Let’s Talk about Unhinged… – MARISELA I. MITCHLEY

I suppose that propriety demands certain things be left unsaid, and though it doesn’t come naturally, I try my best to bite my tongue. I’ve had to dislodge my foot from my own mouth more times than I can remember, but I think that as I get older, I am learning how to more deliberately walk the line between, “Oh shit,” and, “Pertinent.” I ardently hope that this “little” tangent falls under the latter heading.

 

First of all, I have known and been Kelly’s friend for just over 13 years now. I cannot say whether I was the first to read Unhinged, but I was lucky enough to know it in its original inception as a short story titled The Girl in the Angora Sweater. I think one of the reasons she feels comfortable sharing parts of her soul with me is because we share a lot of the same demons. I, too, know how easy it is to become lost in the seemingly infinite mental quagmire of self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-defeating thoughts. When I am stuck and can’t see the forest for the trees, she is there to keep me focused and on track. When all she sees for miles around are the hyper-critical sneers of others who seem to judge her as harshly as she judges herself, I step in to offer words of encouragement: “It’s mostly in your head; you’re making it worse than it is,” as well as the ever-helpful, “Fuck those people, you just keep doing your thing.”

 

So at this point, at the risk of saying too much—as I am wont to do—I must step in and address the literary elephant in the room.

 

I helped her edit Unhinged. I am not an editor by trade or training but I do enjoy writing, and when my dear friend needed help, I felt compelled to do my utmost to ensure the success of her first novel. Mind you—most of my help came in the form of encouragement and motherly orders to persevere. I read the original short story in its unfinished entirety, and snippets of the book here and there, but remember that this process unfolded over the course of years. I didn’t see anything like a completed manuscript until sometime in early 2016. Even then, I didn’t read the entire thing. I wanted to read, and hold, the actual physical copy.

 

As her publication date neared, though, she was so excited. She sent me the first five chapters as a teaser. I couldn’t bear to deflate her enthusiasm, so I started reading during the lulls at work. Eventually, as I got further into the story and found a few more errors than I was comfortable with, those lulls lengthened into breaks, and eventually full-blown work stoppage. As far as I knew, this manuscript was print-ready. I dared not say anything that might make her unnecessarily frantic so close to publication, especially if there was nothing to be done. However, I finally came across an error that, while small, I knew would incite the wrath of grammar-Nazis and casual weekend readers alike: “Rolling Stone’s.” I pointed it out to her and she was horrified, swearing not to have written it herself. So I flipped back through my emails and the documents folder on my laptop, looking for an earlier draft. Sure enough, the apostrophe had been added between the original version and this “print-ready” copy.

 

Up to this point, I had seen other smaller errors which I swore I couldn’t remember reading before, but I just chalked them up to human error and the fact that I am not Data (from Star Trek—come on guys). I now realized something was grievously amiss and, by some miracle of circumstance, learned that it was not too late to put a pause on printing. So she halted the entire thing and I rooted around in my life to make the time to read the rest of Part One.

 

The errors were many, but mostly small things; things a good editor should have caught, but might have been forgiven by a generous client. When I asked her about said editor, I got an earful. This person (who shall remain nameless and genderless for the sake of anonymity) was responsible for inserting the apostrophe into Rolling Stones as well as screwing up the text’s consistency (I cannot even attempt to count the number of times I saw the lower-case formatted “mom” or “dad” mixed in with the unjustifiably mismatched “Mom” or “Dad”—instances where the word(s) did NOT appear at the beginning of a sentence). Like I said, these errors were startlingly many, but forgivably small, and we combed through the entirety of Part One relatively quickly. Part Two, however, was a whole other animal.

 

At this point, we both realized that the editor contracted by her publishers had all but skimmed the second half of the book and given a completely unfounded thumbs-up to the print department. We were astounded, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, and aghast—ALL of those things. Sometimes all at once, others in quick succession. Formatting inconsistencies, continuity errors, oversights in punctuation and typography. You name it, we found it.

 

Now, I understand and fully agree with the sentiment that in the end, beginning, and throughout the process, it is first and foremost the writer’s responsibility to make sure the story makes sense, that all changes to previous drafts have been implemented throughout the ENTIRE manuscript, that the book’s geography and timeline make sense, etc. But on the other hand, when that same author has spent years looking at the same manuscript—going back and forth, keeping some changes and rejecting others, editing and re-editing for errors in typography, spelling, syntax, continuity, consistence, grammar, punctuation, and formatting—it is more than understandable for certain things to slip through the cracks. With a 100k+ word manuscript, even 1% of the entire work is still more than 1,000 errors—if we’re equating errors to word count, which is not really now it works.

 

So yes, it is ultimately Kelly’s job to ensure that her book is in ship shape before it goes to print. But if that were easy to do, editors wouldn’t exist, let alone receive a tidy little paycheck at the end of the day. Everyone needs help, even the masters of their craft, and EVERYONE improves as time passes. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. You create, you err, you identify, you fix. Then you move on and try to do better next time. So when we dove into the second part of Unhinged, expecting approximately the same amount and sort of errors as littered the first part, we were dumbstruck to discover that this half of the book had seemingly NOT BEEN TOUCHED by an editor, except for a few notes here and there where we found unjustifiable, unnecessary, absolutely perplexing, and seemingly token revisions. After a few days of reading, I felt—and still feel—very firmly that this editor gave the second part of the book no more than a cursory glance. I can only speculate as to this person’s reasons for such shoddy workmanship, but I won’t do that here because most of it is unfounded and fired by sheer bias and outrage.

 

But then, on top of the litany of mistakes this editor tacked onto her manuscript, Kelly’s publishers offered nothing in the way of actual reparations. Despite the contract she had signed, that THEY had offered, she was not made whole. Instead, she received some sort of half-hearted, half-assed, completely transparent apology in which one of the publishing partners offered to take a look at the manuscript for her, even though he admitted up-front that this was not his area of expertise. Now I’m sorry, but that’s just bullshit. You don’t open a business, advertise a professional service that you charge people money for, and then duck out of holding up your end of the deal when it becomes apparent that—because you did not thoroughly vet your subcontractor—your client’s livelihood has been all but T-boned. In fact, if you operate a small, nascent, independent business which cannot afford to make such mistakes, then you work double-time to a) make sure such expensive errors don’t get made in the first place, and b) fix all such errors so that your completely satisfied clients have no other thought but to rave about your company, which will hopefully increase business and profits. You don’t say, “I’m so sorry and I understand that it’s our fault, but we can’t make it right because we’re just getting started and that will cost more to fix than we can afford to spend. Maybe I could look at it for you even though I have however many other responsibilities associated with running my own business, along with however many OTHER clients who need my attention as much as you do.”

