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Saturday, May 31, 2014

I'm A Quitter

I'm a quitter.  At least I'm trying to be.

As many of you who are my friends on Facebook know (I can hear you groaning right now - you're no doubt sick of hearing about this) I quit smoking this past Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.  I guess I shouldn't say 'I've quit' until I have more than three days under my belt, though, so I'll say instead: I haven't smoked for three days.

If you've never smoked, you have no idea how huge that is.  I started smoking at a very early age and I've been smoking for almost 40 years.  I didn't make a conscious decision to quit.  If I'd have done that, I'd for sure have failed within a few hours.  It was very non-dramtic, actually.  No last cigarette to savor in some lovely surroundings.  No announcement to real-life family and friends that I was doing this.  I smoked before going for my yearly physical.  The doctor gave me the same speech she always gives me.  I don't really know what was different this time.  To be honest, I had every intention of lighting up the moment I left her office.  But then it hit me...I already had quit - with time under my belt - as long as I didn't light another one.  Hmm.  Then I wouldn't have all that anxiety of dreading "the moment" as it approached, or the profound sadness of the "last one".  Maybe I could just not smoke on the way home - it's only a ten minute drive anyway.

I accomplished that and it felt good.  Okay, it's only ten minutes, but still, getting in the car is a huge trigger for me and I overcame it and it really wasn't that hard.  Maybe I could go hour...?

I managed that too, and after a few other little self-imposed trials, I decided I could maybe do this.  I'd used Nicorette when I went to Disney World for my step-daughter's wedding a few years ago.  It did actually work pretty good for me, but I'd forget I was chewing it and still smoke at every DSA I ran across.  (That's Designated Smoking Area, for those of you who don't smoke.  It's where the really nice, cool, social outcasts hang out - I've met some awesome people at DSA's through the years.  Smokers actually talk to total strangers at DSAs because we already have nicotine addiction in common - misery loves company.)

By the time I hit 4 1/2 hours, I was pretty damn proud of myself and wanting to tell someone.  But I didn't want to tell my real-life family/friends because they would be all over me.  And, if I fail, I'll feel even worse about myself.  So, I decided to tell "Jaycee's" friends instead.  It was a relatively low-risk move.  I don't actually know these people, so if I cave in and smoke, they'll never know and I needed to tell someone, so I posted this:

"I've been smoke-free for five hours. That may not sound like much, but for someone who has smoked since they were 13, it's kind of a big deal. I'm not posting this on my RL page b/c those people will be up my ass and that's NOT what I need. I just need a pat on the back if I tell you I'm still smoke-free. Don't know if I can do this or not, but I'm gonna' try. Ok...feel free to pat..."

What happened next makes me tear up just thinking about it.  The very first post was this little meme:

How freaking perfect is that?  It made me laugh and grin ear-to-ear.  I saved it to my desktop so I could draw on it when I needed.  Suddenly my little status update was flooded with words and meme's of support.  Even Kallypso Masters stopped by!  (I had a total fangirl moment)  Edmond Manning sent me this from Huggstibles (In case you don't know - I'm addicted to Huggstibles too):

That right there?  I can't even tell you.  I mean, it's Huggstibles and that YAYZ is just for me!  Edmond wouldn't know me if I walked up and slapped him - yet he went and got Huggstibles, made that little sign, snapped a pic and posted it.  Okay, it's not like he did CPR and saved my life or anything, but the whole idea of him doing that for me...

For hours, I sat here, interacting with all these wonderful people who were taking precious moments out of their day to help me.  The wonderful side-effect of all this was, it kept my mind and hands busy.  At 6 1/2 hrs, it started getting rough.  I took my cigarettes out of my purse and put them out in my car.  I wanted them out of easy reach but still available...just in case.  And I posted:

"6 1/2 hrs.  *whimper*"

Jaycee's friends came running.  I just went and looked.  That little post has 50 comments.  Probably most of them are mine, but the point is, these amazing, "virtual" people kept me from smoking right then.  Huggstibles showed up again and told me to go to my happy place.  I did.

