Sunday, November 25, 2018


The TED Radio hour on NPR was on and the guest was the director of sensitivity or cultural studies or something very benign like that.  She's Muslim.

My phobia isn't Islam.  My phobia is radicals.  Radicals can be Christian or Muslim, and my feeling is that peaceful worshipers can't claim that violent worshipers aren't included in their religion.

There was a point in time when mainstream Christianity was violent and bigoted and racist and anyone-but-us-o-phobic.  I'm assuming the same was true of Islam.  The word Islam means peace but it also means submission to God's will and you know who determines what God's will is: Men in power so God's will is whatever they say it is.

There are simply too many passages in "holy" scripture describing a wrathful, raging, vengeful God to sincerely believe that organized religion is supposed to be peaceful and loving and forgiving.  It just wasn't always that way when the faithful lived in nomadic tribes.

It was perfectly acceptable to be homophobic because gayness is "against God" or "against nature".  I've got news for people like that.  Natural lions in the wild can be gay.  Here are the YouTube results to that search ---->

(c) Independent Co UK

Lions don't know God or doctrine.  They just are what they are and do what they do.

My point is that organized religion takes on the cultural flavors of the day.  Today's flavor is New Age.  When the religious zealots' "old guard" wants to keep the faith true to its original form by way of violence and hatred, they are still true believers.  I think they're completely f*cked up in the head and heartless and only hold dear the scriptures they cherry pick, but they are the object of my phobia.  There is plenty in religion that appeals to hate-mongers.  Believing otherwise is naive.  Perhaps a bit arrogant as well.  Human beings may be hardwired to "us vs them" mentality anyway (I'm thinking sports, religion, sexual orientation, race, nationality, politics etc.)

In my mind, God is all things, good and bad, male and female, known and unknowable, seen and invisible. 

But God is also too remote to play games with.  God is just there.  I am here on Earth trying to make my way and that's all I know for sure.  I won't kill you if you believe differently.

Make someone else's day magical!


Thursday, November 22, 2018

RANDOM THOUGHT - On Managing Expectations

I spent my morning keeping in touch with cousins and that was really nice.  I had a fascinating conversation with one and we talked about managing expectations.

My mother will never be the mother I have in my imagination and it's time to accept her for who she is.  It's time to let go of the unspoken expectations I carry in my heart, yearning for her to treat me some other way, to express her love in some other way.

So now, I bury that imaginary mother who can read my mind.  I grieve losing her but she was never real to begin with.

My mom sews.  Sometimes she sews things that I love and sometimes she sews things that I would never be caught dead in.  Her handiwork is her expression of joy and love.  That has to be enough because that's the mother I have.  When she takes time out of her days to make something from scratch with me in mind, that has to be enough.

This will be one of those things that I write down and burn for Old Year's Night.  If I burn something that doesn't serve me and my relationships, that's the only way to make way in my life for better things.

As for managing expectations, how do I say this?  If I have some unspoken expectation that my family and closest friends call me when I'm down and lonely, but they don't call, how will they know that's what I need if I don't express it?  It's not fair for me to be disappointed in them if they don't even know what I need.  If I write out what I need:

Please call me on the holidays since I haven't been a Jehovah's Witness for 31 years (how do you not know this?)
Please call me when I'm lonely; you'll just telepathically feel it, won't you?
Shoot me a text to encourage me because I'm embarking on something new and scary.
Please meet all my unexpressed needs today to show you give a shit.

I start to realize how utterly absurd I am.  Needy and ridiculous, and starting to sound an awful lot like my mom. OH GOD, NOOOOOOOO!!!!

I felt like a big turkey.

And then I felt like a

People can't read minds, and I have an obligation to know myself well enough to self-soothe.  What about their own lives and needs?  What would happen if I reached out to them?

Today I had a deep need for social connection and social media just wasn't enough.  Texting wasn't enough.  Email was completely out of the question.

I wanted to hear voice with intonation, inflection, laughter, joy and to hear how my family is doing.  Where are they going?  What's for dinner?  How are the kids and the pets and spouses?

Rather than sit and wait for the phone to ring, I picked it up and dialed and you'll never believe what happened.  I got what I wanted:  Human connection.  No other expectation than an honest conversation that could take off in any direction.  The real give and take of two people interested in each other's well-being.

Today is the best day of the year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving - a National Day of Gratitude

Tomorrow is my very favorite holiday!  I've been discouraged from celebrating because I was advised that every day should be a day of cheerful thanksgiving.  That may be true, but it's in the national interest for a day to be devoted to nothing but gratefulness, in my opinion.  People's lives are so hectic and inflated with the urgency of unimportant things that I see no harm in reserving one day out of 365 to reflect on the good things that we do have.

