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24 March 2013

pondering graduation

Life goes rolling along... I'm about to graduate (BA in Psychology/Anthropology, minor in History). It's scary as hell because I need to get a job now. My income will short out in May. I won't be able to start working until June 1st, earliest. And I have no job prospects lined up.

I wish I could just get paid to write. Reliably. You know, every writer's dream. Write for a salary that was above poverty level. Or even within sight of the poverty level - it'd be more than I bring in right now.

I'm afraid I'll have to start working for the Army again. Bleh. I got so tired of living that life. It's devoid of personality; the ultimate worker bee existence. And no more lazy mornings or hanging out with my little Bear all day during the week. It's working to live, and has nothing to do with enjoying what you do - though I would, to a degree, if I could get another teaching gig. At what cost, life?

It's only a year. Maybe. Or maybe I'll keep working while I'm in grad school next year. I might have to. There will be no more GI Bill to depend on - I only have a few more months of that. Grad school will be five or six years, depending on the program.

Reality sucks sometimes. 

20 March 2013

Guest Post: David Schmidt, author of "Pirates of the Danube"

Rape in the Congo
Love in the 21st Century
-by David J. Schmidt

I open up my e-mail inbox one morning to find that the first message on the list bears the following title:


Of course, after I open the e-mail, I realize that it comes from an activist group that is inviting me to a special event where they will screen a documentary about some humanitarian crisis in Africa.

But the first thought that came to my head, when I saw that email, was this:
Who can afford a plane ticket to the Congo in this economy? Much less stomach all the raping?

I blame “Fifty Shades of Grey” for this.

In part, I hold the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon responsible because, in this day and age, violent sex is on everybody’s minds. It’s all the vogue. It seems that no matter where we turn lately, bruises are the coolest new thing to wear. Bella wakes up after her wedding night with Edward Cullen to find her body bruised and sore, and she is filled with love for her new husband. Anastasia meets a man who tells her he wants to put metal projectiles inside of her, and she instantly falls for him. “You had me at ‘projectiles’,” she says.

It used to be, the violence was at least kept subtle and implicit in films and books. You watch one of these old black and white movies from the 1940’s, and sure, the men do a lot of tough talking, but they keep it classy for the most part. I recently watched “Double Indemnity”, a film noir from 1944. Sure, the main character is always pulling women around by the upper arm to get them to go along with him, as if they had no sense of agency of their own, or were incapable of responding to a simple, verbal “hey, come over here please”. Sure, the lead male has a habit of fiercely shaking his love interest by the shoulders as a prelude to kissing her.

But at least nobody is waking up with bruises in the morning, or having metal balls put inside their nether-regions.

In the 21st Century, on the other hand, we have Twilight and Fifty Shades.

We have Edward Cullen, a husband who is “special” and “magical” and sparkles in the sunlight—and, because he is special and magical and sparkly, his wife is forced to cut off all contact with her friends and family once she marries him. Because nothing says “loving relationship” like a man who won’t let you call your dad on the phone.

We have Christian Grey, who makes you sign a contract regulating when you can touch yourself, who monitors what you eat meticulously.

All that’s missing is for Christian Grey and Edward Cullen to sex their respective lovers to the tune of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” like Julia Roberts’ evil husband in “Sleeping with the Enemy”.

But this isn’t the only problem I blame on the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon.

I also hold “Fifty Shades” and its kin responsible for my confusion. My misunderstanding of the aforementioned email—and the vagueness of the email’s title itself—are the direct result of these books, as they have normalized imprecise language. More than the bizarre sexual practices, the poor syntax is, perhaps, the most disturbing thing about the whole “Fifty Shades” series.

The Congo isn’t the only thing being raped these days—the entire English language takes a beating when something like “Fifty Shades” becomes popularized.

