When Jack Meets a Vampire – All Hell Breaks Loose

 

Paralyzed, Jack continued to stare at the cooler door. “One of the victims witnessed a murder I’m investigating. I think the suspect killed them.” He fondled the handle of his gun again, clearly debating whether to remove it from its holster. He pulled it out briefly and placed it back.

“The gun won’t help.” Annie advised. She summoned a glass vial. “This will, though.” She tossed the small glass bottle to him.

“What . . .” Jack caught it and examined the clear liquid inside.

 “Throw that close to the ground beside whoever might be in here.”

Annie strolled to the cooler. Her hand grazed the cool handle, and her gut screamed out a warning. “It’s not your suspect who killed them.” She pulled on the handle. A rush of cold air blew out as the door swung open.

With shaky hands, Jack drew his gun, she heard a click.

“I told you a gun won’t help.”

“Who the hell are you?”

In her own adrenaline rush, that high just before a vampire fight, Annie summoned an ash stake; her hand wrapped around it tightly and held it out in front of her.

“Uh, what the hell is that? A stake. Is this holy water? Vampires?” his voice raised a few octaves, in realization and fear. Annie recognized his fear.

The vampire is going to kill him. “Stay behind me and run like hell if something comes at you.”

Annie entered the cooler, her flashlight rolling over the walls and shelves. There were five industrial-sized storage units stacked inside the cooler two bodies deep; each contained four shelves. The overflow bodies lay on gurneys pushed up against the wall. There was very little room to maneuver in the small space.

The bodies lay in plastic body bags, some of which were neatly zippered while others were open, appendages hanging over the sides.

Annie chose to start with the gurneys, assuming the newest bodies resided there. She checked the first toe tag. Jack cocked his gun.

“Put it away,” she said. “It’s not going to help. The holy water will.”

The first toe tag belonged to Jeffrey Marcus, dead as of two weeks prior and not a victim. Replacing the tag, Annie zippered up the bag and moved to the next body. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not from the CPD. I’m part of the Wizard Guard, an organization of magical police officers.” Checking the next toe tag, Annie highlighted the name, dropped the tag and moved on to the next body.

“Is this a joke? I should arrest you for tampering with evidence.”

“Why would I make this up? I’m a witch. I do magic.”

Scratch . . . scratch . . . Annie swung around and scanned the room with her flashlight, examining the body bags for movement. There’s so many here, she thought. It was quiet except for the freezer’s compressor. Annie returned to her search, seeing nothing move.

Worried there was a third vampire with them, Annie glanced back again after a moment, surveying the room. She could sense time ticking away as clearly as if there were a clock in her head. “Take this,” she said, floating a second vial to Jack. His eyes widened, his jaw clenched again, and he cocked the gun and aimed it at Annie.

“Help me find our victims,” Annie cried. The vial spun in the air before them. The FBI agent’s eyes darted from the Wizard Guard to the vial; sensing her tension, he grabbed the small glass container with shaking hands and held it tightly, nearly cracking the thin glass.

Scratch . . . scratch . . .

Annie took a breath and whispered, “There’s something in here with us.”

“What does that mean?” Jack glanced around the room, pointing his gun haphazardly.

“Put the gun away. Just uncork the vials and throw them on the vampire. It’s strong enough to slow them down until I stake it.”

“What the hell is going on?”

Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.

Annie twirled and inched her way toward the scratching while Jack, white as a ghost, hung back at the door.

“What’s in here with us?”

“A vampire.”

Jack blanched. He held the vial in one hand, the gun in the other. Both hands shook violently. “This doesn’t make sense.”

“For now, it doesn’t have to.” Annie reached for another name tag.

“Laurie Lispin and Marcus Johansson,” Jack called to her.

“Thanks.” Annie continued down the line, verifying each tag and moving more quickly now through the bodies. After checking the first two rows, Annie called out, “I got Laurie.”

Standing over the body, Annie examined the bag for movement and listened for growling, even though she knew it was too early for Laurie to turn. Carefully unzipping the body bag, she released the victim’s hair; it cascaded out and landed against the side of the shelf. Annie lifted the hair, focused her flashlight on the neck, and examined the two puncture wounds. They were not as dark as they had been twenty hours earlier. Annie put her flashlight in her mouth, popped the cork of the holy water, and dribbled a small amount on the victim’s leg. The liquid bubbled and blistered the skin of the vampire.

