All posts by JL Mo

I’m a Florida Native. Yes, we exist.

I’m a fourth generation Floridian, to be exact. Even after a fair amount of travel, I still choose to reside in the town of my birth, the tourist Mecca that is Orlando. My hometown is so culturally diverse, you can hear languages and sample cuisines from almost every nation within these city limits.

Raised in South Florida during the 70’s (in a “lower-middle-income” family), I now have two grown sons, with kids of their own. My husband of seventeen years is my source of joy and inspiration.

“Life. One short story at a time” is a collection of stories most everyone can relate to, on one level or another. Through life’s experiences we can share the possibilities, along with the humor, the frustration, the sadness, and the joy that comes with it.

Diary of A Quitter – Phase II

Phase II – Truth

 

 

The mental gymnastics we perform in order to convince ourselves to do something that we don’t want to do are amazing. You cannot deny, at least once in your life, you’ve lied to yourself in such a convincing way that you even came to believe it. That is, until the whole thing blew up in your face.

To light a cigarette, and take that first, deep drag was my end goal. That’s all I wanted. Just that first hit. I told myself the one lungful of tar and nicotine had a calming effect on my nerves. With stress piling up, just that one hit could set me right again. Buy a pack, take that hit, then throw the rest away. I hate smoking. I hate the way it tastes, the smell it leaves on me, the expense. All of it.

This takes strength to admit. I am strong.

I lie to myself quite well, don’t you think?

Lies. The truth and strength I’m searching for are layered in them. I put them there. Layer after layer, it had grown thicker and thicker, until the truth became unrecognizable.

My husband, in a hurt and sardonic tone, threw the spotlight on the congealed mess I’d made of things. “So, you’re lying to me.”

No! I should have screamed in protest. I’m lying to me. Not you! Me! You had nothing to do with this.

Now, the backward gymnastics begin.

I was hiding the truth. From me. And from him. I was lying. To myself first. Then him, and then just about everyone else in the end. I lied about smoking. I lied about where I was going when I went to buy that destined-for-the-trash pack. I ate something strong to cover the hideous, hated taste the cigarette left behind. Can you see all the layers I’d hidden the truth in? Because I didn’t.

As an aside to those who might wonder: I have battled the demons of addiction in many forms. The demon of nicotine is the strongest by far. No shit. I hate him.

The time had arrived to quit smoking. This time it’s permanent. (Stop snickering.) This is not new ground, it should be easy by now. It is not. Dammit, this will be the last time.

I still didn’t see the truth.

Weak from the struggle and humbled by the strength necessary to overcome my base desire, I began to pray. Scoff if you will, but I prayed hard. Prayer buoys me. To rise above the flesh and see the problem from a detached, matter-of-fact level offers more hope than I can explain. Besides, if I’m really lucky, I’ll get a God-smack of truth out of it.

While in prayer, I’m given the knowledge that this hated, hateful demon would be beaten back. Encouragement coursed through me. I am strong. That is not a lie. I will be made free of this demon. That is not a lie. God is with me (I really should pray like this more often).

I quit on a Wednesday. The first day I did pray for strength. And that prayer was granted. No secret trips to the store. Yea! The second day went smooth enough, but I did a lot of praying. I mean, a lot. My friend wasn’t going to quit for another week, and I hoped that the first couple of days would be okay for her.

Day three was a Saturday and we were going out with a few friends to a Halloween party. My soon-to-be-quitting friend offered me a nicotine patch. She reminded me that while drinking, the urge was strong, and the mind was weak. Her logic made sense. I accepted the crutch/patch gladly. The end of the night found me exhausted from dancing, inebriated, and laughing all the way home. Not a thought for a cigarette the entire time.

The morning after. I woke up with a slight headache, but attributed that to the alcohol. Duh. But a cigarette! I could think of little else. The concentration for prayer escaped me. The demon had sidled up and whispered everything would be fine with just one, deep, drag. If I had been alone I can’t say that I would’ve made it through the day smoke-free. But I wasn’t alone. My husband was there. I turned to him in my weakness, instead of sneaking off for a covert meeting with my hated demon.

Then I remembered. The nicotine patch was still adhered to my left arm.

I yanked it off, cussing.

