YA Flash Fiction: The Preceptors

“I don’t feel special at all, I feel used.” Wren was ranting, and pacing with arms flailing. When he was having a moment like this the group found it best just to let him finish.

“Look at us! Living like animals! Worse! Animals have more sense.” Wren stopped and stared at them, his indigo eyes bulging, tucking his greasy blond hair behind his ears.

“I’d actually kill someone right now for a hot shower and a decent meal.” His eyes darted wildly from Luna, to Madison, to Jaxon. Jaxon could calm Wren when he got this way, but like the rest of the group, he was exhausted and not sure he felt up to the task.

Their current camp was on a Cliffside in a thickly wooded area of coastal Maine. Wren was standing precariously close to the edge of a rocky embankment.

“Wren, you’re freaking me out. Jax, do something!” Luna pressed.

“It’s your turn. You’re the one he’s all about.” Jaxon said laying back on the cool, pine needle covered earth. Clasping his hands behind his head, he stared up at the sky changing from periwinkle, to plum, to grenadine, and closed his eyes imaging he was back in San Diego floating on a raft in his family swimming pool. He sighed, knowing those days were gone. They were all orphans now.

Wren stared down at the surging Atlantic below, sacrificing itself on the algae coated rocks, thirsty foam licking up and subsiding. He turned, hands on hips, and glared at them pointing at the ground for emphasis.

“I could just jump and end it all, right here, right now.”

“Here we go again,” Madison drawled, tracing a scene in the dirt with stick—a spherical orb hovering over four stick people.

“I wonder if they’ll be green and slimy or sort of reptilian.” Tugging a pink lock down in front of her eyes from her mop of curls, she added, “Maybe I should go green.”

Luna shot Madison an irritated look, leapt up and ran towards Wren.

“Stop it! Get away from there. You’re scaring the crap out of me!”

He gaped at her flawless mocha completion, pleading mahogany eyes, and tangle of dark hair and thought, how do you still look so amazing after everything we’ve been through?

Luna smiled her brilliant smile, the one that could make Wren bear any burden. After all this time he forgot for a moment that she could read his mind, they all could. It was one of the many gifts they shared with the 2020 pandemic children. That and total immunity from all subsequent viruses that had caused mass casualties over past eighteen years. With the toe of his Converse, Wren forcefully kicked a loose pink stone off the Cliffside.

“Mother! That hurts!” He hopped on one leg back to the campsite, sat cross legged, and rubbed his aching toes with both hands.

“Thank you for not jumping,” Luna said, sitting next to him hugging her knees into herself, rocking back and forth.

“Sorry Luna.” Wren brushed the hair away from her eyes until she stopped rocking.

He felt like a jerk upsetting her. Sensitive and perceptive, Luna still woke up screaming from nightmares about the incinerator fires, swearing she could smell the pungent, metallic, sickly sweet odor of burning flesh. On the flip side, her spider sense that made the fine hairs on her arms stand straight up whenever they were in jeopardy had saved their lives time and time again.

            “Serves you right dumb ass,” Madison said rolling her eyes. “That’s what you get for being such a drama queen.”

“Shut up Mad, it frigging hurts,” Wren moaned.

“They have the power to heal,” Luna said.

“Duh! Dude, you kicked granite,” Jaxon said. They all cracked up, laughing until their stomachs ached from something other than hunger.

“Wren, we’re all nervous about meeting the Preceptors. You just need to chill.” Madison said. “Like what choice do we have?”

The Preceptors, or the aliens, they imagined could be controllers, pedagogues, overlords, and conquerors. Preceptors had hopeful connotations, like teachers or mentors. Their real teachers from the Washington State School for the Gifted who had introduced them to the Preceptors were all gone now, along with most of the earth’s population.

“We should make a list of concerns and ask them at the next meeting,” Luna said.

“You mean like I hope I’m not the only black kid boarding this damn spaceship,” Jaxon said.  

Over the past year, they had been on a mission. Every month in a different location when the moon was full, at midnight they “met with” the Preceptors who communicated telepathically. The Preceptors sent a glowing orb to gather information and share clues for the journey showcased in the stars. Wren, the astronomer of the group, interpreted the signs and led the way. Their mission would end when it was safe for the Preceptors to land their spacecraft on earth in a specified location where all of the other surviving groups would join them before leaving the planet to decontaminate and heal.

