It’s been a while

I was told today that I haven’t blogged in months. Technically that’s true, but it’s only been two and half months. These things happen when you go back to school full time while you’re working full time. Ain’t nobody got time for blogging! But I have gotten caught up(ish), and I’m going to take a few minutes to throw out some non-pot stirring things.

These boys crossed the rainbow bridge at the end of July. I fully expected one or the other of them to not come back from the vet. I did not expect neither to come home. I haven’t cried over an animal since I was very young. I didn’t even shed a tear a few years ago when I found Darci in the road, and she was my girl. I cried over these boys for 2 days, and decided I finally grew all of my emotions.

I went to DC in August. I promised my family for years that I would take them, and this was me fulfilling that promise. Chad backed out a couple days before, so I will probably still take him sometime. Or send him if his friend can meet him there. This wasn’t my first time, though, and I made Jamie take a picture with me at the Marine Corps Memorial just as I had done with my mom in 2000.

We went Arlington National Cemetery, but I ended up going to JFK’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown by myself. As I was walking up that last hill to the Tomb of the Unknown, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I was sure I would make it up there, but that I would never make it back to the entry. As I was walking up to the Tomb, I heard a bunch of clicking and I knew what it was that I was hearing, and stepped up my pace. I just happened to get there for the end of the changing of the guard. That was pretty stinking cool!

If you’ve never been, you can’t grasp the size of Arlington unless you are there in it. And I was able to make it back without having to find a ranger to rescue me.

I took the above photo from the WW2 Memorial and thought to myself, “Jenny ran though this?!?”

I got to have dinner with my friends Michele, Heidi, and Todd while I was there. Darrel couldn’t make it because I forgot to tell them all until the week of and he already had plans.

Labor Day weekend I flew home to AR for a birthday celebration. There were 3 “big” birthdays right together and my cousin Sharon (who turned the big 50) threw a shindig. It was really nice for so many of us to get together without it being for a funeral. Our parents came from large families that came from large families so there are a bunch of us. This is just a few of the girls:

I’m not sure who took that, but I stole it from Sharon’s Facebook.

Almost a month ago, Evie started having seizures out of the blue. I took her to the emergency vet, dropped way more money than I ever thought I would drop on an old dog, and she was in such bad shape, we let her go. I cried after talking to the day vet the next day (before we made the decision). I cried a little bit every day after that for 3 or 4 days. And then I melted down when I went to pick up her ashes.

She was a puker, but aside from that, she was the absolutely sweetest dog ever.

Chad finally got his driver’s license, so now when he writes “milk” on the white board, I give him $5 and tell him to go get it himself. Unlike Jamie, he is quite happy to go get stuff I send him for.

And back to that whole thing about going to school full time while I’m working full time?

I will NOT take 4 classes next semester. I spend a crazy amount of time at Starbucks because I cannot get homework done at home. I have never wanted to clean and organize so much as I have since school started.

Oh, and I got a tattoo.

Epiphany #1294

I was thinking about how crowds make me uncomfortable. Going to a party or function where there are a bunch of people I don’t know or don’t know well causes me a great deal of anxiety and has since I was at least a teenager. Now, I could go to a dance in high school, or a football game, and I was fine. I was always at those functions with my gang (as my mom called my friends and I), so it was just like normal hanging out with them. But if it was just one other of my group and we were at a big thing? Oh, man. Anxiety city!

I learned how to get around that anxiety though. One drink would chill me out. Of course, it was rarely just one drink, and if there were 2, well, who stops at 2? Not this girl. Needless to say, going to functions without that liquid courage have been met with all that anxiety. Therefore, the DragonLady does not do them if she doesn’t have to. And this is a problem the drinking was a symptom of.

I told a close friend not too long ago that I am the most arrogant insecure person she will probably ever meet. (Naturally I have to be the best at both. Or is that the worst? – haha!) But self-knowledge only goes so far. I know I’m arrogant and I know I’m just as insecure. What hit me this morning was something that friend tried to tell me a couple years or so ago about the insecurity. I just wasn’t ready to understand it.

One morning a few weeks ago as I was trying to listen to a podcast while my mind was wandering to a conversation some people had a few days ago, I kept coming back to those times when I have to go to an event, but have intense anxiety. I was slowly working through why I get anxious, while knowing it’s insecurity, but I just have to know why. Well, it’s because in my mind, everyone there is looking at me and judging me and confirming all those negative things my mind tells me to fuel the insecurity. Ugly. Fat. Old. Weird. Stupid. Yes, I know I’m not any of those. Ok, I am a little weird, but everyone has quirks. And I am overweight and I’m no spring chicken. Much like a lot of people my age. Hey, I made it to my age! But anyway, those are just variations of baggage I’ve carried since I was a little girl. In the moment, I’m not conscious of the specifics of the shame under the fear.

Then the epiphany happened.