Every time Christian Grey says a phrase like “thank fuck”—as if Fuck were some commonly accepted deity to whom we offer thanks and praise—I feel as if King Leopold of Belgium is marching his troops into the pristine wilderness of the English language, rampaging through the countryside and mining the soil of our language for blood diamonds.

Every time E. L. James carpet bombs her narrative with ubiquitous ellipses, raining down a maelstrom of fire on the punctuation, I feel the English language shrivel up and die inside.

Every time her main character says “oh my”; with every non sequitur in the plot development, with every nonsensical metaphor and simile, the defenseless English language is ravaged like a nation being colonized.

In the face of such devastation, I did the only thing any sensible person would do—I launched a counterattack, via parody. My novella, “Pirates of the Danube”, is a work of comic farce which satirizes the entire lot of barely-legible erotic and romance stories which have taken us by storm. It is humanity’s last stand, in the face of almost certain literary demise.

And it will be free this weekend.

David J. Schmidt is the author of the satirical romance novel, “Pirates of the Danube”, as well as its sequel, “The Baron Rides Again”. The former, “Pirates of the Danube”, will be available on the Kindle store for free this Passover / Palm Sunday weekend, March 23 and 24.

Schmidt has received various recognitions for his charitable contributions toward the preservation of Peyronie’s Disease. In 2004, he was granted knighthood by the Basque Republic, becoming Sir David J. Schmidt for the following three years. The title was stripped from him by the United Nations Council on Fallacious Royal Families in 2007. Schmidt lives with his beloved ex-wife of 14 years, his two cats, and his indentured servant. He can be reached via his blog, or via email at

See this link to find the book on Kindle:

something Harlequin this way creeps... (book review)

Confession time: when I'm exhausted and can't get to sleep, I look for something light to read. I recently went through a Harlequin romance phase, about the same time my insomnia was really peaking. These books were the lightest of the light in terms of the mental exertion required to read them, they were guaranteed to have a happy ending (thus not increasing my depression and, therefore, my insomnia), and they are ridiculously cheap (even free) on Kindle. This meant I could lay in bed feeling sorry for myself while reading book after book of merry idiocy for free or nearly-free until I fell asleep. Yeah yeah, there's still really no justification for reading that crap.

It was a short-lived phase because I got annoyed. Invariably, the chick is in some version of a crappy situation and needs the superhero-esque man - who's always wealthy - to help/save her dumb ass. He's always taller than her. He's always well-dressed, and probably has a better sense of style than she does. He also has more friends, who are also wealthy. And lest we forget, he has a mysterious past with lots of bad stuff. -And those are just some plot issues. The writing itself... well. There's a reason the market is inundated with this stuff. Writing at an 8th grade level (I'm being generous here) isn't difficult, and hey, the plot's already written!

And yet... I occasionally sneak back into the bowels of for another cheap thrill. More rarely, I actually finish the book.

Once, while despairing over impending financial issues, I even considered writing a few of these books. I can't imagine it would take long. Just follow the formula and do some 'reverse editing'. After a brief consideration, I decided I couldn't possibly bring myself to write so poorly. I'd annoy myself. Unless it were a parody... but really, who has time for that?

Fortunately for the world, somebody else has taken on the task: David Schmidt. Don't worry, I'd never heard of him before either. He emailed me about... well, a few things, but this was one of them. He has written a parody of the genre which, I think, is pretty spot-on. And by "spot-on" I mean that he's taken all the hallmarks of horrible writing tropes in the romance genre and exploded them across the pages of his book, making them that much more visible and therefore, hilarious.

At less than $4 for a paperback and less then $3 on Kindle (and with just under 50 pages of text) it's cheap enough to be worth the quick laugh it'll provide. Assuming you're into sardonic stuff. Which I am. 

14 March 2013

I'm ok, really!

It's almost disturbing how "ok" I actually feel, in light of my relationship with Archer ending just two days ago. I'm not sure I understand it.

