A Place for Me

I wrote this story for a short story contest hosted by On The Premises recently. The theme for the entries was “community” and writing for this had been difficult for me. There ended up being 202 entries for the first round of judging. The top 10% of stories were chosen to be reviewed for the final judging round – which would have been 21 entries. The story below the line – “A Place for Me” – was one of the top 21 entries reviewed for the Top 10 submissions. Unfortunately, I just barely made the cut. That being said, I still wanted to share with you what I wrote and prove that I’m not missing just because I’ve lost my way. I’m working on original pieces. Without further adieu –


 

“A Place for Me”

Read & Enjoy

 


 

I know that I am breathing simply because I am not actually suffocating, even if my brain is convinced that I am doing precisely that. Each time I make another four inch drop and sink nearer to the ground floor, I feel my hear rate double. The pounding is so loud that is the only thing I can hear besides the actual slamming of it against my chest is the rushing of blood in my head. My vision blurs about halfway through my descent and I practically fall the rest of the way down.

Per the usual, my father has his arms crossed and is clicking his tongue at me. “You’re running late. The dance starts in thirty minutes,” I forgot, but only because I’ve been trying desperately to pretend that I didn’t properly make plans to go. My parents have been begging me to watch after my sister, counting on me to see if she’s up to no good, but I simply cannot. Being around people makes me uncomfortable. The way they smell, the way they talk, and the way they contort their face; it makes me physically nauseous. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? Other people might as well be foreign beasts or aliens with the way that they frighten me.

“S-sorry…” I stutter what could have been the beginning of a considerate apology, or another one of my pathetic excuses. Fortunately, my mother comes strolling around the corner with my sister, whom is dressed beautifully in her short black dress and white leather jacket. My sad attempt to show regret for not wanting to go is diminished by the gasp of concern that escapes my mother’s mouth. I hear him start scolding her but I can’t ignore my sister enough to really hear them. She grounds me.

Analise is the opposite of me in nearly every way imaginable. Where I am flat and average, she is curvy and developed. She has my father’s height and my mother’s naturally springy, curly hair. I am short, more like my grandparents, and have my dad’s stick straight brown hair, which I wear short so I don’t have to brush it often. Most days, Analise is the innocent girl next door that has good intentions and a heart big enough to share, much like a hero in any video game. In comparison, I’m just the boring non-playable character that probably has an item for a side quest that has a lame reward for accomplishing it.

I reckon that she’ll be fine at the dance by herself, and I think that’s what scares my parents most. Analise is gorgeous to boot, and not everyone around her means well. If she were my daughter I’d be worried too. My mind gets goes to static as I begin tuning back into the conversation between my parents. I am grateful to hear my mother defending me.

Shaking her head, “Gerald, I don’t think she can do it. We’re asking too much of her.” She’s always been more reasonable about how debilitating social activity can be for me. Appreciation for her fills every empty crevice inside of my chest but the only response I can manage is to cry. That’s how my brain reacts to any sort of input overload, such as an argument about my status as a recluse. Even though my mother is supporting me, my father still denounces the possibility that she’s right. He always does. It makes my crying even worse, my body trembling at the very sound of his breath.

“Mathilda!” He shouts way too sharply. My mother wrinkles her nose in the way that assures him there’ll be consequences if he doesn’t change his tone. Analise and I learned where our limits were when we were in pre-school, and it’s horrifying that he still dares to push her to that point as an adult. “She can’t keep living like this!”

My sister approaches me and then pulls me to the side, placing a hand on my shoulder as she redirects me. In a soothing tone, she coaches me the way she does every day for school. Before we get on the bus she has to hush me into silence, and once more when we get to school because I’ve begun to panic again. Analise doesn’t realize how important she is to my being able to get through school every single day. Without her comforting, I couldn’t make it. I would have quit years ago.

“Ciara is just different, Gerald, and we can’t push her into a social situation. We have to ease her into these things,” she remarks defiantly. She used to struggle with social anxiety too, so she understands why I’m having trouble. My issues are worse than hers ever were when she was my age, I guess, which has my father convinced that I’ll just get over it by the time I graduate high school in the spring. His frustration grows the closer we get to our ceremony in June.

“I don’t care if she’s different! She’ll never survive on her own if she doesn’t get involved with the community! Ciara belongs with her peers – not behind some computer monitor!” he shouts at the tops of his lungs. Rather than anger prickling the edges of his words, it is pure frustration. Though his continual complaining about my social anxiety is grating, I try to remember that he just wants me to be normal.

And he has no idea how badly I wish to be exactly that: normal.

There’s this community, this society, this whole world, full of normal people.

Then there’s me – unambiguously abnormal – and I just don’t belong.

“Dad,” my sister begins. There’s probably more that she says, but her voice becomes distant and my vision darkens. All around me the heavy world melts and solidifies in my gut. The air tastes cold; the earth feels shaky; and my brain evaporates inside of my skull. As I feel the world disintegrating around me, I hear Analise repeat herself more sternly, “Dad!”

Blacking out isn’t unusual for me, especially when I’m being forced out of the house. Any sort of gathering that would provide literally anyone else with ‘a sense of community’ and ‘a sense of togetherness’ just ends up leaving me empty. My father has criticized me constantly for years now, as if I have some control over it, but he never used to say anything in front of me. I wish he still had that discretion, honestly. I’m glad that when I come back to it is to the solitude of bedroom. My eyes adjust to the darkness effortlessly.

