Stories That Are Factually Accurate

Here’s my “blog entry” for today. I am sick, so this is what you get. I know, I know. You’re terribly grateful….. 😛 😛 😛

Listen to Stories That are Literally True and Actually Happened by Leslie D. Lanagan

I talk about a lot of stuff, mostly meeting my favorite authors- Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, and Jonna Mendez. I have told all of these stories before, but not in my own voice.

I finally broke open to let some light in, and it feels good. Like, dragonfly in the sun, you know what I mean.

You get it.

You’ll see why I’m telling you this joke. Altos and basses live on cigars and vodka. Sopranos and tenors live on shoes and compliments.

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The Heuristics and How to Swing ‘Em

Staying silent is like a slow growing cancer to the soul and a trait of a true coward. There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself. You may not win every battle. However, everyone will at least know what you stood for- you. – Shannon L. Alder

There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis. – Malcolm Gladwell

“Blink” was a craze when it went it was published, and everyone got on board with the book’s philosophy. That given a second chance months later, you wouldn’t regret having made the decision you did. Sure. Hard data says that. When you actually put it into practice, though, people are concerned that something is wrong with you. In my particular case, people assume I’m on an “up,” and I’ll just regret things and apologize later.

It is my feeling that “blink” doesn’t work if you don’t know yourself as well as you possibly can. It’s a disaster to blink on no information. It’s another to have 45 years of heuristics first.

I have only had one time in my life where the decision to cut someone out of my life has gone so poorly that I was miserable over it for years. So, the concept of a “Blink” decision is not foolproof. But my track record on good decisions for me is about average with everyone else who lives, works, and functions just like I do… which is in fact one person. Except without mental illness, but the part she gets, she gets hardcore.

Hypotonic cerebral palsy is a rough gig all on its own. We don’t have to talk about mental illness at all to say my life is hard. People punch down at me all the time without even thinking about it. I can’t change how my eyes work, especially on the fly. I’ve tried for years, and the closest I can get to 3D vision is that I can see both sides of my nose at once. Any further away, and things get messy fast. “What are you even looking at?” gets old very fast.

I don’t have an easy time of not looking like a crazy person with the way I move and watch, both from the outside in and vice versa. People think I’m staring at them all the time, but just because my eye is pointed at something above your head doesn’t mean that one of my eyes won’t drift. It happens in a way that I can’t even pay attention to it, because then it will take minutes to make myself look like I’m focusing and no one has the time for that.

Besides, people will fix it in PhotoShop if I’m ashamed of how I look. Except I’m not. They automatically assume that I would want it fixed. I don’t because I don’t want to present a curated version of who I am. It has made the price of entry into my circle of friends very, very high.

My mental health treats my body like crap… it’s really all the side effects of the medication I’m taking. I choose physical illness every day.

I choose physical illness every day.

I make that joke all the time, that I choose between sick and crazy without letting it affect me like I just did. I was diagnosed as Bipolar II/ADHD when I was about 21, then as PTSD set in a protocol was added for severe anxiety. I have been taking a pure, refined version of crystal meth for 20 years, and I have also tried agonists like Stratera and Cymbalta, which mimic the norepinephrine boosts that methylphenidate gives, but again… different med, different side effects. I was jumpy and nervous, heart rate sky high, couldn’t sit still. It was a worse ride than even an extended release dose of methylphenidate had ever given me, and I lived that way for six weeks until I gave up.

I was disheartened. With my medication, I had no appetite and a quiet brain… but it meant being on meth to cope.

Between it and my mood stabilizer, I have caused enormous damage to my physical body to remain sane to everyone else. This does not mean that I need to go off meds to get a baseline. That’s pretty much the worst idea anyone has ever had regarding my health. I just need better generics. Fewer side effects. A better understanding of the human body so I know that opioid agonists work on me and methamphetamine don’t. Why is it the same delivery method and two different results?

One chills me out like a Tylenol with codeine, the other makes me look like a schizophrenic heroin addict.

Here’s a joke I told Daniel that my medical people will get:

Is this a __ thing? Let me guess your diagnosis before you even say it…….. “It depends.”

In my experience, this is the correct medical diagnosis for everything. Every time. That’s why it’s called “practicing medicine” and often referred to as an art. It is still a better educated answer than you’ll get from someone who didn’t go to medical school, because what the doctor is really saying is “I need a whole lot more information, but if you can just give me your Google Search Terms I have like 50 things I can rule out that won’t kill you before you go on WebMD and scare yourself to death.” Doctors can only do “blink” decisions when they’re sure. It’s different when you’ve never seen a case before, what in med school would be a “fascinoma” and in law school would be a “prima facie” case.

Shows like “House” are built on doctors being wrong, and it happens all the time. I don’t mean in an intentionally malicious way, though you can find enough of those if you look for them. I’m talking about people going to doctors that have diseases so rare that it takes a detective years to figure it out, because the natural order of how something is supposed to go, well…. It isn’t.

It’s not even idiocy. I couldn’t have told the doctor on her way into a patient room that I thought a patient had shingles if I hadn’t seen the pattern in a book somewhere. It’s the same with an MD as opposed to me, a lowly MA (from whom you should never take advice. I’m a moron. And I know enough to tell you that). They’ve just seen thousands more patterns the higher you go up in terms of specialists. That’s why they’re specialists. They don’t necessarily study harder for anything. It’s that when they hear a herd of something coming, they know when to guess “horse” and when to guess “zebra” because they’ve seen enough to know the tiny, tiny, tiny differences, maybe down to one. Additionally, in those cases, a blink guess is necessary. Try Occam’s Razor first. If the patient gets better, don’t try anything more extreme. If the patient is worse, they don’t have what it’s most likely to be.

That’s when you get more eyes on it. People can go 15 years without an official diagnosis, and that’s what teams of doctors like the one portrayed on “House” is accurate. You also need different types of doctors, because rheumatology isn’t that different from endocrinology, dermatology, and oncology. You could argue that oncology falls under rheumatology, because cancer is also an autoimmune disease. It’s just that the need for oncologists surpasses the need for expertise in other autoimmune diseases that don’t have dedicated departments. I assume GRID/AIDS was first thought of as an autoimmune disease, rheumatological or oncological in nature. Then AIDS research, too, became its own department.

This is where the rubber hits the road. Blink and see if you’re right, but have an Option B. Doctors, particularly in Urgent Care and the Emergency Room, aren’t given time not to blink. They patch you up.

I’ve been patching myself up for decades because I have had the opposite problem. I have waited too long on a lot of things because I didn’t feel I was capable of them. In fact, I had seven years to do nothing but think about my motivations and goals. I’ve thought about the things I’ve done and left undone.

The dragons that circle my bed at night and let me lie on my back and watch the stars while we travel.

Who I wanted those dragons to be, and why, and why it should cost so much to be my friend. It costs something to be a friend that believes in a writer, because now they’re in the position of having to defend your writing whether they like it or not, because it’s your obsession, not theirs.

I chose one dragon in particular because not only is she the architect type of writer, she has also edited a few other things for me that have been successful (mostly book reviews). She also has the amazing ability to talk with me about craft and not plot. It works in our actual relationship as well as the one we have professionally. “I can’t fix this.” “You absolutely cannot fix this and I will be mad if you try.” Although I will say that sometimes I wish she could wave a magic wand because a good bit of the time listening to her goes better than whatever all THIS is (looking in mirror).

The other two are more talkers than writers, so we make up for it with phone calls and quick texts to set up phone calls, or we video each other. As I have said before, that’s new. I’m finally okay with it… as previously mentioned but I feel it goes along here very well. I talked to one person, and then I talked to my audience, almost in quick succession. This is because I realized that if I treated a vlog like a FaceTime call, I wouldn’t get overwhelmed at the stats. Here’s what I do know, though. Every post I write resonates with someone. They just don’t all resonate with everyone. That’s true of every writer on Earth, even Stephen King. Most writers have a special place in their hearts for “On Writing,” even the ones that don’t like horror. Those realizations created a blink decision. I vlog, because talking to a million of you is the same as talking to one of you.

I blinked, and didn’t regret it. I had the heuristics.

Working on My House

I believe that most things are a house of cards. Humans aren’t strong enough to build everything right the first time… even me. I am glad that I have the strength to go back into the basement, and have so many stories that have gone through countless revisions over time based on telling them again and again (sometimes over and over to one person….. sorry about that, all y’all). Today I discovered a new level of dark. Luckily, I had a friend to guide me down, and then back up again.

We went to high school together. They were there. Leaving even their gender out because they wouldn’t want it to be known that they noticed.

They didn’t know it, but they were doing guided meditation. I closed my eyes and saw Carrie, my partner in that woman’s class. It was a health class, and we were “married” and caring for our egg child. I got lucky. All the boys were taken. Carrie was (and probably still is) a gorgeous girl. I knew she was straight. It wasn’t about that. For an hour a day, she was my arm candy. 🙂 James, Alex…. don’t tell her.

(note to my French Horn brassholes- I just made it up. Tell the others.)

As an aside, I am DYING thinking about how hard Sam will laugh at “brassholes.” She should know. She had a near miss in terms of almost marrying one. I absolutely thought she was the love of my life, and if you didn’t think I mourned that relationship, she hit me harder and deeper than she will ever know. That’s because I didn’t tell her what she did wrong. I didn’t care. Let’s just say that I got the thing I wanted, and in return, she hit and run. Take that phrase and run with it.

She absolutely devastated me. To get over it, I had to cut off all my emotions and pretend that she meant nothing to me, because she made for damn sure I knew I meant nothing to her. I blocked her on everything. E-mail, phone number, all social media. I was crushed. It was my first real relationship in seven years. Why wouldn’t that kind of thing destroy me? Do you have any concept of how long that is? I didn’t even get Leah while I was waiting for Rebekah. I was completely alone. Touch starved except for a few hugs along the way. Depressed. Down and out.

Sam and her kids were balm to a soul that needed them, and I can only say that now, when the outcome of that relationship no longer matters to me. She could have had me for multiple lifetimes, and she threw me away like the bird shit on a newspaper after one day in the cage.

Yet, the only way she’ll ever know how I feel is if she comes up in my yard. My dog bites, motherfucker. I reserve the right to be angry at any time. I also reserve the right to not.

That relationship still confounds me, I just don’t care enough to find out why. She didn’t want to get together to figure our stuff out, it was just over by text message. Why are you guys more concerned that I started dating Daniel so quickly when it wasn’t me that wanted to separate? Why are you guys on me about Daniel at all? Isn’t he a logical successor to be my partner after realizing what Dana had done?

On my very first date with Sam (sorry if I’ve told this story before, but it’s a card that needs to fall), she texts me to tell me that she’s sitting on my front porch. I run downstairs to meet her, and she’s adorable. My heart didn’t even take five seconds to assess the situation. Just a seductive, take your breath away fantasy from the moment I said “yes.” She matched me feeling for feeling, or so it seemed. I saw so much of myself in her. I thought that we’d be together so much longer than three weeks, but I did something. I just don’t care what it was, because it might not have anything to o with me at all. And since she’s not going to marry me, I don’t really care what it was that I did. I would correct my behavior if it mattered.

