What’s this about a “Libido” Book Launch in Santa Barbara?

Yup, sex and publishing has come to fruition “in my book!”

Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy After Fifty is out and my work’s in it.

And what’s this about Santa Barbara?

I’ll be out there on Wednesday for the Anthology launch at Carr Vineyards and Winery to read my essay to a crowd of women hungry for advice on rediscovering their sex drive.

My signing pen is ready!

C’mon, ladies, how relevant is this topic?

Women over fifty are “the invisible woman” in American culture. In a society that reveres youth – and particularly young, sexy women – women over fifty fade into the shadows. Yet, for many women at mid-life, this is a time of flowering and coming into one’s own, sexually and otherwise. Many older women love sex and crave the intimacy it provides. For every story of a harried mother who turns her husband away at night, or the older woman who long ago lost her libido, there are legions of others whose sex drives match those of men.

A recent study found that sixty percent of women fifty to fifty-nine were sexually active, that almost fifty percent of women in their sixties were sexually active, and nearly thirty percent of those over seventy were sexually active. So, why is so little attention paid to sex and intimacy among women in later life? Other than a smattering of magazine articles and some academic books, very little has been written about women, sex and intimacy. Oh, there are plenty of how-tos: advice on vaginal dryness and pain during sex and erectile dysfunction. But there is a dearth of work written by women about their sexual experiences after fifty.

This collection of essays and poetry is meant to bring sex after fifty for women into the open, to proclaim that it is important, it is natural and healthy and, for some women, it is absolutely necessary. Unmasked will surprise, inform, and–it is hoped–encourage all women of a certain age to (re)discover their sexuality.

I am so proud to be a contributor to this Anthology. Join me and some other randy women in Santa Barbara for a signed copy of the book and a celebratory glass of wine!

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5 Ways to Make a Friend at Work

I remember it vividly. That day I met my best friend.

After a really long time in a dark musty container, the door to the daylight slid open and I was hysterical. All of us were yapping madly as my crate door came undone and I was led to Lisa. I was so overwhelmed with joy because I knew she was here for me, to take me home and love me.

Eight years later, I’m the one who loves to take care of her. You see, an accident in one of those cars so many of us dogs like to chase, caused permanent damage to her insides. I’m here to alert her when she needs to go to the restroom and comfort her when she suffers acute intestinal pains.

Ours is a special work relationship, but having a friend at the office is something everyone can benefit from. I overheard someone mention that something called LinkedIn did a study that found 46 percent of workers worldwide believe that work friends are important to their overall happiness.

So with that in mind, I’d like to share with you my tips for making friends at work:

1. Approach with Respect

At work I sit beneath Lisa’s desk and no one even knows I’m there. I’m quiet in her cube, but may bark when someone approaches her abruptly. The other day I barked because this nice, tall Millennial guy appeared suddenly and started talking excitedly. When working with others, it’s important to respect their space and try not to interrupt when they are busy.

2. Step Away from the Keyboard

Lisa gets so tense doing her work sometimes in front of her computer I think she will explode. In this maddening pace of what you call “digital transformation,” I beg you to remain kind to one another. Take time to say good morning to your coworkers. Sometimes I don’t hear that enough. I hear the clack clack clack of the keyboard, “elastic data platform” and the funny word Hadoop.

3. Talk About Something Other Than Work

Lisa works in Services Marketing and IT in Hopkinton and likes to watch football. Sometimes when she watches a Pat’s game the announcer says, “Look there at Brady, despite the pressure, he stays ‘soft and relaxed’ in the pocket.” So when we’re at work, I like to send her vibes of “stay soft and relaxed in the pocket” and other free-your-mind nuggets of truth. Talking about non-work things with your teammates can help you find common interests that can further friendships.

4. Find Time to Laugh

At meetings with Lisa, I sometimes gently approach certain people because I can feel how tense they are and I place my nose to their hand. Without realizing it, they begin to pet me, continue talking to everyone, and I can feel the tension melt away in their body. They just stroke and stroke. I am medicine to them, too.

I can’t be there for everyone, but laughter is also known as a great form of medicine that is free for all. So, please, laugh a little. It breaks up the intensity. Your brain will appreciate the hiccup and the tension in your body will momentarily release. Keeping the mind open frees creativity and provides learning to stick, allows for kindness with others.

