Appreciation

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

Dr. Seuss

Some truths we know but struggle against. The good Doctor was right. We need to smile because that wonderful thing happened, but instead, most of us, end up crying because it’s over. We do our best to keep it alive even as we feel it slipping through our fingers. We are so attached to feeling good that we just can’t bear to let it go.

I am working now on appreciating, valuing, and loving, while not being attached to any particular outcome. I do not have the words to express how difficult this really is! Yet as I have been going down this path, I have found that it is beginning to work. I have become more authentic to myself and my life has begun to make some nearly miraculous changes.

My daughter decided what she wants to do when she grows up [she’s a young adult]. I have always believed that family should come first and so I would do whatever it took in order to make her dreams come true. In this case, it would entail a cross country move. At first I was filled with fear and doubt. By American standards we are living just above poverty. We can afford what we need [which makes us incredibly blessed], and some things we want. In order to move us I would need enough money to move and a steady income at the other end. I told the Universe I wanted this to happen and I had no earthly idea how. In a timely fashion, the Universe supplied me with the opportunity to work 100% remotely! I went to a eBuyer and sold the house for enough to pay off the debt! I should have enough money for the move as well. I even love my new job more than my previous job! I am in the middle of this journey still, but because I was not attached to how we managed it all, only that we managed it all, I have been amazed at the journey and how things have just happened as if by magic! Not only that but since it hasn’t been because of my planning, I am able to really appreciate and value the miracle rather than being stressed and trying to force it all to work out.

All that said, it is a process. I have bad moments, and days, and sometimes weeks, as I struggle with my desire to control things [which I cannot do anyway!!!]. I tell myself it’s okay to try and fail as long as you get back up and try again.

A Dead Man Walking

DMW
Cover art by Liz Charnes

10 Bloggers, 300 Words Each…
And this is what you get.
Please let me know what you think!

Part 1 by Denny McBride

https://theceaselessreaderwrites.wordpress.com/

Darla Nyte plugged her PalmPal into her car’s navport and set her office as the destination. The car drove, and she half-heard the radio report of the mysterious death of the young heir to the Bond family business fortune while she observed the faces of other riders as they passed. Most were lined with worry or concern. Darla smiled, pleased with her own good fortune.

America had endured a long, difficult recovery following 20 years of the disastrous Great Again wars and the resulting Trumpocalypse that finally prompted the Joint Chiefs to forcefully remove the ancient, senile President from the Oval Office handcuffed to his hospital bed. Darla was one of the MPs escorting the removal detail. She had been appalled by the corpulent, ranting despot as he raged, apopleptic and foaming at the mouth, unwilling or unable to accept his ignominious end.

While the country worked to heal and recover, Darla had remained in the Army. When her final term of enlistment was up, she had enough money saved to buy a small apartment and an even smaller office in the city, where she achieved her dream of opening the Nyte Detective Agency.

She parked and took the stairs 5 floors up to her lobby. Her assistant, Steve, greeted her. “You’ve got a doozy of a case in there today, Boss.” She sat down behind her desk and was struck by the strange pair across from her. The older man wore a white lab coat with a name tag identifying him as a coroner, and the extremely handsome younger man was uncommonly pale. He stood and extended his hand. Darla stood and shook with him. His hand was dry but shockingly cold. “I’m Franklin Bond,” he said, “and I want you to figure out who killed me.”

Part 2 by Jo Frei

You’re already here!

Darla covered her surprise by taking a sip of the coffee that Steve had left for her. She made a face at the awful taste. She was going to have to teach him how to make a better cup of joe. Sighing to herself, she lifted her gaze to Franklin. “It would seem to me that if you are dead, you would be your own best witness,” she said.

Franklin gifted her with a beatific smile. Her breath caught in her throat. He was completely not her type, but he made her heart skip a beat. “I assure you that I am quite dead,” Franklin said. “I brought Dr. Dawson here to testify to that fact.”

Dr. Dawson, looking a bit shell-shocked, said, “By every scientific test we ran, he is dead.” He handed her a signed death certificate. “Thank you, Dr. Dawson, I think you can leave now,” Franklin said. Dr. Dawson, looking much relieved, headed out the door.