“Sure, let’s tell them all our worst fears so they can use them against us,” Madison said. “Or do even more heinous experiments on us.” She was scrutinizing a vial of water after using a dropper to drip a chemical into it. The vial turned blue-green. “We need to find another water source.” 

“You know there’s a reason why we call you mad.” Wren quipped. “If they were going to torture and kill us why bother keeping us alive for 18 years?”

“For our reproductive organs and to turn us into alien incubators,” Madison said.

“Then they don’t need me and Jax or the other boys,” Wren argued. “It makes sense they need all of us to repopulate earth. Hey Jax, what if we are the only two boys? Worse things could happen, right dude?”    

“Wren, you’re a pig,” Madison said. “Actually, that’s insulting to the pig.”

Jaxon laughed. “Break’s over. Mad’s right, we need to keep moving. Let’s see what supplies we can find and get gas for the gators.” A former Eagle Scout and a military brat, Jaxon had led the scavenger hunt at the start for camping equipment, guns, and ammunition. He had taught the group survival skills, self defense, how to hunt and fish, and could build a fire with a few twigs and dry leaves.

As a team, they broke down the camp, and loaded up the two gators they had “borrowed” from the abandoned Farmhouse near the school when their expedition began. That farm was their last memory of a home, where they had seen the news. Six months after her passing, the few remaining members of the President’s cabinet had abandoned their posts. A rudderless ship, the country had fallen into chaos, crime rates skyrocketed. Anyone who had not yet succumbed to one of the new super viruses had precious little time left. Reports of other countries were similar. All had thought the end would come as a catastrophic nuclear event, not a microscopic bug.

They traveled in the rural areas remaining hidden, only approaching small abandoned towns for provisions. They had survived, but there were experiences they all wished they could forget.

While the girls slept, Wren and Jax drove through the night, following Orion’s belt. Luna had mumbled before dozing off that the moon was in the Gibbous phase.

“Jax, pick up the pace!” Wren yelled.  

In a few hours, they reached Meredith, New Hampshire. The boys set up camp on a hillside overlooking the town and Lake Winnipesaukee. With the backdrop of the morning sunrise, Meredith was like a movie set — white church steeples, and Victorian homes, with one exception, it was missing a cast.

“Can’t we just stay and repopulate the earth now?” Wren asked taking in the view. He looked at Luna who had stretched catlike across both seats of the gator.

“No way! It’s contaminated, especially the cities. Water’s not safe. We need to haul some for bathing and start boiling. The girls will be up soon and I need to crash,” Jaxon said.

At 6pm the girls woke them.

“We have company,” Madison harshly whispered in Wren’s ear.

“Huh?” Wren sat bolt upright.

“What the…” Jaxon said.

“All this time I thought it was a load of crap,” Madison said.

 Groups of teens approached from all directions, an invasion by car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, tractor, gator, bicycle, and on foot. On the lake, boats approached. Single engine planes landed in the open field. Within a few hours a crowd in the thousands had amassed. The noise was deafening. After more than a year of living in a world comprised of four people, they had to get used to the idea of letting others in again.

Jaxon asked, “You all ready?”

“Ready to throw up,” Luna said.

“I might be having a panic attack,” Madison said.

They all looked at Wren who said, “Guys, I think I’m having a moment.”

The End

Gotta Love Google!

Funny story…well only if you’re not me!

Soooo in the early 2000’s I left my executive position in manufacturing firm to raise a family.

I had this 401(k) money to rollover. I did some research and I asked my husband for some advice. I decide to invest some of the money in mutual funds and I picked a few stocks that I thought were interesting…this was 2004…and I picked Starbucks and Google.

At the time I had a fair amount to invest. I wasn’t planning to invest all of the money in one stock, but I planned on investing about $5,000 in one of these stocks.

My husband said “this Google seems very risky, Starbucks seems to more reliable”.

I bought $5,000 worth of Starbucks shares. It was under $20 per share and is valued today at $113 per share.