My insecurity is every bit as much a manifestation of self-centeredness as my arrogance. It’s that whole “The world revolves around me” mentality. Most people at those functions aren’t constantly looking at/thinking about me, if we’re not directly interacting. I’m thinking about them thinking about me way more than they are actually thinking about me. Seriously, no one is as focused on me as I am. If they are, well, bless their heart. Haha

And as long as I am looking at me, I’m stuck.

Roughly twice a month I stand on a stage with the worship band at my church and both play guitar and sing. At my former church it was almost every Sunday, and a few times just me and my guitar. Admittedly, I get a little nervous each time, and I do a lot of concentrating on remembering the chord progressions and words. I’m not worried about how I look. I’m not even that concerned about how I sound because I practice the vocals hard during the week prior. I know people are looking at me. I mean, that’s part of it. But once the lights dim, and that click track starts, the fact that there is a sanctuary full of people in front of me takes a back seat to the greater purpose. We are, all of us, worshiping together. Sure, the worship team is leading it, but we’re doing it as a team, with the rest of the congregation to the glory of God.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:15-17, ESV

Anxiety from my insecurity seeks to keep me isolated. When I isolate, I don’t grow. I don’t contribute. Insecurity lies to me about who I am and whose I am.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10, ESV

When I am focused on me, believing myself to be the center of the universe (whether subconsciously or not), I am believing a lie about who I am and whose I am. I’m living life according to “what if” believing that if I do the wrong thing or don’t do the right thing, that catastrophe is sure to follow, and ultimately that it is God’s judgment upon me for not living up to his standard. Granted, I cannot ever live up to his standard. That’s where Jesus comes in.

Jesus is much more than a get out of hell free card. He is life. Not just life after we die. He is life in the here and now. The Pharisees held law in one hand, and nationalism in the other. Their hands were full of self-sufficiency and self-interest, and they were unwilling to let go of self to serve others and too afraid of losing their status in their tiny world that they wouldn’t even listen to Jesus, let alone follow him. Reputation was everything to them because as long as they kept the law better than the common sinners, they would keep their status and privilege. Their earthly treasures (wealth and power) proved, in their minds, that they were accepted by God. But this thinking is contrary to the message of the teaching of the bible, which is what Jesus kept pointing out to them. This has never been the way of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus repeatedly turned everything upside down.

The world values power and wealth. The world cares about self.

Jesus gave up both power and wealth to live among as as one of us to give himself for us. He doesn’t do it by force. He does not play the victim. He simply demonstrates how much we are loved, how much the God who created our universe loves us and is willing to give up to keep us. All we have to do is believe this and that Jesus is enough. Not just enough to get us to heaven, but enough to fill our deepest desires, and to set us free from the bondage of self-interest that causes us to view other people as threats to our security, whether real or imagined. Either Jesus is enough, or we are following the ways of the world and seeking treasure on earth which is temporary.

And if I truly believe Jesus is enough, then I have no need to hide out of insecurity because I am no longer the center of the universe. I am free. Free to be salt and light. Free to love as I am loved.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 ESV

Meetings and plans

This is part 4 of a story. Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3

The prince strode across the top of the castle and gazed out into the darkness. He often did this to clear his thoughts, but on this evening, he would find no peace. Still, he needed some time to absorb the news. The runner was sent to eat and rest, and Commodore Sharpthorn and King Loll would be expecting Andun to join them soon. No doubt, the prince would be sent to Pitmerden.

“Who would indiscriminately wipe out an entire village?” He thought it an unimaginable evil beyond the worst act of piracy or banditry he had encountered in the short time he had been training under Commodore Sharpthorn. He also had heard the stories of a time so long past the monsters of myth were thought to be the workings of imagination. The report of the strange tracks from the village to the mountains left them all a bit shaken. No one in living memory had fought against such a creature, and now no one wanted to believe such existed.

Andun joined his father and the commodore once more as they discussed what to do. As expected, King Loll made the decision to send Andun with a squad of elite soldiers to investigate the attack. “The festival will go ahead tomorrow as planned, and you and your men will leave the next morning.” “Yes, Father, ” Andun replied, much less confident than he intended. “My son, Commodore Sharpthorn assures me you are ready for this. I have watched you train, and have seen the attention and dedication you have given to your training. You have excelled in every combat skill. You are ready to lead.”

As the men left the hall, King Loll stopped Andun, and said to him, “I mean that, Andun. It’s time, and you need more than a few skirmishes with bandits and pirates to prepare you to succeed me. I have been fortunate to have had such peace during my lifetime, as my father before me. My grandfather fought other kings, but my gut tells me this is different from his wars. And not just because of the evidence the outpost reports. Now I need to rest. It has been a long day for us all.”

King Loll went towards his private quarters, while Andun took a moment to gather himself. Perhaps he, too, should get some rest, but before he could take one step, Oda popped out from behind a pillar and block his path. “What was that all about,” she asked? “Was it necessary to jump out in front of me? You’re lucky I didn’t punch you in the face,” Andun replied, clearly annoyed. “You’re not that fast. Now what’s up?”

