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Now That We're Here... It's So Far Away

This song is one that I've heard a few times, and it really puts in to words how I'm feeling about graduation and my schooling that is coming to a close.

            The fall semester for 2011 has come and gone.  For me, it’s been extremely bittersweet.  For it only being 4 months worth of school, studying, tailing it across a huge campus, and all of the other experiences that have happened in between, it moved fast and slow, all at the same time. 
            I honestly feel that I blinked and the semester was gone.  I remember in August thinking it was time to get the school year going so May would come and I could graduate and be done. Another year of school just seemed so long and excruciating.  I honestly did not realize that it would go so fast.  From where I’m sitting, I’ve got some mixed emotions going on.
            I don’t know where I’m going to be in the next five to six months.  A whole new chapter is going to emerge and I don’t really have a lot of control over it.  It’s an exciting feeling, but it’s also terrifying. I might not even stay here in the town where I’m at, or I could be really lucky and score a decent job and put roots down here. There’s just no way of knowing until I get out there and look at job availability.  School has been a major part of my life.  Let’s face it – I haven’t exactly been “the” traditional student.  I’m finally going to get my Bachelor’s Degree at the age of 27.  A “traditional” student generally gets one at 21-22.  I’ve been going on and off, and even had some part time semesters due to having to work. Sometimes I feel worthless about how long it has taken me, but I keep telling myself (and others have told me too) that at least I’m finishing something I’ve started. So, finishing school (finally) is definitely going to be a big deal for me. I have one more semester left, and if this past semester is any sign of how quickly things can go, I better strap myself in and prepare for the ride. 
            This semester, while taking the least amount of classes you can to still be classified as full time, has really tested me, not only on the academic front, but in other areas of life too.  I have made some new friends, came out of my shell more than usual, and even branched out and attended study groups.  I have never done that before in all the semesters I’ve attended college.  My confidence in my subjects and areas of interest has gotten much stronger.  My goal going in to this semester was to make the Dean’s List (GPA 3.5 – 3.9 required) and I did it!  However, I’m still sort of disappointed in myself.  I missed making the president’s list (4.0 gpa) by 7 points. Ouch.  It kinda stings!
            I mention making new friends.  Thinking back on things that happened, some of the memories aren’t ones I want to remember.  Let’s face it – we all need as many friends as we can in life.  Sometimes I wonder if my definition of friend is different than others views on the subject. To put it short, I have forgiven people who have done me wrong. I have learned that forgiving sometimes is even better for you than it is for the other person. Praying and having a relationship with Jesus and God has really helped me in these matters as well. With faith, anything is possible, even forgiving those who have done you wrong. 
            Anyway, I don’t want to seem negative.  All in all, it’s been a great, fast, and fun semester.  My classes were pretty good and I have met many amazing people from many diverse groups.  My mind is more open now.  Things that were so black and white before are now grey.  I see different point of views in matters when before, I had my belief and that was final.
            I can’t believe I only have one more semester left.  It is bittersweet.  Probably the most exciting, terrifying, amazing, and emotional experience of my life – I can say that I am doing something with my life that I’m damn proud of.  Being a Texas Tech graduate is something I have thought about since I was a little kid and I’m actually living my dreams right now. And as I said above, praying and keeping God and Jesus in my life has really pulled me through.  I couldn't do anything without having faith. 

            Guns up! 

Introducing Dance With the Devil


            Last night, I finally got Dance With the Devil: Book Two in the Troubled Heroes Series published! Sadly, it was way past the deadline I had set for it. Originally, I wanted it posted by mid September at the latest, and here it is mid November, but hey, it has finally arrived!
            While this is the second book in the series, it can serve as a stand-alone story as well. There is no need to read Through Smoke before this one.  It is a series solely on the fact that it focuses on troubled, everyday heroes. 
            Here is the description of the book: Lane O'Reily, a Baltimore Homicide Detective, takes on the case of a lifetime when he is handed a murder investigation involving a string of young women. Desperate to solve the case before another victim turns up, he must rely heavily on his only witness, a survivor to the crimes. She begins harassing and stalking him and with his marriage, career, and life on the line, he must decide if the obsessive witness is leading him down a path to the murderer, or down a trail littered with lies, betrayal and ultimately, a dead end.
            I am relieved to finally get this published. With school coming on strong like it has, I really thought it was going to just sit on the shelf and collect dust, so to speak.  I buckled down, got it edited several times, did self-edits, and finally can take a breather! I hope if you choose to read it, that you enjoy it.
            So, what’s up next? I’m planning on beginning a sequel to Through Smoke and base it on the drought that Texas has experienced this past summer. It is in its first stages, and hopefully the fire can begin rolling on it, pun intended! 

Being Thankful

A lot of my friends on Facebook have been posting daily statuses about things they are thankful for during the month of November.  It’s a great idea and I enjoy reading what some of them have to say.  I’ve considered doing this as well, but honestly, I thought of a better idea and decided to just compile everything into one blog entry.  I’ve been searching for a new blog entry idea, so why not?

I love Thanksgiving.  It seems to be a forgotten holiday, overshadowed by Christmas and New Years.  A lot of businesses around town have already started playing Christmas music.  I love Christmas carols like the next gal, but already playing them at the beginning of November is going to drive me insane.  Anyway, back on the topic of Thanksgiving – it could quite possibly be my favorite holiday.  I love getting together with family and eating some of the most calorie rich foods ever.  I love standing in the kitchen with my mother, putting together various casseroles, reading over different recipes we’d like to try, and baking up wonderful desserts.  Every Thanksgiving I find a new recipe I want to try. Sometimes it turns out great, sometimes not so much. 

