw a recent post from you and it “triggered” fond memories, especially your graduation speech which was brilliant!..” -My college professor stated when he suggested that I write.

Good evening ladies, gentlemen, and the graduates of the class of 2008. It is an honor to be here speaking before you all. I would like to start off by thanking the academic team/staff for nominating me to speak. It was quite a surprise when Mark Harris pulled me out of class and delivered the news. Or rather ordering the news: “I’m going to make you an offer that you cannot refuse!” Yessir, (salutes) anything you say, Yoda! And here I am.

And here we are, college graduates! “We’ve been waiting for our dreams to turn into something we could believe in.” Each of us took a risk in pursuing our education, especially in the arts. I’m proud to say that we’ve overcome the starving artist stereotype! Even though it may have taken two, three, four years to receive a two-year degree, so be it! I’m proud all the same. The bottom line is we started something, followed through, and achieved our goal of graduating.

Looking back at the last three years, I came across an entry in my journal. “I feel so grateful to be back in college, pursuing my education again. I’m months behind, not going to graduate in August of 2007. So what? I’ve realized you cannot live your life according to plan! No matter how hard you try, wish, or pray. Life is unpredictable! Be thankful for who and what you have and all the blessings in between.”

When I first sat down to write this speech, I decided to channel surf to find some background noise. Coincidentally, I decided on the movie, Tommy Boy. There’s a scene between Chris Farley and David Spade that I could relate to:

“Did you hear I finally graduated?”
“Yeah, just a shade under a decade too. Alright!”
“You know a lot of people go to college for seven years.”
“I know. They’re called doctors.”

I know we’re not doctors, but I know we have mastered our craft to the best of our ability. The time, effort, and dedication we put into our profession I know will come back to us ten fold. Our creativity will touch the lives of others in the most colorful way.

To my classmates in all the present majors: I thank you for simply setting the tone at our school. Making everyone feel welcome and never hesitating to lend a helping hand. I think our generosity comes from wanting to go up against the best of the best even though we are each other’s competition. I am proud to go out into the art world and play ball!

To the Ai Instructors: thank you for passing us! Most of all, thank you for educating our young creative minds to be the best artists we can be.
My cap’s off to you! I mean that figuratively because otherwise I’d mess up my do.

Many of us have faced challenges while being in school, big and small. Whether it be financial drawbacks, health issues, gas prices, work/school conflicting schedules, among other endless sacrifices. No matter, we surpassed our own expectations. Remember every cloud has a silver lining.

To all of our friends and family: thank you for understanding that we had to put our schooling first before anything else. It paid off, look at where it got us! It got us in these over-sized, red gowns. I’m sure the Fashion Merchandising graduates are thinking: “Hurry up so I can get out of this thing! I wanna show off my new outfit underneath!” Better yet, how about thinking more hands on. Re-invent and update the graduation gowns! Ha, I should’ve gone for a double major!

As we go our separate ways this evening, I wish you all the best. I hope each and every one of you make your mark in the art world. “Remember, this is the time to be more than a name or a face in the crowd. You know this is the time of our lives!” Keep in touch and take care.

*Quotations taken from David Cook’s song “Time of My Life” written by Regie Hamm. **Hilarity taken from the brilliant mind of Allison Hibbard written by yours truly © All rights reserved.

My speech was approximately 668 words which equaled to a little over 5 minutes of speaking time with an average 130 spoken words per minute. I really was surprised that I was voted to be the student guest speaker at graduation by my college’s faculty. Out of all the majors. Years later when I received another degree at the same college, they decided to change it so one student from each major would be voted as a guest speaker. I guess to spread the love. They did the same thing for awarding Best in Show at the Portfolio Show before graduation: initially it was one student who won per faculty votes, then years later they awarded a Best in Show for each major, which I did receive!

I received a standing ovation
My college professor and I
I was presented flowers from the
Ai Faculty for giving my speech

I hope the next time you find yourself strolling down memory lane, that you’ll be able to recall each consequential moment that lead you there. I guarantee you’ll learn how all of those moments helped shape your life to where it is now! Please share any special #TBT achievements in the comments! I’d love to hear about them! I’m sure the other readers would too!

Weekends are for Road Trips

Three-day weekends are made for road trips. This past holiday weekend was just a practice run for my boyfriend and I’s international trip coming up. Our first stop was to North Market for lunch. I ordered the Pho with chicken (or Phở gà) at Lan Viet. Pho is their specialty. Some people pronounce the “o” as long, however the origin of Pho’s true pronunciation is “fuh.” This fun fact always makes me laugh because there’s a local restaurant called “Pho Kimmy,” which sounds like an explicit phrase when pronounced correctly.

Normally, I’m not a fan of putting together pieces of my food into a completed dish, however I rather enjoy adding the bean sprouts and mixing in Sriracha to a comfortable spice level! I specifically avoid ordering fajitas because I don’t like having to work for my food. That’s the whole reason why I go to a restaurant.. for someone else to prepare my food for me! Haha..

My boyfriend and I tentatively plan to dress up as Beaker and Bunsen for Halloween! I scored us a couple lab coats from when I volunteered at a Greenlight for Girls event at the University of Cincinnati this past spring. I’ve written a list of pop culture duos we could dress up as where one character has a mohawk and one is bald. Bunsen and Beaker are next on the list! Well.. Beaker doesn’t really have a mohawk. More like a little fluff. I could mess up my mohawk to match. Oh! By the way, I scored that jean overalls + floral dress at Wally World.. in the kids section.. for a whole seven dollars!

These two are adorable! Epic comical duo. Bunsen is the intellectual brain and Beaker is the fluent Gibberish speaking, accident prone assistant. Seems to be fitting for my boyfriend and I! Jaimie is well spoken and bright. I tend to fall walking upstairs, trip over my own feet, and have numerous mysterious bruises all over my body.

