The Great Annual Reading Tally for 2019

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Year Three of combining my love of books with my obsession with making lists and the numbers are in!

2017

2018

 

2019

31 books

49 books

 

71 books

376.24 hours

432.05 hours

 

694.95 hours

10,133 pages

14,309 pages

 

23,948 pages

1.03 hours per day

1.84 hours per day

 

1.9 hours per day

12.14 hours per book

8.82 hours per book

 

9.79 hours per book

If anyone wonders if I have a slight obsession with books, just look at this photo and you will be left without a doubt.

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This year past year, my goal was to get to an average of two hours of reading per day and I almost made it. Of course, are days that I just don’t get a chance to read, so I try to read for three hours on the days that I can, to make up for those missed ones, but it just wasn’t enough. Maybe next year!

On New Year’s Eve I had a wild idea to go around and gather up all the books I read this year and make a big pile of them. I got my reading notebook out and went on an Easter Egg Hunt around the house. A couple books I couldn’t find and I can’t remember what I did with them. A few a let my son borrow when he moved to Virginia earlier this year. And a couple I read on my Kindle, so I don’t have the physical book, although I may go back and buy them.

It was fun hunting them down and an interesting thing happened while I was searching the shelves for the titles. First of all, I realize that I need a better shelving situation. My shelves are overloaded and, although I have gone through and organized them by genre before, they soon end up all shuffled again. I add books over the years and don’t want to spend the time moving everything around to accommodate the new books or books that should be shelved with others of its genre are too big to fit on the shelf the previous books were given. I’m not sure what I can do about that other than marvel that I have so many wonderful books. And it does give me the opportunity to happily hunt through the shelves from time to time, so there’s that.

The other interesting thing that I didn’t expect was how exciting it was to see those books again and remember them. It’s one thing to see them written out in a list, but another to see the cover in your hand. It’s like seeing a friend in the grocery store verses reading their Facebook posts. Memories came flooding back and I’d flip through the pages and see my notes. “No, Michelle, we have to stay on track. This is a gathering mission. You can read and reminisce later.” Seeing them all on my dining room table at once made me proud of my work. And it was infinitely easier to pick out my favorites!

Something that I would like to do this year is keep track of books that I’ve bought for future reading, whether or not I have the book in possession or if I loaned it or gave it away for whatever reason. It drives me bonkers not knowing what has become of my precious babies!

Fiction: 34

Non-Fiction: 37

Novel: 16

Biography/Memoir: 5

Historical Fiction: 3

Essays: 2

Short Stories: 4

Sociology: 9

Classics: 4

Self-Help/Spiritual/Religion: 11

Thriller: 6

Writing: 4

Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 1

History: 4

DNF (Did Not Finish): 4

Economics/Politics: 2

As I flipped through the pages making compilation lists of genre, pages, and hours read, I started to think maybe I should make up an Excel spreadsheet and tally the books as I read them throughout the year. It would make this part of my hobby much simpler, but then it probably wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

Yes, I’m a little strange, but I can’t think of a better way to spend New Year’s Eve and Day than going through my notebooks and visiting with the friends I made this year.

2020 is going to be an amazing year for books. I’m continuing to use my Instagram page to post pictures of the books I’m reading and quotes I find in them. I’ll keep sharing my own work on my blog and Medium. Facebook is a good place to keep up with what I’m posting anywhere else. If you find anything share-worthy, please do so! Sharing my posts really helps widen my audience and I appreciate all the help I can get.

I’m excited to keep reading and writing more this coming year and I hope you’ll enjoy what I find! If you want to see the titles, check out my READING LIST page. You’ll find them there in the order I read them and which ones were my favorites.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading, my friends!

I Have a New Year’s Eve Post Too!

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The ingredients of a decent New Year’s Eve!

Holy crap…we’re twenty years into 2000! I’m fairly certain that 2019 was the fastest moving year I have ever had. I mean it. It also happens to be the oldest I have ever been. I’m not sure if the two are related but it is suspicious.

This past week, I was organizing pictures as I usually do around the end of the year. I take them off my phone to store them on my computer, safely backed up as well, organized by date, event, and place. I should probably do that monthly. Maybe I should tag pictures as well. Oh well. This year was weird though. I kept thinking things like, “You know back when we were on that camping trip last fall.” And then finding out that trip was the Fall before. And saying, “When my son was in Germany.” And then realizing that was over a year ago now.

Each January, I buy a printed book of my personal Facebook posts. Last year I didn’t. I was broke after Christmas and thought I’d get to in February, but BAM! Here we are in January again. What happened? I feel like I crammed two years into one!

I guess it’s true. Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been an amazing year of good times for our family. I’ve read a lot of great books, met some new friends, and went on great adventures. I wrote more than I ever have. I’ve been mentally happy for more days in a row.

And 2020 looks like it will be another year to remember or forget because we’re having so much fun that we forget to document any of it and remember. Strange to think we have to put so much effort in remembering the good times and so little into holding onto the bad times.

There have been some downs as well. But I do consider myself pretty lucky. It’s not like we planned out our life perfectly so that everything fell into place. Some of it was luck, some of it was attitude, and a small portion was brought on by good choices. Sometimes we made good choices but that was just luck too. Sometimes we made bad choices and lucked out with the results. I guess what I’m trying to say is, most of it is just being happy with what we have, choosing to see the positive side, and trying to be nicer to people, a little more forgiving and a little more understanding even when I don’t understand.

I started to see some talk on social media this week about how crappy 2019 was and how happy they are to see it go. I’m starting to expect those posts these days, but they always make me sad. What if this was the last year you had people? Cheer up! Enjoy the day you’re in, the life you have, even if it’s shitty. I mean, if Victor Frankl could see the bright side from a concentration camp in Germany, you can too! If you haven’t read his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, you should, like right now. Get it on your Kindle and read it over coffee in the morning. You will not regret it!

I may not be partying like it’s 1999 this evening, but I do have a bunch of stuff exciting things to do like finish my cup of coffee and do the dishes, maybe make my bed, but before I go I have one more thing. Have you ever wondered why so many people make such a big deal out of New Year’s resolutions? I mean, you can start a diet or go for a walk any day. You can get fit, read more, whatever you want on any day. New month, new week, new day, new hour for that matter! But why do most of us get angsty and want to start something new in the new YEAR? Even I do it and I hate the whole idea of resolutions.

I think it might have something to do with that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. We got all geared up for Christmas and spent all our money one week BEFORE the end of the month. School is still out. Lots of things are closed or their hours are wonky two weeks in a row. The month is over but it’s not. We’re just sitting here in stuckville waiting for the New Year and on January 1st we’ll watch the parade and THEN start a new year. I think we all get weird in that week, reflective. Maybe we should be.

