Falling Into Place

My life feels like it’s falling into place. I’ve been terrified of commitment my whole life, so Matt is my first real relationship, at nearly 40 years old. But we jumpstarted the whole speed dating thing, and now he’s landed a job on the other side of the country, and I’ll be following him soon.

I was raised Mormon. In that culture, it’s perfectly acceptable to get married after knowing someone for six months. But to live with them? I’ve been told a few times that I’m rushing things. But surprisingly, not by my uber Mormon, June and Ward Cleaver era parents. They’d like us to be married, sure. But they’re not giving me a hard time. I suppose I have my older sister Andrea to thank for breaking them in. The other three (although I only claim two) are still super Mormon. But I’m friends with them (the two I claim), and their kids (and miss the kids of the other one). But I digress.

I finally feel like I have a future. Maybe once I’m not living in a home, I’ll have the drive to do more of the things I’ve been meaning to for years, like start attending writing cons, meet publishers. I’m going to finally join Toastmasters. I’ve been meaning to for years. But in a new city, state, practically country, I’ll need new friends. That’s a good place to start, and the local chapter is held at Matt’s workplace.

He’s home now, picking out curtains and fabric swatches. He’s researching the scents that would go best with my sun sign and moon sign. Good. My place could use a woman’s touch!

This isn’t how I would’ve planned my life, but obviously plans don’t work. But my life is falling into place. My parents would say it’s Heavenly Father’s plan. I’ve given up that mumbo jumbo. There is no plan.

But the universe, in its chaos, has a sort of divine organization. Ian Malcolm, the mathematician from Jurassic Park, would say that chaos theory, the unexpected, is woven into the very fabric of existence.

The divine organization of chaos theory is making my life fall into place at an exponential rate, and I’m good with that.

Life After Death Grip

The ghostwriting gigs I did offered me far more than money. Especially since money was deducted if I was late, and one gig ended up costing me money.

But one piece I wrote was about dialectical behavior theory, or DBT. It’s a newer form of therapy, and it’s more than just talk therapy.

Whatever it is, it helped me say the right thing to my parents in a last ditch effort that my mom sent back a beautiful apology letter, and we’ve gotten along since.

Another piece I wrote was a guide on how to approach women. I didn’t realize how much bullshit men spewed and regurgitated back to each other, as if it was gospel, until I wrote that piece. I also described what a good man would do.

Shortly after that, I posted a picture of myself on a Facebook group I was in. One man went directly for the creepy boob comments. One said I looked nice and that’s all he felt comfortable saying in public.

That was exactly what I’d described as a good man doing. That man was Matthew, my now boyfriend. I needed more bodies for a Firefly marathon I was having, and I invited him. We began dating the next week.

The ghostwriting job I did helped repair my relationship with my father, create one with my mother, and made me open to the idea of decent men existing.

Matt has since taken a job in Pennsylvania because I said I would follow him and I knew he hated it here. I’ll soon follow.

It’s nice to feel like I have a future again, like my world is bigger than these four walls.

It’s nice to have a healthy relationship with my parents. It’s nice to have a healthy romantic relationship, which I’ve never had in all of my 39 years.

Life has had a death grip on me for a few years, but it’s not merciful enough to finish the job.

So I write, and I laugh, and I make friends, and I smile through the pain. Because life no longer has a death grip on me. There is life after it.

New Found Cousin

So here’s a crazy story that happens to other people. A few weeks ago, I got a random text from my aunt, asking for a specific cousin’s number. I’m the one who keeps in touch with said cousin, Desi, best, so sure. I give her the info and think nothing of it.

The next day, I get a text from Desi, “Holy shit, I have a half sister!” After many texts and phone calls, and even texts and phone calls with said half sister, Niesha, of whom none of us knew of her existence, I hear this story:

Niesha, a lovely black woman two weeks younger than myself (I’m 39), had been looking for her biological father for the past like 15 years. She has two sisters, all with different baby daddies. Their mom knew who sired the other two girls, but not Niesha.

Their mother, now deceased, had had a hard life. Whatever circumstances led her to it, she was a prostitute at 15. And unfortunately, she became a pregnant one at 15. When a prostitute gets pregnant, she stops working, gets killed, or marries her pimp. She married her pimp.