“So, Ms. Nyte, now that I have assured you that I am indeed dead, will you help me find my murderer?”

Darla tilted her head and looked hard at Franklin. “Before I agree to accept your case, I will need to hear more,” she said. “First you must to agree to this,” Franklin replied, pushing his PalmPal across her desk. She looked down and saw what appeared to be a standard non-disclosure agreement. After reading it, she had the AI notarize it with her thumbprint and retinal scan, then handed it back. Her PalmPal chirped to let her know that it had her copy and that it had been filed.

Franklin sat back looking satisfied. “I am cursed with being a draugr until our family heirloom is recovered and returned to my family,” he told her.

Part 3 by Liz Charnes

https://lizcharnes.com/

A draugr? That’s a new one. Darla sat, careful to remain professional. No need to vex the crazy. “What do you remember?”

Franklin ran a hand through his thick blonde hair, frustration marring his handsome face. “I don’t know. It’s all a blur. The last thing I remember is dinner the night I died. It was at my Uncle Jeff’s home with him, his new wife Alina, my sister Ingrid, and her husband Malcolm.” He grimaced. “It was bad. Ingrid and Alina were at each other’s throats.” He paused. “I’m sorry. That’s probably not relevant.”

It wasn’t, but it made for some lucrative gossip she could sell later. One good thing that came of the Trumpocalypse was the demise of NDAs. These days only fools thought non-disclosure agreements had any power. “Why doesn’t your sister like your uncle’s wife?”

“Alina was a strip… Uh, exotic dancer.” He chuckled. “Jeff’s got a thing for exotic dancers.”

“Don’t we all?” Darla winked, then swallowed a burp. Damned acid reflux. Where are my Rolaids? “Anything else you remember?”

Franklin shook his head. “Other than the fighting, no. I was tired, so I went to the summer house. When I awoke, the room was dark, and I was dead.”
“That’s it?” The Rolaids were hiding under her calendar. She took two, then two more just in case. “You died in your sleep?”

He nodded. “Pretty much. Oh!” He snapped his fingers. “And the Spear of Destiny was missing!”

Oh, for God’s sake. Darla felt a headache coming on. “You’re saying that your family has the Spear of Destiny? The Spear that supposedly…”

“… killed Jesus Christ, yes, my family has…er, had, the Spear of Destiny,” Franklin finished. “My great-grandfather brought it back after World War II.”
Darla stood. “Frank, you need a therapist, not a P.I. I can’t help you.”

Part 4 by Kristian Fogarty

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com

“You must help me, Ms. Nyte. I’d hoped you would do so voluntarily, but I took a precaution in case you wouldn’t.” He smirked, “How was your coffee?”

Darla felt a cold feeling in her stomach, a feeling of dread, as she caught the threat in his question. “What did you put in my coffee, you freak?!”

“Nothing that will harm you permanently, dear, there’s no need to call me names. Have I not suffered enough? It’s not easy being dead, you know? I have a dose of the antidote to the potion, and I will give it to you if you help me. Please find out who murdered me and help me retrieve the Spear of Destiny. Then I can rest.”

“I don’t seem to have much choice, now, do I? I think we should start at your uncle’s home, the scene of the crime. By the way, how did your uncle and the others react when you woke up dead?”

“I don’t know. No one else was there.”

“Tell me more about your uncle, his wife, your sister, and her husband. They are after all the chief suspects here.”

“Uncle Jeff has always been an eccentric, but then, most of us are in our family. You don’t become guardians of a holy relic without it affecting you. Alina is a tramp on the make, nothing more. I believe Ingrid, who’s ten years older than I am, rather resents me, the heir, but I don’t think she would have murdered me. Her husband Malcolm has always been … distant. I never knew what went on in his head.”

“Well, let’s get back to your uncle’s and start looking around. What is that stuff you put in my coffee going to do to me exactly?”

Part 5 by Melisa Lewis

https://fingerstosky.blog/

“It’s a hallucinogenic. Ancient Mayans supposedly used it to see the future. Some people say it opens your mind to unimaginable possibilities.” Franklin stood, ignoring the perplexed and worried look on Darla’s face. “Will you drive? The law doesn’t look kindly on deceased drivers.”

