Skip to content

Dear 12-Year-Old Me

Dear 12-year-old me,

It’s just after Labor Day, and you’re about to start the worst two school years of your life. I don’t say this to discourage you, but to let you know things will get better.

42-year-old Trish with original art from Bob Eggleton.

You’re all excited now, about to start a new school—junior high-turned-middle school due to academic reorgaization—a fresh start. You’ll learn new things, which always excites you. You were accepted into the band playing drums!

You’re nervous because your one, dependable best friend isn’t going to this school with you. At twelve, you’re uncomfortably aware it is due to the fact she lives in a lower-income neighborhood and has some very different life situations and that there’s nothing either of you, at twelve and thirteen, or your families can do about it. You’re worried you’re going to drift away…and you’re not wrong. But you’ll reunite. You’ll keep your promise that she’ll be your maid of honor at your wedding. You’ll drift away again, and reunite again… and your 42-year-old self writing this is making a note to call her.

But this school year’s fresh start isn’t going to work in your favor. While you live in the right neighborhood and you’ve got the brains and ability, you’re not like most of the kids that are here. Most of the kids here have more money than you, and therefore are cooler. Most of the kids here are the ones that picked on you, shunned you (unless you could give them a test or homework answer) in the earlier grades. The other kids you’ll most remember are the ones that got placed in this high-testing school due to measures trying to help people, like your best friend, who are in lower income neighborhoods and have less access to good schools with lots of technology, swimming pools, new books, strong drama and music options, and award-winning teams in sports and academics. You have a general understanding of this at twelve, and you are glad more people are getting better educational choices, but you don’t understand the social implications of this yet.

Dear 12-year-old me, you get your first lesson in racial bigotry during these years.

You seek friendship from these new kids who are different from the ones you know and know you can’t trust, and while you’ve gotten on your report cards comments like “can’t read people” and “lacks good social skills,” you don’t really know what to do about that, so you set yourself up for a world of hurt and rejection because these kids don’t know you’re not like the other jerks who look like you, have a similar skin tone, and who look at them like they don’t belong there. They wonder, like how you often wonder, if your attempts of friendship aren’t some trick that will hurt them worse later. Unlike you—and this you don’t know yet—the consequences of them falling for tricks like that can be even worse than you’re broken heart and shattered feelings.

Hearing this isn’t going to lessen the sting of that girl shouting at you to stop following her group, threatening to kick your ass if you come near any of them.

You have nowhere to sit during lunch. You spend two years of lunches hiding in the band room. At least you end up the lead drummer from all the extra practice time.

Sometimes you’ll have temporary friends. One, we’ll call her Ja—, is a girl who has a mixed-race couple for parents. When she’s “black” enough, she can fit in with that table you can’t go near or you’ll get your ass kicked. It’s like being “cool” enough, to your comprehension—but much more complicated. She confides these things to you during one of your shared music-room exile lunches; you’ll remember it thirty years later. If she talks too long about the things she has in common with you, like reading fantasy books and comics or watching certain movies or imagining faraway lands, she is banished back to the music room with you. Sometimes you take turns singing your favorite pop songs into the microphone on the empty practice stage. When you break your ankle, she helps you carry your stuff for two weeks. You won’t remember seeing her again after these two school years.

Outside of those spare moments, everything else is mental and emotional torture. Even the places you once found joy and sanctuary, the classrooms and classwork, will betray you. You can never seem to score as high as the students who can afford better clothes, and many of the teachers like their answers better than your creative ones. You get a terrible pre-algebra teacher who will ruin most of your future math experience by convincing you that you’re terrible at math. (You’re not.) You’ll get your sacred reading books confiscated—and you’ll commit your first act of theft by stealing one back from the teacher as you leave class. The only good thing you’ll recall is reading The Left Hand of Darkness for the first time and having a crush on Estraven. You’ll wish you could remember the name of that English teacher decades later.

Dear 12-year-old me, you’ll try. You’ll save up pet-sitting and paper delivery money and ask for just one present for Christmas, because it’s expensive: A Starter Jacket. You have no idea what that is, really, except not having one was part of someone’s insult to you and one thing you figured you had the ability to change. You know nothing about college sports, and you feel like a fool trying to figure out where to buy one and how to pick one when the store clerk asks what team you support. You settle on Georgetown because it’s got a dog on it, and it’s a navy blue color that you like.

Wearing that coat is not the miracle you hope; you’ll quickly learn that you need to know the right lines and words and answers someone who wears a Starter jacket would say. And you have no idea what those magic lines, words, gestures, etc. are. Not at all. No Starter jacket, no United Colors of Benetton, and no Gap clothing (when it fits you) makes a difference. No matter how hard you work and save to look the way you’re expected to look, you will never look right. You’ll never, ever fit in with these people. You’re weird, you’re “too” smart, and your fat, and those facts give them the social allowance to ridicule, hurt, and erode your self-esteem in ways you’ll feel for decades.

Dear 12-year-old me, I’m sorry you go through this.

Things change, though, and as shitty as it sounds to you at twelve and thirteen, this suffering becomes a reminder to be kind, to be loyal to those you love, to be the smile or say the compliment that might be the one thing that gets another suffering person through their day. You decide you never want to be the cause of the levels of pain you felt; you decide no one deserves to be abused like that, and that everyone deserves a chance to escape that kind of abuse and bullying. You decide that you want to be the person that will make the kind, forgiving, and welcoming choice—even if it means you’ll get hurt again. Because what if your choice did make a difference for someone suffering, for someone who is acting out because they are in pain, for someone whose brain works differently and doesn’t realize they’re causing pain?

You get hurt. A lot. But it becomes your choice, your agency to be in that position.

It still fucking hurts. A lot. And you question why you are the way you are, and you have moments of cruelty when you’ve been hurt too much or when you’ve given too much and there’s nothing left…when there’s less than nothing left…to feed your soul. You’ll have moments of missing something—a social cue, a subtle request for help—that will hurt someone because your brain was focusing on something else. You’ll fail at helping others because you’re overwhelmed. You’re still human. (Despite the daydreams of possibly being fey or magical…after all, we were adopted and enough of our favorite books opened us up to that possibility!) You still keep trying, keep deciding to try to be the person you want to be.