There are the the obvious good bounties: clean air, clean water, a roof over my head, food in the fridge, the soothing purr of my cat, a reliable car.  I'm wondering though if I can extend gratitude to life's pains and struggles.  It is in pain, struggle and reflection that we are forged from soft babies into tough people with integrity, resilience, and the ability to withstand future hardships. 

If we are never tested, no one can know with certainty if we can be relied upon.

I am grateful for my trials, the tests I passed, as well as the tests I failed.  In the end, they gave me answers to questions of my state of readiness: ready to go forward in one area, not ready to go forward in another.  It is at the points of pain and disappointment that we have opportunity to learn the most.  Easy success rarely teaches anyone anything; it often leads to arrogance.  Missteps on the other hand, often teach humility, and if we go back and try again, we also learn persistence.  Thank you, Life, for giving me so many chances to get better and improve.

I'm also grateful for my mind.  I do my best to be self-correcting and to exercise my power of choice even over the choices of thoughts within my own mental arena.  What I'm finding is the inner critic doesn't exist solely in my own head.  She invades everyone's thoughts.  That callous, jealous old crone.  She always negative, seeing the worst possible outcome in literally EVERY single situation.  Truth be told, every once in a while, she's right and she sees what can go wrong, which gives me a chance to craft a plan to avoid error.  For this, I'm grateful.

This doesn't mean she's always right.  The inner critic has an uncanny knack for predicting catastrophe, like 100% of the time.  Clearly, her forecasting skills are limited.  Having become aware of that, when she says I'm ugly, unlovable, an idiot, untalented or utterly hopeless, I just placate her and carry on.  "Yes, yes, I'm totally inept, here's a bone to chew on.  Now be quiet.  I have work to do, and I suspect I'll do it well." 

My biggest gratitude is this: I'm under absolutely NO obligation whatsoever to believe the inner critic.  Her accuracy in forecasting is worse than the weatherman's.  She's at 1% at best, which means, I've got a 99% chance of success in any endeavor, if I listen instead to the truth, which is:

Nothing beats a failure like a try.

As for trial by fire, as a tangential note, I like to think of the products of my mind (ideas) as natural resources, like crude oil or gold or iron or even water.  In their raw states, ideas and natural resources are damn well near useless.  Crude oil must undergo a refining process to be useful to people.  Gold must also be refined and often alloyed to increase its strength.  Even water must be purified.  The same with ideas.  No matter how elegant or beautiful or original my idea might seem at first blush, it must be tested rigorously if it stands a chance at survival.

In that vein, I try not to marry every single idea that springs from my head.  On the opposite side of that coin, I try not to crush them before I've had a chance to consider them.  Thank you Life, for humility and discernment.

Incomplete list of gratitudes:

Napoleon Hill
Stephen R. Covey
Brian Tracy
Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.
Louise Hay and Hay House publications
Tom Bilyeu and Impact Theory YouTube channel
My super adorable furry dumpling of a cat
Melanie, for checking in on me
Shantell, for showing me the lighter side of life
Renee, for photographing all the poignant beauty of rural decay
Lily, for introducing me to the writers group and so much more
Life, for the joy and pain, food and hunger, opportunity and closed doors and tiny little lights on alternative paths, laughter and jokes aplenty, wonder and monotony.

It all counts

Make someone else's day magical!
Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Life Lesson from a Joke Website

There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. 

The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.

"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves.

So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. 

Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

Read more on page:

There's really nothing I need to add to this story.  I'm just glad I found it.

Make someone else's day magical!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Caught between Natural Selection & Indecision

I have no kids.  It's partially by my choice, partially by Nature's choice.  Had I ever tried to get pregnant, it would have been challenging because of another condition I happen to have, which isn't necessary to get into here.

Meanwhile, I consider bipolar a genetic defect.  Having said that, I don't consider it a character defect.  But it does make the absence of motherhood a bit easier.  A lot easier.

For the duration of my peak fertility years, I was never certain that I'd be a good mother.  I had a bad temper.  People told me that I was moody and hypersensitive or sometimes too aggressive.  I could be reckless and irresponsible.  My work ethic wasn't always 5-star.  Kids were annoying, if you asked me.  Oh, but babies were so cute.  At least, most babies.  There are ugly babies, and their mothers don't know.

Finding babies to be cute isn't enough to make a good mother.

Of course, there are lots of moody, aggressive mothers, but pushing a watermelon-sized baby through a hole the size of a lemon wasn't appealing to me either.