Darla nodded and gathered her belongings as quickly as possible, her mind counting down the minutes until she might start hallucinating.

On the ride over, Darla was increasingly uncomfortable, noticing her breath was the only sound between the two of them. They arrived at a large stone mansion surrounded by wrought iron gates. Security cameras swiveled about and turned toward the car as they drove up to the intercom. Franklin reached over her and placed his forefinger on a scanner. Darla arched her head back to stay out of his way. She noticed he smelled like sandalwood and citrus. She quickly reminded herself that the shoulder that grazed her chin was cold because he was dead, not because of the weather.

The gates creaked open, and they drove just a few feet inside when a tall man with a fur coat and skinny blue jeans held up his hand to stop them. His thinning hair was greased back, and he wore a gold ring on every finger.

Franklin stuck his head out the window and hollered, “Uncle Jeff! Is something the matter?”

“You’re not welcome here, Franklin! You are a thief! I’m filing a police report! Stay back now, don’t come any closer!” Uncle Jeff remained planted with his hands out in front of him. Darla checked Franklin’s expression, unsure if she was starting to hallucinate or if she really did see a smirk as he lowered his head back into the car.

Part 6 by Kara Bernard

https://bernardsbookblog.wordpress.com

Her gaze drifted back to Franklin’s uncle. Darla leaned out of her window and directed the mass of fur blocking the driveway. “Mister Bond… Do you mind if I call you Jeff?”

“You get away from here, you hear me? I’m warning you, Franklin!” The rings on Jeff’s fingers clinked as his hands shook, the sound crashing like thunder in Darla’s ears. She winced as she stepped out of the car. Her thoughts went … fuzzy.

She took a step forward. “Look, Jeff, I need you to step aside. My name’s Nyte, and I’m here to – oh, god. Oh, god!” Darla sank to her knees, eyes wide, as the rotting corpse of an animal slithered its way out of Jeff’s fur coat. Matted fur dripped off its skin like oil. A slimy tongue smeared itself between black, jagged teeth. A sound like bones on metal pierced the air as the creature fell to the ground and began dragging itself toward Darla.

A collision of sounds – screams, claws on gravel, dragging limbs – forced its way under her skin. She covered her ears and shut her eyes before an ice-cold slab of flesh gripped her arm. Darla cried out, tried to pull away, and then … nothing.

She woke to the smell of cinnamon. Slowly opening her eyes, she saw Franklin kneeling beside the couch she found herself on. He held a steaming cup of tea up to her.

“Welcome to my humble abode.” He smiled. “Well, Uncle Jeff’s humble abode.”

“What?” Still groggy, Darla’s words slurred together. “Wha’appened?”

“Well, you see, the thing about hallucinogens is, well, they make you hallucinate. Sorry ‘bout that.”

Darla groaned and reached for the tea. “Wait, you said we’re inside. He let us in?”

“Hm.” The corner of his mouth twisted upward. “Not exactly.”

Part 7 by T. Shaw

https://tshawwriter.wordpress.com/

“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?”

“Shortly after you stepped out of the car and politely introduced yourself to nice Uncle Jeff, the hallucinations started. You fell, and my previously unwelcoming uncle was so startled by your altered disposition that he bent down to see if you were alright. Who knew you’d almost kill the guy?” Darla’s eyes enlarged as she sprayed Franklin with the gulp of tea she’d been about to swallow. Franklin reached for his handkerchief and annoyingly dabbed his pale face dry. Darla would have apologized, but since Franklin was the reason she had lost control of her faculties in the first place, she held back. “Like I was saying, you fought valiantly. Unfortunately for Uncle Jeff, he got a little too close. I’m pretty sure your punch to his throat is what sent you both into darkness, which is why I maintained my place on the sidelines.”

Darla set her cup of tea on a nearby end table that looked a few hundred years old. “Before becoming a detective, I served in the Army.” Darla stood up; although still shaky, she was ready to gain momentum in Franklin Bond’s case.

“Is this the same room where you woke up and realized that you were dead?” Darla began her search before Franklin could respond.

“No, this is the parlor.”

Spying several gaudy antiques, Darla said, “Seems like you and your family really admire objects with a bit of history.”