5. Say Thank You

Sometime in my past, I may or may not have chewed on a copy of Shape Magazine with an article that talked about the health benefits of gratitude. To show Lisa I was thankful for rescuing me, I collapsed and rolled onto my back. She embraced my head and neck so hard I thought it might rip off. Oh, to be loved.

You may not want to show that much emotion, but being part of a team at work means that there will be times when someone takes on the lion’s share of a project or gives you assistance with your own responsibilities. Expressing an attitude of gratitude makes you both feel better and encourages more cooperation.

I’m thankful the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows me and other certified service animals to come to work at places like Dell. Lisa needs me like I needed her. Now we need each other. That’s true friendship.

Sabrina is a Labrador and Golden Retriever mix that is named for her handler’s favorite movie – the original “Sabrina” with Audrey Hepburn. Eight years after being rescued from terrible conditions, she lives happily with her human Lisa, as well as a cat and two bunnies. She is a devoted helper, a medical assist dog, that enables her human to stay on the job at Dell EMC.

“5 Ways to Make a Friend at Work” can be located on Dell’s blog here.

Related posts:

Rescue Dog to Helper Dog

Watch Sabrina days after we rescued her. She’s Just Like Heaven.

 

 

Dell EMC Celebrates Service Dog Maggie and How She Nurtures Her Human

5 Ways to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

During National Service Dog Month, we’ve invited a few of the canine contributors at Dell to share their insights with us on Direct2Dell – as told to their humans. Today we hear from Maggie who shared with her human Travis Peterson tips for teaching an old dog new tricks.

Hey, who are you calling old!?

I’m in my early thirties, thank you very much! Well, I’m just a little over four years old in your human years. So be careful who you call old!

Let’s start over. My name is Maggie. I am a service dog for my human, Travis. We’ve been a team for a year and a half now, but I know we were always meant to be together. Travis says it best:

“The first day we met I was having an exceedingly rough day, the lowest levels of depression that comes with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. I was in a room with others when Maggie came in. I looked up and she walked right to me, looked me in the eyes, ignoring all the others in the room. Immediately I felt a release. Just like that, Maggie helped me relax, and I felt a calm come over me.”

So that’s what I do – I help Travis cope with his heightened anxiety levels that came from his years in the military. When I sense him getting upset, I come right up to him for a snuggle, acting as a barrier between him and whatever is causing his angst. And I have to say, I’m pretty darn good at my job. In fact, Travis hasn’t needed medication for his PTSD since I came into his life. Now that’s an accomplishment!

I wasn’t always a service dog, though. In my younger years, I was actually in charge of keeping cattle in line. Things got a little hairy on that job. In fact, right before Travis and I became partners, a piece of cattle tag was found in my belly. What can I say? That cow needed to learn a lesson.

So I guess you can teach a not so old dog new tricks. I went from cattle herding to being a coping partner for Travis. Have you ever considered changing careers? Moving from one industry to another? It can be a bit daunting, so as an expert dog, let me give you some advice on how to teach an old dog new tricks:

Build on your skills and passions

Your resume may not be a laundry list of experiences within your newly chosen field, but that doesn’t mean you lack the skills to be hired and to be successful. My breed alone made me a good fit for my job as a service dog. I offer intelligence from my Labrador Retriever side and fearlessness from my Great Pyrenees side. I came into my new role knowing that I would be a good fit due to my temperament and willingness to learn. Beyond that, I just love people and I’m thrilled to have a job centered around my passion.

Be humble

Like I said, I was eager to learn, but I was also willing to be taught. You may have the passion it takes to enter your new career path, but are you willing to learn, to listen, to observe? I had to go back to school in order to land my current job with Travis. You may have been top dog in your old career, but with your new path, you may have to be a bit humble and start from the beginning.

Ask for help

Learning a new trick is overwhelming at times. When I was in school, there was so much I had to learn about humans and how to understand their feelings. They are a lot different from cows, that much I can tell you! However, when I didn’t understand, I asked for help. And I learned that people really like to help other people, but they can’t sense your feelings like I can. You have to actually ask for the help.

Be patient

The ideal job may not fall in your lap right away. You may have to sniff around at different opportunities before you find that perfect fit for the next step in your career. This is a big step; be patient, don’t rush into it!

