For My Friend Karen


The chrysalis of the idea for this story came to me the week after Karen told us on Facebook that she only had a few weeks left to live. This was the story I mentioned when I wrote the blog post on the day she died. I knew the story was in there, waiting to be written, but I’d been putting it off since before Thanksgiving, as though that would somehow make the whole thing less real or postpone the inevitable.

It wasn’t until the day we were driving down to attend her memorial service that I realized how I needed to write this thing, and I swear I heard Karen laugh.

See, I have this thing about books.

I love them.

But also, because I write [and am generally competent at it] I have Very Strong Opinions about how it should be done. Specifically, I loathe [as in, white-hot passionate hatred] anything written in First Person Present Tense. If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, it’s how I’m writing right now. Instead of writing, “She placed the cup on the table,” you write, “I place the cup on the table.”

For the most part, anything longer than a blog post written in First Person Present Tense strikes me as pretentious and annoying. It always feels like someone is doing a creative writing assignment because almost nobody writes in it.

I hate it enough that it’s quite possible I told Karen about it more than once, but specifically, I remember once when we were talking books during one of our ‘parking lot chats’ and she recommended that I read The Hunger Games. I had avoided the books because I’d heard that they were written in the dreaded First Person Present Tense, and I’m pretty sure I waxed poetic [read: Raved Like a Lunatic] about it after she suggested them.

Karen gave me a look, laughed at my crazy, and said something like, “Trust me. You’ll like them.”

And she was right.

So as we were driving down on the day of her life celebration, I was thinking about the story I needed to write and was trying to figure out why I still couldn’t get it out, and I realized it was because I had to write the thing in First Person Present Tense.

I suspect Steve thought I was losing it, because I rolled my eyes and laughed out loud for no apparent reason just as we were driving by KCI.

But it fit, and not just because Karen totally would have laughed at me.

Having said all that, this is fiction and totally made up, but I love the idea that something like this could happen. At the very least, I hope it isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.

I wish I’d have gotten it done before she was gone. I suspect she would have gotten a kick out of having a story [albeit an entirely fiction one] written about her.

I also like to think she would have thought it didn’t suck. 🙂


So we’re all in heaven, and even though heaven is outside the confines of time and space, the only way to tell what happens there, is to do it in chronological order, and of necessity, I’m gonna use Earth’s time so it’ll make some sense to my very limited intellect [FYI, writing a scene from within time and space and setting it outside time and space is considerably taxing to my fragile human brain].

I’m standing there with some of the people I’ll be entering earth’s time with, and Jesus, who is handing out lifetime assignments, starts a rundown of one of the lives in our region and decade.

“Okay, people, gather around. We’re working on mid 1970s, Midwest here. I’ve gotten some of you your assignments, but I’ve got a few more that need to be filled. Have a look at this one, and we’ll see if we’ve got any volunteers.”

The souls gather around and watch as the Life unfolds before them. They laugh and watch as the child grows up as the baby and the only girl in a huge family, full of love and music. We mist up as we watch her bring forth three new Lives and settle into her Purpose.

I already know where I’ll be spending my time on earth, but I’ve been watching visions of these lifetimes unfold because I’m nosy, and I want a heads up of the people I’m gonna be spending some time with on earth.

So I’m watching this one unfold, and I see that we do intersect about two decades into our lives. I start looking around to see which soul will step up and volunteer for this lifetime. I hope it’s someone I already like, because from the looks of things, we’re going to be spending several years seeing each other at least once a week, and for most of that time, three or four times a week!

I glance back just in time to watch the end of this lifetime, which comes far too soon. I stare in shock as Jesus looks around and says, “Who will do it? Who will go live this Life and bring about this Purpose for us?”

A small, Son-Bright Soul steps forward, and says, “I’ll go. Send me.”

Christ’s eyes light up with joy as he says, “I thought you might, Karen.”

I watch as the souls who don’t yet have assignments step back and wait for the next life to be revealed, and the souls who have already returned from earth surge forward and offer Karen love and support and congratulations on finding the right fit for her soul’s needs.

I step over to the place where I know Karen spends a lot of her time and wait for the opportunity to speak to her in semi-privacy. She finally makes her way over to me, grins, and gives me a look like she knows what I’m getting ready to say.

“Are you sure about this?”

“Definitely. It’s exactly what I want.”

“But the end…did you see it? You don’t even get to be 40. How is that what you want?”

“It’s not the end that I want, it’s the middle. Look at this.”

Karen shows me scenes from her life, plays for me some of the amazing music her family makes together, shows me the births of her kids, and I begin to understand why she couldn’t say no to this life she’s chosen.

Then she laughs when she realizes that at one point, Steve and I play couple’s tennis with her and Chris.

I look on in horror as my earthly body flails around like a land-locked Albatross and swear it’s never gonna happen. Karen throws her head back and laughs. “No way am I missing THAT! Look how much fun we’re having!” I squint a little and move my head in time to my ridiculous paroxysms, trying to see the expression on my own face as I’m thrashing and flapping around like a blue footed booby in full-on mating dance, and I realize, she’s right. There’s pure, unadulterated joy right there in my eyes.


Then she gets serious for a minute.

“Look, Shelbi. The ending sucks, there’s no doubt about it, but this life, this family and these friends. They’re the ones that called to me. My soul needs them, and I can’t refuse them just because I don’t get to stay as long as I’d like.”

She gives me a hug and goes to say hi to the people who will be the primary players in her life, and I stand and watch her go.

An arm wraps around my shoulders, and a Voice says, “What’s up, baby sister?”