Starbucks did okay. The stock split. The earnings were good. Solid. Reliable. My husband was right about that.

Now let’s just pretend I put the money in Google. In 2004 it was valued at $85 a a share. The stock had just gone public. Google is currently valued at around $3k per share, then there are stock splits and incremental gains to consider. But just doing basic math, I would have purchased about 59 shares. Those shares would be worth around $177K today.

I guess the moral of this post is…listen to your gut! If there is one thing that has always been true and has never steered me wrong it is this.

Now maybe being wealthy is simply not my fate. I’ve had many a ‘brush’ with wealth and fame only to land smack on the other side broke and without recognition. So I think this is true. It simply was not in the cards for me.

But Google has brought me some karmic gifts. I write these wine posts and miraculously Google loves my top ten wine posts!

Google Buttery Chardonnay under $20 and my post from 2014 is still well ranked.

In the Google search “Buttery Chardonnay under $15” the same post pops up!

My new post “Buttery Chardonnay for under $10” is making Google headway.

In these Google searches my ‘top ten’ wine posts are often top ten in the search engine so that’s something isn’t it? Who needs $180K, right???

Finally, I was getting ready to update my wine bottle photos from the 2014 Buttery Chardonnay under $20 post because the current photo quality with the new phones is far superior, but Google images searches show these photos are ranking so now I don’t dare!

How do you measure success? This remains the eternal question. Whatsoever your definition, I hope you find it!

Free Book Promo

I’m running an Amazon free book promo this weekend if anyone is interested. Since the book is a paranormal thriller, October is a big month for this story. Here’s a pre-view link:

Thanks to all who have shared or purchased, it’s a great promotion so far!

Amazon.com Sales Rank tonight #14,758 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)

#40 in Metaphysical Fiction

#58 in Christian Suspense

Happy Halloween month all!

Janine’s Gift

Janine Richardson was an ordinary woman. She was so ordinary in fact that she was certain this was how people described her if they ever stopped to give her a second thought. Janine wore her mousy brown hair in a short bob, in the same style she had worn for as long as she could remember. She was painfully thin, some would even say ‘skinny’, which she grew to learn was not exactly a compliment. Her face was narrow, her coloring pale. If Janine spent more than fifteen minutes in the open sunlight, she would suffer a horrendous sunburn, then peel, but never, ever tan. Her hazel eyes were unremarkable, hidden behind large, round, tortoise shell glasses. Her mouth was neither pouty, nor full and when she smiled, although her teeth were perfectly straight, they appeared too small due to an excess of gum tissue. It was a defect she had always wanted to have corrected, but had never gotten around to doing. As a result of her childish grin, Janine rarely smiled. When she did smile, her mouth formed a controlled, thin-lipped line that curved up ever so slightly at the corners.

Janine was never popular in high school save a few close friends, a trend which continued into her adult life. Primarily the issue was her apparent invisibility. Her personal style of dress was comfortable, in part due to a lack of fashion sense and her predilection for discount clothing stores. Naturally shy, she was not a stellar conversationalist, or story teller at social events. When Janine passed by, men did not turn their heads to look at her and rarely held doors for her. Other women did not seek her out for friendship, and were not generally envious of her with one small exception: Janine was blessed with an extremely high metabolism. She could eat whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, without ever gaining a single ounce. This unique quality led to her adoration and appreciation of foods from around the globe.     

Janine met her husband, Carl McGraff, during their senior year of high school. Carl was one of only two boys who had ever expressed even a vague interest in Janine. She and Carl dated for several months. Janine was unreservedly smitten with Carl and he was passively indifferent to her. During the summer after high school, Janine discovered that she was pregnant. They decided to keep the baby and were married in a small, private ceremony. Carl put off college and went to work for a local Real Estate Agency. On the eve of their marriage, he confessed that he had planned to break up with Janine on the very night that she had told him about the baby. Consequently, her walk down the aisle felt to her more like a death march.