 

All of that is to say: Kelly did not get what her publishers promised her. The editor they hired to do the job phoned it in. No—scratch that; that editor cut a perfectly good cord connecting the mouthpiece to the actual mechanism and said, “Here, I upgraded it for you. Now you have a cordless phone.” Newsflash: That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

 

So I helped her. Out of necessity, we stretched the initial two week timeline into six, and at the end of the entire process, we were dazed and exhausted and sick to death of the manuscript. I don’t wonder that more than a few errors made it past us, and I’m so thankful that the first run won’t be the only run.

 

And that is the story behind the printing of Unhinged.

 

Now, I didn’t go off on a tangent just to complain, or to beg forgiveness for editing oversights, or to excuse those errors that made it through to print and ask the reader to try and get over it. I wrote this in an effort to inform you of the fairly bumpy and unplotted road we traversed in order to ready this book for public consumption. I wrote it because the thought finally occurred to me that perhaps some people might gain insight (of debatable value) from a behind-the-scenes look at our uphill struggle to edit the book.

 

Every reader is free to think what he or she will of the finished product; your criticisms and opinions are your own. And while they may hurt our egos, feelings, and sense of worth (especially if they are well-founded), even the negative criticisms are valuable and appreciated. In order to grow and improve, an artist must receive input—both good and bad. But in the end, even having taken such considerations into account, I still felt it necessary to tell our story. Let it color how you assess and judge the book or don’t take it into account at all. That is your choice as the reader and I leave it to you.

 

But I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the catalyst for this epic spiel. You will find it here, in the form of an Amazon review, the writer of which I trusted was more than capable of supporting his or her criticisms. This person’s words hurt a great deal because when I read them, I felt like I had let my friend down by overlooking such glaring errors—among many others. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was just off, so I finally decided to look into these errors again. As it turns out, “idler” is a form of the adjective “idle.” In fact, “idle” is only defined as an adjective or verb (not a noun), and “idler” is a strange word. It does stand out to me and I remember reading and being struck by it many times before. But I also distinctly remember giving it the “ok,” because it’s a correct use of the word. Just because something sounds strange to my own ears and is not commonly used does not make it incorrect, and I cannot in good conscience allow my personal preferences to color someone else’s voice. So I chose not to omit it during the editing process.

 

And as to the other error this reviewer chose to showcase—ending a sentence with a preposition—I adamantly maintain that such uses of the written and spoken word are justifiable and should not need to be defended in the first place. Personally, I do agree that if at all possible, one should avoid or severely limit such instances.

 

Once more, with feeling: I, personally, do not like to end my sentences with a preposition if I can avoid it. Of course, that assumes the fact that I am always conscious of writing with better grammar than I speak (which I am not, because I am fallible and I accept my mistakes, loathsome thought they may be).

 

BUT—language is a living, breathing thing; it changes and grows to suit the needs and demands who we who use it. If it didn’t, God only knows how we would communicate today. Through a series of grunts and signs and visual cues? There are some things I feel I will never be able to get behind, like officially adding widely used popular words like “manscape” and “YOLO” to the English dictionary. But on the other side of that argument, without incorporating new words and the novel use of old words, any language would be woefully unequipped to adequately express and articulate the ever-changing world or our lives within it (if you’ve ever “googled” anything, you’ll know what I mean). It was not so long ago (1954) that the “like” vs “as” debate entered the public arena in the form of a Winston cigarette ad. Who has the power to exercise absolute judgment on such matters? I, for instance, adamantly support my purposeful and deliberate decision to start certain sentences with “and,” “so,” “or,” or “but,” because in some cases, it just works.

 

Of course, some rules should be adhered to, because otherwise how could one ever hope to govern the eloquent and proper use of written language? And in the same vein, it would be all too easy to defend and completely dismiss poor writing with the individual, purposeful choice argument.

 

But I fail to understand how one can conclude with supreme certainty that an author has inexcusably assaulted the English language and committed an indeterminate number of grammatical sins when one refuses to accept or even entertain the idea of language as a fluid and changeful thing. Nor do I understand how one can draw such a broad conclusion without first securing an absolutely unassailable argument. This Amazon reviewer does not have such an argument.

 

Like I said before, what I feel matters most is that we tried. We didn’t just slap something together, throw a cover on it, and call it worthy of purchase and consumption. We tried the best we could and if errors are present, trust that they will be remedied in subsequent printings (insofar as they do not begin to re-write the book). And if you don’t like the story, or think the writing is sloppy, or have any number of other valid criticisms, that is your prerogative as the consumer. You may choose to read another of Kelly’s books or not. But regardless of your ultimate decision in the matter, I do hope that you don’t issue final judgment upon Kelly—or any author—because of how you felt about ONE of her books. Especially if that book happens to be her first.

 

In closing, please, PLEASE, allow me to emphasize: I don’t expect a free pass because language is adaptable and everyone has their own writing style. No one should simply excuse the style of the book or any aspect of it they dislike simply because the editing choices we made were deliberate, calculated, and suited to our own personal tastes. What I am saying is that these reviews matter, especially for new authors. If they didn’t, Amazon would not have recently shored up the rules they have in place to fight the fake ones.

 

So, in light of the fact that in an ideal world, reviews should exist to provide a necessarily biased but hopefully accurate assessment of a product’s usefulness, the purpose of this entire tirade is simply to implore you, the consumer, to review and communicate with discernment, honesty, and objectivity. To break it down to the barest of bones: I don’t personally like goat’s milk. But I will NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, allow my opinion to color my four year old daughter’s impression of it before she has even tried it for herself. To offer any sort of negative input might affect her ultimate opinion; and in the very worst of scenarios, it could very well affect how she approaches all new foods for the rest of her life. I will tell her what I can to give her an idea of what it will be like, but I will try not shape her opinion before it even exists.

 

And finally, if you don’t take anything else away from this rant (which I genuinely hope was not a massive waste of your time), I hope you DO go away with this one sentiment: We’re human, y’all; sometimes we fuck up, and sometimes we fix it. People can and do change, often for the better. Everyone deserves a second chance (sometimes more) or the benefit of the doubt. Be kind, and be open-minded.

 

Peace out.

M. I. Mitchley.

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What is a Woman’s Worth? – by KIM D. BAILEY

What is a Woman’s Worth?

By Kim D. Bailey

 

With all that’s going on this week after the election, this question bears asking and answering, with gritty insight and truth.

Many of my female friends are feeling betrayed at this juncture in our American journey. I won’t go into the politics of this too much, except to say that we have a President-elect who does not instill, for our national identity as women, a respect for us. Nor does he practice any respect for women on a personal level.

With that said, I want to address the women, and some of our brothers out there who are feeling lost and frightened by this new reality that is upon us.