In the far left corner, I can see the soft glow of my computer screen, where I spend almost all of my time when I’m home. Sometimes I have nightmares about blacking out and waking to my father unplugging everything. Forget failing, dying, or being cheated on by some short-term boyfriend – being without my games is my greatest fear. I need these black curtains, dual monitors, and consoles. These things give me the motivation I need to continue living.

Logging in is second nature. I type my password and click the icon I want without even glancing at the screen. My left hand reaches out to open a shallow drawer. I keep my headphones there so I never accidentally knock them to the floor. They’re an instrumental part of my gaming experience and I would go crazy without them. The loading screen fades away when I look up to plug my chord into the appropriate port. Just as I do this, a ping erupts in the headset from the messenger program I use with my guild group. This particular tone is unique, assigned to one specific contact, and I know my best friend is online immediately. Instead of tapping a reply on the keyboard, I hit the hotkey to dial out to her automatically. When she speaks, her voice is so rich that I feel the thickness of it wash over my body, “I thought you had to go be a part of the real world tonight. What happened?”

Explaining my worries to her is not necessary. She already knows. All it requires is three simple words, “I blacked out,” and we move on from the topic. An notification message materializes over my inventory menu, a probationary invite to a campaign mission: The Mayflower Maybe. The creator, my best friend, goes by the gamer tag MaybeMay, which is a pun for her real name. I accept the request immediately, but not without harassing her, “Your best mate has to undergo the probationary period?” She laughs at me as I spawn inside of the lobby of her personal server.

Giving life to the joy that erupts from May when she laughs is impossible to accomplish with just words. Hearing her happiness through my headphones is one of the best parts of my day, every single day. I often question why anyone would ever want to be a part of the outside world. There could be someone online living on the other side of the world who could be the most perfect part of their lives.

“As a leader of the people, you must impress my people if you wish to stay,” she details in a voice that reminds me that she’s as much a leader as she is player. I do run my own campaigns, and I have plans to also get a server running so that I can host multiple guilds for my growing players’ circles. I do well in the background, generally, but she’s the ‘front-and-center’ type. MaybeMay just happens to be a more natural leader all around.

Even though I’m new to this particular campaign, many of these players recognize my handle, and they fire off their warm welcomes in the public chat. Seconds barely tick by before the private messages begin filtering to my inbox. Compliments, excitement, compliments, resources for expected behavior, upcoming events, more compliments; and I love knowing that this is my safe place. No matter that I can’t physically see them, they’re as familiar to me as my own family.

Unexpectedly, I hear a knocking at my door and I lurch forward with determination to be quiet. My fingers hurriedly shut off my monitor and hold my breath. My mother is wanting to check on me, I’m sure, and if she knows I’m on the computer she’ll end up telling my dad. If he knows I’m playing my game already, so soon after I’ve passed out, he’ll keep blaming the games for my anxiety. I know that this not true. I really am just that dysfunctional.

MaybeMay’s voice asks me if I’m okay, since I’m just running in circles, and I manage a strangled shush into the microphone. A few more knocks imprison me in this frozen pose, concealing myself from the harsh judgment. How can my father want me to go join the world and be an active member of society with my peers when I can’t even escape his disparagements for having a personal preference?

Once I know I’m in the clear, I apologize solemnly.

“Someone knocked at my door,” I huff, “and I couldn’t tell if it was Dad.”

MaybeMay is protecting my avatar when I turn my screen back on, and there are concerns in the chat that I’ve lost connection. The general tone doesn’t bother me nor does it come off as rude. She assures everyone that there was a personal matter that arose but that I’m confirmed as being back online. To verify, I teleport myself to another player whose just had a low health warning come across the team notifications banner. Usually I’m the healer when I’m not playing as the guild master, and I fall into the routine very easily.

Our campaign mission takes the team four attempts totaling nearly six hours. Weariness settled into my eyes quite a while ago but I don’t know when for sure. Once we’re all done trading our wares and treasures with the merchants, I exit the software and rummage through my emails. MaybeMay lingers online to talk me, despite the reality that it’s even later into the night for her.

Initially, she goes on about some of the small tasks that littered her day, until she hopped on to do her usual work on the server and website. She works from home for some graphic arts company, and only leaves the house a few times a week to do mandatory errands. Her idea of socializing is a LAN party, or some other mass gaming event. I admire that lifestyle and usually remind her at every opportunity that I am jealous. Today, though, I deviate from that pattern.

“Do you think I’m broken?” I shudder at acknowledging my difficulties assimilating to the normal world. More often than not, this reality gets swept beneath some metaphorical rug. Outside of the house, we spread this lie that I’m just extremely shy. Sometimes people try to give me advice – imagine everyone in their underwear, a universal nugget of wisdom, it seems – and other times they just tut their tongue at me. Every so often someone might become bold enough to blame video games or technology. Of course, my father agrees, and his face sinks in confirmation of their theories.