When their daughter, Hope, was born Janine’s life was renewed; she found her purpose in motherhood and was fine with being a housewife. Shortly after Hope’s birth, Carl took up residence in the spare bedroom and there were no further additions to their small family. Still, Carl was enamored of baby Hope. Unlike Janine, Hope was extraordinary. She was blessed with the best mix of Carl and Janine’s gene pool: Carl’s blond hair and ice blue eyes, and Janine’s slight build. Before she even learned her first words, Hope began making lyrical sounds and repeating them. By the time she was four years old she began singing and as she grew, she lit up a room with her mere presence. Hope both resembled and sang like an angel.

Carl and Janine were good parents and the business of their marriage was a success. They owned a small, comfortable cape-cod style home in Portsmouth, Rhode Island with a tidy fenced-in yard. In their savings and retirement accounts, they had an appropriate amount of money. Their garage housed two well-maintained, late model vehicles, one sedan, one SUV. Respected in their small community, they helped neighbors in need, and went to church every Sunday.  

Over the years, Carl had become a Real Estate Broker and by the time Hope was in middle school he owned his own agency. He worked every weekend, partly out of necessity, and partly by choice. He and Janine had few ‘couple friends’, as the other couples in town sensed something was amiss in Carl and Janine’s relationship and distanced themselves, as if a bad marriage might be contagious. The women in town gossiped about or pitied Janine. Did Janine know? They wondered. She must! They assumed. 

Carl had his Monday night bowling league and his Thursday night pool league. He had his friends from high school who had elected to never leave their home town but instead worked as plumbers, electricians, and fire fighters. He knew all of the other small business owners, and the local politicians. Carl was a town institution and an affable guy.

Janine joined the PTA and kept busy by volunteering, first at Hope’s elementary school, then at her middle school, and finally at her high school. She took Hope to her soccer practices, her dance classes, her piano, and voice lessons. She baked for the school bake sales, assisted with the school fund raisers, and chaperoned the field trips. She was a member of the neighborhood book club and on occasion she went out for lunch or dinner with a few of the other mothers where they talked about family and how their children were doing in school.

For fun Janine obsessively watched the food network. Utterly enthralled, she practiced her cooking skills along with the shows. Mealtime was an adventure in the McGraff household. Even Carl raved about her cooking! Often, Janine brought her creative cuisine to Carl’s office for his staff to enjoy. She had always thought working for Carl would make perfect sense, keeping the books, or answering the phones, but he insisted that it would ruin their relationship. Oddly she never felt as at ease at the agency as she thought she should. The female Realtors rarely made direct eye contact with her and always seemed to be in a hurry, on their way to some extremely important showing.

Gourmet Cheese Plate

When Hope began High School, Janine accepted a part-time office position working for a general practioner in their small town. Dr. Sullivan was wonderful to work with and Janine thrived in her position and eventually became the Office Manager. Dr. Sullivan was an old school practitioner; he liked paper files and still made house calls for some of his elderly patients. When he retired and sold the practice four years later, the new young doctor opted to hire his own staff rendering Janine unemployed.

When the time came, Hope was accepted to multiple Universities but was offered a partial scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The school was an excellent fit for Hope and was close enough for her to come home whenever she wished, which Janine assumed would be often. Carl insisted they could not afford the tuition unless Janine found a new position. With her limited computer skills, the only job Janine could find was as a receptionist for the law firm Stuart, Craig and Glenn, PLC in Providence. Although Janine was not thrilled about commuting to the city, for Hope she was willing to make any sacrifice. The lawyers of the firm, Bob Stuart, Steve Craig and Alan Glenn were all very professional and driven. Janine thought it unusual that all three men had two first names and it brought back a bad memory. Her freshman year in high school, a boy in her class with two first names, Jason Logan, incessantly teased her and coined the knick name, “Skinny Jinny” which had followed her through all four years.

On her first day at the firm, Janine was both nervous and excited. Attorney Glenn accidentally referred to her as Jean. Janine tried to correct him at the time, but he interrupted her and ever since has identified her as Jean. Janine’s one and only friend in the firm, Amy Brown, the Human Resources Assistant, often told Janine she should set him straight. Janine just never saw the point, except that there were times when Attorney Glenn became annoyed that Janine did not answer when he asked for things. It made for an awkward situation. 