That, and the thought of being 100% responsible for another life was overwhelming.

Over time, I matured.  I was a student of myself, in a manner of speaking. Always with my nose in a self-help book, I strove to better myself in various ways.  By time I thought myself capable of handling motherhood, the window of opportunity was lost.

As I gaze into the future, I think the world is too unstable to bring an innocent life into it.  I have absolutely no confidence in today's world leaders to leave Earth in a better state for the next generation.


YouTube video on the Widening Income Gap in the USA

The prosperity gospel that lots and lots of speakers and preachers are talking about is a lot of hot air.  Food scarcity is real.  Water scarcity is real.  Housing crises are real.  The yawning gap between the haves and have-nots is becoming have-alls and have-nothings. I bring this up because I would bear the burden of training my young one all day every day to love herself, fend for herself, provide for herself, play well with others, not steal others' toys but not let others take her toys either.  Do I teach her to master Monopoly and bankrupt her friends in "good sport", or master games of cooperation?  When should she hoard and when should she share?

Oh, the other thing I've been told is I overthink things.

Thank you Mother Nature for taking me the hell out of the gene pool!!! xoxox

Make someone else's day magical!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

RANDOM THOUGHT - A day of self care

Today started off even earlier than necessary, thanks to my furry "son" who wanted treats for breakfast.  I'm too soft with him and got out of bed.

Anyway, I submitted a magazine article on deadline. Check.
Blood work.  Check.
Shop at Trader Joe's for said furry "son" and Moscato for me.  Check.
Writer's group reading.  Check. (tied with the next item for best part of my day)
Massage and steam.  Check, check.
Home, make dinner (dinner for one with bipolar, of course. EASY check)
Session with writing/life coach (last thing to check off)

I list all this meaningless stuff to illustrate one thing.  A busy day can be accomplished with purpose and without being in a hypo-manic state.  Today was a day almost exclusively for my mental health. 

I did work. This article required some discipline.  The assignment was for a topic that I don't give a rat's ass about, but if I'm going to succeed as a writer (and that's the goal, right?), I have to write.

I submitted to the needle for my health. 

I took care of my furry dependent and had fun picking up a little suh-em, suh-em for my own pleasure.  Knowing my limits with alcohol and timing a glass of wine means I don't negate the important work my meds have to do.

Reading to an audience from This Darkness is Mine to gauge readability and get feedback from dedicated writers is mutually reinforcing.  Just because I write in a vacuum doesn't mean I'm writing for a vacuum.  The reader matters.  Whether the words (and grammar and punctuation) I've chosen convey the meaning and emotion I'm thinking and feeling matters.  And then the writing takes on its own life.  They get more meaning and feeling based on their own experience and memory.  That wows me!  Hearing that they can't wait to hear more fuels my heart.  This was arguably the best part of my day.

But then, I put the attention to my physical body and got a massage.  Normally, I don't fuss much or fight my massage therapists, but today when she found a knot or a trigger point or a tender spot (whatever you want to call it), I forced her to stop and focus on it.  What a difference that made!  She was so attentive and gifted and skilled, I didn't want to waste the opportunity.  We made jokes.  She said she was glad I was laughing through the pain. 

I said, "When it comes to pain, I'm like a ten year old; it's just funny.  I have to laugh at myself.  Do you ever get people who tell you to beat them up?"

"Yes, it's very upsetting."

"I don't get that.  If they want to get beat up, all they have to do is go to some hillbilly bar and pick a fight with the biggest, baddest dude they can find.  Why go to the most relaxing, most peaceful place on earth to get pain?  Makes no sense."

After the best deep tissue I've ever had, I took refuge in the steam room and sweated out some trace toxins.  The heat is supposed to minimize next-day soreness from a deep massage. 

Yeah, I got the elbow
Photo: Unknown

Steam Room at Lapis Spa
Photo: Unknown

Thank you Trader Joe's, once again, for making dinner a snap and delicious!

And now I'm waiting for another high point: a session with my writing/life coach.  I anticipate that the editing/refining work we're doing will be done by the end of March and then I'll have to forge my way in querying agents.

I'm quite proud of myself today.  I'll leave you with this:

We are never enough for what tomorrow will demand of us, but we are always good enough for right now.

Make someone else's day magical!


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

PART TIME HALF ASSED VEGAN NOTES - A tasty little snack that was just meant to be

I've been to the local Publix grocery store just about every day this week (mainly because I keep refusing to write down a list).  On one visit, I noticed a brand spanking new vegan section for alternatives to deli meat and cheese. (Me *high pitched, eyes wide*: ah-ha! ah-ha!).  While I'm looking forward to trying the vegan meatballs, I'm a little terrified of what they mean by vegan eggs, but maybe I'll buck up and try them in the future.