This man, the man Niesha knew as “dad,” even though she knew he wasn’t blood, had a brother who took the girls in. As one can imagine being brought up in that lifestyle, Niesha also had a hard life.

So she ran away at 14 and got married. She moved to New Orleans with this man and they lived with his mother. Because 14 is still young, Niesha feels as if this woman raised her.

Niesha followed the only path she knew- escorts, drugs, gangs, and violence. She also has three children from three baby daddies.

But she never really felt like she “fit in” to this world. She hated her forehead, which she felt was too large, her nose too long, her waist too skinny, her ass not big enough, etc.

When she saw her daughter start to go down that same path, she stopped escorting. She quit using, selling, and buying drugs. She gave up gangs. She began to get “respectable” employment. She successfully raised the first high school graduates in her line, and her children didn’t have children until they became adults. After all of this, Niesha vowed to get an answer to the question “who’s my dad?”

Her mother had never been able to answer that question because her dad was one of her johns- one of her clients, and there’s no way of knowing which one.

While ancestry.com has been around a while, and it is Utah based, and Niesha had moved back to Utah, Niesha hadn’t heard of it until recently. And saving up the money to join was another challenge.

But she both saved the money and joined the site. The results took a few weeks, but they yielded answers. The relatives on her mother’s side were of little surprise to her.

But the relatives on her father’s side were the ones she was most interested in seeing. To her great surprise, they were all white. Not kind of white. Not mixed race. But Scandinavian, glow in the dark white. That would explain her long nose, high forehead, and I don’t know about the skinny. Ain’t nobody skinny in my family. Except her. I got that ghetto booty she wanted.

So I’ve given the spoiler that she’s my cousin. But you guessed that by that title and Desi having a half sister. But I’ll continue.

Her DNA matched with my cousins Karen, daughter of my aunt Jennie, and my cousin Cliff, son of aunt Karen. Jennie and Karen are my mother’s sisters. I adore them.

Niesha contacted them. They both said they knew nothing of a long lost cousin, and to contact their mothers. Niesha was able to get in touch with Aunt Karen.

Aunt Karen took some time in responding to her because, after hearing her story, she contacted her two living brothers to see if they matched up. The siblings/ aunts and uncles deduced that Niesha was a product of my late uncle, Larry (because I had an Uncle Larry on the other side, I may call him Hal interchangeably).

My oldest sister wonders if she really did belong to that brother/ uncle, or if the other two simply wouldn’t admit to getting a 15 year old prostitue pregnant. She makes a good point. But since Hal spent much of my childhood in prison for armed robbery, he does seem more likely. This same sister also wonders if this isn’t an elaborate scam. She may be right, but Niesha has certainly done a lot of research and kept her stories straight to scam a family that doesn’t have any money!

However, this is where I come into the story. Niesha was ready to jump in her boyfriend’s car and drive 5 hours south to see Desi right away. Desi convinced her to talk to me, a cousin in Salt Lake, where she was, instead.

Niesha and I chatted for probably an hour and a half. I was at a friend’s house. We instantly bonded. I sent a Lyft to bring her over. My boyfriend was cooking a fancy meal because he was moving to Pennsylvania a few days later (I’ll follow when I get my doctors all set up out there. Avoid MS if you can). My friend’s complex has a pool. My friend happened to have a bathing suit too small for any of us that she hadn’t returned yet. The whole evening was perfectly kismet, a good welcome to the family for Niesha, and a good send off for Matthew.

I texted Aunt Jennie and asked for pictures of her late brother. We then ate dinner, drank shots, went swimming, and fell down. Okay, I was the only one who fell, and I don’t know if it was the alcohol or the multiple sclerosis. But we had a good time, at any rate.

Upon returning to the condo, I checked my phone and saw that Aunt Jennie had delivered. When I showed Niesha pictures of her father, she began to cry. She said her son looks just like him. Her son is named Kenneth. My grandfather is named Kenneth.

This family I’ve had my whole life, and perhaps taken for granted because of it, this woman was dying to know. The stories I’d heard so often they bored me, this sweet woman who’d never quite fit in, was longing to hear.

