The Short Story of the Longhouse

She hadn’t texted back in over four hours. He was suicidal.

But freezing to death wasn’t as painless as he had hoped. Turns out there was no drifting off into some permanent numb. No, it happens from the inside out.

Arctic atmosphere entered his lungs one breath at a time. Blood freezing into atomic razor blades. Tiny cellular slices gradually reducing him to a pond of icy flesh.

He picked himself up off the -14-degree shoulder and got back in the Subaru. He had only lasted eight minutes away from it’s heated leather seats.

She wouldn’t let him take her out. Wouldn’t accept money. Wouldn’t let him rub her feet. This last offer a ploy to steal secret sniffs from between her toes whenever she looked away.

On occasion, stalking would pay off and he would ‘bump’ into her at the coffee shop. She would make him sit at a different table. Would buy her own coffee. Work diligently. Make him text her from two arm’s length away and wait until her submittals were complete to reply.

45 minutes later, ‘I’m just in my phone down era, what are you doing to better yourself?’ Thirteen seconds of eye contact then back to work.

She was an impenetrable fortress. Pussy locked up so tight prime Khan couldn’t penetrate.

Yet he had persisted. He was just interesting enough to get her response rates down from two days to under sixty minutes. He didn’t care how demeaning it felt. She was the last female on earth worth living for.

But now she was drifting away and he was at the edge of yet another mid-life crisis looking down into an abyss forty years deep. He had been here before.


He married young and had kids like you’re supposed to. They had bought a house together. A minivan. Maxed out 401ks and 501cs. Sam’s Club Sundays after church. In-laws close by for date night Thursdays to avoid the weekend rush.

In the begining even the sex was sublime. Her body count was two, he was three, and they took it to 1000. Lewis and Clark fucking and feeling their way west into the great unknown.

But not even his square jaw, chiseled abs, and full head of hair could overcome his lack of earning power. She came from money he didn’t understand. His $75k engineering salary not enough to keep her wet past menopause.

By the time their third child turned one she was fucking the resident physician between shifts at the NICU.

He knew but couldn’t bring himself to confront her. Felt too much like failure.

He entered into a secret competition with him. Read up on tantric techniques to up his dick game. Started writing poetry again. Would surprise her with home-cooked candle-lit dinners at the end of her work week.

She picked up extra shifts and came home with strange seamen inside her. Let him taste it before rolling over and turning out the lights.

But she didn’t leave him until his sister died. Seeing him weep was the last straw. She told him she had no choice that he made her do it. He signed the papers, gave her everything, and checked himself into a psych ward.

That was the last time he was suicidal, almost ten years ago.


But things were different now. He had hard fought wisdom on his side. He had braved the post-thirty dating wasteland, taken licks from his share of aged-out single moms, and learned to channel his desperation through his writing.

Nobody read him but he imagined future generations finding his hard drive in a post-apocalyptic rubble heap. A half starved blue eyed youth with bony fingers would hold it high above his head in front of circling savages.

‘We are not alone in our suffering, if he can find a way forward, so will we!’


And then, a ding. It was her. ‘How are you?’

Fuck it. What’s one more ride on the merry-go-round? He had a self to sacrifice to the furnace of the future.

Rebirth of the Living Dead

It was the morning of his 42nd birthday. Early spring in rural Oklahoma. A day and season marked by desperate longing. Both pinnacle and gulley. Both beginning and end.

Today was the day she would give herself to him.


The sight of her made him sick. But he couldn’t help himself.

For weeks, every Friday he would wait patiently for her to arrive at the coffee shop owned by the only gay couple in town. The coffee was below average and the service worse but there was a table in the corner with an ergonomically perfect chair that relieved the pain from the worsening CTS in his left wrist just enough to make the experience worthwhile.

But she, she was glorious.

He studied her over the top of his company-issued HP Elitebook. He noticed the crook of her neck with its pale supple skin. He noticed the peacoat brought out of storage a month too early because it was too cute not to. He noticed how little she picked up her phone to scroll. An utter lack of fidgeting. No sideways glances.

She commanded the room in stillness. No one else seemed to notice. He couldn’t stop.

She would walk by his table once, or twice if he was lucky, on her way to the restroom. He contemplated sending anonymous drink after anonymous drink to get the numbers up. Perfectly timed deep nasal breath to catch her scent. ‘Evian skin cream agent Sterling,’ he said almost too loudly from behind the screen.

And then one day as she was leaving she looked him square in the eye and waved with a smile. He was on a call dumbfounded. Wanting to puke he brought his hand to his mouth while his cheeks expanded under sudden pressure.

He blacked out.

He didn’t know for how long but it didn’t matter. There was no evidence of actual vomit anywhere. There was a scrap of paper containing a phone number and the initials JL as the nose of a smiley face.

He stopped sleeping. He wrote poems about her instead. Deleted and blocked for her. Stayed home sick about her. Sweat through sheets in her name.

She would let him see her on their usual Fridays but prioritized work. She would respond to his text messages but only after several hours. Sometimes days. She was 29 and wouldn’t date anyone with kids or more than five years her senior.

Two strikes but still swinging.

He knew she wanted a full-time family. Not the time-share model. But her boundary served only as a levee for the rising tide of his relentless pursuit to ultimately overwhelm. He had put in six semen-retaining months. He would make it twelve more hours.

She had agreed to submit for at least five unadulterated minutes in exchange for full immunity from future advances. One final wave to wash one or both of them to sea.

She had picked the hotel on the county road next to the pull tab bar. He had wanted the casino resort but it was too far to drive. He had accepted coffee instead of dinner, motivational texts instead of nudes, poetry instead of pussy. The Thundermine Motel wouldn’t break him any more than she already had.

Childless men of her age didn’t approach. Chinless incels with grey eyes and rectangular hips. Or, naval gazing gym bruhs too drunk on the scent of their own steroid shrunken scrotums to notice.

The traditional mean had been obliterated by the progressive extreme.