Take the first step

It is a big step, but you are ready for it! All it takes to get started is that first step. Put yourself out there, reach out and open doors. Or, if you lack opposable thumbs like me, scratch at the door and make yourself heard and seen!

Maggie is a 110 pound Labrador Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix. She was rescued off the streets of Austin, Texas, in June 2015 and quickly deemed fit to be trained as a service dog due to her calm demeanor and intelligence. Her favorite pastimes are sleeping, eating and saying hello to everyone she meets.

Note: Dell EMC is my employer and Direct2Dell Blog will be running a post on Sabrina and me in a few days!

Why We Write

Ah, the catalyst, revealed.

The impact of loss scars the heart and you go on living your life ’cause you’re young and have to conform and can’t fall apart and you don’t realize those wounds are still there, throbbing raw, the fibers of tissue meshing over that open gap of mess. You don’t realize you mask that pain with the alcohol thirty fucking years later, that there’s a reason why you drink until the TV and the stand it rests on becomes unhinged.

You write and write and write. For seven years, straight, you do nothing but write and you’re told your writing has no depth or meaning. You keep writing because you’re still madly and blindly driven to it despite having lost all your assets and pockets are filled with nothing but dust and lint. You’re there writing, looking up the definition of a word online, fact checking, and you read, alcoholism is a well-documented pathological reaction to unresolved grief and glance down at the billionth line you just put in black and white and Jesus, the whole goddamn story comes clear.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This free-writing not only set me free but got picked up by 1888 Center: “Why We Write” in Orange, California.

Lisa’s work has been featured in the anthologies, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex & Intimacy After Fifty (10/17, print) and The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal (11/17, print). Her essays have been published in lit journals 1888 Center: Why We Write (9/17), Adanna (10/17, print), The Crux (10/17), Fiction Southeast, Gravel, Foliate Oak, East Bay Review, and Shark Reef; and in several media outlets. Lisa considers Massachusetts her home, but has lived in Connecticut, Vermont, New York State and two other planets called Wyoming and Arizona. She earned a B.A. from Regis College and an MBA from Babson College, and holds a Master certificate in Reiki. She loves cycling, hiking with her dog Sabrina, and can’t imagine spending a day without her husband Dennis.

Rescue Dog to Helper Dog

At two years old, Lady’s ribs protruded from her coat and her belly was swollen with milk.

Like the thirteen other Labs that had arrived at a rest stop in Union, CT on the straight 12½-hour drive from Muncie, IN, she was presented to us on a crisp autumn day amid the chaos of respective adopters.

My husband Dennis had never experienced the warmth and companionship of having a dog and well, I surprised him with Lady, who we quickly renamed to Sabrina. The very afternoon we picked her up, we raced to the park, wanting her to feel the joy of freedom and play. My husband’s face lit up and while I was thrilled at the opportunity to befriend and care for Sabrina; it meant closing the 20-year gap since our beloved German Shepard from my childhood passed away.

Until laying my eyes on Sabrina’s profile, my heart couldn’t entertain loving another dog.

And what canine isn’t after the same love?

In Sabrina’s case, she couldn’t know of the family members that awaited to embrace her presence. Within days of the initial hair-raising excitement, the cat sought out occasions to groom her ears. Our pet rat was free to waddle the kitchen floor un-bothered, and the pair of bonded bunnies in want of company stretched out beside her on the living room floor.

Dog, cat, rat, rabbit?

You bet.

And Dennis and me?

Like kids again.

Sabrina settled into the folds of our lives, well-nourished and exercised in Boston’s epic snowfall in the winter of 2009-2010, taking careful watch over all of us. The fear expressed in her eyes pre-adoption disappeared.

Eight years later, she watches over me in particular. Thirty years ago, I was struck and thrown from the passenger side of a car until my abdomen collided with the steering wheel—blunt force that called for iterative repair to my digestive system and caused permanent damage to the nerves that signal my bladder is full.

Today when I’m busy working away, Sabrina will alert me to get up every couple of hours to make a trip to the restroom by gently placing her head in my lap.

When I suffer acute intestinal cramping, Crohns-like symptoms, she’ll sit at my side and lean her body against mine. Her calm and steady source of nurturing, helps me to relax and mitigates the cramps.