A woman who lives at my retirement home and I were chatting recently. We discovered she knew my grandparents. She’d find me at mealtimes at tell me all about them. In truth, I only feigned interest.

But Niesha is truly interested. She’s drinking in any and everything Shaw related.

My family, whom I strongly resemble (on both sides actually), had always been a source of consistency and reliability to my. I may not know what autoimmune disease I pulled from either side, but I’ve never questioned my heritage.

“Belong” may be a strong word, but I never wondered who my parents were, if I was secretly adopted, or why I didn’t fit in.

I’d taken that all for granted my whole life, and here was this amazing woman, who’d overcome trial after trial, aching to know where she fit in.

She fits in with us.

New Adventures

I haven’t been amazing at keeping up on this or my vlog, “The People I Meet.” The only way the public can keep up with my crazy shenanigans is through Facebook. So…. where did I leave off? What does it have to do with MS now?

I don’t know if I told you about Matthew, but in sum, he’s my first real relationship, even though I’m nearly 40, and we’ve been dating six months now. We fast tracked the whole relationship thing from the start.

In the first two weeks, we met each other’s parents, took a road trip to a town five hours away without a radio, peed in a stranger’s yard (that one was the MS), rifled through the same stranger’s car for house keys (we were at the wrong house. Go fig), went to two weddings, one Mormon, Jewish in a Mormon church, and dove into bed already.

Anyway, he got laid off two months ago. I think it was a blessing, no disguise needed, because he hated his job and never would’ve gotten around to getting another one. He disagreed and sunk lower into depression. But he also got off Facebook and got on antidepressants (he’s a scientist; he knows which OTC meds work in conjunction with what to create decent antibiotics for his chemical wiring), so he was actually more productive after getting laid off than the whole time we’d been dating.

Well, as I knew it would happen, Matt got another job before his severance ran out. But said job is in Pennsylvania. We live in Utah. It’s for one of the best FDA med testing labs in the country. He’ll be over a team of scientists, using his brains and hard earned PhD. So he’s taking this job.

Originally, I was going to follow him. But I realized I’d never be able to afford it. So I’m going with him.

So here’s to us, to more adventures, more road trips (but with a radio from now on), to a new life. Maybe it’s scary, but at least it’s together.

And if I hadn’t had MS and fibro, I wouldn’t have had time for him. He had a stroke and a heart attack. We’re both spoonies. We’re both out of spoons a lot.

But at least it’s together.

Writing What You Know

You’re supposed to write what you know, right? In that case, Stephen King, every horror writer, and indeed, every writer, is way more fucked up than people realize.

If you write only what you know, you’re limited, and your very writing is crippled. I don’t know about your childhood, but I never saw a real dragon or got kidnapped by pirates, or ate a poisoned apple from a jealous stepmother disguised as herself- I mean an old hag. I kid. I don’t even have a stepmother.

But the best writers, and those who aspire to be, like I do, let the characters write themselves. And my characters know different things than I do. I can’t write my own life. It bores me. It also exhausts me, even just to write about it. I have no idea how I’m actually living it.

Of course I put bits of myself, or my past, or stories I’ve heard and maybe even adopted as my own in every character. You have to.

But my main character has wildly different hobbies than I do, and she thinks mine are boring. I break enough bones without even trying, thank you very much.

So now I have to learn about drag racing and legal car racing. Blargh. I’ll keep my game nights and comic con.

Ghostwriting

I did a few ghostwriting gigs. I’m really proud of them. I like money, but I would’ve liked to have kept my own name. But I never would’ve thought to write something like this. And it was in this writing that I described exactly what I didn’t want in a man, and exactly what myself, and most women, actually, want. In this vein, I was more open to Matthew than I otherwise would have been. That’s more valuable than money.

Another piece I wrote was on DBT, or dialectal behavior therapy. In writing that, I was able to write the right words in a letter to my parents that she wrote a very heartfelt letter back, and we began a decent relationship. That’s also worth more than money, and a good thing too, because I delivered so far past deadline that I ended up not getting paid. No matter.

But the one about approaching women is the one I’m most proud of. In writing it, I discovered that these guides have clearly never been written by a woman. How do they expect to know what we want if they don’t ask us? So, for men, women, everything in between and outlying, enjoy.

https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A7a62fd3b-2ffb-4360-8ccf-f7d71b2720c3

The New Normal

My definition of normal has to change frequently. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose life consists of a serious upheaval every couple of years.