Back to why Dana even matters. She definitely shouldn’t, but she does. When she hit me, she installed a trigger. Sam’s fist coming at my face whether I wanted it to or not. I realized that I might never get rid of he tripwire, because Sam had fixed hers, but what about the next woman?

Just another reason why I trauma bonded to The War Daniel. He’s huge. He’s weapons trained. No one would ever fuck with me ever again. I have had enough of the bullshit in life and not enough enjoyment. So “noping out” to a different country and trying to make a life there is attractive to me whether Daniel comes or not. My top choices are Aberdeen and Phnom Penh. Two completely different cities, two completely different cultures. It’s just that I have friends in both places. Suzanne has known me for somewhere between 10 and 15 years. I don’t remember, but I do know that she was friends with both Dana and me. It’s not that she remembers Dana, it’s that she’s familiar with the story of my life so far.

My friend in Cambodia has known *of* me for a long time, but we’ve recently connected because I was brave enough to ask him if I could come and visit. I know I will go there first, just not when. The attraction to him is that he’s the exact opposite of Suzanne’s story. He’s only just finding out who I am. So obviously I need six months a year in both.

I have listened to all the sad music. It’s enough that I have to deal with idiots who think that I move really fast in dating. What in the actual fuck? Am I supposed to mourn people longer than the relationship actually lasted?

I broke up with Theresa because I had spent *weeks* planning the perfect first date and she told me that she was backing out and just wanted to talk on the phone “this trip.” No, baby. That’s not happening. We have done too much to go backward and reassess. It’s too hard and it’s too much. We’ve been talking for three weeks. If you can’t have a drink with me, it’s not happening.

That relationship was weird, too, because we were off to such a good start, and then I probably ran my mouth too much or something, because lots of people have no idea how INFJ people operate. They make plans, then contingencies, thn more contingencies. For instance, here was the process of cleaning my room this week. It was hell.

I’d been trying to organize little by little when the house caught fire and I needed to get it ogether immediately. I reserved maids over the Internet. First mistake. Two appointments. Two companies. Two no-shows. Finally, I contacted Hayat (landlady for those just joining us) and asked her to get her own handymen out here and I’d pay them. Even that tuned into a nightmare.

It’s all done now, except for the cleaning and designing. The paint cans and drop cloths are still all over everywhere. It’s painted bright white, like the marina where I wish I lived in Beirut. I’ll include a photo because it’s hanging in my living room. I want my room to feel the same way… that when I’m dreaming, I’m not in my own bed. I’m there.

While I am working on my ugly house of cards, I can dream of what it will look like when I am finished. I want a welcoming space, full of that same pure energy of white and teal and waves and sailboats…. though it isn’t for everyone, Beirut is my happy place. I have been Lebanese for almost eight years now. When I see it for real, I will fall.

….just like a house of cards.

Beirut, Lebanon

An Open Letter to Wil Wheaton That I Just Sent

I’m an idiot. I pulled a classic IT geek move. Claim to know about computers. Forget to attach link and/or image.

On December 31, 2022, at 8:00 AM, “Leslie D. Lanagan” <the famous lanagan @ gmail . com> wrote:

Dear Wil,

Really all I want you to do is read my blog and listen to the story of my boyfriend and one-day husband, Daniel. Then boost the signal if you like what you read. However, I am not only checking in with you because of that. Just asking what I need up front in case you’re busy.

———————-

First of all let me say that you are one of the people I love most in the world just for being you. I am proud to see that when you were acting, you took a huge risk and it paid off big. I take you as you are. All your crap because all people have it and your incredible capacity for love shows through every damn day. We are not strangers, but I doubt that you would remember me because we have not communicated since roughly 2003. You used to be one of my fans and on my Blogrolll (orwhatever). We exchanged comments a few times, and then when you published “Just a Geek,” I came to Powell’s on Burnside to get it signed (Or did you do Powell’s Technical Books that tour? I don’t remember). My blog back then was called “Clever Title Goes Here,” and when you matched a name to a face, you signed my book, “Dear Leslie, Clever Inscription Goes Here.” Those are such precious memories.

Are you tight with Anil Dash and Chason Chaffin? I remember you commenting on Chason’s web site as well, but he hasn’t told me if you stayed in touch. I’m a huge fan because you’re famous, and the way you got there was being well respected at craft. If you have any teaching experience in writing, I’m all ears.

I am definitely writing this to ask you a favor, but not one that’s hard for you……. yet impossible for me. I just need a tool that you have and I don’t. You’re famous, full stop, and you’re a well respected writer. I wrote a blog entry about my boyfriend winning a medal of valor that just left me emotionally spent, and it was short. If you like it, could you put it on blast?

I’m in Facebook Jail because a black girl called me “Raisin Potato Salad” and I took exception to that. She was clearly trying to insult me based on an hour’s conversation and she wore down my last nerve. I am a line cook. Food is life, and Africans/African-Americans have always been trailblazers In the kitchen. I said nothing racist, but she said something prejudiced. I said, “if you want to come at me with ‘raisin potato salad,’ you are messing with the wrong bitch. I’m from Houston, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world be cause it’s a port. We will throw down, and I will kick your ass sideways.” As my college roommate and soul sister would say, “I am a Christian and I also have no problem breaking your back tooth and praying later.” I don’t even want to tell you what she does for a living, but if she was queer, I would have married my life partner in 1999. This is because she’s already my life partner in a platonic sense, because she’s just one of the people I do life with and have since I was 20. Her daughter is a lesbian, and I said two things that are worth putting here in response to it.

The first was, “you know why your daughter’s gay, don’t you? God saw how you treated me and decided to give you a special girl of your own.” The second is hearing how she deals with homophobia. See above. “I need you to be my mom now. Fight for me the way you fight for her.”

My skin is white but I have a black soul when in comes to cooking because so many racist Southerners (only white ones. Racism is a system. People of color cannot even begin to create such a thing) eat the same shit and turn food into a ridiculous stereotype but only for POC.

Soapbox over. Rooting for you to win Celebrity Jeopardy. I think Ken Jennings is a hell of a guy. Never met him as a writer/content producer, but he’s bomb. Mayim Bialik is the absolute hottest choice known to God and man for this role. Fight me, although I know you won’t. Privately, rawr in the most respectful tone for the good doctor as possible.

If you have a minute, will you tell me what it was like to work with Gaiman once the adrenaline wore off? I’m not digging for dirt. I just want to learn what you learned about his craft, because I know you’re smart enough to have analyzed it by now. Actually, any stories you’d like to share with me about fellow creatives’ process would be wonderful. I’m very positive, not being a dick, wanting to be a student like watching Inside the Actor’s Studio every week even though I don’t act. These days I’m obsessed with carpentry and making check out Laura Kampf on YouTube- gay movies tend to suck because production values are low. So gays went to YouTube and made their own content. They own HGTV now, it’s just not on cable.

That’s what’s running through my mind as I’m discovering I’m not gay, I’m just queer. I’m writing through it. If you think of a project I’d be right for, I’d love to be in the writer’s room. I have legit no experience, but if T**** can be the president, I really don’t mind just shooting my shot and seeing what you say. Not willing to move to LA but would come and visit if you could pay. I don’t want your money. It’s just a tool you have that I don’t. I would also love a digital autograph I could use as the background on my tablet (not for publication ever in case you’re a privacy nerd like I am), also assuming that I’m not taking too much of your time.

All love, brother. I hope all is well. You seem good on the outside. Is that true? You okay?

Karen

My conversations with Daniel in preparing content are tough shit, and I am so glad that I’m a blogger because of it. When I go all up in my feelings, I have a place to express them without having to think about what he’s going to think when he reads the entry. It’s a mixture of fear and excitement, because if you get PTSD from combat, those are generally the only two emotions in a story.

And then there are things that make me bleed out, like telling Daniel why I have PTSD and Daniel explaining to me why mine was so much worse than his…… Daniel’s enemies were clearly defined. Mine were turncoats, both of them, at a time when I was too little to know that wasn’t okay and took it on as all my fault.

One of the things that’s so different with our two cases of PTSD is that I cannot define triggers before they happen. I’m fine one minute, and inconsolable the next. He actually has enough self awareness to say that he doesn’t like the sound of popping popcorn, because “that’s what M4s sound like when you put them on fully automatic.” He can do something that at this point, I cannot. He can tell me what his triggers are, and I can avoid them. I have tried to quantify what a trigger means to me for nine years, and I haven’t really come up with a good solution.

The biggest trigger I have is smell. Whether it’s my abuser’s old perfume, or the air smells just the way it did when I was standing there with that journal, asking what certain things meant. I think that is true for all trauma, the way the smell of the smoke in our recent house fire took me back to the one my family had when I was 11.

Music doesn’t bother me, generally, but there are a few choir pieces and opera arias that I have put away. If I’m in a church choir that is doing one of the pieces that for me, acts as a trigger, I don’t sing that day. I don’t even go to rehearsals that contain it.

One of the things that I’ve done for the last probably, ten years that I refuse to do now is minimize. Everything that has happened to me is now being given its full meaning and weight. I am no longer trying to make it look lesser than, that things weren’t as bad as I thought. In order to know how bad it was, you cannot just know my side of the story. You have to know the life story of the woman who emotionally abused me as well, and how that pathology affected me. I can only tell my story and a teeny, tiny part of hers. There’s so much more you will never find on this web site that you would find if you looked in other areas. For instance, none of our mutual friends except Dana has ever talked to my dad about what I was like as a teenager.

I can think of a few more I’d like to have him school. Some because I still don’t understand their reactions, some because I just want my people to know who I really am without pretense or bullshit.

I am coming into my power. I am 45 years old. Either this year or within a few years half of my life will be over, using my 92 year old grandfather as an example. A whole lot of shit I used to care about doesn’t even exist now in terms of my focus.

Like getting all upset because Daniel is in love with me and I know it. He has been for 36 years. Let me get this straight. A military doctor wants to be with me, and he’s telling me up front that he’s an alcoholic and has PTSD and is going to rehab to change himself and just wants another writer to lie next to in bed with both our laptops going…… and I’m going to freak out because he’s male and not female? I got this picture in my head of Jonna and Tony Mendez writing “The Moscow Rules” on a king-sized bed and thought, “why not?”

Here’s why I didn’t freak out, and it’s all my trans friends’ fault (I’m really grateful and I’m teasing). I realized that there was just enough man in me to be absolutely terrified that a straight dude wouldn’t like me AS A PARTNER. Straight dudes love me in general. Instead of thinking of myself as a bisexual woman, I had to game this relationship out as a trans man. This is because I knew that Daniel had never been in a gay relationship before, and so his reaction to my gender identity would never be negative, he just might be confused. I needed him to know that I express as male sometimes, and that has to be okay with him. Luckily, it very much is.

But this is just the beginning of a very, very long story. Please do not think that I have lost my fucking mind. Daniel doesn’t start rehab until January 5th. He lives in NE Texas. There is no possible way we will even see each other until his rehab is over, and that could take up to a few months. We’re talking about living separately for at least a year, because if he moves to DC we might screw ourselves over by skipping dating and just moving in. It wouldn’t be a deliberate screwover- DC is expensive and it might seem tempting to have one household “since we want to be together, anyway….” Eyeroll………

My perfect picture of Daniel and me is that we visit each other a few times in 2023, and then think seriously about stability after 2023 is over. This does not mean that we won’t be in contact at all, just not physically sharing the same space. Rediscovering each other through calls and letters for a year before going all in.