She followed the playbook of a bygone era. Kempt hair. Book clubs and coffee shops. Portrait quality posture. Firm feminine physique. Holding back her hoe for her husband. Even managed vanity into obscurity.

She was too good for the times. But she was lonely and his writing made her wet.

She wasn’t caving, she was paying bank rates on loaned love. She would wear the outfit he sent and follow the included instructions. She would get out of the experience what she could and give him what he needed

It wasn’t easy picking an outfit for a goddess. He wanted her to stand before him in all her splendor, provided for and proud.

He had settled on a white crop top hoodie from Anthropologie with Burberry skirt. She would take these off and leave on the knee-high stalkings, thick cotton panties, and custom-made JL pendant.

What he wanted most was her three-month-old muff. They had grown them out together. He would salivate thinking about pulling thick cotton aside to bury his being in her heavily wooded hobbit hole.


He woke in a panic. What time is it? Hadn’t slept in months and his fucking birthday is the day his accursed soul sanctions him to miss! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK how did he doze the day away!

The nightstand reads 9:19. Quick math. He can make it by 10:00 if he didn’t shower and didn’t get pulled over. The AWD in the Subaru will help on the dirt roads. He thought, ‘Maybe she will like my musk,’ as he pulled pre-planned outfit over clammy skin.

Text ding as he peeled out of the neighborhood read, ‘I will be here and ready when you arrive.’ Heart tapback and ‘omw’ reply.

It helped that he had made several planning trips to lock in the best room and negotiate special housekeeping measures with Bernice the motel manager. He could make this drive in his sleep.

He parked the car at the far end of the Thundermine directly in front of room 115 at exactly 9:59. The light was out in the room. The only other car in the parking lot was Bernice’s town car out front of the office.

Wim Hof breathing to reduce his heart rate as he approached the grey panelboard door. One last inhale to find his center as he turned the knob and stepped into the dark rental.

Before he could flip the light he was met with the hiss of what sounded like an aerosol can but was not Secret deodorant spray. Something wasn’t right. He was dizzy. Losing vision. Legs like spaghetti.


When he came to everything was according to his instructions. Almost.

The red bulbs had been inserted into the two nightstand table lamps and were the only light in the room. Red silk sheets and pillowcases on the bed perfectly made. Champagne on ice for affect that neither of them would drink. Shostakovich’s Symphony #6 rising ominously from the Bose Soundlink he had sent ahead. Crop top hoodie and Burberry skirt on the floor.

However, he was naked on his knees at the foot of the bed. Bare ass resting on heels with hands tied behind back. Rope around his neck and anchored above to the canopy bedframe. Tight enough to keep him upright, loose enough to keep him alive.

He looked down in front of him. His phone was ringing. Vision not yet 100% but he was certain it was her. By rising up on his knees and leaning to the left he was able to swing his right leg out from under him and land his big toe on the answer button. Successfully sliding it to the right on the fourth attempt in time to accept the FaceTime request.

‘Nice cock. Too bad you’re incapable of listening,’ came her measured tone over the speaker as a shadowy figure emerged from the bathroom.

‘Jackie, we had an agreement.’

‘Yes we did. Fortunately for you, Bernice has grown quite fond of you and will take care of all of your needs. She will give you what you REALLY wanted and I will see you Friday for coffee.’

Reality too unreal to believe and dreams too good to be true, he closed his eyes and let the waves wash him away.

Hello! Love You Bitch Goodbye

She won’t let me love her. I can’t let her go. I put her in my trunk.

It’s midnight at the Kum N Go on I-40E. Orangish red halogen bulbs. Pall Malls slow burning holes in the dark fabric of a moonless night.

A middle aged, heavily mustached man in a cutoff jean shirt slumps inside surveying the parking lot with bug eyes through thick glasses.

Based on what I remember from chem 101 and an approximate body weight of 105 pounds I have less than 30 minutes before she wakes up. Fill the tank and switch subjects.

Love calculus.

Twenty years ago it was love geometry. Proximity and a few basic formulas revealed the contours of any shape. Times have changed. Old approaches no longer penetrate new hearts.

Or was it these new scrotum scrunching boxers from Hugo Boss? Testicles forced to retreat inside prostrate. Diminishing pheromone emissions. Hugo’s raw dogging her right now bent over my kitchen table. I’m numbering my t-level on one hand and unnutting my prostrate.

Focus. Twenty minutes to discover new math and rescue my future from the death grip of destiny.

Why did she have to wave at me? Why couldn’t she just have gone about her day and left me to continue inserting tidy formulas into LCD illuminated cells designed to measure future values of current expenditures?

The tiny glow on the horizon is NOT my friend. I should know this by now.

I can’t help it, my body animated by mosquito soul. A warrior class blood sucker who ascended to Valhalla in a bygone era. Elevated to human form in the present. Still irredeemably drawn to the light. ‘Hope Kills,’ will be my epitaph.

FOCUS. Fourteen minutes.

Untouchable peach pressed into well worn jeans. Equestrian mornings, motorcycle afternoons, siren song nightshift.

I drive a Subaru and my dog has fleas.

But my thicker than average shaft. I’ll show her the data. Convince her of the benefits of being a standard deviation to the right on the pussy stretching bell curve.

I’m hard just thinking about it. Cool breeze gently blowing the scent of precum into my wet nostrils.

FUCK! Six minutes, maybe less. A muffled moan from the trunk audible ahead of schedule.

THINK. What did the pastor say, love conquers all? Prepare to be conquered my love.

The tank has been full for fifteen minutes. Thick glasses behind the counter lost interest. Plus, I’m 94.5% sure he’s an ally. The time is now.

Hang up the pump. Walk around to the trunk. Open quickly. Use the element of surprise to prevent tire iron wielding demise.

Too late. The first strike folds thick shaft in two. Which, in turn, folds head to knees meeting strike two between my temples. There was no need for strike three, I was out cold.


Horn honks. Trunk opens. I climb out. Head throbbing. Broken dick bleeding out.

Passenger door swings open. Pink Cadillac parked on the dirt service road.

One armed toddler behind the wheel. Wordless command, ‘Get in.’