Aside from the obviously egregious responses and actions being made by this new administration to race, freedom of religion, cultural diversity, and LGBTQ issues, our sense of worth as women has been compromised by the electoral vote of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States of America.

Those of us who are voicing these concerns are being met with deflating rhetoric. We are being told to calm down, get over it, give him a chance to show he’s not so bad, and sometimes—we are being told we don’t even have a right to voice our thoughts and feelings because we are intrinsically flawed in our thinking and feeling.

We are being called horrific names. Cunt, Whore, Slut, Stupid, Libtard, Bitch. We are being attacked at the very core of who we are—as women—for having an opinion outside the collective conscience of those who either voted for the PE or who abstained from voting altogether.

The latter is a dismally large number, by the way.

Of those who voted for the PE, many were women. Our sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, and friends. Their reasons are their own—as we all have a right to vote for whom we choose—but their responses to our outrage is just as harmful as that of their male counterparts.

None of these responses reflect any truth as to our actual worth.

Women have fought long and hard for the rights and responsibilities that our male counterparts have enjoyed and born out. We were even behind African American men in the right to vote, not obtaining this right on a national level until 1920, over 70 years after the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the first women’s rights convention.

Nearly 170 years later, many of us voted for Hillary Clinton. In fact, the numbers are coming in, and in the popular vote, Ms. Clinton received upwards of 2 million more votes than did Donald Trump. More women voted for her than did men. Many women who voted for her are college educated to some degree.

As with any election, there is a winner and a loser. So, in this case, more than half of all those who voted in this election are grieving the loss.

But it isn’t just about losing.

For the first time in our history, a woman ran for president of our country. As a lifelong politician and public servant, Ms. Clinton was a strong candidate, especially in her demeanor, experience, and ability to work in a bipartisan manner for the good of the whole.

Therefore, many of us are grieving not just a loss, but the loss of a lifelong dream we have held that a woman could president of our nation and do a good job—as well, if not better—than any man.

We are hurting. We see this loss as a setback, because in so many ways, it is.

Not only did Clinton lose, she lost to a man who openly espoused sexual harassment as a normal part of his day-to-day life. He is also facing charges of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and even sexual molestation of a minor. In addition, he has been charged with fraud (racketeering) related to his failed Trump University business, he has somehow managed to avoid paying taxes for years (of which he brags), and he is in the process of building a cabinet that encompasses known Anti-Semite(s), a VP who is openly and harshly opposed to Roe vs. Wade and LGBTQ rights, and even includes his grown children as part of his special team. By the way, this a clear conflict of interest as they will continue to run his private businesses while he leads the country—with their assistance.

What were Clinton’s sins? The vitriol against her flaws, as opposed to his, was disproportionately astonishing. Emails. Being unlikable. Not smiling. Being hard and firm, even an evil bitch. Being part of an established form of government that people were sick and tired of supporting.

Being a woman.

Yes, I said it. Being a woman.

Our country voted for a misogynistic, criminal, unethical, and racist man over an imperfect woman.

I’ve heard some of my male friends—who I believe are well-intentioned and who believe they mean no harm—say that if it were only a different woman, maybe Elizabeth Warren for example, who had been chosen for the nomination to run for president by either major party, a woman may have made history this election year.

Beside being a crock of shit, this has become a tired refrain that diminishes reality and insults us further as women. The hard truth is, our country wasn’t ready for a female to lead.

Back to us, we are now in a reactionary dance. When we express ourselves, we are being attacked from so many sides, imploring us to accept what is.  We are being told we still don’t measure up.

When we are admonished for our opinions and feelings, we are hurt, and sometimes our response is anger and pain.

The root of this anger and pain, however, lies in abject fear on all sides.

Men see us as a threat. They truly do. Even when they deny it, there is a niggling sense of intimidation in most men’s minds that we are overcoming and surpassing them at alarming rates. For a society that has been rooted in patriarchy, this is a tough pill to swallow. Their fear became woefully evident in the results of the election. And this was supported by women who believe that men are to hold the power because they are indeed the stronger sex.

Women who did not vote for him are reacting to all manner of attacks and berating comments out of fear as well. We are afraid we will never be taken seriously, respected, or honored. We are quite certain that we shall never be fully heard.

When you stand in your own silence for so long, only hearing the echo of your voice off the canyon walls when you shout your worth to the universe, it’s hard to accept other’s reprimands and not-so-gentle advice to calm down. It’s even more difficult to be told to shut the fuck up.

So many of the responses we continue to receive are various forms of gaslighting, which as described by Oxford Dictionaries, is a verb: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

We see it and hear it every day. Our female friends are saying, “There must be something wrong with me.” Or they say, “I’m sorry, but, maybe I’m not thinking this out like I should…,” when they question this continued status quo. When hit with a barrage of gaslighting, or overt verbal abuse, many of us fold back into ourselves and believe the lie. We return to that place where we think we are asking, even expecting, too much to be heard and validated.

My call to action today to all women is not to give into this lie.

We must gather our strength and courage, more than ever now, and continue to stand for our worth.

Our worth is intrinsic. It does not rely on our abilities to “do a man’s job” well. Women are equally worthy as men to inhabit any space in this world. We need to embrace that worth and reiterate it to the world over and over until it becomes an unquestionable fact.

So, enough with the rhetoric.

If you feel your feet slipping on the icy slopes of the lie that we are not as capable and worthy, remind yourself that you are so much more than what others want you to believe. Do not back down under chastisement or shame for speaking out. Do not allow anyone—man or woman—to make you question your truth and your place in this world.

Pull out the threads of the tapestry that is the lie and weave your own. Then cover yourself in this fabric of authenticity.

WE as women are worthy, simply because we ARE. Once we believe that, there will be no stopping us.

***

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Kim Bailey Deal writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. She has written two novels, now in revision. She authors a weekly column and is former Social Media Manager for www.five2onemagazine.com. Kim has several works published, including in Firefly Magazine Issue #3, on Writersdigest.com, Pilcrow & Dagger, Tuck Magazine, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Madness Muse Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, and forthcoming publications in Sick Lit Magazine, The Magnitizdat Literary, and Firefly Magazine Issue #8. A mother of four, she lives near Chattanooga, TN. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @kimbaileydeal and her blog at www.kimbaileydeal.net

A Special Tribute for the Month of September- Now, My Birthday Sucks by Lynn Sollitto

Now, My Birthday Sucks

The morning of my twenty-sixth birthday began with a phone call from my boyfriend. It would change my birthday forever.

“Lynn, have you been watching the news?”

I don’t watch the news; it’s too depressing. He knows this.

What I was about to see would burn in my mind and give a whole new meaning to the news is too depressing.

“Why would I be watching the news?”

“Just… Turn on the TV.”