You’ll find other people, people you admire and respect, who have made similar decisions based on similar circumstances. In fact, some of the kindest people you will meet will share that they had even worse experiences in bullying, in abuse, in trauma. And yet, they choose to be loving people, open to getting hurt again for the sake of not hurting another.

This becomes such a pattern that when you think of having kids you fear who they might become if they don’t experience the pain you’ve gone through. You question if compassion must stem from the experience of pain—and yet, you don’t want anyone to have to experience those levels of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual pain, much less potential kids you’ll love.

Dear 12-year-old me, what you go through these two years works its way into your writing. Because we do write. And we do get published. That was the #1 Dream after all, and we stuck to it.

I am going to be a writer! I am going to have a job where I write!

How many times did we say that growing up? More than my 42-year-old mind can remember. And people called us stubborn like it was a bad thing.

I stubbornly held onto that writing dream. For so many years.

Dear 12-year-old me, yes, the next two years are going to be horrible—and while you’ll think of them as the most horrible, there will be other significantly horrible and shitty years. But you’ll be better prepared for them. You’ll have an even better support group. (And you’ll realize you were lucky you did have supportive family—many of your other friends who were bullied and abused did not, or their family was their abusers.)

Dear 12-year old me, things are going to get better. So much better.

The underfunding of the Springfield schools will mean that your high school will be so overcrowded that the population of geeks—people like you—will find each other and befriend each other. You’ll discover Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, DragonLance, Forgotten Realms, Tarot cards, pendulums, scary movies, and slumber parties. You’ll be an editor at the school paper and get whatever hall passes you need to avoid situations where you were separated from your friends. You and your friends will all volunteer to help in the library, making it even more of a safe space for outcasts for years. You will have friends that you will still regularly speak with in thirty years—their children will call you Auntie Trish! Because most of the group you’ll befriend is also neuroatypical, you’ll help each other figure out social expectations that mystify you.

You will re-learn enough confidence to dump the guy who wouldn’t support your dreams and go away to college.

You’ll make you “fresh start” in college so much better. You’ll wear a quirky hat that will get the man you’re going to marry to notice you. And you’ll let people you just met drag you to a party for a movie you’ve never heard of—The Rocky Horror Picture Show—hosted by that future husband. You’ll make the connection of sanctuary for geeks and outcasts, and you’ll gird your courage to ask if anyone plays D&D.

You will realize you’ve found your people within that first week of classes. You will be friends with them for decades, and their children will also call you Auntie Trish!

That cute guy who hosted that party is going to ask you to marry him that following April, and you’ll say “Yes,” and by the end of this very month, 42-year-old me and him will be celebrating twenty years of marriage.

But that’s not all.

Dear 12-year-old me, you’ll travel the world—and some of that will be tax deductible because of your writing career! You’ll have published three books written for kids like you, now, to remind them that they still have some power in a world where everything feels wrong. You’ll have won prizes for poetry and short fiction! You’ll help over a hundred other writers achieve their dreams by editing their novels. You’ll have a wait list of months for people who want you to edit their novels!

Dear 12-year-old me, it gets even better.

You know those unicorn and dragon pin-ups you pulled out of magazines to put on your walls? You’re going to meet those artists. You’ll buy prints from them that they will sign, to you. You’ll buy prints for your beloved husband from them. You’ll buy original freaking art that you saw them offer because you know them well enough, you’re friends with enough of their friends, to get these kinds of messages! And you’ll buy these things with money you earned from your writing and editing.

You know those DragonLance and Forgotten Realms books you own an entire bookcase full of? You’ll meet so many those authors, and they will sign things to you, in person. You’re going to invite one of them to write an intro in an anthology you edited. And she will say yes!

(Also, you edit freaking anthologies! Your name is on the cover as an editor who put it together!)

Oh, and you remember all those kids’ books you saved? You’re going to invite a prominent author from those into that very same anthology. And she will say yes!

You’re going to be on panels talking about writing with those authors you’re reading right now who will help you get through the most awful years. You’ll be on panels with the editors of those authors. They will treat you like a peer. They will say you make good points and have good ideas.

That shelf and a half full of R.L. Stine books you adore? You’re going to be in an anthology with him!  And that anthology: it’s a tribute to all those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collections you checked out over and over from the library. You—you—made it into that. With a story inspired by working with horses.

Oh yeah, you also will have a horse. Yep. Your own horse. That will happen. You’ll work rescuing horses for ten years before you adopted her. Her name is Calico Silver, and she stays at a stable full of amazing people who get you and who you get. Your barn family is as special as your writing family.

So you see, 12-year-old me, you’re heart’s going to get broken a lot; you’re going to be made to feel like less than trash, not even human; you’ll question your worth and you’ll cry thousands of tears, so many your eyes run angry red dry. But you’re stronger than you think. You’re stronger than all of those who hurt you, than those teachers and staff who let them hurt you, can even imagine. That weirdness, that curiosity, that stubbornness, that day-dreamy-ness, that empathy and kindness you develop—those are all strengths. And they will lead you to be the person you truly want to be, a person you’re proud to be.

The thing is, 12-year-old me, you’re going to forget what I’ve just told you. You’re going to forget it a lot. While school and life get better, there are still going to be bullies, there are still going to be people who don’t see your value or worth, and every time you encounter people like that, advertisements that insult you, stories where people like you are the punchline…all that pain is going to come tumbling back–exponentially. All that insecurity. All that self-doubt. Whenever you have a moment where you feel you screwed up—even if you didn’t really, but just think you did—all these experiences are going to hit you hard, just about knock you down, and you’ll feel just like you’re hiding, alone, in the music room all over again. A piece of trash fallen out of someone’s backpack: Forgotten and useless at best; stomped on for amusement at worse. Thirty years later, as much as I’ve told you how much better our life gets—and I haven’t even listed everything—if I’m being honest, I have to tell you that it still hurts. It still affects us.

I don’t know if it will ever go away; our friends who are older still admit to suffering similarly.

But we have better tools to deal with it. We have more friends, real friends. We have a husband and his family on top of our own. We can write a letter to our thirty-years-younger selves to acknowledge that pain, honor it, and remind our 42-year-old selves what we’ve accomplished, why we are valuable and worthy, why we should be proud of who we are.