So, things I’m thankful for:

-The wonderful memories of past Thanksgivings shared with all of my family members.
-My parents – Tim and Patti, who put up with all of my moody quirks, my rollercoaster-like emotions, my insecurities, etc.  They have been my solid foundation in a world where the walls haven’t been real stable.
-My sister - Lizzy, for hanging out with me and being one of the best friends I could ever ask for.  I’m glad our relationship has only gotten stronger through the years. I can also tie my brother in law – David into this, because he’s been a great friend as well.  When we all hang out, I have a blast.   
-My brother - Andy, for being the true definition of what brothers should be.  I know he’s here for me in all the ways I need him.  I don’t get to see him much, but when I do, it is a true blessing.
-My 3 nieces - Abi, Anna, and Andi Mae and my nephew – Justus.  They are four of the most amazing kiddo’s and keep me smiling.  I also don’t get to see them much, so every moment with them is a pure blessing. 
-My wonderful grandparents – Troy and Betty Tate, and Floyd and Margaret Triggs, who are all now in heaven. Without these four wonderful adults in my life, I wouldn’t have many of the things I do today.  I am extremely blessed to have four role models to try and follow.  I don’t know what I’d do without them, and I know that even though they aren’t “here”, that they are always with me.
-I am thankful for family in general.  When it comes down to it, they are the ones likely to stick by you when everyone else goes away.  You don’t get to choose your family, and somehow I still got stuck with some pretty amazing people.  I love each and every one of you.  There’s too many to list, but you all know who you are.
-I am thankful for my friends.  Many have come in and out of my life, but a few have stuck around for long term.  Even the short-term friends I am thankful for.  I’ve met some pretty interesting and amazing people along the way, and have learned something new from each of them.  God bless you guys!
-I am thankful for the roof over my head and the food in my refrigerator.  I am thankful for the fact that I am able to attend Texas Tech University and study in a degree that I enjoy and hope to make a future out of.  I am thankful that I can wake up in the morning and choose to worship my amazing God without having to hide it.  I am thankful that I can be me.
-I can’t forget my German Shepherd, Wyatt.  He’s the best dang dog I could ever ask for.  He’s always there when I just need a friend to lean on.  His big brown eyes stare at me with unconditional love, regardless of the situation. 
-I am thankful for all of the bad days, just so I can really appreciate the good ones that come along. I am thankful for all of the people who have wronged me, just to cling to those who treat me with respect and honesty. It’s a good way to turn the negativity around using reverse psychology.
-I am just thankful.  I need to remember to thank God every day for what I do have, rather than focus on what I don’t.  Things really aren’t that bad.

I hope whoever reads this has a safe and wonderful holiday season.  Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and may 2012 bring you the best of luck and happiness! 

Trust, Positivity, Saying Goodbye

            I have gotten behind on my blogging, and for the few who do read it, they are probably saying, “What’s new? You always do.” While I’m only taking 12 hours of courses this semester, it has been one of the most trying.  It is my senior year and I’m really busting my tail end to make the dean’s list and really take names during my last final weeks on the Texas Tech campus.
            Tonight, I’m really not sure what to write about, I just know that I need to.  Life has really come at me full force.  A quote that I have learned to live by in these past few weeks is:

“You gotta have bad days so you can appreciate the good ones.”

            I guess I can say that things really haven’t been that “bad.”  At least I can say that the good has outweighed the bad.  I’ve had a few people come into my life and really test my already fragile trust issues.  To put it mildly, I question why these people were even brought into my life, only to betray me and walk out as if it had never happened.  I questioned God and wanted to know WHY? I was flying so high and then found myself face first in the ground.  I started living with the belief that when I am happy, don’t get used to it, because something will come along like a whirlwind and blow it all away. Truth is, we will never understand why certain people come in and out of our lives.  God has a reason, even if it never makes sense to us.  There’s always a reason, and I need to remember that, even if it has left a bitter taste in my mouth.
I’ve spent a lot of time praying and soul searching.  Before this all happened, I was thriving – I was a strong woman who was becoming more positive and happy by the day.  I’ve prayed to God to allow me to get back to the person that I was before.  Why not just revert back to it?  I know it’s going to take time, but eventually I’ll get there.  As I have described it to others… I’m like a drug addict who relapsed back to my old negative ways and now I’ve gotta be strong to get over it and get back on track, away from this derailment that has turned my world upside down.  One thing that will take years is being able to trust again.  It’ll be hard to tear down that wall.
I can't make people be in my life who don't want to be.  All I want is a little kindness to at least have the closure.  Some people can't man up and do that, so I have to tell myself that it's God's way of exterminating the negativity out of my life.  I have to let Him be in the driver's seat and trust that he is leading me down the path I should be on.  Let go and let God. 

“Accentuate the positive.”

I need to focus on the good things in my life right now and forget about recent events.  Easier said than done, I know, but what makes a person strong is their ability to move forward and not forget their past, but push through and learn from it.  Chalk it all up to learning experiences.  I feel hypocritical. As I write this, I feel the pain drudging up from deep inside of me.  Sometimes it’s very hard to take your own advice.  What I need is someone to slap some sense into me.  Just a good, hard wake up call.  Snap out of it, Jess. You’ve got a lot going for you! Here I am, talking to myself. Hah.
One thing I’ve heard of doing is when you get those negative thoughts in your mind, envision a stop sign to try and bring them to a halt.  I haven’t honestly tried it yet, so I’m not sure how effective it is.
So, to accentuate the positive - I’m alive and breathing.  I was able to get out of bed this morning.  I have the freedom to get my education at the university level at a school that I have dreamed about graduating from since I was a child. Oh, I was also declared a graduation candidate at this school as of yesterday.  My projected graduation date is May 19, 2012. After all the years I have spent in school, you have no idea how sweet this was to my ears. I have a roof over my head.  I have food in the refrigerator.  I have a loving, caring family that loves me for who I am, flaws, quirks, annoying habits, and all.  To me, family is the foundation of everything, so that is the most positive thing I could ever think about in my life. 
Time.  Getting over emotional pain takes time.  Developing my trust in mankind again will take time. I just have to remember that each person that comes into my life is different, and I don’t need to compare them to anyone who has treated me like garbage in the past.  Life is too short to wake up angry.  Look in the mirror and say that today WILL be a GOOD day!
I definitely need to practice what I preach. 

“I’m alive and I’m free, who wouldn’t wanna be me?”
"Holding resentment against someone is allowing them to live rent free in your head."