Franklin smiled. “Yes, but we most prize the Spear of Destiny.” After perusing the room with no luck, Darla decided they should visit the kitchen and interview the cooks to determine whether Franklin had been poisoned, but before exiting the room she glanced back at a portrait on the mantelpiece. The subject’s eyes reminded her of Dr. Dawson’s.

Part 8 by The Britchy One

https://bitchininthekitchen.org/

Leaving the room, Darla stumbled and had to lean against the door frame. “Wait,” she commanded, “you want me to solve your murder, but you’re withholding facts. Why did your uncle accuse you of theft and threaten to call the police? That’s not exactly the reaction of someone who thinks you’re dead.”

“Ahh, Ms. Nyte,” Franklin chuckled, “here are the shrewd deductions you’re famous for. It’s true, I have been economical with facts. I was hoping you would solve my murder without incriminating me.”

Darla ground her teeth. Coherent thought was becoming difficult. “If you want me to solve this, give me the antidote. I can’t proceed if I can’t think.”

“Very well. I’ll give you half now, which will abate your symptoms, and the full dose upon revelation of my murderer. If you take too long, I’ll be stuck as a draugr forever.”

He gave Darla a small vial of clear liquid. She wouldn’t normally take anything without knowing what it was, but she’d never been in a situation like this. She felt her mind sharpen. “Where were you when you started to feel sleepy? Were you in this house? Why did your uncle accuse you of theft?” She had more questions plus the niggling feeling there was more to Dr. Dawson, but she had to start somewhere.

“You’re correct in guessing I wasn’t inside the house. I was in the summer house near the tennis court.” “I’ve had a bad run at the casinos lately, and my creditors were pressing for payment,” he whined. “I’d arranged to sell a couple of treasures that I would’ve inherited anyway. It wasn’t really theft.”

Darla wasn’t surprised at his attitude. She’d seen his type before. “Surely you weren’t selling the Spear of Destiny? Is that why you’re still here?”

Part 9 by Rachel Ann

https://fitfulfearfulphantasmal.wordpress.com/

“Do you know how much the Vatican would pay for it?” Arms crossed and frowning, Franklin’s façade of victimhood had vanished. “Anyone would’ve done the same.”

Darla was reminded of the former president thrashing in the Oval Office. His comb-over had flapped around like a wounded vulture’s wing, its white roots long overdue for a dye job. “Don’t you know who you’re dealing with!?” Trump had railed. “None of you will ever work again! Believe me!” The Velcro straps had held, but that hadn’t stopped his mouth. Nyte had to listen to that sewer-pipe overflow as she escorted his gurney to the waiting ambulance.

Why are the rich such egomaniacs? Darla wondered. If Bond is a draugr, she thought, it’s due to sheer stubbornness. Everyone owes a death, but when his came due, he’d been too arrogant to succumb.

“You can’t buy your way out,” Darla said, wrinkling her nose. “And holding me hostage won’t change facts. Your cologne won’t cover the stench of your decomposition much longer.” Franklin glared. “But you were murdered, and the culprit must be brought to justice.”

“Right. To the summer house then, shall we?” Franklin gestured. As they approached, they heard a woman’s screams. Darla kicked the door in, gun drawn. A man had a woman pressed against the wall, in flagrante delicto. Her screams weren’t of fear, but passion.

“Alina…really?” Franklin said. “With the gardener?”

The gardener’s pants slipped down farther than they already were. A metal object fell from his back pocket.

“The Spear!” Franklin yelled. “Thief!”

“What, this?” the gardener said, picking up his pants first then the object. “This is just a Hori-Hori.”

“What did you call me?” Alina shrieked.

“Not you,” he said, brandishing the Spear of Destiny, “isn’t this a weeding knife? I need it to weed the rose bushes.”

Darla stared at the gardener. She felt her mind going fuzzy again. “Doctor … Doctor Dawson?”

Part 10 by Em

http://earthlybrain.com/

“What doctor?” Alina squeaked.

“D-Dawson,” Darla stuttered, pointing a shaky index finger at the gardener.

Franklin shook with fury. “That’s not Dr. Dawson, that’s our son of a bitch of a gardener who’s stealing MY inheritance. Focus, Nyte!”