In 2008, the Department of Justice amended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to include digestive, bowel and bladder impairments that limit major life activities as the disabled, calling for employers to make reasonable accommodations and if the individual elects, to allow task-oriented service animals [dog or miniature horse] to accompany them on the job.

Sabrina, serving in the capacity of a sensory/medical assist – alerting me to get up and take care of myself – qualifies.

The HR Director, Debra Susler of Reputation Institute in Cambridge, MA would not allow Sabrina to accompany me on-the-job. I sent her an elaborate email explaining my condition and Sabrina’s certification. She replied “no” not to me, but to my supervisor.

My response?

I walked out of the place.

Sabrina: rescue dog to helper dog.

Respectively, Sabrina’s competencies and understanding of language cease to astound us and her behavior on-the-job at Dell EMC is so well-mannered, coworkers never run out of compliments.

And bystanders in public? The grocery store, pharmacy, gym, dentist, doctor?

Gazes from cell phones are broken, conversations fall short.

Then, come the smiles. A question. Praise. The feel-good moment.

Sabrina brings people together.

I recently read a distressing post from a woman who said every time she looks into a service dog’s eyes, she sees sadness. Even Ingrid Newkirk, CEO and Co-Founder of PETA, has told me, “the life of a typical service dog is a terrible one.”

It’s true. Any canine enslaved to servitude is doomed a dog’s life unlived.

Service animals are working animals, not pets.

The ADA confirms it.

But that’s not the relationship Sabrina and I share [and I understand it can’t be the same with other handlers and service dogs].

And what have I learned something from Sabrina?

She shows me how to exist in the moment — just like she does. To enjoy the sight of the sun shimmering through the trees, the call of the birds, the fragrance of wildflowers, the feel of the soft soil I tread a few yards behind her when we’re on our hikes.

What more could a dog do for a girl? 

Sabrina Is Just Like Heaven.

.

‘Orphan’ Essay “Snowflake” to Appear in First Issue of Crux Magazine, 9/17

It’s snowing in August!

The sister-editors in Oakland, CA are starting their own magazine, The Crux, and desire to pay their contributors [bless you, Katie and Jennifer].  If you’re feeling generous [or frankly, pity me], please make a small donation at Crowding Funding for Crux Contributors. This is my second time getting paid for one of my essays—the first time I was paid $0.015 AUD per word at 994 words.

Never did the math.

Didn’t give up writing either.

I shall send Snowflake out when it’s published (it’s slated for September). As one of my favorite essays, it follows a trend:

My favorites take forever to get picked up.

 

Why I Love Bike Commuting in Boston

Commuting to work on my bike has brought my competitive spirit back—a quality I thought I left behind on the softball field my senior year in high school. My heart pounds in excitement as I gear up to ride, just like it did when I stepped up to the plate. The ride into Harvard Square means exertion and potential hostile territory as I move in and out of the flow of traffic through the Boston neighborhoods.

I savor the challenge of the road, the required vigilance. I’m one of the only 50-something women out there amid college girls on candy-colored bikes, wearing headphones and flip-flops. For them, a bike is a frugal means to get from point A to B. Not me. Riding my bike renews me; makes me feel like a kid again.

Commuting during the summer is a piece a cake, the best of times. I have free reign over the construction-laden bridge into the Square and Bert’s Electric isn’t squeezing me into the orange barrels vying for command of the lane. The driver will have longed passed this way before me, eager to get a jump on his schedule so he could suck down beers and fish in the Charles come three o’clock.

When Labor Day gets behind us, the worst of times, tradesmen aren’t reporting to work early and city bus drivers are laying claim to the asphalt. I’m a part of this, a moving component amid congested traffic, doing my best to obey the rules of the road and thank those drivers who are courteous. Courtesy is an act tradesmen do not extend to bike commuters. And city bus drivers? I’ve lost count how many times I’ve played chicken with ‘em and won.

One morning on North Harvard Bridge I lay claim to my share of the asphalt by scaling my way in between a Jersey barrier and Stan’s Heating and Cooling. That’s one foot plodding along the van and the other along the barrier, when the driver catches sight of me in the passenger side mirror. He goes wide-eyed as I slap my hand down on the front fender with a “You’re-seriously-blocking-my-right-of-way” expression playing across my face.