Take the wheel. Drive west together.

Blinding sunrise behind us.

Pearl Necklace: Part One

pearl necklace

He parked in direct sunlight, killed the engine, and kept the windows of his ’94 Sunbird up as active penance for the sin he was soon to commit.

It was 12:55 on Friday afternoon in Northeastern Oklahoma. The bank marquee read 108 deg. F as a black Audi Q3 assumed its stall in a nearby vacant lot.

Even without binoculars, he could see down Jackie’s blouse from his lookout on the third story of the adjacent parking structure.

‘Lord, thank you for 20/20 vision, panoramic sunroofs, and the plastic surgeon on 3rd Street,’ he whispered before running a thin tongue across dry lips. His sponsor had given a testimonial on the benefits of practicing gratitude at a recent PAA meeting.

‘Come on little guy, shows about to get started,’ encouraging his crotch with his best Jackie voice. He closed his eyes and tilted his neck back 90 degrees bringing the back of his balding head to rest atop a headrest-free baby blue bucket seat.

His mind now a movie screen featuring a scene from three weeks ago. Her ladies taking center stage squeezed between two elbows resting on a jewelry case.

‘Can I take anything out for you?’

‘I want a pearl necklace.’

‘This what you have in mind?’

Well-moisturized hands moved automatically from inside the case to behind her neck, holding in place a sequence of small white beads buoyantly adorning her gravity-defying bosom.

‘It is now.’

He had no idea what he was doing and didn’t care.

He was organically aroused for the first time since mom had found him downstairs at second base with a Tinder date on his 29th birthday. He reached 34 last week a virgin. He lived next to the stack of magazines in her basement.

But none of that mattered looking down from the roof. He had the high ground now. Thick, hot blood in his neck underneath new pearls. Eyes reopening.


Squinting against the blinding heat and fogging windows in the Q3 below, he trained his sights on the now folded-down back seats.


‘Did you bring the comforter? I can’t keep telling Manny I’m redoing the display case every time he asks about my red knees.’

‘Are you wearing the panties I left you?’

‘Yes, Chuck.’

‘Good girl. Now back up into Chucky’s lap.’

Things were looking up for Chuck. He had put 1500 miles and 15 days between him and his #metoo moment.

The allegations were 100% factual but he was too pretty to be served up as prison meat.

Nightmarish clarity hit him with the realization that the 19-year-old intern was no longer conscious. Looking down at her bloodied, unmoving asshole he understood it was his future he was peering into.

Reflexively puckering in response, ‘This must be what they mean by empathy.’

Within twenty minutes of fucking and choking the life out of the office copy girl he had abandoned his beachfront condo in Laguna, leaving his Porsche 911 and Mercedes G-Wagon in the garage. He had accepted the fact the VC firm he had built and was about to take public was no longer a viable source of income or teenage pussy.

He pocketed his Bitcoin Ledger and the $10,000 cash he had stashed in the fireproof Sentrysafe under his California king canopy bedroom set. He bought an unmarked car from Lou’s chop shop and hit Interstate 10 headed east. Looking back was not an option.

Less than a week later he was coasting on fumes into a Tulsa Quik Trip. Twelve years of Bitcoin investments transferred to Scottsdale hookers for hot wax hand jobs.

‘I’ll never get laid again,’ he thought out loud, ‘or worse, it’ll be in long-haul cabs underneath toothless truckers on the road to anywhere but here.’ Poetic fatalism.

But God had plans for Chuck that didn’t yet include sliding down to the ranks of lot lizard.

Almost within reach, Jackie was white-knuckling the gas pump as if it would extract from her all the frustration of a woman cursed by breadwinner status. Starved by her own success, she hadn’t been fucked in forever, spousal loathing seething behind her downturned mouth.

She wasn’t 19 but she had a vibe Chuck could taste.

‘I need a ride.’

‘I need a hand back at the shop.’

Jackie didn’t ask Chuck what was wrong with his car or why he couldn’t Uber. She didn’t ask what his plans for the car were. She didn’t ask him anything. As far as Jackie was concerned, no man with less than 8″ would have balls big enough to approach a slim, middle-aged woman with a ring for a ride.

Her jewelry store didn’t open for another 15 min and was never busy on Tuesdays. She made a mental note to scrub the security footage as she walked Chuck back to her storage closet converted office.

‘Manny won’t fuck me in here, says it could disrupt sales, but I bet you will.’

‘Why would you want any Manny to fuck you?’

‘He’s my husband.’

‘Of course he is.’

‘Don’t mess up the do, customers coming soon,’ she said turning her neck 90 degrees to his left while pivoting 180 degrees counter-clockwise on her heels, bending at the waist, and lowering her check to the desk.

‘Wait,’ taking a fistful of hair to halt her descent while simultaneously sweeping aside loose papers, a photo of her dog Dayna, and a Hello Kitty stapler. ‘Bare wood feels better.’

The next eight business days she took lunch on Chuck’s lap in the backseat of her Audi. She disabled the security system at the shop and gave him a key to come and go after hours as he pleased. She left money at night and leftovers in the morning.

Sales were up.


The sun was setting as Celeste came to. Everything hurt. She couldn’t swallow. Shallow breaths. Stabbing recollections breaking through forgetful defenses.

No, not now. Get to safety first.

To be continued….

Barred For Life

He had a PowerPoint to update but couldn’t because she was basting the sweet bread.

She must do this on purpose to prevent his deck from reaching the catsup overlords looking to optimize their warehouse footprint after an otherwise canceled market analyst had managed to make public a well-argued case for imminent recession.

She had her back turned, ignoring the impotent fact of his existence while serendipitously preserving livelihoods, one warehouse-closing presentation at a time.

The catsup commanders however, in exchange for temporary employment, knew as much about him as he did. For example, they knew that despite his current productivity lag, he would, ultimately, opt for the cold comfort of empty corporate platitudes over risking rejection at her hands.

Yet loaf after delicious loaf he lusted, eyes fixed just over the edge of his laptop screen, back slumped against the graffitied coffee shop wall.