I saw him last night for a moment. I was happy to see him. His manner was brusque, except for one moment in which he was concerned for me and his voice softened. Then the cold swept back into his face and he was gone before he left. He looked so sad, so pained, that I found myself blinking back tears. Deep breath in, deep breath out, refocused on the things I could do something about; I let him go.

I wanted so much to comfort him, to be the shoulder he cried on. He wouldn't have appreciated that sentiment, then.

Later he texted me. It seemed a sort of explanation, or even apology; he was having himself a solid mean drunk, and should be left alone.

Fair enough. I appreciated the heads up and I left him alone. Even when I got a garbled text much later that I desperately wanted him to clarify, I put the phone down and went to sleep. In the morning, I let myself respond. Have you ever heard a proud man eat crow? It should have been more uncomfortable for me than it was. Instead, I felt a pang for the hurt in his voice, and I wished I could take that pain away from him. I wished I could make things clear for him, though they aren't really clear in my own mind. I wanted to wrap him up in love.

The idea of being without me, he said, was more than he could bear. It hadn't been as easy as he thought it'd be, the way it had been in his past relationships. It hurt too much.

I, on the other hand, have never been so unscathed by a breakup, relatively speaking. After that first night, I felt stronger, calmer than I have maybe ever. Why? This had been the healthiest relationship of my life (which, admittedly, isn't saying a whole hell of a lot) - surely I should be mourning it more strongly, with more pain.

In contemplation last night, I realized that I was just grateful for the clarity. I'd been aware of his gradual emotional withdrawal for six months. I'd felt every reason that hid under excuses, and the lie of it had been a more powerful rejection than if he'd just said he didn't want to do (whatever it was at the time), like he didn't trust me to handle my disappointment and hiding the real reason was supposed to soften the blow. As though de-prioritizing me were less hurtful than saying, "I'd rather not do (that) today." None of that was intentional. It's merely human. We don't want to hurt the ones we love, and when we're irrational, we do irrational things. The stress of witnessing his unacknowledged retreat was ended when the retreat was acknowledged.

This morning, during our conversation, I saw the other side of my relative ease: I didn't see him as 'gone.' He wasn't my boyfriend anymore, but I still saw as my best friend. A best-friendship that had been released from the bonds of 'girl/boy-friendship' which had strangled us. A friendship with the gags and onus of... something I can't quite identify, yet... removed. It was liberating.

So feeling good about gaining clarity and not losing my best friend has actually made this a good week for me. We'll try this again, Archer and I. And we'll keep the lessons of this week in mind. In my eyes, these lessons have quickly risen to "guiding principle" status.

Down to my Bones, Archer. Always.

12 March 2013

good enough

There's so much more to write than one stream of thought allows for.

This morning I told my mother that Archer and I broke up. She had called to make plans with me for Memorial Day weekend. She asked if I was ok; I am. Unhappy, but ok. She asked what happened. I didn't know how to put it into words. Not succinctly, and she was on her lunch break. No time for long stories.

I'm just not what he wants. He's not what I need. He's feeling used by everyone in his world except me, but he can't get rid of anyone else. There's no other way to lighten the load. I had become a burden to him, rather than a help. The man who said he needed me - needs me gone.

And somehow, there's relief in this new freedom.

I have stopped myself seven times already this morning, from wondering if Archer would appreciate this or that, or if he would approve, or if he would just politely say "that's great honey" while thinking I was hopelessly inadequate. I don't have to wonder anymore. I can cut my hair without worrying about whether he'll like the new look. I can wear a wife-beater (surely there must be a better name for those) with my girly jeans and pretty earrings and not worry about looking too masculine for him.

I no longer have to harbor guilt over not being the middle-class woman he's seeking. I can dress in my favorite 'hippy' clothes and not be made to feel like I'm dressing down.

I'm good enough on my own, where I failed within our love.

I can be his friend, without worrying about him leaving me over something I've said, which might have contradicted his perceptions and thus stung his defensive pride. I can simply speak truth to him, and not be frightened of his temper.