There is a young guy here, at my retirement home, who I apparently met ten years ago. He asked the night staff to ask me if I remembered him because he wasn’t sure it was me. The more she described the events that transpired ten years ago, the more I remembered him.

His name’s Adam. He’s a really cool dude. We met initially in a chat room (remember those? Lol!) called LDSchat. I was an active member of the Mormon church then, but I was sort of closeted. A reverse hypocrite, if you will.

I had an ill deserved reputation that had followed me since I was fourteen and started getting pressured for sex. Of course I said no. Not only because I was Mormon, but mostly because I felt that fourteen year olds had no business having sex. So the boys would lie about me because they wouldn’t admit they couldn’t nail me.

At first, I tried to correct people’s perception of me, when people started assuming I was easy. But my sister Andrea gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

“People are gonna believe whatever they want,” she said. “Just tell ’em he has a little dick.” And so I did. Because chasing after people, telling them that so-and-so lied about me made look desperate and crazy. And easy. And it gave the boys the power they wanted. But countering their lie with one of my own made me look like maybe I just made a few bad decisions about sex partners, and who hasn’t? And it gave me the power.

Own the rumors about you. I knew the truth. My real friends knew the truth. The god I believed in back then knew the truth. No one else mattered.

Of course that lie became boring after a while, because I’m me, so I made up better lies. “He called me mother.” “He started crying and said he couldn’t pretend to be straight anymore.” “He made me make the sound of a goat.” “He said I was better than his sister.”

So of course I then developed a reputation for dating the weirdest men on the planet. But I thought it was funny. I was still the one with the power. You’d think they’d learn to stop lying about me, but the depth of men’s stupidity, especially when it comes to sex, is immeasurable.

I also went to parties and bars. But I never drank or did drugs. Except occasionally, someone would break out Adderall or Valium or pain pills at a party, and I did those, and they made me feel “normal.” I guess I should’ve realized I needed all of those! I was never even offered marijuana until grad school. I still didn’t do it until after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

I was never even offered real drugs or alcohol of any kind because my real friends knew I wouldn’t do it. Ironically, it was at these parties that I had my real reputation- that I didn’t drink or abuse drugs. Outside of these parties, I had the reputation of party girl, easy, paradoxically smart anyway. Aside from the smart part, nothing could be further from the truth.

But I’m a sympathetic drunk, the way Gus from Psych, is a sympathetic crier. He cries if someone near him cries. I get giddy and high on life if the people around me are drunk or high. I could dance on the tables (fully clothed), stone cold sober.

Okay, I think you have enough of the back story to get back to Adam and LDSchat. These chat rooms were full of dudes who were just looking to get laid. At least pretend to respect the morals of the group you’re infiltrating! But enough chicks must’ve wanted to get laid too, because these dudes kept trying. But again, the depths of their stupidity….

But I digress. Okay, Adam. He was living in a hospital at the time, ten years ago. Awesome. I could meet someone who really, truly, just wanted a friend. Sure, he may have wanted more, but he never asked, and he never felt like I owed him anything. I hate that entitled attitude.

So we’d watch movies, the British Office, play card games, etc. I’d bring him food from the restaurant I worked at at the time.

He didn’t know me from Adam (pun intended). Perhaps I was mimicking my half ill deserved reputation too well.

When it came up between us now, ten years later, that we had met, we became friends again instantly.

At one point, I told him how drastically different my life was now from ten years ago, and not just the multiple sclerosis. I’m no longer Mormon, I’m obviously no longer a workaholic, I’d traded my real dog, a Labrador, for a rat dog, a chihuahua. I’d traded my truck for a power chair, I’d traded living on my own or with friends my age for living in a retirement home. But mostly, I lost the few inhibitions I still held onto, and I sort of became my ill deserved reputation. He said he thought I was the exact same version of myself he’d met a decade ago.

That blew my mind. I’d undergone several huge transformations, massive depression, and a suicide attempt.