Warm liquid fats applied evenly around the edges. Steady shoulders. Supple elbow rhythmically pivoting between butter and bread. Heels of her flats pressed firmly into the white linoleum at slightly more than shoulder width.

Slender frame saran-wrapped in olive leggings and a grey, over-starched baker’s smock dusted in gluten-free flour. Her top and bottom halves coming together to form a nostalgia-inducing earthy granite aesthetic.

He is 7 years old again. Running inside from a pogo-ball workout on the deck of grandma’s house sweaty with deep crimson running down his leg from a fresh knee scape.

He was crying softly.

The kitchen was to the left of the dining room as he entered through the sliding door from outside. Eunice had just taken the lemon bars out of the oven.

A violent passivity baked into her bones, Eunice, like her piping hot lemon bars, required sufficient time to set up before enjoying.

He had burst into the grizzly den hot with blood in early spring after a long winter.

She turned to face him sliding tulip print oven mitts from warm, combat-ready knuckles.

‘You’re bleeding,’ she whispered, beating him to the punch and anchoring his feet to hell itself.

The abrupt change in momentum carried his center of mass over his toes and created a sudden pressure on his bladder which released down his leg.

He was a pussy wet with tears, sweat, blood, and piss getting fucked by a 70-year-old woman with a 12″ spatula.

Later that night he would bury his terror under bar after bar of her tart treats charting an underground course towards certain virginity where, later in life, he would leave the sweet bread at the coffee shop returning home in time to masturbate before meeting deadline.

Wayward Semen

wayward seamen image

Her mouth hole was flapping open again making a perfect target. He was certain it was within striking range.

The last time he had retained semen for over 60 days he had shot a load from his seat on the couch over the coffee table splattering the TV and a photo of his mom next to a 6′ sunflower protected by a hobby lobby frame with the words ‘stand tall’ etched vertically on both sides.

He had given up semen retention for six months after that, returning to Facebook dating for a steady diet of hands-free nut-busting.

Years prior, in the aftermath of his divorce, he had learned that Facebook dating is the Golden Corral of online dating which is the dumpster dive of actual dating: patrons so desperately hungry they are willing to eat anything.

Occasionally when he logged in he would reflect on how his relationship with the website mirrored the relationship the website had with the general public, that being, he was going to suck it dry and pretend as if nothing had happened.

When he swiped on her, he added a note with the question, ‘What’s got a bottom at its top?’

Adding a comment to a like was free on Facebook, unlike Tinder, and increased the chance of sex on the first date by 7.5%, even if it was an actual rip-off of a cracker-jack joke.

‘What?’ Celeste replied predictably eager.

‘Your legs and I belong between them,’ he fired back, reveling in his statistical prowess with fingers crossed she was within 35 lbs of her profile pictures.

This was the 12th time he had used this line that summer and, hopefully, the eighth to get him laid the same day.

When she arrived at his Manyard Mannor loft apartment ninety minutes later wearing Lulu tights and a Pink crop top tee he was surprised at how little of her exposed stomach spilled over her waistband and how close to kempt her hair was.

He grabbed her wrist pulling her inside and shutting the door in one motion. Understanding his nonverbal command she dropped to her knees. He held back her hair while she took him in her mouth. Twisting her around and pantsing her in time to get off two pumps from behind before blowing his load inside her.

‘Fuck. This. I can’t. Shit. You need to leave. I. I have to go.’ Words blurting out to the rhythm of each genital convulsion.

‘I’m naturally shy and don’t normally do this on a first date. I think I’m falling for you. Go get me a towel.’

‘It’s just the oxytocin, it will wear off. I should have just came in your mouth.’

‘You can but it’s my turn now.’

45 min and three semi-flaccid, teeth-grinding orgasms later, as she was gathering her things to leave, ‘I’m ovulating, thank you for your service.’

He wasn’t nor had he ever been in the military.

In the weeks that followed, he had had to first block her number, then when he couldn’t block her iMessages from coming through on his Macbook without disabling the feature for all his contacts, he resorted to weighting his phone to the bottom of the river and switching to a burner.

When that wasn’t enough he deleted all his social media accounts and ate his deposit along with three months’ rent to move across town into a different loft half the size because he couldn’t afford any larger deposit after draining his 401k to break his lease at Maynard Mannor.

Even then he had to pawn his TV to pay for the Uhaul, accepting a discounted rate on account of a discoloration on the screen likely caused by jerking off too close to the set, the clerk had explained.

‘I was sitting on the couch across the room.’

‘$79 is the best I can do.’

Loading the Uhaul by himself in late August had pushed him to the brink of heat stroke before he remembered an anonymous Twitter account he had created to distract him from his misery and refine the punchy one-liners that landed him in this mess to begin with. He went inside to cool off and build his empire.

Twitter, or X or whatever had been studiously noting each of his breathless condemnations of the fairer sex since first login and subsequently filling his feed with content from the red-pilled incel community leading him to indefinitely swear off all women and renew his efforts towards semen retention.

It was now October. His nuts had swollen to rival the cheeks of the winter-prepping local squirrels and forcing a slight bow-leggedness which he exaggerated for effect as he entered the coffee shop, ordering his pumpkin spice latte like Wyatt Earp ordering the Clanton brothers to stand down at Tombstone.

He preferred to sit at the table around the corner away from the register, but Carol the 62-year-old single dog mom had beat him to the draw and would likely remain seated until the tax extension deadline. She pretended to be an accountant for a big firm but really just did her neighbors’ taxes in exchange for home-baked goodies she pretended were for her non-existent grandchildren but were actually for her severely overweight dog.

A quick scan of the rest of the shop produced only one viable location to enjoy his PSL for a few minutes before returning to the office. He took his seat at the community high-top in the back near the restroom.

It was the sound of crocs scurrying across laminate flooring that hit his tympanic membrane first, drawing his head up from his phone in the direction of what he anticipated to be an attacking chihuahua.

It was Celeste. Hands on hips, belly now forming a recognizable bulge behind her Lulu waistband, mouth open barking unintelligible syllables in one continuous stream of delightful triumph.