Remembering 9.11.01 - 10 Years Later

            As the whole world knows, today is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and United Flight 93.  We all have our stories of where we were that day and what was going through our minds as we watched news footage of what was transpiring on that September morning. 
Many people will see this and roll their eyes and think, “Oh gosh, here’s another one of those blogs.”  I’ve even heard people make comments about all of the 9/11 documentaries that are coming on, one after the other, all weekend long and wonder why people watch them.  To me, that’s one way that I can honor the victims.  Seeing the footage and hearing survivors and family member’s stories is a way to show that we will never forget that day.
I was just a junior in high school on September 11, 2001.  A junior in a small town here in Texas, far far away from New York City. I usually don’t talk about this much in fear of people ridiculing me, but I can honestly say that something did feel weird that morning. I’ve talked to my mom about the feelings I had. Other than her, it rarely comes up.
 The first plane hit at 8:46AM, which meant it was 7:46 here in Texas.  I was heading off to school at this time.  I remember taking my backpack out to my car and just having this overwhelming feeling. The sun was just barely rising, so it was still somewhat dark outside.  It’s really hard to explain.  I didn’t hear about the attacks until I had gotten to school and was in my first class.  It was a web design class and my teacher said something about the World Trade Center being bombed.  I was confused.  I had a small idea of what the WTC was, but wasn’t 100% on what was going on.  Several other classes in the school were going to the library to watch news footage.  At that time, we didn’t have TV’s in every classroom.  I asked my teacher if we could go watch and let’s just say, I won’t comment on the negativity.  She didn’t let us go to the library, enough said.
My second period class was US History, and the teacher was also my basketball coach.  He instantly let us go to the library, where I remember spending pretty much the rest of the day.  Tons of students and teachers crowded around TV’s in various parts of the room, where only standing room was available.  I remember standing there watching, my best friend Jo’ana at my side, still confused.  I noticed things falling from the building, thinking it was debris, when a teacher pointed out that it was people plummeting to their death below.  I’ll never forget the terror I felt in seeing that happening on live television, right in front of the entire school, packed and cramped in our small library.  In our innocent world in our small town, we didn’t really know of things such as terrorism.
We had open campus for lunch and Jo’ana and I stopped at McDonalds.  They had the radio playing over a loud speaker and it was news reports on what was going on.  I was so sick to my stomach that I don’t even think I ate lunch that day.  We had cross-country running practice that afternoon.  Coach Neighbors took us out to Coleman Park where we ran the back roads near the landfill and finished off on the course in the park.  I guess to the teachers, keeping the students on as normal of a schedule was their way of trying to keep everything calm, aside from allowing us to watch the news all day.  I remember running down one of the secluded roads along with my teammates, and all of us pretty much slow jogging when we heard what sounded like a plane above us.  We all got nervous and looked up to the sky.  I don’t think it was a plane, since all flights in the US had been grounded for the first time in our nation’s history.  For some reason I can’t remember what it was, but it was a loud noise that freaked all of us out.  We finished up our workout but none of us put in good times, and Coach Neighbors ended the practice early.
I was nervous for my parents as well.  My father is a paramedic and at that time, my mom worked as a dispatcher for the sheriff’s office.  Since no one knew what was really going on, all first responders and people working for emergency offices had to be on stand by, ready to go in at any time.  I think I remember my mom saying that if it came down to that, they couldn’t take both of them in and leave my sister and I stranded.
The next few weeks consisted of watching the news constantly.  The National Anthem took on a whole new meaning.  We no longer stood with our minds wondering as the song played, anticipating the start of the game or whatever event we were at.  We all stood proud, listening to EVERY word of that anthem, letting it settle deep inside our hearts as tears formed in the corners of our eyes.   Flags were left flying in people’s yards constantly, no longer just reserved for holidays.  People seemed friendlier.  We were all more open about our feelings. 
It’s a shame that it took something so tragic to “change” people.  For several years America was in an extreme patriotic mode.  I finally made it to ground zero in June of 2004, three years after the attacks.  Most of the rubble and debris was gone, but a huge gaping hole was there, surrounded by construction barricades and hard hat areas.  The skyline also had a gaping hole in it where the twin towers once stood.  I leaned against the fence and wept.  There were makeshift memorials for many of the victims.  I was glad I went to pay my respects, but it was probably one of the most solemn and sorrowful experiences I’ve ever endured in my life. 
We also stopped by several firehouses in the city.  In every station we stopped at, there were pictures up of men who had lost their lives that morning.  There was definitely emptiness present.  Even a few firehouses kept a candle lit in honor of their fallen brothers and sisters who never came home. 
I can’t believe ten years has passed.  I think about that day a lot.  It will forever be etched in my memory.  One thing that we, as Americans tend to do is fall back into that rut of thinking that we are untouchable and invincible.  9/11 was a wakeup call, but sometimes I feel that we are slowly losing the realization of how vulnerable anyone can be.  I feel that watching those documentaries, writing out your memories of where you were, reflecting and praying, are all beneficial ways we cannot allow ourselves to take things for granted.  I’m not saying you have to go out and gush your feelings to just anyone, but remember that keeping everything bottled inside probably isn’t the best thing you could do to yourself.  We have to carry the honor on for all of those who can’t. We have to REMEMBER and NEVER forget!

In remembrance of:

2,977 victims in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the 3 airplane flights

United Flight 93

343 FDNY Firefighters


23 NYPD Police Officers

37 Port Authority Police Officers

One Year - Mema's An Angel

I've been trying to think of something to write all day about August 27th.  Family members have put their thoughts up on Facebook about a year ago today.  Usually, I'd probably do the same - The only problem is, I have more to say than what a status update would allow me to.

What happened a year ago today?

My Mema passed away.  She was my last grandparent to go to heaven, and one of three to pass away within two years of each other.  Now as I get this blog started, I'm still at a loss on what to put.  Not because there's not much to say about her, but because I just can't put it into words.  My fingers are sitting on the home row keys, but I can't form the sentences.  I guess I can start with saying that people say that it gets easier with time.  I don't know if it's really easier, or if we just learn to cope better.  I guess it's all from your own perspective.

Mema was a West Texas country girl.  She grew up living out here in the area where I do now.  Her daddy was a farmer - a hard working man back before farmers had the insurance they have now to fall back on if their crops didn't grow.  She was tough and extremely intelligent.  She loved to work outside and grow gardens.  She was excellent at crafts.  She -loved- to play board games, cards, or anything that brought us together as a family.  Many things I cook today, I learned from her.  In the summers she would play outside with us kids.  My cousins and I stayed out at her's and Pepa's place when school was out.  Many of my best childhood memories are from summers spent out at their house.

Without her, or Pepa, I would not have many of the things I do today.  They are still providing even in death.  In the last few years of Mema's life I got very close to her.  I've always been close with her, but we developed a special bond.  I lived next door to her and would come over and have supper with her.  Sometimes I would cook, sometimes we'd get takeout, or sometimes my aunt would cook.  I would also go over and help mow and take care of things.  She stopped really going outside.  I looked forward to having those meals with her. We'd sit and chat about whatever was on her mind.  She'd talk about what she read in the newspaper.  I stated in my last blog post that she was an avid newspaper reader.  She loved pouring a tall glass of iced tea and sit at the kitchen table to read the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.  Sometimes we'd even bicker about stuff - it was all harmless, of course!

