Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Over a year ago, my mom said, “I’d like to hike somewhere with you before I’m too old.”

I semi-jokingly replied, “You find the budget, I’ll find the time!” Cause let’s be realistic, broke writer here.

Tonight we get on a plane on fly to Dublin.

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The trip has changed a little in that time. The original plan was for the two of us to hike across the country from Dublin to the West coast. A stress fracture in my mom’s foot derailed that plan fairly quickly, and we decided it would be nicer if we didn’t leave my dad at home.

But we’re still going from Dublin to the West coast (albeit in a car, and along the coast). There will be shorter day hikes and lots of time to explore the countryside.

And after three weeks, they’ll drop me off at Helena Stone’s house and I’ll stay with her and her husband for another two and a half weeks.  There will be writing of course, and day trips into Dublin to see places I’ve heard her talk about but barely imagined I’d visit.

I have a date with a very cool Irish guy I’ve been talking to for a few months. Long story, but suffice it to say when you post on an Irish message board you’ll find the Irish are a VERY friendly bunch.

The whole thing will be a working vacation—because I definitely can’t just take five and a half weeks off from writing—but I am so excited it’s ridiculous. I’ll definitely be on social media less, but I WILL take a ton of pictures.

It’s still a little surreal. I’m not sure it’s really sunk in that I’ll be staying in Ireland for almost six weeks. But my packed suitcase says otherwise and in a little over twelve hours, I’ll be leaving Toronto airport and heading straight for Dublin.

The real question is, am I ever going to want to come home?

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Why I March

I haven’t come out of my writing cave a whole lot lately.

What I AM coming out for is the Women’s March this weekend. My best friend and I took a road trip to Washington D.C.. Tomorrow, on January 21, 2017, we’ll join hundreds of thousands of people there, and more across the world, to say that we don’t agree with the current direction our country is heading.

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You can call it a protest against Trump if you want but it’s about a lot more than just him. It’s a message to everyone, across every political party. It’s about standing up for what I believe in. Letting my voice be heard.

This isn’t sour grapes about an election. It’s an opportunity to unequivocally say that I don’t support the leaders who are trying to dismantle the policies that protect people’s health and safety.

For women.

For LGBTQ people.

For minorities.

For the disabled.

For anyone who has been marginalized or made vulnerable.

This is for the people who can’t speak for themselves.

I have a voice and I need to use it.

So tomorrow I will march. Going forward, I will hold our legislators accountable. I will not sit idly by.

I will not be silenced.


If you want to learn more about the mission and values of the march as a whole, please click here.  https://www.womensmarch.com/mission/

If you want to join us, there are sister marches happening across the world please click here. https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters

Don’t Tell Me It’ll Be Fine – Pt. 2: The Plan

To see Pt. 1: The Rant, click here.

Last night, I got a message from a friend who lives out of state. He was in the area and asked if I was free and wanted to grab dinner. I’d actually canceled a date (the guy turned out to be racist and xenophobic, ugh) so I met my friend in Ann Arbor instead.  Although we touched briefly on the election and the consequences, our conversation primarily covered everything else.

We stayed at the restaurant until they kicked us out and it was a massive relief to laugh and joke and just enjoy a good meal. I drove home with a smile on my face, singing along to show tunes. It was glorious.

For a few minutes, I felt guilty. But I realized that I needed that break. It didn’t make me any less determined to make changes in my life or fight for myself and the people I care about. On the contrary, it allowed me to do that better.

I fell asleep easily and woke up feeling more rested than I have since Tuesday.

Today I feel mentally equipped to sit down and make a plan.

Here it is.

The Plan:

  • Set up a recurring monthly donation to the ACLU. (Already done)
  • Donate to other groups like Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center as my budget allows.
  • Find organizations and groups that are educational and help me connect with others who want to make change happen. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Attend local events where my voice can be heard.
  • Contact my legislators through petitions/letter writing campaigns/calls. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Seek out the voices of people who are marginalized and listen to what they have to say. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Contact the Ruth Ellis Center about volunteering my time. It’s a wonderful organization in the Metro Detroit area that helps:LGBTQ youth. I donate to them around the holidays every year, but I need to do more.
  • Be scrupulously careful about only sharing verified news and information about what’s happening. There will be plenty of horrible results of this. There’s no reason to spread false information. It only hurts us. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Vote with my dollar. Support ethical companies and actively avoid supporting companies that are contributing to the problem.
  • Stop tolerating minor comments against women/minorities/LGBTQ people. I know there are times I could have spoken up and haven’t, and that has to stop. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)
  • Attend the Million Women March in D.C. in January to show that my voice won’t be silenced.
  • Work on learning the difference between preaching and educating people.
  • Come out to my former coworkers. If I lose them as friends that will break my heart, but I will not hide who I am anymore, just because it’s going to be difficult.
  • Allow myself  to take a break for my own mental health. (Ongoing, but I’ve already started)

Quick note: Here’s a great resource for self-care specifically for bisexual people: https://bisexual.org/self-care-for-bi-people-election-edition/

Please, please, feel free to comment with other constructive suggestions. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This Changes Everything

 

I had a knot in my shoulder and zero motivation to do anything yesterday evening when my dad reminded me that we had plans to go see This Changes Everything, a film (based on a book by Naomi Klein) about climate change. I almost cancelled, but I am glad I didn’t.