Andun filled her in on the message and the meeting, and added, “Father said we are still going ahead with the festival tomorrow, and he will make an announcement to the city himself.” Oda said, “Well, I’m going with you to investigate.” Andun replied, “No, you are not. Father would never allow it. I know that won’t stop you, but I want you here for a different reason. I feel very uneasy about leaving, as if the Pitmerden attack might be just a distraction. Despite his discouragement, I know you are a capable fighter and your observation is almost unnerving sometimes. If my instinct is right, you need to be here to aid in defense of the city.”

Oda wanted to protest, but she could not argue that logic. “Fair enough, Andun. You’ve always had good instinct. For a stick in the mud.” She smiled and took his arm as they walked towards their rooms. He smiled back at her and said, “I don’t like to throw caution to the wind. It’s kept me out of trouble, unlike you.” They both laughed as they remembered her penchant for mischief. Arriving at their quarters, they retired though sleep would elude them both.

To be continued

Bad news

This is part 3 of a story. Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2

It had been a long night. The queen had been ill for many weeks, and struggled out her last few breaths until very early morning. The king, and their 2 children sat around her until the end. “At long last, she is at peace,” stated King Loll as he brushed away the tears he was fighting.

King Utsich Loll fell in love with Pobvom the first time he saw her. She came to Rockhorn with a group of refugees whose village had been destroyed by an earthquake and landslide. It had been a small mining village, and most of the men had been in the mine, and were buried alive. Utsich and Pobvom married young, but it would be several years before they Pobvom would give birth to twins, Andun and Oda.

Andun and Oda grew up fighting, usually each other, but each would fight alongside each other for one another. As heir to his father’s throne, Andun was trained for command from an early age, and took seriously his position. Oda dreamed of becoming a paladin like the heroes she would overhear tales of near the tavern. The priests had long since given up trying to dissuade her, and would teach her healing and faith even while hoping she would outgrow this fantasy and act like a princess.

The king and queen took 2 other children in to raise, Ebla and Tir Totuuz. Their mother died within hours of Tir’s birth, and their father was so consumed with grief, that he drank himself to death within 5 years. Ebla was only a year younger than Oda, and the two of them were the best of friends.

Now they all mourned the loss of Queen Loll, as did the town of Rockhorn, because she was loved by all. She had told her family where she wished to be buried, and as the sun rose, the gravediggers proceeeded to a small grove of trees along the riverbank where Pobvom loved to go when she needed some tranquility.

The day was spent in preparation for the burial the next day. There was barely time to sit and eat, and all went to bed that evening exhausted, and knowing the next day was going to be little better.

It was nearing noon when the rites began. The family and village mourned together as their beloved queen was laid to rest. Little was said beyond the chanting of the priests, and soon the final resting place of the queen’s remains were covered.

“She could not have asked for a more beautiful day.” Ebla hugged Oda, and then held Andun’s hand as they all heading back toward town. Oda slipped her hand around her father’s arm noting how tired and defeated he looked. King Loll saw the concern on her face, and noted how much she looked like her mother. Smiling, he reached over and squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry about me, Oda. I am merely tired. It’s been a long season watching my beloved slowly fade from this world. It took a toll on us all.”

Oda, smiled back and relaxed a little knowing her father was right. Death comes for everyone, and illness cares nothing for status nor station. Each of her parents had lived many years, and her mother would not want any of them to wallow. Grieve, but don’t wallow. Besides, her mother had requested a feast for the people of Rockhorn – one last gift from her to the people she had come to call her own.

Ebla turned to observe Tir who was following close behind and saw how utterly distraught he was despite his effort to hide it. She grabbed his hand and said, “You’re not alone, little brother. We are all here with you.” He smiled weakly, and said, “I know. But I’m still really sad. She was the the only mother I ever knew. And now she’s gone.” Before Ebla could respond, Oda put her arm around Tir, and said, “I understand how you are feeling. It hurts me, too. We’ll get through this. Now how about you come with me and we’ll see how the preparations are going for the feast tomorrow.”

Ebla joined Oda and Tir while Andun went with his father to speak to the commander of the guards. Commodore Terric Sharpthorn wanted to report to the king and prince with his plan to keep the city guard both staffed as normal while giving them opportunity to join in the feast. It was a fairly mundane meeting, but there had not been a feast like this for many years. King Loll and Prince Andun were very pleased with Commodore Sharpthorn’s plan, and expressed to him their gratitude for his dedication to the protection of the city and his care for the city guard under his command.

The formalities having been discussed, the men stood to leave when 2 guards entered the hall to inform Commodore Sharpthorn and King Loll that a runner from Honorwatcher Outpost had just arrived and was demanding to speak to the king. “Of course, send him in,” said King Loll.

“Sire! Commodore! Forgive my haste! I bring grave news from Pitmerden!”

To be continued
Click for part 4

Why do you go to church?

“Why do you go to church? What is your main purpose of showing up? (not collectively, you personally)

I was asked this question sometime before Christmas, and my initial reply was, “Way to ask me a question I’m not sure I want to answer.” This was following a discussion where I vomited out my distrust of Baptist churches, megachurches, and celebrity pastors (and other celebrity Christian leaders ie James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jr, Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, etc).