“It’s not fair.”

“It almost never is.”

“But cancer? That just sucks.”

He holds up a hand, and I see the silvery scar from the nail that pierced it so long ago, “If it’s any consolation, even I didn’t get out of dying, and my death sucked pretty bad, too.”

“Oh sure. Play the Savior Card.”

He throws his head back and laughs. “You know, you’re really lucky we don’t actually do the lightning bolt thing.”

I crack a smile. “You’d never smite me anyway. I’m A Breath of Fresh, Irreverent Air.”

“Well, there’s that.” He rolls his eyes.

“I want to show you something.” He waves his hand over the vision of Karen’s life, and I watch as the lights of our souls begin to glow. I watch as she’s born, and the brightness of her spirit radiates out and touches everyone close to her.

“Look at what happens to you when she’s around.” And my slightly dimmer soul gets a little brighter when she enters my life.

“See, that happens with everyone.” And sure enough, each soul-light gets a little brighter as she enters their lives.

“Now watch this.”

I watch in silent awe as Karen’s soul leaves the confines of her body and her true brilliance blots out the sun for an instant. As I watch, it seems that her spirit spreads to infinity and then becomes a brilliant pinpoint of light again as she ascends into the arms of Heaven.

I see my own soul and the souls of those of us who love her shatter into a million pieces as the news of her passing into eternity reaches us.

It spreads out like a nuclear blast, and tears fall as I realize that this isn’t just a vision of someone else’s experiences. My own soul breaks from across the state when I hear the news, and this is after years of not spending a lot of time together.

Ripples of light and pain and grief spread across the landscape of the spiritual realm, and I see a pale string of light begin to form connections between my soul and the spirits of people I’ve never met before.

We are united in grief, but also in our love for Karen, and it strikes me anew that even in the earthly illusion of our separateness, I am united as one with everyone else who carries Karen’s fingerprints on their soul.

But then, as I watch us gather together to celebrate her life, I notice a strange, gossamer web that seems to connect us all in our grief and grow brighter as we relive our love for Karen. It’s the web of Karen’s memory, the fingerprint of her soul, left on each of our hearts.

I watch as we all go home that night and continue the healing process that began as we celebrated her life together. Jesus waves his hand and we zoom in on my own healing process, and I notice that as I start to come back together, my soul light is a little brighter than it was before, almost as if a part of Karen’s radiance lives inside of me. And the web of connection that she leaves grows stronger as we heal, even though our paths won’t necessarily intersect again on earth.

“Even when she’s gone from earth, she’ll still be with you.”

“But it hurts. I don’t know if I can take it. And what about everyone else? What about her family? I’m just part of the outer circle and I can’t breathe. How are they going to survive losing her?”

Tears fall as I look up from the vision in front of me, but before the lights fade, I look around me at the thousands of fellow souls getting ready to make the trek to earth, and I see the web of connection between my own spirit and all of the people she will touch on earth, and for an instant, I recognize them, and I know their stories, and I also realize that I will never meet very many of them during my earthly lifetime.

Our earthly lives only intersect in our love for Karen, and I’m sad for a moment because I won’t know them personally. The beauty of these souls touched by Karen’s life takes my breath away, and I feel deprived for a second, even though I know that our time on earth is a brief flash of light in all that is. When we return to our real home, we will be whole again and remember all of it.

I know this is True, and yet I try to memorize their faces, hoping beyond hope that I will remember them, even though I know that’s not how this thing works.

Then the lights fade, and Jesus nudges me on the shoulder.

“It’s almost time for you to get going, kiddo. You ready?”

I stare into his eyes, filled with wonder at the gift he’s just given me. I close my eyes and savor the fading feeling of Oneness and connection with the thousands of people whose lives Karen will touch, and my heart aches with love and sorrow, and suddenly I know that even if I could, I wouldn’t give up knowing her on earth for anything.

I take a deep breath and say, “Let’s do this.”

Jesus gazes at me with what looks just a little bit like pride, and he hugs me and says, “Hey. When they ask, go play tennis. You won’t regret it.”

I laugh and roll my eyes and hug him back, I feel a strange stirring in my soul that I can’t quite define, but I figure it’ll make sense eventually.

As I head toward the stairs that will take me to earth, I feel my memories begin to fade. My breath stops, and Jesus is beside me again.

“This happens with everyone. It’s no big deal. You’ll remember what you need when you need it, and you don’t need to worry about the rest, okay?”

“But what if I never remember the important stuff? How am I going to live my purpose if I can’t take it with me?”

Jesus grabs my shoulders and holds me at arm’s length, “Seriously? Do you doubt my ability to call you into your purpose without giving you a cheat sheet?”

“No. But I doubt my ability to hear it. You KNOW how I am!”

Jesus laughs and says, “Yup. You’re exactly the way I want you. Now go. You’ve got some work to do.”

I give him one last squeeze and turn to go, and I hear a voice behind me yell,

“Hey, Shelbi!”

I turn and see Karen, glowing as brilliantly as any soul could. She’s waving and laughing and she says to me, “Tell everyone I’ll save them a spot, and I’ll see them soon!”

I feel the stirring in my soul again, and my eyes fill with tears as I nod and whisper, “Okay.”




There are days when getting older really sucks. For me, it’s not so much the process as it is the realization that all of a sudden, I’m not as adaptable as I used to be.