But mostly, I’d left the religion that had really been my guiding light, my North Star, for my entire life. Maybe I still swore like a sailor and thought for myself, but I still believed in it and lived it, no matter who thought I didn’t.

I chose to create a new normal when I left my religion. But I guess I just became the person I was meant to be.

I was forced to create a new normal when I lost my dog. I’d had her my entire adult life. But pets are just a heartbreak waiting to happen, and 17 is a really long life for a lab. So it wasn’t exactly unexpected, just extremely difficult.

I was forced to create a new normal when I lost the ability to walk and work. Because multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia are both so unpredictable, change is constant, and I no longer know my body like I did when I was practicing martial arts. But I think I’m doing pretty well at adapting to the new normal, although nothing is exactly consistent in my life, except change.

I chose to create a new normal again by having a healthy romantic relationship. I’ve never done that before. I’ve never even had unhealthy ones last more than a couple of months. So I need a lot more space than Matt does. And we both thought I was going to dump him last week over that. But instead, we talked about it and created boundaries.

This person who talks about her problems and sets boundaries is a new normal, mainly because I’m used to being belittled and invalidated by society, family, professors, bosses, friends I’m no longer friends with- everyone, it seems sometimes.

But I like this new normal. I like all of them. The one where I have a healthy romantic relationship, the one where I’m listened to, the one where I don’t work or go to school, so I can’t be treated poorly by professors or bosses. The one where I stand up for myself and I’m listened to. I even like the new normal where I live in a retirement home in my 30’s.

My life may have a serious upheaval again in a year or a week or a decade. But I’m becoming an expert at adapting and just rolling with it (pun intended).

I may never be normal. My life may never be normal. But that’s what makes it worth living- the stories.

My Life is Pretty Awesome

My life is pretty awesome. I’ve published some books, made a lot of friends, reconnected with my parents, met an amazing man, accomplished many of my goals, and continue to make more.

Of course getting multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia in my 30’s, giving up working, leaving my religion, all that’s happened to me in the past few years- wasn’t my plan. But who’s life has gone according to plan?

And if my life had gone according to plan, it’d probably be pretty boring. Not that I mind boring, but that’s apparently not in the cards for me.

But I had to get sick, when I did, to have the experiences and meet the people I did. Even the bad experiences and people have value. If that ex hadn’t have wanted to kill me, I wouldn’t have had the life flashing before my eyes moment, which was the impetus I needed to write Esprit, which had been kicking around in my head for 15 years.

If I hadn’t gotten sick, I couldn’t have written the poems I did, some of which got people to put down the knife in my suicide awareness or depression groups.

If I hadn’t had to stop working, I wouldn’t have had the time to get to know Matthew like I have, and thus have a fulfilling and healthy romantic relationship.

If I hadn’t lost everything, I would have been afraid of losing it all. I would’ve continued to toe the line, remaining in the fog of depression and anxiety. I wouldn’t have reconnected with my parents.

If I had been able to take care of myself, I wouldn’t have met the amazing people I did in the homes where I’ve lived. If I hadn’t been declared totally and permanently disabled, I’d still have to pay off my student loans (best silver lining ever!).

If I hadn’t been living in an assisted living, I would’ve opted for a real dog after I was ready to love again. But I was, and they had size restrictions. So I got a chihuahua, my most loathed of all breeds of dogs. I call her my little rat dog.

She had horrible cherry eye in both eyes. Her fur was so matted, she looked twice her size. She was already nine years old. In this high kill state, she was probably already slated for death row.

But she was quiet. The only other option available at the time when I had money, from the shelter where I got my last dog (I’m opposed to pet stores. Damn opposed.), was a barky, bitey, hateful- normal- chihuahua. Did I mention I hate chihuahuas?

So I got the ugly one. And named her the only female name on the mural of doghouses in the room at the shelter where you get to play with them.

The name was Bella. It used to be a beautiful name. Damn you, Stephanie Meyers!

Chihuahuas tend to only like one person- their owner. They have one person. I was not Bella’s person. She chose Suzanna, a 103 year old lady who sat on the couch and slept, and you never knew if she was dead or alive. I was not Bella’s person. And I’d just had a hysterectomy, so Bella couldn’t sit on my lap for weeks.