So why do I?

“But I know if I don’t go, I’m going to drift back out into the wilderness riding on my self-righteousness. Still, if I wasn’t serving, I don’t know if I would go. Even though I don’t ever regret going.”

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV

I went to church during the Christmas season even though I wasn’t serving. But in full disclosure, it was largely because my friend Stacey was singing again and I was NOT going to miss her first Sunday back with the worship team. And our campus pastor was preaching, so it was like a double bonus. And I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience from arrival to departure. Pastor Trent mentioned early in his sermon about our campus feeling like home, which the sermon series wass “Home for Christmas,” so it stands to reason. But as I thought of it, I thought, “Yeah, this church has always felt like coming home.” I have always felt welcomed. I have always felt “a part of.” I have made many friends there, some very close.

Through the course of the sermon on the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, Trent pointed out that we can do all the right things, but if we are doing it for the wrong reasons, it’s just as much of a sin as the “obvious” sins. (I greatly paraphrased that.) I can attest personally to that as the “good little Baptist girl.” Though I was just really good at hiding the “obvious” sins. Anyway, as he wrapped up he said, “If the only place Jesus has led you is to church, you might be following religion and not Jesus.” That didn’t complicate my attempt to answer why I go to church at all. (That was sarcasm which doesn’t always come through in written form.)

When I was a kid, I went to church because I had to. My parents’ rule was, “As long as you live under our roof, you will go to church.” Because they did not further qualify that statement at the time, and because I was already a master at finding loopholes (when I began writing this, I had just had a convo about that with one of my blunt friends), this good little Baptist girl went to Roman Catholic mass with her best friend for several months. Granted, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to church, I just decided I didn’t want to go to the one I thought I wanted to go to when we moved to town. (That’s a whole story in itself that I’ve probably written about before.) But I eventually found a Baptist church where I felt “a part of,” and that’s where my relationship with church started going wonky.

I loved that church. I went on my own without coercion, though a lot of that was because I had a couple of good friends there. But I felt “at home” beyond that. There was no “air” in the air there. Just a bunch of ordinary folks. Until we moved into the new building. I don’t know if there is a correlation. That’s been many years ago, and I was just a teen. But it was after we moved that I heard the thing that caused me to leave. I don’t remember how long it was after we had moved to the new building, but I vividly remember the openly racist sermon. That was the Sunday that church was no longer home because if ALL of my friends were not welcome there – white AND black – then neither was I. I walked away for many years. When I started going back to church it was for a lot of wrong reasons. But I found a church that felt like family, that wasn’t lily-white, and was Baptist. I got burned again because there was so much dysfunction due to factions with control issues. And when a faction tries to control a control freak who hasn’t yet learned that a controlling nature is a character defect, there’s going to be acting out. And I acted out. And then I quit. And I think I have been to a certain degree shunned.

I went into the next church search leery. However, it wasn’t a long search before I found another church that felt like home, and I went all in. I did it because despite all the issues at the previous church, I had a fresh encounter with Jesus, and it changed everything. Slowly though, because I still have a lot of issues.

I still have a lot of religious resentment. I don’t know for sure if that is why I am having such a hard time answering that question. I’m not entirely certain of my motives. I love my church. I love serving there. But sometimes I question if I made the right decision in choosing my church. I know I don’t have to go to church to worship God. I can worship Him anytime because He isn’t confined to a gathering of believers nor a building (and a church is the people, not the building). I have believing friends outside of church who are blunt and have no problem calling me out for my self-righteousness, so I don’t need church for accountability. I can listen to sermon podcasts anytime. Every “good” reason I can think of for why I would go to church can be accomplished outside of church.

So at this point, I have pretty much talked myself out of going period. I mean, why go at all when I don’t have to go? I occurred to me that there is something that I can only participate in at church. Communion. Generally all Christians believe that there are only 2 sacraments that are instituted by a “local, visible” body of believers, and that is baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion). I could argue the baptism with the accounts of Cornelius and the Ethiopian Eunuch, but it is not relevant. Besides, I’ve already been baptized – twice. But communion was always done in a context among a group of believers gathered together to commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice as the once for all Passover lamb. Yeah, I could show up at a church just for that (and I’m not going to go into the whole open/closed communion debate), but from Jesus instituting the practice at Passover before his crucifixion to throughout the epistles, communion was done among a group of believers who knew each other. While I just popped off with the argument for closed communion, I don’t think the point of commemorating the Lord’s Supper with a local church you are a member of was to be implemented as a legalistic requirement. Because my dad and I are living proof that you can go to the same church every time the doors open and still be covering up sin. But I digress. I believe the point of doing it local with folks you know is for the community aspect of it. Communing with fellow believers in commemoration of the one thing we all share in common: Jesus, and Him crucified.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 19-20, 24-28

If I make going to church about what I get from it, I make it all about me. This is not what Christ calls us to. Following Him is not a self-centered, self-focused endeavor. If we are to be followers of Christ, if we are being remade into the image of Jesus, then our lives should reflect a desire to serve others. And since I am a member of the body of Christ, it stands to reason that I have a role to play that benefits the entire body. I have been uniquely gifted, just like my brothers and sisters, to serve the body. This is perhaps why I love to serve in the capacity I do. And so I guess ultimately, this is why I go to church.