I sat on my bed and flicked on the TV.  The television played footage of an airplane crashing into the North Twin Tower. The South Tower came down shortly afterwards.

I grabbed my head and moaned, “No…”

Immobile, I watched the news replay the horror of the buildings collapse. These towers were a symbol of the time in my life that made me, well, me.

I moved to New Jersey from a small town in Northern Wisconsin when I was eighteen. I lived twenty minutes from “the city.” (Friends constantly needed to remind me as to which city they were referring, as the whole area was one big city to me.)

Each weekend I went by bus on the Garden State Parkway, through the Lincoln Tunnel and into Manhattan. As we exited the tunnel, The Projects loomed above us. Continuing on, the Twin Towers rose up in the distance, the majestic king and queen looking over their loyal subjects.

I would stare at the towers, craning my neck to see them as long as possible. The people hiding behind their newspapers or leaning against the window with their eyes closed perplexed me.

How could anyone take that view for granted?

The towers symbolized a time of finding myself. In my year on the East Coast, I gained confidence as I learned to navigate public transportation, drive a stick shift on highways with more than two lanes, and apply make up so expertly that I passed for twenty-one.

Most important, I realized that although I came from a small town, I was capable of doing large things.

This time in my life was a turning point: There was Lynn pre-New York City and Lynn post-New York City. The magnificent towers reminded me of this whenever I saw them.

Nearly eight years after I lived there, I watched them crumble into a pile of memories.

Later, I would mourn the lives lost. I would donate money in a firefighter’s boot.

And I would grieve for the towers that lived in this great city, inanimate yet just as alive as any New Yorker.

But in that moment, as the world watched together, all I could feel was shock.

My birthday plans were to meet my boyfriend for breakfast and then go to school. I was on autopilot walking to the restaurant, eating, and driving to school.

The weight of this tragedy hung in the air.

Campus students walked around in slow motion, statues come alive and uncertain how to proceed in this new world.

The news was turned on in my English Literature class. There was no chatter in the classroom, no commentary about what we watched. The students were silent; their gazes fixed on the screen as the destruction played over and over, a recurring nightmare.

That evening I went to dinner with my boyfriend and another couple. My favorite restaurant was usually packed with people and loud murmurs, but that night it was subdued.

I began to look at things as pre-Twin Towers and post-Twin Towers.

My children’s births were post-Twin Towers. They’ll never get to see them, and this breaks my heart.

An old movie with the Towers could elicit a tightening in the chest.

A memory of my time in New York could tie a knot in my stomach.

A year ago I visited Manhattan to celebrate my fortieth birthday. It was the first time I’d gone back since my coming-of-age experiences twenty-two years earlier.

My mom and I visited Ground Zero on our last day. As soon as we stepped into the memorial, the atmosphere changed.

Just blocks away, taxi horns honked and people yelled, but within the walls of where the Towers once stood, the air was solemn. People spoke in heavy whispers, respectful and reverent.

A well of emotion overcame me. I was grateful to be wearing sunglasses, which hid my eyes.

At the memorial, Reflecting Absence, I traced my fingers over the engraved names. The names reflected the diversity of all the lives lost that day – women and men who were not only American, but also Hindu, Jewish, Russian, and more…

…And Muslim.

The terrorists destroyed buildings and thousands of people, but they hadn’t destroyed what made and continues to make America great:

Open arms that welcome anyone wanting to become part of our diverse family.

And we must remember this to honor those who lost their lives and those who are weighed down by that day’s loss. We will stand together as a symbol of America’s greatness.

 

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Lynn Sollitto lives in Sacramento, California, with her husband and three children. She has been featured on Carrie Goldman’s 30 Days of Adoption at Chicago Now and has been a guest contributor for Transfiguring Adoption. Lynn blogs about her foster adoption journey at www.lynnsollitto.wordpress.com and about the writing life at www.bittersweetadventures.com. She can also be found on Twitter or hanging out at lksollitto@gmail.com.

My Name Is…Kate Jones – by KATE JONES

My Name Is…Kate Jones

If you ask the majority of nine year olds, (and often many adults), what superhero power they’d like to have, I’ll place a bet that a lot of them will say invisibility.

An invisibility cloak. It’s a fun idea, right?

I always wanted an invisibility cloak as a kid. I was a bit of a loner at times – I think a lot of writer’s are.  I would wish that I could disappear into my own imaginary world, unaffected by knocks at the door asking me to come and play.

As an adult, think of all the annoying people you could avoid if you could turn yourself invisible. The times you could edge out of a boring meeting or banal party and slip away into the night…

Anyway, when Kelly put out a call for themes for the magazine recently, I knew I wanted to write about invisibility.  I still disappear into my own imaginary world when I’m writing, but my reason for suggesting this theme was much more relevant and urgent than that.

You see, I have discovered, after 42 years on this planet, that I actually am becoming invisible.  More so as time passes, it seems.

I’d been stewing on this issue that has been bugging me for some time now, the past few years actually, and like many writers, the best way I could think of tackling it was by writing a story about it. That was where my idea for ‘My Name Is’ came from.  I ‘wrote’ that story in almost complete form in my head one night, seething in bed because I had been ignored one too many times.  It is totally fictional, of course, but the reasoning behind it is very much non-fiction, unfortunately.

You see, I could be forgiven for thinking I have actually got the invisibility cloak I dreamed of as a kid.

Many, many, (trust me MANY) times, I will be out with my family, and we will bump into somebody we know. They will stop to exchange pleasantries. They will ask my husband how his job is going. We will chat for a few minutes, during which time, they will not once think to ask how my work is going. How I’m doing. Nothing.

We used to run a successful business together, and, despite us having equal roles, I had countless incidents of customers insisting get your husband to call me and discuss it if I refused to agree to a demand. Friends and family always saw him as being the owner of the business, whilst I ‘worked’ there.  This, despite the fact that we had created the business together from scratch.  We were both involved in every aspect of the success of that business, yet I felt that I got no credit for the success of it.

When recently, at a party, I dared to climb out of the shell for a few minutes and join the conversation, mentioning my writing, somebody turned back to my husband and asked: And are you happy with her sitting at home and writing while you’re out working?

What the fuck?

Now, I know this might sound like I’m paranoid or bitter. I’m honestly neither. But the truth is, last year, I lost count of the amount of times this happened. Even more bizarrely, I have lost count of the amount of times I have attended events alone, and people have stopped me to ask how my husband’s career is going. After our eldest daughter did exceptionally well in her exams, I had one woman tell me you must be so proud of your daughter – she obviously gets her brains from her father.

WTF IS THIS ABOUT??

I’m positive this didn’t happen before I had children. I think that, once you take your husband’s name and become a mother, you often lose your own, individual identity. I bet most of the other mother’s at my daughters’ schools don’t know my first name – and to be honest, I don’t know their names either. We simply refer to one another as ‘so-and-so’s Mum’.