Grabbing the stake, Annie thrust it into the vampire’s chest. The demon’s eyes burst open, filled with both surprise and confusion. As the stake punctured the heart, the body burst into flame. A primal scream, raw and angry, escaped the vampire’s lips as the fire consumed her. Her shriek of terror reverberated in the room, bounding off the walls. It lingered even after the body was nothing more than a pile of ash.

“How . . . what . . . how did that happen?” Jack asked, finally entering the cooler.

“We need . . . to find Marcus,” Annie managed to grunt through rapid breaths.

“Are they always . . . made into vampires?” Apprehensively, he joined Annie’s search for Marcus, checking toe tags on the opposite aisle.

“No. Vampires are kinda picky. They don’t let everyone in. There must’ve been something about Laurie and probably Marcus that appealed to the vampire.”

“It’s kind of like a club.” Jack choked on a nervous laugh. He coughed.

“Not so organized, actually. It’s more like a gang. If you turn a victim, they’re indebted to you forever.”

Annie placed a foot on the lowest shelf and reached above, pulling herself up to check the tag. “Were they both brought here?”

“Yes. They’d want to keep the victims together to look for evidence and compare.”

“Where is he then?” Annie jumped down.

Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.

Jack jumped. “Did you hear that?”

“Yeah. We need to find Marcus before that one escapes his bag.”

“How is that possible? We only had two victims.” Jack checked another tag before moving on to the next body.

“You know how many vampires we collect from your morgues?”

Annie felt like time was speeding up and getting away from her right when she least wanted it. She trained her light in the direction of the scratching, looking for movement.

“Do I really want to know?” The body four down from Laurie lay in an open bag, two small puncture wounds across the neck. “I found Marcus.” He hastily stepped away from the body.

After verifying the toe tag, Annie examined Marcus’s neck for the telltale wound.

“You don’t believe me?”

“Habit.” The holy water splashed on a very hairy arm and bubbled like a pot of boiling water, leaving blisters and waking the vampire.

The body that once belonged to Marcus stared at Annie with eyes like black pools, devoid of anything human. The new demon let out an angry growl. Annie lunged at the vampire, pushing the stake into its heart. Much like Laurie, Marcus Johansson exploded into flames and let out a piercing scream. Annie felt the vibration through her body.

Ash floated in the air, filling the body bag and covering several surrounding bodies, the cement floor, and Annie’s hair. A stray ember whizzed by, and she patted it out. Stepping away from the vampire, Annie stood guard until the last of the embers burnt out.

“So now what?” Jack asked, wiping ash from his suit pants.

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To find out more about Jack and foray into the magical world check out The Day of First Sun on Amazon.com!

What is The Day of First Sun

Wheat field in late afternoon rays of the setting sun over Royalty Free Stock Photos

The thing about writing urban fantasy stories, you get to make shit up. I like to base stories on traditional folk tales, stories that are familiar. I enjoy resonating with our collective past. Really, some of these tales are just too fascinating to pass up.

However, sometimes there just isn’t an appropriate existing story that fits well with my plot and that’s when I make shit up. Unfortunately or fortunately for me depending on how you look at it, I’m a pantser, meaning I write my stories with a rough idea of what the story is about, sometimes I have the beginning and the ending, oftentimes they don’t present themselves until a later point in time. What’s great about that is, I get surprised much like my readers would be surprised by plot twists. The downside, I come up with the idea and have to back track, research while in the grips of a great writing session. And that’s where making up stuff comes in really handy. If you think it’s a bad way to write, read Stephen King. He’s one of us too.

I find that with enough careful editing, my stories tend to fall in to place better than if I could actually plot them out. I’ve tried, I just can’t stick to the plan and for those of you who could, you’re known as a plotter, much like JK Rowling. The point though that I’m trying to make is, regardless of your personal style, we get to make stuff up to fit our story the best way we can, whether it’s beforehand or while writing. And in that process, the magical holiday of The Day of First Sun was born.

Excerpt from The Day of First Sun

Magic came to the world with the birth of the first magical child in a mystical clearing of land around 3500 BCE. To this day, that clearing was considered holy land for all magicals born thereafter, both good and evil. Over a millennium later, a battle was fought on the sacred land with devastating consequences.