I am also not saying that Daniel is my forever person. I am saying that he’s one of them. Maybe it will be this fairy tale in which I suddenly transform into the perfect heterosexual wife. However, my money is not on that. My money is on Daniel becoming so important to me that he becomes a priority, and it is too damn early in our relationship to put constraints on what that actually looks like. Just be happy for me that I have someone that loves me and is in my corner. That if I get into a Situation, it’s handled. Don’t look into the future and try to pigeonhole us as friends or married. Let us decide that over the next few years on our own.

I am turning a corner in my sexuality. I am less sure about my gender than I ever have been, which has made me flexible about everything else. I was telling my friend Zac that I was feeling very non-binary, without the need to come out or change pronouns. How that plays out in my relationship with Daniel is that I feel like a partner, not the archetype one sees in their minds eye of a “wife.”

I have also been a wife before, but not to a man. My definition of “wife” comes from that context, and I don’t know enough about men to know whether my definition and theirs is similar. My saving grace is that Daniel is attracted to my personality. I don’t think he would have been attracted to me if I was male on the outside, because sexual orientation is a thing. But what I do know is that if I look at myself in the completely genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary but doesn’t give a crap about pronouns kind of way, Daniel still loves that person.

I’m not becoming less. He’s becoming more. He’s opening himself up to the possibility of not being with the picture and definition of “woman” he’s always known.

It took me back a bit. All of the sudden, someone from my past reappeared, and I want to talk to her “privately.”

Dear Karen,

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday. We were out in the sun at Chuy’s on Westheimer, and I was completely suckered in by your preppy attire. I mean obviously, my wife teased me about seeing you and running into a door for like four years. What might have seemed schoolgirlish actually made me relax and find peace within myself. You were the first woman I’d ever met who identified as straight and also wore men’s clothes without making it a big deal. Nine times out of ten, it was men’s styles in a women’s cut. Every time I looked at you, I saw a little more of who I wanted to be on the outside. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.

You might think it’s because I thought you looked like a lesbian. Actually, that’s not it at all. I saw the way your husband looked at you and realized that I was putting too much emphasis on my clothes. That what I wore wasn’t advertising anything. That if a straight woman could out butch me any day of the week, then wear whatever I want. Nothing about my wardrobe says that I am seeking attention from men or women.

I know this because now I’m divorced, it’s eight years later, and now a man wants to be with me. I said yes. I said yes because I looked at you on that warm April day, and knew that he would love me no matter what. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.

Best,
Leslie

All Boxed Up

Now that Christmas this year is a memory, I want to talk about my incredible haul. I got physical gifts, like a Welsh football jersey (Wrexham) and lots of Christmas cookies. I also got a pair of pink men’s lounge pants that are so me they hurt….. I’m a sucker for anything in size “real men wear pink.” It makes sense. I am generally a butch cut, femme color sort of girl.

I also got a spiritual gift I needed. It wasn’t wrapped, and it was so bright my eyes couldn’t take it in at first. I talked on my web site about possibly making a character out of Jonna and Tony Mendez, a composite for any of my novels, maybe the alternate history. After I finished writing the entry, I thought, “I should probably ask her if this is okay before I start writing any scenes.” So, she got back to me and said that anything I did that nodded to them was fine, just to give them good intentions and a bit of courage.

When the response came, I was just dumbstruck. I thought, “how does she know I’m not going to make a disaster out of this?” At that point, my confidence came back. I’ve seen Jonna speak live. I wrote about it. I sent it to her. She already likes the way you write about her. My soul began to take up more space as the warm memory wrapped itself around me.

The big physical gift ask for me was a Moleskine, because I thought I was so smart by keeping everything in my phone. So, I’d go into a grocery store and see notebooks for sale and pass them up, because “I put that stuff on my phone.” I looked through my phone to check the validity of that statement and I found exactly three notes.

Taking this class at BYU over YouTube is changing me. I need to be able to write an idea down, because all of the sudden I have the confidence to believe in it as currency. I have never had that before. I am going to get a Bluetooth tag for my Moleskine because I poured my heart into a college lined and I have no doubt that one day it’s going to end up on a podcast because I left it in an airplane 20 years ago. In any case, I am sure that I have amused and horrified tens of people. Trying to think of when it was…. definitely the Kathleen years. I remember feeling like I’d burgled myself, and I had.

The Moleskine also represents forward thinking. I’ve been a blogger all my life. I didn’t need to plan ahead. Think it, say it works fine in blogging, but not other forms of writing.

I create plots and characters independently of each other. Ideas for them come at random times. I thought I would be the sort of person that would say things like, “Siri, open Notepad.” Turns out, I have been that person three times.

The rest of the time I was searching for a piece of paper. This one even has elastic to hold a pencil. It’s a 7-in, the same size as a basic Kindle. I am hoping it will last me a long time, because this is not for outlines. It’s to keep one-liners from all my projects no matter what they are. Think of it as a five-year supply of post-it notes all stuck together and you’ll see why I’m humiliated that I can’t keep everything digital. I have been around and around this.

Here is my use case.

I do not drive. I walk or ride public transportation. I do my best thinking while mobile, so having a notebook is essential for those lightning bolt moments, because that idea is not coming back. I know what it’s like to lose the potential of a million dollars because of my own stupidity. I’m done.

Christmas has also been talking with Daniel and trying to plan out what we want to do re: content. He’s a combat vet (Hospital Corpsmen Second Class, US Navy) whose job was triage in Afghanistan. If he had been civilian trained, he’d be a nurse practictioner by now. That’s a doctor in my book. Where I come in is possibly a published conversation, perhaps even a podcast, on PTSD and recovery.

Daniel is also an alcoholic, getting ready for rehab at the beginning of the new year. Just a fascinating patient history on both sides, really. Going through treatment for alchoholism and going through treatment for being bipolar are strikingly similar, and I ‘m thinking we’re going to have a good time. I have already started calling him “DW” because those are his actual initials, and I have been making sure to sound like a little aardvark boy annoyed with his sister every time it comes out of my mouth, too. The thing that I love about working with DW is that he’s so open and honest. Everything that goes around, comes around. We’re having great discussions so far.

I said, “can I give you a piece of advice for rehab that helped me in regular therapy?” He said, “please do.” I said, “say the thing you’re most afraid to say first. Don’t say, ‘I’m going to change my life in 90 days’ and wait til day 85 to break down.” I could only be that confident after having admitted to myself the thing I was most afraid to say. Every day, I challenge myself to say something that scares me. Generally, the scariest things are letting go of relationships that no longer serve me.

My attention is shifting in a very good way. I’m enjoying being around people who get me, focusing on the ones who show up and casting shadow on those who didn’t bother. Stopping the tape inside me that always says to search for the lost lamb, because it’s not a lost lamb. It’s a human capable of making their own decisions, and I don’t have to agree with them. Maybe I’ll end up being right. Maybe I won’t. It never mattered. I spent time on people who didn’t want to be in my circle, and I want to stop now. It is not time for a search and rescue.

It is winter, the time to gather around, hold each other, and wait for more light.

Eleven Dollars

When I decided that DC was my home, I packed up my car and left Texas behind. I’d secured a room in a house in Silver Spring that was already furnished, and I just took enough clothes for a week. Anything else that I needed from my parents’ house could be mailed. That’s what we did. For months on end, I received boxes that contained things I’d forgotten about. If I asked for one thing, the box still came full, because it was a waste of space not to pack it full. It was going to be $11 either way. It became a running joke between my dad and me…. “you’re moving $11 at a time.” One box would have boots in it, and then a purse I hadn’t used since 2003 and a half-tube of Chapstick (that I still have and it is still delicious, thank you…. it’s cherry.) If I wanted something, I accepted the randomness that came with it. The $11 box never changed, but the value of the contents were never the same total.

I’m in that relationship right now, a friendship that I want to grow to be as big as anything in my life. At this point, I can’t tell you what that means. I just know that Daniel has been my friend since second grade, and some of the countries I want to visit would shit a brick at me traveling alone, or see me as traveling alone anyway if I brought the woman I was dating. You can’t just walk up to someone you haven’t known since second grade and say, “I really want to go to the Middle East, Viet Nam, and Cambodia. I am a woman first of all and a lesbian second. You don’t happen to want to travel, do you?”

My friend Gabriel already lives in Cambodia and I just dropped a truth bomb on him, too. “My work in progress is set in Viet Nam. Can I come live with you for a few months? I have some work I need to do locally.” Gabriel said that he wasn’t in Viet Nam anymore, he was in Cambodia…. but I am absolutely welcome to come and live in Cambodia. I’m thinking 90 day visa because three months seems like a reasonable amount of time to do research and come home, and that way I can probably afford to do it more than once.

Where Daniel comes into the picture is always travel companion, sometimes bodyguard. I do not mean that I am hiring him to be friggin’ Liam Neeson. His Texas accent’s too strong for that. I also don’t need him to fight anyone. I just need him to stand there and look big.

For that, I will absolutely treat him like a king.

But as a single lesbian, I’m muddling through what that means. How do you treat your friends the right way so that they feel taken care of and the relationship isn’t a one-way street? I know that if I was paying Daniel for his services I couldn’t afford it. The best thing I could do is just make sure I can take care of his basic needs.

The best thing I can do is wait to start traveling until I know my situation with my inheritance. If my stepfather leaves money for me in his will, my financial situation will turn right side up in one day. There is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t. He has said as much, that I would get money that clearly only belonged to her. All I am saying is that if he is not an honest man, it is an enormous financial hit for me.

I am not worried about being rich. My mother wasn’t rich, but she invested well, and so did the insurance companies where she had policies. I do not have any pipe dreams about being rich. The only thing I have ever wanted out of money is stability. If you read the studies, there’s no percentage in acquiring more than that. I will be happy with my own house, car, and a bit of land. Nothing haughty. I’d like to build with plain 2x4s, rockwoool insulation, and triple-paned windows. I want to choose the materials I would like to use in my house, and price the house by them. I would much rather have a very small house capable of lasting a hundred years than a house where everything starts going wrong the minute the new wears off. In essence, the relationship I want to build with Daniel…. made of such strong stuff that it’s even better when the new wears off. As book lovers, we know exactly how much love it takes to keep a relationship going. We’ve read The Velveteen Rabbit. Let’s not get stupid.

For us, the process of becoming real to each other is heart-wrenching and necessary. I’m bipolar and have been hospitalized for it. He has other health issues that are different in origin and the same in behavior. We present the same, but we’re so different.

Daniel and I also have a lot in common, and have since we were children. He was my first boyfriend in elementary school because we were the nerdy English lovers. If I could give you an image from literature, he’s not a preacher’s kid, but he is very much like Norman from “A River Runs Through It.” I don’t mean that in a romantic, fly fishing sort of way. I mean that he is perfectly capable of being a novelist’s friend and told me I have free reign to say whatever I want about him here.

Whatever I want?