One of the things I’ve recently realized is that while I love the portability of a laptop and the freedom of typing in my bed or recliner, or outside in a lawn chair, or in a coffee shop, I loathe the keyboard, and more specifically, the mousepad’s proximity to the keyboard. I rest my palms on the edge of the keyboard, so I accidentally hit the mouse pad with my thumbs.

A lot.

This would not be a big deal except for the fact that a well-placed [read: tragically, comically, horribly placed] accident can erase thousands of words [and has…more than once].

I’ve been nearly finished with a blog post or random rant, and accidentally hit a button that shut down my program and didn’t save anything.

Profanity ensued.

I’ve been feeling the need to write again, but every time I get the computer, I sit and stare at the keyboard, and I just stop. That’s partly because of the accidental mousepad tapping, but also because I’m beginning to feel my age in my wrists and thumbs, and sitting at a keyboard that’s a little too flat and a little too narrow makes discomfort and numbness inevitable.

So today, I finally went to the store and found myself a keyboard/mouse combo that was reasonably priced and so far, doesn’t suck.

I suspect I’m going to have to eventually get one of those demented split keyboards where you can sit with your palms vertical instead of horizontal, but that was a learning curve I’m not quite ready to tackle.

I’m still sitting here with it on my lap, which isn’t the best for ergonomics, but I’ve typed this whole blog post and haven’t accidentally hit the damn mouse pad once [we won’t mention the fact that this is probably because my new keyboard is literally sitting on top of the laptop’s keyboard, so it’s physically impossible for me to touch the mouse pad without moving the new one.  Nearly idiot proof!]

Which leads me back to why getting old kinda sucks.

See, I really don’t love my laptop. I prefer the bigger keyboard, the separate mouse, and the bigger screen of a desktop.

I blame this on the fact that I quite literally have over 20 years of experience with desktop computers [and now that I think of it, it’s actually closer to 30 and that makes me feel very disturbed].

My children have no problem maneuvering their mouse pads. They can scroll, double-click, and randomly move stuff around, all without ever accidentally whacking the mouse pad and causing a major meltdown.

Just the other day, I accidentally hit a random button and my entire keyboard stopped working…and what sucks is, even after fixing the problem, I still have absolutely NO idea how I even did it, let alone how to fix it.

I dunno what the function buttons, or shortcut /hot keys/ whatever they’re called/ do…so I had no idea which button I accidentally hit and I had no idea how to fix it.

I ended up Googling it on my phone [because the keyboard did nothing…and that may have been the time I blitzed out the mouse pad at the same time…because that happened, too] to figure out how I’d managed to blow up my laptop and whether it was going to take a computer doctor to fix it or if I could muddle through and do it myself.  [luckily for me, I still know how to read and follow directions!]

These kinds of things do not happen to my children. They can move back and forth between the two platforms with miraculous ease.

But today, today I have a real keyboard, and a real mouse, and life is good.

I also decided to write something because my beloved left junk all over the bed and I have to clean it off in order to go to sleep.  I’m sleepy now. Which is partly why this makes very little sense and seems to have no point.

That’s me when I’m sleepy.

You’re welcome.



I sat at work today, knowing that my friend was dying, and I listened to music that made me forget for a while. And then I’d remember again and stop breathing for a second, and then I’d breathe deep to try not to cry, and I did that over and over.

It’s over now, and somehow even when you know it’s coming, it still shatters you. I sat at work all day and wanted to write a story. I felt like I needed to get it out before she was gone.  But now she’s gone, and the story is stuck somewhere in my throat, and I just want to scream instead.

I just keep thinking, she didn’t even get to turn 40.  She didn’t get to watch her daughters graduate, or her son get married. And I didn’t get to watch her turn into everyone’s favorite grandma while I slowly turned into the crazy old lady who screams at people to get off her lawn and the neighborhood kids are convinced is a witch who eats babies.

Because if I get to grow old, I will be a mean old lady. But not Karen. She probably would have tried, just so I wouldn’t feel guilty, but we all know everyone would have loved her.

And on a logical level, I know that we’re all going to die, and it’s inevitable, and most of us aren’t going to die quietly in our sleep at 95 after living a long and love-filled life.  Many of us are going to die too soon, and it’ll hit me again that I’ve lost someone I love, or I’ll be one of the people they say died too soon. There’s no way to know.

I just know I didn’t want Karen to be one of those people who died too soon, but she did.  And I hate it.

I’m not a very nice person. I don’t like being around people all that much, and I’m really not kidding when I say that if I grow old, I’ll probably be mean as hell.  That’s just the reality of my personality. People irritate me. And I’m not one of those people who will have hundreds of people show up at my funeral unless I die in such a way as to be memorable.  Like Bonnie and Clyde memorable, and since I’m not a violent person by nature [I realize that my dislike of people and general non-violent sort of personality are somewhat a contradiction in terms, but I’m more of a monk or hermit type than serial killer…aren’t you relieved?] I’m likely to die and be gone and the people I’m close to will show up and be sad, and life will go on.

I don’t say this to elicit sympathy or anything. There’s a part of me that wishes I was an extrovert and a people person who everyone just loves to be around because I’m in the room,but I’m not, and that’s okay. Part of the beauty of making the half-way mark to my natural life expectancy is that I don’t feel the need to try to be different than who I am anymore. Yay for small victories.

But Karen. See, Karen WAS a people person, and she was amazing. And she and Chris adopted us for a while, and I got to sit in the light that was Karen, and I can honestly say that I am a better person for having known her.

I remember the first time I ever saw Jacob, her oldest.  He was a toddler, and we’d been going to church a very short time, and there was this little blond cherub running up the aisle with his arms pulled back behind him funny, and my breath stopped, because that was, without a doubt, the cutest baby I’d ever seen.