In that moment, the realization of the ineffectiveness of this crutch hit me hard. This system is not for me. My approach to quitting is stop. Just stop. No chemicals, no bargaining, no backsliding. The inner battle is my own to deal with. This nicotine patch system still puts the drug in my body, just not through the lungs. What the F good is that? I’m fighting this addiction with every tooth and nail, and then I gave the demon exactly what it demanded? Argh! Once the delivery system on the patch ran dry, my body wanted more, and flooded me with the need for more.

It was on that Sunday the truth blew through the layers of lies.

Truth: I love the demon named Nicotine. But, if I don’t get him out of my life now, he will kill me.

As with any other abusive relationship, this must end.

God-smack received.

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

Diary of A Quitter – Phase I

 

Phase I – Busted

I’ve noticed an odd phenomenon since I gave up smoking back in 2000. At first, if someone lit one up around me, it smelled so good. I’d find that person and go stand near them, just for the second hand smoke. Afterward, a year or so I guess, the odor started making me turn away. To this day, I never know how my body will react to the smell of tobacco burning. Whether it is appealing or repulsive, the reactions are polar opposites, much to my chagrin.

My return to the world of smoking began during one of the times when the smoke smelled really good (duh). Also, pain and frustration from a recent surgery. Also, stress. Also, I can come up with at least four or five other good/bad/embarrassing reasons/excuses for putting the nasty thing to my lips. Basically though, addiction. There are any number of excuses I had for lighting up. None of them good, and I knew this to be true.

I came up with a game to play with my own psyche. I bought a pack at a convenience store. Then, I took one out, and threw the rest in the trash can at the store. Only one, I told myself. Just to get the monkey off my back. This happened once a month. Then, twice a month. Then, once a week. Finally, I hid the pack in my purse, instead of throwing it in the trash.

Yes, the reason was addiction. I’ll also admit to a slight thrill. Since a ‘thrill’ is excitement with an element of danger, the experience of sneaking a smoke with no one knowing was a small thrill. The fact it could kill me might have added another level.

After a while I admitted it to one of my girlfriends. She’s the only one who still smoked among my group. She gave me a ration of shit about it.

One day, she and I were at my house in the middle of the afternoon. I decide to have a smoke. Our conversation turned to the guilt I felt about hiding it from my husband. “This is my last pack,” I announce. While half-way through that smoke, my husband opened the back door where we sat.

Surprise!

No ranting, raving, scene-making for him. Nope. He said five words that hit me like a punch in the gut. “So, you’re lying to me.” Then, he left.

We can all speculate what he thought, felt, or what else he could have said. I call all irrelevant. Those five words will haunt me for life.

I quit that day. Of course, I started again in six weeks. But for right then, I quit.

 

Six weeks later…

I bought a pack at a convenience store.

I lit one, threw the rest away.

Bought another pack two days later. Told myself this would be my last pack. Put it in my purse.

About two days after that, I told my husband I’m a smoker. It didn’t go well. But, the gut-wrenching idea of lying to him again, for any reason whatsoever, made the admission necessary.

Fast-forward. After several heart-to-heart conversations, I off-handedly told him that this would be done by my birthday. Which is the day after Halloween.

I gravitate between, “What was I thinking?” and “I can do this,” for the next couple of weeks. My friends, with whom I’ve shared this dark patch of life, are supportive. My husband has stopped his sarcastic quips and he looks forward to the day I quit.

Being honest with myself, I’m not happy. About smoking. About having to quit.

My smoking friend and I have agreed to quit together. She’s trying one of the nicotine drugs to quit. I’m going cold turkey.

Again.

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

I Quit Smoking. Again.

 

Back in the year 2000, I quit smoking cigarettes. Cold Turkey. While the quitting was tough, I made it through to the other side. For thirteen years I went smoke-free. Then, I had a backsliding episode. If you’re a nicotine addict, you know of what I speak. Stressful times, weak moments, friends smoking around me, bumming a light.

After that episode, I beat it back again for several more years. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but for some reason, the cigarette demon is stronger than even the coke demon. Never will coke come into my life again. If nothing else, of that I am certain. But nicotine is different. It never surrenders. The battle wanes at times, but it is never over. I know I can beat the demon, but in the interim, it puts up one helluva fight.

There were some stressful times this last year. I backslid again. As you have gleaned, this is not a new fight. Let me share something I wrote a few years ago…

 

Demons of Addiction

 

We wrestle our own demons daily.

I have conquered a few.

A few I have tolerated.

Today, they snarl and move on.

 

Cocaine is a demon straight from hell.

It grabbed me and held me.

I fought it with everything.

I won, but its scars remain.