My dad is an active member of the Sierra Club and they were co-hosting a film screening. I’ve seen plenty of documentaries—I’m as likely to binge watch PBS nature documentaries as I am a show like Breaking Bad or Family Guy—but this was definitely different than your usual film about climate change.

While I can’t say that the film itself will change everything, I think the ideas in it could if people would listen. It’s a rather different take on climate change and ties in with so many other frustrations that I know many, many people are feeling right now. The film focuses on how protecting the environment and building a better economy don’t have to be at odds.

Rather than using shock tactics and leaving you with a feeling of hopelessness, the film highlights changes that average, ordinary citizens around the world have made. I had heard about Germany’s massive switch to renewable sources of energy but had no idea that pressure from the country’s citizens was what was behind it. I had no idea that people in India had been able to block the building of coal power plants.

The film doesn’t claim to solve all the problems or give us a blueprint to change the world. But it does present a different way of thinking and I think if enough people considered it and took action, it could make a difference.

As for what I personally will do? I’m still mulling that over.

I do know that one of the highest compliments I can give a film or book is saying it made me think.  This film definitely did.

If you’re curious to learn more, and especially if you feel helpless and frustrated that there’s nothing you can do to change what’s happening in the world, visit the website, buy the book (or get it from the library), or find a nearby showing of the movie. It’s worth your time.

It’s worth everyone’s time.

Spices and Tears

Life is weird when you’re going through a divorce.  You break down crying over random receipts, anniversary cards you’ve saved make you inexplicably angry, and as you sort through the spices you’ve meticulously put into nice jars and labeled, you think, “fuck you, I’m keeping the fleur de sel we bought on our honeymoon in Paris”.

Spices shouldn’t be one of the hardest parts of this, but somehow they are.  You both love cooking and for years you did it together.  You remember last fall when you decided to divide up the chores—thinking that would relieve some of the stress of you always getting annoyed with each other over when dinner should be made and that you are always so busy writing—you wonder if his comment about there not being enough room in the (admittedly small) kitchen for two cooks meant a hell of lot more than you thought at the time.  Was that when it fell apart?

The lack of answers in the most maddening part.

And now you’re sorting spices and bagging up half of them for him—because damn it, you’re keeping the nice jars you bought and labeled, but you want to be fair and not leave him with bare cupboards—crying because there are so many more good memories than bad.

Your second date, when he made you roast Cornish game hens, cheesy mashed potatoes, and green beans. The first time you made him a pot pie; his favorite meal. The way he was the only one who could cook bell peppers so you actually enjoyed eating them.  The number of Earl Grey desserts you made over the years because it was his favorite tea.  The way he always made the plate look so pretty when he handed you dinner, even right up until the end, when it was clear things were falling apart.

And you sit in your torn-apart dining room—the scent of spices all around you—and sob so hard you can hardly see the keyboard—and wonder how you got it so wrong.

There will be other people to love and probably even ones you will cook with.  Love and great food aren’t over at thirty-three, but what you wouldn’t give for just one more dinner, sitting across the table from him and knowing he still loved you.

You’d eat all the raw green peppers in the world just to have that.

The Next Chapter

I’m not entirely sure what the next chapter of my life entails, but some of it is starting to come together.

I am going to quit my day job, stay with my parents for six months, and see if I can support myself with my writing.   I considered about a thousand different plans, but this is the one that feels like it’ll lead to a happy, healthy future for me.  Getting an apartment of my own was tempting, but I still would have been juggling two jobs on top of adjusting to living alone. In the interest of my mental health, that didn’t seem like an ideal plan. Moving  back to my hometown isn’t my dream, but for six months, I think it’ll make for a softer landing while I readjust and plan the rest of my future.

I put in my notice at the day job today.  This isn’t how I wanted to quit.  What should have been a joyous moment feels weird and flat when all I want to do is celebrate it with Mr. Vaughn. It’s a strange, bittersweet moment instead.

I have insurance more or less squared away (thanks, Obama!) and it will start September 1.  My last day at the day job will be August 28.  In the meantime, I’m sorting/packing/moving.  My dad came and took a load of things home yesterday.