The gardener stared at Darla, his eyes burning a hole in her skull. His lips slid into a crooked smirk. Darla tried to visualize his scheme: he’d seduced the distressed Alina after dinner, coercing her while Franklin slept in the summer house. “Let’s bend the rules a bit”, he teased, sensing that Alina ached to be mischievous. After acquiring the Spear, he had spiked the air purifier with Dragon’s Breath and zombie powder. Overnight the substances numbed Franklin’s senses, made him pale, ghostly cold, and clouded his perception of reality.

“I am Dr. Dawson,” he’d whispered as Franklin lay in a drugged stupor, “you have been unjustly murdered and robbed of your most precious inheritance. Seek revenge within 12 hours or forever remain a draugr. I have retained an apt detective to solve this mystery. Give her this potion, and she’ll be compliant.”

Darla’s vision swiftly evaporated into floating shreds. The sound of cracking bones on metal reverberated in her ears once again. She shifted her gaze, and the creature revealed itself anew, hauling a horrid pile of disintegrating flesh and bones.

Darla pointed her gun at the repugnant creature and pulled the trigger repeatedly without hesitation.

“NOOO!” Alina screamed.

Franklin dropped like a stone.

Uncle Jeff ran in to the room. “What’s with all the—“. The sight of the half-naked Alina, the exposed gardener, and Franklin’s lifeless body in a spreading pool of blood scorched him mad. “MURDERER!”

Darla saw only stars, spinning in infinite spirals.

Dawson pulled his pants up and sauntered out, simpering as he fondled the Spear in his pocket.

Zone

Today’s meditation was wonderful. I entered a place where the general distractions of life, the background noises, the cats, the talking, none of it penetrated to the place where I was safely drifting with myself.

Sadly, I cannot report to you that I did anything differently today than I did yesterday, or the day before, but today it worked.

I don’t know whether it was this meditation, or meditation in general, but I did also manage to deal with a difficult emotional situation without breaking down or feeling utterly crushed.

Let’s see where this journey leads.

Not Today

I was a hot mess in meditation today. It was about forgiveness and my mind was in a million places. At the moment, I don’t have anyone or anything I need to forgive per se, but I was also not very present. I was even aware of it a few times during the meditation but just couldn’t break free from my roaming mind.

That’s okay though. It gives me the chance to practice self-compassion.

Om Shanti Om

Today’s mantra was “Om Shanti Om.” It was given the translation
“I radiate peace.” I particularly appreciated this mantra. When the mantra was first expressed I did not know it’s meaning, and yet I did find it peaceful when I heard it. This was approximately a ten minute meditation. It is important to note that I was not in a quiet place while I listened to this meditation. There was a great deal of chatter going on around me. Despite that, I still found peace during my meditation. Ten minutes well spent.

Zen

During today’s meditation I was to contemplate my body in order to become aware of the feelings, emotions, and the sensations that creates. I promise that I was engaged the entire time, and that I did not fall asleep. I was sitting cross-legged and I did not have to jerk to catch myself like I have had to when I fell asleep. And yet, I entered this place with no thought and was shocked when the chime rang to end the meditation. The time just disappeared. I felt calm, recharged [like from a good power nap], and peaceful. I love when meditation feels this way.

Mantra or Contemplation

This morning I tasted two separate kinds of meditation.

The first kind was mantra meditation. In this form of meditation, there is generally an introductory thought expressed by the facilitator, followed by a mantra to be repeated as a focus. I appreciate this form of meditation for its simplicity. I find that it is much more difficult for my mind to wander during this meditation. In large part I believe this has to do with my unfamiliarity with the language. When I have attempted to use English as a form of mantra, I do not have to focus on it as much and my mind wanders off.

The second kind was a meditation on being present and non-reactive. In this meditation we were asked to consider, from the safe place of meditation, a situation where we reacted to a person or event. We were to examine the feelings associated with that reaction in order to learn to recognize those feelings as they arise, and thus develop a plan to accept and move through those feelings when they arise. I do not get the same calm feeling of centeredness from this meditation but I think that is, at least in part, the point. I do appreciate this form of meditation as well, though it is more work.