Jacob was the first person who made Shaya laugh out loud in that great big gleeful baby belly laugh, and I remember being absolutely delighted that he had managed to do what I hadn’t. He’d made my baby laugh, and I swear, angels cried.  And then when Shaya was a toddler, we ended up living less than a block from Chris and Karen’s house, and we ended up spending a lot of time with them.

Here’s what you have to know, though. I’m mostly an introvert. I’m not shy, and I don’t really hate people, but when I’m with them, it drains my energy pretty quickly. I’ve finally accepted the fact that I can maintain 3 or 4 close friendships, and that’s it.  Steve is one, so that leaves me with enough energy for one other couple.

And Chris and Karen were that couple for a couple of years. And it’s crazy, because as we’ve neared the end and people have posted memories on Karen’s wall, I’ve realized that Karen was able to maintain real, authentic, close friendships with more people than I even know, let alone have a relationship with.

And she and Chris are amazing parents. I used to watch them play with their kids and they actually liked it! I was a little jealous because they would do activities with their kids and play games with them because they liked it, not because they felt obligated as parents to entertain their kids.

I have a vivid imagination, but I’m terrible with kids. No, seriously. I’m great with protecting them, and I love them with all the fierceness of any mama bear who ever lived, but when it comes to relating to them and playing with them, well, not so much.

I’ve managed to raise three of them, and they are exceptional human beings, but sometimes I swear it’s in spite of me rather than because of anything I’ve done.  Karen loved being a mom, though. I swear, it was her calling in life, to give those babies life and then raise them and be there for them as long as she could.

People will talk about what an inspiration she was and how she’s a hero, and that is true, but I feel this itch and I need to make sure that you know Karen wasn’t a hero because she had cancer. And the way she dealt with it doesn’t really make her a hero, either, because Karen dealt with cancer the same way she dealt with everything.  Cancer didn’t change her so much as it made who she always was visible to people who maybe hadn’t noticed her radiance before.

Cancer was nothing in the grand scheme of her life, except that it ended it way too soon. Karen is a hero because she lived her entire life with passion and purpose, and I’m not kidding even a little bit when I say that she made every room a little brighter just by being in it. The end isn’t what matters when we talk about Karen. It’s the middle that matters.  And the fact that I got to be a part of it makes me feel incredibly blessed and honored.

My heart is broken. And I wish she was still here. But I don’t regret giving her a piece of my heart, even when the ache from the hole she left stops me for a minute and I have to slow down and concentrate on every breath to keep from bursting into tears.

I just need you to know that Karen is a hero for how she lived, not how she died. I need you to know that she mattered to me, and that I was one of the countless people who she managed to just ‘click’ with, and that the fact that she clicked with me is a crazy, beautiful testament to how wonderful she was.

I’m gonna miss her like crazy.

Just Mulling Things Over


So I was sitting here on my couch thinking, and it occurred to me that the computer was sitting next to me and there were no children playing Minecraft on it, so maybe I should write!

Naturally, I have nothing pressing I want to talk about, but I did read several of my last posts.  I remembered the time I read Ishmael and got completely bummed out because of it.  I remembered the time I went off my meds, which wasn’t a bad thing until I got all stressed out again [back on the antidepressant for now.]

The thing that struck me, though [that always strikes me when I read something I’ve written] is that I don’t suck as a writer.  I mean, I’m sitting there re-reading something that I don’t really remember the words to, so it’s like reading someone else’s writing…and it doesn’t suck!

Yay me!

The kids and I caught up on Glee episodes tonight.  They talked a lot about Finn, so I cried several times.  I have doubts that I’ll ever be able to watch the first four seasons again.  It doesn’t make sense, but Glee started about the time we moved down to take care of J. So it’s been with me through some of the most difficult years of my life.

For whatever reason, the damn show struck a chord [har har] and we’ve been hooked since episode 2 or 3 where Curt taught the football players how to dance to Beyonce.

All that’s to say, the kids of Glee [and by extension, the actors] are part of my life, so when Cory Monteith died last year, it hit me almost as hard as if I’d lost someone I knew in real life.  And the show hasn’t been the same without him. Somehow, he was the glue that held the show together, and things just aren’t the same.  We tried to watch some of the first season a while back, and I just couldn’t do it.

Which is stupid, but there you go.

I read an article tonight about how Generation X is really the Henson Generation [or the Muppet Generation, or the Sesame Street Generation] basically, we grew up watching the original Sesame Street and it affected our entire generation.

I get it. As much as I’d like to think otherwise, TV is a huge part of life for me.  Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood were morning staples.  And I used to fight to watch The Muppet Show when it was on. And when I’d go visit my grandma, I’d watch Fraggle Rock at her house because she had cable.

And then there’s Labrynth. And The Dark Crystal.  And Kermit. Oh, how I love Kermit. He was such a sweet, gentle soul, and I always felt like he deserved someone better than Miss Piggy. She was such a bitch!  The irony is, I kinda married Kermit [but less green] and I suspect I might be a little bit Miss Piggy [minus the nose and tail].

But I love that my generation is making the transition into middle age, even though I still feel like I’m trying to grow into my body.  I mean damn. I’m 40 years old and the mother of three kids [two of whom are teenagers, for crying out loud!] but I’m still figuring out who I am and ‘what I wanna be when I grow up’.