MaybeMay doesn’t reply at first. This startles me because she’s normally doesn’t have to pause to fully consider anything, not even a loaded question such as this one. She attributes her ability to rapidly resolve questions or issues to her gaming, and then she cracks a joke about the people who blame games for a ‘lazier’ generation. I suck in as much air as my lungs can hold just as she replies.

“Yes…” I wasn’t expecting to hear her say that and I’m dazed. I am sure this moment between heartbeats will kill me.

“…but I think we all are broken in our own unique ways. You and I, we’re the same sort of person. Your dad, well, he’s just a different type. His idea of being involved and having a sense of community is really different from yours. Maybe it’s our brains, maybe it’s not, but whatever it is – nobody can say the gaming community is fake any more than they can say that kids at a stupid school dance are fake.” I didn’t think I could ever feel so strongly about a monologue, but this one has me shedding tears of joy. Clarity settles into my mind’s eye. Being different isn’t as bad as my dad makes it seem. MaybeMay gives me the ability to see myself as complete and strong, accepted and appreciated, respected and valid. Everyone should have a friend as loving and as honest as she, but that’s what scares me about the real world beyond my door.

Not everyone is so loving.

Not everyone is so honest.

And not everyone is broken like me.

“I needed that,” my thought escapes effortlessly through my lips. My features relax, and so does my body, as I begin closing all of the windows on my screen. Remaining maximized is my messenger program, silence hanging loosely between MaybeMay and I. Discomfort dares to creep into my thoughts but more than anything I’m just happy to share this sort of moment with her. MaybeMay reminds me a lot of Analise; a sister when my sister is away.

A digital clock next to me shifts into the next hour. Without a doubt it is time for me to go to bed, and so I begin the process of saying good-bye. Once I’m whispering my departure plans, MaybeMay reveals she’s logging off too.

Yet she stops me from ending our call. She insists that there is one last thing to be said before we disconnect and carry on with our lives outside of the game. I hold my breath so that I may drink in every drip of confidence I may derive from it. “A real community is just a group of people that care about the same things together. Tell me that our virtual family isn’t real – I dare you.”

A smile spreads across my face just as the signature sound of a user switching offline dings in my headphones, ears, and body. What I did to deserve her, I may never know, but I won’t question it either. I crawl into my bed knowing that no matter what my dad thinks – what I feel is real, and he can never make it go away.

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#13ReasonsWhyIAmHappy

I was just reading Virtual Vomit‘s Blog post titled 13 Reasons Why I’m Happy. I have not yet been able to reach an emotional place where I feel safe watching “13 Reasons Why” the show, but I’ve read the book. If you read my blog regularly, or have read anything of mine really, you’ll know that I try to raise awareness of as many social issues as possible with my writing (sparse as it has been). In particular, I have posts regularly about suicide and suicide prevention. For this reason I am going to post a list of #13ReasonWhyIAmHappy today.

If you are struggling with suicidal feelings I urge you to contact the suicide prevention hotline. They have qualified individuals to assist you with those emotions and guide you through this tough time in your life. I understand personally and deeply how difficult it can be to forget what it is to be happy. Overcoming those emotions is the hardest thing I have done and continue to do each day. These suicide prevention services go beyond a phone call. You can chat with represetnatives online too. Please, please consider visiting this website if you are dealing with these feelings.

And now… 13 Reasons Why I Am Happy (Right Now).

 

  1. I have a brilliant young man for a son who, in spite of his flaws, finds new ways to remind me that he is wildly compassionate and wise.
  2. In spite of being sick today I have been reasonably productive and still have several hours to achieve more of my writing tasks.
  3. My TARDIS blanket. No more explanation is necessary.
  4. Cologne is stronger than air freshener and much longer lasting. Spraying it on my curtains is allowing the breeze to blow the sweet musk scent of my husband all around the house.
  5. My accessibility to clean water and purifying options is such a privilege.
  6. The kindness of my husband to come home from work early and pick up our son from school today while I am sick.
  7. Books give me great happiness. The feel, the scent, the words – the possibilities!
  8. My three beautiful kittens that have come to love each other over the last year, proving that I was not wrong to bring my youngest one into our tiny family. Even when they get into spats, they lick each other clean and nestle together for naps.
  9. The nightcore genre of music inspires me with how creative people can be with content that already exists. It grounds me creatively with my work but also reminds me that there’s so much greatness that comes from those around us and from the work of others.
  10. Technology gives me outlets that I would not otherwise have access to in another place, generation, or universe. For that I am constantly able to work on something I love in one way or another.
  11. My home which is a customized ‘House of Horrors’ for me is something many people in the world are not able to have, and for that I choose to be grateful that I have a mostly safe place to live with my husband, son, and three cats.
  12. Trees. Trees give us oxygen, and they endure the changes in this world for far longer than those who first caused harm to them. Specifically, I would like to say I am happy for my tiny tree growing in a flower pot. His name is Harold and he is blooming for his second year this spring. I am proud of my little Harold.
  13. My family. Regardless of how they have affected me (positive, negative, neutral) their own choices have influenced mine. Though my success is neither lucrative nor boastful, it is mine. For that I am happy with where I have come to be and I am excited for the opportunities that still lie ahead – hidden by the shadows of my present obstacles.