This piece reminded me of my last week’s post of inanimate objects with faces. Initially, I thought this may have inspired the creation and/or design of Gonzo! He’s a silly Muppet character, whose sidekick is Rizzo the Rat. These two are a complimentary, hilarious pair in Muppet Treasure Island and Muppet Christmas Carol, which I own on.. VHS!

There was a plaque below it that read:
Pitchman Pump puppets, 1963: These unusual puppets were built for a Marathon Gasoline commercial in 1963 and were voiced by professional jingle singers rather than puppeteers.
I was kind of disappointed the plaque didn’t state what I was hoping about the hoses leading to a Muppet character.

When Jaimie and I exited the Cosi Museum and descended the steps, I noticed burn marks on the concrete. They reminded me of shooting stars or meteors, which seemed to be fitting considering astronomy played a part of the educational exhibits inside.. a few light-years away!

While strolling through town, we were waiting at a red light and saw a man and his hound going through a crosswalk in front of us. I wasn’t sure what type of breed this dog was. I did manage to snap a photo. I simply Googled: “large gray dog breed” and immediately discovered it was an Irish wolfhound! The American Kennel Club (AKC) specifies the minimum height as 32 inches (81 cm) for mature males, 30 inches (76 cm) for females; the minimum weight: 120 pounds (54 kg) for males, 105 pounds (48 kg) for females. It was surprising to find out that this dog could have easily weighed as much as.. me! Which isn’t saying much.. haha!

Jaimie always finds a comic bookstore wherever we travel to. We found a hole in the wall comic bookstore called Heroes and Games at Columbus’ convention center. It did have a lot of good finds, on sale at that! Jaimie and his buddy, Iann, do a podcast about comics called Comics Rule Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.). I highly recommend y’all check it out.. click here! When we were exiting the convention center, I noticed this whimsical, colorful mural that was abstractly detailed. What do you see? What kind of world is this? What story is it telling?

As we turned a corner, this tall building caught my eye! I had never seen an exterior elevator before! I’m sure the view was amazing. I’m claustrophobic therefore not a fan of elevators, but with this one being mostly glass with a view to boot.. I’m sure I’d enjoy the ride! Have you ridden on an exterior elevator before? If you have, where? I’d love to hear about it!

We ended our trip as we began it and went back to North Market for dinner! Yep, you guessed it.. I’m a fan of this place! I decided to try an Italian joint this time. They have a pasta sauce testing station. I highly recommend the spicy ones! They have a variety of pasta styles such as: penne, striped ravioli, multi-colored tortellini; including whole wheat and/or gluten free options! Choice of protein or vegetables. They have a smorgasbord of sides. I’ve tried their stuffed banana peppers and cucumber/tomato/mozzarella salad. Both are delish!

I hope the next time you’re out and about, especially when exploring new territory, that you’ll be inspired to take more weekend road trips! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own weekend road trips photo collection. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share them on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too! And as always, I’m more than happy to give you my travel spot recommendations.

Let’s Play “I Spy”

  • Look to your left
  • Look to the right
  • Look in front of you
  • Look up
  • Look down
  • Look behind you
    • BOO!
    • Gotcha!
    • Haha..

Find anything interesting? What would you choose as your “I Spy” object? Think about why you chose that. Really examine it. Get as close as you can to see it in detail. I prefer to choose an unusual yet specific object when I play “I Spy” because I’m competitive. I like to set the bar in hopes that my opponent will step it up when it’s their turn, so the game will become more challenging as we go. I’m sure it’s been awhile since you’ve last played “I Spy,” I know it has for me! Playing games aren’t just for kids.. I mean, think about it..

Whilst playing any of the above games, I would usually find faces in inanimate objects! Do you see faces too? One of the first memories I have of seeing an inanimate object face was when I would jump up and down on my parents bed and watch myself on their huge vanity mirror. They have this glass ceiling light fixture with blue accent shapes.. and the blue accent shapes look like an angry face! It was kinda symbolic of the “strict” no jumping on the bed rule that my folks rarely enforced. I did enjoy singing “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” while.. jumping on the bed; I was such a rebel! The bottom center three flowers are the eyes and nose. The curved line is a sly smile. The top flowers are its wild, frizzy hair.

“I see you.. misbehaving!”

Another one of my early memories I had seeing an inanimate object face was in my childhood home bathroom. Below the sink, the bottom right cabinet door’s wood grain looks like a cloaked pig chief holding a staff while addressing his tribe. Do you see a pig? The snout is distinctly pronounced. Its tongue is perfectly shaped inside its open mouth. Pointed ear, enlarged eye, and I think this swine was reincarnated as a tree!

“Oink oink my fellow hogs!”

Another cardinal rule in my house growing up was: no playing with your food! I never did well abiding by rules.. I was a little stinker! I dare you to ask my parents about the spaghetti slinging incident! Oh, it was infamous. Anywho.. I do like how my food makes silly faces at me! The photo below has a Tupperware lid making impressions: two eyes and an open mouth. Maybe it’s shouting at me. What do you think my mashed potatoes would say if it could?

“Have a spud-tacular day!”

Even when I eat out at a restaurant.. My food speaks to me! My garden salad remnants decided to make a silly face at me in its shallow lemon dressing. I highly recommend Kinneret Grill! The sampler is to die for! If you’re not stingy, it’s enough for two people, haha.. Their vegan shawarma is the best faux meat I’ve ever had! Oh, their maple glazed sweet potato fries.. are delish! Everything is made fresh, large portions for a decent price, and I thoroughly enjoy the hospitable atmosphere!

“Lettuce pray.. Olive you!”

While visiting a friend of mine at her house, I noticed her little space heater was winking and smiling at me! See how the knobs are different and the red light is the tongue? Oh, and the indentation of the plastic makes a smile. Whoever designs these machines must be having a good ol’ time!