Dear 12-year-old me, you are loved, you are strong, and you are valuable. In what you will do and in who you are inside of me now, you matter. We will keep growing, keep choosing kindness and empathy in the face of abuse, and we will work toward a world where maybe more people can learn to be compassionate without having to experience the pain to understand why.

Your author pic with your horse, Calico Silver!

Where I’ve been, What I’ve Been Through, and More Surgery

So, yeah, it’s “been a minute” (to borrow a Southern phrase I learned in said “minute”) since my last blog post. Sorry. But this one is the whole explanation why!

Back in 2017, I shared this post about surgery I had to have because of a big ole fibroid making my life super, extra, mega miserable. That’ll give you a few more background details.

Where to start…

On Monday, August 3, I went in for a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG). I wanted a hysterectomy due to all the hormonal awfulness, bleeding, and other crap that had been plaguing me for… almost 30 years. My OB-GYN said no; I was too obese.

Needless to say, I was pissed.

You see, and pretty much every fat person you or I know will back me up with similar experiences, I have a bunch of other medical issues—particularly hormone related, but also ADHD—that have been causing the obesity. Yet the doctors have been treating my fatness as a cause for the issues. One of the biggest symptoms of estrogen imbalance? WEIGHT GAIN AND OBESITY.  But no, “If you just lose weight, it will fix itself.”

Those of you with more delicate sensitivities, ignore the next line.

Fuck that fucking bullshit fuckery!

Losing weight is not a means to fix existing hormone imbalances or neuroatypical issues. The weight is there because of those issues! If the issues don’t get addressed, you know what? YOU WON’T LOSE WEIGHT!

Unfortunately, added weight also exacerbates the issues.

So you get this fan-fucking-tastic cycle of a flare-up of issues causing weight gain, weight gain increasing flare-ups / symptoms, flare-ups / worse symptoms causing more weight gain.

And then there’s outside issues that exacerbate that—like stress.

Of course, having ADHD and bleeding heavily every month also increase stress…

You see where this is going, right?

So, why did I not go find a second or third opinion and a surgeon who’d do the hysterectomy anyway, which had a good chance of helping with the weight loss?

A few reasons…

1. Quite simply, I was exhausted. I was exhausted from fighting with medical professionals, I was exhausted trying to argue about yet another weight thing, and I was exhausted from all my symptoms. (Pain, hot/cold flashes, bleeding, brain fog, forgetfulness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, rage…)

2.  My OB-GYN is actually a good doctor and the conversation didn’t stop at being too obese for a hysterectomy. She gave me a bunch of resources and research on how the VSG also affects hormones and a variety of other things.  Here’s one, and another.

3.  I have a fantastic psychologist for my ADHD who I was referred to for weight loss. She is also a wealth of information and will even pull up academic and medical journal articles for me from her JSTOR account!  She also empathized with my frustrations and helped me work through those too. On top of that, she (and my also-fantastic integrative doctor my PCP referred me to) introduced me to the studies about gut flora and how that affects obesity, and how the VSG also does the equivalent of a hard reset on gut flora.  (More on that shortly!)

4.  I have some amazing and supportive friends who have also had gastric surgery who helped me through the anger and societally-programmed guilt of needing surgery for weight issues. Who also have access to lots of research and information on top of their personal experience.

So here’s another fun Trish fact that most people don’t know (I swear this is related!): When I was a baby, I nearly died of salmonella shortly after birth, so my system was flushed with a massive broad spectrum antibiotic. And then I spent a fair amount of my childhood sick, getting prescribed antibiotics, and getting fat. Part of the illness was undiagnosed allergies and asthma… and as I got older, got my first period, I got a lot of UTIs… leading me to need the Kill All The Things antibiotics whenever I got sick because your regular run-of-the-mills wouldn’t work… and I was allergic to penicillin.

Now… y’know what they do to animals to make sure they’re fat and have a high fat content throughout their muscles?

The pump them full of broad spectrum antibiotics from a few days after they’re born and onward!

You see, lots of antibiotics change the gut biome, causing obesity. And once that’s done while it’s all developing… there’s little chance of not being fat. Because it ruins a person’s (or animal’s) gut flora! (I told you’d I’d get back to this!)

Now, let me clarify something, and pay close attention:

Antibiotics! Are! Not! Evil!

Antibiotics have saved billions of lives and the world would be worse off without them. This is not going to be a rant against Big Pharma and antibiotics. (Maybe I’ll rant about Big Pharma later… but my Adderall is still working!) Had Baby Trish not gotten a big ole thing of broad spectrum antibiotics in 1978, 42-year-old Trish would not be writing this now. However, in the 70s, there wasn’t the finesse in antibiotics that there is now. Also, it was kind of a thing in the 70s, 80s, and into the 90s to prescribe antibiotics to fix everything.

And because I’m a research kind of nerd, here’s an article about early-antibiotic use and obesity, and here’s an article on antibiotics in meats and their effect on animals (and potentially humans, but that’s also not within the scope of this post.)

Over-prescription of antibiotics is a problem. But also not the main point of this post.

The main point is this:

Due to a not-uncommon mix of medical problems, many exacerbated by medical professionals treating weight like a cause rather than a symptom, three of my doctors suggested I had a three or less percent chance of losing weight on my own—if I made losing weight my full time job!

Once again, for those in the back who equate obesity with stupidity, laziness, lack of trying, a character flaw, etc:

If I made losing weight my FULL TIME JOB, I had a less than three percent (3%) chance of losing weight.

So I decided to go with the sleeve gastrectomy. All the research I’d done showed that it held significant promise to fix a lot of my ongoing issues by resetting both my hormones and gut flora. (Hysterectomy would only affect my hormones… but it’s not off the table if this doesn’t fix the hormone issues!)

I didn’t say much of anything to anyone about it because the surgery carries a stigma. “Why can’t you just lose weight on your own?” (See above research.) “Couldn’t you just try harder?” (See above research.) “Just don’t eat so many donuts!” (I had had exactly two donuts in two years prior to two days before my surgery), thank you very much! Also, see above research.) “Maybe drink fewer sugary beverages?” (I drink water, coffee, and tea… and often the coffee is with little to no sugar, as is the tea. Also, research!) “Are you sure you want to do that to your body?” (My body is doing way worse to me. Also RESEARCH!)