It’s not just the annual trip around the sun. That could be any day. It’s that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s that makes us think about making changes. The world is on hold. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the country officially does. Everything is closed. The trash truck comes a day late. The grocery store isn’t open. And the mail doesn’t come. And then we wait for a week for it to happen again.

Oh my greatness…it’s a hard boot of our whole system. What if we consciously took that week to think, reflect, make changes, rest, whatever we need to do to get ready for the coming year? That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing this week. I’m getting excited to see what I can accomplish this year!

Pain, Cats, and New Books!

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My Shadow, Abe

Back in September, my sweet husband, in an attempt to help me, bought me a Chromebook to write on. I had complained over the summer that between him talking to customers on one side and the boys and their antics on the other, I just couldn’t focus at my desktop in my office. If I had a laptop, I could take myself out to the trailer and lock the door. Alone in silence, without the distractions of, “Where’s the butter?” “Have you seen my red shoes?” and “Have you tried deleting the app and reinstalling?” maybe I could better focus on writing and make a go of this author thing. Laptops are expensive just to buy for an experiment, so he got the Chromebook as a test. If taking it out to the trailer alone proved to be helpful, then it would make sense to buy a better laptop for me to use.

Now, before you get disgruntled with my husband’s lack of confidence that I NEEDED the laptop, I’m notorious for wanting to do things and then getting bored or losing interest. We’ve been married for twenty years and known each other much longer. He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. Once again, he made a good decision in going cheap before jumping in with both feet, but not for the reason we thought!

Since the beginning of November, my right elbow and wrist had started hurting. I’m not talking a little. It has been painful to the point of tears. After attempting to scoop cookies out onto a tray for Christmas, my arm was shaking in pain. Ibuprofen did nothing, but CBD oil helped a bit. It would start to subside but come back in full force anytime I forgot about it and reached to grasp and turn anything with my right hand.

I was becoming discouraged, to say the least. I thought it might be arthritis. I am getting older and the weather at the beginning of November had turned cold and wet suddenly, and it has stayed that way. I was considering going to the doctor to see if there was anything she could do. Maybe I have elbow cancer and there is something they could do to save me if I don’t wait?

These are my actual thoughts. I hate doctors and do everything I can to avoid going, but anytime something hurts, I instantly think it’s the end…but I still don’t see a doctor. I’m convinced that’s how I’ll die. Something will bother me for years, I’ll try to ignore it, attempt to cure the ailment myself, and finally break down and make an appointment. Then they’ll tell me that I have only a few weeks to live, but I could have been saved if I had only seen a doctor earlier.

But I digress.

This morning, when I  sat down to get back to a regular habit of writing every morning (for the sixth time this month), I picked up my Chromebook, set it in my lap, and started on my journal, my wrist immediately started to ache worse than ever. That’s when it dawned on me. You know what else started the week my wrist started hurting? Nanowrimo. It’s the first year that I made the commitment to write every morning from 10am to noon and I was keeping it. By day five, my elbow started hurting and I blamed it on the cold weather and age.

These are the things we do, people. You’d think it would be obvious what’s to blame for our troubles, but we live blind most of the time. I can’t believe I didn’t see that. A friend even suggested that it sounded like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I just shook my head, “I can’t imagine what repetitive wrist action I do that would do that!” Maybe it was because it started in my elbow and not my wrist?

Today, I’m back at my desktop in my office with the door shut and earplugs in. Not being able to hear really helps. It’s like the world is shut out. The bonus is that I’m right here with my notebooks and more coffee when I need it! Oh, and that cat. He keeps walking over my hands between my face and the screen because he’s a cat and his mission is to drive me bonkers! I’d lock him out but then he’d just scratch up my door to get in.

And now on to what I thought I’d be writing about this morning! I started reading Nick Hornby’s “Ten Years in the Tub” a couple days ago. How is it that I come across just the book I need at just the right time?

I picked the book up at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago, right off the shelf, not even out in the middle with a “Must Read!” sign on it. I was browsing through the shelves and there it was. A book about reading books? A book about what he’s reading and why? It sounded like a decent way to find some new interesting books to read next year!

I’d never heard of Nick Hornby, but when I posted a picture of the book on Facebook, as I do each time I start one, a friend said she loved his writing. Intriguing.

Diving into it a few mornings ago, I was instantly happy I bought it, and even happier that I decided to read it now, in the last few days of the year, even though it’s a fat book and I won’t finish it before January 1st, so I won’t be able to add it to 2019’s book totals. Yes, it’s all about the list and making it look as good as possible.

Speaking of that list, I’m really excited to get started on my January 1, 2020, post! It will be the third year in a row that I’ve welcomed the new year with a tally of the hours, pages, and the number of books I’ve read over the past 12 months. I know you’re looking forward to it! Don’t worry, I’ll compare the previous year’s totals!

Back to Nick Hornby’s book about a reading list! How lucky is this guy to be paid to do exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing, what I love doing? And then I got sad. He already does it. Why would I do it? But hold the freakin’ phone a moment! He’s a totally different person, from a completely different background, reading entirely different books. What I read, why, and what I think about it, comes from my personal perspective, my journey, my voice. It’s not the same. That’s like saying someone already wrote a book about space travel, so why would I?

Self-talk. It’s what I do.

I’m going to wrap this post up, but before I go, let me just give you a heads up. This coming week, I’m going to post an “Hasta La Vista, 2019!” essay and another about my precious reading statistics. The latest Star Wars movie (and a trip to Disneyland) has inspired some deep Jedi thoughts, but I have to finish watching all the old movies with my son before I see the new one again before I can really do that essay justice, so have patience Padawan!

Last thing, I promise, my goal this week is to post SOMETHING every day of the week, even if it’s just a few words. Prepare yourself to be inundated!

Happy Monday to you all!

Study Doesn’t Make You Fearless

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Photo by Bram. on Unsplash

I’ve uttered it myself.

“There are a lot of smart people that believe…”

“Smarter people than me have studied this and they believe…”

But something occurred to me this morning. Intelligence and study alone do not free anyone from fear.

Humans are naturally fearful. It’s what has kept us alive in the past. We’re born into this world terrified. Screaming and afraid, we are comforted by those that are tasked with caring for us. From the people around us, we slowly and steadily learn that there is some love and safety in this world, hopefully. We learn about friends, puppies, tacos, and Disneyland.

Fear is still our instinct and what we learn about this world helps us navigate it safely. Things do come along to change our minds though. We thought that person was safe but learned otherwise. We thought we could trust that doctor. We thought cookies were a great breakfast. We learn as we go.