I read something the other day about Gen Xers and it kinda hit home for me. It was something about how we mistrust authority, but we have families and kids and stuff, so we’re involved with them, and we’ve more or less rejected the ‘me’ generation’s preoccupation with stuff and McMansions.

I get that. We’re leaning toward a simpler life, both because we’re suspicious of anything our parents did, but also because we’re the first generation to do worse than our parents.  Damn Boomers fucked up the world [thanks, asshole Koch Brothers] and we’re the first generation to inherit the mess.

Here’s hoping we can get it headed in a better direction.

It’s weird to realize that my generation is starting to take over from the Boomers now. The last of the GIs are gone [or in their 90s] and the Boomers are entering old age. I find myself resenting them a little.  Turns out us Xers only make up about 50 million people in the US [or so] and the Boomers and Millennials are both about twice our size. But I think I’m pissed because they’re the generation that gave us Bush 2, Rumsfield, and the Kochs [among others], and dude.

They suck.

I worry about our future. About the world we’re going to leave our kids.  And I’m really frustrated that there isn’t much I can do to change things.  I’m a blue drop in a vast red ocean, but even more pathetic than that, I’m a housewife in the Midwest with no influence over anybody.  Well, except my kids. But they’re amazing in spite of me. 😉

So yeah. It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m getting sleepy and I feel like I never had a point but that it doesn’t matter a lot.

I read something today that a 22 year old girl wrote for her graduation from college. She’d gone to Yale and won all these writing awards for fiction and nonfiction and play writing, and she was worried that she was never going to do anything.

And I looked at her life, how she learned to sail on the East Coast. How she went to Yale and graduated with honors, and I thought, if that 22 year old girl, who had already won a shit ton of awards for her talent, was worried about not leaving anything of value behind, then two things: 1. Even a privileged, award-winning writer worries about ‘doing something’ [leaving the world better than we came in, as Henson would say] with her life, but

2. I’m 40.  My life is half over [if I’m lucky]. And as shallow as it is to say so out loud, what are the chances that now, at the halfway mark, I’m going to make something of myself?  I’ve always had this weird secret dream of being famous for something [something not humiliating or evil, so that leaves out reality TV and serial murder, and not necessarily in that order] but so much of that depends on luck.  And I’m a housewife in the Midwest.  I’m not what you’d call lucky. [*that does NOT mean I don’t have a wonderful family].

so yeah.

The thing I read about Gen Xers is that we kinda had a hard time with deciding what we wanted to be  [except we appear to be good at the family thing] because we all believed we could be anything… decision overload, maybe? and now we’re learning to deal with the fact that some options are closed to us.  There are some things we can’t be.

Which sounds goofy as all hell, but I related to it. There are a lot of things I never wanted to be that I also couldn’t be, but what if there are things I’d like to be but can’t because now it’s too late?

How do I narrow that down?  And what if I’m only ever a housewife?  Am I going to be okay with that?

I mean rationally, I know that being a wife and mom is nothing to be ashamed of, and I’m actually pretty damn good at it [crazy, right?] but somehow it doesn’t feel like enough.

So is that because my cultural indoctrination says it isn’t enough, or is it because there’s something I was called to do but I missed it because I was too fucked up to figure it out?

That’s the question for the night, I guess.  Fun times, eh?

Processing. Day Two.


I know it’s a dull name, but right now, I’m just giving in to the glory that is hypergraphia and rolling with it.

You have to understand, writing is life’s blood to me.  I read all the time. Hundreds of books and probably thousands of articles each year. About everything that piques my interest. But the zone that hits when I get my writing stride going is like riding a tidal wave straight through the eye of a hurricane.

I emailed a writer once. A lady who wrote about twisted murders that were incredibly dark. And I asked her how she came to terms with that darkness and found the courage to put it out there for everyone to see. Because whatever you read, a part of the author will shine through. And the many times I’ve begun writing a novel, the darkness always threatens to come up and eat me alive.

The irony is that I don’t really remember what she said to me. But I’m certain it was something along the lines of, “Do it anyway.”

Because when you write, if you do it well, you write in your own soul’s blood.  I know. Melodrama. But you have to understand that until very recently, I lived in mortal fear that everyone would read something I’d written and know just how dark my heart really is. And that they would reject and ostracize me for it.

So I wrote about politics instead. 🙂 As a liberal who comes from a very conservative family in a very conservative community in a very conservative state, it’s tantamount to painting a scarlet letter L on your chest.

But the cool thing is, it helped. I think it was part of the process. Politics are a hot button issue, but ultimately, they don’t matter much. They may reveal a bit about who you are, but for me, my politics represent my compassion for the marginalized of our society. I could never talk much about religion because there were still a lot of scars I hadn’t healed from.

So now, I’m sitting here and wondering, do I still care what people think of me?  The answer is yes, of course I do. But then the second question I’m asking myself is, “But is that going to stop me from doing what I know I need to do?”

And the answer is becoming more No than Yes, and that feels like a victory.

Jeremi moved out six days ago. Already I can feel the need to write bubbling up to the surface again. Largely because of my last post. I exorcised a few demons with that one.

So I think I won’t hide anymore. It isn’t that I don’t care what you think. It’s more that I won’t let my fear of your disapproval stop me from living my truth.

I only get one life. I might as well enjoy it.


Process of Recovery…Part 1


So the number one thing I do in my life when I’m coping with or recovering from a difficult situation is ‘I use my words.’

I talk.

I vent.

I write.