She had found him but he wouldn’t give up that easily, he would fire back, 60 plus days of ammunition on demand.

He would end this how it started. Right here. Right now.

The community table providing the necessary cover for his left hand, which was already in his lap beginning to draw his weapon from its trousered holster.

‘Why are you looking at me like that, did you not hear anything I said?’

The delivery driver opening the back door caused a draft of warm, danish-scented air to rush out and meet the cool morning as he stood up, cock in hand.

Many years later, over a campfire, he would tell their teenage grandchildren it was a combination of exhilaration, terror, and a warm draft that caused him to profess his love that day, pants falling to his ankles, wayward semen painting everything in sight, including grandma, their unborn mother, and the unsuspecting delivery driver.

‘Sometimes, love happens to you.’ He would say, extinguishing the fire.

Dearly Departed – Lessons in Love For Anarae on Her Birthday


ANARAE – you have been on my mind, as you always are, this time of year. Sadly, we can’t spend your 29th birthday together, so I have chosen to type out my thoughts and, even if I can’t hold you while you read them, perhaps they will wrap themselves around another, warming them in hope or help or healing, as you were so apt to do, in even the most unlikely of moments.

I love you Anarae.

I don’t mean in the conventional, familial, expected-because-we-share-blood kind of way. I don’t mean it in the sappy, manufactured, Hallmark way. Nor in the distant, 1000-yard-smile way that you probably remember from your childhood as I, a decade older, ran off to chase girls my age leaving you behind to work on your chess game. And most definitely not in the sentimental, ‘love-what-you-can-no-longer-have,’ kind of way.

See, love has taken on an entirely new meaning in my life of late. It feels as if a fortress of stone has crumbled down from around my heart, opening me up to a new type of existence, one defined by gratitude, peace, and joy. My entire being has begun moving into this space as if it were a seasoned traveler taking a new trail in an ancient wood. As I feel my way through fresh, yet familiar surroundings, I have begun to taste the reality of all you have taught me, of how you have cared for, even carried me through, so much darkness over the eight years since your passing, a darkness that I all too often blamed on your untimely departure.

But, as you know, nothing which happens in the past can be at fault for actions taken in the present. I am sorry for carrying so much pain and heartache in your name for so many years. I know now it was your presence, your spirit, and your compassion that, through it all, was gently and patiently warming the cold embers of my heart inside a healing hearth.

Today, looking back with eyes you helped open, I struggle even to see the sorrow separate from the saving.

I love you Anarae.

I love you through and through. I love you raw – unguarded, unfiltered, and unapologetically. I love you with the same love that created the universe and moves it still – day, night, heaven, hell, pleasure, pain, and everything in between. And, even though we fell short of consciously sharing this bond while you were still here, I need you to know I feel you now.

game changer

But more than my feelings about you and life as a whole, I want to share back what you’ve taught me, my top three transformative takeaways if you will. Call it my moment to admit a small but rewarding defeat as if to finally throw my hands up and say, ‘Yes Anarae, I hear you.’ See, even this stubborn ole mule can grow up for the better, despite, or rather because of, your unrelenting nagging. So, for your birthday this year, I give you my top three, attempting yet again to take credit for your work while throwing but a few sparse accolades back in your direction:

1. acceptance is not surrender

2. the destination is the journey

3. hope is happening

top 3 transformative takeaways over the 8 years since your passing on to a new plane
getting together

acceptance is not surrender–

Anarae – you are the most accepting person I have known and that is not just my opinion, everyone agrees. You had a way of drawing out the best in people and, like a self-fulfilling prophecy of awesome, pointing to it and saying, ‘See, I knew you had it in you!’ This was most especially annoying when you did it to me despite my best efforts at resistance.

Maybe it was the ten-year age gap, but in our years together, I had a different relationship with the concept of acceptance, one which seemed to be hardening like petrified wood as I ‘matured.’ So, it would be fair to say neither of us were surprised by my hesitation to embrace you dating anyone, much less an ex-con whom you were convinced was on a path of reformation, one whom you believed you were chosen to support. You accepted, I resisted.

Harder yet to accept was the ‘I-told-you-so-reality’ of his taking of your life less than a year later, a pill so alive with hatred, agony, and utter despair it took several years for me to fully digest and almost swallowed me whole more than once.

Back then, I had yet to learn that you become the ideas and emotions you swallow, the spiritual equivalent of the old adage, ‘You are what you eat.’ I was clinging desperately to my idea of justice, as well as the emotions of what should have been had you just listened to me, had the bar not let you in as a minor, had the cops acted more quickly, had the world been a better place. And on and on. I felt righteous, believing that if I simply held on tighter to my version of what should have been that I could actually change the past. If only I just kept pushing.

So push on I did. I pushed my wife of eight years to divorce me, I pushed away from my three young children for almost a year, I missed my brother’s wedding, went broke, and landed in jail for DUI. Hatred of my history was eating my future from the inside out. I needed to change my diet, it was time to let go of my resistance and begin exploring the acceptance that came so naturally for you.

‘Hatred of my history was eating my future from the inside out.’

It wasn’t easy, especially as stubborn as I am, and as wounded as I was, but I began to let new ideas and emotions in which lead to new experiences, new beliefs, and in time, the new way of being I describe above. So much so, that a month ago, on the anniversary of your death, I finally accepted the man who took your life, and fully forgave him.

No more hate. No more agony. No more despair. I could breathe again. I was both lighter and stronger than before. Strong enough to accept that the differences between Shavelle and me (pictured above) pale in comparison to the likenesses and that only love has the power to heal us both. Turns out, accepting a difficult history and forgiving the man who took so much from our family wasn’t surrender at all. In fact, it may turn out to be the greatest triumph of my life for never again will darkness be able to gain such a footing on my heart.

Accept your past, fall in love with it even, lest it limit your future

–the destination is the journey

Anarae, you mastered chess at a very young age and stuck with it, going on to compete nationally and racking up an impressive array of hardware in the process. But it wasn’t the trophies you were after. You loved chess itself, checkmate being just a passing mile-marker on the road of endless games, growth, and gratitude.