I am good enough.
I'm just not for him. 


I'm fighting panic with a keyboard and a screen. Watching the words like they might save me from drowning, tiny rafts bobbing up from the depths of the page. The more I make, the safer I'll be. If my hands are typing, I don't notice them shaking so much.

I'm "opened up" and vulnerable. I'm sweet, kind, but never enough. Never enough. I'm not at his speed. He needs someone who can keep up. I can't. He can't turn to me when he's feeling empty. I'm too fucked up and needy. Just another chore, knocking on his door.

Fuck. Think about something else. Those rafts have holes. Or poison.

Fighting panic. I believed in him. I believed in us. Fucking fool. We're all human. Not worth believing. People change. For the worse. Or maybe his better just doesn't include me. He has to buckle down, can't have my dead weight. Dragging him down. I just wanted to be his sanctuary, the way he was for me. When I was empty, I turned to him. When he is empty, he turns away. He's better off alone.

Maybe I will be, too. But first I have to fight off the panic. I have to make it through tonight. I have to. There's an angel face sleeping, so sweet, so innocent, so optimistic, sleeping in the top bunk in his room with his blanket and his toys. I have to make it. Because I'm not really alone, and if I panic, he will be frightened.

I have to sleep. I have to. I don't think I can, because I can't stop typing. I can't let myself lay down, unoccupied, free to think whatever comes to mind. My mind isn't quiet. It's frightened. It's panicking but if I stay busy I can fight it. I just have to stay busy. That's all. Stay busy until I fall asleep.

We'll stay in touch, right? We can't just walk away. We're best friends. Not just lovers. Not just a boyfriend and girlfriend. He's my anchor. He's my safe place and my happy place. But I'm not his. I'm neither, for him. I always turned to him, even when he was the person I was mad at. Even then, I sought and found comfort in his arms, because I knew I was safe there. I still know I would be safe there, if he weren't so far away. If I could just get there. If those arms would ever open for me again.

Now what. Now where am I safe? Where am I happy? Who am I, without him?

I know that ultimately, I won't be broken by this, because I don't have a choice. I will be strong enough, because I have a child. I have to be. Not surviving isn't an option. But survival isn't safety. Survival isn't happiness. I'll always be a little broken inside. I just hope my child doesn't see it.

I hope I can hide it. Maybe if I pretend long enough, it'll start being true.

Probably not.

"Fake it til you make it." Where did I hear that? In the Army? Maybe. Sounds like something you'd hear in the Army. Didn't work there, either.

It's getting easier to pause without shaking immediately. Maybe I can go to bed soon.

He's just trying to survive, too.

I hate the thought that he will be alone. I ache for him, too. I fear for myself. I ache for him. I wish, uselessly, that nobody had to be lonely. It's a fate worse than death. I wish, just as uselessly, that I could have been his happy place. His safe place.

I'm not that person. Wanting, doesn't make being.

I still love him. He's such a beautiful person. I can't imagine ever not loving him. Being alone, though - that's easy to imagine. I just remember.

He's beautiful, but we're both broken, and our breaks don't seem to line up the way we thought they did.

Why is he still my safe place? Still the arms I want to run to, right now? I can't fault him, for being a little bit broken. But I can miss him. And I can mourn us.

And I can support him, as a friend, for as long as he'll let me. Because he's worth it. Because we're worth it. Because I'm worth it. Because he's my Archer, and I am his Bones.

I think I can slow down now. The panic is there, but a few deep breaths pushes it under again when it rises. Maybe I can keep it there, drown it, at least until the morning. Just need to focus away from the pain. Away. Away, not toward. Think about my son and how awesome he is. Think about all my projects spinning around in my schedule right now. Think about anything but running into his embrace. My safe place.

Or maybe... pretend I'm in my safe place. In his arms. Ignore all the protests from my pain. Just feel the comfort. Just feel his love. He did say he still loves me. Maybe he won't mind if I use him for tonight, just to keep my brain safe from itself. Just to pretend I'm ok. I'll tell myself I'm not losing my best friend, just my lover. And best friends are more important anyway.