On a road trip years ago, I photographed a bathroom dispenser because it reminded me of The Brave Little Toaster movie and its secondary character, Air Conditioner, (voiced by Phil Hartman). I combined the two photos into one per Android’s collage feature so I could see the resemblance side by side! This movie seemed to inspire Disney to create.. Toy Story! Similar concept, but kids relate more to their toys than household appliances, so I understand why one’s more popular than the other. Do you find yourself telling inanimate objects to: “Stay!” when they’re about to fall? I need to know I’m not alone.. Please tell me you do the same thing!

One day when I was a kid, my girlfriend and I were stuck hanging out at her uncle’s job at Rent-a-Center. We setup camp on an extra large sectional couch with our Burger King Cini-Minis and milk. Every TV played The Mask, on a loop, for his entire eight hour shift! One particular scene (1:38-2:48) was where I first learned about the Rorschach test. This later inspired my abstract painting style.. with a twist. I specifically painted my nude body and then imprinted myself onto the canvas. I tried to make it as symmetrical as possible, except for the random splatters to fill the negative space. This is a good conversation piece when guests visit. They tend to blush more than I do!

What do you see?

An illustrator I admire is Hanoch Piven; he works with mixed media to create colorful, witty portraits. He is best known for his celebrity caricatures. He uses everyday objects and arranges them to hint at their identity. I created my own little portrait with a water bottle, some googly eyes, a Lisa Frank lip sticker, & Silly Putty. All of these items are in my office desk drawer! You can tell that I don’t like meetings because I get lost in my own world.

I must ox you a question.

I hope the next time you’re playing a game or daydreaming, that you’ll be inspired to take a moment to examine the details.. such as inanimate objects that look like faces! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own faces photo collection. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share them on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too!

Living the Dream

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where pain didn’t exist. Where she could soar and fly with the rest of the flock. Where her wings never tired. She could do whatever her heart desired. Sure, she overlooked her random encounter with an overly chatty walrus named Wallace over a bowl of sea salted peanuts at a Tiki Bar. She knows this is a dream, but she’d rather stay here forever if she could. She felt an urgent pressure all of a sudden, which woke her up from her pleasant yet odd slumber. The pressure was a.. full bladder. Nature calls. Her body decided it was time to get up. Mhmm.. there’s the pain she didn’t miss. Living with chronic widespread pain is something she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy.. if she had any.

Mildred was well liked and respected in her small retirement community, however she felt disconnected since she recently became a widow. She’s always been a homebody. She frequently seeks refuge in her colorful, wild garden and quaint in-ground pool. The warm weather does wonders for her mood and productivity. She smiled with her eyes still closed as the Florida sun crept through the fuchsia curtains upon her tan face. As she stretched and rolled over, her smile widened because her emotional support Goldendoodle, Rover, greeted her with a slobbery kiss and zoomed around the bedroom.

“Guess it’s officially time to get up outta bed and start the day, huh?” Mildred finally opened her eyes and giggled as Rover whined at her. She opened the floor length curtains to a picturesque view of her backyard that was littered with nature: squirrels, birds, insects, daisies, carnations, rhododendrons, Big Beef tomato plants, and orange citrus trees. She sighed with pride and opened the sliding door. She walked outside with Rover, who chased the critters about and hiked against a stone bird bath under a Weeping Willow. She took a deep breath in and out, closed her eyes, and quietly counted: “One. Two. Three. F- – -.”

“Good morning Milly! How ya doing?” Rosalee cheerfully announced with a wave from the other side of the white picket fence. Her enthusiastic motion almost knocked her large sun hat off her petite head.

“Morning Rose! Oh, ya know.. I’m.. living the dream,” Mildred fibbed. “How about you? Your petunias sure do look beautiful!”

“Ain’t we all,” Rosalee gleefully gestured with both arms wide holding pruning shears in one hand and a batch of plucked weeds in the other. “I woke up this morning so I’m doing grand,” she chuckled lightly. “Thank you! Just trying to keep up with your green thumb!”

“Aw, Rose! You’re doing great! Keep it up. How are your lemons coming along this year?”

“Thanks Milly! I learned from the best,” Rosalee brushed aside some gray strands of hair from her freckled face and winked. “Ya know if Spike would leave the dang tree alone, there’d be a couple shoots by now and we could share a glass of lemonade!” They both cackled. Her three-year-old gray Great Dane galloped along with Rover and they gave each other an Eskimo kiss between the fence panels. Ya know how they say dogs and their owners look alike? That’s Rosalee and Spike. Gray haired, gentle, and practically the same height!

Mildred’s wavy golden gray hair did happen to resemble Rover’s. They recently celebrated his ninth birthday with all the cul-de-sac doggies, which makes him sixty-three in dog years so they’re more alike than she originally thought! She descended the wooden deck stairs to join Rover, Spike, and Rosalee. A ladybug landed on her fluffy floral fleece robe sleeve.

“Wow, look here, Rose! A ladybug!” Mildred lifted her arm to get a better look at the spotted insect.

“Milly, did you know that when a ladybug lands on you.. it’ll bring you luck?!”

“I have heard that before.. Jeepers.. I’m overdue for some luck!”

“Me and you both,” Rosalee teased. “Mind sharing that lucky ladybug? I hope some of its good juju will rub off on me too.” Rosalee reached out her wrinkly hand over the white picket fence to retrieve the insect. Mildred carefully stepped into her garden’s mulched area, in between a couple plants, and noticed another little garden critter, a snail; it seemed perfectly content in the middle of the chaotic garden as it took it’s morning stroll. As quickly as the ladybug crawled off Mildred’s arm onto Rosalee’s delicate hand; it fluttered away just as swiftly. They both watched the ladybug fly off until it disappeared into the distance.

“Goodness gracious, look at that,” Mildred pointed up. “Not a cloud in the sky, but you can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to get a Floridian rain shower sometime this afternoon!”