While the other office girls, the paralegals and administrative assistants went to lunch together every day from 12-1pm, Janine was never asked to join. She had to cover the phones at all times. The firm believed having a “live” receptionist set them apart from the other firms, and gave them a personal touch. Janine’s lunch break was from 11:00am-12:00pm when call volume was the lowest, yet she was still expected to answer if the phone rang.

On a daily basis Amy joined Janine at the front desk in the event that Janine was chewing when a call came in and she needed Amy to answer on her behalf. Janine had never had a friend quite like Amy. Amy lived for gossip and always had the latest scoop on their co-workers. Janine silently believed that when Amy shared these stories it was horribly unethical, but lunch was the highlight of her otherwise dull day. Janine brought her culinary delights to share as a way to thank Amy for her midday companionship. Over Taiwanese noodles, or sweet and spicy tofu, or lobster tacos with tangy lime sauce, Amy dished the dirt.

Seasonal Vegetables with Hummus and Bruchetta

Apparently Attorney Glenn was sleeping with one of the paralegals. His wife was suing him for divorce and it was very ugly. Attorney Stuart was suffering with some type of horrendous cancer and had been seeking treatment for some time. There was serious concern over the future welfare of the firm if anything happened to him because he brought in all of the largest clients. For Janine, the firm’s daily soap opera was infinitely more exciting than her lackluster life, rendered even more so now that Hope was away at school and rarely found time to come home.

Janine missed Hope terribly! She and Carl went to see every musical theatre production at the Conservatory, even if Hope only had a small role to play. It was one of the few things they did together as a couple. By her senior year at the Conservatory, there were only starring roles for Hope, and Janine realized that their little town of Portsmouth would never be big enough to hold her shining star. She began to panic at the thought of Hope never returning home. Their quaint little house already felt enormous as result of Janine’s loneliness.

One day on a whim Janine asked Amy how she thought that Mrs. Glenn had discovered the affair. Amy said it was probably in the usual way, by reading her husband’s text messages, or reviewing the credit card statements. She added that any woman would have to be blind not to see what was happening, but then some women were that way, or they simply chose to look the other way. Then, Amy began raving about the butter chicken Janine had brought for lunch and insisted Janine had a gift, and she should open a restaurant. Janine rolled her eyes and thought: sure a thirty-nine year receptionist opens a restaurant. I bet that happens every day! Amy went on to come up with names for Janine’s imaginary restaurant: Janine’s Creative Cuisine, or Just Janine’s.   

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cafe Au Lait Ice Cream

Even though it was silly, Janine allowed herself to fantasize about restaurant ownership. Some days she did not even hear the phone at the reception desk until the fifth or sixth ring startled her back to reality. During slow periods at work, she conducted online searches for commercial real estate for lease and cooking classes. Having a secret wish, made her feel powerful, alive.

After bowling one evening while Carl showered in hall bathroom, Janine heard his cell phone pinging and chiming with messages. She put down the book that she was reading, climbed out of bed and walked into the guest room where Carl’s phone rested on the nightstand. Carl never left his phone lying around. He constantly kept it with him because as he said, in his line of work he could not afford to miss an important client call or message. Janine, who had always respected Carl’s privacy in the past, uncharacteristically flipped through his text messages.

She scrolled through texts from his friends and some work related messages. Then she paused when she saw several messages from Ashley Peterson an agent who worked in Carl’s office. In stunned silence, Janine read the messages and stared in disbelief at photos of the blond-haired, green-eyed, curvy agent. Past encounters with Ashley flashed through Janine’s mind. Ashley had always been pleasant but dismissive at the same time about the food Janine brought or about Janine’s attire: “Well doesn’t that look delicious! If you eat carbs, I mean!” And, “oh, what and interesting blouse!” Janine felt her stomach sicken and her face redden when she read one of Ashley’s recent texts: Miss you already! Have fun going home to your frumpy little wife! In the photos, Ashley was posing in a provocative way, in an extremely revealing outfit.

Janine felt something snap inside of her like an elastic band that had been wound too tight for far too long.