I haven’t written regularly in a very long time, and much of the past five years, I haven’t written more than a brief blip about politics or religion here and there, whether on this blog or Facebook. I’ve written a little about the reality of what it was like to take care of my quadriplegic brother, but between not wanting to dwell on something I was still struggling daily with, and feeling like I was indulging in a damn pity party or fishing for compliments, I mostly decided to lay low.

I used to write compulsively when i was depressed, but something about the combination of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion prevented me from being able to string together a coherent paragraph about my life, and while putting thoughts into the ether used to help me process and get over whatever emotional turmoil I was going through, writing about taking care of Jeremi mostly made me feel trapped.

And alone.

And miserable.

Truth is, I love my brother, and that never stopped, even during the most difficult days, but an equally valid, yet far more difficult truth to write about and admit, is that I absolutely hated taking care of him.

And maybe that’s the crux of why I haven’t written much about it. It’s hard to admit that in spite of the fact that I chose to take care of him, I hated and resented it almost every single day. And eventually, I resented Jeremi as well.

The truth is, I’m not some spectacular example of self-sacrificial love.  I never wanted to move back to this town to take care of him. I never wanted him to live with me. I never wanted to have to be the main person responsible for his care.

Steve had always dreamed of having J live with us later, but I never did. I grew up feeling like a horrible person because I used to hide out in the kitchen or bathroom eating snacks, because I knew if I went into the living room where J was, he’d want some of whatever I was eating, too, and he was likely to drool on me or bite me or choke and spit or vomit all over me, and I hated all of that.

I hated being stuck at home, of never going on a family vacation, never going anywhere as a family because it was so much work to take J with us that it was just easier for one able-bodied person to stay in the house with him, and everyone else to go on outings alone.

It sucks to love someone and resent them at the same time. I grew up feeling like a selfish, hateful, resentful human being. I grew up feeling guilty every day of my life because there was always something I resented that happened.

I felt like I never got quite what I needed because J took so much of the energy my parents had that there just wasn’t much left over for me. As a young child, too young to understand what was really going on, I just felt like he was the ‘favorite’ because he got most of what they had to give.

And all of that was before I was 12.

So fast forward 25 years and there he was. Sick and dying.  My parents were also not in the best health and would have killed themselves trying to take care of him, and in my eyes, the only option was for me to uproot my family and take care of him.

But I didn’t want to.

Because I knew.

I knew there would never be enough help. I knew we were on our own, and that I wasn’t going to be able to do it all. I knew I was going to be miserable.  But I couldn’t see a way out.  I knew that if I said no, I really would be that awful girl who’d hidden out in the bathroom so she wouldn’t have to feed her brother a damn snack, except this time, he would die because of my selfishness.

Even knowing what I know now, having lived five years taking care of him and wishing most days I wasn’t, even having nearly destroyed my mental and physical health, and because of it, endangering the well-being of my family, even knowing that the best choice for Jeremi’s health was not the best for mine or that of my family…I’m still not sure I could say no if I had to choose again.

Because the guilt of that little girl is still there, and stronger than ever, thanks to the constant reminder of the past five years that I still can’t take care of  him without feeling resentment, anger, and self loathing for feeling resentment and anger.

He’s moved out now. He’s happy, healthy and safe, and I am SO glad that is true.

But I’m not.

I’m exhausted and broken, and I’d love nothing more than to  run away to Costa Rica and pretend, even if it’s just for a short time, that I have no obligations or responsibilities to anyone but myself.

I don’t know how to process 30 year old self-inflicted wounds, and I don’t know how not to hate the fact that I absolutely do not ever want to be the primary caregiver of another adult again as long as I live.


And here’s where the processing begins.

The truths is, if I had to do it all over again, if I had to make the same choice today that I made five years ago…

I would say no.

That little girl who hid out in the bathroom was a child.

It wasn’t her responsibility to take care of a brother who couldn’t take care of himself.  We shouldn’t have had to be alone in the house in the first place.

Now understand me here. I’m not placing blame.

My parents did the only thing they could given the resources that were available at the time, and there are no good options in a situation like that.

But as the child who lived through it, I had a lot on my shoulders that I wasn’t equipped to handle, and that I never should have had to deal with in the first place.

I wasn’t a villain. And I was exactly as selfish as every other human in the history of mankind was at that age. I was certainly no more selfish, and probably a little less so.

Five years ago, it wasn’t my responsibility to nurse J back to health. I didn’t have to do it.

And had I been thinking clearly, I would have taken a more objective look at what my kids were going to have to go through.

They’ve lived the same life for the past five years that I had for my entire childhood and adolescence.

On some deep psychological level, I think I was trying to make up for what I believed were wrongs I had committed against Jeremi.

And I was trying to do what I’d been taught from a very early age: when it comes to family, you do what you gotta do. You make the sacrifices necessary to support family, even if it means destroying yourself in the process.

But when you have kids who depend on you, who rely on you to be the safe landing spot when they have a problem or crisis, who depend on you to help them know how much they mean to you, sacrificing your own health and happiness means that you also sacrifice their safe landing spot.

My parents did the best they could to support both of their kids, but the truth is, two people just don’t have enough energy and personal resources to support two kids’ physical and emotional needs when one requires most of their energy just to keep him alive.

It wasn’t that they were inadequate, it was that the load was too big for anyone.

And that’s the thing I didn’t realize until I lived it.  My parents pushed past physical and mental exhaustion and burnout for decades because it was their child and there wasn’t anyone else to do it.

Steve and I did the same thing, but J wasn’t my child. I already had three kids, and they were taking up everything I had just on their own.  I never had enough to give to J without sacrificing what my family needed from me, but I didn’t realize it until I was falling apart.