Tonight back at said grocery store, I had no choice but to stop by the vegan deli section.  I think once I explain, you'll understand why.  Carr's Rosemary crackers were on sale and they must have a white cheese and hard salami in order to enjoy properly. Or do they?  That vegan section might have a tasty plant-based alternative.  See, I had no choice.

To be honest, I was in a bit of a daze.  The sliced "meat" looked like meat, but the packaging didn't say what it was replacing.  It did make suggestions to use it in a Reuben sandwich, so I was thinking it might taste like pastrami, not hard salami.  I figured if I hated it, I'd just go back and get real salami. What's one more visit to Publix?

Once home with my booty, I wasted no time in slicing the plant-based "meat" and "smoked gouda".  The "meat" by itself was perplexing.  I could taste tomato and that was fine, but you really need to create a different category to describe the flavor and texture.

But - and here it's exciting - once you pile the "meat" and "cheese" on the rosemary crackers, suddenly all the flavors and textures meld together like they were soulmates.  It was simply meant to be!

Field Roast Smoked Tomato Deli "meat" with Follow Your Heart Smoked "gouda" on Rosemary crackers
Photo: Mackenzie Littledale

The low down:

Original Field Roast Grain Meat Co. (R) Vegetarian deli slices smoked tomato flavor
with hearty tomatoes, hickory smoked infusions with red wine, old world spices and herbs
Serving size - 3 slices
Calories - 100
Calories from fat - 25
Total fat - 2.5g
Dietary fiber - 2g
Protein - 14g

Follow Your Heart (R) Smoked gouda style slices VEGAN, non-GMO, gluten free, soy free
Serving size - 1 slice
Calories - 60
Total fat - 4.5g
Protein - 0g

Photo: Mackenzie Littledale

I'm not going to analyze the crackers because even if it turns out that they're made with animal products, I will NEVER give them up.  I love CARR's rosemary crackers and that's that.

Photo: Mackenzie Littledale

However, I was still proud of my snack, so I finished it off with Soy Delicious fake ice cream in Vanilla Bean (dairy free) and crushed Oreos (still vegan).

So Delicious Dairy Free FAKE ICE CREAM Vanilla Bean and Milk's Favorite Cookie
Photo: Mackenzie Littledale

This has been a public service announcement of sorts.

Make someone else's day magical!


In the end, I chose to be a light

Once upon a time in a very large city at a very prestigious firm, I started talking to this guy.  He didn't have a high ranking position, and technically neither did I.  We talked enough and took a day off work to spend together, getting to know each other in the biblical sense.

He told me he was free and clear.  No baby mama drama.  No girlfriend.

Too bad this wasn't remotely true.

He got a phone call that made him nervous and he told me bluntly, "You gotta go."

Anthony, if you're reading this, I will NEVER forget how that made me feel.

As it turns out, he did have a daughter.  Her mother and her family refused to let Anthony have any involvement in their lives.  It also turned out that he had a girlfriend, roughly his estranged daughter's age.  This young girlfriend used him for money.  I put 2 and 2 together and figured he was punishing himself with this user because he didn't have his authentic daughter in his life.  Despite his coldness, I felt sorry for him, because he was so lost.

I hired a private investigator online and within days his daughter was located.  When I put the information in his hands and he realized what it was telling him, he was speechless.  Days later, he saw his daughter and she got to meet his family.  He told me I put a light in his family.

Here's where he screwed up again though.  He was angry that I wouldn't be with him and he wanted what was "his".


Just because I choose to shine light doesn't mean I'll stay in someone else's darkness.  Whether I forgive him or not is irrelevant.  I would not let him stake claim to me.  I deserve a partner, not a project.

Friday, November 9, 2018

RANDOM THOUGHT - Did I mention...

It occurred to me this very morning that the aspect of indoctrination from Jehovah's Witnesses may have had a disturbing effect on my mental health.

So yes, I carried the genes for bipolar, but something traumatic had to trigger it.  I got my triggers in rapid succession like machine gun fire.  So here I am.  Bipolar.  ExJW.

It's so easy to assign blame.  I've spent a significant portion of my life trying to find out where to stick the label "YOUR FAULT", but whether I find people or circumstances to blame, the fact remains I have to stick to my medication or I can't be trusted in public.  Period.  And that's an easy thing to do.  I set my phone with a nightly alarm to take my meds, so even if I forget, I can't forget, if you know what I mean.  My phone is my 5th appendage.