Learning Mindfulness

I have been meditating on and off for years. It has been a part of my yoga practice for the last 20+ years, but I will be honest, it was not my focus. About six months ago, I promised myself I would take 5 minutes a day to meditate. Everyone says even that little will help. Two months ago I moved to 15 minutes a day. It was hard. It was hard to make the time; to justify spending my time ‘just sitting.’

I would like to point out that I have no problems at all sitting and watching TV, or sitting and surfing the web, or sitting and answering email. I know that about myself and yet it was difficult to commit to spending 15 minutes sitting with me. Upon realizing what a hypocrite I was being, I took the plunge. I found an inexpensive course online that would last 40 days [they say it takes 30 days to build a habit] and be less than 15 minutes a day.

I am going to detail my experiences from here forward so that I will remember why I need to keep doing this.

The first few days were about paying attention to the breath. This seemed really silly at first. I mean, breathing is something we all do, but they explained that by connecting the autonomic nervous system with the somatic nervous system it forms a connection between your entire nervous system, bringing them in sync and creating a connection. It is also incredibly hard to do! Try it. Try focusing on your in and out breath for say, three complete breaths…without wandering. At first I just could not do it. Now I can, and I am feeling so much more focus in my life.

Stay tuned!

#metoo #hope

I am not a young woman. I am approaching mid-life; within 2 years if I live as long as my grandmother did. I have been watching today’s women take a stand against the misogynistic treatment they receive, against the biases and prejudices.

First, let me say that I am proud. I am so very proud of women today for stepping forward and braving the backlash they fully expected in order to tell their truth. The only hope they had was that the next generation of women, or even the next woman, wouldn’t have to face that sort of treatment.

Second, I need to say I am sorry. I am sorry I wasn’t one of those women.

I have said, “boys will be boys.” I have dressed in a gender neutral manner in order to be successful in industries that are dominated by men in order to avoid the derogatory comments, the leers, the ‘easy’ assignments, and the general biases prevalent in the business. I hid my feelings from partners to avoid comments about PMS. I submitted to dominant behavior because I was afraid of physical violence even as I was living with mental and emotional violence. I worked to support ‘my man’ who quit his jobs because they, ‘didn’t respect him enough,’ or ‘violated his morals,’ or ‘didn’t challenge him.’ I have been woken in the night by an erect penis being shoved in my mouth and expected to perform oral sex. I have been reduced to tears in the back corner of a closet while my husband stood over me yelling. I have seen my young daughter step in front of me to protect me when my second husband raised his hand to hit me. I had a boss stick his tongue in my mouth, without consent, after asking me to continue my employment as his mistress rather than his office manager. I have had a sexual partner, who agreed to ground rules for our sexual intercourse, penetrate me anally, without a condom, while chocking me. I was too afraid to do anything but comply. My current husband told me that in order to be a ‘good wife’ I should subsume my needs for his because his health is fragile, yet when my father died, and I asked for support, I was refused due to his long-standing health concerns and his need for self-preservation. When I said I felt betrayed and hurt, I was told that I was being unfair.

Please understand. I do not want your sympathy. I want you to understand that I accepted this behavior as ‘normal’ or ‘okay.’ I wondered what I had done wrong. Why I deserved this. I never once stood up for myself.

None of this is okay. How did I not see that? How did I become so indoctrinated…come to think so little of myself?

Now, nearing mid-life, my children young women in their own right, showing me the way, I vow to myself, no more. I will not allow myself to be disrespected. I will not apologize for my feelings or my thoughts or my opinions. I will report inappropriate behavior. I will support anyone, and I mean anyone, who has been, or is being mistreated. I hold myself accountable to you, my fellows in this journey.

Kalma

Resting against the cool marble she breathed in the scents of fall. This was her favorite time of year. The leaves collect under the trees, flowers shed their petals and leaves and retreat underground, and streams begin to slow in their travels. The chill, the smell of decomposition and mold that lightly tinges the air, all renewed her sense of purpose. It brought Surma to life too. He chased the squirrels and rabbits while they ran for their lives. Surma’s antics were always good for a laugh. As she pushed herself away from the gravestone, Kalma called to Surma, “Come on, Surma, time to get to work.” As they headed for the gates, mold began to spread in their wake, and the flowers left in tribute to the dead, died in turn.