 

Alcohol is a fun demon that killed my folks.

We wrestle on occasion.

I respect her strength.

She laughs when she leaves me sick.

 

Cigarette Demon has held the longest.

But he comes seductively,

when I am weakest.

He’s gone, but warns he may come back.

 

There is a counter to this evil,

when I choose to call upon It.

He will hold a shield before me,

then the demons snarl and hiss,

 coil in fear, and move on…

 

© Original Copyright 2012 JL Mo. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2017 JL Mo. All rights reserved.

 

 

The demons of addiction are a very real experience. To those of you who have never suffered such affliction, I commend you. The ones who are here, who read this, and relate, you know your demons. Alcohol, tobacco, weed, coke, whatever name it takes. When we find ourselves weak and wrestling with the desire, we are looking right into the eyes of our demon. Should we remember our prayers (meditation, aura seeking, etc.) we can gain strength. But, in the midst of the fight, we might lose touch with that peace.

It makes no difference that people tell us they’ve gotten through this and it was no big deal. This is our personal demon. Personal Big Deal. We beg our loved ones to be patient with us. Be strong for us. We need your strength. You are our light to the other side (Thank you, Dart). To be tobacco-free is our guiding beacon.

Some former addicts are stronger and never allow weakness to show. It is an embarrassing debilitation for them. If that’s how they adapt, then all the better for them. I am not such an animal. My need for prayers and support is palpable.

My last cigarette was 10:25pm, October 25, 2017.

Thank you, my friends. With your support, I can do this. Again.

Please join in my prayer for Never Again.

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

Me too

 

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new trend going around social media. Stemming from the Harvey Weinstein debacle, users of the various sites are prompted to type “Me too” or #Metoo into their statuses if they have ever been sexually abused/molested/attacked/manipulated/etc. The idea is to acknowledge the community of victims. To no longer hide in shame. And mostly, to support one another.

I would love to say I’ve never been sexually assaulted, but that would be a lie. The first time memory serves would have been around the age of seven. From a “friend” of an uncle. The next time around the age of twelve. From a man my alcoholic parents trusted. John Beard of West Palm Beach, circa 1973. He hired me to babysit his kids (how cliché can it get?). He and his girlfriend seduced my twelve-year-old self with manipulative compassion about my home life. After securing my trust, the fondling began. Which led to the inevitable. Then, they invited their friends to use me as well. For the next few years, it became my freefall into a childhood robbed of innocence, convinced that I was a full grown, sexy woman at the age of thirteen. That abuse messed up my life for the next thirty years, although I didn’t realize that the exploitation carried over into so many aspects of my fucked-up life.

Live. Learn.

Still, there are worse stories. Much worse. We all know the Catholic Church abetted and sheltered abusive priests. Those victims carried the pain into their adult lives with shame, along with an inability to foster trust again. In other places, there were children chained like dogs, whose lives knew nothing but abuse in every form. Then there are those victims who are forced to watch as their loved ones are abused, and can say nothing for fear the abuser might kill. Yes, there are much worse stories than mine. Does that limit the impact of abuse on my life? No. But those tales did help to keep mine in relative perspective.

Everyone has a story to tell. The people I’ve shared my story with have opened up and shared theirs with me. Sexual abuse, in all of its forms, has touched the lives of too many people. When the abuser is in a position of authority in the victim’s life, that power looms ominously over every action. Nothing the victim does is without the taint of fear. Abuse of power is evil incarnate.

Some have never had the opportunity to unburden their souls. Typing two words in a status update might have been the first time some of these victims have acknowledged their plight. You might wonder what good can come out of allowing the world to know you’ve been victimized. Do you skim by the latest Me too post with an eye roll? Folks jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak. I would like to challenge you to reach out to the ones you know who have posted, to see if you can be of some help. Let the person talk about it. Be a listening ear.

No? I get it. You’ll send thoughts and prayers instead.

After your thoughtful prayers, how about we drop our squeamishness over talking about sex? Predators love the dark. Each time we shut down any conversation we find uncomfortable, the abusers hiding in the shadows win, their victims trapped in the darkness of social construct.

My advice for the victims; go talk to someone you trust about the pain you have lived with for too long. Shame and fear keep us in the dark. And alone. That fear was evicted from my life many, many years ago. There is no anxiety or hesitancy for me to speak about sex with others. This post should prove that. But then there are the idiots who denigrate the conversation to a, “That’s what she said.” mentality. Those are the types of people victims are also hiding from. The insensitive, moronic clods who try to cover their own discomfort by making others squirm. Well, we’ve squirmed enough, thank you very much.