The day she died I was at work.  I had missed all of the week before due to her being in the hospital and then being ill at home.  I decided to go back to work because not much had changed.  I got the call around 8AM that she had passed away.  The moment the phone rang and I saw that it was my dad, I knew...

It was the second day of school - I had just started attending Texas Tech University.  I left work, went to her house and waited.  Everyone said I could've stayed at work, but how was I going to take care of 10 toddlers with all of that on my mind?  That afternoon I did decide to go ahead and go to class.  I only had one that day and I needed to at least go and get my syllabus and inform my professor about what was going on.  There wasn't much more I could do back at the house.  My aunts, uncles, and father were getting together to go to the funeral home.  The house was empty and I didn't want to be there.

I loved how the family all got back together - I just hated the reasoning as to why.  I think having my nieces and nephew around really helped. They really took our minds off of things, though it all still hovered above us.

The hardest part that I will never forget is after the funeral.  It was on a Monday and I had class early Tuesday morning. I had missed classes, of course, because of the funeral so I knew I needed to get back the next day, regardless of how sad I was.  I knew the best thing to do was just push through and get back out there.  My brother and his family were still in town, and not leaving until the next morning as well.  They drove back to Brownfield to spend the night with my parents.  I didn't go back with them, since I had to be up early for class, it would've been harder on me.  I came back to my house, the house I lived next door to Mema, and for the first time, I was alone.

Reality hit me like a ton of bricks.  Mema was gone.  There would be no more daily evening suppers at her table.  There would be no more sitting and talking to her about what she read in the newspaper.  No more of her warm hugs and her cute laugh when she found something amusing.  I broke down in my living room and cried the hardest I've ever cried.  As I write this I find myself getting teary eyed just thinking about it.  And when I really think about it, it seems so selfish.  But then again, they say the death of a loved one is usually hardest on the living.  Yes, I was happy that Mema and Pepa were finally back together again.  It just hit me hard that for the first time since she passed away, I was alone.  It was probably one of the toughest nights of my life.

One thing that gave me comfort, and still is to this day, is that she is now with Pepa in heaven.  He passed away in April of 2009, and Mema really missed him so much.  She was his caregiver.  After he was gone, she felt she didn't have a purpose anymore.  So now we say that they are together in Australia.  They always wanted to travel there for a vacation and never got to after my Pepa had his accident.

The 2010-11 school year was hard on us all.  My cousins were all starting back to school as well.  We were all depressed.  We all showed it in different ways, as mourning does go, and things had definitely changed.  Sometimes even to this day I have a hard time looking out my window and seeing Mema's house.  It stayed in the family thank goodness, but it is still hard.  There's lots of good memories at that house.  Thank God for those.

Mema was an amazing woman.  She was a woman that I strive to be like.  So strong, so loving, so full of life.  I'm glad that I knew her for the 25 years God gave me with her.  Her and Pepa didn't ask for the hand they got dealt, but they pushed on.  What great role models this family has.

"If you endure suffering, even if you have done right, God will bless you for it." 1 Peter 2:20  - Mema had this in a frame in her house.  This alone lets me know that they are in heaven, side by side. :)

In loving memory of Betty Louise Angerer Tate
January 10, 1935 - August 27, 2010

...I can't believe its been a year....

Old Newspaper Clippings

This blog entry really doesn't have much to do about my writing....

The other day I was going through some old stuff of my grandparent's. My Mema was an avid newspaper reader and would rip out clippings and things she found from time to time and save them.  I ran across a clip from the old Ann Landers column that really brought a smile to my face.  

Tips for Life

Give people more than they expect, and do so cheerfully.
Don’t believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you’d like.
Don’t say, “I love you,” unless you really mean it.
When you say, “I’m sorry,” look the person in the eye.
Be engaged at least six months before you get married.
Love deeply and passionately.  You might get hurt, but it’s the only way to live life completely.
In disagreements, fight fair. No name-calling.
Don’t judge people by their relatives.
When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, smile and ask, “Why do you want to know?”
Call your mom.
Say, “Bless you,” when you hear someone sneeze,
Don’t let a little squabble damage a good friendship.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Smile when picking up the phone.  The caller will hear it in your voice.
Marry someone you love to talk to.  As you get older, conversation will be the one of the principal elements of your relationship.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Read more books, and watch less TV.
In disagreements with loved ones, deal with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
Never laugh at anyone’s dreams.  People who don’t have dreams will never accomplish much.
Never let your mouth get ahead of your head.
Spend some time alone.  Constant socializing can be draining.
Open your mind to change, but don’t let new ideas dilute your principles.
Live an honorable life.  When you get older, you’ll be glad you did.
When you don’t know what to do, pray. You’ll be surprised at how much it will help you decide.
A loving atmosphere in your home is important.  It will also help keep your children from needing therapy.
Judge your success by what you had to give up to get it.
Remember that not getting what you want may be the best thing that never happened to you.
Never interrupt when you are being flattered.
Mind your own business.
Trust in God, but lock your car.

Sometimes I thought saving all of those newspaper clippings just added to the clutter, but I'm glad that I came across this. They are turning out to be a real treasure years after they were saved.  It's these simple things that really make you feel good.  One of my favorite lines in all of this is "Remember that not getting what you want may be the best thing that never happened to you." Sometimes God's best gifts are prayers that he doesn't answer in ways that you think he should have at the time you wanted it. 

While I didn't write this, I'm glad that I can share it with you all and hope that it brings a smile to your face as well!  



Troubled Hero Series

If you've looked at my page lately, you might have noticed a few changes...

I have temporarily taken down Modern Day Drifter after it had a successful week.  Why you ask?  I noticed several technical and grammatical errors that seriously need to be reworked.  A few I think are okay, but there are too many for me to be able to not fret about it.  I want it to be near perfect.  So, until further notice, the book will be unpublished until I can correct it to my liking.  I owe it to you readers as well. It's no fun reading a book full of them.

Also, with the help of my writing buddy, I've decided to try to tie in all of my books in a type of series.  It is called "The Troubled Hero Series".  Since Through Smoke is about a firefighter and my current work in progress, Dance With The Devil is about a cop, it seemed like a good way to group them together.  The main characters in these books seem to have some personal demons going on aside from their careers. And a good thing about the series is, you don't have to read them in a certain order.  In the future I am planning on writing a sequel to Through Smoke.  I also am mulling over an idea about a "bad boy" character who will have some redeeming qualities, and can be a defiant hero, so to speak.  It's all in its early stages, but it's fun to toss things around and see where they go.