“But of course! Sure saves me having to water my garden every day. Saves me money on the water bill too. I’m glad and grateful that Mother Nature steps in and picks up the slack for me!”

“You said it, Rose,” Mildred sighed and then flinched because a nearby bird splashed her on the ankle from the stone bird bath. “Well, there’s Mother Nature again.. Guess I don’t need a shower! Now, I’m saving money on my water bill!”

“Aw, that little Brown Thrasher is having a good ol’ time over there,” Rosalee excitedly stated.

“What d’ya call it?”

“A Brown Thrasher.”

“What an odd name! It sure is.. thrashing about,” Mildred snorted at her own joke.

“Haha, it sure is! Felix and I used to go Birdwatching. It was something we really enjoyed doing together,” Rosalee solemnly admitted.

“I’m sure,” Mildred paused. “Hey! Ya know, I’d love to learn more about wildlife. Maybe we can go birdwatching together sometime. I’ve been- -” she paused again. “I’ve been itching to get out more. I’m sure you are too, eh?”

“Why Milly, that’s a swell idea! I’ve been wanting to see the Herons before they migrate North for the winter!”

“Sounds like a plan, Rose. I’m looking forward to it,” Mildred promised and pivoted. “Rover! Come. Rover,” she called. “Where are you?” She noticed some dirt scattering up into the air near an overgrown aloe plant, she peered past the stone bird bath, and there she found her curly rascal digging a hole. “Whatcha doin’ pup? Whatcha got there? You little troublemaker..” Mildred strategically snatched a hard object out of Rover’s dirty, slobbery mouth. It was a gold pendant with black, white, and yellow gems. She dusted off the dirt and unveiled a brooch. A bumblebee brooch.

“What’d Rover dig up now, Milly?”

“Did you happen to lose a bumblebee brooch, Rose?”

“No, I sold all my jewelry when.. Felix died.. so, I wouldn’t lose the house,” Rosalee dropped her head and frowned.

“Think the previous owner misplaced it years ago?” Mildred asked while closely inspecting the brooch and counting each gem.

“No, I don’t think so. The previous owner was the original owner. He was a lifelong bachelor. Yeah, Bachelor Bennett. He was a strange bird. Lived here for twenty-five years. How long have you lived here now, Milly? Ten years?”

“It’ll be eleven in October.”

“Think one of your visitors misplaced it?” Rosalee asked as she tilted her head.

“No, I don’t think so. We always visited inside.. where the air conditioning is,” Mildred smiled at the thought of enjoying a cup o’ joe in her cool kitchenette. Her stomach growled, Spike heard it, and growled back through the white picket fence.

“Maybe Magnus next door can help ya out.. See how much that baby is worth. He used to be a.. ya know.. a whatchamacallit.. ya know.. someone who looks at jewelry and quotes a price of what it’s worth..” Rosalee trailed off with frustration.

“A jeweler? An appraiser?”

“That’s it! He’s been retired for a decade or so, but he was the best in town. I’m sure he can help ya out.”

“Good to know, thanks. I’ll pop over to his place after breakfast and see if he’s in.”

“Let me know what ya find out! Now, I’m curious!”

“Will do.”

“I’ll make lunch for us and we can chat about it.”

“Sounds lovely. See ya then, Rose!”

Rosalee whipped up some bologna ‘n butter sandwiches with cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes from the garden, and poured some prune juice for lunch. Mildred rang the door bell with her canine companion in tow. Spike squeezed past Rosalee to greet Rover when she opened the door. They went gallivanting down the hallway side by side.

“Hey there! Uhhh,” Rosalee stammered. “W-what’s with the metal d-detector, M-Milly?” She gestured for Mildred to enter and they sat down at her wicker dining room table and chairs under the skylight.

“Oh! I ran into our other neighbor, Leon, when I left Magnus’ place,” Mildred said while putting her sunglasses back on. “I told him about finding a piece jewelry in the backyard and he insisted that I borrow his metal detector. We could check your yard after lunch!”

“Oh, yes, lets,” Rosalee blurted, she hurriedly chewed her food and continued with her mouth full. “So, tell me.. what did Magnus have to say?”

“Rose, I felt like I was on Antique Roadshow! Get ready for this,” Mildred paused for dramatic effect, cracked a sly smile, lowered her sunglasses to look directly into Rosalee’s eager eyes. “Quarter of a million dollars!”

Rosalee’s eyes widened as big an owl’s. “I do declare! My, my, my.. Oh, Milly! What ever will you do with that kinda money?!” she squealed and fanned herself.

“I think I wanna open a senior citizen center.. for widows.. to help women like us.. who feel.. alone.. and lonely. Where we can have a support group to talk to and get the financial assistance we need. What d’ya think?” Mildred inquired.

“Milly, I think that is a superb idea! Can I be your Vice President?”

“Rose, I wouldn’t have it any other way! You’ve been such a Godsend to me ever since.. Mortimer passed,” Mildred’s voice trembled. “Us.. widows.. gotta stick together,” Mildred sniffled. She reached for and held Rosalee’s petite hand. They gazed into one another’s teary eyes.

“Aw, Milly, you’ve done the same for me since.. Felix died,” Rosalee whispered. “I’d be honored to help you with this.”

They wept in each other’s arms for what seemed like a long time. The cuckoo clock chirped above their heads and it startled them back to reality. Mildred helped Rosalee clear the table, they freshened up their faces, and relocated outside to the picnic table for dessert: tapioca pudding. Mildred noticed a little black spider on the edge of the wooden picnic table and gave it have some room. “Table for three,” she thought in an Italian accent and stifled a laugh. Rover slowly approached to sniff the arachnid and tried to lick it, but was simultaneously distracted by Spike’s booming bark at a grasshopper that sprung onto the brick house. The doggos were running all over the place exploring the yard, chasing each other, and getting to know all the little garden creatures. One creature in particular remained undetected by the curious canines: the Praying Mantis. It became one with the foliage and slowly traveled from leaf to leaf, branch to branch, and then vanished.