If you do not have someone in your life you trust to that extent, there is an organization called RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) waiting for your call. They can help steer you back to yourself. If you typed the phrase, and you don’t know what to do next, click the link, check it out, and then call.

My advice for the others; allow victims to know that you do not judge them for what they suffered. That first step is monumental to moving forward. Look at those who’ve typed those two words. If they are truly friends of yours, and you found that post surprising, text them. Call them. Make a date. Open a dialog for them to unburden the brutality they suffered. For their sakes, please, help them.

Typing Me too exposes ourselves as victims. But it’s not enough. Do you know what can be done to prevent sexual abuse? Nothing. As long as mankind is on this earth, abuse will continue. Let’s stop sheltering these fiends in darkness. Shine a light of love and understanding, and allow the victims freedom from the shackles the abuser put them in. Literally and figuratively.

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

Dying Since Birth

 

 

“…one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”

― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

 

 

In the last few weeks I’ve been contemplating life. This mental wandering is not new territory for me. Car accidents. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A few times doctors have told me that I had to have this surgery, or that surgery, in order to continue living. Each time the death threat was years down the line. Each time I opted for the surgery. If pressed, I couldn’t say why. Life had never been so fantastic that I would fear losing it. Never one to contemplate suicide, mind you. Crashing God’s party without an invite just seems rude.

Still, the first part of my life did leave a lot to be desired. The third of five children in a lower-income family, it was my first duty to take care of the younger sibs. My mother and step-father were alcoholics, so physical and mental abuse were daily occurrences for all five of us. But I didn’t realize that until hindsight allowed.

This is not a unique story. Many other people have walked this path, and worse. Some came out better, some not so much. Some learn. Some didn’t.

For me, college was not an option, so I went for the next available way out. My first husband. He, too, had issues that inevitably crashed into mine. The fall out of the divorce seventeen years later was my first, true moment of introspection. Up to that point the days traveled past and took me with them. Childhood. Marriage. Two sons. Divorce. All happened without my thinking much in advance. I took comfort in the belief that this is the path the Lord laid out for me.

In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking way too much about all of this. The lump in my right breast became a signpost to reflection. The thing is, after all of the turmoil of my younger years, happiness is now my constant companion. There was a time I embraced life with a Pollyanna “it’ll get better” attitude, but now the joy is tangible. Life has gotten better. My second husband is a man who accepts me for all of my faults and all of the baggage that is me, and still loves me unconditionally. Four young grandchildren come to visit and share their unbridled, innocent joy. This is my life now. These are my reasons for living.

Once upon a time, I told my family if cancer was ever the diagnosis, I’ll let it take me. A lot has changed since then. Today, I cherish every breath allowed. I firmly believe in the spiritual realm, and somewhat look forward to joining it. This life is temporary. Our bodies merely suitcases to hold the soul as it passes the days until life comes to its end. Good, bad, or indifferent. But now, my life is a dream come true. The lump threatened to take it all away. Yes, we are all born astride the grave, dying since birth as it were. From the moment of our first breath, there is a date of death we are hurdling toward. But, I found myself praying that the date might still be years away.

After weeks of waiting, the call came. The screen read “Women’s Center for Radiology.” For a moment I hesitated. Perhaps hearing it in voicemail would make it easier to bear. Then I realized this call did not come from my doctor, as I was told it would, but from the Center. I snatched the phone up and answered. At first, the woman on the other end sounded distracted, which fueled my fear. Then, her voice smiled. (If you don’t know what that means, there is no other way to explain it.) She gave me the blessed news that the lump is benign. I tried not to cry from relief until after I ended the call.

The good Lord has seen fit to grant me another extension on life. Think I’ll throw a “Life is Good” party this weekend. My husband won’t mind.

 

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

The Biopsy

This post is for anyone who might be curious as to what a patient goes through for a biopsy of a tumor on the breast.

 

The Biopsy

 

I arrived at the Women’s Center for Radiology at 8:15am. The appointment was for 8:30. I checked in, sat down, and was not called until 9:00. Well, at least I got all of my daily challenge games on my phone done during the forty-five minute wait. Distractions help.