The irony being that the most celebrated masters of any discipline tend to be the ones who, rather than obsessing over the podium, relish in the repetition of relentless practice, and focus on the gritty day-in-day-out grind and the lessons it has to offer. You mastered this approach not just in chess but in life as well.

When you were tutoring younger kids in math or chess, you focused on the relationship, not the test result, working to ensure the student felt safe and secure enough to succeed. It was the same with sports and musical endeavors, you innately sought out and nurtured the tender moments, surfacing the sweet from the sweat of struggle. You knew how to work hard and have so much fun in the process that, from the outside, it looked like you were hardly working.

‘you innately sought out and nurtured the tender moments, surfacing the sweet from the sweat of the struggle’

I, on the other hand, was more apt to sprint to the finish line only to start another race. School was about the shortest path to the highest marks, sports about earning the letter, friends more about what circle they ran in over who they really were, work was about the money, and on and on. In fact, I remember at a job interview in my early 20’s, not long after moving back home from college, a total stranger after speaking with me for only a few minutes, interrupted me to say, ‘I don’t think you in this role is a fit for either of us at the moment and if I had one piece of advice to give you young man, it would be to SLOW DOWN.’ I always had a suspicion that you had secretly set up the interview and told him to say that.

Whatever the case, fifteen years later, I am beginning to listen. I am teaching myself to cook and how to laugh and learn through all the delicious missteps. I am back in the weight room, this time for the enjoyment of pushing myself more than the muscles. I am reading and writing almost as much as when I was a kid and for the same reason; because I enjoy it. I am even letting Max and Christian teach me how to skateboard at age 39, mainly as an excuse to get to hang out with them all day at the park, but also to show them that it is ok to suck and keep trying.

It must be that at some point not long ago I accepted the fact that the roses are going to smell good with or without me, so I might as well slow down enough to add that small joy to my life. That working hard wasn’t worth it unless I could find the fun and share it with others. And that each goal, dream, and destination is just the starting point of the journey to the next one. Or, to summarize, moving slow and steady down an endless, uncharted, but chosen path is infinitely more likely to produce happiness than sprinting along the provided public pavement.

‘each goal, dream, and destination is just the starting point of the journey to the next one’

–hope is happening–

A former leader of mine, whom I very much respected at the time and still do, once introduced himself to an auditorium full of hard-working, blue-collar machine operators, technicians, and floor leaders by saying, ‘Hope is not a strategy.’ He then paused, instinctively waiting for the moment to land, and land it did, to snickers which grew into a swell of uproarious laughter.

He knew his audience; masters of the moment, skilled tacticians well versed in solving real-world problems under duress where abstract ideology and flowery philosophy fail to turn hardened steel crankshafts and 450 horsepower motors.

This was my clan then, and for as long as I can remember stretching back to my early days of 40+ mile bike rides, 10k+ runs, and early mornings in a canoe on the MN river with my dad from age eight to when I graduated to baseball, basketball, football, track, and various hard labor jobs shoveling rocks and wheeling wheelbarrows uphill; in all these endeavors I learned you either put up or shut up. Words were nice but they didn’t get the job done, and if you couldn’t outwork me, I didn’t care what you had to say.

It was as if I was working the writer right out of me. The questions I hadn’t answered, or much less asked were; why I was working so hard? To what end? What was it all for and where was it taking me?

‘It was as if I was working the writer right out of me.’

Losing you caused me to start asking these questions and begin digging for meaning.

Helping me along was a deep, unshakable hope that wouldn’t give up on me which, like a still small voice, kept urging me forward through it all. It was a hope that the real me, long ago buried by various hurts and hangups, would be rediscovered, revived, and gradually re-emerge from the depths made stronger by weathering weakness. It was a hope that would do whatever it needed to in order to get me to listen, travel down whatever path, refusing to quit prior to manifestation. It was the same spirit that animated your life and breathes life into these words.

This hope may not have been a strategy as much as a lifeline, but without it, I wouldn’t have made it. The way I see it, in your final exhale was a gust of hope that was carried by a steady breeze of which I inhaled just enough to begin my rebirth.

And now, on your birthday, after eight long and winding years of struggling through the re-birthing canal, I find myself feeling more and more at home in my own skin. With what was once a thin wisp of hope for a better future, now filling my chest with confidence that it will be. Confidence that I can live out and up to your legacy of love in action for all of my days to come. Hope is happening, I am home.

Anarae, I love you.

Rest in peace lil sis.

Transforming Trails Of Trauma Into A Future Focus

Grab ‘n Go Version

On the transformative journey, we often wander through the halls of our histories, yet do not dwell on where you have been or even where you are, what really matters is where you are headed


My dad was incapable of being a great father because he never overcame his own trauma. Instead, he ran from it, quite literally, leaving his first wife and three kids at age 26 to become a marathon runner. For him, the running was a form of penance where the more suffering he subjected himself to, the more balanced the scale would be. He ran barefoot through the city. He ran in subzero temperatures through Minneapolis, returning home often looking like the abominable snowman. He ran his age every year on his December birthday from 30 until he was 50. Unfortunately for him, reconciliation in human relations doesn’t work at a distance, and as a result, he spent most of his adult life either transmitting his still unprocessed trauma to people who would accept it or overcompensating around people who wouldn’t. Avoiding pain is how it is spread and he discovered this reality the hard way.


if we do not transform our pain, we transmit it

He wasn’t malicious, just hurting and misguided.

His and I’s relationship was shaped by his mood which, from a very young age, I internalized as my responsibility. I learned that whether he was happy or sad or anything in between, it was my fault. As I grew older I started to desire recognition from him for all the great work I was doing to keep him happy. He withheld, I worked harder. He got angry, I worked harder. By my misguided calculations, I deserved the punishment when I failed, so I should, by the same logic, deserve the recognition when I triumphed. Spoiler: it didn’t play out according to my contrived formula and, hence, my striving escalated well into my adult life.