“Boy, I’m stuffed!” Rosalee announced while patting her stomach.

“Rose, you eat like a bird,” Mildred teased while sipping the last bit of prune juice. “What d’ya say we give that metal detector a try?”

Rosalee sarcastically snickered while standing up, “I say, what are we waiting for?! There could be another fortune back here! After all, ’tis our lucky day!” She gave Mildred a wink.

“Alright, so, Leon said to press this button and wait for the green light to turn on. There it goes. Well, that was easy peasy lemon squeezy.”

“Hear that Spike?! I may be able to afford bottled lemonade after all so you can use my lemon tree as your own personal peeing post!” Rosalee and Mildred giggled. They walked to and fro with the metal detector over Rosalee’s backyard. Spike and Rover followed closely behind. They barked, whined, and tilted their heads when the machine began to beep. The beeping began to rapidly increase.

“Milly, I think we got something!” They carefully placed the metal detector against the white picket fence and started digging with trowels. Spike and Rover joined in on the fun and dug alongside their owners. “Whatcha got boy?! Gimme that,” Rosalee pleaded with Spike as he started to swallow it. “Spike. Out. Now!” He froze, gave her the biggest puppy dog eyes and dropped it onto the grass. “Cripes! It’s a little lizard,” Rosalee shrieked in disgust and tossed it to Mildred. “Ugh, is its guts hanging out, Milly? I can’t look.”

Mildred wiped the debris off the large dark chocolate gems and the shiny gold sparkled across the green lawn. Rover tried to catch the reflecting light like a cat would with a laser pointer. “Rose, it’s not alive.”

“Aw, I was ‘fraid of that.. Should we bury it? We already dug a hole,” Rosalee suggested quietly with a light laugh. She uncovered her eyes and finally examined the item.

“It’s a lizard pendant,” Mildred stated. Their eyes met, Rosalee excitedly tackled her with a strong hug, which knocked them both over into the infamous puny lemon tree. Rover and Spike jumped on top of them and licked their faces in celebration. The foursome became an official dogpile.

Eighteen months later

Mildred and Rosalee were on their way to the ribbon cutting ceremony at the grand opening of their senior citizen center for widows they decided to call: Treasure Gardens. They were also due to receive the key to the city from none other than.. the Mayor! They were tickled pink! They decided to take a detour first.

“I still can’t believe Felix and Mortimer are only a couple plots away from one another,” Mildred told Rosalee while putting the car in park. “These bouquets you put together are gorgeous, Rose. Flowers are something we should incorporate around the office. It’ll help liven up the place. It’ll feel more inviting and homey. What d’ya think?”

“Absolutely. I think that’s a grand idea, Milly! I did pick ’em from your garden, so you did half the work.. Partner,” Rosalee winked at Mildred. They awkwardly hugged over the car’s center gear shift. Spike and Rover both barked out the car window at a squirrel climbing up a nearby tree. The ladies laughed in unison at their playful pups. “Can’t take ’em anywhere without causing mischief,” Rosalee teased and rolled her eyes. Rosalee and Mildred parted ways with their dogs as they exited the vehicle.

Mildred placed the bright botanical bouquet onto a knee high headstone. “Hi honey,” she whispered. “I miss you. Today.. is a good day. It will be a good day, I’ve decided. Today will be.. The. Best. Day. Next to our wedding day, of course,” she pursed her lips together and made a smooching sound. “Oh, honey.. I’m.. living the dream!” She pinched herself and smiled.

Normally, I have an idea and/or photo(s) first and let that inspire the piece I write. This week, I decided to reverse my creative process: write first and let it inspire the photo(s) because I recently purchased a journal called Complete the Story. I admit, it was initially difficult to do, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it and creating.. differently!

I’m glad I took an alternate path because I think variety is important for a creative person. Keeps you on your toes and keeps your work fresh. I admire those who think outside the box and stray from their comfort zones. I hope the next time you find yourself in a creative funk and can’t seem to feel inspired; that you’ll take the time to explore alternative methods to help you create and achieve your goal(s). Don’t give up! Please share your dreams, fantasies, inspirations, muses, and/or creative processes in the comments. I’m eager to hear about them!

Don’t Have a Cat Attack!

My pet calls me Hex, but I don’t answer to it. I was rescued many moons ago when my pet found me soaking wet under a pallet. I’m a tuxedo goth teen. I’m an only feline now. My brothers from another mother met their tenth lives; Phil was half Maine Coon, half tabby, and he taught me everything I know about being wild because he survived outside without any front claws! Fur real! I ain’t kitten.. My other brother couldn’t have been more opposite! He was an obese ginger and he was rightfully named Fat Boy. He was such a softie! Oh, how my pet misses those boys. It’s been just me and my pet until.. he fell in love with one of his own kind and they decided to move in together. So, I’ve reluctantly taken in my pet’s stray as my own.. she’s growing on me.. I have to say.

When my pet first transported me to our new dwelling, I instantly felt uneasy, the place gave me the creeps.. all three realms of it! My pet and stray have been easily confused because they’re only used to being within one realm, so I just meow to guide them back to me. Oh, how happy they are when they find me! They’ve settled in nicely and everything’s seemingly purrfect.. but if they only knew.. that this place is infested with.. ghosts! Of course, I’m the only one who can see them, so it’s up to me to keep the phantoms at bay.

I earn my keep around here that’s fur sure.. I’m pulling quadruple duty! Not only am I an Exterminator, Therapist, and Security Guard.. but now, I’ve been assigned a new job: Ghost Hunter! I haven’t received any extra food or treats for the overtime I’ve put in. I repeatedly remind my pet every morning and evening that I deserve more food. Hell, I take full advantage of every opportune moment I can get: whenever he goes in the kitchen or near my bowl.. I scream that I deserve a bonus! He’s a tightwad and never delivers. I’ve even beseeched the stray, she just whispers sweet nothings in my ear, pats my head, and scurries away; I’m wearing her down though.. she’ll crack soon.. I can feel it in my bones.