It could be worse. At least I'm not still alone in the relationship. Somehow, that doesn't make me feel better. I thought it would. I was wrong.

I'm getting to that dead place. That place where I don't have to worry about panicking anymore because there's nothing left inside. If I can just let that take over, I'll be able to sleep tonight. This morning. Whatever.

Is it weird to manage your emotional state while you're experiencing it? It's unusual for me. But I'm getting better at it, I think.

I regret deleting all our texts last week. No I don't. I did momentarily, but that's over now. I deleted them because it was so painful to see all the texts I'd sent him which never got answered. For a moment, I wished I could go back and see the texts he sent back when he used to actually participate in our relationship. The loving ones. But that would have been a lot of scrolling back. There'd be more pain than gain in that venture. I'm glad they're gone.

Blank. Capable, as just proven, of spacing out. That means I can stop typing now. I'm going to try to sleep.

*fingers crossed*

P.S. Archer just broke up with me. Over the phone. At least I'm at home. That's good, right?

09 March 2013


Our relationship was broken - it wasn't working, for either of us.
I wonder if talking about these things will ever get easier? Practice doesn't seem to be making our communication perfect. It's better, though. I'll give us that.

Last week, my therapist left me with this question, to ponder til the next time: "What does it mean, to you, to be feminine?"

I had no idea. Not really. I knew it wasn't the uncomfortable, fragile and nebulous thing I felt it was, but what else could it be? Women who are powerful are somewhat masculine, at least, right? Well no. Obviously that's wrong. I couldn't find the middle of the spectrum, the place where a woman could be womanly and still be strong, or competent, or assertive, but I knew it existed. I'd seen it in other women, just never in myself, and I couldn't imagine it myself either.

I've noted before - even discussed it as a guest speaker for gender education at the local college - that my gender expression tends to be about balance. I feel more masculine when I'm surrounded by feminine people; I feel more feminine when I'm surrounded by masculine people. Archer, in particular, tends to make me feel uber girly. There's more to this balancing act than just that, but that's the important part. I thought it was the only important part. Even though I'd noticed that I tend to dress more 'covered' - which typically meant more masculine - when I'm more depressed, I had only just begun to fit that into my larger puzzle.

One of the larger missing pieces was this: when I felt vulnerable, I put on more clothes. I put on baggy clothes, which happened to be sold in the men's section of the stores, because they made me feel safely hidden. Thus my expression of my masculine side wasn't that at all. Instead, I was using that mode of dress to hide the very lonely, frightened girl inside me. I was dressing like a guy, but I wasn't feeling masculine at all. I was feeling depressed, and I was expressing it in a way that had escaped my attention.

So here I was, hiding my female body and feeling at the same time that it was pointless to try to "dress up" because - and here's another important piece to the puzzle - Archer seemed so uninterested. He had been under so much stress, and had been so distracted by work and other life issues recently, that I felt as though I were waiting on the outskirts of his life, waiting for him to notice me again. And in the meantime, being 'pretty' seemed unimportant.

And at the first mention of his honest appraisal of his waning attraction to me, I was indignant. How dare he be so shallow! And lead me on so cruelly! And-!

'But Bones, I'm a straight man. I'm attracted to women, not guys, and you don't do the little things women do to take care of themselves anymore, things that are attractive to me because of their role in women's lives. It's like you've given up on your feminine side. And I'm sorry, but as much as I love you, I can't force myself to be attracted to someone who seems to be signaling that they're a dude.'

Yeah, that's not verbatim because I was crying and thus distracted when he said that. But that's the gist. He was right. I hadn't been taking care of myself properly, regardless of what gender I might be expressing.