I find this so strange.  I love talking to other people about what they do, I find people fascinating. But I know it isn’t just me. I’ve spoken to other women and they have similar experiences, including the fabulous editor of Sick Lit herself, which was one of the reasons why I wanted to write for the magazine in the first place – in response to her rallying cry to women.

I have to add here that I am happily married to a man who is a total feminist.  I mean it.  He is nothing but supportive to any venture I undertake; he never made me feel anything less than an equal partner in the business, as we are in our family life.  Sometimes, I take care of the domestic and childcare more as he is working.  At other times, he has stepped in and been the one to attend doctor’s appointments and school events.  We are supportive of one another – and the benefit is that our two daughters’ thrive in an environment where their opinions and views are listened to, and where they know they can become anything they put their mind to.

The only response I can think of to combat this culture of invisibility is to stand up and stand out.  Say what you think and feel; make sure you get people’s attention (in a positive way), ask questions of other women and make the path clear for the next generation of feisty females to feel confident speaking out.

Oh, and when I asked MY nine year old what superpower she would choose, she said, without missing a beat, shapeshifter. So, there you go – invisibility is out, shape-shifting is the new power to have.

My Name is Kate Jones, and I am a Writer, a Woman, A Feminist, a Wife, a Mother, a Dreamer….and then some.

***

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***Kate is a freelance writer based in the UK who writes articles, including regular contributions to online women’s magazine Skirt Collective, as well as publishing life writing and poetry both in print and online.  She has a passion for flash fiction and short stories, and is usually found lurking around coffee shops, writing and listening to other people’s conversations. Jones has also become a regular contributor to Sick Lit Magazine, and is a 2016 nominee for the Pushcart Prize through Sick Lit Magazine.***

She blogs at www.writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com.

Find Kate on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/katejonespp

 

Creative Writing – by ROB TRUE

The process of creative writing, from an uneducated, dyslexic idiot with no qualifications

 

If you’re sitting there staring at a blank screen, or piece of paper, not knowing what to write, you’re going nowhere.

Nobody gives a fuck if you have a BA, or an MA or some other qualification for creative writing; it ain’t gonna help – wondering what to write is nowhere-bound. You’re trying so hard, you get nowhere. You know where, nowhere!

Get up and go out.

Grab a beer on the way and drink it walking down the street. If you’re not tuff, act hard, if you are tuff, play the fool. Look people in the eye, so you can see through their windows, see what they really are. Start a fight, it doesn’t matter if you win, or lose. Or fuck someone, a real dirty fuck. Put some effort into it, make it epic. Do something visceral, act like a cunt, or do something you haven’t done before. Do something you’re not allowed to do. Go and steal something. Don’t be afraid.

Think differently around things, look at them inside out, upside down. Throw left, or right wing politics, or concepts of right and wrong out the window. Instead of being politically correct, noble, or moral, play devil’s advocate next time you argue. Fuck with other people’s ideals and sensibilities, twist ‘em up and get in their heads. Don’t come with a fixed point of view, but counter attack with flexibility of free thought, watching from above, taking out the weaknesses in their fixed ideas. Look for the feeble words in their arguments and swipe the ankles, like a hunter taking out the lame member of a herd. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. Words are magic.

Look at people, their strange interactions and weird relationships. See how bizarre life is, the structures and rules we create around us for some understanding of a so-called reality which doesn’t really exist. Open up all the doors you have bolted shut in your mind, from fear, or self-preservation of your sanity, or wanting to fit in with an imagined normality, until all the monsters are released and then, let them destroy you. Laugh at sad, or disturbing events and cry when you’re happy, while listening to electronic music of a nineteen eighties video game. All this is dangerous; your magic will grow stronger.

I remember when I was a kid at school and the art teacher told us to do something based on the human body. Now I wasn’t particularly inspired at that moment, I’d already done figure drawings and a few surreal pictures with figures in. I’d even painted a half-naked nun with an upside-down cross, morphing into a cock. Anyway, I was staring at this blank paper and I knew that was going nowhere, so I put down my pencil and punched myself in the face as hard as I could. My nose burst and I let the blood drip all over the page. I called it Nosebleed. The teacher and other pupils, were quite horrified, but I was rather pleased with it. I’ve still got it.

Don’t sit there wondering what to write, just write something, anything.

Write about when you got beat up in a fight, or that time you knocked someone out with one punch, or something strange that happened when you were drunk, or high, or about what a cunt your mother is, or how you bullied some poor kid at school, or got bullied, depending on where you stood in the absurd hierarchy and pecking order of these moronic animals that we are. Write about the argument you had the other day with your brother, or the best, or worst fuck you ever had. Write about the inside out chick you found still alive after your cat played with it and how you smashed it with a brick to put it out of its dying misery and how beautiful its broken guts looked, all flattened and feathery blood mess. Write about going down on a beautiful girl and as you go to kiss her pretty little pussy, a snake suddenly shoots out of it and bites you on the face. Write about something real, or just make it up, it doesn’t matter if its bullshit, or if it makes you sound like a prick.

When I write something, it’s usually because I already had the inspiration. It could be from a dream, or real events, or just an image, a vision, or an idea that just appears in my head, like magic.

I write mostly short stories, which are about fifty/fifty fiction/true stories. In between I fuck, fight, work, steal, drink, laugh like an idiot, get into trouble, hurt, get hurt and think. I generally don’t try to write anything.

I don’t like to strain. I never squeeze out a shit. I wait ‘till its banging on the back door, so when I sit down, it just falls out with ease.

I just get ideas beamed in and the creativity spills out like magic, or vomit. I write it down as quick as I can and it feels effortless and beautiful. Making art, or writing for me is an other-world experience. The effort comes into play if I work back over it. (I don’t always do this, but sometimes it is necessary to make the best of a piece). I have a friend who is a biker and this process always reminds me of a chopper. Take a motorbike and chop it. All the fairing off, back to the basic frame and machine. Then polish it up and bolt on all the fancy accessories. I sort of do the same by chopping out the introductions, the explanations, take out unnecessary words and strip it back to raw idea, the magic. Then I fuck around with the words a bit to allow them to flow better with a rhythm of poetry and punch. This process I find equally amusing and not at all a chore. I never stare at a blank screen, or page.

I remember in a film, or maybe a TV program years ago, someone said something along the lines of don’t try, just do, or don’t do. I can’t remember the exact line, or if it was Mr Miyagi, or Yoda, or Cain from Kung Fu. Probably all three said it one way, or another. Those words always rung true to me.