I’ve lost weight traveling through these three realms day and night. I put my nine lives on the line to protect my pet and stray against these meddling spooks who haunt their dreams.. Or shall I say nightmares?! I tuck the stray into bed every night with my freshly sharpened claws in hopes to keep her and my pet safe. She winces in pain because blood needs to be sacrificed so I can cast a Protection Spell so the apparitions won’t savagely suck out her soul! I don’t want to have to devour her face if she perishes. Of course, I’d be ever grateful for something extra to eat, however.. I don’t know where this stray came from, if she’s been vaccinated, or if she’s even had a recent flea dip! I just can’t take that risk. Ahhh, so tempting though.. I need to remember my mission: Protect my pet and his stray. I cannot let my pet lose his new stray. He’s lost so much already. I must secure her well-being at all costs.

Once my pet and stray are surely asleep, I clock in to work the night shift:

  • Cast the Protection Spell
    • smear the crimson life liquid along the wooden snooze frame
    • check under frame for any Boogey Monsters
    • meow the sacred song of my ancestors
    • frolic around the slumber chamber
    • hiss at the Flying Particle Ghouls to retreat back in the ducts
    • tickle the stray’s face with my whiskers
    • seal it with a sandpaper kiss on the stray’s elbow
  • Conduct a Perimeter Check
    • rub against every entryway
    • scratch loose threads on every carpeted floor
    • shake my loose hair follicles onto the hardwood floors
    • sprinkle every rug with my regurgitated fur
    • slink under every piece of furr-niture
    • pounce up and down every staircase between realms
    • scour behind the wet transparent curtain and utilize this time for re-hydration at the leaky faucet
  • Secure the Exterior
    • setup guard post on the windowsill for optimal position
    • if view is obstructed, squeeze through the thin horizontal window panels
    • be on the lookout for Squirrel and/or Bird Zombies per the nearby jungle graveyard
    • overturn every potted botanical specimen and spread the soil around because this traps all Supernatural Manifestations in their tracks
    • chase and swat any Flying Bug Specters and squish their entrails about
    • knock every dish off the kitchen counter into sharp shards of glass and cut down the Sanctimonious Spirits
    • inspect discard bins for any food scraps because..


When the bright ball in the sky appears and my pet arises, my day shift consequentially begins:

  • Break the Protection Spell
    • lick the dry sacrificed blood
    • check for Boogey Monsters
    • meow the sacred song of my ancestors
    • circle around my pet until he steps on my tail
      • wail in agony

[PAWS for dramatic effect]

My pet finally spills food into my bowl and loudly exclaims about the remnants of my back-breaking work I left during the night. I’m glad to hear my pet appreciates the amount of time I invest to keep him and the stray safe. I am extremely flexible, and I always land on my feet. Luckily, all I need is an eight-hour catnap to recover so I can work another night shift!

I hope the next time you notice your pet’s behavior, especially when their life drastically changes, that you’ll be inquisitive enough to research possible explanations. You may learn something new to help them adjust. If you do, please share any fun facts and/or funny stories you may have in the comments below! I’d love to hear about them! I’m sure my other readers would too!


I walk through life three steps forward and two steps back. I’ve always struggled with my mental health. My earliest memory is at the age of five and not being able to sleep because I’d be worrying about what happened earlier that day, what would happen the next day, and/or what the future held. I found myself organizing and setting up my toy figurines instead of playing with them. I played well with other kids but preferred to play by myself because other kids made messes and I just couldn’t have that. I deeply empathized with other people’s struggles just as if I would be going through them myself. No one put a name to these feelings, behaviors, or habits until I decided to go to therapy in my mid-twenties. I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, anxiety, and depression (I discovered I’m an empath as well). It was all beginning to make sense. I was comforted by the fact that I.. wasn’t alone.

My therapist put it simply: “Having anxiety and depression is like straddling a doorway with one foot inside and one foot out. The foot inside represents depression, worrying about your past. The foot outside represents anxiety, worrying about your future. The threshold represents the present and you’re just pissing on it.” My therapist utilized a specific type of therapy during our sessions called DBT. She gave me homework from scanned DBT chapter packets; I would read it, highlight sections I connected with, write within each activity and answer the corresponding questions. My therapist and I would discuss each chapter during our sessions. This type of hands-on approach really helped me feel more in control of my mental health. Within these DBT chapter packets, I learned about mindfulness, grounding, self-care, healthy outlets, it’s okay to say “No,” and about medication (pill shaming). I’ve equipped myself with an arsenal of tools to help me throughout the day, especially at work: I listen to music (free with no commercials), snacks/mints/water within reach, meaningful decorations, soft ribbon, and squishy toys. I prefer to utilize grounding because it stimulates my other senses, distracts my mind, and forces me to focus on these individual items/sensations instead of dwelling on the issue(s).

Some of my favorite self-care and healthy outlets that I enjoy are:

  • Not answering my cell phone
    • for business calls outside working hours
    • while visiting with company
  • Dance2Fit classes
    • highly recommend Sylvia’s studio in Hamilton
    • it’s worth the commute!
  • Comedy clubs
    • Laughter is the best medicine!
  • Clean up after company leaves
    • thereby being fully present
    • considerate of their time
  • Massage therapy
    • physical health matters too!
  • Strolling through the Village of Mariemont
  • Waterfront views
  • Coloring, writing, or reading in nooks while listening to my radio program
    • highly recommend Mystery Playhouse Whistler/Suspense (M-F @ 7pm)
  • Creating this blog!