A portal between Earth and other realms opened, giving vampires, werewolves, and other demons access to Earth. Myths told of a time when the sun did not come out and the beasts freely roamed the planet.

Centuries later, a brave witch fought a second battle on the sacred land, closing the portal forever. The battle, which took place on the first of September, became known as the Day of First Sun. Once the threshold closed, the sun emerged again, but it was too late. The Earth was overrun with supernatural evil.

 

Curious how the Day of First Sun affects the modern-day witch? Join the celebration. To order The Day of First Sun

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When Annie Met Bobby

Annie didn’t want to go to family day at Wizard Hall. It was the place where dad worked and he would want to visit with his co-workers. She rolled her eyes when he said they had to go. But mostly she didn’t want to hear her older sister Samantha sing at the concert. All she really wanted to do was ride the broomsticks they always had at family day.

Because her father Jason Pearce worked at Wizard Hall as a Wizard Guard, a member of the magical police department, she spent her time either in the daycare facility and as she got older, the wizarding school. It earned her and her friends the nickname Hall Brats. She found the other hall brats after she and her father teleported into the courtyard at the center of the Hall. Excited to see her friends she began to run toward them until her father held her back and led her in the opposite direction.

With her face in a scowl, she stomped off behind dad, finding it difficult to maneuver in the thick crowd. Her small frame was jostled between adults as she lost her father in the people. Jumping up and down, she looked for his feathery brown hair and glasses.

“Lose something?” John Gibbs asked. He worked with her father, was one of the other Wizard Guards. Annie was one of the few children unafraid by his appearance, by the long scar across his cheek, his face marked with scars and bumps from years of fighting demons and vampires. Annie found him fascinating.

“Hi Mr. Gibbs. I can’t find dad.”

He knelt down beside her and said, “Jump on.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waste and he lifted her up. Deftly, he maneuvered the crowd delivering Annie to father, who had stopped to talk to another Wizard Guard.

“I found someone for you,” Gibbs said as Annie slid down his back, landing on the ground.

“I wondered where you went,” Jason Pearce said as he smiled at his daughter. He held out his hand and drew her closer. “Thanks Gibbs.” John Gibbs nodded once and headed back into the crowd. “Remember Milo Rawley, Annie? Say hi.” She merely nodded as she glanced around the courtyard, taking in the faces and the people, some of which she knew, most she did not.

Bored and hot, she kicked loose dirt at her feet, drew pictures with the toe of her shoe.

“Mom, make him stop,” cried a boy behind her. Annie glanced up, caught the eye of a blond haired boy as he swatted sprites away from his head. He dropped his eyes, his cheeks red from embarrassment.

Several of the four inch high, blue creatures with wings, finally flew away all except one apparently tangled in a massive head of curly hair.

“Bobby stop, it’s getting stuck,” said his mother. He ignored her plea instead, yanking on the creature. It kicked and screeched trying to untangle itself. Feeling sorry for the boy named Bobby, Annie skipped over and reached up. Grabbing hold of the tiny creature, she reached around its middle and plucked a stunned sprite from his hair. The creature squealed, squirmed and kicked its feet as it flew from Annie’s grasp. Finally free, it scolded her, wagged the tiniest finger in her face. Curious, Annie stepped closer to get a better look at it, but it would have nothing else to do with her. Swirling in the air, it flew off and dive bombed Bobby’s older brother, smacking the boy on the head. Its piercing shriek drew the attention of everyone near them; they began to laugh and point.

“Mom! Make it go away!” the boy screamed.

“That’s what you get for setting it on your brother.” She smirked and returned to her conversation with an adult Annie didn’t recognize. When the sprite was finally finished with its tirade, it flew off, hiding inside the bushes behind them.

Annie glanced at Bobby, her eyes returning to the massive curls that stood straight above his head. They had become tangled and frizzed after the sprite attack. He turned away, his freckled face still red from embarrassment. He was her height; she thought he might be her age and wondered why she hadn’t seen him at school before.

“I’m Annie.”

“I’m Bobby.” He looked at her and patted down his hair. It didn’t help. “And thanks for the help.” He looked back down and played with his hand, scratching the skin as he looked at something interesting on his palm.

“He’s your brother?”