Comprehension blossomed. With his words, I understood that I'd been hiding, and that I didn't really know how to be feminine while feeling not-frightened. Suddenly I wanted to. I wanted to be a strong woman, regardless of Archer's or anyone's attraction. If he'd left me right then, I felt, I would have been miserable for missing him, but I wouldn't have been broken. I would have been strong. Or stronger, anyway.

I needn't have worried. We found the resolution we needed, in order to repair our relationship. I need, for myself, to take care of me. That includes learning what the feminine side of me needs, and acting on it. On a impetuous whim, I went shopping for clothing that was strong yet distinctly female. It was the most genuinely empowering thing I might ever have done for myself (though my bank account might disagree later this month). While I do this for myself, I do it also to see the lust in his eyes that sparks as soon as he sees me in my brand-new, subtly sexy and totally womanly outfit. And that makes me happy.

03 March 2013

breaking, not broken

Archer is leaving me. I don't know whether he'll complete that process or not. He sees it as us deciding whether or not we can stay together. I know we can, but only if we're both trying. He's been pulling away for longer than I care to contemplate.

Actually, I know exactly when it started: when he had to resign from the job he thought would last until he was ready to retire. Not that same day, but the next. That same day, I was needed. The next day, I was in the way.

Besides being busy, this is why I've had so much trouble writing lately. A few minutes just wasn't enough to put my thoughts to words, and I was too overwhelmed to begin. 

And this time, it isn't my fault.

The chaotic elements of my lifestyle - my pets, my child, and all the household chaos inherent in those charges - frighten him on an instinctive level; he avoided my home only semi-consciously. I won't share his story here. You'll have to take my word for it that his anxiety is well-based, despite being no longer a useful adaptation for him.

Last night, I stayed awake until quarter to five, crying and writing, because the wine I'd drank hadn't touched me and I couldn't sleep. This morning I felt mired and lost. When he called me, our brief conversation told me that he believes no lasting good would come of our efforts; he'd said as much last night anyway. This morning it was in his heart, though not in his words. But I know that what Archer believes, comes true more often than not, particularly concerning matters of his own heart, as it is with most people.

He hung up, and I began to honestly examine the potential of living without him. I placed my emotional self in the mindset of being without him, allowing the emotions to form themselves rather than trying to predict what I would feel. It's a trick I do frequently, very useful for any sort of empathy work. It didn't let me down. I felt lonely, and I felt his absence painfully, but I also felt a new acceptance - happiness even - with my home as it is. Every time he comes here, I get anxious, too. I know how it looks in his eyes: messy and "unsanitary" because there's dog hair and toys everywhere, and because my child's bathroom etiquette still needs some work. I remembered, in that moment, that last night Archer had told me that all my efforts to make my house more orderly and  livable just made him sad. It seemed so futile to him. Every time I'd shown him my progress, so proud and happy with my home, he'd congratulated me while feeling like I was a little more hopeless each time. I felt so foolish when he said that. Like a peasant girl trying to impress an aristocrat. And maybe that's the problem.

He considers himself a very relaxed, accepting person - an old hippy on the inside, despite his corporate lifestyle - but his fears keep him from that side of himself, if indeed it's there. I've seen it so rarely, it could have been an illusion. His fallback framework, the man that comes out when he's angry or stressed or just unhappy - is a snob. Since he resigned, that's the only side of him I've seen with any regularity. It's not a good side. Maybe that's why I'm finding it easier than I expected to let him go, if he wants to.

Still painful. Hellishly painful. Overwhelmingly painful. But not impossible, as I feared.

He's just another strong man, to overcome by his own issues to stay in a relationship - there will always be something too wrong, something that requires too much faith. He has no faith in anyone. Not that I blame him.

The irony is that I know, once I am able to be comfortable in my home - not worrying constantly about how it looks in his eyes - I will find it much easier to find the energy to contain the chaos a better, and keep my house cleaner in general. Maybe I can force myself to find that peace even if he does stay.

I hope he does.

I really, really hope he does.

I love him.