The biggest fear is something that happens to every single one of us, death and what comes after. We can speculate, but we cannot know for sure and that generates a metric crap-ton of fear. In response, we grab on to ideas, religions, spiritual guidance, and study the past thinkers as much as we possibly can. Once we get an idea that soothes us, we hold it in a death grip (pun intended).

We can’t abolish fear from our lives, but we can be aware of it and how it affects our thinking. I don’t know what will happen. I can’t know. Instead of holding on to my imaginary life raft, I let it go and live the experience. I talk to others. I love all I can. I accept other people’s points of view as theirs alone.

I personally find comfort in knowing deep down that I’m not alone, there is no one on earth that knows for sure what will happen. Instead of hiding from fear, I acknowledge it.

“There you are fear. How are you doing today? Do you need a cookie? Let’s go for a walk together.”

I follow my passions where they lead and probably “overshare.”

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I generally write a journal page to get my brain going before I attempt any brilliance (that’s sarcasm) in blog post form. I used to handwrite journals, but I feel like when I use my laptop, I get more than just a few highlights in my journal entries. When I can type and edit the mess, I get more of my feelings about the day, more details about what’s going on in the world around me and inside my head. I’ve given up a bit of the more personal for more intimate details about my life. I think it’s a fair trade.

Sometimes something comes up in a journal entry that I copy and paste into a new document to expand on for a blog post. I thought I’d end up doing that very thing with a piece of this entry, but it flowed so organically out of mind that I felt like I had to add it in its entirety.

I hope you like this ride on my train of thought!

December 10, 2019, Tuesday 5:44am

A little early, don’t you think? Yeah, I’m usually finishing up an hour of reading and getting to my yoga and meditation at this hour, but yesterday someone suggested writing first thing in the morning and I decided to consider it an option.

I thought I had been writing first thing in the morning, but generally, I’ve been getting started around 10am. Well, last month I did. This month I never seem to get to it. I have some holiday something going on every morning this week that I’ve let take precedence over the writing. Then again, when I do get a chance to sit down to be brilliant, nothing comes to mind and I sit in silent sadness, questioning my existence. It kind of sucks.

I read a lot. Books, magazines, online articles. I read novels, classics, and non-fiction history, self-help, and religion. I read about writing, building a brand, creating email lists, writing better content. The bottom line for me right now, the thing I keep coming back around to is…what the heck am I doing here? What is it that I’m trying to say? I have no focus, either in life or writing. I write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s about family life, social media, books, writing, homeschooling, kids, cats, hiking, self-whatever. I recently put my hand to a bit of fiction just because it got in my head and I went with it.

When someone suggests that I send out a weekly newsletter, I think, “About what? Five random thoughts of a stay at home mom?” I’m not even really that anymore. My youngest is almost 18. He’s at work or college most of the time and doesn’t really need my help. I’m simply a housewife now. What can I possibly say to anyone?

I can talk about the past, homeschool and parenting stuff, reflections. I can talk about the books I read, the desert, hiking…it all sounds so damn boring. Who the hell wants to read my thoughts on what my damn cat is doing and what geocaches I found?

But then…I have learned a lot over the last twenty years. I feel like I do have a unique perspective to show the world. What if someone out there is waiting to hear that they can simply enjoy having their kids around the house instead of sending them to school? I survived being a homeschool Mom! I learned to enjoy the moment and not worry so much.

I don’t have one thing I write about. I just don’t have an all-encompassing passion for one thing. I love a lot of stuff. I like getting a little into everything. I enjoy people, in small doses. I follow my heart into all kinds of situations, from reading to knitting to hiking to coffee dates. I like movies and books and mountain trails and Disneyland. I like going out and staying in. I like quilting even though I’m terrible at it. I collect things. I work in my garden but rarely grow anything. I love the weather. I like traveling in my car and want to do more of it. I genuinely love my kids, my parents, my husband, and my friends just as they are right at this moment, even when they are being punks.

Can I just write about those things? Can my posts just be about living happy and content with what I have? Can it be about my own process of creating a satisfying life? I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have a game plan for success to share. All I have is my own light to shine. This is what I have created. This is how I’m doing it. Maybe it will work for you, or maybe it will inspire you to try out your own ideas. I don’t know. Take away what you want, leave the rest.

All I know is that I can’t stop writing and posting. I don’t want to. I just want to write the same way I live, the same way I talk with my friends and family. I want to be open and honest about my feelings and share my life, my thinking, my light with others in the hopes that it might make them happy. I just want to bring a little bit of joy into the world.

Some Of Us Need A Step Stool To Get There

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Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Tom Hanks wrote a book. Did you know that? I didn’t. I found “Uncommon Type” at Barnes & Noble a while back and picked it up. My first thought was, “Tom Hanks can’t write a book! He’s an actor. Just because you’re an actor and famous (and awesome) doesn’t give you the right to put your name on a book.” I scowled at it. Maybe it’s not THAT Tom Hanks but an author thinking he’ll cash in on people thinking it’s the actor Tom Hanks and buying it because…well…because Tom Hanks the actor is pretty impressive, his book would be impressive too. I wasn’t so sure. I flipped through, looked at the back, yep, there’s his picture. Interesting. “I’ll buy it but it better be good or I’m going to blog about it!”

Yes. This is exactly what went through my mind as I discovered the book and added it to my pile to read that I really didn’t need more of that day but…BOOKS!

Guess what? It’s awesome. I loved every one of the short stories I found inside. Some were more endearing than others. Some made me cry. Some made me smile. I closed it a little sad that it was over. I hope he writes more.

The book got me thinking in a couple of ways. First of all, I thought the stories were wonderful. As a writer, they inspired me. They are good stories that filled me with hope. “I could write stories like that someday,” I thought. Tom Hanks had his published because he, and the publishers, used his name. He has a built-in audience (one he has built himself with his skills as an actor) that’s sure to buy it. And that is awesome. That was my second thought. Step stools to get to the next level are not illegal or immoral. We use them all the time and we should.


I’m the shortest person in my house these days and there’s a step stool in my kitchen that I use just about every day. I got it when I moved into my first apartment. When I see it sitting there, in the corner of my office, I’m reminded of that apartment.

It was a studio apartment right next to Disneyland. My parents were not happy about the area I had chosen to live in, but it was what I could afford on my own, it was close to work, and I was determined to make it on my own. In my eyes, it was perfect. An older building with built-in cabinets in the bathroom, hallway, and kitchen. Up on the second floor of the building, it had a big front window that I could sit in and watch the fireworks from.