I can't help but wonder how the coldness in the JW organization affected my emotional well-being as a child.  Imagine every holiday (EVERY SINGLE HOLIDAY) as a child being placed in a room alone as my classmates sang holiday songs, laughed, made arts and crafts, wrote out Valentine's cards, etc.  Exile isn't the right course for a child when those years should be spent bonding with peers who may become lifelong friends.  My birthday wasn't a celebration.  I wasn't supposed to say the pledge of allegiance.

What military or law enforcement would defend someone who has no affection for the country?

I wasn't allowed to join Brownies or Girl Scouts.  Why not?  Because they say the pledge of allegiance.  So basically, I have few life skills.

All this can be overcome, I imagine, but not without becoming aware of how it all affected me.  Stunted my growth, and stunted my ability to connect deeply with human beings.  I want so badly to fall in love, but I don't know how.  In my mind, I believe that romantic love is all about showering someone with affection, but I have to learn that affection comes with deep emotional bonding and being vulnerable, having common interests and conversation, making plans and spending quality time together.  To date, I struggle with knowing how and where to start.

There is still such a long way to go.

As a public service announcement akin to "If you don't smoke, don't start", I say, "If you're not a Jehovah's Witness, don't become one".

Their beliefs and practices are foreign.  That, in an of itself, doesn't make them wrong, but their expectation that you disconnect from the full spectrum of what life is on this planet will cost you, possibly your sanity.

Every year my family has the same conversation, pretty much verbatim.  "You know I don't celebrate Thanksgiving, so I'd like to have a dinner with my family."

This year I changed my response.  "No thanks, Mom.  Every year you ruin my Thanksgiving and it's my favorite holiday.  You wonder why I cry at the Publix holiday commercials.  Well part of it is because my own family isn't as connected and happy as the one in the commercial.  I want music, dancing, laughter, games, jokes, togetherness, an expression of gratitude, and some affection with people who show that they actually love me.  I can't do it to myself ever again.  Just sitting around with people who act like nobody matters."

I feel really good about that!  I'm going to continue to change my future for the better.

This is one tragedy reported by the Detroit Free Press and perhaps there are many more due to the Witness practice of disfellowshipping people who leave.

Make someone else's day magical!


Thursday, November 8, 2018

PESCETARIAN SATURDAY - WOW!!! If you love salmon and you're in Hollywood

If you visit Hollywood beach and love salmon, you're in luck.

Latitudes restaurant at Marriott Hollywood beach has a Scottish salmon wrap with tsiziki sauce.  Sorry for being too irresponsible to look up how to spell tsiziki, but it's Greek to me (haha).

It's grilled perfectly, moist and juicy and the balance of flavors is very satisfying.  I like the wrap with sweet potato waffle fries.

Scottish Salmon Wrap w/ Sweet Potato Fries
Photo by Mackenzie Littledale

Latitudes Entrance from Hotel Lobby
Photo by Mackenzie Littledale

Partial outdoor view of the BEACH at Latitudes
Photo by Mackenzie Littledale

Latitudes has indoor and outdoor seats and a bar.

Marriott Hollywood beach is at 2501 North Ocean Boulevard.  Ask them about their Thanksgiving dinner specials

Make someone else's day magical!


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Election is over, so now I get back to writing

While the election results for the Florida governor's race and the US Senate seat were disappointing for me, I still need to live my life.  That means writing away.  Writing means reading, too: reading what I've written so far to check that my storyline is intact and that the words convey the right meaning and feeling.  By "right" I mean, what I intended to express.  Reading also means reading others' stories, words of inspiration and words of encouragement.

In all of this, I'm finding the more I empower my protagonist, the more I realize I must empower myself to match her.  Even though most of the novel is based on a true story, there is some fictionalizing involved.  As Michelle Delphinia grows, I find she grew because her real life counterpart grew.  Where she needs to excel, I must excel behind her and catch up or lose sight of the way she's going.

All the characters tend to stray from the final chapter.  They take on a life of their own, and I must corral them to make sure we all make it to the climax and resolution.

Because it's based on a true story, it doesn't necessarily follow every single rule of storytelling.  There are villains who don't show up until much later.  All I can say is life broke the rule and it's a detail to which I'll remain true.

I've gotten satisfactory and helpful feedback from a few different sources, including my writing coach, my writers group and you.  I'll be forever grateful that you've taken time out of your day, away from your activities and perhaps from your own writing, to read Chapter 1.  I'm an untested writer.  You have no way of knowing whether my style is like JK Rowling or Ken Follett or some long forgotten novelist that no one ever read twice.