“…on a break”

I didn’t intend to go on a 3 month hiatus. However, I probably should have started that hiatus intentionally about 3 months or more before I stopped writing. Or I should have just stuck with fiction. Because I was not well.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

I was in a funk for a while. Okay, to a certain extent I still am, but I am no longer the “batshit crazy” I was. And it was one of those things I saw coming, but not entirely clearly. I let a couple close friends in on what was going on with me to the extent I knew because there was a certain aspect of it that I have been through before. I know that after a period of high stress, when I start coming down, I’m going to have panic attacks followed by depression. I have not ever been through that cycle since getting sober. So when I started having the anxiety, I started reaching out. It didn’t seem as bad as the panic attacks of the past, but I have not forgotten how bad that depressive period I had 5 years ago was. Never before nor since has life been that dark. Thank goodness.

In the meantime, I just wasn’t snapping back. One of my friends told me that we didn’t necessarily have to search real deep to find the cause, and I told her, “I’m not afraid of going deep, but I don’t know where to start digging.” Granted, this was my first holiday season since my mom died. Naturally some of the funk was grief, and I was on a heavy stress cycle for several months following her death. I got emotionally involved in the election, feeding on fear and outrage and what I viewed as hypocrisy that I felt was my duty to expose. (It’s not.) And then the election did not turn out as I expected leaving me to eat a lot of the words I was saying.

I sat down and tried to write just after the New Year. I have no idea what prompted me to write the following, but I am sure it was to point out something I saw in someone else rather than taking care of my own side of the street.

I can abstain from drinking, but if I am miserable, desiring the escape that drinking gave me, I’m not sober. Without the “spiritual awakening,” I am just a dry drunk going through the motions and never finding peace. With that attitude I can never do the 12th step because I can’t carry a message I haven’t really received.

Ironically, I got a call the following day from a friend who was checking on me, and she asked me if I thought I might be on a dry drunk. I answered that the thought had crossed my mind, because that was about the point the light start to flicker as if it was about to come on. After we hung up, I texted one friend and asked for prayer for the digging I was about to do, and another to see if she noticed anything glaring from my behavior that might indicate a blind spot. Within a day or 2, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was indeed on a dry drunk and had been for quite some time.

Dry drunk is a slang expression infamously known in the sober community. It describes a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways.

I’ve been known to spout out the statement, “I’d rather do hard stuff now than to do the work of figuring out why I drank again after the fact.” I still stand by that statement, but I was so far off track with my program that I went right back to Step 1. I looked at what happened, and I had stopped doing most of the things I did at the very beginning. Not all at once, but one thing here, another thing there, until I was barely working a program at all. I went back and started doing the basics again, and it’s getting better. I still backtracked the progression, and identified the first cause: I decided that I got it. I thought I had the program figured out, I had my alcoholism defeated, and I could chill and coast. Well, once I think I’ve got it is when I’ve lost it. And it happened not long after I had a year’s sobriety. It became complicated when life started happening and hitting me with major life changes like a separation and death of a parent. Because I wasn’t doing the everyday basics, I started running out of steam because I was no longer operating on a firm foundation with the help of my Higher Power. I was white-knuckling and had more than once incident where I was just about to drink.

I’ve looked at those instances where that obsession to drink returned, and I’ve wondered how I was able to not drink. Like that last Thanksgiving with Mom when she was in the hospital. If I’d had to drive by Petit Jean Liquor one more time, I was going to stop. I had already planned it out and knew I could pull it off without no one knowing. No one would have known. But the thought occurred to me, “I’ll know.” Despite the fact that I called no one under such “noble auspices” as not wanting to interrupt anyone’s Thanksgiving, I didn’t drink. Note: I should have called someone. About a week and a half before this past Christmas, I was on my way to work on a Friday morning when I recognized that feeling I used to get when I was drinking and I knew I was going to drink that day if I didn’t do something. I made a call that day and answered the greeting with “I want to drink.” But I didn’t. I know that may or may not make sense. I didn’t want to drink more than I wanted to drink, but I was craving that escape. That numbness. I didn’t drink, and I made it to my 3 year anniversary a couple of weeks ago, if by the skin of my teeth.

Just this week I was telling a friend about my first drink. How I was given that “way of escape” in the verse I quoted at the beginning. A big, wide door that I could have walked through without drinking, and without losing a friendship. To this day I don’t know why I decided to participate. I don’t know why I kept drinking when that first drink tasted so bad. I eventually came to love the effect of alcohol more that I cared about any moral implication of drinking the way I drank. What I do know, though, is why over those months when I wasn’t putting forth much effort towards working my program is how I kept from drinking in spite of myself.