It’s exhausting. If you aren’t fat, you have no idea how exhausting it is already to have to deal with people ranging from wanting to be (ignorantly) helpful with (uninformed) good intentions to full-blown raging, shit-spewing assholes.

/sarcasm/ No, I’ve never tried to lose weight by adjusting my food intake, watching calories, exercising more, trying A-Z diet… Not once has it crossed my mind. Thank goodness you suggested that; you may have changed my life. /sarcasm/

Every. Damned. Day.

It was just easier to not talk about it. It was easier to just tell my family and friends who I knew would be the good kind of supportive. (As opposed to the thinking-they’re-supportive-but-actually-fat-shaming.) As I mentioned above, I was already exhausted from the symptoms of all this. I just couldn’t fathom dealing with having to talk to a bunch of non-medical persons who have no idea of my health history questioning my decision. And that exhaustion, as you all might expect, has just been ramped up to all new heights since it struck 2020!

So, I decided this, for sure, right after DragonCon last year, after chatting with one of those aforementioned fantastic friends. And thus began my odyssey of going through my hospital’s Weight Center. For the second time.  As I tried the non-surgical program back in 2012 and managed to lose 20 lbs in a year, which outside of college, had been the most I’d lost in the shortest time ever. Until I was diagnosed with ADHD, and then getting the right prescription of Adderall and getting some cognitive behavioral therapy that matched how my brain worked had me lose 25 pounds in 6 months! (See how actually treating the cause makes a fucking difference?)

Going through the program again was frustrating… I already knew how to and was tracking my food, my food triggers. I already ate 80% of my food home-cooked, mostly from scratch, with higher ratios of healthy proteins, vegetables, and fruits as opposed to processed carbs. I already averaged between 6k-10k steps a day. I had a horse and worked out with her. I spent a lot of time outside doing work. I could hike for hours. I parked in the furthest spots so long as it was safe to do so and/or I wasn’t running terribly late (the lateness being an issue that has also, in fact, decreased since the ADHD diagnosis and treatment!) I was sharing tricks about awesome things you could do with zucchini and avocado that the nutritionists hadn’t heard of; I was giving homemade salad dressing recipes that impressed the nutritionists; and I expounded on the virtues and inclusion of fermented foods and easy home ferments.

I had done this alllllllll before… but I went through it again. It wasn’t until we got into the post-surgery diet that I really started having to learn stuff, and thus my ADHD brain was sated with an onslaught of new information.

In any case, as this is getting to be a very long blog post, I went through the program…had the surgery put on hold due to COVID-19 chaos…was getting worried as Scott does have another stint of extended work travel coming up sometime…

And then finally got offered the August 3, date… with two weeks’ notice, since they did actually listen to my concerns on timing and offered me someone else’s cancellation date.

Lemmetellya… prepping for all that, rearranging my editing and writing schedule and deadlines, making sure I had the time off to heal, making sure Scott could get the time off…that was an adventure and a half.

But it happened!  And it went well!

So now I’m here on my liquid diet for the next two weeks, then a very, very slow introduction to regular foods… and I am hoping so hard that this does fix all the other (medical and health) things that are wrong with me!

All the other things that should’ve been fixed if medical professionals had listened to me and dealt with my issues (torturous periods, in particular) instead of either gaslighting me by saying “it’s normal; you’re overreacting” or assuming my fatness was a cause rather than a symptom. 

It still pisses me off that I had to have weight surgery because weight treated like a cause rather than a symptom.

I still want to scream, “IF YOU JUST LISTENED TO ME AND DIDN’T JUST SAY ‘IF YOU JUST LOST SOME WEIGHT’…”

But retroactive fury doesn’t fix anything for me. Maybe it will for others.

Keep fighting. Do your research. If you’ve got kids who get periods, treat them seriously. Don’t treat menstruation like a taboo topic. Believe them if they say they are in a lot of pain, if they think they are bleeding too much.  Be their advocates! Teach them to know their bodies and advocate for their health.

Unless more and more people start doing this, it will continue to be a problem. My mom taught me to be a good advocate; she went into every doctor’s appointment with a list and didn’t leave until every question was answered. I continue that habit. Still, it happened to me. Unless more people accept that “being fat” can be a symptom, not necessarily a cause, people with any extra weight are going to get substandard health care. Start changing that with your kids now. Start changing that with yourself now.

It will cut down on a lot of people’s suffering.

Until I manage to post again… be good to each other! ❤

National Poetry Month, April 12

I’m currently at the hotel after a great dinner with some of the folks from the New England Speculative Writers this evening. I’m looking forward to the NESW Conference tomorrow and also being a semi-responsible adult, along with my friend Scott Goudsward, and doing work before hitting the hotel bar with the other writers.

Today’s poem and picture are based on my own wildcraft and witchiness. The photo is herbs I’ve grown in my gardens, gathered and bound, and placed on my hearth, where I do most of my spellcraft. So, of course, I made this poem a bit of a spell! Both are tentative titles just based on description: “Herbs on the Hearth” for the photo and “Witch’s Hearth Herbs” for the poem.

Enjoy!

Both are rough and raw; I’ll edit and fix them up later. My April challenge is about the creation, not the finessing. Please do not copy or share the photos or poems I’m posting. I am not finished, and sharing them can hurt my future plans for these pieces. Thank you!

National Poetry Month, April 10

Ever have one of those moments of beauty during mundane life that takes your breath away?

I don’t head to the Natick Mall often, and it usually exhausts me to do so, but I was coming back to the car during this sunset and I stopped to stare… and barely remembered to snap a picture.  I took two. The other is clearer, but I prefer the colors on this one… and the effect of the blur fits into the poem.

Better titles may be forthcoming, but right now they are “Neon Sunset at the Natick Mall” for the photo and “Brilliance” for the poem.  Enjoy!

The poem, like all of what I’m posting, is in its rough draft form, too. My aim for the month is composition; I’ll edit later. Please do not copy or share the photos or poems I’m posting. I am not finished, and sharing them can hurt my future plans for these pieces. Thank you!

 

National Poetry Month, April 6

Running out the door to a movie with the Husband of Awesome, so real quick…

Picture is another from Scotland, an old gravestone at an old abbey in Coldingham. There’s more to the story… but perhaps later.