This time, the assigned nurse was a pleasant woman. She handed me the appropriate apparel to change into and left the room. After changing, I sat in the chair and waited. And waited. And waited. Bored, I checked out the equipment. There was the table for me to lie on, naturally, but the screen and the equipment tray held my interest. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what input the screen was waiting on. I moved to the tray. Not being in the medical field, each of the shiny, sharp objects eluded me there, too. So, for continued distraction, I gave them names. There was the curvy metal stick. The straight metal stick. The prong thingy. Just as I was tempted to pick up one of the tools for closer examination, the door opened. Dammit. That thing will go unnamed.

The paper covering the cushion on the table crinkled loudly as I got on. That always makes me wonder if the noise is due to how big I am. Does everyone wonder the same? Or does anyone? Yeah, I was deep in my own head at this point.

While reviewing something on the screen, the nurse said, “Uh-oh.”

Damn. That is one expression you do not want to hear a medical professional say.

“Uh-oh?”

“Oh, sorry. For some reason your left is noted, but the scan shows it’s the right. I’ll be back.”

With that she took a clipboard and out the door she bolted.

Huh. That can’t be good. At least she checked before the procedure began. Perhaps I should have been more upset, but instead gratitude for the woman checking was how I felt. Besides, someone would have noticed if there was nothing to do a biopsy on. Right?

Lying on the table, I wasn’t sure if I could get up, or stay put. Deciding to remain where I was, I took the opportunity to self-exam the left breast, and then the right. Nope. Still couldn’t tell there was anything amiss. Good thing they have machines for this.

When the nurse returned she apologized and explained the original mark on the forms had been checked wrong. It was the left side of the right breast, not the left breast. Huh. Well, that moves it from an out of the way hiding spot, to the cleavage. Dammit. I like my cleavage. The actual biopsy shouldn’t leave a mark. But if the damn thing is malignant, that’ll leave a visible scar.

As if that’s at the top of my worry list.

While cleaning the area, the nurse took the time to explain to me everything that was about to happen. First, ice the spot. Then, a shot to numb the area. Then, a deeper shot to numb the area under the skin. Then, the biopsy consists of yet another needle-type apparatus that would retrieve the tissue sample.

Well, that clears things up. Thanks. Please know that I only thought those words. Concern for my sarcastic side coming out kept me from speaking aloud. But, I am an organizer, and I like to know what’s on the agenda, so her description did give a measure of comfort. Had I spoken, however, she would have come to a different conclusion.

The same doctor who was on staff for the sonogram came in and repeated everything the nurse said. Again, concern for my sarcastic side kept my mouth shut. Not everyone understands my humor. Smile and nod, just smile and nod.

Ice held against my breast for a minute or two did lessen the sting of the first shot. That, in turn, lessened the pain of what was a larger needle for the second. The three of us waited for the numbing to take effect while chatting about the recent hurricane, as if I weren’t laying on a table with my shirt open to two strangers.

Needles are not unfamiliar to me. At one point in my life, every six months, I’d had cortisone shots in my wrists to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Now that HURT. One time I actually screamed. You might call it a short burst of uncontrolled expression of discomfort. But yeah, I screamed. With that as a benchmark, I figured this couldn’t be so bad.

And it wasn’t.

Even with my (shudder) needle experiences, at the moment of actual penetration, I looked away. There were numerous ways to avoid direct eye contact with a sharp object puncturing through my skin. In this case, the screen on which the needle was being recorded caught my eye. For some reason I found that fascinating. Perhaps because the actual feel of the needle was absent, or perhaps because I wondered at the technology. Either way, it was like watching a TV show about someone else having this procedure.

On the screen, the needle remained in place as a chamber slipped over the barb. The chamber pulled back as the doctor told me that was the first tissue sample. Three or four more times the chamber slipped into view, and then retreated. It put me in mind of the pump action of a shotgun. I’ve got to say how glad I am to be living in an era that allowed me to disconnect with the reality of having tissue pulled from inside my body, and just watch the screen as it happened. Surreal.

With all complete, the doctor reasserted her belief that this mass is benign, and this I hold onto that belief with both hands (folded in prayer).

I’m told the results can take up to seven days, but will probably be done in four. Now, I just have to find something to keep me occupied for the next week.

I wonder what the grandkids are up to.

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

A Lump

 

Every woman with breasts knows that we’re supposed to get mammograms every year. The accepted time to start this annual torture is the golden age of forty. I was a hold out. Of course, I checked myself often. Admittedly, I was scared of the test. From what was reported, the girls are flattened beyond recognition, and I’m no small bra size. There’s also a kind of not-admitted-to mindset of ignorance is bliss. To add to that, there’s no family history of breast cancer. At least, to the best of my knowledge.