I hope that putting books into series will help readers be able to link my books together.  I hope it can build a strong fanbase.

Happy reading/writing!

The ART of Writing

This month was my year anniversary for having a book published.  July 19, 2010 was the date that Modern Day Drifter became available to buy on Amazon via the ebook route.  Since then, it is now available on Smashwords, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and a few other places.  In that time I have also published a second book, Through Smoke, which has a more meaty plot and has done somewhat better than my first book.

However, this blog is not really about that.  When it comes down to being self published, marketing plays a huge role in getting your book out there in the public eye.  It literally is a second job and takes a lot of time.  I'll be the first to say that I'm not the best with it.  I use Twitter and Facebook to link my book, but even now it seems that those wells have ran dry.  My sales have lagged pretty substantially for July.  But wait! Before you think I'm trying to get sympathy, just hear me out! ;-)

The whole purpose of this blog update was to say that I'm just going to push through the marketing woes and sales and continue to do what I love, and that is to just continue to write.  I am currently working on book three and am really -hoping- to have it out by late summer/early fall.  I'm cutting it really close! I read a quote from someone on Twitter that said:

"Unhappy with the sales of your book? It's simple - just write another one." 

It really hit home to me.  Writing is my escape from real life.  I love creating characters in scenes where I can do what I want with them and have complete control.  A few weeks back I was really feeling discouraged with writing. When I wasn't selling much I felt like I have failed as a writer.  People weren't reviewing my books. I even questioned if anyone was even reading my stuff. I didn't have any inspiration.  When I saw this quote it was like a fire got lit underneath me.  I sat and thought about it.  I used to write fanfiction long before I ever started writing original fiction.  I didn't get paid for that and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Why? - Because I love to write.

The only time I ever started "disliking" it was when money got involved.  Why did that change it?  Why was I suddenly getting greedy about it?  That's not who I am.  Now I'm looking at it from a different perspective.  I'm going to continue to do what I love.  I'm going to write out stories and escape everyday life.  I'll still publish the books as ebooks and put them up for sale.  However, I won't let the amount I sale affect my mood toward my favorite hobby.  They will be out there, available to read for those who want, and any money I make is just the icing on top. I just want people reading my stories. :-)  

I knew I had to get back to the basics and enjoy the ART of writing.  The PASSION of writing. As they say, money is the root of all evil and I'm guilty of letting it sway me.  My goal is to try not to let it bother me anymore.

Happy writing to all!  

Unsung Heroes

There's no happy medium when it comes to weather in the US this summer.  Here in Texas where I reside, we have been ravished by a horrible drought that they are comparing to the dust bowl days.  The good thing about it is that we've got better soil management now and aren't having to deal with the outrageous blowing dust.  I find myself getting jealous when I hear of a friend talking about it flooding.  It's like there is this bubble over us. Storms come this way and as they get close, they dissipate.  I've gotten to the point where I don't even get my hopes up when there's grey clouds on the horizon. The old Jessica would have been perusing the doppler and running back and forth to track it.

One thing that comes with the drought is the wildfires.  President Obama has finally considered many counties in Texas and New Mexico disaster areas.  Volunteer firefighters have been working 24/7 to get towns out of danger.  Wildlife has been spotted coming up to the urban areas to get food and water because their homes are gone.

My heart goes out to the firefighters.  Most of the men and women who are out fighting the fires are volunteer.  Regardless of if they are paid or not, it's tough work.  They are unsung heroes who are out there doing it out of the goodness of their heart.  I've always been a fan of everyday people going out and doing extraordinary things.  Firefighters, cops, EMS, military... they all hold a special place in my heart.  One thing we tend to forget about is that these volunteer firefighters also have day jobs they have to work at and then go fight the fires after they put in a full day wherever they work.  That takes my respect for them to a much higher level.

My father was a volunteer firefighter for 20+ years and he is now a paramedic.  I've grown up around it and around the men and women who devote their time to it.  These people are a unique bunch as well.  Most people I know do it because they like helping people. They don't want any flashy shows or attention.  The job becomes them.  It's who they are.

A quote from the movie Backdraft comes to mind:

"The funny thing about firemen is, night and day, they are always firemen."

And another quote from Into the Fire, A documentary:

"Your worst day is our everyday."  ~Michael Perry, volunteer firefighter 

Hats off to anyone who can call themselves an unsung hero.  That's sort of an oxymoron, because those who are actually unsung heroes won't even claim it.  It doesn't even cross their mind.  

In rough times like these, I try to find the positive in it.  It's hard on everyone, but it's amazing to see what humans are capable of.  It's the coming together and working hard to keep people safe that really shows the brotherhood and camaraderie that can be formed.  It's sad that it takes something this drastic to make us realize it (9/11 also comes to mind), but to unsung heroes, it's a normal everyday occurrence.  

Camp Burkhart

Today marked the end of Camp Burkhart, a camp formed for children with Autism.  I am currently enrolled in an Exercise Sport Sciences class called Physical Education for Children.  The instructor specializes in modified PE classes for children with special needs.  One of the class activities was taking part in this camp for this week.

Before going into this camp I was somewhat familiar with Autism, but never really have worked hands on with children who have it.  As I'm writing this I'm thinking about the politically correct way to "say" different phrases pertaining to this subject.  I know that it is not right to say "Autistic child".  I've learned over the past few years that you are not supposed to put the label in front of the child.  So, the right way to phrase it would be "child with Autism."  They are a child first and Autism should not be their first identifier.  Anyway, back to the main point of this thought - before Camp Burkhart I was familiar with Autism but hadn't really worked directly with a child who has it.

On Monday each of us was assigned to a specific child.  There were about 30 campers enrolled and they needed us shadowing the kids.  Some of them were runners and out of their routine.  They wanted their moms or caregivers and would head straight toward the doors to get away.  Our jobs were to bond with the kids and become a buddy to them.  We were supposed to make them feel comfortable and have them try to engage in the activities that were happening.

The little girl I was assigned to was named Knatalye. (Natalie) It took me about three days to be able to spell her name right.  She was 6 years old and completely non-verbal.  She could function and walk, but just didn't have a lot of cognitive abilities.  On Monday when I got there another worker was working with her. Knatalye was extremely upset, crying, and wanted to leave.  She had a favorite blanket that she carried everywhere with her and chewed on.  We got her to calm down after a few minutes. I have to admit that I was nervous at first.  I've had a few experiences with children with special needs but I still couldn't help but question my abilities.