It is dangerous out there. Risk is 360, whether the bike commuter obeys the rules of the road or not. But because I behave on the road—I expect respect. As with the tradesmen that squeeze me off the bridge, when someone moves in on my turf, I feel compelled to take it back. Think of Kathy Bate’s character in Fried Green Tomatoes when she rams the car of the young girls who rob her of a parking space: “Face it girls, I’m older and have more insurance.”

Yesterday I encountered bad sportsmanship. At Watertown Yard, I break off the river path and onto the road. I’m up out of the saddle pedaling like hell in the middle of the right lane to catch the green to make a left. But time runs out and the light turns red.

I’m closing in behind a Ford truck when a VW passes me and zips in behind it. This infuriates me to no end, but damn, it’s too bad he leaves a good five feet of space between his front end and the truck’s bumper. Now, what do I have to do? Exercise my right to asphalt again. I ride past him. The 30-something driver has his window closed and stares straight ahead like he just didn’t pull a fast one.

“Am I invisible?” I huff, and wedge what I can of my bike and person between the two vehicles.

My focus steadies on the red light. The guy is seething, staring at a heavy-set chick on a sleek bike donning an orange jacket so bright you can see it from outer space. The effin nerve of this lard ass.

Perspiration slips into my mouth.

It’s a matter of principal as well as law in the Commonwealth. I’m just after my share of the asphalt, fair play, and I’m willing to fight for it. Sure, there’s an obvious disadvantage. I’m on a two-wheeled 18-pound carbon frame and this guy’s driving a ton of steel.

I’m ready. Got one foot flat on the ground, the other poised on the pedal. I take getting out of people’s way seriously, although its plain I’m not going to come out of this showdown with the least amount of respect.

My foot plunges the pedal down at the green. I’m standing up on the bike. Sisters are doing it for themselves. I pump hard, try to break out in front. The air moves in and out of my body in breathy bursts. The VW and my bike continue to advance, accelerating. The driver forces me to shadow his car on the inside, squeezing me to the median. I grunt; want to pound my fist on his door, but my brain warns me good and loud that my jacket could get caught on his side mirror. What’s even more upsetting is I’m incapable of conveying my disgust; he’s still eluding eye contact.

“You bastard!” I yell over my shoulder. It’s a novelty this outburst. Why I don’t call him an asshole is beyond me, it’s usually there handy in my on-the-road arsenal of expletives.

Hell, I’m not even afraid. Should I be?

Reality is too much for him to bear; the witnesses are screaming lawsuit. He breaks away, swerving his VW to the far-right lane. I straighten out in the left; wave a clenched fist and pump to the right side of the road knowing the traffic behind me is minding my back.

Competition over.

Once I’m seated on my bike navigating Boston’s streets, the risks and venturing the unknown enables me to handle the challenges life continues to bring. I’m still the same, the fearless girl swinging the bat on my high school field; invigorated and ready for action.

This essay was picked up by Adanna Literary Journal, 9/17.

Sometimes I just want to roar!

The Kickass Formula that Restored My Libido

Through the closed lids of my eyes, I feel the morning sunlight streaming in.

Hey, it’s the weekend.

I take inventory of my brain for traces of a hangover.

We’re in the clear.

And then I check for any activity that might be stirring in the netherworld between my legs which has, of late, been about as playful as a schoolmarm.

Nothing.

I can hear Chris breathing beside me. Sweet beautiful man, and yet for weeks now no amount of touching or stroking or licking on his part can bring back the phenomenon of rapture, nothing eases our hearty pursuit of it. Chris has tried, I’ve grimaced.

Sex-wise, everything was going great until I hit 50. Because it had been so easy before, I couldn’t understand why climaxing had become like trudging up Mount Washington with a dead body strapped to my back.

A quick Google search advised me to: “Get a pedicure, touch up your roots, spritz on your favorite perfume, get some exercise, schedule your sex, add a toy or two, try porn…”

Nothing.

But lately I’ve wondered if this was about something that KY Jelly can’t fix.

Hidden in my bedside drawer are sweet almond and rose oil and some ylang ylang I got at the organic food store. These oils are aphrodisiacs, but they are also antidepressants, hypotensives, nervines, and sedatives, and while I want that man sleeping beside me to slip inside and have a go, there’s also a reason I want the regular, easy cures to work.