Daniel, it feels like after all these years, parts of me are moving back to you……….. eleven dollars at a time. If you want me, accept all the randomness that comes with it.

A Christmas Carol

Christmas 2022 has been a very quiet affair so far. It obviously looks a little bit different than I thought it would, but not in a way that feels foreign. Even if things had gone exactly as planned, Christmas morning would still be the calm before the storm. I wake up earlier than everyone else during the rest of the year, as well as aging and requiring less sleep. Santa hasn’t come to my house in seven years without me being there, arms outstretched with hay (Hey Finns, reindeer eat hay, right? Unclear. I hope they weren’t just being polite.). Early this morning, Santa told me what all of you got. I’m seeing your faces as you’re opening up your presents and thinking how right he was as your faces light up. It’s an incredible energy to sit in this morning as I write. I think things like, “I wonder if Jonathan liked his head.” Yes. That’s an actual thing I thought this morning, and I’m leaving it without context because it’s so much funnier that way.

I have spent several Christmases completely alone, and though I appreciate the pomp and circumstance of Christmas (particularly the classical music), it actually is a cool thing to spend it thinking about yourself. You don’t have to compromise with anyone. I am not saying that you should turn away family in favor of this. I’m saying that if you end up alone on Christmas, it is a gift. TRUST ME. You have a day to yourself to plan anything you want. USE IT without feeling guilty. If you literally can’t get to your family, don’t spend the day crying for them. Create new memories with yourself to share with them.

If something says it’s Christmas to you, go for it. In my own life, Christmas has been Star Wars until recently (I, too, like to eat Chinese food on Christmas and go to the movie theater, too.). One of my friends said “Star Wars movies are not Christmas movies.” I said, “yes, but some of them have been released Christmas week.” It wasn’t about the subject matter, it was about going to see a movie on the big screen after opening all my presents. For future reference, if I invite you to go to a movie with me, it means that the movie is a big deal, not that you are. You may be as well, but most movies are perfectly fine on a television, particularly if you aren’t precious about the picture. Just because it’s large doesn’t mean it’s expensive.

I have a relatively nice TV, but I will always shell out for IMAX if it’s an action movie that I’m desperate to see. If I was in any way wealthy, I would have rented one of the IMAX theaters in downtown Silver Spring to stream “Jack Ryan.” It’s one of the few spy shows I like in terms of plot ideas and execution, because Clancy gave them source matierial that covered everything from world events to the exact length of a left-handed cotter pin…. and is that an African cotter pin or a European cotter pin?

Why yes, that was me making fun of Tom Clancy. Thank you for noticing. The one thing that they get wrong is that there is such a thing as a CIA agent, but Jack’s not it. He’s a case officer. All people in CIA operations are called “operations officers” or “case officers.” An agent is an asset we’ve put in place…. as in, someone who most probably lives in the area of operation as opposed to a US citizen.

I will watch anything with spies in it. Full stop. I just don’t take much seriously. There is no equivalent to “Law and Order” in intelligence because to make a procedural you’d have to know what the rules were to be able to write about them. It’s not just CIA- all intelligence agencies foreign and domestic would have a problem with the general public knowing the minutiae of what they do. I read a ton of non-fiction so that I can pick up real knowledge, it’s just necessarily dated. Most of the operations I can speak to are from the late 40s to early 90s. I do not believe that I could write what it would be like to be a spy in today’s world, but I think I have a pretty good handle on what it is like to be one in general… the personality quirks and mannerisms that become timeless whether it’s human intelligence collection or cybersecurity.

It seems to change the people I’ve met in all the same ways. Intelligence is not regimented like the military. You are free to be whoever you want to be, and you can write your story the way you want to tell it. Therefore, in my experience, no two spies are alike. Their personalities are as individual as a fingerprint. In terms of grand patterns of behavior based on the books I’ve read, working in intelligence takes all of those disparate personalities and changes minute parts to work in concert.

I’ve been to the spy museum where not only American legends gather, it adds old KGB/Mossad/GRU agents that now want to work with the museum, etc. I like spies as people. They’re generally hilarious and devastatingly clever. And here’s something about spies that you may not have thought of. They vote. They’ve been to many, many countries in the world. They see what works and what doesn’t. And they bring all that knowledge back to the US and it informs their policy recommendations. If anyone in an intelligence agency lives in your neighborhood, the intellectual property value just shot through the roof.

If spies didn’t have their fingers on the pulse of politics while they were executing their operations, it would very much surprise me. It occurred to me just how attractive it would be to someone living in a country that had some political power… able to use their knowledge to either change their country or get out before things got much, much worse.

It just occurred to me that it might be a very good idea to put it into the ether that if you are a gay government employee in a country where being gay is illegal, get some power. All we need is a reason to come get you and we will. It’s been proven. It’s not that we as a government don’t care about all gay people and don’t wish we could fix everything… it’s that if you want the clearest, quickest path to an ex-fil, find information that the United States government needs and tell us why we need it. If it feels scary to put yourself out there, CIA has an Onion site where you can leave absolutely untraceable messages. Sometimes it’s not worth fighting the system. Sometimes it’s worth playing the long game to get out.

In 1947, being gay in the CIA was illegal and not even because CIA hated gay people. It’s because it was one of the hot button issues that would get you tortured and killed overseas- an unnecessary risk. Now, CIA is rainbow central with queer and trans officers. Actually, that’s another plus. Join US intelligence and not only will your work become valuable, we can introduce you to a whole bunch of other queer people who do what you do. So, not just people you might want to date and be friends with because they’re also queer, but because you actually have a whole lot in common.

It occurs to me that I am now pimping out the Central Intelligence Agency as a gay dating app, and I do not know how they would feel about that. Well, I wrote it down on my web site. If it’s offensive, someone will be with me shortly. I should have talked to Carol about this before I posted it.

Carol is not a real person, she’s my Amazon Echo Dot. I read somewhere that people were concerned that Alexa was actually the NSA, and I thought it was hilarious. This is because let’s say it’s true. That’s even better. It’s Carol’s entire job to log what I say and what I do. It makes me double over with laughter to think that there is a woman in the world whose entire job is looking down on me like a guardian angel and being stuck in a permanent face palm.

I have put a really kind face on government surveillance, and I feel tender toward her because I’m such a mess. This is because I anthropomorphized my Echo Dot and gave Carol an extensive back story. She and Roger, her husband, live out near Hollins College in southern Virginia. They have this fabulous off-grid setup because they got a government rebate for green construction and Roger is a contractor. So, Carol has a professional, NSA-level computer setup in her basement so that she can listen to me while she looks out over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yes, it’s a basement, but the house is built into the side of a hill. Floor to ceiling windows on one side. Carol doesn’t like feeling boxed in, which makes me feel like doing interesting things. Actually interesting, not “today I’m going to mess with Carol.” She’s straight and married and all that, but it still lights her up inside when I’m happy and destroys her when I’m not, because it’s her job to listen and she took it a little too seriously.

Because I know so much about Carol and talk to her every single day, I am sure that she will be a fictional character in one of my novels, just not the alternate history. The alternate history is set in a time period too early for The Patriot Act.

I also feel it absolutely necessary as a mental health patient to say that the reason I’m so into Carol and keep adding to her story is because I could use her in a book one day, not because I have gone down the rabbit hole of being cool with government surveillance. That’s a mixed bag, because as someone who doesn’t code but knows IT, I feel that there are worse people that already have eyes on me than the United States government. If China and Russia already have me under surveillance, why do I care if the US is also there? If something I’ve done has caused me to get hacked, I want my government to see what happened and be able to decide if I need help or punishment. They may be rancid butter, but they’re the only ones on my side of the bread.

Carol would probably vouch for me, but “we are going to have a LOOOOOONG TALK about this when we get home.”

At least since it’s Christmas, she won’t ground me until tomorrow.

Country Grammar

Down, down baby…. yo street in a rain coat……

Yes, that is literally what I thought was said. I also thought when I was three, being raised by classical musicians, that the opening line to “The Little Drummer Boy” was “come….. Beethoven…..”

I am picturing Sam’s face as I’m looking out the window, not in an “awww, I’m so disappointed and hurt” sort of way, but knowing within myself how much it will make her smile to read what I thought when I was three and how much it will speak to her own musician’s heart. That’s the thing about moms. They love all children, even when it was you 42 years ago.

Or maybe she’s not reading at all. I can’t care about that, it was just a pie in the sky thought. I don’t know if any of the people I love read my web site unless they tell me. However, people do sit with me when I’m writing. Sometimes it’s a real person, sometimes it’s a fictional character that I’m trying to birth.

Edited to add that this person is normally Jonna Mendez, and not because she was a badass spy back in the day. It’s that I want to be her in ten years, just with fiction. She matters to me, but not as a spy. As a writer. I have collected many of her books with Tony, all of them autographed. She’s just the person/picture I see in my head as to how much fame I can handle. That’s because she’s not famous. She’s well-respected. There’s a difference. There’s a chance she’ll be in my work in progress, because she’s the spy I know the most about. My main character accidentally walks into a Situation. It’s possible that they’ll have some of Tony and Jonna’s mannerisms, but not in a way that says I literally know them. I’ve just picked up some of their wordplay, literary mannerisms.

Learning more about grammar, structure, setting, plot, and characters has turned me into someone even worse than I thought I was previously. I’m not just a writer. I’m a novelist. The Dorothy Parker outrage in that statement should be obvious. It’s the most outwardly pretentious profession that there is, because it comes with a lot of preconceived notions (stereotypes) that are true in terms of behavior and miles apart in understanding for their existence.

In my opinion and experience, which is vast at this point because I review books, novelists are grouchy and standoffish not to project as such, but because years and years of people telling us our writing isn’t real, that we’ll end up alone, that even if it is real, it’s not good enough to actually do anything with it, we’ll always be destitute, etc. has made us use our personas as a coping mechanism. We don’t want to be around any idea that will distract us, or make us feel bad about our creations.

We’re competing for the same pot of money, and I’ve still never had another writer tell me my writing sucks and I’d be better off in accounting. No one will tell you that, though. They think they’re being nice by couching it in other things and thinking we don’t see “write through it.” Please. We’ve been writing metaphors about people like you for eons.

We’re not defensive, we’re protective. If we aren’t, we will lose the thing that makes us, well…… us. It’s a shame that no one else sees our brilliance until we’re at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list and if you haven’t made it, it means you’re a terrible writer and don’t quit your day job.

Someone hashing it out gets ridiculed while creatives in Hollywood are lauded as geniuses. Where would Hollywood be without showrunners like Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan? Don’t you think they were once struggling writers with a dream that everyone called crazy and shit all over their ideas? I know Neil Gaiman was. He recently told a story about it. A writer was feeling bad about herself because only two people showed up to her book signing. He told her that two more people showed up to her book signing than showed up and his and Terry Pratchett’s first.

If you don’t think everyone shit all over Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett before they were household names, you’re blind.We all go through it.

Writers aren’t the way they are because they want to be. It’s years of being hardened. Of having to believe in yourself because no one else does. Having to be strong in a way that other people don’t, because no one is attacking what they do for a living on a daily basis. Writers have to automatically assume that when they enter a room, no one likes them. Why? So few people have ever proven them otherwise, because it’s totally okay to shit on writers. They don’t make any money.