 

Honestly, there is much more to be happy for in my life. Ten years ago, I never would have believed you if you were to share my story now. I would not have thought I would even be alive. Ten years ago, I didn’t know I was pregnant at fifteen. Ten years ago, I thought eventually I would cut too deep and end the constant suffering within and without. I never would have thought my then severe depression, anxiety, and insomnia would shrink. Even with my struggles now, I can cope without medication where I could not even just five years ago.

Now, I face other problems and it is a battle not to sink back into those depths. Those concerns that I could collapse into old habits is always at the edge of my happiness. It threatens me anytime I am faced with an obstacle I fear I cannot overcome. It is this reality that keeps me from delving into the film adaptation of a book I proclaim as being incredibly eye-opening to me as a teenager struggling the way Hannah Baker struggled. Books raised me. Books are my parentage and my guidance. I read to understand what it is I cannot see understand on my own.

So, I challenge you as a reader to list in the comments 13 Reasons Why YOU Are Happy right now, today, this very minute.

#13ReasonsWhyIAmHappy

XoXo

-ab

A Mother’s Help

THE SOUND OF BREAKING GLASS stopped her in her tracks. Dana promised her daughter that she could have the house all to herself this weekend while she stayed with grandma for the evening. In her old age, however, she locked herself out of the house. Sneak in – get keys – sneak out – that was the objective.

That was the objective, anyway.

But the sound of breaking glass stopped her.

There was another voice coming from the kitchen when Dana gt inside, but she couldn’t just waltz in unannounced. It would violate the trust that she’d built up with her temperamental daughter. For weeks anything would hurt her feelings and set her off into a fit of swearing or crying. Dana wrote it off at teenage hormones, a flare of aggressive independence. In just one year, after all, she would be going off to college.

So Dana agreed with her daughter, “Alaina, you can stay home alone for the weekend every so often. Grandma wouldn’t mind the extra company.” It was an arrangement that would have been made naturally anyway. Dana’s mother has been getting forgetful and disorganized. Soon she would not be able to live alone anymore. There is an in-between stage and Dana knew that it would be weekend visits. Then nightly dinners, and so on, and so on…

The second voice was familiar; too familiar. Dana was able to identify it as Alaina’s boyfriend: Roger. He was a kind enough young man, but rarely ever wanted to do anything social with her. The mother always found it a bit strange. Still, her daughter insisted that he was just a bit shy and a homebody. Most of their relationship has been spent watching movies and making food runs together. He’d never so much as invited her to a school dance.

Needless to say, Dana didn’t exactly want Roger to be a permanent fixture in her daughter’s life. The breaking glass paired with shouting only reassured her gut feeling that he was not the right person for her.

“You said you fucking ordered the food!” Dana inched around the house in a way only Alaina could share mastery in doing, and weaseled her way into the bathroom between the kitchen and bathroom. From there she heard the fight deepen and another glass shatter.

“I thought it submitted the order! Please don’t break my mother’s dishes. These were gifts from her aunt!” And they probably were, most of the dishes Dana owned were from her mother’s best friend. She’d been a better aunt than any of her real ones, and so every silly dish she sent for holidays was kept and used regularly. It made Dana’s life as a single mom a little less serious, and it was something Alaina always thought was pretty cool too.

“You’re going to make a shitty wife. You can’t cook and you can’t place a food order. No wonder nobody else wanted to date you!” Dana resisted the urge to intervene, but instead dialed 9-1-1. She whispered her anonymous complaint as she snuck back out of the house and went into the car where her mother was waiting.

A noise ‘at the neighbors,’ she’d asked Dana, whatever for – it was so quiet outside. Dana explained that Alaina was having a bit of trouble and she wanted to give her a free ticket out of the mess. The discussion about Roger would be a private one, after the police carted him away.

And so she drove her car around the block and waited at a safe distance for officers to arrive. Dana watched and waited until finally Roger was escorted off of the property, in handcuffs no less, before calling her daughter on the telephone.

“Hi mom,” her voice understandably deflated.

“Grandma locked herself out of the house. I think we’ll be crashing at home instead. Sorry to ruin your weekend alone.” Dana said in her maternal tone, the one she used to apologize and comfort simultaneously. She is surprised, just slightly, when Alaina laughed in reply.

In a quick breath, “I don’t want to be alone tonight anyway.”

Dana knew before she got back home that Alaina would reveal the truth about Roger – the dark, nasty truth – and she would never know that it was her own mother that saved her. That would be okay, though, because a mom never needs recognition. She only needs her child to be safe.


Credit to the prompt generator I used when looking for inspiration for this story.

Also, if you are ever in an abusive relationship, please consider using this website to make the change you deserve in your life. There are one-on-one chat services available and resources to assist you during this difficult time of making a positive change.

The Worst Dinner?

A dish of lies, I say!

There is little more in the world worse than being tricked. My friends had never taken my vegetarianism seriously. One friend in particular was having a big party for Thanksgiving and invited some of his friends. I rarely turned down a social invitation, and as such, I attended with enthusiasm. After all, he had assured me there would be options for “my type of diet.”

When I arrived there was a plate set for me. I questioned the source of protein, asking if it was the tofu he promised me would be available. I even offered to cook it myself when I arrived so long as it was made available. No, he insisted! He insisted that I be treated like a guest. I took the plate as he insisted that it was definitely tofu. Sometimes when prepared one cannot tell the difference between tofu and some meats just looking at it. In this case, I could not be sure due to the dressings and sides. I trusted his word to be honest and went to the extra dining room to enjoy my meal with friends.