So there it is, don’t force it. If you’ve got it in you, it’s in there somewhere. It will come to you when you’re not expecting. While you walk the street, or at work, or something. I work in construction and I come and go when I please, but if you work in some shitty office when this happens, up end your desk and jump out the fucking window, run all the way home and hit that keyboard hard, let it all flow out the way it comes in on a beam of golden light and don’t stop for nothing, or no one ‘til it’s all run out. Even if you have to shit in your pants, just keep going until its done with you, because you’re no longer in charge, the idea has taken over, possessed you.

You are just the vehicle, the pathway for it to enter this dimension.

***

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***Rob True was born in London 1971. He left school with no qualifications, dyslexic and mad, in a world he didn’t fit into. He got lost in an abyss, was sectioned twice and spent the best part of a decade on another planet. He returned to earth just in time for the new millennium, found a way to get on in life, married a beautiful girl and lived happily ever after. She taught him how to use paragraphs and punctuation and his writing has been a bit better ever since. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/robjtrue  ***

Punk and Circumstance – by R. A. Kennedy

Music is very important to many of us.

It can be the difference between a great day and a terrible week. No matter where we are in our lives music speaks to us, it doesn’t judge, it is there for you and it will listen to you if you listen to it. Music helps explain our own feelings when we ourselves cannot put our emotions into words, it shapes us and creates us, and a world without music in any form would be extremely dark.

I think we can all agree that we live in such fractious times, both socially and politically. Whilst there is so much fantastic music out there, there is a large proportion of it that, in my mind, corrupts and twists the art form and that, my dear friends, is the non-music conveyor belt of shows like the X Factor. These television shows shatter dreams and exploit those that quite clearly have the talent and the focus to make great art.

The list of problems with these types of talent shows can be summed up by this line from Rush’s The Spirit of Radio (From the album Permanent Waves) –

“One likes to believe in the freedom of music but the glittering prizes and endless compromises shatters the illusion of integrity.”

Outside the safe confines of Pop, R&B mainstream and the hype that surrounds many of today’s “hottest” acts, the sound of angry guitars can be heard. A rallying cry of sorts. A quiet resistance. A dawn of a new era that is somewhat reminiscent of the late seventies, the rise of Punk and the wave of Indie music that not only spawned some stunning post-punk bands but also established itself as a musical genre.

I’m not talking about just anyone with a guitar and a dream, the vast swathes of Metal bands that are continually breaking new ground, or how Metal is continuing to grow as a genre and a culture. I’m talking about a very thriving alternative rock scene that over the last few years has seen young, guitar driven rock bands that have something to say in the face of today’s social and political enmity.  And whilst alternative rock in all the sub-genres has never gone away, it seems the timing is right for new bands with something to say and who also mean what they say; to be thought-provoking and challenge the perceptions of the world around us.

The present has ties to the past and sometimes those links can be very small but ever so significant.

Listening to bands such as The Clash, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, The Replacements and many others made me think about how much of this music is still relevant. It still means something, against the backdrop of today’s society. Punk and other genres right up to Grunge still mean something.

And the rise of bands such as Slaves (who are nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize) and Savages, with a new album out next year and a recent performance at Banksy’s Dismaland, are showing that the musical resistance is growing strong and shouting back at the status-quo.

By using the world around them, these bands are channeling that into some truly stunning music that nods to past influences but is entirely original and very exciting.

Rock has sent a message to the hearts, minds, and souls- will you answer the rousing call?

*******

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Romeo Kennedy is a Cornish SFF writer and book reviewer. R. A Kennedy’s stories mostly take place in his beloved Kernow. Once described as a “F**cked up Beatrix Potter” as many of his fantasy short stories feature nefarious animal characters.

R. A. blogs at http://sleeplessmusingsofawellgroomedmoustachedman.wordpress.com and is a writer for http://www.garbage-file.com

A Folklore enthusiast, specializing in Cornish Folklore and Mythology, as well as major interests in all things geek from books, comics, film, and television. A lover of most kinds of music and a bassist himself.

He tweets at @RomeoRites

Pen pals – by JAMIE ANDREWS

 Do you ever get so righteously drunk that you think it’s a good idea to prank your sober self?

I have.

The last time this happened I ended up registering for a pen pal finder website.

Two days later I get an email saying I have a message from a Japanese chap, aptly named Super K!.

Now, in retrospect, this is where I should have deleted the email, the profile, the pictures on my phone from the drunken night that led to this and a million other more sensible things.

Sadly, I’m not sensible… I’m an overly curious halfwit. So I decided to read the email and, as it turned out, this Super K! seemed like a cool bloke.

What’s the harm…? I remembered thinking to myself.  And so I messaged him back.

These messages went back and forth for about a month or so and Super K! and myself were starting to become buds (albeit online ones).

I even told a few of my actual, genuine, real life, human being, non-internet friends about it and bar from the odd bit of mockery for being a tosser (and rightly so), they seemed intrigued too.

Then I get an email from him…

Hey, Hey!

I’m in England, in Lewisham!! We should meet up!!!

Again, what I should have been thinking to myself at this point was, “Of all the places to visit and he chose to stay in Lewisham..? Really?”

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(Dustmen in Lewisham do things differently).

In reality I thought, “That’s awesome!” and messaged him back, “Why don’t you come to Croydon and we can go for a drink? You can meet the rest of my friends and it’ll be a right laugh.”

We arranged to meet up and ironically none of my friends could make it.

So I dragged along my little sister (she was really happy about this).

The first thing that struck me about Super K! was his hair (it was immaculate). This was shortly followed by the way he dressed (very, VERY well – if a tiny bit effeminate and sparkly). He was also pretty short and he had this curious way of making his hips wiggle as he walked, instead of his shoulders.

We went to the pub and had a few drinks, chatted about a range of light hearted subjects and seemed to be getting on well. I got him to confirm what the kanji tattoo on my right bum cheek says (another story for another time) and in general, he just seemed like good company.

Then my little sister asks him, “So why are you staying in Lewisham of all places?”

It turns out he’d moved there.

To become a hairdresser.

Six months ago.

Then he looked at me dead in the eye and said…”And for the gay scene… Do you know any good gay clubs?” then he put his hand in front of his mouth and managed a squeaky laugh that can only be phonetically written as ‘TeheEeeeeheeeheeah! Aha!’

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not what you’d call 100% straight (more 85-15%), but when you’re sitting in your local pub and an effeminate looking Japanese hairdresser announces: he’s lied, has been living in Lewisham for the last six months, then tries to stroke your thigh and lean in to kiss you on your near to non-existent neck, I think I was justified in recoiling in what can only be described as wide-eyed #whatthefuckdude-fuelled terror.

To top things off, my wonderful dearest darling little sister reacted the same as I can imagine any other little sister/witch would do in the situation. She stifled her laugh, said she was going to get another round of drinks in, then burst into fits of giggles as soon as she was out of earshot.