“Yeah.” Bobby dug his foot in the dirt, before finally looking up. He glanced up to see his older brothers speaking to a girl who looked a lot like Annie. Pointing he asked, “What about her?”

Annie sighed, always compared to the perfect sister, she resorted to fighting billdads—a strong foe—in the garden for attention. She was still bruised from the animal’s kangaroo-shaped body and otter tail, which swiped at her when she battled it in the garden that morning. “That’s Samantha. She’s okay.”

“Jimmy’s always picking on me.” His eyes averted again, embarrassed by his admission. Annie decided she didn’t like Jimmy as she watched him tease another boy, younger than her. He was throwing magical sparks at the young boy’s feet.

“What’s he doing now?” Annie asked.

“He’s teasing Danny. He’s my younger brother.” Bobby replied as Danny jumped each time Jimmy threw a spark. Their mother, finally annoyed at Jimmy’s behavior, intervened by pulling Jimmy away.

“Leave him be,” she scolded and she returned to Danny for comfort. Their mother coddled her youngest son, kissing him on the cheeks. He grimaced as he pulled away from her attention. Annie sighed and wished she had a mother to annoy her like that.

“So is that boy talking to Samantha another brother?” Annie was surprised by the large family. She only had Dad, Samantha and her Aloja Fairy, Zola, the protector of children and pregnant women.

“That’s John. He and Jimmy are twins. One’s evil and one’s good.” Bobby added.

There was a comfortable pause between Annie and Bobby as she wondered what her house would be like with two more kids running through it. Their silence was soon filled with the booming sound of Jason Pearce as he laughed. Warm and friendly, she watched her father for a moment before turning back to Bobby, who shifted uncomfortably, lacking something to say. Annie wasn’t sure why, but she liked him and searched for something to say, finally finding the racing pits.

“Do you like broomstick races?” She pointed, hoping her dad would finally let her head over to her friends.

“Yeah. I love them!” He turned to the races and smiled.

She didn’t hesitate as she bounced toward her father. “Daddy, can I?” She was still bouncing excitedly. He looked at the racing pits and back to his daughter before winking and nodding.

“But mom,” Bobby whined and stomped his foot; glowering across the grounds as the other kids, free from their parents, partook in the racing pits. With a gentle hand on his wife’s arm, Mr. Chamsky nodded to his son.

“Just be careful, Bobby, okay?”

He nodded his head quickly as Annie pulled a slightly mortified Bobby along to join other children at the racing pit on the edge of the courtyard.

His eyes lit up as they waited for a turn. “Have you ridden much?” he asked while playing with the collar of his shirt, and when she turned toward him, he stopped and smiled nervously.

“We live in the city, so I can’t fly that much. But I love it! What about you?”

“We live in the country and there are a lot of cool places to fly. I wanna join the racing team at Windmere someday.”

“You’re going to Windmere? That’s where I’ll go too!” Windmere High School of Wizardry was one of four wizard high schools that educated the children of witches and wizards in America. Which school you went to was determined by your hometown location. “I’m trying out too, when I get there.” Annie added.

The line was moving slowly and time dragged as they waited behind other anxious children. And when Annie didn’t think she could wait any longer, their turn finally came to board their broomsticks.

Annie mounted first, followed by Bobby, who climbed aboard his broom with practiced grace. He nodded, acknowledging that the first one to the end of the field and back would win. At the sound of the whistle, Annie took off, higher and faster than him, blasting away from the starting line.

Wind whipped at her hair, clothing rippled around her, freedom greeted her, and she almost forgot that Bobby chased her. He matched her speed and bumped the tail of her broom, pushing her to the side. She flew toward him, returning the bump. A whistle blew from behind, reminding her that bumping was illegal. With a laugh, she dashed ahead, forcing him to speed up. He remained behind her, giving her enough room to veer in front of him and cut him off. He was quick and swerved to his right, narrowly missing her broom, and pressed on until he had the lead. They were almost to the large poles at the end of the course, where they would turn for home. Annie hated to lose, especially to boys, and she kicked her feet, gaining speed until she was even with him.

“You’re good for not racing much!” he yelled, keeping the same speed as they neared the posts.

She hurtled to the right of the pole, flying the broomstick around it, almost losing her balance. After pulling to her left, she righted herself, and Bobby did the same, though he was more graceful as he straightened.