Or people I thought were friends.

I was so hungry I didn’t even notice everyone watching with baited breath as I took my first bite of the tofu. As I breathed in the area before even getting the morsel into my mouth, I knew. This was not tofu. I thought it would be rude to spit it out so I swallowed, silently praying to my god that I wouldn’t die. Afterwards I swiftly pushed it to the side and worked very slowly through my vegetables.

As soon as the room cleared and eyes were not waiting for me to “enjoy” the “tofu” again, well, I did what any angry teenager would do! I marched to his parents in the main dining room as the schmoozed with friends-of-friends. Wine glasses clutched lazily in their hands – I announced what their son had done to me. They only seemed partially upset, but generally indifferent to the shenanigans of their forever-a-brat child. If that would not put a fire in their hearts, I could think of something else that most certainly would capture their attention.

“Oh, and did you know you son is selling meth to half of the basketball team? He brags that he has been making in the attic.” I did not wait for their response. Surely news of my friend’s punishment will be the juiciest social news for a week or two. It was immature, unquestionably, but I like to think I was able to save their son’s life that day.

Tell Me, What Could Possibly Happen?

A raindrop could fall in the eye of an old man picking dandelions from his garden. He could fall backwards and trip on the hoe he forgot to pick up (again). His leg could break in those few seconds. He would have to go the hospital by car with his nervous wife who won’t stop crying, surely.

They would take him back into a room and check his injury. They could find a mass in his leg that is concerning, something he probably had dismissed as a part of his arthritis. They would take a biopsy.

A week later, because of that single second when a raindrop startled a feeble old man, he could receive a call from his oncologist. That old man would be reassured that they caught his leukemia early and it would unlikely that these are the last of his days.

My Opinion On: Chicken Factories?

As I was scrolling through Facebook I saw this headline…

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Then I read through it and went to the article referenced…

And the first section looked like this…

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I shared this on Facebook initially but pulled it before anyone could read it because it felt more like a mini-rant-reminder-opinion blurb that I could utilize on my blog instead. There were four big companies listed:

TYSON
PERDUE
PILGRIM’S
SANDERSON FARMS

Reading this made me glad that I research the meat I buy from the store before I bring it home. We aren’t a super “all organic” family – but we avoid foods (whenever possible) that have preservatives and go for foods that are as fresh and natural as possible.

There aren’t many regulations in the food market regarding the use of the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ – so you still have to do the reading. That’s not to say that ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ labels are false, but the restrictions in using those words aren’t as strong as you might except – especially with nonfood items. Last time I had researched the chicken we do buy – it was one of the safest brands you can purchase on the market.

My husband was prompted to do this research after taking a class in college which forced him to immerse himself into a culture or lifestyle he never would adopt. He chose vegetarian/vegan because I did not actively eat meat or most animal byproducts. (This was not necessary an active lifestyle choice so much as I prefer raw fruits and vegetable to meats). After watching a couple of documentaries about the ways in which chickens are slaughtered, he immediately sought out organic and animal-friendly (or as friendly as they can be considering the chicken ultimately dies for consumption) brands. That is how we found the brand of chicken we purchase now. Most of our other meats come from small local farmers.

People on welfare, though, do not have these same luxuries. People using public assistance are generally forced to purchase from these four corporations. Tyson in particular, as they make a ton of microwaveable chicken foods marketed specifically towards kids. Aside from this, I would wager that a good many schools who cannot import fresh meats from delis, farmers, and butchers turn to brands like Perdue and Tyson. It saddens me greatly to even think that people must purchase items from a brand that cannot be trusted to allow workers to engage in a normal and necessary bodily function.

We need to force these corporations to see people as people – otherwise we are insulting the entire working class and the entire impoverished community. Both of which are funding their ridiculous food industry empire! The imbalance in power is unjustified, and certainly being abused by those who have it.

Some people may argue that this piece is slanted (generally documentary works generally as slanted but that is the nature of persuasion) – but the idea alone that this could be happening at only some locations is appalling. It should not happen anywhere for any reason. It is absolutely disgusting and the more attention it receives, the less profit these companies generate; and the more the general population forces these food industry giants to change.

#RESPECTYOURWORKERS #GIVETHEMABREAK

My Opinion On: Tumblr’s Yahoo Advertisements

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Excuse the fuck out of me but…
FUCK THIS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I want to see none more of these ads because this teaches people to define themselves by others. As an adult who changed for others growing up so many times – I took me actual years to find out who I was when I finished high school. Did a I really like these bands? Did I really like these shows, books, and games? I was a collage-like shadow of the people around me at any given time until I was eighteen years old wading the waters of uncertainty until college.

I was starting over with no friends and no personality outside my pressing depression and anxiety, and my frantic hot-mess-mom status. Still, I wasn’t defining myself – I was defined by my status as a mother and my affliction of mental illness. It would be a whole year, when I was turning nineteen, that I realized I could exist as an individual uniquely. That is when I saw myself make a mark on someone else that belonged to me. My love of something that I could share with another person who became genuinely vested in it as equally as myself. It was not a forced behavior or a shadowed one – but one that I actually shared. It was a joint interest. Our love of the thing was not manufactured by either party.