Pressure from my doctor and my husband made me relent by the age of fifty-one.

The first test revealed an “area of concern.” They wanted to do a re-test. Freaked out, I researched and reached out to those who knew more on this subject. Once comforted with the suggestion that the first mammogram may be used as a baseline, I waited patiently for the next test.

Okay, patiently may have been an overstatement.

So the day came and I in went to get my boobs smashed. Again. The results showed that the area was “clear of any unknown abnormalities.”

Whew! Decided right then I’m not gonna do that again any time soon.

After a year of considering, the decision was reached to have the test again. (Thanks, honey.)

Fortunately, that was as uneventful as any test could be. (See? I told you.)

It would be three more years before I subjected myself again to the great mammy mash. Okay, yes, the doctor started nagging me. Sometimes I hate her.

This time, it was not an “area of concern.” No, the good people at the Women’s Center felt their mammy machine wasn’t strong enough to penetrate the dense tissue that is my breasts.

A sonogram was suggested. Not ordered, mind you, just suggested.

(Wait. We can look for lumps with a sonogram instead of turning the girls to pancakes? Why isn’t that the standard for breast exams?)

I signed myself up for the next available appointment. I wasn’t worried. During my two pregnancies, I’d had a few of these slimy experiences.

The ultrasound technician was a serious sort. As she slid the wand across the areas, at least 20 stills of each breast were snapped. Perhaps my question “is it a boy or a girl?” annoyed her. Probably not the first time she’s heard it. Once the examination was completed to her satisfaction, I was instructed to get dressed and wait as the doctor reviewed my file.

Still feeling confident that all was right with the ladies, I did as instructed. Then, going to the designated waiting area, I pulled out my phone and started checking messages and playing games. It did seem to take a long time, but the waiting room was filled when I got there, so the doc’s probably got a lot of work to catch up on.

As the minutes continued to tick by, I’ll admit the fear that began niggling at me. But, I had come in here with a confident swagger, and that persona is what gets me through the roughest of times. There was no way I’d let it go now.

The same woman who performed the test stepped into the waiting area and told me the doctor would see me now. It felt ominous walking into the dimly lit room, where X-rays hung against the lit backdrop on the wall. The doctor on staff put her Big Gulp down long enough to shake my hand at our introduction.

Be cool. I told myself. Smile and nod.

The giant cup back in hand, the doctor pointed to a darkened mass in one of the stills. She explained that this spot needed to be addressed, but it was her ‘gut feeling’ that the growth was benign. A biopsy is the best…

She kept talking. I glanced over my shoulder to see the tech standing rigid. Our eyes met, and she glanced down. The doctor was still speaking. Her voice didn’t convey confidence. Maybe it was my imagination, but she seemed conciliatory. I then realized that many, many women have stood where I stood, with a variety of reactions between them. The two employees of this facility must have witnessed enough of these to understand the need for soft lights, easy speech, and delicate approaches to information. Along with back up.

I almost felt bad for them. Pulling myself back to hear the doctor’s words, I repeated what she’d said. “Yes, single mass, probably benign, sure.”

Okay, maybe not her exact words.

Then the biopsy was scheduled. One week and two days later.

One week and one day has now passed. During this time I have waffled on whether I should talk about it and to whom. I spoke to a very dear friend who has faced this and came out well on the other side. She was encouraging and supportive. I thanked her and she said to call anytime I feel like I want to talk. I told her I didn’t want to even think about it again until the day arrived.

Nice try. Yeah, I’ve tried to block it. But the worry comes back bigger and badder every time. Still, I got my swagger.

The biopsy is tomorrow. The results, of which I’m sure will be benign, another three or four days after that.

I hate waiting.

 

Gratitude

 

Gratitude is an internalized emotion, which does nothing until externalized.

 

A birthday for a young nephew came around, but my husband and I live in a different city. As it was a ‘big’ birthday, we shipped him a special present. After several weeks, we’d not heard anything as to whether the item was appreciated, or even received.

When I spoke to my sister about the present, it was apparent I’d hit a nerve.

“Yes. He got it.”

“Did he like it?”

“Yes.”

Long pause. Then she said, “Didn’t you track the package? It would have shown we got it.”