When she no longer heard the water running in the shower, Janine carefully put Carl’s phone back in the exact same location where she had found it. She tiptoed to her room, switched off the lamp, and quickly and quietly dressed in her pajamas before she slipped under the floral quilt of her bed. Once she heard Carl close his bedroom door, she wept silently until her pillowcase was damp with tears and permitted the darkness to hug and envelope her until she slept.

The following week Janine asked Amy if she knew who Mrs. Glenn had hired as her divorce lawyer. Amy answered without inquiry. Amy was her best friend, but Janine knew she was little more than a sounding board for Amy. As Amy prattled on, Janine rarely got in a single word. So while she had planned to tell Amy so many things, like that she had made an appointment for laser gums contouring, somehow she never had the chance. Instead she took a sick day one Friday, underwent the painful procedure, recovered over the weekend, practiced smiling for the next week, and waited for anyone to notice. It took Amy three days and Carl a solid week. The power of invisibility, Janine thought, was that no one even noticed when you were gone.

Her new contact lenses initiated a more expedient response from both Amy and Carl, but Attorney Glenn had asked her if she had changed her hairstyle. No, Janine thought, but it’s long overdue! Being able to see without feeling like she was looking out a thick window had literally opened her eyes to a world of possibilities and her brand new smile gave her just a hint of confidence. 

Johnson and Wales University was conveniently located nearby the law firm, so Janine enrolled in evening cooking classes. After class, when she went home to her empty house, she was too tired to dwell on the fact or too busy with homework. Janine excelled in her classes. One added benefit was that everyone wore chef’s clothing, so there were no wardrobe concerns. She felt like she fit in for the first time in her life.  

Hope’s college graduation marked the last McGraff family celebration. Following the ceremony, they dined in downtown Boston bistro with some of Hope’s friends and their families. It was a spectacular day! Hope could not get over Janine’s transformation and kept saying so. The next day, brimming with pride, Janine and Carl helped Hope pack for her move to New York City where she planned to pursue her dream of performing in musical theatre. They all said tearful goodbyes and Carl and Janine promised to come see every production without fail.

Fourth of July weekend while Carl was attending a real estate convention in Las Vegas, Janine packed her belongings, and assisted by a team of movers, moved into a one bedroom apartment in Providence, close to both work and school. She had never lived in a city before and was excited about the very idea of it and enthusiastic about dining in the wide array of restaurants downtown. She planned to celebrate her 40th Birthday in August with some of her friends from school and with Amy, of course, at a new up and coming restaurant called Out of the Blue.

When Carl returned home, he would find the divorce papers on his nightstand with a pen and a stamped, return address envelope. After all, it was common courtesy, Janine thought, to let Carl know her new address.  

Armageddon? If you fear this is the end of days, use your GIFTS and PRAY!

We were promised unity and transparency. We may be united on one thing; it’s crystal clear that something is tragically amiss. Do you feel it? A murky despair hangs like a toxic fog over our country.

I hear people ask, “What can we do?”

It’s not a shrug your shoulders, we give up, what can we do? My gut says Americans want to do something, to be proactive, do something to stop the madness, because there is nothing worse than feeling helpless.

We are far from helpless and there are many things we can do.

I have long believed that each and every one of us is given a gift at birth, a gift from God. You may be one of the lucky ones who have more than one. The onus is on us to figure out what our talents are and how to use them for the betterment of mankind. Likely, these proficiencies are skills at which each one of us naturally excels. Sure, we may study or work to improve our ability, but to some extent we have always simply had a knack for something like singing, painting, writing, fundraising, teaching, or any ability that makes us unique. It takes some people a lifetime to figure this out. Here’s a hint: ask yourself, what’s the one thing that when you’re not doing it, you’re completely miserable? What is something positive that you are compelled to do?

For me that compulsion is writing. In my youth, and before blogging, self-publishing, and social media, I filled notebooks with words, poems, stories, and incomplete novels. Then, in my twenties and thirties, I filed away the notebooks, in favor of my laptop, often writing stories that I never even shared.

When I started this blog a few years ago, it didn’t really have a focus at first, probably because I didn’t have a focus. Over time, I discovered I liked to write about wine, politics, writing, art and nature. But of all of these, people most like to read my posts about wine and writing.