The set is tentatively titled “Momento Mori.”

Remember, the poem is super rough draft, and also please do not share the photos or poems I’m posting; I am not finished, and sharing them can hurt my future plans for these pieces. Thank you!

National Poetry Month, April 5

Not that I figured I’d get far in any poetry journey without a faery poem, but in going through the pictures I’ve taken and am using for inspiration, there’s no less than three that are titled “Faery ________.” If you’ve known me or been following me for some time, I’m sure you’re shocked. Completely and utterly shocked. <insert sarcasm>

This particular photo is “Faery Bed,” and I’ve named the poem to match.  I took this picture in Scotland while I was doing research for my MacArthur series of books. It was at this wonderful and magical place, Traquair House, which is the oldest inhabited home. It has a hedge maze; secret passage ways; Victorian furniture (including a writing desk in the room and a canopy bed!); delicious food (with option for a romantic dinner with fancy crystal-ware!); all sorts of trails through the woodlands, wetlands, and gardens; free range farm animals and peafowl; and nesting grey herons that sound like dinosaurs. Really, what else could anyone ask for?

I found this copse of azaleas that looked like a canopy bed and had recently discovered our camera did this “punch” thing with colors that makes them more vivid. (This was 2012, well before cell phone camera and Instagram filters.) Even without the color “punch,” I was intrigued by what looked like a faery bed of purple flower petals beneath a branching canopy of twisted limbs and green leaves. This was the best of several pictures I took, and I knew I’d write something to match it eventually.

The poem, like all of what I’m posting, is in its rough draft form, too. My aim is to compose the poems this month, and then go back and edit later.

Please do not share the photos or poems I’m posting; I am not finished, and sharing them can hurt my future plans for these pieces. Thank you!

National Poetry Month, April 3 and 4

I was offline yesterday doing stuff and making yummy food for the Husband-of-Awesome’s Birthday.

I DID pick and do a lot of cursing at Photoshop for yesterday’s picture on Tuesday. (I’m a superduper n00b on Photoshop, so the cursing is expected). I particularly chose that picture because Scott pointed the scene out to me while we were wandering around Marblehead the day before the big Salem Open Market, and I remember him saying something to the effect of “that’s a story, right there,” and I agreed and snapped the picture on my phone. I titled them both “A Story to Tell.”

Today’s pair comes from our adventures in Japan. We went to see the Giant Buddha in Kamakura, and this was a scene wandering around the whole temple area. It was gorgeous! It was also March, so very early spring. Only a few cherry trees were in bloom. These I titled “Conversations with Gods.”

Please do not share these photos; I am not finished and sharing them can hurt my future plans for these pieces. Thank you!

 

 

Arisia Schedule!

01082018 - Arisia LogoI love doing conventions, and I’m always really thrilled to return to the Arisia family each year!

And look… I am actually remembering to post my schedule so people can find me!

During hours I’m not on panels or giving workshops, there is an excellent chance you will find me at the Broad Universe table in the Dealer’s Room.  I have books! It makes me super happy when people buy said books and ask for signatures. ❤

So, outside of the Broad Universe table, here’s where you can find me THIS weekend at ARISIA!

Friday, January 12, 8:30 PM, Room 404 – Party Not Found? 2 (Electric Boogaloo)

I’m hosting the Broad Universe party at Arisia, and they put me in Room 404 again—and even a technophobe like me can make bad puns. Do find us and enjoy great food, great stories, and meet some awesome Broads!

 

Saturday, January 13, 10:00 AM, Adams – Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading

(I’m waking up early after throwing a party for y’all!) Come discover your new favorite writer as members of Broad Universe read short excerpts from their work. Each writer has just a few minutes to show you what she’s capable of! We offer chocolate and the chance to win prizes. Broad Universe is an international organization that supports women writers, editors, and publishers. NOTE: Not all authors may be in attendance for the entire time slot. Other members of Broad Universe not listed may be reading.

 

Saturday, January 13, 7:00 PM, Douglas – Rewriting Fairy Tales: Updating our Mythologies

(I’m moderating!) With anthologies such as _The Starlit Wood_, along with many authors choosing to rewrite and rework old fairy tales, what is the purpose of rewriting our myths, or writing new ones? What can we learn about ourselves when we bring these old stories into today? What is the purpose of creating new fairy tales?

 

Sunday, January 14, 11:30 AM, Bulfinch – Writing & Tarot

Last year we filled this up, so this year you gotta pre-sign up at PROGRAM NEXUS. In any case, I love teaching this hands-on workshop that talks about Tarot as both a tool for divination and a tool for your writing.

 

Sunday, January 14, 4:00 PM, Alcott – Tricks for Self-Editing

I’m thrilled to be giving this workshop again too, and this is another that fills up quickly, so pre-sign up at PROGRAM NEXUS. Why should you sign-up and come to this workshop? I’ve edited over 50 books for multiple publishing houses; I teach writing and editing; and I put a lot of effort into not making people cry.  And what I can teach you will make you a better writer because most of writing is editing.

 

Sunday, January 14, 7:00 PM, Independence – Everything But the Writing

This is Trisha’s killing the workshops year at Arisia! And it’s another one you should pre-sign up for at PROGRAM NEXUS.  I’ve been in business as “A Novel Friend” since 2003—and I have the tax forms to prove it.  This is a look at the business side of making a career as a writer or editor, whether you want to stick to fiction or branch out into journalism, non-fiction, or “other” realms.

 

Monday, January 15, 11:30 AM, Marina 1 – Spec Poetry Reading

I also write poetry! And so do a bunch of other awesome folks. Do you? Join us or come listen.  If you want to read, come early to sign up for a slot.

 

Monday, January 15, 1:00 PM, Alcott – How to Train Your Dragon & Other Writing Issues

(Because animal stories! And as an editor, I have been known to leave…detailed…comments on misuse of animals in Track Changes.) Whether you’re writing horses and dragons in a medieval setting, or having your space hero(ine) bond with a psychic cat or flying banshee, incorporating animals into your fiction requires knowledge of how real-life animals act. Our panel of experts will discuss how to write real and unreal animals, what they eat, how often they need to rest, how they act around humans, other animals and machinery; and other interesting tidbits which can bring your sci-fantasy stories to life.