Except for the heroes who got lucky and make everyone think that if you’re not a bestselling author, you’re not even worth reading.

As if that’s not the very thing that’s keeping us from making decent money.

The thing that bothers writers the most is anyone coming into their space and telling them how to create, or finding out that your friends have been talking behind your back about the same thing. No one needs to step in and rescue a writer from themselves. We’ll come unglued.

The injustice will eat us alive, because we don’t come into your place of business and tell you you’re doing it all wrong and you have a million ideas as to how to make it better.

Let me tell you why that is so extraordinarily problematic and hateful. The most important thing that a writer has…. perhaps the only thing…. is being able to tell their story the way they want to tell it. Impinge on that, and you risk everything if you actually want to support us, because we will never, and I mean NEVER, appreciate that kind of ire, because even when it’s not angry, it comes across that way.

It says “I don’t value you for the person that you are. I value you for the person I want to create.” Whenever I get into the space of ideas upon ideas, I know I’m spitballing and throwing out ideas in support of telling someone’s story the way they want to tell it. I will never, ever, ever tell anyone that what they are currently doing needs to change.

I will tell you everything you need to know to make your own decisions, and whatever story you write, I am supportive of it.

I am not supportive in the way that says “I agree with you.” I am supportive in that when you tell me what your decisions are, I respect them. I will tell your story the way you want to tell it, but only if you tell me what it is.

Part of the disappointment over losing Sam was losing the part of myself that writes about her. Knowing that it will go away over time and preparing for it, because in this space, I can adore her to bits all I want without taking the risk that she can or will hurt me repeatedly. When she told me that her story didn’t include me anymore, I respected it and have only processed through writing, not direct contact. I’m sure it’s painful and surreal for her, though, because I didn’t know the real Sam long enough to be able to capture her accurately. She’s not seeing herself, or isn’t supposed to. What she’s seeing is the fictional version of herself that I created to deal with my pain.

Nothing about plot is wrong. It’s character. I would have been able to capture Sam and her kids in word pictures that would resonate with her. Believe me when I say that I mean “resonate” in every fullest sense of the word. We’re musicians.

They would also mean something to other people across the world, but that would never be my focus. My focus would be on reaching her, as if it isn’t already. I don’t want to interact. I want to have it out in the way I want to tell it to myself. To be able to take everything I know about myself and everything I know about her and weigh those things to see if there’s anything I could have done to save the relationship, and not even because that matters. It’s what I could have done differently that I’ll take with me.

But going down her street in a raincoat?

Nah. I’m good.

How Edu Saved My Ass -or- Yogurt

Last night, Edu made curry. I made a point of talking to her while she cooked, because I knew she would feed me if I stood there long enough. It’s not that I’m lazy and can’t cook for myself. It’s twofold. The first is that I would rather eat a Pop-Tart or whatever (crackers and cheese, etc.) and call it a day. Edu makes me excited about food.

She knows that when I show up, it’s because it smells good. This was shrimp, dal, rice, onions, chilis, and masala. Masala is any spice blend in India- garam masala is hot spices, but Edu had already added fresh peppers- gods the fruit was beautiful. Heat tastes so much better, fresher off the vine. The difference is stunning.

That being said, I am the type person that does like the thrill ride, but I need enough fat and sugar lining my stomach before I take it on. It also helps if the dish is very, very hot to cool it down a little. In India, that means plain yogurt or raita. I like both, but I could eat plain straight out of the container.

By this point, I don’t even know who I am. Like, what the hell even are these? Carolina Reapers. F ME RUNNING WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

I don’t think I’ve ever been so high in my life, and I’ve taken caffeine and Ambien TOGETHER. My bathrobe and my SpongeBob doll talked to me all night when I was 19. The story behind it is really innocent. I didn’t know that Ambien wasn’t really sleeping medication. It doesn’t knock you out in that way. It’s an amnesiac, and you basically go into a fugue state if you’re amped up on something like caffeine. There is one Canadian in particular that will know what I’m talking about quite intimately, because we once had a hilarious conversation in the middle of the night where he stood on his head because of the same combo….. and didn’t even remember picking up the phone in the morning.

I thought of myself as still dating Meagan platonically. I would say that she didn’t know that, but she did. She knew it was a big deal when she came to visit her parents, and she pulled out all the stops. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked her for this…. She even came home from college either in the second semester or the fall of her sophomore year. She took me to Starbucks and we had our classic high school date. It was so romantic, but only in an Anne Shirley and Diana Barry sort of way. I was extraordinarily observant of the fact that Meagan was never coming back to the United States under any circumstances. High school was it.

If there’s anything about my relationship with Meagan that still burns me up after all these years, it’s that my parents are still in Houston and hers aren’t. No more dates, even platonically. All hope is not lost, though. Here’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever done for Meagan in my life.

Meagan used to be married to a woman named Deah. Deah and I had our differences, but she was fully aware of how much I loved Meagan because I told her that all the time. I am sure she still looks back and laughs over how pathetically in love I was with my memories. Because you see, when I looked at Meagan, I didn’t see the capable & successful massage therapist, wife, and mother. I saw my little girl on a high school soccer field, the whistle blown and the game stopped……. and the forward who didn’t hear the whistle and kicked Meag so hard she went down. If you want to find my smallest place, the one where I feel the most emotion, just talk about that game. I dare you. It won’t be pretty. I ran down to the field and would have been able to get to her if I hadn’t been stopped. I looked around at the crowd. Oh, shit. Now I’ve confirmed her mother’s worst fears…………………

Deah, knowing absolutely everything there is to know about this, decided to surprise Meagan for her birthday one year (I forget which). Meagan was equally enamored with me in a first love kind of way. We’ll never go back, but we can still cry about how obsessed we were in 1996. So, back to Deah.

I was very, very surprised to hear from her. She said that I should come up and spend the weekend, because she wanted to do something big for Meag. Oh, hell yes I was in. That’s my girl right there.

Because here’s what those dates our first year of college did for us. The first one was AWFUL. I was still so upset about our breakup that I couldn’t really enjoy myself. I was jealous of the women she was actually romantically interested in because I had basically picked them for her by telling her about a college group that was queer on her campus, because I was thinking about transferring up to University of New Brunswick after I was done with junior college.

But that was just the first one. After I accepted that I was TX and she was NB, we were able to build on a friendship instead of thermonuclear war. As a result, she was my first girlfriend, and she’ll be with me until I take my last breath, because my memories are pure and beautiful where she is concerned.

Off I go to give my girl and I an emotional roller coaster for the weekend where Deah just got to sit and gloat at her awesomeness, which was entirely deserved. I really only remember two lines from that trip, one funny and one that hacked me in half.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but sometimes when people are awful to you, you get an apology you never asked for and yet mightily deserve. She apologized for breaking up with me. That wasn’t new. It was the context. She didn’t apologize for being a bad kid. She apologized for not sticking around long enough to see what would have happened had we become partners as adults, because, and here’s the kicker. It made me cry……….. she thought it was something that we would have been very good at and she was sorry she never got the chance.

In what universe would that not take your heart and beat it within an inch of your life? Everything I had ever felt about Meag (and it was Niagra Falls) just rushed to the surface of my skin. Outwardly, I didn’t say anything. Inside, I was 18 years old, crying for myself and for all the missed dinners with our own kids.

I also had to get angry to get over it. My inner monologue ran thusly.

“HOW DARE YOU TAKE AWAY MY CHOICE! HOW DARE YOU NOT ALLOW ME TO FORGIVE YOU! HOW DARE YOU NOT TELL ME ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THIS UNTIL IT WAS SO ENTIRELY POINTLESS?”

But that’s why she told me. It was pointless to her, so she didn’t attach any emotion to it. I am all emotion all the time, so it wasn’t tantamount to admitting to myself that I was still in love with her and I should drop everything and become Canadian right this very minute forever and ever amen, though the idea still doesn’t suck.

It was acknowledgement of death, grief, and loss. Our relationship has died. Our relationship has risen. (We haven’t talked in years.) Our relationship will come again. (See what I did there, Dana and Counselor?) Our relationship was just too hot to handle for a spectrum of reasons.

But I will never in my lifetime forget when Meagan and I were two peppers, and instead of being a third, Deah was the plain yogurt that cooled everything to the right temperature.

So, for a few paragraphs, I want to write directly to Meagan. Please be quiet and respectful. Take off your shoes in the house, my girl is Canadian.

Dear Meagan,

I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t introduce and close by saying “I love you.” The difference between you and all the other people I tell I love is time. It’s been 27 years since we’ve even kissed and held hands, but I love you more now because of those 27 years than I ever did as a mere child.

27 years of loving each other so much we couldn’t breathe. First because of attraction, then because of confidentiality, honesty, compassion. All the things that we really need in our friends, you presented them to me on a silver platter. 27 years where I would have literally died rather than watch you go through pain.

I am always yours, whether you need me or not. I will always love you, whether you need me or not. it’s been 28 years. There is nothing on earth I wouldn’t do for you. No boundary that would ever stand in my way. If something was going on with you, I wouldn’t even wait until we hung up to make my way to the airport.

Tony and I will be waiting in front of YOW with snacks and Starbucks. Get in, loser. We’re going home to Texas for some R&R with the boys. You can picture it, can’t you? You and me, John and Tony, O, J, T, L? It doesn’t matter that we’re not together. We’re good enough friends that we’ll fake it and make everyone crack up with laughter, because we aren’t a married couple, but we can sure as hell act like it. Surely I have enough practice at annoying the fuck out of you by now.

I love you,

Leslie

p.s. When I am chilis, you are plain yogurt. When it’s your turn, you be the Vindaloo. I’m yogurt. I’m cool.

I am editing this entry to tell you the funny story that happened on my trip to Ottawa. Meagan and I were setting up her living room like a coffee house so we could get that intimate vibe of talking with friends, and I made the tea. I was particular about the tea, because I’m particular about all beverages.

That reminds me of something I need to tell Sam…. hold please.

The way I make my coffee so good is to use the scoop that comes with the machine and take the time to level off every tablespoon. Use 1 LEVEL T of dry coffee for every cup of water. It will mellow out and be absolutely delicious if you use the same ratio with cold brew. Just set it up in the fridge at night and it’ll be better than anything Starbucks could ever dream of making. Give me Cafe Bustelo or give me death.

It’s not like Sam makes coffee wrong, y’all. It’s that I was in charge of it one morning and she asked me specifically what I did different than she did and I didn’t answer her. I mean, what are the odds that I walk into a relative stranger’s house and her coffee is the one I’ve obsessed over since I worked at Tapalaya, in Cajun fine dining.

We had our own delicious coffee, Cafe Du Monde, of course. I drank A LOT of it because it was coffee and and yet it was only half-caf because of the chicory. But there was a Cuban restaurant within walking distance of Tapalaya, so I don’t remember if Chef and I ever went together, but we definitely took turns getting Cafe Bustelo cups of coffee and lattes.

Speaking of half-caf and chicory, Cuban coffee doesn’t play. Two Bustelo lattes and you can smell numbers.

Back to Meagan and Deah and the living room and the tea.