It’s weird and awful to dismantle the house I’ve lived in for the past 8 years.  It’s even more weird and awful to dismantle the rest of my life.  Mr. Vaughn and I are awkwardly cordial. I cry a lot. Sometimes I forget for a few minutes and when I remember it feels like I’ve been kicked in the chest.

Knowing I will be leaving a job that is causing me nothing but stress now is a major help. It allows me to feel in control of my life again.  It gives me something to look forward to.

I’ll be starting fresh in the fall.  I’ll move into a lovely room with a bay window where I’ll spend most days writing.  I think I’ll set my desk up so I can look out over the field where my parents’ horses graze.  I’ll go for walks and play with my camera and get my writing career in order.  I’ll see if I can talk my mom into taking a yoga class with me. I’ll find a therapist who can help me find ways to grieve and move on. I’ll go out with friends and make new ones and try stuff that scares me witless.

Fall has always felt like new beginnings to me and it’s my favorite time of year. I have a vision of waking up on cool, fall mornings and sipping tea while I sit down at my computer and write. It’s something to hold on to as I put one foot in front of the other and get through what needs to be done now. The remainder of the summer will be rough, but I’m starting to see the briefest sliver of a silver lining.

Earlier today, when I was talking to Christoper Koehler, he made an off-hand comment about my move to my parents’ house being a writing retreat, and I like that idea.

So for the next chapter of my life, I’m going to be at a six-month writing retreat.  And bittersweet or not, that’s definitely something to look forward to.

Updates – Husbands and an Apology

As you know, things have been a little crazy around here.  I managed to get three days off work that fell at the same time as my normal Friday off, so I have a nice chunk of six days off in a row.  Unfortunately, I’ve been running myself so ragged it was too little too late, at least when it comes to my health.  On Friday, I spent sixteen hours writing like a madwoman and now have a nasty case of bronchitis.  *sighs* Someday I’ll get better at this balancing thing, I swear.

On the plus side, the final piece of Russ and Stephen’s story, Husbands, is off to the betas and is available for pre-order on Amazon. The official release will be April 24th!

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Amazon – US

Amazon – UK

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Yesterday I stopped by Prism Book Alliance for my monthly guest blog post on Outside the Margins.  I discussed what marriage and commitment mean to people and how that shaped the latest book in the Equals series.

I am sorry that I did not manage to do a Flash Fic this week (frankly, I forgot) but I will be back next week.  And please check out Thorny Sterling’s Blog for a truly lovely take on this week’s picture!

Now I’m off to get a little bit of writing done while I’m feeling up to it.  And resting.  Mostly resting, because I want to kick this bronchitis to the curb as fast as possible!

Scent Memories

Scent is a funny thing.  It triggers so many memories and there’s no controlling them.  The memories leap out when you least expect them.

I work for a hospital but not in the hospital, so when someone is seriously ill or injured in the building, paramedics get called to transport the patient over to the Emergency Room.  It happened today.  Part of my job is to use an override key for the elevator to get the paramedics to the patient and back as quickly as possible

Like many cities, the fire department is also trained as paramedics so today we had an ambulance and a fire truck show up.  Normally, the guys in the truck show up in their blue uniforms or clean fire gear, but today two of them were wearing slightly smoky fire gear.

The moment I got in the elevator with them I could smell it.  The smell took me right back to nearly nine years ago when Mr. Vaughn’s apartment burned.  It was a hot, muggy Memorial Day.  We were in his tiny apartment, trying to keep cool.  We smelled something burning, a nice woody, campfire type smell.  We even commented on it.  “Hmm, smells like someone’s grilling in the park across the street.”

An hour later someone pounded on the door screaming, “There’s a fire, get out!”  I had on nothing more than a bra and miniscule shorts–trying to keep cool–so I threw on a robe and stuffed my rabbits into a carrier.

I spent the next couple of hours sitting in a parking lot in my robe, trying to keep my rabbits calm as they put out the fire.  It was surreal and such a vivid memory I’ll never be able to get it out of my head.

Fire

All things considered, we were lucky.  All of the humans and animals made it out of the fire unharmed.  Mr. Vaughn lost nearly all of his possessions, but he had renter’s insurance.  I lived elsewhere, so I still had my belongings and we had a place to sleep that night.

The next day we were able to walk through the apartment and see what was left.  Most of the fire was contained in the ceiling and it was an old house that had been converted into apartments so the majority of what burned was wood and cellulose insulation.  The scent of smoke and water was overwhelming but it still smelled like a huge campfire.  There was none of the acrid sting of burning plastic.