 

A Story of Bunny Ends

11262017 - Vash Boxes Crop

I’ve been a bunny mom for more than half my life. Vash the Stampede, named by Scott for how noisy his thumps and binkies were as a baby, was the most recent. He and his brother, Cameron, who passed over three years ago, were the fourth and fifth bunnies I’ve had my life. As anyone who has pets as part of their family knows, every animal has its own personality. Each family pet weaves their own story into the family tapestry.

Vash and Cameron were part of a litter left at Whip-O-Will Stables, where Calico lives. Cameron was an orange bunny who I named after a character I played in an RPG and who was in the first short story I had published, co-written with my friend Christy Tohara, in the second Bad-Ass Faeries anthology. When I brought them home about six months after my Loki-bun passed (at the tenacious age of 13), Scott had just gotten back from Taiwan and wasn’t particularly thrilled about more rabbits. But I invited him to name the black one.

11262017 - Trish Cam Vash Closer

There was a fair amount of drama between the two boys loving and hating each other, getting neutered and having to get re-introduced and bonded. By the last year of Cameron’s life, they were bonded again and living as most of my rabbits did—wandering around the house free during the evening, living in a double-decker bunny condo full of hay and water and toys when we weren’t home to keep an eye on them. Nylis the Cat tolerated them, and they her.

I found Cameron dead in the litter box, curled up as if he’d just taken a nap, one evening after I’d gotten home from work. His eyes were closed and everything. Vash was sitting, hunched up, on the same floor. All the other orange bunnies from the litter had passed; they all had some heart issue.

Vash actually seemed to bloom more after Cameron died. He seemed to prefer being the only bunny. He loved attention. He loved pets. He loved stretching his whole body along the table legs, blocking the path from the den to the living room, next to the marble the wood stove is on. He would occasionally tease the cat by running at her and zooming under her or hopping over her with a proud thump—a thunderous affair that resonated his name. Occasionally, they would lay down near each other and play the “I’m comfier than you” game, where they luxuriously cleaned themselves to let each other know they felt the other posed no threat.

When Sue Lahna moved in for six months, he found an extra special friend. He’d run to her whenever she was downstairs and he was out. He’d demand more pets from her, grabbing at her pant legs and head-butting her ankles full force until she would pet him. Sue totally got him and would crouch on the floor and pet him for a long time.

11262017 - Vash

In the past few months, Vash started demanding even more pets—and actually being cool with getting picked up and snuggled on my chest. I remember Loki and Rhetta buns also began to want actual snuggles as they got older. And when I took him to the vet, the vet told me he was showing quite a bit of aging—which was normal. Most of the larger-breed bunnies live to only 5 or 6 years old. And we were pretty sure he was part “meat rabbit”, which also have shorter lifespans—they’re bred to be slaughtered; they’re bodies aren’t meant to sustain their size for a long time.

The thing with rabbits—and most pets—is they work very hard to hide illness. It’s part of their natural instincts. In the wild, they don’t want to draw prey to warrens, they don’t want to be driven out, either, until they are ready to die on their own.

When I put Vash to bed after my pre-Thanksgiving prep, I noticed his food bowl hidden under the hay, untouched from breakfast. That worried me, but he’d just snagged a bunch of craisins I’d dropped while making bread and stuffing, and he quickly took the treats I offered, so left him some broccoli, his favorite, and figured I’d see how he was doing in the morning. In the morning, the broccoli was untouched, as were the pellets and the rest of the hay. We took him out to check him over. His bum was clean, his stomach was soft (no impaction) and we couldn’t feel anything petting him. So, we put him on the ground and noticed he was hopping awkwardly. His head was at kind of an angle, but didn’t look like head tilt. It just looked…off. We picked him back up again and checked his face and neck and head even closer. We found a hard lump under his jaw.

Of course… it was Thanksgiving. No vet place was open and people were coming over. I gave him a head massage in case it was a sinus infection—Loki had a lot of sinus issues—and that seemed to help. He ate a bunch of craisins and a couple of treats. We took note of his water and more craisins in his food bowl, and figured we’d check him after people left. We even decided to let him wander around while people were here because the rug was comfy and under the kitchen table was his favorite place. He asked for pets a few times, then retreated back to the far side of the table. Normal behavior.

I left our vet a message that day, hoping they could squeeze him in the next.

After people left, we checked him again. He hadn’t had any water, and we knew that water was the most important thing, so we used a clean animal medicine syringe and gave him a few ounces of water. After I brought my mom back home, I picked up bananas—another favorite of his and something soft that we figured wouldn’t irritate that hard “whatever it is” in his mouth. He ate about half a banana that night, and we gave him more water via syringe.

The vet called at 7:30 AM and couldn’t fit Vash in until 5:00 PM. I took the appointment and spent the day trying to get him to eat soft foods and drink more water. He was rather feisty for getting into his crate, a good sign.

We were the last patients of the vet that night. Our vet, Dr. Trom said she could see puss in the back of his mouth, and it looked angry read, so it was most likely an infected abscess. With rabbits, the abscesses often also held Pasteurella, a virus that can kill in a very short time. Most rabbits are carriers of Pasteurella; it kills about 25% of bunnies right out (Lady Anne, my second bunny, died from it), about 50 % spend the later years of their lives with mild symptoms (both Rhetta and Loki were like that); and 25% never get it or never show any symptoms of being carriers of it. And they can be carriers of it for years, and then tiny cut or abscess or anything can cause it to flare up. We’d caught the abscess early, so the doctor scheduled surgery to remove it for the next Thursday.

Dr. Trom stayed late showing Scott and me how to feed Vash Critical Care formula for rabbits (a liquefied vitamin- and calorie-heavy mush) via syringe and how to administer water subcutaneously. She also gave us pain medicine to be fed via syringe. She said if he stopped eating or anything got worse, to call the office and insist we speak to her directly, and she’d fit us in for emergency surgery.

11262017 - Sick Vash

That night, Vash ate his entire serving and more with the syringe easily, and he was doing well. The next morning, he wasn’t as excited about the food…and with just the two of us, it took about an hour to coax him. (And here I give my thanks to all the Small Business Saturday folks and the bookstore for giving me some leeway as I was running super late.)