But we finally bonded. And I fell so in love with her, I even think her snores are adorable. She doesn’t yap. She doesn’t bite. I don’t need to leash her (legally, yes. But she comes when I call. She’s a good pupper.). She’s social. She’s playful. Not with toys or other animals. Just with humans. She walks right in any open door and assumes people will love her. And she’s right.

I love this doggo like my own child. Yes, I still would’ve adopted another dog about a year after I put Marty, my 17 year old Labrador, down. My pattern has been to only have one dog at a time and adopt another one about a year after putting it down.

We had Trouble, a terrier mix, from when I was two until I was 18. I had Marty from 19 to just shy of 36. I adopted Bella when I was 37. I heard chihuahuas can live up to 20 years. I hope she does.

I would’ve had a dog, sure. But I wouldn’t have had this dog had I been healthy.

If I hadn’t lost everything, I wouldn’t have been free to become anything.

My life is pretty awesome.

New Beau

It’s been a minute since I’ve written here. The impossible has happened: I met a man who not only met, but exceeded my standards, and who loves me. I’m not entirely convinced Ashton Kutcher isn’t going to jump out from somewhere, but I’ll enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Matthew not only has a bachelor’s degree, which is important to me, but he has a PhD in bioengineering, genomics, you know what, I don’t really know that world.

He not only claims to be a feminist, he actually is one. He allows me to ask him out on dates and pay for them. He reciprocates.

He not only admits his flaws, he actively works on eradicating them. He listens when I talk. He reads the books I’ve published.

Matthew is not only kind to me, but kind to everyone. He pulls out chairs for the little old ladies at my home (not necessary for me; I bring mine with me wherever I go!). He listens to their stories. He lifts heavy boxes for the men and the women here.

While he recognizes that he, unlike us, is young and able bodied, he still treats us like human beings. That’s huge. We’re not used to that. We, the elderly, the disabled. We’re shoved under the rug of society because no one knows what to do with us.

He not only says he loves me, he shows it. He spoils me rotten. Never having had a real relationship before, I’m not sure how these things go.

Matt has also had his share of medical problems. He had a stroke and a heart attack at 38. No risk factors, not overweight, not in the family, nothing. He legally died. Twice.

We met in a Facebook group for people who have left the Mormon religion. We chatted. I then invited him to a Fireflyathon the next day. He lives in a town an hour away. But I needed bodies. He came. Good thing too, because only two other people showed up, and it turns out, they were dating.

The stars aligned just right, or something. Call it fate, call it kismet, call it whatever. But we both agree it’s magic, and we’re afraid of waking up.

RedMockingbird Press

I love To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s the book that helped me define courage when all was lost (that, and the movie Fight Club), it’s the reason I went to law school (I failed out, but that’s irrelevant), it’s pretty much shaped my life. Of all the fictional characters in all the published books I’ve read, in all the tv shows or movies I’ve seen, I relate most to Adolphus Raymond. I doubt anyone remembers such an obscure character from a required book a hundred years ago.

But TKAM is what defines courage for me. It’s what defines religion, hypocrisy, curiosity, human kindness and human cruelty. The best and the worst this world has to offer, through the eyes of a child.

I don’t know birds. I don’t even like them. They’re just…. there. I don’t care about them. I don’t hate them, I don’t love them. They just exist, and I can’t tell one from another, but they’re pretty. Like flowers.

So a few years ago, I googled mockingbirds and chose the prettiest one for a tattoo. I knew enough to know they weren’t that intricately detailed in real life. But it was pretty. And I let the tattoo artist have some creative liberty. So it doesn’t look exactly like the one on google. It doesn’t look exactly like any other, even of that design.

Turns out, it’s a sparrow. Live and learn. Oh well. To me, it’s a mockingbird.

I’ve published a few books. The company went under. I have to republish them. I just finished writing my fiction. I need to publish that. Literally anyone can publish on kdp.amazon.com. So I am. I made my own logo to look more official. It’s my tattoo. Kind of. My tattoo is black. And obviously much bigger.

But this is red as a Simpsons reference. The Simpsons has also shaped my life. I wrote my master’s thesis on them.

So this is my logo. I’m pretty much in love with it. Now to finish writing and typing and editing and marketing, and all the boring business side of writing.