“Just wait!”

They were on the final leg of the race, their broomsticks even, and she kicked again, pulling ahead of him, but he easily caught up to her. Within feet from the finish line, his broomstick was just inches behind hers. Feeling how close he was she slid of course, giving him an unintentional chance, and in a burst of speed he passed her.

Inches separated them as his broomstick touched hers throwing them both from their brooms; they flew across the finish line and into the bushes at the end of the pit.

As she landed on top of Bobby, heard a crack, and burst into tears as pain radiated through her arm. Gingerly she rolled off of him as she held her arm out, it hung in the wrong direction. Curling herself in a ball, she gazed at the bright blue sky and watched as the white puffy clouds floated above her. It occurred to her that he hadn’t let her win, and that thought made her smile through the tears. A sudden rush of people headed for them when she sat up, and Bobby was already standing, clutching his bloodied and bruised knee.

“Nice race!” he shouted over the noise.

Their parents hurried through the crowd, Marina Chamsky, frantic as she deftly cared for Bobby, a pang of jealousy overcoming Annie, until her father’s hands cradled her arm, repairing the break.

“Next year I’ll beat you!” Bobby yelled.

“No, you won’t!” she teased. She meant it, too.

 

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

Want to know more about Annie and her lifelong friendship with Cham read The Day of First Sun on Amazon.com.

Becoming Lola – What Do You Like

Why did I decide to reinvent myself and call myself Lola? My wheels have been spinning for years, never getting closer to finding THE job or figuring out how to sell more books. It felt as though I was I was taking two steps back for every step I took forward. I decided it was time to regenerate myself and my life.

This became an exercise in figuring out who I really was, what I enjoyed doing and trying things that might not have been in my comfort zone. I’ve had a photo shoot, learned about meditation, had an enlightening conversation with a Buddhist monk, changed my hair color, spent time with my friends and tried to stay optimistic about accepting new and different experiences.

I’m working on something new. What is it that I really like to do? What makes me happy? What puts a smile on my face when I do it, when I talk about it? What can’t I wait to do when it’s in the schedule?

The ocean. I love walking along the coast, any coast. I like the sound of water as it crashes against the shore. I love shelling, and shells, finding different shapes, different colors. It’s like a treasure hunt for me. Though I’m terrified of deep water, I love being near the water, dipping my toes in the water and mostly I love looking into the infinity of the ocean, seeing the curve of the world and seeing nothing on the other side. It represents no boundaries, that the world offers endless possibility if you open yourself up to them.

Writing makes me happy. Creating actually is what I love. It’s why I love painting, drawing, interior design. I love fabrics, colors, and making things pretty. When I was six, I bought a pin cushion, not because I sewed, but because it had three coordinating fabrics, in varying shades of pink. I liked it.

The two questions you might be asking, why don’t I already know what I like to do and why is it important? I don’t know anymore what makes me happy after life threw me several curve balls. I’ve been so preoccupied with a kid with anxiety, a kid who cut themselves because they were uncomfortable in their own skin, with things that pulled me so far from my original goals, I had to take a step back and figure out what I really wanted, what would make me happy.

It’s important because we shouldn’t wait to ask permission to do the things we like, and no matter how crazy hectic our lives can be, we should always carve out time for ourselves doing the things that we enjoy. So for me that means a walk along the beach searching for hidden treasures and a camera to feed my creative side. I won’t ever let myself forget again, to but myself first once and awhile.

HarperNeilsonPhotography-016-f-bbb

 

A Book Fair Absolutely Makes Me Cry

20160513_083143I remember attending school book fairs, as a child, filling out my order form for the newest Judy Blume. Today, as an adult, as a writer trying to gain traction, they bring me to tears as I walked into the building, up the stairs and into the ginormous hall that would be home for the next four days.

Sometimes it feels like a step forward is the most important step you can make and everything, I mean EVERYTHING rides on that event. It’s how I attended the Book Expo America Book Fair last week.

I had to do well and overcome my introversion, speak to everyone who passed within earshot of my booth and meet that one person. Only that would make this worthwhile, nothing short of meeting THAT person would do.