God’s mercy and grace.

There is no other explanation for why I didn’t drink. Because I was half-assing the program (if that much), I had no mental defense against that first drink. I’m a firm believer in free will. I don’t believe that God forces anyone to do anything against their will even if it is in their best interest. But at the same time, I have no doubt that when I took that 3rd step the first time, surrendering without reservation, turning my will and my life over to the care of God, that even when I tried to take my will back, He kept me sober by doing for me what I could not do for myself. Or perhaps the better way of saying that is that he kept me dry while my life got more and more unmanageable knowing that the unmanageability would eventually hurt enough to take action to get the serenity back.

Dreaming #nablopomo

I tend not to put too much stock in dreams. I blame my parents for dismissing relative’s dreams. Plus I have really weird dreams, and they are usually vivid so I often remember them. Back in the spring I had a dream that was so disturbing, I had to call someone about it to stop dwelling on it. Just last week I had one that I had to tell another friend about. I wasn’t so disturbed after waking up, but I was pretty disturbed in the dream.

But then there is the dream Chad had back in May. He said to me, “Hey, I dreamed that Granny died.” I told him that she had been sick and was in the nursing home for rehab, but that she was going home the next day. 2 days later she died.

I have had several dreams about Mom since she died. I dreamed that I was packing up her stuff, and had most of the truck loaded, but then there she was in the kitchen, and I panicked as I thought, “What’s she going to do when I have all of her stuff?” Another dream, I was home for the funeral, and on the way to the funeral home, but she was actually still alive and in the hospital. Still another, I went home for the funeral, and at no point did I find it odd that we were in the house in Morrilton, but then Mom was there, and was asking me where her car was. I remember feeling angry that she couldn’t remember I had the car, and then guilty that I was angry because she couldn’t remember. (I think maybe that’s something I haven’t really worked though yet.)

The other night I had one of my typical “out there” dreams. For some reason I had to fake fight Rachel from Friends in order to fight some dude that I think I know, but all I can think is that he looked like a cross between Danny Bonaduce and Sammy Hagar. Took forever to choke him out, too, but he finally tapped out right before losing consciousness.

Following this, I was feeling like honey badger, and decided to go tell Mom who was on the porch. I walked out and said, “Mother,” in that same way that Jamie says it to me. Mom was sitting in Aunt Becky’s green chair with Aunt Pearl. Aunt Violet was laying on a bed beside them, only that woman looked nothing like Aunt Violet and more like Aunt Dude. Granny was sitting beside the door, and I woke up before I could assess who else was out there. Essentially, I think I was on that porch with a lot of my deceased aunts plus Mom and Granny. Just so odd, but neat.

There’s a fire! #nablopomo

This is part 2 of a story. Click here for Part 1

The sentries sat playing cards as they had done since their watch began before dawn. Every half hour they would get up and scan the countryside for anything unusual, but there was never anything unusual around Honorwatcher Outpost. Hutt laid down his cards and said, “That’s it, Femo! Ale’s on you tonight!” Femo replied, “I suppose you are getting tired of buying mine all the time.” They laughed, and gathered up the cards. “I suppose it’s time to work,” Femo said. They got up and walked away from each other along the wall of the watchtower. They each wondered to themselves, “What’s the point,” but the commander would have them cleaning the privies if they didn’t at least go through the pretense of carrying out the watch.

As Hutt scanned to the south, he noticed smoke – lots of smoke. “Femo! Come look at this!” Femo came running, saw the smoke, and said, “We need to report this. Now!” Femo ran down to the commander’s study. Commander Shai was reading some paperwork, and looked up annoyed at the interruption. “Since when do you deem it acceptable to barge in unannounced, sentry.” “I beg your pardon, sir, but there is a large fire to the south.” Commander Shai looked at Fema thinking this was a tale sure to be a manifestation of too much ale the night before. However, it would do him good to get away from requisition orders and inventory reports.

Fema led the way quickly up the watchtower, and Hutt snapped to attention at the commander’s approach. “Sir, it’s getting larger!” Commander Shai looked and indeed the smoke in the distance was immense. It was probably just a forest fire, but it did appear to be very near Pitmerden village. “That does appear to be a large fire. I will send Lieutenant Jaim with a squad to investigate. Good eye, boys.”

Commander Shai headed to the barracks to find Lieutenant Jaim, and informed him of the smoke. “Take a squad, and see what’s burning. Be ready to lend any aid to Pitmerden,” Shai ordered. “Yes, sir!” Lieutenant Jaim answered, and mustering his squad, he headed south toward the smoke. It was an 8 hour march to Pitmerden, and they were not going to make it before dark. None were looking forward to dealing with a fire after dark, but they were all willing to do whatever they had to do to keep the fire from the village. After all, protecting the citizens of Saveteron was their sworn duty, and their honor rested on it.