That friend – I lost her when we graduated. We were just different people, it seemed, and we went our separate ways. But she still loves those things I shared with her, maybe quietly, but it’s still present and strong. Since then I have spent the last five years figuring out who I am while dealing with depression and anxiety as “curveballs” instead of “traits” of who I am. I have made being a parent a factor in who I am in a way that is unique to me and my personality. No more do I say “I’m a young mom” as though it’s just another piece of my identity puzzle. Instead I say it distinctly because there is no other mom exactly like me in the entire world.

I don’t want people to see ads like this an be shaped by the lies, the indecision, and the dependency that it creates. I want commercials that move me – ads that understand me – and media that shows the world what it’s capable of rather than what this fodder encourages us to become in life: forever impressionable.

I want you to like that band because you fucking like it and don’t give a fuck what anyone else says or thinks. People will like you for you, even if they don’t like the same things, because people like personalities. People fall in love with who you are as a whole. Not the pieces of personality that you can collect from everyone else.

So in closing, I kindly reiterate.

FUCK THIS!

Excalibur Returns (An Original Short)

Contest Host: WOW! Women on Writing

Contest Title: 2016 Flash Fiction Contest (With Critique)

Placement: None


 

The ethereal world around me shames even my most whimsical dreams. I feel perfectly at home here even if I have no idea how it is I’ve even arrived. This place is so hauntingly beautiful that I can only presume that it is luck that I’ve stumbled upon this paradise.

 

“But why is it that I feel so lucky?” Not even the tiniest piece of me felt afraid to be somewhere with which I was unfamiliar. There were no questions as to whether I was in danger. My admiration for the scenery left me dumbfounded but put my simultaneously at ease. Why is it I would consider myself lucky instead of concerned?

 

“Because you are,” A divine harmony echoes throughout my mind. Surely it was the single most brilliant voice in all of time and space. Hearing it speak is distracting in the moment that I hear it but also in the seconds that tick by with slow deliberation afterwards. I nearly forget to look around for a person to whom the voice belongs but in my heart I know will not find one. Regardless, I twirl halfheartedly knowing in advance that no human could so sound divine.

 

When I stop my eye catches the slightest glimmer of sunshine bouncing off of a dewy patch of moss. Clouds pass overhead breaking what little light shone through the vast canopy. The moss that was just radiant green is now as dark as night, barely recognizable as any form of plant life. Something in my heart propels me forward to explore this patch of moss very specifically. The closer I get to it the harder my heart pounds behind my sternum.

 

Once I am hovering directly above the chameleon moss I notice that there’s a strange sort of light around it. The way it moves reminds me of a small stress on the countryside. Alas, it is not actually bright light, like what you would see from the sun, but rather palpable nothingness that casts a demanding aura. I cannot resist the urge to stare into the abyss.

 

Unsure what it is I am experiencing makes me curious rather than frightened. I slowly poke each hand into the void in hopes of discovering something with which I can make a deduction about this strange patch of plant life in this oasis. Why does is radiate power in such a way that is distinctly different from the rest of the forest?

 

At first I feel nothing more than a soft breeze. For a second I shiver due to a chill that is best described as a wind tiptoeing up my spine. Since I have no reason to believe that there is any danger I lean in further to take a deep breath. Does it smell as harmless as it looks?

 

“On the ground,” the voice returns only to alert me to the mistake that I’ve made. Agony washes over me as violently as the Thames. The pain is tangiblly audible to the point that I cannot even tell if I am screaming. My eyes remain clamped shut as I suffer through whatever has overcome me.

 

Time seems to stop so that my punishment may hold the attention of the entire universe. My palms are hitting the ground with flagrant protest. I found this paradise to be alluring and perfect but now I damn it for what it has done to me. Through the aching I force my fingers to inspect each frill, blade, and bulge in hopes of identifying an escape. The only thing that exists in me is the will to survive. It is only several cuts, bruises, and rashes later that I finally identify something that is foreign…

 

Something that does not belong…

 

And it is so very, very cold.

 

It is lean.

It is sleek.

And it is cold.

 

Without justification I bring the item to my chest, eyes still closed as the pain continues resonate through my bones. In a way, the echoes of suffering are worse than the initial inflictions. In my heart I know that this punishment is somehow instrumental to my escape. Perfect as it seems, I have no desire to continue my adventure here.

 

Silence begins to fall around me. Clamped eyes begin cracking open so that I can examine the trinket that I have discovered. The cool temperature that had stood out in contrast to my hot pain is wholly refreshing. I find myself absently attached to this object in a way that I find myself describing as ‘victorious.’

 

It is almost as though I had achieved the task for which I was brought to this place. As I suspect this presently, it is also confirmed; “What you hold now is a necklace fashioned from the shattered remains of a scabbard once known as Excalibur. For far too long I have waited for another to carry its burden once more.”

 

Enthralling as the voice is, as the setting is too, I cannot resist laughing at this premise. Tendrils tug in the back of my mind insisting that this is reality but in the forefront of my mind I have the slightest suspicions this is little more than a dream. The feelings, sensations, and pains that I experienced are remnants of regret and accomplishment that I feel in a real world somewhere beyond this place. I would be mad to believe that this luxurious getaway is real.