I’ve broken myself, physically and emotionally, and I’m working on picking up the pieces and starting again.   I’ve learned some valuable lessons, but man, sometimes I wish I could learn things without having to go through hell in the process.

So the process has begun.

Wish me luck.



So it turns out people think I’m passionate and I preach at people and try to force them into my view. I’ve also been accused recently of refusing to listen to views other than my own, of being childish, tactless, hateful, and closed minded.

I can see how others might see me that way, especially if they’ve disagreed with me about something. Truth is, I AM passionate.  I’m opinionated. I’m also a damn good writer and an even better researcher, so I know exactly what I believe and more importantly, I know exactly WHY I believe it.

I don’t typically write an opinion without having researched the facts thoroughly before hand.  So naturally I state opinions from the mindset that based on the information I have, my opinion is fact based, well-rounded, informed, and of course, correct. 

Here’s what people don’t seem to believe, though.

If, on further reflection and research, I find new facts that contradict my previously held opinions, I change my mind.

There are people in my life who can verify that I have indeed changed my mind more than once.  You don’t just have to take my word for it.

The thing is, I do a damn lot of research. About everything. And usually, if it’s on the Internet, I can find it in less than ten minutes [the only exceptions being law statutes and medicaid rules].  And when I do research, I use what’s called the Trivium [you can Google if you’re curious]

Then I usually write it down because writing solidifies my thoughts and often reveals flaws in my logic.

I’m not saying this is how others have to do things, but I am saying that they should be aware that when it comes to subjects I care about, I generally know enough about it to write a damn long research paper on it [and in some cases, an entire book]. 

So platitudes, talking points, bumper stickers, and rhetoric from commentators in the media are all going to fail to change my way of thinking. 

Every. Single. Time.

Now maybe that makes me a snob, but it doesn’t make me closed minded.  I expect others to defend their beliefs and opinions with some actual facts, experiences, and knowledge that has come from doing their own research. If they don’t have time to do all that, then I respectfully submit they go argue with someone else.

I do not have mercy when it comes to debunking logical fallacies and inaccurate statements. Lies offend me to my core. They piss me off. And logical fallacies are a fascination of mine, so I like finding them and pointing them out. But they also annoy me during a debate because they don’t prove anything.  They don’t make me see a different side to a story, they just irritate the shit out of me because they waste time.

I don’t mind when people disagree with me, but they’d better be able to back up their opinions with verifiable facts, or I’m going to get obnoxious. And when I back up my own opinions with facts, I don’t consider that preaching or trying to force someone into my way of thinking.  I consider it being able to give a reason for my beliefs, which is another passion of mine that stems from trusting the wrong people and allowing them to decide what my opinions were for me.


So in other news, self-righteous hypocrites annoy the shit out of me, and the more ridiculous they get, the more I’m going to respond in kind.

I think maybe people don’t realize exactly how much I hold myself back in online debates. I never give full rein to my desire and ability to flay people alive with words, because I really don’t like hurting people’s feelings.  There are days when I’m sorely tempted, though.

Coming Back to Me


I slowly weaned myself off my antidepressant.  It took me 32 days.  The reason it took me 32 days is because of a little thing called, “SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome.”

That’s a lovely euphemism put forth by drug companies that means “this shit will kick your ass with withdrawal symptoms.”

Drug companies like to try to take the stigma of what amounts to an addiction [albeit only when you try to go off them] from their little droplets of gold.

The irony here is that antidepressants are only slightly more effective than a placebo, and in many studies, not at all.  So they’re no more effective than a sugar pill, but cost an arm and a leg, and if you try to go off them, you have withdrawal symptoms.

A perfect money maker, don’t you think?  I mean think about it.  The withdrawal symptoms alone are often enough to keep people taking their meds.

So although it was a little scary, since some of the withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, twitchiness, and irritability, I decided that a $40 a month [that’s the copay. Actual drug cost is about $200] placebo was bullshit.

I can meditate, pray, and ride motorcycles for cheaper than that, and it’s more effective!

The fourth week was the most difficult for some reason, but I’m off of it, and I feel pretty damn good.

Next is the mood stabilizer.  I know what you’re thinking, “Oh hell, here goes the crazy person going off her meds.” Except that I’m not actually crazy.  I definitely qualify as Bipolar 2, but I think maybe I’m not actually mentally ill.

Here’s what I mean. When I can keep my stress levels manageable and have a strong support system, I function just fine. So what my meds actually accomplish is they enable me to endure a situation that is incompatible with my temperament.

Sometimes that’s necessary. If you’re stuck in a situation you can’t get out of or improve, I’m all for medicating in order to survive it. But I think it should only be a stopgap measure until you figure out a way to change things.

I ended up in a situation that I didn’t want, but couldn’t see a way to avoid. I knew taking care of Jeremi would be a nightmare, but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my parents to do it alone, or of allowing J to go to a nursing home or die.

I knew it would be bad, but I didn’t expect that I would be completely unable to function.  Enter medication.  It numbed the pain and allowed me a little extra time to figure out that this is not something I am able or willing to do for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, even with meds, I’ve reached a point of burnout so complete that there’s no way I’m going to be able to keep this up.

Now, the reason I decided to go ahead and stop my meds even though J still lives here is that although the meds definitely numb the emotional pain of living in a situation that is diametrically opposed to what I need to thrive, it has also taken away my most treasured gift: my creativity.

The need to write disappeared, and with it, one of the things I like best about me. With the dulling of my senses and emotions, the well of my creative soul dried up.