There were three stations set up that the groups would rotate to.  There were three groups as well - Green, Blue, and Yellow.  Knatalye and I were in the green group.  The stations were arts & crafts, social skills, and physical education.  We went to the social skills table where they had us all playing board games and learning about how to treat others. (Part of Autism is that the person really doesn't understand how to act in public and doesn't know what's right and wrong pertaining to how to treat people.) Knatalye really didn't play much and we sat there and watched as the other kids participated.

One thing that is really mind boggling about Autism is how big the spectrum is for it.  There are some kids you would never have guessed had it.  There was one child, Bryndon, who was fully functional and very verbal.  He was great at board games and sports.  He seemed very sincere and kind hearted.  Then there were kids like Knatalye who were on the other end of the spectrum.  There was one boy who was around 14 years old who would not sit still and do anything.  They had to have three workers shadow him because he went straight for the doors to wander off.  He even had to wear a tracking device on his ankle.  If something didn't go his way he would cry out.  He was also enamored by people who had dark hair.  Anyone with blonde hair he steered clear of.  His mother has dark hair so that's why we think he loved everyone who had it.  There was another boy who was around the same age who did not like to be touched at all and had to wear his name tag on his back.  He didn't want anything on his shirt.  I was just shocked by how Autism can go from one extreme to the other, even with kids in the middle.  It's such a complex thing that we still don't know much about.

By about 11:00 AM Knatalye was very tired and she laid down with the group and fell asleep.  It was time for music after that and she slept through it.  The camp ended at 12:00 each day.  On Tuesday it was pretty much the same story.  She would sit back and observe and not really take part in it.  She also fell asleep around 11:00 on this day.  On Wednesday when we went to the PE section, it was basketball day, and that seemed to really spark an interest with her.  We both sat on the floor and took turns bouncing a ball to each other.  She seemed to really enjoy it and would clap at the other kids who were running around the gym.  When we went to the social skills session she spotted a Spongebob Operation game and laughed out loud.  I learned that she loved Spongebob and we spent the next thirty minutes looking at the cover of the board game and she had me point out the characters and tell them to her.

Today, as stated, was our last day of the camp.  When I arrived to take over Knatalye from the early person, she informed me that she had pretty much slept the whole morning.  Knatalye sat in my lap and was happy to see me.  The green group then rotated to the gym where we sat and bounced a ball together.  She got tired of it and I took her back to the main area where she wanted to play with the Spongebob cover again. For the next 45 minutes we sat and did that, and it got to the point where she could point out Spongebob when I asked her to.

I'm thankful for the experience I had taking part in this camp.  Even though it was something required for a class, I'm glad that it happened.  It really melts my heart to see kiddo's dealing with all of this.  I also want to give their parents a hug and help them out if I could.  It takes a very patient person to work with them and I'm glad kids in this area  have a place like the Burkhart Center to go to to be able to socialize and get out of the house.

I hope that the research is getting better for Autism.  It is so complex and seems inconsistent since the spectrum seems to go from one extreme to the other.  The diagnosis of Autism is also on the rise.  Maybe with more Autism awareness people will soon begin to understand it and things can start looking up for those who deal with it first hand - whether it be the children who have it or the family members who have someone close to them who have it.

Rapture... Sweet Rapture...

Okay, so today was the day that Harold Camping predicted that the end of the world would begin. Apparently he said it would all start at 6:00PM, but didn't specify what time zone or where at in the world this 6:00 would take place.  Since Mr. Harold is in California, I'm betting he's thinking 6:00 their time. I guess Jesus is a fan of Hollywood himself.  (Looks at clock)  It's 7:45 PM central time which means that the end of the world is supposed to start in about 15 minutes if Jesus is in fact going by Pacific time. ;-)

I need groceries BADLY. However, I know better than to go to the grocery stores in town right now.  Last night the news reported that there was absolutely no bottled water available anywhere in Lubbock.  I can only imagine how hectic it was.  I used to work in a grocery store for 5 years - the Christmas rush was bad enough. Could you imagine enduring the apocalyptic rush to grab as many bottles of water and canned food items you could?  (shakes head) Get real people!!! First off, the world is not ending today.  

As the bible states:

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13:32

“The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Matthew 24:34

What makes this Camping guy think that he can predict it when the good book itself clearly states that no one, not even the angels, know when the day will be? I also heard a rumor that Mr. Camping is saying that he and his followers prayed so hard that they stopped the end of the world from  happening today.  How does that crow taste?? 

Another thing that gets me is that so many people who were firm believers in this prediction went out and spent their life savings and blew through their money like nothing.  Ouch.  That's all I can say about that. Ouch.  

Getting back to my point about the mad dash to get food.  Seriously, if the world really were to end today, what good would all that food do you anyhow? I guess people were anticipating the fact that they were going to be held up in their homes and try to outlast the rapture.  Visions of crazed human beings ravaging homes and looting stores pops into my mind while those who stocked up on their food board up their windows and fight off those of us who decided not to panic and stock up on food that would go to waste anyway. Personally, if Jesus came to gather up the Christians I wouldn't want to prolong it.  Take me away to heaven (If I belong there. I try to be the best Christian I can be but in the end, it's all up to the man upstairs.  I'd like to think I was going to heaven though.)  

Also, so many people freaked out about this, as well as the December 21, 2012 prediction.  In reality, if it is gonna end, it's gonna end.  What are you going to do about it?  You can't yell out to Jesus and tell him you're not ready.  Too bad so sad! What's the good in panicking and freaking out about it?  

While today's prediction was totally wrong and I'm sure the December 2012 prediction is wrong, we can all still use this as an eye opener.  Just because Mr. Camping is a complete lunatic and was way off, that doesn't mean that the end of the world will never happen, because guess what - it will.... Maybe not in our lifetimes, but possibly so.  We don't know.  The eye opener in all of this is that we need to strive to be better people and prepare.  I'm not perfect - I have my days where I'm Miss Negative and am hard to live with but I truly am trying to be a better Christian.  I don't want to get more preachy so I'll leave it at that... One thing that bugs me more than anything is someone telling me how to live, so I won't do that to whoever might stumble across this blog.  

(Looks at clock) Okay, it's officially 8:00 Central Time, which means it's 6:00 in California.  Hmmmm....

Again I ask... Harold Camping... How does that crow taste???  