“Yes.” Then I sighed. “I had hoped to speak to my nephew. Maybe hear that he liked it.”

“You mean, ‘thank you’? Is that why you sent it? You wanted to hear thank you?”

Stunned, I didn’t know how to respond. Needless to say, the conversation ended on a sour note.

I recall this exchange thanks to Hurricane Irma. She rattled our home, snapped our elm tree that fell across the driveway, and disconnected us from the grid. It was a rough night. But, we woke the next morning whole, and with a roof still over our heads. Thank you, God!

Without power, we faced the option of (what we now know to be) seven days of no air conditioning, refrigerator, stove, etc. Of our two sons and their families, only one had power. We all went there. With four children under the age of four and six adults under one roof, we had to find a way to make it work. “Please” and “thank you” were expressed by the adults to encourage the children as well as one another.

Irma wreaked havoc on our state. My family was richly blessed. The worst of it was the loss of power. So many others lost so much more. We are grateful beyond the pale, and expressed it several times each day.

My daughter-in-law, whose home we commandeered, is an amazing woman. During the time we were there, with all of the commotion and activity, she received a phone call. A woman from her church asked if she could come that evening and help with distribution of hot meals. Not only did she agree, but she made cupcakes and cookies to add to the meals. Then she took one of the four kids to the church with her, so that they could see gratitude in action. (Do you think the angel wings tucked into her shirt makes her itchy?)

When we express gratitude, it not only encourages those who give, but it connects you to that person on a spiritual level. By making cupcakes, or helping clear debris, being a nurse, working at the shelters, the doctors, firemen, police, these people understand that their work is satisfaction enough. But to hear and see the gratitude of the person for whom you do these things is to form an emotional connection. Sure, whine a little. Pout and/or cry for the tangible things lost. Even if all of your possessions remain undamaged, a traumatic experience such as surviving a hurricane is a legitimate reason for shock. Just don’t drone on for too long. Those around you trying to help will begin to feel frustrated that their assistance is unappreciated.

Gratitude feeds the giving spirit.

One moment you are in the position of giver. In the next moment you might be the receiver. To offer gratitude in action or word is to complete that circle.

Even if it’s nothing more than saying thank you.

 

****

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

 

Fearmongers

Fearmonger (a/k/a: scaremonger): Definition:

Psychological manipulation that uses fear-based tactics (scare tactics) including exaggeration and usually repetition to influence the public in order to achieve a desired outcome.

 

If you’ve been following me in any way, you already know that I am a fourth-generation Floridian. South Florida was my home for the first twenty years of my life. For the next thirty-six years, Orlando has been home. Florida is a wonderful place to grow and live. Our state motto should be: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

 

A few hurricanes have hit my home state in my lifetime. Prior to the ‘net, we depended on the three available TV channels for updates. My dad became so frustrated with the talking heads of the time he turned it off and told us to go outside if we wanted to know what the weather was doing. Wise man.

 

Today, Hurricane Irma is making a beeline for us, after leaving a trail of devastation across the islands as a Cat 5. The warnings issued would have the entire state evacuated. But, hold on a sec. If there is any concrete fact about hurricanes and the direction they take it is this, we just don’t know. Sure, there are more than a few educated guesses. But there’s a reason it’s called a “projected path” and that’s because we just don’t know.

 

One of the forecasts now show a decrease in strength to a Cat 2 as it reaches Central Florida. At the risk of offending every hurricane-fearing reader out there I’ll quote an old saying. “Don’t wake me if it’s under a Cat 3. That’s damn good sleeping weather.”

 

Now, for the scaremongers. Look back at the beginning of this post and re-read the definition.

 

The first part is the most important to understand. Psychological manipulation. They work to keep you afraid. Why would the powers-that-be do this? To keep the general populace tuned-in, and look to the government for assurance. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but certain individuals may indeed benefit from your fear. How much money have you spent over the last week prepping? Yes, there is a genuine danger. Look at the islands that Irma crashed. But they do not know any more than can be guessed. A theory is an educated guess, and that is what we are seeing on screen.

 

The second part of the definition is fear-based tactics (scare tactics) including exaggeration. Not one to point fingers, but come on. Tuesday saw the forecast as Irma shredding the East Coast of Florida as a Cat 5. Did that drive you to collect all things hurricane related? Of course it did. What sane human (who has never been through this) wouldn’t? Yes, have a disaster package ready. At all times. Put up shutters when the storm turns in your direction. But mindless panic of buying every bottled water on the shelf is a bit extreme.