The front door had a slatted glass window in it, making it look like you were entering the laundry room and not another apartment. It opened to a long hallway that spilled into a large living room with a bedroom nook set in the corner. To the right from there was an old 50’s style kitchen with beautiful original cabinets and Formica countertops. The two-burner gas stove and oven had to be lit with matches that I kept in a magnet box stuck to the old refrigerator that came with the apartment. Between the living room and kitchen areas, was a short hallway that led to the bathroom, a pink and white enamel tiled masterpiece! The hallway had a built-in dresser at one end with a rusting mirror over the top of it. The moment I saw the place, I knew it was mine.

The only trouble I had was that everything was built so high up. The ceiling was probably nine feet high and the cabinets in the kitchen and hallway were built right up to it. I’m not “short” but at 5’ 5” I was going to need a step stool if I was going to be able to use all the storage space. I needed those upper cabinets. At 20 years old, I still had a lot of my teenage stuff and I was starting to build up my own set of holiday decorations just like my parents and my grandparents.

I made a point to stop at Kmart on the way home from work one day to pick one up and found the perfect thing. It was only one step, all I really needed, and the top opened to reveal a toolbox inside. Small, heavy, strong, and sturdy…kinda like me! I took it home that day and I’ve had it ever since. I’m 46 now. I chose well.

That step stool/toolbox now sits in the corner of my office, still filled with my own personal set of tools. A hammer, a screwdriver, hex wrenches, electrical tape, etc. In a house full of boys and men, it has always been nice to have my own set of tools that I didn’t have to search the garage for. They were kept sacred in my office for times when I just needed a small hammer to hang a picture or a wrench to tighten up a chair. And it always reminded me of my first apartment and my independent, single days.

Michelle! Why are you going on about a step stool?!

Hold on! I’m getting there.

Everyone is entitled to use a step stool in life to get to that thing that is just out of your reach. The key here is the active word “use”. It doesn’t matter really where you get the step stool, just that you do something with it. Some people are given one as a gift. They are born with it or their parents helped them. Some have to scramble and scratch to make one out of anything they can find. Some can buy one and some borrow. But no one is entitled to give you one. In fact, if you get one yourself, you’ll probably be better off in the long run.

Standing there complaining that you don’t have one, that you’re too short to reach, and waiting for someone to help you is a waste of your precious time and everyone else’s. You have important things to do in this life. You have particular talents that need to be expressed. If you can’t reach, get a step stool. If you can’t get one, build one. Don’t just stand there doing without that stuff on the top shelf. Don’t cheat yourself!

Small Experiences Can Change Everything

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Funny the things that you remember so clearly from childhood. It was more than 40 years ago and I can still hear those words and see that small mouse-faced girl with the short-cropped brown hair. I don’t remember her name, but I can see the Kindergarten classroom and hear the snide tone of her voice. It’s my recurring nightmare to this day and a moment that shaped my life.

It was career week at my elementary school in 1978 and the assignment for Monday was to come dressed as one of our parents. If we didn’t already know, we were supposed to ask our parents where they worked and what they did at their job, and then come to school dressed as they would at work, stand up in front of the class and tell everyone about what we had learned about our parent’s jobs.

I went home with this assignment for career week full of excitement. I already knew what my Mom and my stepdad did for work. My stepdad, I called him my Ken, was a delivery driver. He drove a big truck delivering new washers and sofas to people’s houses. It was exciting for my brother and me when he would let us play in the back of the truck or pay us $5 to rub hard wax all over the wooden floor so that the big boxes would slide easily across it, but it didn’t seem to my five-year-old mind, like something exciting to tell my classmates about or to come to school dressed in jeans and a work shirt like him. My Dad did a similar job, delivering for drug stores, and although we always loved being picked up from school in his work truck and sliding around the back in crates while he drove us the one block to his house from school, I didn’t want to wear just plain clothes to school.

Yes, it was all about the clothes! I wanted to wear a costume! I wanted people in class to be impressed!

By the next day, my thoughts were focused on my mom. She worked at a bank and dressed up fancy (to my five-year-old senses) every day. She wore nice skirts and blouses, jackets and high heels. She always did her hair up nice and wore makeup. I thought she was the prettiest person in the world. I wanted to come to school dressed just like her!

I don’t remember if I worked this out with my mom. I know we were supposed to ask our parents about their work and get their help dressing as they did, and I’m sure my mom helped me with my hair (and a little makeup), but those specifics are lost to me today. I do remember thinking that I couldn’t wear her clothes because they were way too big, but I could wear my own nicest clothes and curl my hair like hers and that’s exactly what I did.

On the day of the assignment I came to school full of pride. I was wearing a frilly blue dress my mom had got me for a party we had gone to. I had white stockings on and shiny black shoes. My hair was curled, and I had a matching ribbon. And I was thrilled that my mom had let me wear just a little makeup like hers! I walked to school as if I were the queen of the world. I felt gorgeous and soon everyone would know how important and pretty my Mom was when I told them what her job was.

Parents dropping their kids off at school and kids that walked with older brothers and sisters were slowly trickling into the Kinder play area. I was too dressed up to play and waited at the door where we all would line up when the bell rang for class and soon it did. Other kids came running up to the concrete porch area in front of the door to line up behind me and another girl that was talking to me.

Most of the kids in my class were dressed up in crazy outfits that day. One I remember had a white apron on and baggy black pants with a paper hat on his head. His Dad worked at the meat counter at the grocery store. Another girl had her dad’s McDonald’s shirt on like a dress, belted at the waist, hanging almost to her ankles. One boy had on jeans and his dad’s old construction work boots. I had begun to worry. Everyone else was wearing something of their parents, no matter how big the clothes were. I was different.

That’s when I saw her look at me. That tall girl that always seemed like she was angry about something. Her snack wasn’t the right one. Someone took her pencil when it was clearly right on the floor next to her. Strangely, I don’t remember what she was wearing but I remember her walking straight up to me and looking at my dress. She gave that mousy, narrow-eyed look of a kid that’s sure you must be crazy, and said, “What are you supposed to be? Tinkerbell?”

I was instantly mortified. I had interpreted the assignment to dress up “LIKE” a parent. Everyone else took the assignment literally and wore their parent’s clothes.

I honestly can’t remember what my reply was. My memory has two versions. One is probably closer to what happened, and the other is what my older self wishes I had said.

I stammered an answer with tears in my eyes, face flushing red, “My mom dresses up nice to work at the bank.”

The other, more clever answer? “Yes. My Mom works at Disneyland and she IS Tinkerbell.”

It really doesn’t matter what I said, what was important was the “I really screwed up” feeling that stuck with me for the rest of my school life, my whole life if I’m honest. To this day, I am still afraid to stand out.