Then started telling anyone we knew in the vicinity of course…

Luckily for me there was a LGBT+ night at the local alternative bar close by. I suggested we gave the place a visit (my intention was to hook him up with one of my friends, then bugger off; no pun intended).

As it happens, this plan failed. And it failed badly.

Why?

Because even though I was introducing him to pretty much everyone in the club. Who in one case politely offered to ‘Fuck his tight little backdoor in.’

Super K! didn’t seem interested (although this got another ‘Eeeeeheeeheeah!’).

In fact, he had pretty much decided he was going to stick to me like shit to a blanket instead.

Now whilst walking around a bar, talking to your mates and introducing someone to them is normally considered a sociable thing. Two hours of being followed by an artfully camp, manboy, was starting to look like I’d made him hold onto my pocket (metaphorically)…

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(Apparently it’s the third front pocket you need to worry about)

Now as you can probably imagine, this entire situation was starting to piss me off.  Not wanting to seem to be rude I informed Super K! I was leaving, and if he wanted, I could show him where he needed to go to get the bus home. He took this as an invitation to partake in a spot of man-scuttling and near skipped out of the club (my image/orientation has been in doubt in that place ever since).

It took about ten very awkward minutes to get to the bus stop with Super K! In tow. It wouldn’t have taken that long normally but Super K! spent every waking second trying to hold my hand on the way.

We got to the bus stop.

We waited at the bus stop…

He tried to kiss me again.

I again politely informed him I wasn’t interested and asked him to stop. Then I patiently pointed out, that he was quite slight and if he carried on I’d level him.

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(Hello Mr Mystery diner. Today we have a special on fist and floor).

I think it was at this point that he finally realised I wasn’t interested and as far as I can tell took his go to option in that situation.

He went apeshit.

In between him screaming at me in broken Japanese and flailing his arms around like a hyperactive windmill, two salad-dodging community support officers decided to show up (their sense timing is notoriously amazing in situations like this).

It’s common knowledge that community support officers are good at two things: being self-entitled and being useless at anything that isn’t harassing teenagers. Unsurprisingly, upon seeing what was going on, they decided to intervene.

I was trying to explain the situation to one of these rentacops while Super K! Is screeching things like ‘HE SAI HE WAN NO TO FUK ME! *SOB* NOW NO FUK I GO HOME! I FUK HIM!’ in the background at the other officer.

Then it went quiet.

The wally in a uniform and I turn around to see Super K! running at some speed towards a night bus. He gets on it and the bus drives off.

I shared a moment’s worth of bafflement with the support officers, shrugged at them and went home.

Strangely enough I never heard from Super K! again.

Moral of the story..? Cultural exchange can go visit someone else itself, if it thinks it’s getting anywhere near my arse ever again.

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***Jamie is a renegade halfwit, writer, poet and ish-artist. Who when allowed out of his cage to be exercised, hangs around the beautiful English town of Croydon. The rest of the time he’s sat in a cave, fiddling about with himself and sporadically spewing out creative nonsense which can be found on his facebook page and on Twitter. ***

NOTHING LIKE AN ICY DOCTOR TO DAMPEN ONE’S SPIRITS: HILLARY UMLAND’S JOURNEY TOWARD PRODUCTIVE WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE

One Woman’s Journey Through Medical Hell: Ridiculously High Costs, Apathetic Doctors, and Capitalism Impinging on our Right to Good Health

A personal account by Hillary Umland

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At this very moment I am quickly flipping through my mental Rolodex trying to figure out what I own that I can sell for money for an out-of-state surgery that I have yet to set up with an endometriosis specialist I have yet to find, but it’s a long time coming.

Tandem bike I never ride, regular bike I never ride, CDs I never listen to, a stereo I never use… Thank you, endometriosis, you make every day a glorious joy. At the very least, you’re helping me purge my apartment of superfluous junk.

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Almost a year ago I was found riddled with Stage IV endometriosis during a laparoscopy to drain a two-and-a-half inch complex filled cyst. Since then, my life has been one doctor visit after another, and me having to repeat over and over, “No, I do not want the Lupron shot. How about you cut me open and take it out?”  

Maybe I should back up a little.

I have felt what I now know are the symptoms of endometriosis for over 20 years – the entirety of my menstruating life.

Some of my symptoms include abnormal, excruciatingly painful and heavy periods that can last longer than a week, sprinkled with nausea and vomiting, migraine-like headaches, and fatigue.

When I called my doctor or went in with complaints about having to miss school or life because I could not unravel myself from the pain-coil I’d become from my period, she would always say, “just take no more than the recommended does of ibuprofen or Midol and use a hot water bottle.”

Well, doctors know best, don’t they?

Endometriosis occurs when lining similar to the lining of your uterus sheds monthly is found outside of the uterus and anywhere else it latches itself to.

In my case, I have endometriosis implanted on nearly every organ in my abdomen, except for my liver. The wall around the liver is a different story. I even have some lesions on my diaphragm, which is highly uncommon and tricky to remove.

The three gynecologists I have seen have pushed the Lupron therapy on me since day one, but at 35, I am uncomfortable with spending who-knows how many months taking hormones to put me into a menopausal status, then loading me up with more drugs to combat those side effects, until I don’t feel symptoms anymore.

I would rather be cut open and have my insides ripped out, thank you.

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Stage IV: Organs being lassoed together by endometriosis. Photo http://www.womens-health-advice.com/questions/endometriosis-stages.html

I have had the pleasure of undergoing a colonoscopy at 31, after over a decade of digestive issues (which I now like to attribute to the scar tissue on my bowel and intestines from endometriosis implants), which showed nothing wrong. I’ve also had a tube shoved down my throat (upper endoscopy) to see what all of my constant liquidy sounding belches and stomach upsets were coming from in my mid-20s, only to find nothing. There’s nothing I’ve read about the implants on my diaphragm causing this, but since it is on my gallbladder, maybe that’s an issue?

The gynecologists I’ve talked to only tell me that I should see a gastroenterologist because they have no way of knowing for sure that the endometriosis is causing anything more than painful bowel movement and urination. Yes, I would love to add yet another doctor and doctor bill to my already longer than necessary roster.

My new gynecologist’s response when I asked if there was a specific diet I could try was something to the effect of “we can’t recommend anything like that, really.”