That evening, we gave him some food with his pain medicine. He didn’t eat much, but we figured it had been 24 hours since the vet had given it to him yesterday, so he was likely hurting. We let him rest and then later gave him his IV measure of water… a somewhat scary endeavor that requires a needle to be injected just right into the scruff. He was super patient for that and then hung out with Scott and I watching TV for about an hour. Then he started getting antsy, so we put him in front of his cage in case he needed to use the litter box. He hobbled slowly to the dining room, instead, and lay against the kitchen table leg, his favorite place. We figured the water was not comfortable, so we let him relax for a little over another hours before we tried to feed him.

When we went to feed him, we started getting more of an idea things were wrong. He really didn’t want to eat. He made soft little whines and kept spitting the food back out. When the vet had fed him, it had been before the IV, so we figured maybe he was still uncomfortable and sore from the water. So, we let him rest another hour.

He hadn’t moved from the spot we put him down. But we knew he needed food. Bunny digestive systems require food moving through them regularly; that’s why bunny families are told to always, always, always have hay available.

When I picked him up, his eye didn’t look very focused and he made more soft whining sounds. Bunnies, as a rule, don’t make vocalize. They grunt when they’re angry, occasionally chirp with the grunt if they’re particularly annoyed, but otherwise most of their communication is non-vocal. Thumps, ear position, posture are their main ways to “talk.” They also scream when they are terrified.

When we tried to feed him, he whined more and kept spitting out the food or letting it dribble. He swallowed a few times, which gave me some hope, but he didn’t come close to eating what he should. And he was clacking his teeth—another sign that bunnies are in pain or distressed.

By this time, it was a little after midnight. We put him on the floor and petted him, which seemed to calm him more.  Occasionally I’d try to offer the syringe, but he really didn’t want it. The vet’s office was long closed. And the nearest emergency options were each about an hour away—and one, Angel, had not been particularly great about dealing with my other rabbits. (In fact, we completely ignored the advice of one doctor for Miss Rhetta about surgery and she lived three years longer than he said she would.)

Of course, picking him up again, shoving him in a carrier or even carrying him would add stress and a lot more pain. Car rides are terrifying for all animals, and so is being restrained as you have to do for their protection. And it was cold outside.

It’s a tough choice. Do you take that chance of making their last hours even more miserable for the potential of saving their lives…or do you just wait and be with them to comfort? And I’d be lying if I said it was entirely a choice; part of the “decision” was also feeling paralyzed with the pain and fear that whatever we did, it could be the wrong choice.

When rabbits reach critical condition, there is little time for anything. If they’re going to die, it’s a matter of a few short hours…if even that…from the time they start showing signs of severe pain or lethargy.  For Lady Anne, the first rabbit who died, I didn’t know. We’d admitted her to the ER (also Angel), they’d sent us home, and we’d gotten the call that she had passed before we even got home. (We didn’t even get to claim her body…) For Miss Rhetta, she’d shown signs of lethargy that morning, I’d called the vet, brought her in immediately, Dr. Trom had taken her to weigh, and she’d died on the scale. Dr. Trom had handed her back to me and let me hold her quietly in a secluded corner, crying, till someone could bring us home.

Loki had been a somewhat exception to the rule. He’d given us a few scares with lethargy for months, and then would come back. He’d been “back” and at regular energy, eating, drinking, pooping, and peeing levels when I’d left for a very long convention trip. Morning after my arrival at the house of my friend, where I’d been staying, I’d gotten the call from my then-housemate that she’d found him dead that morning. That’s only somewhat of an exception because, as mentioned above, animals often wait till their alone to finally pass.

Vash, that last night, from 1:00 AM onward, would alternately snuggle next to my foot and writhe forward and backward, not quite in control of his body. He would cry, grind his teeth, and then settle as I stroked his face, his ears, and his side. He was a people bunny. He loved the carpet. He loved being touched. Scott was alternately stroking my head and back and looking things up as I would spit them out, searching for any straws we could find that might let us help him. Finally, a little after 2:00 AM, he had another set of the forward-backward spasms, then flopped, nose first (as rabbits would normally do when they are happy/relaxed) against my foot. He wasn’t crying, he wasn’t tooth-chattering, but he wasn’t well. I could tell. I knew. I knew that was it. So I just kept petting and petting and petting until I couldn’t feel him breathing any more. And then I probably petted him another good fifteen or twenty minutes because I didn’t know what else to do…

Rather, I knew, but I couldn’t do anything else. Back of my mind was bury him now or in the morning, if morning what to do with the body, remember a layer of stones to keep animals from digging him up, shroud him in the shirt in the cage… But that was a dull buzz. Forefront of my mind was the soft fur beneath my hand and how still he was.

Scott, earning his Husband-of-Awesome title for the millionth time over, actually dug the grave for me despite being exhausted and sore from fixing the water heater earlier in the day. I helped some, but he’s still far stronger than I am. We did bury Vash that night. I did wrap him in the shirt I’d put into the cage to perhaps make him more comfortable, and we did remember the layer of stones. Scott actually gathered some extras. While I was wrapping him, I tried to close his eyes—like you see people do to corpses on TV and in movies. Apparently that doesn’t work the same for animals, so he was “looking” at me while I wrapped him. I don’t know if it’s writers brain or just my own hyper-analytical means of dealing with grief that made me notice that.

I spent today…well, mostly sleeping. And then cleaning out the cage, the carriers, and whatnot. I’m not ready for another bunny, definitely not any time soon. I lit a stick of temple incense Scott brought back from Taiwan where his cage was. The cage will go in the shed or the attic. I’ll pick one of the carriers to keep handy for Nylis. I’ll ask around my other local bunny friends if they need pellets, toys, and wood pellets (for litter).

And I wrote this blog. I wanted to remember all the bits. I received so many kind words when I posted about Vash’s death on Facebook… and I know three other of my friends who lost pets this weekend.  Maybe it will help others. Maybe the information about the symptoms and bunny health will help others. Maybe I just want to make a record of it. Or all of that.

In any case, Scott and I love you, Vash the Stampede, Giant Bunny of Chill, and King of the Cardboard and Wood Pile. And everyone you met loved you. You touched a lot of hearts and are a special story strand in our family tapestry.