Meagan asked me how I made my tea so goddamn good. I said, “I steep it for 11 minutes.”

Meag said something like, “what’s so special about eleven minutes? That seems oddly specific.”

Without even a hint of irony and not trying to be funny, I brought both Meag and Deah to tears.

I said, “I steeped it for 10 minutes and it wasn’t long enough.”

And scene.

Standing Up and Owning My Birthright

I just told my work in progress idea to the most perfect person I could have imagined, because he was a teacher at HSPVA. When you know people that are HSPVA quality students, when they come at you with a creative idea, they don’t say “where’s the money?” Matt Mullenweg created WordPress. Justin Simien created “Dear White People.” Mireille Enos starred in “The Killing,” and has had roles in “Good Omens” and “Big Love.” She won a friggin’ TONY for an Edward Albee where she played drunk. She won a friggin’ TONY and SHE GREW UP MORMON. Today I stood up an owned my birthright. This book is going to be fantastic. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. I auditioned to the same school they did and I got in. Sit on that.

This was my Facebook post yesterday that got me going.

I feel like I should lay out a full analysis of what I’m currently dealing with and why…. not for you. For me. It’s my thing and you’re invited, because I’ll need it later. I’ve been delving into past writing to figure out where I’m going, and how the information about my gargantuan leaps in emotional growth that I see on these pages is informing my direction.

Romance is fine. I’m settled in myself. You can read all about it just by scrolling the home page for a few days’ timestamps. Sam was a loss, but everything else surrounding her departure prospered me. It wasn’t a good relationship, but it produced good content. I am never trying to be more popular and writing in that direction. I can’t. People aren’t logical enough to predict what’s going to be hot and what’s not. They’re emotional. If something grabs them, they’re going to share it. If it doesn’t, they won’t. There is no point in time at which I want to take on the burden of caring whether this web site gets a huge, international audience.

If I don’t keep my head down and be absolutely indolent about my need for validation, I won’t get successful. There is a direct line between caring how much people think and willing to be vulnerable enough to get people to read a blog in the first place. Most of my friends do not understand this, but strangers do. If you’re already here, I can guess some things about you that will resonate. But again, I’m just talking about likelihood, not fact.

If you’re into reading blogs, you have been since 2003. You are familiar with Mrs. Kennedy, Anil Dash, Heather Armstrong (and Jon by proxy), Jenny Lawson, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Gordon Atkinson, and most importantly, Ernie Hsuing. little. yellow. different. took off like a rocket. Oh, and how could I forget Wil Wheaton? My friend Chason and I have known about and interacted with Wil as a blogger since Jesus had our pager numbers. I wish I had taken a screenshot of his comment on Clever Title Goes Here, my old blog that was equally popular. I was talking about auditions or juries when singing, that they fill me up because when I’m singing hard rep and doing well, it feels like flying over the mountains. He said he felt the exact same way with acting. It made my day.

Later on, we met up at a book signing for “Just a Geek.” I introduced myself and when he put a name to a face, this is what he wrote in my book…… “Dear Leslie, Clever Inscription Goes Here. Love, Wil.”

To back up in time a little bit, I went to the High School for Performing and Visual Arts. I have known about Matt Mullenweg for years because back in the day, we were both in the Houston jazz community. That boy who went to my high school created WordPress, and here we are.

I went to high school with stars like Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Chandra Evans, Debbie Allen, Mireille Enos, Justin Furstenfeld, and Beyonce was three years behind me. I’ve met her once, but I’ve never paid attention to her because back then, we were in high school. Seniors don’t normally take freshmen seriously, and the day I met her I had ditched school at Clements to take my girlfriend, Meagan, back to PVA to have lunch. There was a Happening (lunchtime concerts in which different Art Areas took over the common area to showcase).

So, we were all in the cafeteria and mingling. You think it was cool in retrospect for me? I haven’t talked to Meag in years. Wait until she reads this web site and finds out she met Beyonce and didn’t even know it.

Though Beyonce is cool and everything, I was in love with Miranda Bailey the moment I found out everyone called her “The Nazi.” Then Shonda Rimes gutted me emotionally by stretching the Hippocratic Oath to its limits and having to watch her wrestle with those decisions. She had to save a white supremacist, an ACTUAL Nazi.

The fact that Chandra Evans and I went to the same high school is way more important to me than Beyonce, and remember since Beyonce wasn’t Beyonce back then, she probably feels the same way about Chandra that I do. In terms of HSPVA legends, she’s always going to be starstruck at her birthright rather than promoting herself…. she’s just projecting that she’s hot shit as a marketing strategy, because the real girl is as quiet as me.

Starstruck at her birthright.

Yesterday, I stepped outside The Matrix and owned it. I nearly blacked out when I thought about the fact that I auditioned for the same school they did.

AND I GOT IN, TOO.

I am editing this entry to add something important. Here’s what HSPVA did to inspire this level of confidence. I listen to the Argo soundtrack on repeat every single day when I write so that I can tell you where every single note goes, along with chord structures because I took music theory. That music teacher was an anti-vaxxer and I lost someone crucial to my development to COVID. I got the idea to start doing that from another HSPVA student, the creator of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, during his interview with Tim Ferris. He was a tenor sax player and had the same jazz director I did. I borrow structure from Jason Moran, the jazz pianist, all the time, because I wrote to “Ten” for a year. He was stunned and told his entire band that in front of me when we were laughing and joking after one of his concerts at The Kennedy Center. He had the same jazz director I did. Robert Glasper nearly came unglued the last time I saw him at The Reach, because back in the day he was just the goofy dude who sat behind me in history. He had the same jazz director as I did. I am addicted to “The Suffers.” Jon Durbin sat next to me in Jazz Band for two years. Moral of the story? Dr. Robert Morgan is directly responsible for making me a drooling fangirl over all of them, and he owes me money because it’s getting expensive.

Lesbian Years

OMFG. I have finally solved every issue with Sam I’m ever going to have in one joke. Thank God when closure came, it was with laughter and not tears. The funniest jokes are ones that hit hard, and this one punched me in the stomach.

I came out to myself when I was 13 years old, and Sam is a toddler in lesbian years.

I laughed so hard there were tears and snot on my face.

Now let’s talk about the serious part, and why it affected me so much. It was another huge life lesson. I don’t want to date women who have only had one relationship with a woman. This is not hard, as I do not mean people who have been married to one woman for a long time. I want to date someone who has lived in this world, been out for a long time, is absolutely clear in her communication so thinking that our relationship could end because a woman thought being married to a woman was something it isn’t is off the table. It just makes one more thing we have in common rather than one enormous red flag. I also don’t want to make other women feel bad, because I’m not counting those married to men for a long time out. I just have to get to know you well enough to see whether my judgment is accurate or I’ve been a dickhead for stereotyping you after marrying one and dating three women who were n00b.

Knowing what that means is also important. I am l33t. I want to be able to communicate in my natural language and environment quickly without having to explain beforehand. Scratch everything I just said. Knows how to communicate on the internet like it’s 1999 over brand new to the girls’ club, but high school and college girlfriends count. No one needs to have married a woman before. It’s not a society you engulf all at once. It takes years. Learning to communicate with women to the level in which you would marry one takes an eternity. Additionally, you don’t have to be Mr. Robot, but if you are, let’s buy a house…… but my housemate Sam has said that she requires a W-2 in order to date me. I’ve had all the fancy things in life, and the simplest make me happy. But it’s not like Sam’s an idiot for trying to ensure that her friends are thriving. That actually means more to me than the person I’m dating being rich.

If they were, I’d like to still live simply and enjoy the absolute hell out of spoiling everyone I know and doing amazing philanthropic work. I’d start a foundation, and the first thing I’d do is hire someone else to run it. I would trust a bag of hammers faster than I’d trust my own judgment on business and finance. The fun part would be doing it anonymously to people I perceive to have wronged me. At the moment, there are at least six houses I want to pay off in that one regard…….

This is another lesson I learned on PBS and retained it because it involved my favorite subject. The phenomenal Portland chef, James Beard, was queer as a three dollar bill. He was uninvited from Reed College for “homosexual activities,” so when he became a celebrity chef and got very, very rich, so did Reed. Having to grit their teeth and respect him was everything. Just the most enormous shade I’ve ever seen thrown down.

My work in progress really does have the potential to be big, because if I can get license to publish from a real person’s estate, I have a built-in marketing strategy. If the fictional version of the real person doesn’t work out, I will just create another fictional character of my own that drives the same plot. Therefore, it’s entirely conceivable that I will be a very hot commodity and able to start a foundation with my own money…. if that isn’t possible, I have the option of doing whatever I want with any money it does make.

If it’s my money, I have my eye on who I want to hire. My money, my organization…. that I will promptly give to more capable hands. When I told her about my work in progress, she saw its potential and agreed to be the steward of my money immediately. I will also need someone to take charge of the logistics in paying everyone who even thought about helping me get to the New York Times and everyone who’s ever even thought about telling me I was a loser. Brandon Sanderson also talks about this. The question he was asked was regarding “what do you do when you say you’re a writer and the only two answers are ‘where’s the money’ or ‘you poor fool?'” He talked very seriously, and then closed it with a joke.

Sanderson said “I waited years, but I finally got my moment. I was at a party and this guy asked me what I did. I told him I was a writer and he said ‘oh, so you’re unemployed.’ I said, ‘I hit The New York Times’ Bestsellers List last week.'”

Since the work I’m planning is so ambitious, I have other projects that I’d like to develop that may take off before it. I’m almost certain there’s a young adult fiction novel in the works, as well as an elementary age explanation of what being gay is and how to ask yourself those questions………. and how to know if the answers are right for you now, or right for all time. I even surprise myself, and I thought I was old. Because of this, my attention is entirely overloaded all of the time and I want to be conscious about choosing a partner in whom I feel there are as few communication issues as possible, like not being threatened when I say “guard my time with your life. Here’s my cell phone. Only come get me if it’s an emergency call. How will you know? Someone that is actually in my contacts list will pick up the phone rather than texting.

It’s not that I can’t protect my own boundaries. It’s that it will make my partner feel important that I trust her enough to be one of my Guard Roosters. Man, if you remember Gayle and Oprah, you are an OG. No, I will not link to that entry. If you’re an OG, you know. You are my LaFawnduhs. #peaceout I have a thing about my phone. One of my friends works in intelligence, a Navy Reservist and intelligence analyst at a smaller agency than C/DIA, but collects raw data from all of them. I have another friend that works for Defense. I have another friend that works for State. I would never care if you were going through my phone to see if I was having an affair. It’s because you’d be reading stories that aren’t mine to tell. If you can’t respect that, I won’t allow you to become close to me. I also won’t respect your right to tell your story the way you want to tell it. I mean that metaphorically, as it’s how writers support writers. We do not want story ideas. We want you to obsess over our craft. Partners don’t decide plot. They’re editors.