There are a host of websites, and even a book, about diets for endometriosis sufferers. What I changes I’ve made to my eating habits have been from Endometriosis Resolved.

http://teenspeak.org/2012/03/30/an-endometriosis-diet/

Cutting out a laundry list of certain types of food is to help ease some of the symptoms, like excessive cramping and digestive issues. I have to say, it’s helped me a bit. As much as it kills me, I’ve cut way back on my dairy intake, avoid gluten as much as possible, have taken off processed foods from my grocery lists, and refined sugar products are a thing of my past. I’m also cutting out soy and wheat, which has been a bit cumbersome but completely doable. I have a bit more energy and less bloating, not as many headaches or constipation. However, sometimes it works, and sometimes everything I eat makes me feel sick to my stomach. Everything but vegetable broth. “It’s all a learning process though. I’ll figure it out!” is my daily mantra.

Honestly, with endometriosis, there is no definable cause, there is no cure, there is not perfect treatment for symptoms, and there isn’t even a set list of symptoms for each type. I could have Stage IV and feel absolutely nothing, or Stage I and feel all of the symptoms x 10000. It seems to me that endometriosis does what it damn well pleases.

Doctors don’t know what to tell me other than to take the Lupron shot. When I say no, they purse their lips and say they’ll look up names of specialists for me. They can’t tell me that any digestive issues I have are a result of implantation flair ups.

They can’t tell me what to do other than exercise and now take muscle relaxers. It feels as though I’m in this alone, have to find symptom reducers alone, find specialists alone, make every single decision about where to go and who to see and what to say about all of this alone.

This becomes a tiresome process, and I let it get the best of me some days. But as soon as I get up, I am even more determined to be loud and firm about what I want and who I need to talk to about it. And as soon as I find a specialist I am comfortable with, even if the money isn’t quite there yet, I will be on the next plane to talk with them.

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***Hillary Umland is a flash fiction/short story writer and freelance editor living and working in Nebraska. She has been published in the July/August 2015 of Unbroken Journal. You can find out more about her endo-woes on howtodoonething.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @hillaryumlaut. ***

How DOES a transient childhood affect adult psychology?

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My Life on the Move

by: Kelly Fitzharris Coody

(And yes, that’s me in Kindergarten, then Preschool on the left, and me, as an adult, on the right. And, no, I haven’t had plastic surgery–sometimes, when we go through puberty, our faces change.)

Let me start with a small tale that is apart of a German Christmas tradition: December 6th is St. Nicholas’ Day and “der Nikolaus” brings some small gifts, such as sweets and chocolate, to the children. He comes in the night between the 5th and the 6th and puts the presents into the shoes of the children, who usually place them by their doors on the previous evening. In some regions of Germany, there is a character called “Knecht Ruprecht” or “Krampus” who accompanies Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) on the 6th of December. [http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/germany.shtml]

As a child in Germany, my brother and I would partake in this tradition yearly. We also ate a hell of a lot of Kinder eggs and wore scary-looking ski masks in the winter.

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Fast forward to present-day: As an adult in the states who is bilingual in English and French (and quite a bit of German, too), a woman whose first memories were formed out in the German countryside in this massive, crazy-looking three-story house where we built snowmen every year, you can see where I’m a bit of a cultural mutt.

I was present when the Berlin wall came down; before, during (I watched the damn thing happen from a hotel window), and after. And then we moved back to the states in 1990, to the touristy white sands of northwestern Florida. 

I’ll often get asked, “Army brat?”  (usually by a young guy)

And answer with a sigh, “No, my dad was in the Air Force.” 

Young guy: “Oh, well, what did he do?” 

Me: “He was a fighter pilot and later a flight instructor.”

Young guy: “Oh my God. Top Gun is one of my favorite movies!”

Me: ::eye roll::

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Don’t get it twisted; I’m not hating on Top Gun; it’s a classic. But it’s also a movie. Meaning um, it’s a movie? It’s a fictional account! As iconic as Top Gun is and was, try watching it with a former fighter pilot. (Ahem, dad.)

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With each place I had to say goodbye to, a part of myself was seemingly trapped back with it as I waved somberly out the back windshield.

I can say with confidence that, as a child from a military family, sometimes you just don’t feel quite complete or like you can completely fit in (as an adult). Because, really, how can I? It’s as though a part of me is in Aschaffenburg, Germany, Niceville, Florida (and yes, this is a real town), Hampton, Virginia, Wichita Falls, Texas, Phoenix, Arizona and even Austin,Texas. And now, in Fort Worth, Texas….you get the picture.

Yeah, I lived in Europe, adopted quite a few of the customs, but I’m an American. My dad was an officer so people either love me or hate me, for reasons that I still don’t quite understand.

Guys wanted to come over to my house (not to go on a date), but to talk to my dad about their chances of becoming a pilot. 

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The New York Times posted an article back in July of 2010 about this very topic: how does a transient childhood affect adult psychology?

It concluded that moving a lot during childhood “may” do long-term harm. There are quite a large number of variables, hence the word “may,” but they address all of that and more in said article.

Of course the introverted fared worse than the extroverted, according to the study.

The article started with some pretty negative and shocking statistics: “Adults who had moved a lot were more likely to have died when researchers did follow-ups 10 years later.”[http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/fashion/11StudiedMoving.html]

And as I sit reading this, an adult who had a transient childhood, struggles with depression daily, I started screaming silently inside my head. 

“But don’t panic,” then chides the article. 

TOO LATE. WHAT?! DEAD? WHY?! WTF?

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I will say, though, that the moves got harder every time, meaning that the older I got, the harder the move was. To that end the New York Times article was spot-on; the parts I question are the never-addressed question of: why? Why do we feel restless and dissatisfied as adults? It’s a popular theory that as human beings, we are defined as a sum of our experiences. And if that’s true for my brother and I (along with countless other military kids), then we have very few people that are a sum of our exact experiences. Maybe we feel restless and dissatisfied because we view the world so differently than the people surrounding us. 

I have a lifetime of irreplaceable treasures and memories, but only three other people in the world share that with me (My dad, my mom and my brother). And I guess that’s not such a bad thing after all.

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Nevertheless, when my dad had to go TDY to Saudi for a year when my brother and I were in elementary school, we understood. We cried. [TDY is a military way of saying “away on business”]. I’m sure my mom cried even more, but maybe she didn’t.

We should revel in the fact that we have a wealth of knowledge and have faced and overcome adversity that other people have never had to face. Our diverse backgrounds mean that we can strike up and hold an intelligent conversation with almost anyone; and that we know what it’s like to be the new kid, to be bullied, misunderstood or ostracized. 

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That’s the Saudi jewelry my dad brought back for me. The one on the left is “Kelly” in Arabic. 

So, even though I went through a lot of heartbreak, heartache, and then puberty while moving to Wichita Falls (not fun), I also learned a lot of valuable lessons. I learned languages and excelled in school, contrary to what the New York Times article said. Depressed or not, I still wake up every day and make my life happen. And I think we’re doing just fine.

I post this article today in tribute to my father, whose 60th birthday is today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!

#thekidsareallright

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