It’s embarrassing to admit that it still affects me, that I just can’t let it go. There’s no one to blame. She wasn’t a bad person; she was a child. Even as adults, people generally don’t say things to hurt others deliberately. She didn’t mean to cut me down or ruin my life, she just said what she was thinking, and I took it so personally, internalized it so much that it continued to direct my actions my whole life. That’s on me.

Strange to think that one incident can have such a strong impact on a life, but it did in my case. I can’t say that that girl’s remark about my costume choice changed me or if it just accentuated a feeling I already had. I had always been a sensitive and shy kid. Her remark was probably one of hundreds over my lifetime that shaped me. But should they have? Should anyone else’s opinion shape our choices, especially the opinions of people that we don’t really care to impress?

What could I have done differently? How could I have reacted differently? Was there an adult in my life that could have changed how I felt about it? I will never know.

Why did this memory come up? Because I want to go to the Renaissance Faire in the spring and I so desperately want to dress up! And you know what? I’m afraid to! Yes. I’m still afraid to dress up. I’m 46 years old and afraid to dress up and go to an event that is known for its costumed patrons! At what point does one get over these kinds of things?

How can I change this? How do I start doing things because I want to and they make me happy and not worry about what anyone else thinks? I do it in lots of different ways, but not with my clothes. I just can’t bring myself to stand out like that.

Yes, I want “validation” and There’s Nothing Wrong with That

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I’m growing weary of hearing people joke about other people “needing validation.” What’s so wrong with wanting to be validated as a fellow human being? Everyone on this earth needs to know there is someone that approves of them. It’s natural to want to belong, to feel loved and admired.

I’m sure you can seek to be validated in unhealthy ways, maybe think about it too much, but there have to be healthy ways to get it too. Man is not an island, they say. To wall yourself off from the world, to not give one single fuck what anyone else says, seems just as mentally unstable as those that change everything about themselves to fit in.

When you go out for coffee with a friend and share pictures of your kids or talk about a project you’re working on or a vacation you took, are you “seeking validation?” It doesn’t seem like it to me. Isn’t that connecting with other humans, bonding over common experiences, or simply sharing the joy?

If I post a picture of the book I’m reading on Instagram or share the meme I thought hilarious on Facebook, am I “seeking validation?” No. I’m attempting to bond with other humans.

Social media is not evil incarnate. Wanting to share my life experiences with distant friends and family, hell, even complete strangers is not wrong. Yes, we can be pretty fucked up online. I’ve never seen people talk to each other in person the way they do in a Facebook group. It’s pretty damn disgusting if you ask me, and I have learned to steer clear of those social situations, the same way I kept away from frat parties in college and office parties when I worked. They are not my cup of tea.

I am seeking validation when I post on my social media accounts. And there is nothing wrong with that. Those of you that think you are just so above everyone else because you refuse to share your thoughts and opinions with the world, go have your fun. But me? I’ll be here, happily posting the badass muffins I made, the wonderful view from my porch, and the sweet love meme I found while scrolling through Instagram. Each morning I’ll be here with my coffee, typing out words for posts like these and stories I make up in my head and then I’ll post them for others to read and laugh at or be inspired by.

I do want to be part of a larger group of humans and there is no shame in wanting to belong, to be accepted. No, I won’t change how I feel or what comes naturally to me to make you want to like me, but I also won’t hide it away. I’m here. I’m a little off-kilter, as my Grandpa would say. I’m not always nice, but I try to be. I’m excessive at times. I find the strangest things and the commonest things fascinatingly beautiful.

I’ll be here sharing those things with the world in the hopes that someone out there likes the same things I like or finds something awesome they didn’t know about until I shared it. And yes, I’ll be checking back to see if anyone “liked” it. I’ll be hoping someone out there will make a comment and say, “Hey person I don’t know! That’s awesome! Thanks!” because, to me, the whole point of living is connecting with the other humans in this world and social media makes that possible.

Peddle your negativity somewhere else, here there is only love and the hope of meeting a new friend.

Attempting to Slow Down the Input Rate

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Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

“Input!”

“Johnny 5 is alive!”

That’s the scene that runs through my head as I listen to a podcast on the drive to my dentist appointment. I can’t just waste time driving, must have more input!

I want to do something with all the information that is thrown at me but I honestly can’t organize what I’m getting well enough for daily use. I can’t maintain forty strong daily relationships. I can’t read ALL the books. I can’t comment on all the posts I find interesting. I can’t read all the articles or see and laugh at all the memes. There are other things that need to be done. Groceries to buy, laundry to do, meals to be made. Not to mention words to write, creating more input for others!

But my words have to relate to something, don’t they? I do need some input to process. I can’t just cut myself off from the world and think that I’ll still have something to write about. One has to have the brushes and paint, the clay or metal, the seeds and mulch, the fabric to quilt!

Quilting. Now there’s an interesting train of thought. I know a lot of quilters and something they all have in common is the problem of collecting fabric. It becomes a habit and an obsession to some. They go back to the fabric store to get thread or a piece they need to finish a quilt and while they are there they notice a nice new pattern, a sale on pretty solids, or an eye-catching collection of fat quarters and they pick them up thinking they’ll use it someday on something. Time goes by and their sewing room becomes piled high with fabric for future use. When they go to make a new quilt, they look at that wall of fabric and are overwhelmed by it. None of it seems useful. None of it catches their eye for this piece. The best pieces are bunched up and hidden behind less appealing pieces and then end up forgetting what they have. So they go to the store and buy all new fabrics, ones more easily accessible and organized by color and pattern.

I’m starting to think information overload is the same thing. I have a project in mind on one hand and a huge pile of information on the other. The whole time I’m trying to sift through the information I’ve already collected, there’s more input every moment. A text from a friend, an email from a blog, a new book is coming out, Facebook and Instagram feeds, not to mention family members wanting to call and share their lives with me. It’s all good stuff. It’s all positive (or can be, I tend to block out the ugly as much as possible). How do I filter and organize it so that I know what I have and where to use it?

There are a couple of things I’m going to start doing. My phone is my gateway and I’ll admit I do have an issue about being unreachable for any amount of time. Maybe it’s a Mom thing that I’ve latched on to, but if my phone is off or out of reach, I can’t relax. What if one of the kids needs me? The truth is that no one really NEEDS me that badly. My kids are grown and while they may want to talk to their mom in the middle of the night, it can probably wait until morning. And they know if it were an emergency, they could call their Dad because his work phone is always on. My phone will stay on at night just in case, but when I get up in the morning, all notifications will be off until I’m ready to communicate with the outside world. I’m not an emergency room doctor. I’m just not that important and that’s not self-deprecation. It’s reality.