They marched along the river so as not to walk into the forest as it burned. By late afternoon, they all began to see from the position of the smoke, that it was not the forest. “Men,” Lieutenant Jaim said, “it’s looking like the fire is much closer to the village. They do not burn their fields this time of year, so be on your guard.” Everyone was poised to battle thinking that perhaps pirates, or a neighboring kingdom’s faction made a run on the village. It was very good farmland, but that was all. Lieutenant Jaim could not fathom why anyone would attack such a small village, if that was what had happened.

It had been dark for about 2 hours when they spotted the village from the river. It was now clear that the village itself had been burned. Each mad drew his sword, and prepared for a fight as they cautiously approached. As they reached the village edge, there was no sound except for smoldering buildings. As they silently crept in, the light from the buildings was just enough to display the carnage. Every living thing had been slaughtered, and all of the buildings burned. “Remain alert. Whoever did this might still be here. See if there are any survivors,” Lieutenant Jaim ordered his squad. They spread out in groups of twos to search the village, and Jaim held out very little hope of finding anyone who might have survived. He had seen few battles, and his men fewer, and never had he seen anything like this.

“Lieutenant! Over here! I found someone still alive!” Jaim rushed over, and found a young man bloody, but still alive, if just barely. As they examined him, they assessed that he needed serious care, and they did not bring a healer. The squad all reported back finding no other survivors. Lieutenant Jaim said to his squad, “I want to investigate the area before we head back with this young man. We’ll make camp by the river, and tend to his wounds tonight. As soon as it’s light, I will send most of you back here to look for any clues. Let’s move!”

They made camp as ordered, cleaned the young man up, and dressed his wounds. They held watch in 2 hour shifts with half the squad on each watch to get some rest. They would need it for their search, and to head back to their outpost. They needed to get the lone survivor to a healer soon, but needed answers, too.

The next morning, as soon as it was light enough to see, Lieutenant Jaim led most of the squad back to the village. As bad as it looked the night before, it looked even worse in the light of day. “A senseless massacre,” Lieutenant Jaim said to no one in particular. As they searched the village and surrounding area, they noticed prints heading back towards the mountains. No doubt that was where the attackers came from. “Sir, do you suppose those old tales we’ve heard are true? That cave creatures really do live deep in the mountains, and they did this?” Jaim wanted to dismiss that question as foolish speculation, yet he was asking himself the same thing. “I don’t know,” he answered, “but there aren’t enough of us to go searching the mountains for caves. Maybe if the survivor lives, he call tell us what happened here.”

The squad hurried back to their outpost as quickly as they felt they could safely move the survivor. They arrived just before midnight, and Lieutenant Jaim gave his report to Commander Shai as his men took the survivor to Laicha Sharna, the healer. “Men, women, children, and even their animals. Slaughtered. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jaim reported to Shai. Commander Shai stood silently looking at the fire, but with a look that told Jaim his thoughts were hardly on that fire. Finally the commander spoke, “I will send word to King Loll immediately of what we know, and will send scouts right away to track our killers. In the meantime, you and your men need rest.” Lieutenant Jaim replied, “Yes, sir,” and went to the barracks for a fitful night of sleep. It would be some time before he would rest well.

Laicha looked over the young man, and said “I can’t believe he is still alive. I think I have all of his wounds patched up, and I’ve applied enough herbs to regenerate a horse. But if he doesn’t awaken in the next day, he isn’t not going to make it. He’s lost a lot of blood, and needs to drink.” The young man looked deathly pale, and Commander Shai said to Laicha, ” I keep expecting each breath he takes to be his last. Poor lad. If he does wake up, he’s going to get a fresh blow when he finds out he is the only one of his village left.” There was nothing left for any of them to do but wait. Wait on the scouts, wait on word back from the king, and wait and see if their only eyewitness will live.

To be continued
Click for Part 3

A new chapter #nablopomo

fotheringhay-wm

Yesterday was kind of a big deal for me. I have not attempted to write fiction since I was in elementary school and we would have to write a story using each of our spelling words. I hated doing that. I can’t tell you why. I really have no idea. I can’t remember if it was being constrained by having to work in specific words, or if I lacked imagination. Having typed the last part of that sentence out while somewhat thinking back, it wasn’t lack of imagination. So it must have been the word constraint. Regardless, I thought most everybody else’s stories were better than mine. Who knows if that was consistently true. I certainly don’t remember any of my stories let alone any of my classmate’s.

That short cliffhanger I wrote was supposed to be 1) easy and 2) more detailed. For the past 2 or 3 years, I’ve been working out a story in my head. I have the main story line worked out, and so I thought it would be a very simple task to knock out the beginning of the story for yesterday’s NaBloPoMo post. However, the whole story was largely visual. My characters didn’t have names. My towns and villages didn’t have names. The mountains and river had no name. Thank goodness for name generators! At some point my creatures will need a name.

I ended up rushing the end so I could get it posted and still get to bed at a semi-decent hour. The destruction of the village needs more description. Oh, I think I have a way to work that in as I continue it. But, I digress. As I was getting ready to publish it, I freaked out a little inside. “What if everyone thinks it sucks?” Because in a weird way, writing fiction feels more vulnerable than anything else I’ve ever written. Including poetry. Not that I’m going to go dig around to find the poetry I dabbled in when I was still a teen. And certainly not my songs. In fact, those songs really need to disappear forever.