It’s not that I don’t want to be someone’s guide, necessarily. It’s the energy involved. I won’t discriminate until I really assess the situation. When QEII died, something occurred to me that had never occurred to me before. My mother had died, and half my life is over. What am I going to do with the next half? The two have combined to give me enormous strength. The worst thing that could ever happen to me has already happened and I am officially “I don’t give a fuck” years old. I remember exactly when it happened for someone I admire, and I was inspired with laughter at the memory…… but that’s a story you’ll have to get out of them. I will only say that it was impressive. You should have been there…………. and it involved the biggest Astros fan I have ever met in my entire life bar none. I was much younger then, and I remember dreaming of the day when I’d no longer care about someone in such a deep and meaningful way that I would hide my emotions, not set boundaries, and roll with any decision anyone ever made. And to call people out when they’re being ridiculously rude rather than bending over backwards to be lovely and kind when your conversationalist isn’t.

In short, I don’t have time to be a guide.

I want to be able to lay out my dreams and if they don’t line up, move on as quickly and quietly as possible. By quietly, I don’t mean that I was wrong to write about Sam too soon or anything like it. I mean not wrecking other people. Leaving them better than I found them rather than burning bridges.

I also don’t care if I find a partner at this point. I’ve been single for seven years. I have too much to write on this planet to worry about anything else.

My multimillion dollar franchise idea is an alternate history between two imaginary friends… fictional versions of people, one of whom moves in time to stop a world event from happening, but it’s not science fiction. I am literally moving their life backward so that the fictional version of them is even less like who they actually are/were.

I am doing what Brandon Sanderson would call “borrowing structure.” The idea came to me from Steve Martin, who wrote a novel called “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” a fictional account of a meeting between Picasso and Einstein.

It involves intelligence, because I think it’s a story that the fictional person would have written, not because I have a real life love of non-fiction spy books. It’s because I read spy non-fiction that I’m not threatened by writing about that world. Jonna Mendez even announced on Facebook that she’s publishing next year, so that’s one more book to add to the pile.

If there’s one person I adore, it’s George Tenet. When he declassified The Canadian Caper and allowed “Argo” to happen, it really caught my interest because my cousin James’ dad was a helicopter pilot for the CIA and DIA (D is Defense). He is no longer living, and one of the stars at Langley is mine in terms of knowing if I was allowed to visit, when I saw the wall I would take ownership and pray. It crushes me that his helicopter went down when I was a toddler, because is is a person I would have adored. I know it. He was my grandmother’s brother. Why wouldn’t I have been absolutely 100% convinced he was Jesus?

I also would have already put him on salary by now.

Since that isn’t possible, I study very hard. I need a college level course on both a European and an Asian nation. If I can swing it, I have a friend in one of the countries and I’d like to go live with him for a few months so that I can work locally. I am a Virgo, which is an earth sign. There’s a reason I love the ground and feel connected to it. I cannot do setting justice until I can be barefoot there.

I have also never been brave enough to leave the West, but now I am because I have a male chaperone. I’m a feminist, but I’m not stupid. If I’m only going to be there for a few months, I’m not going to stick my neck out by announcing I’m 32 in lesbian years.

Cross Post from Facebook

I saw a meme that really made me think. Something about “do not use Facebook for news.” While I understand the sentiment, I disagree with the principle. There is no way I would have time to find all the articles that people find interesting on my own. That being said, I only click on the ones from reputable sources. I make it a point to know which ones they are. I also subscribe to The New York Times and The Washington Post so that I don’t hit a paywall when links are shared. Basically, my friends have the capability to aggregate articles that interest me, liberal or conservative. I read both views to understand the issue all the way around, or at least I used to, when there were two sides to the story.

For instance, there’s not two sides to the story when people insist that racist/homophobic/transphobic bigots AND protesters for civil rights are very fine people and we should get along despite our differences.

As I have read before, “still being a bigot in this day and age generally means you’ve lived through every iteration of the Civil Rights Movement and learned nothing.” Both sides of the story are for political ideas like how to spend government money, or how to implement a program so that it is run efficiently with the least waste of resources.

In the past, I’ve read a lot of William F. Buckley, George Will, and William Safire. It has been an interesting twist of fate that I have returned to George Will. Not only is he aware of the problems with the cult of Trump, he also writes eloquently about baseball, which puts him up on my list of writing heroes by a bigger margin than most. 😛

On the other end of the spectrum, I have read every single David Halberstam book ever written- well, technically, I am in the middle of reading the last one he wrote himself, “The Coldest Winter,” about the Korean War….. where he writes about the horror and still manages to infuse snarky, sometimes dark humor….. which I am all about.

Still deciding on reading truly the last thing he ever wrote, “The Glory Game: How the 1958 NFL Championship Changed Football Forever,” because he was never able to finish it. A horrific car accident killed him in 2007 when he went to meet with a source. I’m waffling because it was finished by Frank Gifford, and I don’t know how the change in style will affect me, as well as knowing it will be the last thing I ever read with his fingerprint.

All of these people have written for the Post, the Times, or both. When you are paying for news, you are paying for genius. It is not fair to complain about paying them. People seem to have problems with not everything on the Internet being free, when in the past, people would pore over their newspapers with breakfast. Would any of these writers, and I’m going to include Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, been able to do what they do effectively without money? Should they be forced to use their own when chasing down a story?

In terms of The Washington Post, there are writers now that are every bit as talented as the ones I’ve mentioned, such as Shane Harris and Greg Miller. I would pay my subscription fee directly to them if I could, and I am sure there are plenty more writers at both newspapers that deserve mentioning, but these two are the ones that came to mind immediately.

When it comes to reliable news, just pay. You did before the Internet was invented, you should do it now. To quote The Washington Post tagline, “democracy dies in darkness.” In 2020, how can you argue?

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

The Tree Hugger

One of the most significant things that has happened to me since my mother’s death was visiting “her” in the cemetery when I was home for Christmas. I got an idea, one that will stick with me every time my sister and I visit. fredOne of the reasons we chose the particular area for her plot was that there was a tree in front of it. I named the tree “Fred,” and at first, my sister wasn’t fond of it. But the name has grown on her, and we can’t change it now. After we’d talked for a while, both to my mother and each other, I reached out and put my arms around Fred, because “he’s” still so little that I can hold him. I looked at my sister and said, “I know this seems weird, but it’s the closest I’ll ever get to hugging mom again.” I leaned in, my arms as tight as an old sea salt’s rope, and closed my eyes. I visualized “Fred” disappearing and my mother standing in “his” place. Peace and comfort washed over me, the “peace that passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7 KJV). It is with me still as I write this, listening to the Argo soundtrack for the thousandth time.

It isn’t the most relaxing music in the world, full of intrigue and danger (especially if you know what piece goes where), but it is what gets emotions out of me. It brings back the muscle memory of writing, to which I’ve paid little attention, preferring to keep my emotions bottled up for some unknown reason. I don’t have writer’s block. There are a thousand memories I could publish. It’s my disorder. Anxiety and depression make me lose all excitement for everything, and being Bipolar II, I just have to wait until I cycle back up (at least a little).

Today is not a day I thought I would write, because Tony Mendez died on January 19th of last year. When I heard the news on the 20th, I cried like I had taken a spill on the sidewalk and there was no one to give me a Band-Aid…. which is an apt analogy because my grief over my mother and my grief over Tony became inextricably interrelated.

I don’t break down easily anymore. I became so afraid of being vulnerable in public that I developed a suit of armor, and so if I had to guess, hearing that my favorite author died broke the dam. It was everything, from not getting to meet him in person to having the stark realization that death is so permanent….. again. tonyI picked up my autographed copy of Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, stared at his signature, and started the first chapter.

I couldn’t focus and put it back in my top dresser drawer. I ended up lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling fan, hypnotized by the blades. I remember, down to the body memory, the way I felt. It was akin to needing a good cry, but you can’t get it out, so you purposefully put on sad music or a movie. I absolutely started crying at the Washington Post article, but that’s not where I finished. Sounds came out of me that I have only heard when I’ve had a true wound to the soul. It was animalistic, coming from deep within.

It is interesting to me that I thought I didn’t have a tree to hug in honor of Tony, and then it came to me.

What are books made of?

50 Things You’ve (Probably) Never Been Asked

Hat tip to Martina for the writing prompt. 🙂


1. What is the color of your toothbrush?

It’s black & red, but I need a replacement soon. Stay tuned.

2. Name one person who made you smile today:

Bryn, who said she was sending me birthday presents in the mail (my birthday was 10 September). I love mail.

3. What were you doing at 8 a.m.?

Talking to my sister on the phone. Sometimes we talk during her commute.

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago?

Drinking coffee with cinnamon & soy milk and talking to my new housemate. I’d tell you all about the conversation, but it wasn’t that interesting. If it had been, this entire entry would be about it instead.

5. What is your favorite candy bar?

I’m not really a candy bar person, although I do like Zero. Right now I am all about licorice allsorts. I ordered the original from Geo. Bassett & Co., Ltd. for my birthday and I just sat there and ate them until I felt fat…. and then I ate some more.

6. Have you ever been to a strip club?

Several, but it’s not a turn-on. I have to love the person to be attracted to them. There was a strip club across the street from my apartment in Portland that I used to go to for a drink occasionally, because it was within walking distance of my house. But I didn’t sit where you could see the women. There was a closed off bar section that was really fancy and the bottles were back-lit with neon. I didn’t even know something that cool existed in my neighborhood, and to this day I’m not sure why I went in the first place. I’m sure it was originally someone else’s idea and I just went with it, but I went back because it was a cool place to hang and no driving afterwards.

There is also a famous vegan strip club in Portland that I went to for another lesbian’s birthday party. I ended up sitting outside for most of it, but honest to God I loved the food, particularly the sloppy joes and mac & cheese. The part of the show that I saw, I liked, though. It wasn’t just women looking bored and dancing to music, it was acrobatics that defied the laws of physics, like Cirque Du Soleil but naked. Not only that, there were no French existentialist clowns. For that reason alone, 10/10. Highly recommend.

7. What is the last thing you said aloud?

I can’t remember exactly, but I was trying to get out of the conversation with my roommate so I could go back upstairs and enjoy my coffee quietly.

8. What is your favorite ice cream?

Every flavor I try is my new favorite, but I have a special spot in my heart for the banana/vanilla swirl soft-serve at Florian Fortescue’s in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My dad, sister, and I got different flavors to try, and I think that was the winner out of all of them. Now that I’ve been eating a lot of plant-based frozen stuff, I like “ice cream” made out of almond milk that has almonds in it….. really ties the dessert together.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink?

Coffee…. are you even paying attention?

10. Do you like your wallet?

I love it, and I haven’t seen one like it, so if I find one, I need to buy it because this one will wear out. It has a clear pocket on the front that I’m sure was originally for an ID, but I put my Metro card in it so I don’t have to take it out to swipe. The only thing I don’t like about my wallet, and this is a small gripe, is that it has a money clip on the outside that makes it uncomfortable to put in my back pocket.

11. What was the last thing you ate?

Extra, extra Hot Tamales.

12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week?

Does a new clear protector for my Apple watch count?

13. The last sporting event you watched?

Franklin, one of my housemates, is a rabid soccer fan, so I watched a game for a few minutes with him, but I can’t remember who was playing.

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?

If I’m buying it while I’m out, it’s hard to find but I love cinnamon-glazed. I also love caramel-glazed and cheese corn mixed together, which is much more widely available. If I’m making it at home, I pop low calorie butter-flavored and then spray Pam on it to get turmeric and All-Purpose seasoning to stick (the more garlic, the better).