Sometimes we have predetermined expectations or hopes for an event. It doesn’t always work out as we plan. Though I met several small publishers, publicists and bloggers, it wasn’t what I hoped for. It was something worthwhile.

When you see inside the industry up close and personal, you can see your faults and stifle the tears, or you can see your strengths and walk with your head held high. It was an emotional whirlpool that made me want to keep pushing forward or quit all within a matter of minutes.

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What I did instead of let the fear and loathing bring me down, I spoke with other writers, shared information and experiences, encouraged others and took A LOT of notes.

It wasn’t what I expected when I signed up, but the experience left me with a sense that the future is still within my reach, I just need to stretch a little longer.

In the Chicago area, come find me at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest, June 11-12.

 

 

 

Bittersweet is Life

On March 29, 1999, I watched my daughter Stephanie Paige Steines take her last breath. She was born with a neuromuscular disease of unknown origin. It is something that stays with you the rest of your life, only time makes it hurt less; I no longer cry starting a month before her death, and that day, sometimes it passes without recognition. I always remember though.

stephi 001

While her health deteriorated, her muscles became weak, her breathing difficult, her eating nearly impossible, I had a weird dichotomy of experiencing the other side, the wonder of her twin, my daughter Kayla, as she grew stronger, hit her milestones, thrive.

But with each milestone achieved, there was something not completely right, there should have been two reaching these ‘normal’ goals.

After Stephi died, there was always a whisper of sadness through everything that Kayla did and though I promised myself that Kayla would never have to live her life because her sister died, she’d only have to live her life because Kayla was, the whisper, the hint, a piece of the whole was always there.

I hadn’t realized Kayla experienced that emptiness until almost 17 years later. Seeing other twins at school hurt, she wanted to scream out, “I’m a twin too!” I will never forget the time I was in a room with four other adults, and three of us gave birth to twins. As the two moms spoke of their twin issues, I wanted more than anything to chime in. But to talk of the loss carries a dark cloud over the conversation and it’s not always the right time or place.

The loss is not just my loss, it’s also Kayla’s. Even though she were 11 months old when Stephanie died, we both feel it especially during great achievements, a great moving forward, always knowing, someone else should be there too.

I feel it now as Kayla is ready to graduate high school, as she’s ready to enter college. I’m not just sad because my baby is all grown up. I’m sad because we are missing someone.

There is so much pride for all Kayla has been able to accomplish. Overcoming crippling anxiety, scoliosis, ADHD. She’s graduating with amazing grades, a high ACT score and was accepted into three colleges. She’ll be attending this fall on her way to full adulthood.

Time makes it less difficult and there are less tears, but it can never wipe away the sadness. I only hope I can make through graduation without the ugly cry.

100_0436Kayla 7th grade

 

Becoming Lola – It’s Good Enough

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve come across the idea of good enough. Good enough, a cop out,  a means of settling, taking the first and easy way. It’s really not so.

In yoga, there’s a thought process that as beginners, you use props like a block or a strap because you aren’t able to bend or stretch as far as someone who has done it for years. When you’ve practiced for awhile, you stop using the props because you can bed and touch the ground without bending your legs. The final stage is the practiced yogi who’s been doing yoga for decades, who returns to the use of the block and strap because they understand that it’s not about touching the ground, it’s about the pose and the stretch that the pose brings. In other words, it’s about the journey.

With so much stress in my life, I ache from my back, feet, hands, shoulders. What I understand about the practice of yoga is simple, modification. I know what hurts, I also know what the purpose of the stretches are and I make modifications to the poses in order to not injure myself, worse than I already am. It’s not about bending farther than the person next to me, or not using the block because the person three mats down is capable of entering the triangle pose without a prop, or bend without the assistance of the strap.

I modify so that I can also feel my muscles engage, feel the burn as it were, as I hold a pose.

It’s good enough. It’s about the journey into the pose not the difficulty of the pose itself.

The idea of good enough isn’t weak. It’s understanding that everyday is a different day. As in yoga, one side of your body might be more open and easily bends to our will while the other side is tight and yields with difficulty and on the next day, it’s the opposite.

Why can’t we accept ourselves for who and what we are rather than compare ourselves to each other? We don’t know what someone else feels or what difficulties they experience that day. Today accept yourself for the day, and tomorrow accept the changes or the difference. Use the props, they stabilize you even after you grow stronger.