While the decision to post an entire chapter came partially out of insecurity, I had to honor it.  To shore up my guts, I've decided not to post another chapter.  Now that I've addressed the comments that I felt were crucial, the rest is up to my private consultations with my coach and writers group.

Life is amazing, isn't it?

I've seen many quotes that comparison is the thief of joy and we'd all be much better off if we didn't compare ourselves to others.  However, the human brain is deeply hardwired to make comparisons, so I'm not going to undo that.  My writing compares favorably in certain ways to others' writing, and just as good in other ways, and perhaps needs boning up in yet other ways.

I'll figure it all out.  Sooner or later, the book will be finished.  I refuse to take 10 years to write my first novel.  I'm anticipating that my coach and I will have a finished manuscript to send to a literary agents by March 2019.

What matters is ultimately it's my story to tell in my own language.  Body language, facial expression, words, tone of voice.  It all matters.  It all develops characters.  It reveals what I've observed.

The book is a soup of sorts.  Stone soup, perhaps, where many members of my village brought a different ingredient for flavor and nourishment, and in turn we all get fed.

Doesn't matter who's in the governor's mansion in Tallahassee.

Make someone else's day magical!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

On Writing - Ch 1 of This Darkness is Mine: A Novel based on a true story

This Darkness is Mine
A Novel based on a true story
(Names have been changed to protect the identity of living people)