Back to the story, since I hadn’t really thought out details, I’m now all excited about where it might go. Because it’s one thing to have a main story line, but the steps to trace that line are what makes or breaks the experience. Or rather it’s like the difference between reading a book and watching a movie based on a book. Take Stephen King. When I started reading his books, I had already seen a few of the movies based on the books. But then I reached a point where I had read all the books up to a certain point in time, and then watched the movies, and the movies sucked. The Tommyknockers is the perfect example. The book scared the crap out of me. To this day, I have nightmares about my teeth falling out that I didn’t have before reading that book. The miniseries was atrocious despite starring my boyfriend Jimmy Smits.

There has been largely no point to this post besides existence as a daily post that’s over 500 words. But, I am looking forward to writing more of yesterday’s story.

The beginning – the end #nablopomo

“Come on, get up!”

“I don’t want to!”

“Yes you do. Let’s go!”

Brele finally managed to open her eyes.

“It’s still dark!”

“It won’t be by the time we get there! We’ve been planning this all week. It was your idea!”

Tesho was right. She had been planning this outing all week. She was finally old enough to go to the river to fish with Tesho. He had been going with his friends for a couple of years, and none of her friends liked to fish. Actually, none of her friends liked to do anything involving slimy worms and fish and mud. Brele had always wanted to do everything her big brother was doing, and for the most part she did.

Tesho adored his baby sister as much as she looked up to him. They had been nearly inseparable since birth until Tesho reached 12 and could go beyond the village with his friends. Truth be told, Brele could defend herself as well as Tesho, but their parents stuck to the rule that all parents in the village enforced. There had been no trouble around their village for centuries, but tales of a dark past still hung over Pitmerden.

Pitmerden is a quaint village in quiet valley between the Qruhz Mountains and the Mylahst River. Small cottages surrounded by fields cut out of forests to the north and south. Ruins in the forest to the south give rise to tales of long forgotten battle with an evil race of cave dwelling creatures bent on destruction. Rumors of adventurers from Rockhorn (the ruling city of the Saveteron Kingdom) searching the hills for mythical caves full of treasure fill the imaginations of the young.

Brele stretches and yawns, and proceeds to get dressed for her first fishing trip with Tesho. Emerging into the main room, her parents sit quietly over tea before their daily routine of farm life. “Tesho, I need you to help me plant the rest of the barley,” their father Xem said. Tesho replied, “Yes, father. We will be back before midday. The fish always stop biting a couple of hours after sunrise.”

The siblings stepped out of their cottage, and headed east toward the river. A very faint glow could be seen on the horizon signaling that dawn would be breaking soon. There was a slight breeze which added to the early morning chill. Each carried a pole and a small bucket of grubs they dug up the day before. The village roosters crowing were the only sounds besides the wind in the trees, and the soft padding of feet hiking along a well-worn path. As they neared the river, the birds were beginning to sing, and the sky was a warm pink signaling a clear sky.

“Looks like a perfect morning to fish,” Tesho said, breaking the reverie Brele had settled into as they walked. Dawn was breaking, and they soon had their poles in the water. As the eastern sky grew brighter, turning from pink to gold, Brele watched with awe the magnificent change just before the sun peaked. “I’ve got one!” Tesho yelled, but Brele attention was transfixed by the peek of the sun as it emerged. So enamored she was that she nearly lost her pole with her first bite. “Oh, I’ve got one!” she cried.

As the sun continued to rise, bathing them in warmth, they caught fish almost effortlessly. They joked that the fish were biting so well they were wasting their time baiting the hooks.By midmorning, they had a substantial bounty of fish, and Tesho decided it was time to go as he had promised their father. As they walked back to the village, they decided that this was looking like the best day they had ever had.

Then they heard a scream.

A cold chill ran down Brele’s spine, and her vision of a perfect day was shattered with a deep sense that something unimaginable now lay before them. “This is bad. This is really bad,” she said to Tesho as he looked at her with deep concern. Suddenly, multiple screams pierced the valley from Pitmerden.

They both dropped everything and ran toward the village with no idea what they were about to find. Then they saw it. Hundreds of creatures with clubs and crude swords indiscriminately attacking the villagers – men, women, and children – slashing, stabbing, and bludeoning. For a moment they were both frozen by the sheer horror of what was happening before them. “We have to get home,” Tesho said to Brele. “We have to get Father and Mother.”

As they ran back along the outskirts, they were spotted. Brele cried, “Tesho! They saw us! We have to run!” Tesho replied, “We’re almost there!” But they were already too late. Their cottage was burning, and the creatures were gaining on them. They quickly glanced at one another just as a group emerged from the field in front of them. They stopped and looked at each other knowing they had nowhere to run.

They joined hands as the creatures closed in, and Brele felt the blow to the back of her head just a moment before all went black.

To be continued…
Click for Part 2