It’s all in perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Things

You may or may not remember the television show “Ed.” A quirky little show from the early 2000’s; a NY City lawyer who divorces his wife and moves back to his home town, a small town in Ohio. He spends most of his time when not lawyering (his office is in the bowling alley he purchased in episode 1), pursuing the girl of his dreams, Carol Vessey, high school teacher, who went away and returned home.

The show’s been a great easy watch, enjoyable and fun. That is until today’s episode called the “The Proposal.” As you’d expect, Ed, the bowling alley attorney, proposes to Carol, after four seasons of back and forth. She says yes and that’s not the point. What struck me in this episode is in his quest to create the perfect proposal, he finds a list his bride-to-be wrote when she was 16 years old; a list of her favorite things.

I’ve been trying for the last year to reinvent myself. Let all the difficulties of my life wash away, rediscover myself, who I am, what I like. And as I watched this episode, as Ed gave Carol her twenty-five favorite things, I wondered to myself, “What are my favorite things? What do I like?”

In no particular order:

  1. I love shoveling the snow. Forget the great workout or the drudgery. When it’s snowing those big, fluffy, white flakes and its warm out, without the bitter strong winds, I love going outside and shoveling the snow. But only the first snow fall. After that forget it. I’d rather stay inside and watch a movie on the couch under a warm blanket, or see number two.
  2. After the first snow fall and I’m sick of the snow and the cold, I love taking a vacation somewhere warm. What I love is that first step outside the plane and into the heat. It feels so…there are no words for that hot blast of heat.
  3. Spending time by the ocean, lake or river. Stop laughing. I know I’m afraid of water. What I’m really afraid of is being IN the water, not on the water. Having said that, I love boat rides, walking along the edge of the water collecting shells, watching the dolphins swim, or eating at a restaurant that’s right on the water. I love the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. Sitting along the shoreline of the ocean, where the world feels so big, the possibilities are endless.    holland michigan 2
  4. Musicals, concerts, operas. I love live music, beautiful costumes, the voice of a really great singer, a well written song. I wish I could sing, alas, I sound like a dying cat.
  5. Reading a book that makes me laugh, or cry, one that I can’t put down and wish it never ended. One that inspires.
  6. The first bite into a chocolate covered strawberry, when it drips all over you.
  7. Really great barbecue. Brisket, ribs, pork, it doesn’t matter.
  8. Homemade chicken soup. My soup. Yummmm…..
  9. Coloring  I’ve had adult coloring books long before they became the new thing. It’s mindless, it’s colorful and relaxing.
  10. I’ve always loved fabrics. I love the color, the mix and match of patterns. When I was 9, I bought a pin cushion at a garage sale. It had three different coordinating fabrics. I didn’t sew but that round pin cushion just pleased me.
  11. Yoga and meditation. I love the traditional music, the soft lighting, the quiet inside my head. And for the hour and 10 minutes, it’s all about me.
  12. Fresh flowers. My favorite flower is the Shasta daisies. I love lacy flowers that grow on the side of the road, or wildflower/butterfly gardens. Their free and wild.
  13. Apple picking and all things associated with it including apple cider donuts and apple pie, drinking warm apple cider and eating freshly picked apples on a clear fall day.apples
  14. Eating my way through summertime fairs. Who doesn’t love funnel cakes, corn dogs, and well, just any fried food.
  15. I love listening to the rain fall in the early morning when it’s still dark outside. If that doesn’t work, listening to the shower in the dark is about the same.
  16. Sitting in my aunt’s lanai (screened in patio) and reading, sleeping or watching the alligator in the pond, sun itself. There’s something about the heat, the breeze and the sun. It’s like vacation.
  17. Antiquing. I love strolling the booths and finding that one item that I’ve been looking for, for years. I love the hunt, the history, the remembrance and finding really cool old things. Once when Pluto was still considered a planet, I found an astronomy book from 1898 and guess who wasn’t discovered yet.
  18. Eating fresh baked bread, cookies and brownies right out of the oven. Sweet, gooey and yummy.  Actually, eating raw batter is pretty fabulous too.
  19. Strolling through independent bookstores. My favorite sections, are occult, mythology and philosophy. I’d also stroll new book stores and libraries. It’s like the world is at your finger tips, sometimes the casual stroll is far more preferable to the click of the internet.
  20. Chicago – I love walking along Lake Shore Drive, taking a bus or boat tour, walking through Chinatown, watching the fireworks from the top of the John Hancock building and eating some favorite Chicago foods. You know, deep dish pizza and Chicago style hot dogs.
  21. Sparkly things. My phone case has rhinestones. I was asked once if I was a 12 year old girl. Yes. Yes I am…
  22. A dam hike. Moraine State Park is about a half hour from my house. We walk from the parking lot to the dam, hang out, and eat ice cream before taking the hike back. It’s about four miles and a beautiful little walk. Actually I really like hiking. One time we hiked through Zion National Park, stopped at the river, took off our shoes and waded through the river. You never know what will happen until you just move.
  23. Traveling. Did you read all the stuff about the beach? I like traveling, meeting new people. In a small town in Austria while eating dinner, we were asked if another couple could join us because the restaurant was out of tables. We said yes and had a great conversation with a couple from England. One of my favorite things to do when I’m out of the country is go into a local grocery store. You learn so much about a culture in a grocery store. And you learn that in this country, we have choices. Lots of them.
  24. Watching the television show Outlander. The character in full dress, Jamie Frazier is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.   jamie frazier
  25. Writing, creating. And when the story comes together, it’s the greatest feeling when it works out.