 

When my laughter fades, though, I find that there is a soft denial. The rhythm in my heart changes and my lungs breathe air differently. I am not independent. The voice seems to instruct me how to feel and what to think. Within seconds my mockery of the possibility twists away from that rooted doubt. As it lifts it is quickly replaced with acceptance; “And yet as much as you lack belief you are equally as easily swayed. Does your necklace not feel as icy as a winter’s night? Those are Excalibur’s remains in your very hands. Your presence in Avalon is not some innocuous hallucination. Of this I can promise you.”

 

I command myself to wake, or so I believe that I have done as much. The brilliant world around me is replaced with dull gray walls. Stained cream curtains billowing in the polluted wind cover a cracked window. I am instantly reminded that I live in a city plagued by crime and anarchy. Displeasure flows steadily in my veins. The largest part of me regrets leaving Avalon. Real or not, I already prefer to be there in spite of the dangers it may contain.

 

“You are meant for great things,” The voice asserts finally as my gaze settles on the blankets that cover me. A heavy object seems to be weighing them down. My fingers feel a breeze rolling off of a necklace that is immediately familiar to me. Excalibur is real and it is here in my lap. The peace that I felt in Avalon returns and I find myself trusting in the words of my invisible guardian.

 

I easily clasp Excalibur around my neck. It was much heavier in my hands. A second passes in which I consider removing the jewelry but the thought feels insidious. A soft whispering in the deepest crevices of my mind is insisting that I was meant to carry this burden. To exist without Excalibur would defy the universe.

 

A gunshot yanks me back into the world beneath my window. I rip the curtains back with assurance. This world must change. I must change this world.

An Update on How Being Grown Up Really Sucks

Dear Readers:

When will I stop apologizing for being so irregular in my posting?

Or maybe the better question is when will I stop being irregular in my posting in the first place?

Being a grown up sucks. It means being smart, cautious, and – ugh – responsible! Writing is something I want to make a career out of someday but as a parent and a wife I also have to make sure that life is stable right now, and that everyone is happy right now. As such, that sort of means that things that make me happy fall to the wayside.

Between soccer, bowling, cub scouts, work, and that various volunteer projects I take on – it’s a surprise I have time to do anything self-fulfilling! If I’m really lucky I might get to watch some cartoons with the family during dinner time but every other minute of my day is pretty much taken up. In just the last week alone I’ve gone from just a wife, mother, and writer to a team manager, an assistant coach, a volunteer cub scout leader, a sort of counselor for nearly everyone I know, and personal assistant. It’s amazing how many different roles we can occupy for what is generally a fairly small group of people.

I’ve been reduced to living my life out of a planner just to know what I’m doing each day. I never used to need one – not even in high school! I was always Miss-have-it-together. I went from organized to “booked.”

Actual “booked” too.

A family member called me at work to discuss an important family issue… to which I replied – “I only have a half hour window between work and soccer.” That’s the kind of person I’ve become these days. I feel like a major douche wad without a matching six-digit salary to justify my lifestyle.

Long, whining story short – I feel like a joke. I prioritize contests slightly ahead of my blogging to help build a publication portfolio, but both have somehow fallen back to the bottom of the totem. As always – I’m trying to find the time to put true effort into the work I want to publish on here. I have a “Writing the World” Wednesday entry that I’ve been sitting on for weeks but haven’t been able to structure enough for posting – and a contest entry that received positive feedback but I’ve been wondering if I didn’t want to make it into a series for the blog. I haven’t forgot how to blog and I haven’t forgot the dozens of you that follow me because you like my work. I’m trying.

Forgive me?

Yours,

ab

My Opinion On: Bad Parenting… Apparently

*Disclaimer: This is an opinion article. If you do not share the same opinion I kindly ask that you remain respectable in the comments. My style of writing is sarcastic in nature, involves swearing, and is generally highly critical. If you find that style and those traits to be unappealing then kindly hit the back page to save yourself the stress. Your respect and maturity are appreciated. All reference points are clickable links and will direct you to a new page.

Recently there was an incident at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, USA. An endangered gorilla, a Silverback Gorilla, named Harambe was shot and killed for the protection of a child that had gotten into the exhibit. Instead of resounding support for the executive decision that was made to to save the life of a three-year-old little boy, criticisms flew at the parents for their failure to monitor the child involved.

Firstly, articles across the board keep referring to the young boy as having parents & family – you can see it here on CNN and here at Reuters just for a couple references – but I am not seeing any mention of a father. I see mention of multiple children but nothing of a father, or even a second mother! There is absolutely no mention of an actual second parent  (regardless of gender) being there which makes me ponder how parents are perceived.

Your criticisms are of a dual parent setting when it appears it may actually be a single parent situation. Even if isn’t a single parent – maybe only a single parent was present. Would you honestly tell a parent they he/she/ze shouldn’t be allowed to venture into a public setting simply because they have no second guardian to assist? To those of you that would support such an idea – I say ‘fuck off’ because you are no better than Hitler for suggesting such a concept. I’m willing to bet your very own parents ventured out solo with you on their hip or your hand in their grip. Please kindly get over your superiority complex.