I also learned in therapy that I’m a constant complainer, which I’m sure I inherited (nature vs nurture). While Facebooking, I came across a video of an internet personality, Kristina Kuzmic, who instantly drew me in with her New Year’s Resolution. I don’t usually participate in New Year’s resolutions, however this one seemed like something I needed to do. I kept this activity to myself and gradually noticed my life to change.. for the better! My perspective on situations and my life in general drastically lightened. I stuck with it, every day, three hundred sixty-five days later.. I felt like a different person! I highly recommend this exercise to anyone who struggles with seeing the silver lining each day.

I discovered more of Kristina Kuzmic’s inspirational videos (I highly recommend following her)! She talks about being a mom and wife mostly, however there are other topics she touches on that I can relate to. A favorite video of mine hit home because my mental health issues stem from childhood (as I’m sure most people’s do too). This other video resonated with me because when I lost my classmate, coworker, and friend.. ’twas a traumatic experience that I couldn’t seem to shake on my own, which prompted me to seek help in the form of therapy and medication.

“..You’ve been through a lot and here you are, wiser, stronger and still you!..” -My college professor stated when he suggested that I write.

This one line means the world to me because it feels good to know that my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. I’ve transformed over the years. Through blood, sweat, and tears, I’ve learned a lot about myself, tested boundaries, and yet my character has remained intact. As much as I’ve lost, I’ve gained so much in return: a full understanding of my mental health issues thus not feeling.. alone. I’ve become aware of triggers and have created plans for various scenarios. I’ve acknowledged my faults and am dedicated to improving myself. I’ve become selective with the company that I keep therefore I spend my time more wisely. I’ve learned to enjoy my own company, which used to terrify me! I’m gradually pushing limits to “messes” around the house, which has helped my new cohabitation situation a lot. I’ve been trying new things that scare me in hopes to overcome them.. I’m still working on that one! Haha..

The above photo was my inspiration for this week’s blog post about how we all go through a transformation that changes who we are. This tree was severely damaged and had to be cut down. The city of Hamilton was able to preserve and transform this historical landmark into a functional sculpture piece for future generations to enjoy!

I was apprehensive to publicly share my internal struggles this week, however am glad I took the risk because I think vulnerability can be a powerful thing. I admire those who possess and share this quality. I hope the next time you feel stuck in your head and you just can’t seem to shake it; that you’ll take the time to seek the help you deserve. Trust that you are not alone. Please share your transformational stories in the comments. I’m interested to hear about them!

Life’s a B..lur

We loaded up into ol’ Ruby headed to a neighboring town to interview for a college internship at a photography studio. We decided to make a road trip out of it and to get a jump start on next semester. It was our summer vacation, after all.. What’s work with no play? No fun, that’s what! The key to happiness is balance. My gal pal and I were attached at the hip: we worked together, had all the same classes, and even carpooled to save some dough! We fit the stereotypical college student roles perfectly: always broke, starving.. I mean, striving artists! We had to be creative to survive in this cruel world.

“Daphne, when ya gonna get your A.C. fixed?! I’m melting,” I complained again while staring out the passenger window.

“♪♫ Shyanne.. I’m working on it.. Ol’ Ruby needs some TLC-eeeee.. she’s an expensive Drama Queeeeeen! Just put your window all the way dowwwwwn ♬,” Daphne sang along with the blaring radio.

I didn’t wanna mess up my hair, but decided since I was already a hot mess, I might as well just let the fresh country air blow away the beads of sweat off my freckled face. I fiddled with the squeaky, manual window crank and with each rotation, felt my arm muscles spasm.

“Add a can of WD-40 to the laundry list for ol’ Ruby,” I stated as both of our butts lifted up out of the maroon front bench seat. “Hey! Take it easy on these hills.. You know I get car sick.. We ain’t hill hoppin’..”

“I can’t help it, I’m going the speed limit,” Daphne stated matter-of-factly.

“Do ya have a litter bag? Just in case?” I pleaded as my stomach gurgled.

“Yeah, in the glove box. Just make sure to slam it.. when you close it.. Ol’ Ruby is temperamental,” Daphne chuckled while patting the dusty dashboard. “Are we heading in the right direction, Miss Navigator?”

“Yeah, just keep West,” I replied with a cough and sneeze. I took a couple deep breaths in and out and closed my eyes. I surprised myself with a quick recovery. All those long road trips with my family semi-prepared me on how to deal with my car sickness. My dad would purposely give it the gas over hills just to churn my stomach. Anything for a laugh.. but I never laughed.

Daphne interrupted my thought, “Did you bring your camera?”

“You know it,” I squealed while unveiling my new digital camera like a Bob Barker Beauty.

“Yay! Let’s document our adventure,” Daphne suggested and wiggled in her seat. “Everything is so green!”

“It sure is,” I exclaimed as I wrapped the camera strap around my wrist and fastened it against my pale skin. I grasped the camera tightly, peered through the viewfinder, and snapped dozens of photos outside the passenger window. I adjusted the angle and zoom to capture a good variety. I tried not to get my reflection in the side mirror in every shot. That would be a totally amateur move!

I put the camera in my lap as I closed my eyes, stretched out my neck to breathe in the crisp country air, and to feel the warm sun upon my rosy cheeks. The radio changed to a commercial and it reverted me back to reality. As I was scrolling through the camera preview screen to see what I had captured, I announced with a frown, “I can’t seem to get a shot in focus or with the correct amount of exposure.” I let out a sigh.

“Well, that’s okay! Even out of focus and overexposed photos can be interesting,” Daphne reassured me. “Post them anyway, tag me of course, and maybe they’ll grow on you. Different always stands out from the crowd,” Daphne gave me a playful wink and smiled at her own advice.