Beyond the Lights Weekend

This past weekend I went down to San Antonio to take part in the Beyond the Lights Celebrity golf tournament that is hosted by Kyle Chandler and Brad Leland, two stars of the show Friday Night Lights.  It is a charity benefitting athletes who have suffered from spinal chord injuries. Here is more information on this wonderful event if you are interested -

Beyond the Lights Celebrity Golf Classic

I got into San Antonio Thursday evening. We left for the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort near Bastrop early Friday  morning.  It is possibly one of the nicest golf courses I have ever seen, and I have seen/played on my share of them.  After doing a few odd jobs and eating breakfast, I got assigned to a hospitality cart. I was to drive around and ask the players if they needed water or snacks and make sure everything was okay.

I had my first encounter with Kyle when I went around to the 17th hole where he and Brad Leland were hanging out and teeing off with everyone who came through there.  Kyle saw me and called me out by name.  He asked how school had been this semester, if it was over, and how Lubbock was.  The fact that he remembered my name surprised me so much that I dang near fell out of the cart.  We chatted about Texas Tech and some things, I gave him some water, he thanked me for being there and commented on the hat I was wearing. (A Texas Tech one), and I was on my way to see if anyone else needed anything.

After driving around a bit I hung out at the 8th hole where I helped pass out Vitamin water. That is where I had an encounter with Ricky Phillips, the bassist for Styx.  At first I didn't know who he was, but I knew he was a rockstar just by how he was dressed. He called me sweetie and thanked me for the water. He was a very gracious dude.  I was there for a bit and finally went back into the clubhouse around 4 to eat.  I hadn't eaten since that morning when we had breakfast.  I was then assigned to put bags together for the gala.  Later I was told that I would be a spotter for the auction and that they would come get me when it was time.  They never came back, so I continued selling photo stills from the set of FNL.

I had my second encounter then.  Josy, a lovely girl from France who had flown there for the event wanted to meet him.  She never spotted him me, along with a friend, pointed him out.  We went up to him with her, introduced her, and took her pic with him. Kyle was so touched that she came from France that he took two pics with her.  I got a huge bear hug from him as well and took another picture with him.

The rest of the night we hung out and tried to sell more pics from the set.  We left Friday night around 10:30 back to our hotel in Bastrop.  We were so tired that when we got into the elevator to go into our room, all three of us just stood and stared at the buttons, none of us realizing we actually had to press number three to get the elevator moving.  It was a good tired though.

The next day we went back to the resort around 8:30 in the morning.  At first they had us doing odd jobs again but after I was assigned as a caddie.  We had a player's meeting and they got us caddie's together with the groups we'd be with and we got to take a picture with Kyle.  I was standing with my group and Kyle walks up with a frisbee and says to me "Gotta have a prop for the picture, you know how we actors are." and then he nudged me and winked.  He stood by me in the picture and after he looked at me and said, "Okay Jess, you tell your team to throw that frisbee straight.  Thanks for being a caddie."  And then he patted me on the back.  

I got to caddie for Jeff Rosick, aka Buddy Junior.  He's a very nice guy.  We talked about random things - from what he's working on now to what we all do when we're not hanging out at BTL.  The poor guy was suffering from some pretty bad allergies, but he was a trooper.  

After our 18 holes of frisbee golf, I tallied up the scores and we had lunch.  We sat behind Kyle.  We got to leave right after lunch and came up to him to say our goodbyes.  He actually stood up from his food and gave us monster hugs again and thanked us for helping out in so many ways.  What I really appreciate about Kyle is that he looks you straight in the eye and is very sincere.  He also introduced us to his wife Katherine.  She was very nice as well.  

It was a weekend of hard work, but definitely a weekend I will never forget. It was a weekend where the main goal was to help out this amazing charity and put something into helping those in need. 

I have been a fan of Kyle Chandler since I saw him back in the 1990's on the movie Pure Country with George Strait.  The fact that he remembered me and calls me out by name now is so surreal that it hasn't even sunk in yet.  I'm so blessed to be a part of something so great.  I can't even put it into words.  

Respect The Wind


Great Plains Life Building (Metro Tower) after the storm

Aerial view of damage

Downtown Lubbock

Downtown Lubbock

Downtown Lubbock

Great Plains Life Building (Metro Tower) Damage

Today is the 41st anniversary of the F5 Tornado that hit Lubbock, TX - May 11, 1970.  My mother was 9 years old. My dad was about to turn 12.  My mother and her family were in the area that got affected the most -- Downtown and east Lubbock.  She has told me that my grandfather, who was a meteorologist in the Army, came home from work that night knowing something was going to happen pertaining to the weather. He could just feel it in the air. She lived a few miles from Lubbock International Airport and said when it was all over with, that there were jet engines in her front yard.  There were reports of houses that were completely demolished.  One house was untouched while the one next door's foundation was the only evidence that a house ever stood there.  My mother even has a memory of a duplex where one half was torn to shreds and the other side merely had a crack in one of the front windows.  If that wasn't ironic enough, the side that was slaughtered in the F5 winds belonged to a family that was out of town.  The people who lived in the side with the cracked window were home that night.  My mom's house lost their garage and had some other damage, but thank God that they all got out with minor injuries.  

People ask me why I chase storms and am fascinated with this weather phenomenon.  As stated above, tornadoes are so unpredictable.  How is it that one house blows away completely and the other is fine?  How is it that a brick house with a cement foundation is never seen again but a mobile home across the street stands strong?  Tornadoes are eerie.  You never know what you're going to get with them.  Regardless of all the science and research put into it, meteorologists still don't have complete answers on why one storm becomes tornadic and another doesn't.  This is why it fascinates me.  The unpredictability, the hard work and research, the spookiness.  

On the other hand, when I see the devastation it sends in the aftermath, it breaks my heart.  A tornado in an open field is amazing.  A tornado with a town in it's path is painful.  This is why scientists are working so hard to get the answers needed to make warning times longer for those affected.  Right now the average warning time is 10 minutes.  Even if we could extend that to 15, the benefits would be substantial. 

There were 26 people killed the night of May 11, 1970 and 500 reported injured.  According to the National Weather Service, Lubbock endured two tornadoes that evening - an F1 and then the devastating F5 that hit later.  The storm began to form when the dryline backtracked over the town of Levelland, just 25 miles west of Lubbock.  The storm began to intensify and organize over Woodrow, a small community 7 miles south of Lubbock where I live right now.  At 9:35 there were reports that the tornado had touched down near Texas Tech University.  There were reports that claim that the tornado, at it's peak, was 2 miles in width as it ripped through the heart of Lubbock.  Winds were documented at 90 MPH.  