I won’t live half a life.  I won’t sacrifice my connection to the universe in order to survive diminished.

I have no way of knowing how long I’ll be on this planet. I refuse to put off living the life I was created to live until tomorrow, next year, twenty years from now.

So I’m going off my meds, and already I feel the urge to create, to write, to return to me.

It’s good to be back.

The Journey Continues


So after my recent bout of depression, I’ve been reading a lot about possible causes besides the standard, ‘chemical imbalance’ schtick.

Turns out, there’s no actual evidence that people who are depressed make less serotonin [or any other neurotransmitters that antidepressants tweak] than so-called ‘normal’ people.  I read an interesting book by Bruce Levine about the depression epidemic in the US, and I tend to agree with his analysis that people who are depressed aren’t crazy or chemically imbalanced. We might not even be abnormal.

It’s interesting how things coalesce to bring about new understanding at just the right moment, but as I’ve learned about our consumer culture and just how completely dysfunctional and unhealthy it is [both for us and our entire planet] I’m starting to wonder if my inability to function in my world has less to do with my malfunction and more to do with the insanity of the culture in which I live.

Levine likened sensitive people who are prone to depression to the ‘canaries in the coalmine’.  We might just be an advance warning that the way we’re living is unsustainable.

Which is all fine and good, except for fact that so many of us are now taking medications to function in bedlam instead of figuring out how to change things so that we can thrive without needing to numb our minds and spirits in order to exist without extreme suffering.

We’re still suffering, we just don’t care anymore.

I’ve noticed that since I started taking a seizure med [Lamictal] and antidepressant in combination, I’ve been a lot less moody and reactive to the things that happen in my life.  But I’ve also lost my creativity.  I no longer have the intense need to write down what I’m feeling or going through, and I’ve lost the desire to create art, whether with paints, clay, or words.

I’m not sure that’s  a good thing. I mean, I’m not saying I’m some great talent or anything, but art is something I enjoy immensely, and something I’m proud of.  Art is something that not everyone is able to do, and my art is something that no one else on the planet can do.

Whether it’s brilliant to anyone but me, it’s still uniquely something only I can offer the world.

I find myself wondering if, knowing that the sadness I sometimes feel isn’t abnormal, and that it will always pass eventually, I might be better equipped to explore the pain and express it through my art and writing.

Pain and suffering are universal. No one gets through life without it. But not everyone can put that pain into words, music, or pictures and share it with others.

Maybe there’s a reason for my sensitivity that I hadn’t thought of before. Maybe my gift to the world is to express my pain so that others know they’re not alone.


Still Here :)


Never fear.  I meant I wanted to sleep in a very literal sense of the word.  So I spent a few days doing nothing but sleeping and trying to come to terms with my new depth of depression.

Scared the shit out of my friend and worried my husband, which sucked, but I’m okay and I think they forgave me.

I think at least part of my bipolar disorder is less mental illness and more how I process life.  I’d just read three books in rapid succession that confirmed for me things I’ve known instinctively since I was a kid, but also made me realize that what I know is the exact opposite of what most people acknowledge.

From an egotist’s perspective, I’m awake, but most of you are asleep.

From a realist’s perspective, I’m half asleep, half blind, and a little over half crazed, but a whole lotta people are more than half way there, so maybe I’m not the worst possible person to have insights I want to share that might be useful.

I dunno.


So here’s my thought for today.

There’s a lot more to life than I will ever know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn it all.

There’s more to learning than just memorizing facts.  Knowledge doesn’t do you much good if you keep it locked up in the musty attic of your thinker.

The coolest part is figuring out how to integrate the knowledge into your every day life.  The bad news is, it often includes learning how to reprogram your unconscious mind, which can be slow, difficult, and painful, but is totally worth it.

It means realizing that you don’t actually live in reality, you live  in a story that is a little bit what you tell yourself, but is mostly colored by conditioning you got before you could think.

Which is why it’s so hard to change.  Most of your reactions have nothing to do with the situation you’re in, or what your conscious mind thinks is happening. It has to do with what you accidentally picked up from parents, siblings, in preschool, or where ever you spent your first six years of life.

So you do what you don’t want to do, and you say what you don’t want to say, and you don’t do things you know you should do, and are generally fucked up most of the time.


And from what I can tell, all the major religions began with people who figured out how to reprogram themselves.  Buddha advocated letting go of attachments and practicing compassion. Jesus talked about loving god, others, and ourselves, and being merciful [compassionate]to all. [exact same concept from a different perspective…letting go of everything vs connecting with everything, but both with the same results: compassion].

And they both taught that it wasn’t easy to reach a point where you can love everyone, or love nothing, but be compassionate either way.

You have to systematically deconstruct all the false impressions, ideas, perceptions you picked up along the way.

I’m most familiar with Jesus, and he’s my favorite anyway, so he’s the one I’ll be expounding on in the future.

For now, though, I think it’s important to know that there are a LOT of programs in your brain. Some of ’em are good and make you do kind, compassionate things, and some of ’em are destructive and false, and make you act like a complete asshole.

So do you have more good programs than bad?  I dunno.  Are you an asshole most of the time, or just once in a while?  And if you’re an asshole more often than not, does that make you a bad person?

I don’t think so. Even serial killers have people in their lives who matter to them, people they value as human beings.  It’s just that instead of cutting people off in traffic or being rude to a waitress, they kill the people who don’t matter.  The serial killer is what lack of compassion looks like when taken to its most violent extreme.

This is reality.

But it’s no excuse not to try.