Smoking is more than just an addiction to nicotine.  If you've ever smoked, you understand.  There are just certain times that you have 'programmed' yourself to smoke:  With your morning cup of coffee, getting in the car, getting out of the car, AFTER EATING, after sex, before bed.  Those are typical of all smokers - then we each have our own:  When I need to go outside and stretch my legs, when I need to think, when I need to not think, when I need writing inspiration, when I take the dog out...  Day 1 and Day 2 consisted of huge hurdles and tiny victories overcoming those triggers.

I posted about my fear of having to go through the "evil portal" (my back door) to the deck - my DSA.  That was going to be a HUGE trigger for me.  I basically stayed inside all day - terrified of going out there.  (I did run out briefly just to pitch the decorative thing I use as an ashtray.)

I realized I did have to overcome this fear of the "portal", so I needed to find some other habit to associate with being on the deck.  Reading would work - at least in this nice weather.  I chose Edmond's blog because it makes me laugh and I can get lost in it easily.  It worked.  I was able to be outside!!  Yeah, I still think about lighting up the moment I step out there, but I had a way to redirect my brain.  That first night I was online, thanking Edmond for Huggstibles support and telling him I was using his blog as a support tool and he graciously sent me his ebook, "I Probably Shouldn't Have Done That".  The subject line on his email was, "Be The Quitter You Always Knew You Could Be."  Ha.

When I didn't post, several people PM'd me asking how I was doing.  I got to know some of Jaycee's friends better through these chats.  I heard stories of their own attempts to quit, and success stories galore.  People posted tips, like cinnamon toothpicks and Jolly Ranchers.  (I'm trying not to use food though.  I'm fat enough.  I'm using water.  It satisfies that hand-to-mouth thing that I think is half the battle.)  Everyone who had successfully quit told me - don't give up - it gets better.  The general consensus is, the first three days are the hardest.  (As I type this, it's 10:46 a.m., so the third day is officially behind me.  Yay, me!)

Yesterday my next-door neighbor (aka: smoking buddy) came outside to smoke and I could smell it and ohhhh, my god... I literally RAN into the house.  My husband said eventually it will start smelling awful to me.  God, I hope so, because I felt like Edward, trying to escape Bella and her scent.

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think I already feel better.  I think my skin looks better - probably all that water.  On the downside, I've noticed that it's hard as hell for me to focus.  You can probably tell by reading this.  It's all over the place.  Jesus, I feel like I have ADD - but it's not shiny things that are distracting me.  It's like every 10 minutes, I think about smoking.  I wonder if this is what it's like to be a guy?  They say men think about sex every 10 minutes.  That must suck.  Seriously.  If this is what it's like, I feel bad for all you guys out there.  How do you get anything accomplished?  But I digress...

The point of all this is, I realized that Jaycee, this virtual side of me, has her very own little virtual family and I'm now more worried about letting them down than I would have been my "real" friends and family.  Not that any of you would ever know if I smoked.  I'm home alone right now.  My husband just went to pick up some fenders for a car we're having restored.  He'll be gone for several hours.  I could smoke and no one would know.  I want to.  Trust me.  But, more than that, I don't want your efforts to have been in vain.

If I do become the quitter I want to be, it will be because of you - you funny, kind, compassionate, colorful people that gave of yourselves for someone you don't even know.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wolf Bound

I'm not a book reviewer and this is not a book blog, but I just have to do a little raving about Theo Fenraven's newest release.

First of all, I was beyond thrilled when Theo asked if I would be willing to beta the book for him.  Uh...hells yeah!!!  I mean, that's a no-brainer, right?  More than thrilled though, I was totally honored.  Then I had to admit to him, I really had no clue how to beta "professionally".  He was patient with me and I actually had a lot of fun interacting with him as he went through my notes.  I guess I did okay because I even got a mention in the dedication, which is the first time that's ever happened to me.  There was a lot of squee-ing going on last night when I saw my name in print - ha!

I hate to say I don’t read paranormal/shifter stories - especially since my most recent addiction to reading was sparked by a somewhat unhealthy obsession over the Twilight series.  Let’s just say, I’ve moved on and they no longer hold the same allure for me they once did.  And, besides, I was never Team Jacob.  So, when Theo said he was writing a shifter story, I’ll admit – I was a tad disappointed.