Lubbock's Metro Tower, which was called the Great Plains Life Building at the time, was hit dead on.  The frame was actually twisted. It sustained substantial damage and it was recommended that they tear it down and rebuild it.  However, the owner's repaired it and it reopened in 1975. It still stands today, holding the record for the tallest building to survive an F5 tornado.  Also, the F5 tornado is one of the largest to never be photographed. Since it was a night tornado and it came with no warning, no one had time to snap a picture.  

Also, in great West Texas fashion, to bring in the 41st anniversary, we were hammered with an early morning severe thunderstorm around 5:15.  It wasn't tornadic but was still marked severe with winds in excess of 60MPH, 1" diameter hail, and extreme lightning.  I was just thankful for the rain.  We have been without any precipitation since March.  It rained for about an hour, and now when I go outside it doesn't even look like it rained.... the ground soaked it up like a sponge.

All in all, the point of this blog is to remember to always RESPECT THE WIND.  

Through Smoke Sample Sunday - Mother's Day Edition

Michael swallowed the bile that formed in the back of his throat.  He stood on the stoop of the town home, taking in a deep breath as he balled his fist to knock on the mahogany wood door in front of him.  He hadn’t been here in a long time. Butterflies pattered in his stomach.  Why was he so nervous?  It was his own fault why he hadn’t come around.
He pounded his sore knuckle against the door, forgetting about the gash from the punching bag. Gritting his teeth, he switched to his left hand and knocked again, hoping it could be heard on the other side.  He held his breath when he heard the hinges squeak.
“Michael? Is everything okay?”
Nodding, he stepped back.  “Mom, you got time to talk?”
“Of course, hon, is everything okay?” She moved to the side to give him room. “Come on in and have a seat. I bet the subway ride up here wasn’t all that great.” She was now living in Queens.  He remembered her always vowing to get away from Hell’s Kitchen as soon as she could. 
The house smelled just as he remembered.  It was a clean smell.  Everything was in place and well taken care of.  His eyes scanned the living room with all of the pictures of family on walls and shelves.  He walked to a few pictures of him and Casey when they were younger.  Running his hands over the frames, he couldn’t help but smile at how goofy they both looked with their haircuts and clothes straight from the eighties.  Casey looked really healthy.  It was a shame what the drugs had done to him.  Then of course, there were photos of their dad.  A chill ran down his spine and he turned back to his mom.
“You look more and more like your dad every day.” She was sitting in a recliner, sipping on some tea. “It’s almost scary. He’d be so proud to know how well you’re doing with the department.”
Michael felt his face heat up.  He never realized how much he resembled his dad until she pointed it out. “I had a good role model.”
She patted the chair beside her. “Come sit down.  You look like something is really bothering you.”  Pausing, she began to stand up. “You want something to drink?”
He held his hand up and leaned back in the other recliner. “No Mom, I’m fine.”  She looked frailer than the last time he had seen her. Her dark hair was now highlighted with grey. She was always a thin woman but she looked like she had lost even more weight.  Was it stress? He and Casey weren’t always the greatest sons and he regretted ever treating her the way he had. “I’m sorry I don’t come by more often.”
She pursed her lips and smiled. “No need to apologize, Michael.  I understand you’re a busy man. Now tell me the real reason you came by.”
Sighing, he closed his eyes for a second.  “I need to know if what I did is the right thing to do.” The room fell silent except for a faint ticking coming from the clock above the TV. 
“What did you do?”
Biting his bottom lip, he opened his eyes and looked at her. “It’s about Casey.” The look on his mom’s face was full of pain at the mention of his name.  She clasped her hands together but didn’t say anything.  “He came to me about a week ago needing a place to stay.  I let him.  He lied straight to my face about everything and even invited some of his friends over after I told him not to. I gave him several chances but I ended up kicking him out again.”
She took another long sip of tea and put the glass down on a coaster.  Neither spoke as the words sunk in.  Had he made a mistake by coming to her about him?  She was definitely broken hearted by what Casey had become, but he would never forget as kids she would teach them that there’s always hope.  Had that value in her life changed?
“And you’re worried that kicking him out is only going to harm him?”
Michael nodded. It felt as if his stomach was tied in a thousand knots.  “I’m scared he’s more exposed to stuff out on the streets.  Like maybe if I would’ve let him stay that he would be more sheltered.”
His mom shook her head no and leaned forward in her chair. “No hon, both of you had a sheltered life here and both of you still found what you did.  You had your problems. Casey took to the drugs.  It doesn’t matter where you live or what kind of family you have, if you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna do it.  The will power lies within the person.  You found a way to not drink so much. I left it up to you and God. Made you leave here and go find yourself. You became a man all on your own.  Casey still has yet to find it and he might not ever.”
Michael stood up and went back to the shelves where all of their pictures were. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see her standing right beside him.  “You can’t help someone who isn’t ready to help themselves, Mikey.”
He felt a tear trickle down his cheek and quickly wiped it away.  Seeing the pictures of their youth stung.  If only they would have known what the future entailed.  “I know.  I just hate myself for kicking him out.  He has nothing. I think he’s in some money trouble too.”
“You would’ve hated yourself more if he ruined your life too.  If he truly wants to get better, he will, whether it’s under your roof or out on the street. There’s always a way. Don’t beat yourself up about it. I think you did the right thing. It’s out of our hands and up to Casey.”
He pulled her in for a tight hug, instantly missing the embrace of his mother.  Her subtle perfume ignited memories from years ago.  “You’re a good man.”  At that moment he told himself that he would make it a point to come see her more often.  It would be wrong not to.
He stayed for dinner that night and got caught up all of the months he had missed without her. Despite that, he still felt a void.  He would never get that time back with her. He had learned from his job that every day wasn’t a right; it was a blessing and definitely wasn’t guaranteed.
“You know, son, my door is always open.”
They both stood out on her stoop and watched the sun set behind the high rises.  “I know.” He draped his arm over her shoulders and gave her a side hug, kissing the top of her head.  “I’ll be coming around more often, I promise.”
She pulled away and wrapped her jacket around her.  “Be safe on your ride home. I really hate those subways.”
“You got it.” He walked down the first two steps and stopped, looking back at her from the sidewalk. “Thank you, for everything. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
He turned around and made his way to the nearest subway station.  He felt reluctant to go back home, but there was nowhere else to go and he had to get ready for work in the morning.