Then, in I wandered away from the blog and discovered Twitter. A few years ago, I thought Twitter was amazing! I could post a photo of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC and people in Japan could see and like it. I found other writers. I found people passionate about politics. I stopped really writing and started tweeting instead. I thought I was connecting with the world, how exciting!

In 2016 I wanted to do something for my preferred candidate in the Presidential election. I had used Twitter advertising to promote my book, so I ran a pro-voting twitter campaign using my own tweets. There was nothing nefarious in any of the tweets, snarky yes and attempts to be witty, maybe. The campaign was wildly successful in likes, retweets, and follows. Twitter blocked some of tweets and put them under review. I inquired and received some vague answer.

Not long after the campaign, Twitter deleted all of my advertising analytics, even for the ads I had run for my book. They sent me a letter stating that I had Russian followers. So what? I have followers all over the world, I thought, and a Russian sounding surname. I inquired about the missing ad data. After all, I had paid for those ads; surely what they were doing was illegal. The representative said the ad data only stays up for a limited period of time. I said, “That’s funny because I was always able to go back and review ads from previous years before”. Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t quit Twitter at that time, but I stopped tweeting. That love affair was over.

Just before the 2020 Presidential Election, I started Tweeting again, my political outlet. At one point last fall I had tweeted something about the election and someone tweeted back something nasty. Before I knew it, I was in a tweet battle with a total stranger. It went on for hours. Then, she started tweeting scripture at me. I tweeted scripture back. It went on. Finally, I was just exhausted and I wrote, “Agree to disagree. We both read the same book.” And it stopped. I think at that moment we both realized how foolish we were, and that in a sense, we were both actually on the same side.

I didn’t like who I had become on Twitter, so I closed my account. Prior to this, I had quit Facebook for the same reason and had not missed it at all. Some friends and family members were angry that I had left Facebook, but I was more at peace. It had lost all meaning to me. After my mother passed, I started a family group chat, and a year later we are still using it to share family related events and news. My circle has gotten smaller, but it is more meaningful. I kept this blog because for me it is where it all began and the place where I felt I had made the most genuine connections. I still want to connect with the world, only on my terms.

I think it’s OK to lose your way as long as you can come to your senses and still find your way back.

Lately, I have felt a strong sense that we are all being called, compelled to action if you will, to use our gifts for the sake of and for the good of our fellow man, right now.

As a result of my “tweet battle”, I don’t believe we are all divided. I deduce there is a purposeful wedge being driven between us and that all too often we seek salvation in human form, when the great unifier is faith in a higher purpose, and in a higher power.

As a nation, and as a world, we have spent the last year fighting against an invisible enemy, a virus. We are all exhausted, our souls are depleted and they need to be replenished.

We have been told, “Don’t wear a mask! You must wear a mask! Wear two masks!” And we have been muzzled.

We have lost loved ones; we have watched our children struggle and fail at home school and fight to participate in their chosen sports. Suicide, poverty, drug addiction, and alcoholism are on the rise.

We have been told that we can’t see our friends, our family members, our co-workers, and we can’t worship together.

Right now, tens of thousands of migrants are flooding our southern border illegally aided by human traffickers. We know very little about these migrants, except that they desperately want to flee their own countries and for that we can’t blame them, but at the same time we are ill-equipped to help them, especially now. In addition, they may be COVID super spreaders, and are being allowed to disband across our country. How does this fit with every restriction we have faced over the course of the last year? Why are our leaders allowing this to happen? Is it for votes? Is it to keep spreading the COVID virus and to keep us under control longer?

Our leaders are patting themselves on the back for the new $1.9 Trillion dollar COVID-19 relief package they just unveiled. Did they bother to ask themselves the one question that every one of us asks before buying something as simple as a kitchen appliance? “Can we afford this right now?” You should read what’s in this bill. This article offers a good explanation, and you can decide for yourself: https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-reliefbill2021-covid19-idUSL1N2LA2NF

Maybe a simpler and less expensive solution to our current angst would be for our leaders to close the border, to dispense the vaccines, to allow our small businesses to open and therefore have a fighting chance of survival, and to send our kids back to school. We are America. Most of us don’t really want a handout and $1,400 might pay the mortgage for a month and then what? What I hear people saying is: “we want to be able to earn an honest living and we want our country back”.