Ch 1: No sense of urgency

It was a small, featureless room and the security officer motioned for her to sit. Michelle Delphinia
sat and remained quiet except for frequent requests for water. She watched the staff eye her
suspiciously but they didn’t ask any questions.  Michelle feigned interest in the six monitors on
the desk. “Must be boring as hell to watch the same plants do nothing all day,” she thought.
“I need the restroom, please,” said Michelle.  She wondered why she needed a female security officer
to escort her to the employees’ restroom.  She knew the way. The officer waited outside the door.
When Michelle came back out, she tried to go to the right to go back to work, but the impassive look
on the woman’s face and crossed arms confused her.
Michelle raised her eyebrows.  “I can’t go back to work.”
The officer shook her head.  Michelle paused a second to process this, but it meant nothing to her.
She shrugged her shoulders and walked back to the security office. She saw her brother there having
a discussion with a security member named Bill, and sat down again, wondering if Allen could talk
security into letting her go back to work.
“Thanks, Bill,  I appreciate that.  Perhaps I’ll get her to change her emergency contact to her
boyfriend,” Allen said.  Then he turned to her. “How are you feeling, Michelle?”
Despite Allen's light tone, she saw distress in his brown eyes.  “I’m all right. They won’t let me go
back to work. I have the rest of the day off now.”
Bill told Michelle that she’d have to remove her car from the city lot because it would get towed if
it stayed overnight.
“I drove my mother’s car.  It’s in valet.” Michelle knew parking in valet was strictly off limits for
employees and expected a reprimand.
“Oh.” Bill looked happy to hear that.  “That’s very good then. We have it.” Michelle watched Bill
smile at Allen and return his attention to her.  “I’ll waive the fee for you, don’t worry. You can pick
up the car whenever you’re able, okay?”
Michelle took in a deep breath and relaxed a little.  “God makes things work out, huh?” She looked
up at her brother.
Allen smiled wanly and nodded.  “Yes, Jehovah makes things work out.”
Michelle followed behind Allen to his car. She noticed scratches; it was starting to look old.  Her face
fell at the sight of their mother sitting in his back seat. She didn’t want to make this a family ordeal
and now her mother Janet must be worried about her.  “Allen why did you bring Mom?”
“You buckled in, Michelle?” asked Allen, settling in the driver’s seat.
“Yes.” She accepted that he wasn’t going to answer her question and was careful not to sound hostile.
He had come out of his way for this.
“How are you feeling?”
“I don’t know.  It was a rough day.”  Then she smiled to herself.  “I got a gift though.”
“A gift?  That’s nice.  From a guest?”
“No no, from God.” Michelle looked at her brother out of the corner of her eyes.  
“I...guess...that’s...a good thing.”
Michelle thought he said that just to appease her and to punish him, she decided not to say anything
more about her gift.  It was between her and God anyway, but she could always tell her boyfriend Joe.
Joe would understand.
“Bill said security has been watching you on the cameras at work, and you’ve been acting weird lately.”
“Oh?” Michelle thought about her elaborate smoke break ritual and hoped she hadn’t done anything
weirder than that, but how could she vouch for herself?
“When was the last time you took your meds?”
Michelle cocked her head.  “I stopped going to see my nurse back in...” she paused to consider.
“Maybe back in June, so that would have meant I had pills until August.  So I must have stopped in
“What?” Allen sighed.  Then, as if to a child, “You’ve been off your medication since August?  And
now it’s the end of December.” Allen’s voice went flat and he stared straight ahead.  “Why did you
Michelle saw Allen’s grip tightening on the steering wheel, his hands moving to the ten and two
positions.  Janet remained silent, perhaps she couldn’t hear what was being said.
Michelle rolled her eyes.  “Shawn.” Shawn was her ex-boyfriend and she was repulsed to utter his
name.  “Shawn and I had talked about the meds we were taking. I told him I didn’t have any side
effects, and he said that meant my meds probably weren’t doing anything.  If they’re not doing
anything and I have no symptoms, then I don’t need them.” Michelle sighed and heaved back in her
seat. “But maybe I do need them?” She looked out the window, hoping for something to focus on.
“Yeah.” Allen nodded.  “You need them.” He sounded exasperated and sighed again.  “We’ll go to
your place and you’ll pack up a bag. You’ll stay the night with Mom.”
Michelle would look back on this night and wonder why no one rushed her straight to the ER.
“I’d rather you take me to Joe.”  Joe was Michelle’s current boyfriend.  She thought he would be the
only one to make her feel safe and he’d know just the right things to say and do.
“Have you told Joe about your condition?” Allen asked.
“Oh, um.  Actually, no.  Fine, I’ll pack a bag and stay at Mom’s place.”
“You didn’t tell him yet?  Didn’t he tell you about his mental illness?  Doesn’t he have the same
diagnosis you do?” Allen sounded incredulous.  “Joe has been perfectly honest with you, Michelle.
I think soon would be the time to tell him the truth.”
“I know,” said Michelle, going blank.
The sky shifted dreamily from crimson to violet to charcoal.  Michelle imagined the sky as a slow
motion flamenco dancer changing costumes.  Allen’s car was hot and Michelle thought she was
risking angering him, but she put on the radio.  Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depression came on, and she
felt the music tangle up inside her.
Allen pulled up outside Michelle’s apartment that bordered downtown Hollywood and a  busy street
that the cops willfully ignored. Inside her apartment, Michelle followed instructions and packed an
overnight bag.  Allen took in the disaster that she called home and excused himself back outside.
She took her bag and loaded it in the back seat next to her mother, and got back in.  A half hour
later, Allen was parking at the senior community residences where their mother lived in one
apartment, and Allen and his wife lived on another floor.
Inside Janet’s apartment, Michelle sat down in the recliner in the living room, and her thoughts
soured.  She started crying, trying to articulate her guilt. “I didn’t know smoking would be slavery.
And all those liars and crooks who get kids hooked, I still buy cigarettes from them. I’m making them
rich while I kill myself with their damned cigarettes!  I’m helping them kill more kids.” She went
quiet for a while and no one spoke.
Suddenly, she burst out, “I thought Dad’s Parkinson’s was my fault!” Her arms began to shake.  