Social media is another big input I have and I’m so addicted to it in the best ways. I’ve found so much joy there, so much connection with the big wide world. It inspires me to see all the awesome stuff, all the wise words, all the wonderful people that make up this planet. The trouble is, like a wonderfully written book that I can’t put down, I keep going back to it every chance I get. And unlike a book, I don’t need silence and focus to just pop in and have a look around, so I tend to spend quite a bit of time there.

At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the trouble is that it adds to my stash of information in big ways. I save clips from articles, memes, comments, all to use in the future. Maybe I’ll write about that. I could add this to my story. This looks like a good place to visit. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by it all and nothing else gets done. I look like a zombie slobbering “input” instead of “brains.”

So I need to limit my time there and save my energy. I’ll try to check in only while I eat breakfast and lunch for now. Sounds pretty wishy-washy, I know, but it’s the best I can do. I’ve never been one for hard and fast rules. Sometimes an afternoon of mindless scrolling and laughing at people’s antics is what I need. I’m not going to deny myself, but I will promise to be more mindful of what I’m doing.

And last, but certainly not least, my newest habit of “going to my trailer” to write. My phone doesn’t come with me. I make sure my husband knows where I am, not that he would worry and come looking for me if I went missing for a couple hours, he is working too after all, but I would sit with anxiety thinking he might. Every day, whether or not it is quiet in the house, I’m going to be there for at least an hour and half. There are no dishes to do, no pet antics, no bookshelves to peruse, out here. It’s just me, the laptop, my notebook, and a cup of coffee. I’m training my brain to see the trailer and think “work time.” And so far it’s working nicely…except when I look around me and think, “We need to go on a road trip in this baby!”

The plan: Write one hour. Edit up to one hour. Post after lunch.

That’s how I’m going to make this writing shit work. I’m not aiming for complete solitude or hermitage. My goal is to slow down the input to the point where my poor brain can process and use the information or at least store it in a way that makes it more easily accessible.

I’m also not aiming for perfect or beautiful. My goal is consistency and focus. The more often I can sit down and create with focus, the more likely something beautiful will be discovered.

Here’s to some new habit building! Let’s see what happens!

Pop – A Love Story

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Photo by Laith Abdulkareem on Unsplash

“One Arrow” simply scrawled in pencil on the back of an old faded business card with a familiar address. She grinned. This one was easy. Excitement spread through her body as she made her way through the city, not to the address on the card but to the one the “one arrow” had directed her to. He’ll be waiting there with that smile, with that touch her soul craved.

She had found the card wedged in the driver’s side window of her VW when she left work. It wasn’t the first one she’d found. She’d been seeing Jay for months and every time he was able to get away from his work, she’d find a business card on her windshield, a short cryptic message about where she could find him. She’d smile when she saw the card, pluck it from its spot and sit inside the car to muse over it and figure out where to meet him that afternoon. As soon as she had it, she’d turn the key in the ignition, fire the old bug into action, and make a beeline for the spot.

Sometimes it was a secluded part of the wilderness park, an empty lot, or some other remote outdoor location. Other times it was an abandoned house on the edge of town or a friend’s apartment that he’d secured for the meeting. Once it was a swanky hotel room in the city with a giant bathtub, eight flights up, and set in a giant window overlooking the streets below. She just never knew where he’d lead her next and that was the fun of it.

When she arrived at the “one arrow,” the big wilderness park at the edge of the city, she knew something was different the moment she saw him. She pulled her car into a parking spot and switched the ignition off as he moved toward the car door to let her out. Taking her hand and pulling her from the car, she moved easily into his arms and held him close.

Walking to their usual spot near the pond, she sensed his nervous energy. She felt as if he might take wing at any moment. Car horns, birds, a barking dog, all made him jump out of his skin. When she asked him if anything was wrong, he said he was worried that someone was following him.

“Why would someone be following you?” she asked.

“You know I’m not supposed to be here.”

“I know but…” her answer trailed off as she thought about why. He had never really told her why and for some strange reason she accepted it and didn’t press for answers. She wasn’t typically the gullible sort, but his mystery intrigued her and she couldn’t quite put her finger on why. She didn’t want to.

He wasn’t all that handsome, not much taller than her and thickset. He had dark, close-cut hair and deep-set eyes that glimmered when he looked at her in the strangest way as if they had no real color. His eyes were almost silvery, reflecting the colors he was wearing or looking at. He wasn’t skinny or fat, but he looked big, well-fed and strong. It was his hands that attracted her, his strength when he pulled her close and kissed her. She felt overpowered and weak, a feeling she had never enjoyed in the past. With him, she felt safe, at home, and all the mystery only made the affair more alluring to her.

“There are things I need to tell you. Things I didn’t think I’d have to tell you, but…”

“You can trust me, you know.” She murmured, looking down at her feet dangling over the edge of the block wall they were sitting on. “I’m not going anywhere.” The park was empty this time of day. Large trees looming over them, as they sat together on the retaining wall along the edge of the park. The sun was starting to set and the shadows were deepening.

“It’s getting late and I don’t want us to get caught in the dark. Not now.” They hopped off the wall and started to make their way back to the cars. She could feel his tension get stronger. Something was really bothering him. Walking up between their two cars, he took her hands in his and kissed her. She melted. All was right. She was starting to think maybe he enjoyed creating the mystery as much as she enjoyed being in it.

“Come back here tomorrow. Ok?”

“Again? So soon? It won’t be suspicious of you leaving two days in a row?”

“Maybe, but it’s important. I’ll think of some excuse. I need to talk to you, but it doesn’t feel safe right now. Tomorrow?”

“Sure. Same time?”

“Yes.”

He pulled her close, one hand behind her head, wrapped up in her hair and kissed her deeply.

“I love you.” She whispered as he walked away.

She was only a few miles from home, but the ‘wilderness’ park was in the edge of the city and driving home just after sunset, rush hour, took her more time than usual. She pulled into the parking garage under her apartment building well after dark. Even in the familiar garage, she was never comfortable coming home alone at night.

Her reserved spot was tight for most cars, but her 69 VW bug fit with ease. Shutting off the engine, it sputtered once and died. She grabbed her bag from the vinyl seat next to her, got out and fumbled with the key to lock the door behind her. That’s when she heard the noise.

Coming home in the dark always set her on edge and even though the parking garage was brightly lit, there were deep shadows in the corners and plenty of places to hide behind cars of all shapes and sizes. She ignored the quiet shuffle and pop sound she believed came from the stairwell beside the elevator entry and walked on.

As she approached the elevator doors, she breathed a sigh of relief when she pushed the call button and the door immediately slid open. Stepping inside, turning to push the button for her floor, the doors started to close, stopped, opened, and then closed again as if someone had put their hand in the way to hold them open.