Then he posted the cover reveal and I was instantly intrigued.  Theo Fenraven is not only a talented author, but he creates some of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen.  I was now drooling and slavering for this book.

Any disappointment I might have felt before, vanished the moment the wolf howled.  I was hooked with no possibility to escape.  I was reading this sucker until the end and not putting it down.  From the early reviews I’ve seen, others of you are devouring it just as quickly.  It’s only been released for a few hours and already I’m seeing rave reviews.

I’ve said this before, but unless you read Theo’s words for yourself, you won’t understand, but his fans will know exactly what I’m trying to say here.  Theo writes such clean, smooth, beautiful prose that it’s not even like reading.  You are there – in the moment with his characters.  You feel with them, you see what they are seeing.  No long, boring descriptions from Theo… ever.  The scenes are painted for you stroke-by-stroke, word-by-word and it’s effortless.

While most paranormal stories require a certain amount of ‘world building’ and imagination on the reader’s part, Wolf Bound requires none.  I was immediately in Jon’s world because it’s the exact same world I live in.  I never had to suspend my grasp on reality to put myself in the story. I was on the edge of my seat until the end and I fully believed, while reading, it was entirely possible that one of my neighbors could be a werewolf.

There are lines that made me laugh out loud.  I won’t share them because I don’t want to spoil anything about this book for you.  Suffice it to say, I still remember them and that’s saying a lot.  Several times I got goose-bumps and at one point, I literally gasped so loud my husband came to see what happened.

The romance between Jon and Harrison is natural, believable and tastefully done.  No Tab A / Slot B.  This is another thing that makes Theo’s works stand out from the crowd.  His stories are never about the sex, although sex always plays a major part.  With every book of his I’ve read so far, the fact that the main character(s) are gay is never the root of the story.  It’s almost an afterthought.  They could be straight (or crooked, or whatever…) and it wouldn’t change the story in the slightest.  This is probably why I love reading his work - because it’s how I want the world to be.

Part of me wants every one of you to discover Theo’s wonderful words and part of me wants to keep him to ourselves – those few of us who “know”.  Other Fenraven fans will get this too.  But in the end, I guess the only way to change the world is to let other people read his words and see that being gay shouldn’t be any different than having blond hair and green eyes – it doesn’t change the story.

Theo, if you’re listening, I would love to see a sequel to Wolf Bound.  I’m not quite ready to let go of Jon and Harrison and I’m rabid to know what the future holds in store for them!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Be The Change

I don't blog much.  Hardly ever, actually.  But something amazing happened last night and I want to shout it from the highest mountaintops.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of Tom Bridegroom's death.  His partner, Shane Bitney Crone asked that, in Tom's memory, we have a Bridegroom viewing party.  While that sounds like an awesome idea, in real life, I'm relatively certain, no one would show up.  Most of my family and real life friends say they are open-minded about LGBT issues, but, and I quote, "(I'm) tired of having it shoved down (my) throat".  So, yeah, a Bridegroom viewing party at my house would be an epic fail.  So, I decided, if nothing else, in honor of Tom's memory and Shane's commitment, I would at least find time to watch it by myself.

Early in the morning, my hubby was having computer issues.  He has a PC running Vista.  I've retained enough geek that I was able to spend a few hours and get it fixed and cleaned up and running really smoothly.  He was tickled and told me he'd treat me to a nice dinner.  Now, I've been a wife a long time.  I know an opportunity when I see one.  I told him that's not what I wanted.  I wanted him to watch a movie with me and promise to keep an open mind.  That's all.