Up at Night

Up at night
Thoughts are filled with you
Turmoil, fear and worry

Love is pain
Dark black whirlpools squeeze and suffocate me

No rest through the worry
No joy on this journey

I can no longer remember you before
Your face has changed
Your words are strong, defiant
I have a difficult time recalling you

A piece of me is lost in a turbulent sea
And forever, nothing will be the same

I lie awake at night
New worries, anxiety creeps and crawls inside
Trepidation on this new path
It’s chocked and tangled with weeks
This direction is new, foreign, scary

It doesn’t always turn out as we plan

Battered and Bruised by the Water

The high cliff overlooks a river that snakes through the countryside. It’s nestled into the valley, covered in trees and the water, it beats roughly against the rocky coast. I stand on the highest hill, a silent observer to the water as it splashes and swirls before dropping several feet into that whirlpool at the bottom of the waterfall.

The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever. Mom she’s gone. I hear myself say that over and over again in my head, on a loop that I can’t shut off. My voice lacks all feeling, a reflection of my true self, because it was one more piece of news than I can’t absorb, interpret or accept. 

WIP 2016, Sheryl Steines

white_water_rapids_by_ollieeeeee2011-d55whc3

I’ve been afraid of deep water, (I’m 5’3″ so it doesn’t take much), since I was six years old. Before six, I had no issue with the water, stick me in a blow up ring and let me float on by. At six, I took swim lessons, in a lake. I will never forget the day we jumped from the floating dock into the water, water that was definitely deeper than the top of my head.

Not the first one in; I watched others jump in; it seemed that the others before me, were immediately lifted out of the water to sun dry on the wooden dock. When it was my turn, I jumped and stared up and through the greenish, cloudy lake water, I could see the sun in the sky and I remember thinking, “When am I going to be lifted out of the water?” I panicked, the panic seeped inside and from that time, water was the enemy.

I’ve taken swim lessons at an adult, trying to allay those fears, not wanting to pass them to my children, but the fear and anxiety is so deep within me, I’ve given up hope that I will ever enjoy the water.

I’ve been writing poetry and essays of late, writing my memoirs in a way that’s pure emotion as I discuss the life I’ve led so far and why it might be important to another person. My theme for the bad times seems to be the churning water. How it pulses, undulates and suffocates, much like I feel when I’m in a large body of water.

JK Rowling wrote about her depression in Harry Potter through the dementors, the life sucking creatures that ate your souls and left you as merely a shell, much like depression does in real life. She didn’t write a literal interpretation, choosing instead to give you the image, in a beautiful, grotesque way.

Water, for me, is the perfect representation for the emotions that envelope me through several past life experiences. It swirls and comes alive and batters me against the edge of the lake.

Eventually the water will flow down river into a quiet pond, but right now, it undulates, rumbles and terrorizes.

I work on my autobiography because I hope, someday, somewhere, someone will read it and gain perspective and a sense that in the end, it will get better. The river eventually ends.