The doors closed completely and the quiet hum of the elevator machinery filled her mind as the car carried her slowly to the third floor where she lived.

That soft pop sound again. Her heart raced when she heard it, especially so close and in such a confined space. But she could see there was no one there, nothing to bother with, probably just the elevator noise she reasoned.

The elevator stopped at her floor and in a moment the doors slid open to let her out. Walking down the hall toward her apartment, she heard the doors stop closing, open, and then close again behind her. She walked a bit faster, with her keys clutched in her fist just in case, unreasonably frightened. Why was she being so skittish? Maybe his strange fear and cryptic tone had creeped her out more than she thought. But he was just being mysterious to make it more fun. It’s just a game.

Instinctively she pulled the door key out as she approached, slid it in the deadbolt lock, swung open the door, stepped inside and quickly shut it behind her, sliding the bolt back at the same time. A big sigh came from her. That felt good. She was home. Safe.

Turning into her apartment, she dropped her bag on the floor and screamed. He was there, just sitting down on the couch. What the hell? How could he be here? She had never told him where she lived.

Jumping up from the couch, he rushed to her side, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…sorry…let me get that.” The words tumbled out of his mouth as they both reached for her bag and keys.

“How in the world…?” She couldn’t even form whole sentences. Even now, standing up straight, knowing it was him not a murderous intruder, her heart was racing in her chest from fear.

“I know. I’m sorry. It’s just…let’s sit down a minute. Let me get you a drink of water or something.” He ushered her to the couch and sat her down, moving through her apartment as if he had lived there for months. She set her purse down on the couch beside her and stared wordlessly as he moved toward the kitchen and reached for the cabinet to get a glass. He crossed over and grabbed her favorite whiskey, the one she hid behind the breadbox, not the cheaper mixed drink stuff she had in the pantry for parties.

He walked back in, short glass, two ice cubes, two fingers of whiskey, just how she liked it. How? They’d never drank together. He’d never been here. She just sat and stared, trying to slow her heart rate and catch her breath as he sat beside her and handed her the glass.

“Are you ok?” he asked. She hadn’t yet said a word. She just stared and took a sip, watching him warily.

“I guess, but…”

“How did I get in?”

“How did you even know where I lived and why are you here? You said meet again tomorrow.”

“I have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do’ right Lucy?”

She just sat dumbfounded. Jokes. Right now? Maybe she should call 911. He might be crazy. She didn’t really know him that well, really. What if he turns violent? Why in the world is he here?

“Don’t be afraid of me. I’m not.”

And now confusion filled her. She started to set her glass down but picked it up again. She might be able to use it as a weapon.

He smiled sweetly. “I’ve scared you and I’m so sorry I had to do that. There was no other way.”

“No other way to do what?”

“Get away from them. I couldn’t say it out loud or even really think of it too much. I just had to follow my instincts. You’re easy to follow in that red bug, so I just followed you here tonight.”

“But how…you were here before me.”

“Just seconds.”

“How? If you followed me, how could you be on my couch when I walked in?”

“That’s going to take a bit more explaining. Finish your drink while I make us a snack. I know you’re hungry at this hour.”

Just as casually as he uttered those words, he rose from the couch and went to the kitchen. The open layout between the livingroom and the kitchen of her small apartment allowed her to watch him as he moved around the kitchen with ease, throwing together a plate of salami, cheese and some grapes he found in the fridge. When he returned, he set the plate between them on the couch and encouraged her to relax and take a few bites while he told his story.

The gist of it?

Several years ago, he came here and was soon followed by three “things” that didn’t want him to be here. They made it abundantly clear he was not welcome on this planet.

“Wait, ‘on this planet’?”

“Yes. I guess I kind of jumped into that. Maybe I should back up.”

“I’d say.” He had to be crazy. She sat munching quietly listening to his story, all the while trying to figure out how to get away from him. Could she make a run for the door? Her building was notorious for ignoring the drama that went on in the halls on a daily basis. Would her neighbors just assume there was some domestic dispute going on and ignore her cries for help? Maybe she could fain fidgeting with her phone but really be dialing 911 while he spoke. They’d send someone to investigate if someone called 911 but just left the line open, right?

“I’m not going to hurt you, you know. I’m the same person I was an hour ago. The same person you’ve been meeting and loving for the past six months.”

“Yes. But…now you’re mysteriously in my apartment and telling me how you came to be on earth. I have some reason to a little wary, don’t you think?” She was feeling bolder. Oddly enough, even now, she really didn’t feel threatened by him. Just like at their meetings, she felt strangely pulled toward him. He’d always given her a safe, at-home feeling. It was why she had started to fall in love with him. What was he doing to her?

He began his story again but from farther back. He was an alien, not a non-citizen from another country, a real alien from another planet. “Right out of the movies,” she thought. It figures. The man she finally feels something for ends up not even human.

He said he couldn’t get into the physics of it, how he got there, etc. Not that she wasn’t smart enough to understand, but the less she knew, the safer she was. That old line. Really, he just didn’t think he had time to explain at the moment. The important things needed to be said first, before they found him and did what they wanted to do.

He came here to get away and figured he would just blend right in with us. It was working for a while, until he met her. At first, he was only a little interested in her. She was attractive and intelligent, fun to talk to over a couple beers and a cheeseburger. He had been on this planet for what seemed like a few years to humans, but millennium to him. He was beginning to be lonely and then there she was, someone to talk to. Why was she different? He didn’t know. He only knew that he felt safe with her, at home for the first time in eons.

The relationship progressed with ease, from dinner and drinks to long days at the beach, and then one day she kissed him and it was over. He felt that kiss all the way to his toes. He was alien, he kept telling himself. This can’t happen. But it did.

There they were, checking into a hotel, and the rest was history. It had been the best months of his long, lonely life. She touched his soul and he couldn’t let go.

“I felt that, you know?” She stopped his story.

“Felt what?”

“That instant connection.” She instinctively moved closer to him, putting her hand on his knee.

“I’ve never felt that with anyone before. I was planning on telling you tonight but you were so anxious and then we parted so quickly. I didn’t have the chance to bring it up.”

“I’m sorry about that. There’s something going on. They’ve caught on to where I am and it could be any moment that they take me back.”

“Who? What? You need to explain more. Maybe I can help?” She was starting to get caught up in this crazy story.

He sat bolt upright at a sound she didn’t hear. “What?” she asked, “What’s happening?”

He looked into her eyes, took her hand, and suddenly a feeling of complete peace. She saw nothing, felt no physical sensation whatsoever. There was only thought, presence.