She let Allen and her mother each take hold of an arm. They told her she wasn’t to blame. Michelle
was surprised that that had come out of her mouth.  She’d never felt guilty or responsible for her
father’s Parkinson’s.
Her mental state came in and out of focus unpredictably until it was very late.  When she heard
fireworks outside, she thought they were ghost canons from the American Revolution.  The fact that
it was New Year’s would have been an alien thought to her at that moment.
When Janet couldn’t stay awake any longer, she said she was going to bed.
“Mom,” said Michelle, getting up. “Lock your door.”
“Because I don’t know what I’m capable of doing.” Michelle didn’t want a repeat of her last reality
checkout, and she was afraid of how far she might go and then not even remember.  She had a
monster inside that hid from her.
“Oh, it’ll be all right.  You won’t do anything.” Janet smiled and waved her hand.
Michelle and Allen looked at each other in disbelief.  Michelle was aware that no one in her family did
any research whatsoever on her diagnoses over the years, but she wasn’t expecting her mother to
be this naïve.
“You can sleep downstairs at my place,” Allen said to Michelle.
Michelle knew immediately that was a better option, though she wasn’t sure Allen’s wife Annette
would be so welcoming with her in her current state.  She craved water again. Her memory flared
up and vanished without a trace. She should have been alarmed at this.
“All right,” said Michelle.  “Good night, Mom.”
“Good night, darling.” They hugged each other and Janet smiled with a joyful expression that left
Michelle disoriented.  In the spare moments that Michelle was lucid, she realized she was on the
verge of checking out of reality again, but she had no medication with her.  How was her mother
so blissful? If she posed a mortal threat to Allen and Annette, how would they respond?
Downstairs in Allen’s apartment, Annette had already gone to bed.  Allen sat up with Michelle in his
living room, and her mind periodically clouded over and she felt like sleeping, but would awaken
with a start.  This went on for hours. Allen offered Michelle a Jehovah’s Witness bible and suggested
she read Proverbs since she liked Proverbs so much. At four o’clock in the morning, he excused
himself to bed.  Michelle prostrated herself on the floor, ready to surrender her life to Jesus.
When nothing happened, her mental creatures took cover and laughed mockingly at her. She
wasn’t sure again and got back on the couch, staring at the lamp, and a fear of the dark came over her.
Before Michelle knew it, Annette was bustling about from one room to the next.  It was six o’clock
in the morning. Annette made smoothies for them both.
“You’re okay with me staying here for the night?” asked Michelle.
“We’re family.  You’re welcome here,” said Annette.  “How did you sleep?”
“I’m not sure.”
Later, when Allen woke up, he said they needed to get Janet’s car from the hotel valet.  He had a
long to-do list. Michelle watched him, amused as he went back and forth from one room to another,
thinking out loud.  Michelle decided to give him some space, and he finally crafted a plan. Michelle
was never sure why she was the one who needed meds when everyone’s decision-making process
seemed insane.
Once Allen had a clear idea of the order in which he needed to approach the day, he got quite
cheerful.   “Did you read any Proverbs last night?”
“I did.  It set me off.”
“Sorry to hear that.  What happened?”
“It’s hard to put into words.  It’s like certain thoughts shut me down and I get cloudy.”
“Cloudy.  Uh-huh.” Allen nodded his head.
“A fish will never discover water.” Michelle wasn’t sure where she’d heard that.
Michelle assumed the twinkle in Allen’s eyes meant he could now understand that she had a measure
of self-awareness but the condition took her by surprise sometimes.  Michelle felt like there were
things in her subconscious that even she wasn’t allowed to glimpse, let alone bring out to the light
of day. There were creatures in her mind that toyed with her sanity, never letting her see them
squarely.  It knotted her stomach up in frustration, but it scared her, too. Either way, to not know
herself or to fully know herself were daunting and terrifying.
Allen got started on his tasks and Michelle spent the rest of the day trying to keep herself occupied,
forgetting completely that she’d ordinarily have been at work.
That evening while Annette was making dinner, Allen showed Michelle some videos from the
Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Michelle was surprised at her openness to them, given her animosity toward
the religion. Janet stopped by and they ate dinner seated in the living room.
Michelle got the idea stuck in her head that her niece Renie was coming to deliver a baby, and it
would be a surprise, so Michelle kept it to herself.  Allen asked her to pack up her bag so they could
get going, and asked for the valet claim check for their mother’s car. Michelle assumed they were
going to meet Renie at the airport and winked at Allen.
Allen, Annette, Janet and Michelle got into the yellow car with Michelle seated up front.  Down
Hollywood Boulevard, unexpectedly, Michelle yelled out the window to a man standing outside a
porn shop, “I can see you, motherf---er!” Her vulgarity set her prudish family on edge.  
Michelle thought again of Renie’s arrival.  She turned around to Janet, “You afraid, Mom?  It’s going
to be a pleasant surprise. You have faith in Jehovah, right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“So you’re not scared, right?”
“That’s right.”
“Okay, good, because I think you’re going to love this!”
When Allen pulled up to the emergency room, Michelle suspected nothing, thinking Renie must
have already been in delivery.  But inside, the intake nurse asked her innumerable questions and
then drew a syringe. Michelle’s pulse quickened and her palms grew sweaty.  She had no fear of
needles, but her eyes dilated and her breathing became irregular; a thought popped into her head
that vampires didn’t need to fly around and bite people for blood anymore.  Her mind connected
real and imaginary dots, but she was unable to tell the difference. At blood banks and hospitals,
vampires could have all the blood they wanted, and the public suspected nothing!  When it was
evident she was being admitted, she looked desperately around the white room for an escape.
Allen took a step toward the door and thanked the nurse.  He called to Annette that they could go
get their mother’s car from the hotel.
“You’re leaving me here?! I trusted you!” she yelled at Allen.  Her body felt like it was on fire with
betrayal.  “What did I do? I don’t want to stay here! You can’t just leave me here!”

Allen looked at her like she was hopeless and left.