I stuck my tongue out at her and we both giggled like little school girls. Oh, how I admired Daphne’s style; she really did march to the beat of her own drum. Her creativity was contagious and I was itching to be inspired. I had learned a lot from Daphne’s carefree attitude in and outside of the classroom. My OCD forced my artwork to color inside the lines. I relished the fact she could create an unorganized yet interesting piece of art and it still be professional! Such talent at such a young age. Daphne was a couple-ish years my junior, but seemed to be wise beyond her years. We were similar in that way. We both had our shit together: responsible, independent, mature women who loved expressing ourselves in a colorful way, which could be perceived as.. immature.

“Shyanne, I think I took a wrong turn.. I don’t see signs for Broomfield anymore,” Daphne muttered as she frantically read each passing road sign.

“Oh, man.. Okay.. Pull over,” I instructed while examining our Colorado state map. “Alright, we were going West and turned to pass through Westminster, haha.. get it?! West, Westminster.. What a co-inky-dink!”

“Very punny,” Daphne teased.

“Okay, we’re in Thorton; the city, not the gas station! Haha,” I looked up from the map at Daphne and she stifled a laugh. I continued, “Take 25 North, then get off at 128 West, and we should be there in no time!”

“Whew! I’m glad you’re the navigator,” Daphne admitted as she checked to rejoin traffic.

“You just gotta know how to read a map! My mom taught me,” I gloated while folding the map carefully.

“And.. you know how to correctly fold a map! I mean.. you’re a freak of nature,” Daphne joked. “You sure you’re not an alien from outer space?!”

“Ya caught me!” I confessed as I put up both hands. “We’re headed to a spaceship where me and my alien comrades are gonna beam you up to our lab and probe you!”

“Okay, but don’t give me too much laughing gas because I’ll cry laugh and I’m an ugly crier,” Daphne pleaded with her big hazel puppy dog eyes.

We finally looked at each other and just lost it. We had a non-stop giggle fit for a solid minute. “Fun fact,” I giggled in between words, “Area 51.. is in.. Lincoln County.. Nevada.. which is like.. 10 hours away.. hope you.. got enough gas.. to get.. ol’ Ruby there!” I pulled out a US map to examine for comedic effect.

Daphne poked the map into my nose. “Girl, you are something else! I’m getting kinda hungry, you wanna stop off somewhere?”

“Do you really have to ask?! Oh! There’s a Mickey D’s!”

“Why isn’t there an Unhappy Meal for adults?” Daphne asked with a straight face.

“If there was, what would the toy be?”

“A mini bottle of alcohol! Duh!”

“Oh. My. God. Yeesss! Let’s pitch them this idea and we’ll be bazillionaires!”

“After we pay off all of our student loans, we’ll have just enough money leftover to buy.. an Unhappy Meal!”

We lost it again. Our giggle fest continued. We heard one of our favorite songs on the radio from a band we just bought concert tickets to see in the fall, so we just had to stay in ol’ Ruby to rock out until the very end of the song. I played air guitar while Daphne drummed on the steering wheel. We dramatically serenaded one another while holding hands during the last verse.

“We should cut a record!” Daphne exclaimed as we were walking across the parking lot. She glanced to me for approval, but I shook my head. “We could sing back up!” We both shook our heads and continued walking. “I got it!” She stopped, so I stopped.. and we glared at one another. She paused for dramatic effect.. “We could be hype girls!”

“Yeeeeeesssss!” We danced all the way into the restaurant and stood in a long line to order.

“Shyanne, check it! There’s a vending machine over there! Wanna get a temporary tattoo?!”

“Oohh! Well, I mean.. we gotta look our best for the interview!”

We scrounged up just enough change. “On the count of three, let’s open ’em together,” Daphne whispered.

We counted together, “1.. 2.. 3..”

“I gotta flaming guitar! What’d you get?!” Daphne asked.

“I gotta spider in its web! Where should we put them?” I asked.

“Hmm.. I don’t know.. Oh! I know!.. On our necks! We gotta show ’em off! We’re hype girls! We gotta look the part..”

“Risky. Wild. Daring. I like it. Let’s do it! After we eat..”


We found a booth near a window facing a quaint little court yard. Daphne went over to save our seats while I went to fill up our cups at the soda machine.

“What do you want to drink?” I asked over my shoulder.

“Hi-C with a little ice!” Daphne excitedly replied.

“You got it!” I skipped across the dining area and sang what I was doing, “♪♫ Fill this cup with a little ice. Yeaahhh.. Pour some Hi-C. Oohh.. Overflooooooooow ♬”

“You gotta nice voice,” a police officer commented as he grabbed a handful of napkins.

“Uhhh.. thank you,” I muttered as my cheeks turned beet red. Oh, how I blushed! I quickly cleaned up my mess from the spilt soda on the counter and hurried over to join Daphne, “That copper just complimented my singing,” I whispered. “I was just being silly.. Guess I sound better than I thought..”

“Girl, I’ll sing backup for ya,” Daphne blurted out.. a little louder than she intended. She instantly noticed the other diners glaring at us.

I giggled quietly, “You gotta audition first.” We both dipped our french fries into the same ranch dressing container. “Hey, I like your nails, where do you get them done at?!”

“Oh, I do ’em myself!” Daphne shoved her perfectly manicured hand in my face. “I just slap on the polish and let the paint fall off my fingers when I get a shower the next day..”

“Sounds like a foolproof process right there,” I declared in awe. “I’ll have to try that sometime. What color is that by the way?” I stuffed half a dozen fries in my mouth at once.

“Burgundy Sunset Bliss,” she dramatically quoted with a wave.


“Hell if I know. Sounds like a color to me.”

“You should submit that to Pantone!”

“I just might,” Daphne mumbled through a mouthful of her double cheeseburger.

We made a couple pit-stops along the way as we walked down the street to the photography studio for Daphne’s interview. We captured some Kodak moments: Daphne posed in front of a white picket fence with her Mickey D’s cup o’ Hi-C. I posed leaning against a brick wall in an alley because my alter ego grew up in The Outsiders.