“I knew it!” She felt him think. She felt it. She couldn’t hear it or see it. The thought was just there.

“You’re one of us!” His elated astonishment washed over her like a wave of warm liquid.

“One of what? What’s happening?” She wanted to panic, knew she should be panicked by this sudden lack of physical being, but she couldn’t. Just like the first time she saw him and that first kiss, she felt at home here, as if she had always been this way.

Just as suddenly it was gone. Pop, they were standing in the park hand in hand. She collapsed to the ground under the sudden return of weight on her consciousness. For a split second it was devastating. She gasped for breath, feeling her lungs fill with the heavy physical air. He knelt beside her, reassuring her that he was still with her.

“The first time is a shock. I’m so sorry you have to feel it. It gets easier.” He whispered to her as she took another breath and attempted to slow her heart rate.

“What the hell?” Losing her physical body for a moment was exhilarating, coming back to it was terrifying. How did it happen? And how could anyone get used to it? She felt crushed and smothered by the weight of the universe. That’s when she threw up.

“I’m sorry. Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry you had to go through it like this.” His cooing over her was becoming annoying now.

Getting herself under control, another deep breath, she stood and straightened her shirt, shivering in the cold. Too bad they couldn’t have manifested some jackets when they popped out of and back into existence!

“We need to move.” That was the soundest thing he’d said so far. Walking would keep them warm and distract her from the thoughts racing through her head. “We may have escaped the moment, but they won’t be distracted for long. I’m afraid I’ve dragged you into this now.”

“Dragged me into what? What just happened, Jay? What are you?”

“Alien to this world, but it looks like you are too. Did you not know?”

“I’m not alien! I was born right here in this city. I know my parents. We have never moved to another neighborhood, let alone another planet. You have the wrong girl.” This was insane. Clearly he had drugged her or done some hypnosis trick on her to get her to think this was all real. It all seemed like a pretty elaborate hoax to get her to run away with him. And completely unnecessary. She’d already started to fall for him. Why must she always fall for the crazies?

They walked quickly toward a thicker stand of trees and away from the entrance of the park.

“Where are we going? I’m freezing and I’d really like to go home now.”

“There’s a cave further into the park. It’ll be safe there for a while and we’ll be warmer.”

They walked in shivering silence for several minutes. There was nothing she could do. She couldn’t run from him here. It was dark and cold and no one was around. The park had been closed for hours, no rangers or park attendants to help. She was stuck. She thought maybe she could humor him for a while until she found a way to escape, all the while not really wanting to. It was that safe feeling again like she was where she was supposed to be. So strange.

“Here it is.” And he pushed aside some branches to reveal a small hidden cave dug out of the sandstone. It was just surreal like she’d stepped into an old movie. There were a few blankets and bottles of water stored away in the back of it. He rummaged around, picked up a flashlight, turned it on and set it up on its end to shine on the ceiling of the cave, casting a warm glow around them.

“There. That’s better.”

“Is this your house? Do you live out here?” She looked around her, the flashlight lantern dispelling the darkness to the far reaches of the cave and revealing a small homey interior.

“Well, not really. Not all the time. It’s just one place I like to come to when I need to be alone. For some reason, they can’t find me here but I can’t stay in it forever.”

He bustled about making tea on a small camp stove, like an old frontier woman. Shaking out a sleeping bag and draping it over a rock, he motioned to her. “Here. You can sit here and keep warm in this for now.” She reluctantly sat as he draped the sleeping bag over her shoulders.

“How long do we have to stay here? Who can’t find you here? And what in the hell just happened?” Her questions came pouring out of her as she became more and more aggravated by his empathy for her.

“I know. You have lots of questions. So do I! I had no idea that would happen. I’m as shocked as you are really. I know we had a connection, but I had no idea it went that far. I had no idea anyone else could do it. I thought I was the only one!”

While she was shocked, scared, and a little hostile, his line of questioning was excited and curious. The more he rambled on about transbody experiences and “they” and how can this happen, the more irrationally irritated she became.

“Stop, Jay. Just stop. You need to slow down and tell me what’s happening as best you can. I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

“Oh yes! I’m sorry. I’ve just been alone for so long. You have no idea how lonely it is. I mean, I’m here walking among you but connecting with no one. Surrounded by people but completely separated. The very idea that one other like me could exist never occurred to me.”

“One other like what? What are you?”

“Well, that’s a good question. Since I always believed I was the only one, there is no definition, no simple title. You could be called a woman, a human, an American, but me? I’m nothing. I belong to no group that helps others define me. I’m…a…me.”

She just sat staring at him for several minutes while he sat across from her smiling like the Cheshire Cat. He was shivering and instinctively she pulled him close and shared the sleeping bag with him. There was that feeling again, that home feeling. She turned her head to look at him and he was still grinning.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You did it. I can’t believe it. I took your hand and you just gave it up, your whole existence in a flash. It was unbelievable.”

“I didn’t do anything. You did it to me. You took my hand and pulled me somewhere.”

“No,” he said shaking his head, “that’s not possible. I’ve done this a hundred times over the years I’ve been here and no one has ever come with me. I was only feeling bad that I was about to pop out of your life to get away from them. You just came with me. You trusted me. You instinctively let your physical self go and POP we were gone. You’re different.”

There was silence between them for quite some time. They huddled close together in the warmth of the sleeping bag, both considering what had just occurred. He was right. She had gone with him, voluntarily. The moment he took her hand and looked at her…

Never before had she felt so complete. All her life she’d struggled to fit in with the people around her. Her parents were good people with honest intentions. They loved her. She knew it, she felt it every day. But something was missing. The people she had met at school, at work, online in chatrooms and social media groups, filled her life with obligations and responsibilities. But every day, she came home to her apartment alone. She had never felt connected to them, never felt a kinship. It was like there was an invisible bubble around her that kept her from actually reaching out. She had begun to believe something was wrong with her. Had she created that bubble? What kind of person can’t love?

And then she met him and it all changed. It didn’t creep up on her. It didn’t slowly seep into her consciousness. It hit her. The bubble burst. No, he walked right into her bubble and they were in it together. The rest of the world didn’t exist to them.

He didn’t need to explain the details of his existence. He didn’t need to comfort her or take care of her. They were home when they were together and nothing else mattered.

He sat upright again listening. “What do you hear?” she asked him, knowing already what it was. Footsteps nearby, several heavy people shuffling through leaves and murmuring in hushed tones. The sound of quiet searching.

“They can’t see us here. They’ll walk right by. They know we’re close but for some reason this place shields us.”

“But we can’t stay here forever.”

“No, we can’t.”

She took his hands this time, looking into his eyes. And POP. They were gone forever.