Secondly, almost every article I find on this matter talk about how the mother should be charged criminally for the events that transpired. This woman is an employee of the state government as a part of the child welfare services. She is responsible for hundreds of young children’s lives anually who are actually in the hands of incapable parents – and yet she is being accused of just as much for doing what a good many parents can’t be bothered to do with their own children. Nobody is going to praise this woman for actively trying to enrich her children’s lives by taking them to the zoo to enjoy a day out together. Making memories with her family is now little more than an act against animals due to her inability, apparently, to keep track of her children.

I saw an article that is an opinion piece on Huffington Post which suggests that inaction is the act of allowing a terrible thing to happen. Those who did not help the mother are equally to blame for not trying to save the life of the child and the gorilla. Another Huffington Post article argues the opposite – stating that the endangered gorilla holds more value than a single child that is easily replaced in the population. Both articles have their points, I can’t lie, but it is hard as a parent to think that watching hundreds of people watch my child potentially die at the hands of an animal in a zoo would be acceptable.

Maybe that is truly the elitist human in me speaking, maybe it’s my mother heart spewing selfish words, and maybe I’m just a dick for thinking as much. Logically, I can see the reasoning behind everyone’s disappointment and frustration. Logically and theoretically, I can see why people would say the endangered gorilla should not have been killed. Emotionally, though, I think of a mother and her children dealing with the loss of a child and a sibling. Humans don’t want their loved ones to die anymore than animals do – we all experience grief once losing someone close to us. Why would you wish as much upon another person whose story you do not even know?

For those of my readers that would wish death upon another person’s child – shame on you. What if people you knew wished as much upon you as a child? What if people you thought cared about you pranced up to you and said that they had wished you dead as a child because it would have been better for someone else, or for the betterment of an animal. That would make you feel bad. If he didn’t – then I pity you. I hope that you seek the medical attention that you need because you are suffering greatly to the point where you’ve allowed such callousness to become your norm.

Lastly, I came across a different article that actually exhibits bad parenting. It made me wonder if the internet just assumes all terrible incidents involving children constitutes bad parenting. This incident at the Cincinnati zoo is clearly an accident. There’s no child negligence on the mother’s part from the information that can be found in any of the published articles. This other story involving a 7-year-old boy intentionally left in a forest as punishment is astoundingly horrifying in a way the Cincinnati Zoo incident could never be in a million years. I first found the article on Mashable here – but you can read variations of the story on CNN and on The Guardian.

There aren’t nearly as many comments about the badgering of the parents, although it is certainly present. The articles surrounding the gorilla incident badger this mother for her mistake. Internet users attack her ability to parent and suggest that she deserved to lose her child as punishment for tending to all of her children. Yet in these articles about the 7-year-old boy being intentionally left in the forest/woods/mountains as punishment – a story in which the FATHER is the central point of a confirmed dual-parent scenario – people are sympathetic to the young boy and merely slapping the father on the hand.

Is this a sign of patriarchy at work? A father is stern with his child, his son no less, and people are actually concerned for the child. There are talks of bears but I don’t hear people calling that the boy once abandoned (intentionally!) because prey for the animals in their natural habitat. Nobody is damning these parents (two are confirmed to be present, mind you) the way they damned the mother whom was seemingly caring for her children at the zoo alone. It is disgusting to see how the stories differ in literally every way imaginable except for one – a child in danger.

For me, the Cincinnati Zoo doesn’t require an in depth investigation. If you’ve ever been to zoo you know that the gorilla exhibits aren’t protected in a big way. They’re not behind glass walls but rather behind ropes and slopes with motes – they are protected by an intuitionally tumultuous landscape rather than a solidified barrier. It seems a miracle that this isn’t a constant issue in the zoos across the world. Schools go on field trips all the time – assigning on adult to groups of four and five children at a time. I’ve chaperoned trips to zoos where two adults had only four kids – and even that was difficult to keep track of because while you’re dusting the dirt off of a fallen child the second is wandering away to check out another exhibit. All of the energy in the world cannot make you capable of being in two places at once. I’m sorry, but we’re not The Flash, or Zoom. We are simply never going to be speedsters.

Unless Science has created a definitive process to make that a real thing – then I would gladly sign the fuck up for that because – why the hell wouldn’t you want to sign up for that? Do you know how easily that 3-year-old could have been saved with a speedster around? This wouldn’t even be an article because nobody/nothing would be dead.

The article that should have parents charged criminally are these heathens purposely leaving their son in the middle of the mother fucking woods as punishment for throwing stones. When your child is throwing stones at people and cars – you can take other actions. I personally would handcuff my child or tie hands behind his back. Tell them that such activity as an adult gets them arrested – assure them what it will feel like when they’ve throw their freedoms away with the stones. If you don’t like a forward approach like that – take shit away from your kid. Not every child is the same and not every child responds to the same punishment but no child should be abandoned in the woods. This causes permanent psychological damage or worse. In this instance, the child has been missing for four whole days. There’s a decent chance this child is dead – possibly mauled by a fucking bear – and it’s because these parents were pissed off that they child was throwing rocks and not listening to their commands to stop.

To me it is perfectly clear which set of parents were actually horrible. Here’s a hint – it’s the one’s that lied about their child missing for fear of domestic violence charges against their seven-year-old son.