“Controlling” Emotions

Maine Retreat Terri

I’m at a Broad Universe writers retreat this weekend with a bunch of friends, among them the fabulous Rona Gofstein, who also writes as Rachel Kenley. And in my all-important “procrastination before writing” time, where I was glancing through Facebook, I saw her recent blog post, “Emotions Don’t Need to Be Controlled.”

I gave a “quick” (i.e. 4 paragraphs long) response on the post here, but that only dealt with one aspect that I think is important in this discussion.

She said in the blog that it was probably an unpopular topic, but I don’t think it should be. It’s a many-faceted topic that I had about ten different replies to flying around in my head. In summary, I think our relationship with emotions needs to be more openly and readily discussed. Not just if we should and should not repress them or control them, but how they affect us, how we create emotions, the physiological and psychological importance of a good relationship with emotions…

Our relationship status with emotion, of course, is best filed under “it’s complicated,” but I also think all good relationships are. And as a writer, I love exploring those complicated relationships… and a good blog response should pick one particular aspect and discuss it. And perhaps save other aspects for future blogs.

Having had my surgery and a long history of period / hormone issues, though, what’s foremost in my mind and has been for the past year is physiological causes for uncontrollable emotions. (Basically, almost the opposite of what I ended up responding on Facebook.)

Our current culture in modern America, and many other places across the world, takes the stand that we should “control our emotions,” as Rona puts forward in her post.

I agree with her that we shouldn’t control our emotions and that it is a problematic, if not dangerous, thing to do so. (She has a great example of following her instinctual emotions on her blog.)

Emotions cause physiological effects in the body that we cannot control—blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, tears or laughter are some examples. (Breathing, too,  but we have some control over that, at least.) These are part of your autonomic nervous system—the things your body does that you don’t have to think about, and in essence, can only marginally affect even when you do think about them.

Because emotions have such a major physiological component attached to the autonomic nervous system, as well as the endocrine system (your hormones) and neurotransmitters, that means you can have physical triggers for emotions that you also cannot control. The science of psychiatry and psychology deal with those quite a bit. But consider when you have a health problem that affects your body’s chemistry—you’re not able to control your body chemistry, so you simply cannot control the emotions caused by these symptoms.

Many women suffer this dissociation with regular PMS—the butt of far too many jokes. However, consider how society pressures people (particularly women) to “get it together” and “control your emotions,” when she literally, physically CANNOT DO SO. Not only is there this awful feeling of intense anger, sadness, happiness, or what not because estrogen or progestin is doing its thing, but there is this logical awareness that the emotion being felt is not associated with any actions or events currently happening around us. And we’re regularly told that THIS IS WRONG; YOU ARE WRONG.

And it’s not wrong. And it’s not controllable. And no one should be punished for going through this.

It’s bad enough to be standing in the kitchen, filled with rage and a physical illness of dissociation because there is no good reason for there to be rage. Thought processes and thinking about the situation aren’t going to un-flush our system with the chemicals causing rage (or grief, or elation). In fact, the discomfort or panic of that dissociation can enhance and exacerbate the unwanted emotion. Add in feeling like a failure or like you ought to be able to control this emotion, and you’ve added even more chemicals interacting in the body.

What to do?

Change starts within us. Within individuals. I’d love to magically change society and society’s dangerious and poisonous views, but that isn’t something any individual can do. But we can learn to create a better relationship with our own emotions—and to forge more healthy relationships with the emotions of others by our own reactions.

For each individual, admit and surrender to the idea that emotions are not a thing to be controlled.

That’s a lot of work on its own.

Next, each of us should pay attention to your body during emotions. How do I feel? What is my natural inclination for action while experiencing those emotions? Is there a situational cause for the emotion? If so, what? If not, that’s okay too; I  notice and appreciate your body is going through something physical and physiological that creates this emotion.

This is also a lot of work. We need to give ourselves permission to take our time with this.

Then, then, after we’ve acknowledged these things, we can look for the things we can control.

For me, the first thing is to learn how to communicate about emotions. Let the ones I love know when I’m angry, that I need to do something physical—walk, yell, punch or throw inanimate objects. Anyone I’m in a relationship with—my hubby, my friends, my family—are people I could potentially act out upon due to emotions, and none of us have psychic powers, so it’s important to tell them why I’m acting out—what I’m feeling, what I need, and so on. Of course, it’s important that if the emotion was caused by an action that, once the uncontrollable need is met (time alone, being hugged, pillows beaten up), the cause needs to be addressed.  I’ve seen people (and it’s often shown in literature, television, movies, etc) take care of the emotional need, but then never address the issue—so it continues to fester and cause the uncomfortable emotion—and that discomfort will grow, requiring the physical response to be stronger and stronger. Communication is the most important thing in any healthy relationship. Communicating with ourselves and others is key when it comes to our shared relation with emotions.

Once we get communication moving, we can look at other things that are within our control. Especially when emotions come at inconvenient times. Rather than try to control the emotion, however, we can control how we handle the symptoms of emotions. Rather than saying, “I can’t be angry right now,” we can think, “I can’t tell so-and-so to self-copulate painfully right now.” We can take time to pay attention to breathing and work at controlling that to an extent. We can take time with responses, crafting them so as not to damage other relationships. We can remove ourselves from situations when we realize we are at a place where the physiology of the emotions is not appropriate.

I don’t think I can say enough times that this is not easy, and I, for one, am far from perfection in this practice.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. And try again. And try again. (And apologize, communicate, and try again.)

The last thing regarding “control” over emotions is how we respect and appreciate others’ physiological-emotional needs. Telling someone to “get control” is, as mentioned above, not only likely impossible but damaging, potentially making the situation worse. Find out what they need in the moment to deal with the emotion, and later discuss the situation. Be forgiving when someone lashes out; it may be a thing they physically can’t control at the moment…

That said, suffering regular abuse from someone who “can’t control their emotions” is a relationship not worth keeping. That is an entirely different—but still very important—conversation that needs to be had. Physical attacks, deep emotional attacks, any abuse is wrong.

Outside of abusive behaviors, however, it’s worth being flexible, honoring the physiological aspects of emotion, and opening a channel of communication. For ourselves, and for the ones we care about.

I hope this isn’t an unpopular topic, and that more of us do start healthy discussions about what emotions are and what makes for good emotional relationships.