A little background on my husband here.  He's eighteen years older than me.  That's never really been an issue because I'm kind of an old soul and he acts much younger than his biological age.  He still sees himself as cool in a kind of James Dean way.  So, on most things, we meet in the middle and it works.  The only issues we have are when it comes to music and social issues.  He is very old school when it comes to LGBT especially.  Whenever two men or women kiss on a TV show, I can expect to hear spitting noises coming from his side of the room.  "Sick!  That's disgusting!  Why do they have to put that on TV?"  Needless to say, he's been befuddled and sometimes angry about my writing M/M and posts he sees on my Facebook page.  I wouldn't go as far as to say he's homophobic, because he's not "afraid" of gay people and he would never hurt anyone, but other than that, he is "that guy".  The one who will never change his mind about this.  Ever.  Oh ... yeah, he grew up Catholic - went to a Catholic school, so add that into the mix and you pretty much can imagine the extent of his bigotry.

It took me awhile to even find the movie.  I don't have Netflix.  I drove all over town, searching every video story and Redbox before finally locating a copy at the local library.  I came home happy.  The hubby?  Notsomuch.  He fussed and whined a bit before finally telling me to, "Put the damn movie in and let's get this over with."

Now, honestly?  I didn't really expect him to change his views.  I was simply hoping that maybe, just maybe, he would soften them a bit and not be so outwardly hateful.

The movie starts, and, if you've seen it, you know; you're captivated from the very first scene.  I kept stealing glances at him, but all I saw was his typical TV-watching face.  The one where I can't really tell if he's awake or not.  I kept asking, "Are you awake?"

In the beginning where Shane shares pictures of their love story, I can't keep from smiling.  Tom and Shane were so beautiful together and their love was just so obvious.  The hubby wasn't grinning, but that's okay - I didn't expect him to.  At least he's still awake.

Fast forward to where Shane is talking about Tom's death and he breaks down in front of the camera. My tears are well past the point of being able to catch them.  They are just rolling freely down my face and hitting my shirt.  I'm sniffling every second or two.  I have this thing - I don't cry in front of people.  I just don't.  So, I'm at the point where I need to leave the room, but just before I get up, I hear it.  A sniffle from the recliner.  I shoot a quick glance over and he's wiping his eyes.

You guys have NO idea how huge that is.

We watched the entire DVD - all the way through the credits to the very end.  That, also, never happens.  This is a man who gets up before the last ten minutes of every TV show, every movie, without fail.

I explained to him that the movie was funded by all those people whose names appear at the end.  He asked if I donated.  I told him I didn't, but only because I hadn't known about it.  He gets irritated when I donate to things.  He doesn't believe in it, so I do it quietly from my own account.  He believes in helping people that need help face to face.  He's distrustful of donating money.  I didn't ask, but, I actually think he was disappointed when I said I hadn't donated to this movie.  I then showed him Shane's original YouTube video, "It Could Happen To You."

I don't know why I was nervous to ask him his thoughts, but I was.  I guess I figured if this didn't change his mind, nothing would, and I didn't want to hear that.  In the end, I didn't have to ask.  He begrudgingly said, "Well, that certainly opens your eyes to things you've never thought about."

I can't even tell you what I felt in that moment.  Relief?  Joy?  I don't know.  But it was something wonderful and it bloomed inside me so freaking fast.  I asked what I was dying to know.  "Have you changed your mind now?"  Without hesitation, he said, "Yes."  (Not, 'Yes, but..."   Just, 'Yes.")

We went outside and talked for about an hour.  We talked about how hard it must be to be gay and have to "come out" to your parents and friends.  We talked about how sad it is that so many kids opt to kill themselves because society has made them feel outcast.  He even made a comment similar to "love is love".  He kept saying that Shane should have just attended Tom's funeral regardless of whether he was welcome or not.

We came back inside and I hopped on Facebook and immediately saw a picture posted by Theo Fenraven.  It was a gorgeous b/w headshot of two men asleep, cuddled together.  I laughed at the timing and my hubby looked at it and said, "I don't know if I'm ready for all that cuddling shit."

No spitting. No comment about it being "sick" or "disgusting".  My heart just soared.  I shared on Theo's post about his change of heart and Theo said, "That's AMAZING.  Give him a hug from me."  I told him and he said, "I may have changed my mind, but I'm not ready for that."

That's okay.  He may never be ready for that.  But the bottom line is, he didn't make a nasty comment, and that, my friends, is HUGE!