Like many of you, I have spent a fair bit of time ruminating over recent political events. For a few months, I chose to disconnect, to not engage, to not write about it, to close down my social media accounts, to not react, and to just take some time to think and to question.

I saw events with my own eyes that made me question the election outcome. Tens of thousands of people supported one candidate, and only a handful supported the other, but the other guy won? Balderdash! Isn’t that a great word?

I questioned why the Supreme Court dismissed court cases challenging the election results and refused to even consider looking into the possibility of voter fraud. Plus, there was the double insult of potential voting impropriety on the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage. What a slap in the face. Shouldn’t voting integrity be of supreme importance to the highest court? Will our vote ever count again? Did it ever count? Don’t we deserve to know?

When one party seeks power at any cost and as a result the other party is made to feel completely powerless, something is terribly wrong.

Make no mistake, a battle is raging.

So you ask again, “what can we do? How can we take back our power?”

We can use our gifts and no joke, we can pray.

A few years ago, while I was researching my novel and certain that I was experiencing a spiritual crisis, I went to speak with a priest. After a long discussion, he told me the best thing that I could do about my predicament was pray.

At the time, I recall I laughed a little. Was it nerves or embarrassment maybe.

He said, “That’s Satan, he’ll always try to stop you from praying.”

“Just pray, that’s it?” I said, “It sounds too simple”.

“There is nothing more powerful, “he said, “than prayer.”

Of course he was right. I didn’t really get it at the time.

I’ve never thought of myself so much as religious, but I’m definitely spiritual. Religious to me was always about being devout, never missing mass, and being able to quote scripture without looking it up. But I’m glad that I took some time this year to reflect and to pray. I’m thankful that I did not give in to negativity and derision and that I did not write out of anger. Loving your enemies takes courage. I’m still working on this. https://www.biblehub.com/matthew/5-44.htm

Like Janice Morrison, the character in my book, I consider myself a Catholic in progress. Janice is far from a saint. She curses like a sailor and sins like the rest of us. She’s in the midst of a battle, good versus evil, both figuratively and literally.

Through prayer, we are allowed to share our burdens. Afterward, I feel physically and spiritually lighter.

So now I pray for the Supreme Court to find courage. I fear that some heinous force holds their tongues, and prevents them from doing their jobs, especially Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett. It could be simply my own fears. But if there is something holding them back, I pray that it will be revealed and that any known threat be vanquished.

I pray for the unborn and for those suffering from religious persecution around the world. https://www.persecution.org/2021/03/05/new-report-highlights-severe-lack-religious-freedom-china/

I pray for the members of the press to open their eyes, their ears, their hearts, and their minds and to tell the truth, not their version or their superior’s version of the truth, and for selective censorship to be cancelled.

I pray for Joe Biden and his family, that he is not afflicted with dementia. Over the past five years, I lived the horror of this disease. My mother lost her struggle with this disease last year just as our nation succumbed to this pandemic. I’m all too familiar with the vacant stares, the lost words, and the stolen memories. I witnessed it in her and in the other residents of her nursing care facility. Dementia is a nightmare from which one can never wake.

I pray that the members of the current administration running the country behind the scenes have the best interest of our great nation and its security at heart and that those in power truly grasp the weight of this heavy burden.

I pray for America to be free again someday soon, for the National Guard in DC to go home to their families, and for faith to be restored in our Nations Capitol. I believe our government does not need protection from its own citizens, but rather from thoughts and ideas that become policies and laws to the detriment of our United States.

I pray that the mighty Constitution of the United States of America can withstand the vicious assault on its Amendments, especially the First, the Second, the Fourteenth, the Nineteenth, and the Twenty-Sixth. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Constitution-of-the-United-States-of-America/Amendments-to-the-U-S-Constitution

Above all, I pray for our children and for the future we will leave to them, with fear, fealty, and faith. I am thankful to still feel compelled to write. With this outlet, and with these prayers, comes some levity.

Pray I’m brave enough to press publish.