 

Now, for the media. The part of the definition that makes the biggest impact on our lives is, repetition to influence the public. In no way, shape, or form would I consider the genuine warnings of an oncoming hurricane fake news. However, there are those who allow anxiety-driven newscasts to become a part of their minute-by-minute lives. Compelled by fear, their anxiety is amped up to the point of not realizing what they are doing to those around them. Loved ones look on in dread, not knowing how to communicate with that terror-filled family member.

 

If this is you, please, stop. Step back. Take a deep breath. Look around at the faces of those who love you. Including your pets. Anxiety is unintentionally shared. Do you want to see everyone around you becoming bat-shit crazy as well? No? Then turn off the hurricane updates for an hour. Your nerves will thank you. Your family will thank you. Your four-legged friends (read: pets) will thank you.

 

Yes, Irma is to be feared. But, if you have done everything in your power to protect what is yours, no amount of fear or worry will change anything. So, take a minute to relax and appreciate the camaraderie that a storm like this can bring to the general public. Do not allow Irma to tear apart relationships, as well as property.

 

As for me and my family, we are prepared. thanks to plenty of advanced warning from The Weather Channel app, MyRadar app, and The Orlando Sentinel. The people in tornado-ally don’t get near as much warning as hurricane-prone states. An earthquake in Mexico struck with no warning, and has left dozens dead. In that light, we should consider ourselves fortunate.

 

I’ll write another post once Irma passes through. It’s now projected to come right on top of us. Most know that once a hurricane is over land, it quickly decreases in strength, not increases. But, whether a Cat 1 or 5, there is nothing more we can do.

 

Just so you don’t think I’m completely cavalier about Irma, I’ll close with this:

 

Hold on tight, folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

 

 

 

 

 

PSA: Ethanol is Bad

 

In case you missed it, America runs on Ethanol. This is a corn-based fuel additive that has been around since the 1970’s. Pushed by Agribusiness as an answer to the oil crisis back then, it has become big business endorsed (read: required) by the US government.

The problem is that it doesn’t work. In fact, it can damage engines.

Personal experience: In 2009, I purchased a brand new Impala SS and still drive it today. Shortly afterward, Ethanol appeared at every gas station. The label on the pump states: May contain up to 10% Ethanol. Other labels read: Contains at least 10% Ethanol.

I knew nothing of the biofuel except that it was the next best thing to happen to cars since fossil fuel. So, I filled up time and time again without a thought.

Then, my engine started to die. Literally. There seemed no rhyme or reason to it. Driving the highway at 70 mph, or along a residential area at 25 did not matter. With no warning, the engine dropped in power. My speed declined to ten miles per hour. Doing 25 in a residential wasn’t an issue. However, 70 on the interstate can be quite traumatic.

The dash display read: “Engine Power Reduced.” Followed by “Service Stabilitrack.” By some miracle, I survived each of these sudden power failures. Once able to get off the road, I turned it off, and waited. After several restarts, the error message on the dash disappeared. To add to the frustration, my mechanic reported no code errors recorded. So he couldn’t fix what wasn’t broken.

Then I found a forum on Edmunds.com with identical complaints. One member suggested Ethanol as the cause. He’d had his gas analyzed and found 45% Ethanol in his tank. Stopping the use of the bio-fuel has eliminated the problem for him.

I found one gas station, Wawa, which sells Ethanol-free gas. After three fill-ups, the problem has not returned. Perhaps the answer is that the computer couldn’t compensate for the half-gas mixture it was trying to draw power from. A few more trouble-free tanks will prove the point. (One can hope.)

Engine problems are not the only issue. Another demon of Ethanol is the diversion of actual food to third world countries going into our first world vehicles. How did we agree to feed our cars over our fellow starving human beings?

Here are some great articles if you’d like to read more about it, before you decide to stop using this piece of corn that is force-fed to us by the Feds.

It’s Final — Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use – Forbes

The Ethanol Scam – Rolling Stone

Can E15 Gasoline Really Damage Your Engine? – Popular Mechanics

 

And lastly, for my number-crunching peeps, here’s the word from the IMF on the situation:

 

Impact of High Food and Fuel Prices on Developing Countries

 

Ethanol-free is a bit more costly. So ask yourself, is an extra fifty cents a gallon worth protecting your engine, the environment, and helping to feed your fellow man worth it?

I choose yes.

***

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.