The next few months were utter chaos and some of the most stressful in my life.  We spent the time battling the insurance company to get every penny Mr. Vaughn was owed.  The 4th of July made me anxious that a firework would start a fire, and the smell of wood smoke made me uncomfortable.

Now, I can happily sit in front of a bonfire or a fire in the fireplace and feel relaxed.  But the smoky scent of fireman’s gear will always take me back to that rush of anxiety I felt as I ran out of a burning building and I know it will never fully go away.

 

Personal Photography – Zoo Trip

In early July I visited the Potter Park Zoo with one of my closest friends.  With as busy as we both are these days, we don’t get to spend much time together.  But we’re both trying to make an effort so when she said she was going to be in Lansing on one of my Fridays off, I shuffled my plans around and made it happen.  She had been planning to bring her two boys to the zoo and Potter Park is great for smaller kids.  The Detroit Zoo is amazing, but it’s the kind of place you need to spend a whole day at to do it justice.  And for two kids who aren’t yet in kindergarten, it’s just too much to tackle.  You can spend a couple of hours at Potter Park and feel like you’ve seen most of it, and the boys had a blast.  I took a ton of pictures of them too, but here are some of the ones I took for myself.  Along with all of the animals, there are some pretty flowers and plants.

 

The animals were gorgeous too and I had fun playing with my zoom lens to get interesting texture shots of the peacocks that roamed the zoo and of the tigers.  There were porcupines, a grey wolf, rhinos, a bald eagle, and otter.  FYI, otter are VERY difficult to photograph.  Sometime I am going to have to go back and take some pictures of them when I’m not helping wrangle two little boys who are at least as slippery as an otter!

Landscaping

I am several months behind on posting this one *ahem* but in May my husband and I finally tackled the massive project of landscaping the front yard.  When we moved into the house eight years ago, the yard looked pretty awful.  The bushes out front were long overdue for pruning and were scraggly and uninteresting.  The awning was hideous.  And the rose bushes along the west side of the house were overgrown.  That first year, we took down the awning, pruned the rose bushes and did enough work on the flowerbed that we could plant tomatoes between the rose bushes.  We also ripped out the overgrown bushes in the front because the house looked better without anything at all, even if it was very bland.

Ever since that first year we’ve been eager to improve the front of the house.  In a neighborhood filled with beautiful old homes and incredible landscaping, we felt like ours was out of place.  We’ve been dreaming and planning what we’d do, but it was never a top priority.

After the horrible ice storm last winter the city had more tree branches than they knew what to do with.  They chipped it up into mulch and offered it for free to any city resident.  It got us thinking about the spring yard work we planned to do.  When we went to the home improvement store to get supplies, we checked out their landscaping blocks and found them on sale.  While they weren’t the fancy-shmancy ones we’d been drooling over for years, they were very nice and within our budget.  Like many of our house projects, landscaping the front of the house was a rather impulsive decision.  We’d been planning what we wanted to do for years, but hadn’t planned to do it right then.  However, we knew we’d never find the supplies at a better price, so we jumped at the chance.  On a Friday night we bought the blocks and set them up and the following day my husband and a co-worker picked up mulch.  On Sunday we got a load of topsoil and Monday (Memorial Day) my parents came up to help.  Originally, they’d just planned to help us do some weeding, plant tomatoes, and fill a few hanging baskets with annuals but they were happy to help us get some major work done.

It was exhausting, but by the end of the day we had two half-moon raised flowerbeds in front of the house filled  with well-fertilized soil, landscaping felt, mulch, and some flowers.  We planted hostas, astilbe, a rosebush, and a dwarf hydrangea.  We added the landscaping items we’d collected over the years.  We filled hanging baskets with annuals and a couple of containers with pansies, herbs, kale, and lettuce.  We planted tomatoes in the west bed between the roses, peonies, and bleeding heart.  And then we collapsed.

There is plenty more we need to do.  That obelisk trellis will have clematis climbing up it someday.  The bronze ceramic sculpture (actually a garden stool) will be turned into a fountain.  And there will be a lot more flowers.

The next major project for the house is going to be having a new roof put on.  *groans* It’s the one project we aren’t going to do ourselves.  We just got an estimate for what it will cost and while we do plan to get a few others to be on the safe side, it’s right in line with what we expected.  Painfully expensive.  But a roof isn’t something we can mess around with and it will make a huge difference in the curb appeal of the house.  We’re going to get rid of the hunter green and go with a dark charcoal shingles.  After it’s done, we’ll paint the shutters and front door black.  I think it’ll look nice against the siding, and make the landscaping take center stage.  Oh, and we HAVE to replace that ugly, rusted railing off the front steps.  I’ve been eager to do that since we moved in.  The new one will have cleaner lines and be a nice glossy black.

What projects have you been waiting to do since you moved into the place you live?