This strategy was successful in many ways for surviving childhood, but left two lingering programs running on a loop in my head which I would have to unpack later in life:

  • I was not important
  • I was not good enough

Embarrassingly enough, until well into my thirties, nearly everything I did was designed around earning HIS validation or scorning it; my life was not my own. At some level I understood this was not a healthy dynamic yet was unable to articulate it and, hence, my anger, resentment, and shame for not being myself got buried deep down. My conscious, internal wiring was dominated by this programming.

Until one day not long ago, after dozens of failed attempts over the last decade to clear the air, I finally found the right words at the right moment to say to him. It was as if a 39 year old chasm opened up inside me and an outpouring of deadly truth bombs came busting out, each with father-destroying heat seekers programmed in. My verbal ‘justice’ spewed out for no less than 5 min when, finally, he looked me in the eye and said,

‘I hear you.’

Instantly, I calmed down, sat down, ceased yelling, thanked him for enduring the onslaught, and apologized for being so yelly. I went on to explain that it was simply a long-buried part of me that needed to be voiced, but that it was over now and it was safe for us to resume normal conversations. I was excited about this exchange for many reasons and couldn’t wait to tell my therapist about the break thru:

I had finally received some validation from my father!

The following Saturday, I sat down in Andre’s chair with the whole story laid out, rehearsed, and ready to go. I drew it out in spectacular fashion, hit all the right notes, and delivered the punch line flawlessly. At which point I paused for his feedback as if he were to applaud or something. He looked up from his notepad and uttered a three-word question,

And now what?’

I was baffled. He was persistent and noticed I wasn’t following. So he clarified, ‘And what if you went thru all that and he hadn’t said anything? Do you really think the message in your rant was for him, designed just right to get just the right response from him such that it would fix all your problems? I mean what do you think the odds are of that? Isn’t it more likely that the message was, and always has been, to you?’

He continued, ‘Look, you are important, you are good enough, but the problem is that YOU don’t believe it, not that your father doesn’t. Nothing he, I, or anyone else can say will change your beliefs, only you can do that for you.’

I wept.

I had spent over ten years analyzing my past, in therapy, in rehab, and in various hospitals and institutions, trying to find the key that would free me from my prison, the balm that would heal all the wounds, the medicine that would make it all right.

But now I know my father is not my jailer, I am, my wounds have long ago scared over, leaving powerful reminders of healing lessons, and I never needed medicine for I was never sick.

Maybe none of what Andre was telling me would have made any sense if I hadn’t gone thru the 10-year struggle. Maybe digging thru the past in an effort to find the right keys was a necessary activity to unlock a clearer vision for the future. Maybe it is indeed a requisite requirement of a full rehabilitation to touch all the historical pain points. I guess I will never really know.


know your history, live in the present

All I know for sure is what’s important now, and that it’s all out in front of me.

Addicted: The Long, Hard Road That Led Me to the Gates of the Golden Age

After weathering the first six months of COVID19 as a boots-on-the-ground, eye of the storm, essential worker, I now, like 12.6MM other Americans, find myself unemployed (this figure is down from the peak of 20MM back at the pandemic’s onset in March). So, although I know I am not alone, no longer having a source of income, a familiar routine, and a clear, prescribed sense of purpose hits different. Perhaps you can relate.

In this article, I will share the story of how I came to be unemployed for the first time since age twelve. As we dive in, I’ll use the lens of addiction to color what I’ve learned in the first three weeks, including a sneak peek at an exciting project on the horizon. So keep reading if you’re curious to learn how to tunnel thru addiction, heartache, and loss towards your very own Golden Age.

Let’s get started.

If you know me at all, you know I pour myself into my work, always have. It was no different when I started with Kimberly-Clark in January 2012 as a senior mechanical project engineer bringing with me eight years of prior engineering experience split across two separate industries. Over the subsequent nine years, I earned six separate promotions, each with increased scope and compensation, the third catapulting me from the technical world as an individual contributor, and into leadership, with my largest team comprised of over 300 members.

Behind the scenes, however, life took some pretty dark turns. In late 2013 I lost my baby sister. Twelve months after that, my eight-year marriage dissolved, quickly consuming every penny of my savings and estranging me from my three young children for over a year as I worked thru the grief. If that wasn’t enough, I cut ties with my parents and even landed on the news for DUI. Legal and medical bills pushed me far into debt. By Thanksgiving 2015, I had arrived at what the recovery community calls, rock bottom.

Work was literally the only thing that worked for me, I clung to it like a shipwrecked captain to driftwood on a dark and stormy sea

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It was as if everything I lost at home, compelled me to dive deeper at the office. 60, 70, even 80 hour weeks were not uncommon. I was all in, whatever it took. The results and accolades started piling up, people were noticing, and who was I to say no – what else did I have to do? The question I wasn’t asking – much less answering – was, ‘Is this healthy? Sustainable?’

Let’s pause here for a definition and some additional context. I warned you early on this article would center around addiction, which, according to Dr. Donna Marks, is defined as anything a person keeps doing in spite of negative consequences. Notice the word anything broadens a more traditional definition confined to, say drugs and alcohol, to include everything from food to work, religion, sex, social media, status, exercise, and even recovery itself. The key to understanding addiction is that, fundamentally, it is not about the substance or behavior, but rather one’s relationship to the substance or behavior.

In her book, ‘Exit the Maze,’ Dr. Marks goes on to describe the underlying nature of addiction to be one of trying to fill an emotional void caused by prior trauma and/or dysfunction, most often occurring in early childhood. For the addict, of which Dr. Marks estimates there are over 100MM in the US alone, the substance or behavior starts as the solution, a much-needed, but only momentary, relief from the underlying pain. Over time, as the negative consequences of the addiction take root, a desperate wrestling match between relief and recovery ensues, in which sobriety is only the first step as the addiction will often morph into the next ‘drug’ of choice. This game of ‘whack-an-addiction-mole’ will continue until the emotional void is accurately named and eliminated.