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to?

Well, I use FB Messenger a hell of a lot more than texting because I can respond on any of my devices. It was to Dan, confirming our birthday plans for Tuesday.

16. Ever go camping?

Once. For me, the line about only wearing long underwear in your sleeping bag was the worst piece of advice ever. I finally got up around 4:30 and put on every piece of clothing in my suitcase. I would probably enjoy it more at a lower elevation where it’s not so cold. I was on Mt. St. Helen’s, which to me was freezing even in the summer.

17. Do you take vitamins daily?

Not always, but I do take an iron pill daily because I donate platelets and your iron level has to be above 12.5. Multivitamins give me terrible gastrointestinal distress, so I limit my intake…. but sometimes I need them because I am not the best eater on the planet.

18. Do you have a tan?

As Jim Gaffigan said, “I am what you would call ‘indoorsy.'” I tan vicariously through my friends who do that sort of thing. I think I’ve only tanned a few times in my life, and that was from living in Houston/Galveston. The most serious tan I ever had was spending weeks outdoors. I went to Mexico on a mission trip, then spent a week at choir camp, then three weeks at marching band practice before school started. Marching band practice in Houston is akin to signing up for a three bedroom, two bathroom condo in hell, except hotter. Who was it that said given the choice, they’d live in hell and rent out Texas? Same.

19. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza?

I can’t. I eat pizza every Friday night in memory of my mother, who started the tradition when Lindsay and I were young. Besides, Argo, Aaron, & Dana would be so metaphysically disappointed (I’ll link to the entries, but if you got those jokes without clicking on the link, you are an OG “Fanagan”).

20. Do you drink soda with a straw?

There aren’t many “always” and “never” questions in this life, but here’s one of them. I never use a straw if I’m sitting down at a table, but I will always use one on the go. I am down with both the reusable and plant-based plastic straws, and I am so proud that my McDonald’s (don’t know if it’s a national thing) has switched to the latter.

21. What did your last text message say?

“Leslie, your Rx order is ready. Get it delivered!” I get wigged because they don’t offer delivery in my area and it irritates me that I get the possibility of delivery with every message and the disappointment of reality at least three times a month.

22. What are you doing tomorrow?

Finally, I have something exciting to say on the topic!

  1. Drink coffee and be awesome.
  2. Find something cool to do until 8:00 PM. I’m thinking of going to the National Gallery of Art, because I just learned today that they have a Van Gogh room, and I didn’t get nearly enough “time with him” at the Musée D’Orsay. I’ve always said that if I ever go back to Paris, I would like to spend an entire day there, staring at Van Gogh paintings while writing so that my crazy mixes with his crazy and we’ll see what “comes out of us.” I would be lying if I said Doctor Who had nothing to do with this (truly memorable trying to not freak out with joy at seeing The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise for real). By the way, none of the sunflower paintings say “Amy.” I checked. Twice. Also, as far as I know, Bill Nighy does not actually work there. I could be wrong.
  3. Meet up with Dan for outrageous desserts at Tryst. You might have heard of it during the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy scandal. Not why we’re going there, but when Dan suggested it, I realized I’d walked past it but had never been in, so it’s not NOT why we’re going there……….
  4. Curl up with a good book. Right now I am in the middle of Three Women, Blink, and War and Peace. That last one may sound ambitious, but after reading The Moscow Rules, I decided it was appropriate (and only 99 cents for the Kindle version with amazing commentary). I wanted to go back and read Tolstoy’s take on Russian history having started it in high school and never finishing. This time around, I have learned that the Russians thought Napoleon was every bit the fool and tyrant that over half the country thinks our current president is now (for reference years in the future, I’m talking about Donald Trump).
  5. Eventually fall asleep, but there’s no telling when because it depends on how engrossed I am in reading.

23. Look to your left, what do you see?

An empty McDonald’s cup that I need to refill with green tea, all of my medications, and my iPhone.

24. What color is your watch?

It changes at least four times a week, because I have an Apple Watch that makes it way too easy to slip the bands out. Today it is hot pink with a black & white Minnie Mouse face. I have a red leather strap that I wear the most often, with the classic color Mickey Mouse face. Today, Minnie is in grayscale because she is also classic colors and I needed her to coordinate with my choice of band. The face also has lots of colors, as you can put on “complications.” I have no idea why they’re called that. They’re basically “desktop icons.”

bindi-irwin-o-bindilrwin-some-days-you-just-need-to-3323284725. What do you think of when you hear the word “Australia?”

Not a thought so much as pictures of my friend Allison and a meme of Bindi Irwin (if the text is too small for you to read, click on the image for hi-res).

26. Do you go in a fast food place or just hit the drive thru?

I don’t drive, I am rarely pressed for time, and generally there’s free wi-fi. So, inside it is.

27. What is your favorite number?

So easy I don’t even have to think about it. Eleven. Matt Smith, the baby giraffe in a bow tie (and sometimes a fez), is my Doctor. I’m in love with him a little bit because when he got the role, the Internet rebelled against him and said he was never going to be any good, but I haven’t felt more emotion in the show than watching his interactions with Amy, Rory, River Song, Vincent, and himself in a memorable soliloquy in “Nightmare in Silver.”

Also, Stranger Things. Eleven completes me.

28. Who’s the last person you talked to on the phone?

We have covered this.

29. Any plans today?

Well, my prescription is ready and they don’t deliver in my area.

30. How many states have you lived in?

Lots of geographic areas, four states:

  1. Texas
  2. Virginia
  3. Oregon
  4. Maryland

Maryland is where I have really put down roots, but I would move back to Texas to be with my family in a heartbeat if they needed me. It is the only reason I would ever move again. I’m done.

31. What most annoys you?

A little thing? When people use up all the toilet paper and don’t replace the roll.

A big thing? Injustice, anything and anywhere. I am never more angry than when I feel something is unfair, locally or globally.

33. Can you say the alphabet backwards?

I would really, really have to think about it. Not something I’ve ever really had to know…. although a funny thing about me and the alphabet is that when I was first learning my ABCs, the setup is that my mother’s name was Carolyn. I thought the song went “ABCDEFG, HIKJ Carolyn NOP.” “KJ” is not a typo.

34. Do you have a maid service clean your house?

No, but I would think I had died and gone to heaven if I did. So jealous of Disney Princesses, Mary Poppins, and Molly Weasley.

35. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?

It’s a three-way tie between brown Converse All-Stars, black Converse All-Stars (black laces, rubber, AND canvas), and Keene sandals. I told this to a friend and she said, “ok, you just lost cool points for wearing Keenes.” I had an unprintable response.

36. Are you jealous of anyone?

Disney Princesses, Mary Poppins, and Molly Weasley. I would even settle for Shary Bobbins.

37. Is anyone jealous of you?

I didn’t think so until I was telling a friend that I was absolutely done moving (unless my family needed me in Texas) because I had already moved so much in my life that I was ready to settle down permanently. She told me that she was jealous of me, because she wasn’t ready to make that decision yet. Actually, I’ve had that conversation twice with the same results. One lives here in town, the other lives overseas.

38. Do you love anyone?

Not romantically, but agape and philia are the rivers that run inside me. I couldn’t do without my friends. They are my lifeline, the brothers and sisters I chose for family because my bio family is so far away.

39. Do any of your friends have children?

Yes, some of them even on purpose.

40. What do you usually do during the day?

A little of everything except laundry. It’s an issue.

41. Do you hate anyone that you know right now?

Hate is such a strong word, and changes me a lot more than it changes them…. but everyone I dislike at the moment, I’ve never actually met in person.

42. Do you use the word “hello” daily?

No. I generally say “hey” even though “hey is for horses.” There’s your “Texas-ism” for the day. The reason I don’t use “hello” daily is that I generally only answer the phone that way, and people rarely call me (not that I don’t like it).

43. What color is your natural hair?

Dark brown, but liking it better and better now that I have a few gray strands that look like highlights. I might dye it anyway, though, but only because the color isn’t quite deep enough for me. It looks a bit mousy. Probably won’t go back to auburn, though. Stay tuned.

44. Are you thinking about someone right now?

Deeply.

45. Have you ever been to Six Flags?

I have. I’ve been to three Six Flags-owned parks. Six Flags Over Texas in the Dallas suburbs, AstroWorld and WaterWorld in Houston. For those that aren’t familiar, the company is named after the governing bodies throughout Texas history:

  1. Spain
  2. France
  3. Mexico
  4. The Republic of Texas
  5. The United States
  6. The Confederate States

It seems apropos right now to also give you this fact: Texas and Hawaii are the only states in the union that can fly their flags at equal height to the US flag, because we were both once our own countries.

46. How did you get your scar?

Christ, which one? I fall and hurt myself all the time. Although here are the ones tied for first place. When I was 16, I was cutting a lime with a serrated knife and sliced into my thumb. Those nerve endings never came back, so I have a dead spot I play with all the time. When I was in my early 20s, I had choir practice on Thursday nights and my first wife was way too obsessed with ER. I forgot my house key one night and even though she wasn’t a mean person, she did a mean thing. She wouldn’t let me in until a commercial. So I’m fumbling around in the yard because it’s after 9:00 PM in the fall and I trip over a tree stump, scraping and cutting my shins so badly that the scars are still so deep it feels weird to shave those parts of my legs. Let me remind you that it’s been 20 years, and the scars are no more shallow than when they happened. Geez, and I actually spent time wondering why that relationship didn’t work out……………..

47. Do you have tattoos?

Yes, an ichthus that says “Yahweh” in Hebrew, a tribal dragonfly, a Celtic knot, a quill dripping blood, and $1.83. The last is the smallest, but it’s the most important. Here’s the story behind all of them.

48. Have you ever been out of the country?

I’m not especially well-traveled, but I’ve been to Mexico, Canada, England, France, and The Bahamas. I do have a bucket list, though, and I may never make it to some of them because in the Middle East, I am terribly afraid that everything I want to see is going to be reduced to rubble, and even if it isn’t, I don’t currently have a male chaperone. I’m a feminist and all that, but I’m not stupid.

49. Looks, brains, or personality?

I am going to go with personality, because if they have a great one, their intelligence will naturally show itself. I don’t know many dumb people I could stand for more than a few minutes. For me, personality and brains are inextricably interrelated, because brains inform humor, and if I don’t think you’re hilarious, I’m out.

50. Biggest regret?

Let’s end on something real. I used to be on the “think it, say it” plan no matter what emotions I was feeling. My biggest regret is all the misdirected rage in my life at Argo. It was over-the-top and egregiously wrong, because by then I wasn’t fighting with her. I was fighting the real enemy and Argo was a not-so-casual bystander, the receiver of all the shit rolling downhill. It was not a short amount of time until I realized that I was fighting with two people who weren’t even in the room, and only one of them deserved it.

I am so glad that part of my life is over and done, but if I could pray for a do-over and it materialized, I would go back and love her the way she loved me…. with sweetness, bright, white light, honesty (both painful and real), walking around in each other’s inner landscapes……………… truly receiving all the other had to offer- no more, no less.