Podcast with Dr. Donna Marks & Stefan Molyneux on, ‘Exit the Maze’

For a condensed overview on the nature of addiction, see the podcast above. For now, however, let us get back to the story at hand.

As 2016 kicked off, I committed to rebuilding but knew I had my work cut out for me. I decided to leverage the area of my life with the most success, my career, to right the ship and start making my way back to shore. This approach was effective in several areas as I paid down debt, built a support system of caring co-workers, and focused on consistent routines. With this momentum, I was able to reunite with my children and broaden my efforts into other areas of well-being, including a genuine commitment to cognitive behavioral therapy, diet, exercise, and creative outlets such as this blog.

Even so, as 2018 was coming to a close, more storm clouds were forming on the horizon. See, even though, on the surface, my life appeared to be improving, I was yet to truly name and eliminate my emotional void and, in turn, failed to notice the unhealthy relationship I had developed with several of my new behaviors and the turbulent emotional undercurrent gaining hold.

In short order, I arrived at an impasse with a new manager over differing visions for the team. Having errantly attached my identity to my vision during my rebuilding process, I struggled to compromise. In fact, I flat refused, telling myself to do so would be to, quite literally, die. Unsurprisingly, the situation escalated to the brink of separation. Desperately trying to avert disaster, I called in a favor and secured a transfer to a sister facility before I could be managed out of the organization. From a career perspective, this felt positive. However, it came at the cost of putting 180 miles between myself and my children, who remained with their mom in Tulsa, leaving me to commute.

It’s March of 2019 and the stormy sea of my still largely unconscious emotional void had washed me ashore in Paris, TX.

Not having fully learned my lesson from my recent bump up with management, I charged into my new work environment, eager to play hero and rescue a struggling operation (see link for a more in-depth account written in early 2020).

My vision was simple: One Roof. Essentially, no matter what uniform, crew, function, gender, ethnicity, title, etc., we were all going to come together under the same one roof to achieve our shared goals. What I liked most about this goal were the concepts of home and family embedded in the Roof mnemonic. One Roof was a clear reference, easily recalled, with nearly infinite depth of meaning to mine as appropriate. Simple to say yet hard to achieve, as anyone who’s ever worked in large, high paced groups will attest.

Two things escaped me which ultimately led to my downfall:

wrong moment

wrong family

Wrong moment because the established leadership team was too buried in existing cultural turmoil to seriously consider any additional risk. It was ‘batten down the hatches’ mode due to ongoing litigation and precipitous safety issues. The resultant leadership focus lying almost exclusively on policy adherence and structure. Cultivating interpersonal relationships was hard to measure and therefore low priority.

Wrong family because my subconscious was using my new team as a surrogate to repair broken relationships from my childhood. News flash: if you want to repair a relationship, you have to do it with the actual person, no substitute will do. Nonetheless, I forged ahead in search of the connection and validation I never got from my parents and still hungered for unknowingly.

Blinded by my vision, it was only a matter of time until the scenario imploded, and implode it did. Short of divulging all the gory details, my unchecked expectations, lack of awareness of the moment, failure to recalibrate my approach, and insistence on continually doubling down, lead to increasing frustration on both sides. Eighteen months into the assignment, I got the call that I was no longer employed. And that was that. Nine years boxed up and discharged in an instant.

But here’s the thing: I would have worked myself to death before ever considering walking away. And at what cost along the way? I had stopped writing, struggled to complete my MBA program postponing graduation several times due to needing extensions to complete my capstone project, even my relationships with my dogs were suffering. Not to mention the emotional poison – frustration & resentment – that were accumulating at work due to misdirected emotional energy. Long and short of it is:

Recreating dysfunctional childhood relationships in adulthood can feed an emotional addiction but not nourish a soul

So, in peeling back this layer of the addiction onion, two gifts have emerged for me: 1) clarity on where my next area of emotional healing needs to be focused and 2) clarity on where the next leg of my career journey needs to take me.

Which brings me to the Gates of the Golden Age, assuming I don’t starve to death first. What I mean is, without all the stress associated with solving the problems fed to me by my former corporate masters, I have an opportunity to funnel all my energy into solving the problems I decide are most important, most rewarding, most value added. I believe I have a long enough run way to launch my writing into profitability and maybe, with your help, turn a pastime into the life of my dreams, thereby entering what I call my very own Golden Age.

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Interested to learn more about my upcoming launch? Please enter your email and a comment or two into the form below and I’ll be sure to keep you up to speed. Cheers!

Intimately Distinct

I’m going back in after 4 years on the bench and an 8 year marriage.

Equal parts excitement and uncertainty, my heart swells with longing one moment and recoils in fear the next. Night sweats and ecstasy have replaced sleep.

Exotic, vibrant, impassioned, unexpected – and yet familiar, like a deja vu + destiny cocktail.

Even the timing feels right as this season in my life has been marked by both renewal and promise.

She is smart, driven, caring, rational and stunning.  She doesn’t need me, she chooses me.  Disagreements become opportunities to discover one another. I wouldn’t change anything about her yet she seeks feedback.

I took the opportunity to introduce her to my brother and his wife over the Christmas holiday to rave reviews. My close friend KT is supportive, and she never holds back 😉

So what am I afraid of?

It would be easy to try and explain my fear as something related to inadequacy, but that’s not it – for the first time in my life I can honestly say I understand my own value.  I’m not in it out of desperation, loneliness, or any other form of dysfunction that I am aware of.

I think I’m fearful of two things: my past and my future.

My past because, despite ongoing therapeutic progress, I still occasionally allow historical traumas to dictate present behavior.  Being a psychiatrist she is understanding of my struggle but everyone has their limits, and rightly so.

My future because, now more than ever, I can see my full potential and the path towards it.  No more excuses; no more settling.  It’s scary to have something to lose.

In previous relationships this dichotomy would have been too much, I would have ran, but not this time.

This time I’m staying put – I’m going to see this through.

After all, the solution seems obvious enough – when the past is dead and the future unknown, one should focus on the present; right?

Just two individuals connected in the moment.

Intimately Distinct.