I don’t want to acknowledge the changes going on in my 50-year-old body, the fact that I am no longer wet at the drop of a man’s hand feels like a failure somehow.

And, because I feel like a failure, I’ve been avoiding my body and therefore my self-Reiki practice. Reiki, a wild healing energy we can apply to ourselves, seeks out what’s maligned and out of whack in the body — blocks to creativity, depression, grief. It’s a catalyst to deepening spirituality that can offer glimpses of the divine.

On this Saturday morning with the aromatherapy hidden in my bedside table, I think: And isn’t sex divine?

With self-Reiki, you put your hands on yourself (absolutely anywhere, it really doesn’t matter… your arm, your belly) and bring your life force through your hands and into the body.

So, on this light-filled Saturday morning, because I am dying (literally) to be with the guy I used to crave, because last night during a scotch-induced haze I fell asleep while he was saying, “How about this?” and I was saying, “Nothing,” I put my hands on my abdomen and start.

My hands get warm, and I feel a deep sense of relaxation, not sleep but something wider, more alive.

That energy, whatever it is, doesn’t care whether you can have sex or not, how old you are, if you are getting a pudge around your middle, how many wrinkles have settled around your eyes.

Time slips away, I slip away, all that remains is blissed-out peace. Like drinking a martini — without the edge.

When I finish, I eyeball Chris. His eyes are half-mast, he’s styling an alfalfa hairdo, an imprint from a crease in his pillowcase runs across the right side of his face.

Not exactly a turn-on, but I don’t care. “Let’s give it a go,” I say.

Being a man in love (if he’s not too far under the influence of scotch), Chris is always ready to give it a go.

With a blind hand, I pull the end table drawer open and fumble for oil I concocted from the health food store.

Forget the sticky KY goop, this stuff glides like heaven.

Chris gets his hands on the love rub, goes about the business of inducing the hopeful rapture amid my numb equipment.

I anticipate the onslaught of banter that has ensued for the past few months like doc to patient:

“Here?”

“No.”

“How about here?”

“Nothing.”

Those myriad times when I can no longer tell if his are the hands of a green gynecologist or a prospective cow buyer at auction.

But today something whispers: Hang in, be still.

Be still?

Stop trying so hard; relax. Look, there, out into the horizon.

That little voice sounds suspiciously like my intuition. I don’t hear it very often, mostly because I’m too busy listening to the voices saying I’m not supple enough, pretty enough, I’m past my prime…

The horizon? I ask it.

Behind your eyes.

There’s a horizon in my head?

Just close your eyes.

The atmosphere changes.

And the change is charged.

“Here?” asks Chris.

Humidity — wet blanket type — sweeps in.

“Lisa?”

The storm hits.

The rapture fills me — a delicious swell that comes from the bottom of the ocean, too big to be experienced but a moment or two.

The wave recedes, leaving me pie-eyed, legs in rigor, fists clenched tight.

I look to Chris, who is hovering over me, his expression one of delight, the crease from the pillowcase stretched thin against the smiling muscles of his cheek. Given that he has a technical mind and has a limited repertoire of reactions, it’s rather comical.

“The self-Reiki,” I say, “the essential oils.” I catch wind of my torso. It’s charred in places and emits wisps of smoke.

We may have a formula to bring about a bit of the ol’ spark.

As the blood begins to seep back into my flesh, I let out a laugh — ribald, raucous. Besides having a great partner who will push and prod without feeling like a jackass, and will let you get as woo-woo as you want in the sack, I no longer feel old. Sex can last until 90. We just need to nurture ourselves in order to feel sparked about anything, including our libido.

And, in order to feel the wonders of the Universe, we need to let go and let god, whatever the hell your definition of god is, to be a part of it.

This essay appears in the anthology, Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty

T-boned [Gravel Literary Magazine]

Outside the ER it’s a winter wonderland. Snow pelts the ground. Visibility is practically nil. Two men dressed in bright lime-colored gear, crisscross one another gathering snow in the plastic blades of their shovels. The sliding doors retract and close; the sensor dumb to their indiscreet footsteps. Sirens scream into the dense moisture-laden air; an ambulance appears in the circular drive. Its beacons intermittently strobe the exterior of the entryway. EMTs hop and pop from the circus of lights and noise, emissions choking out of the vehicle’s exhaust; open the rear doors wide to wheel out the wounded.

It’s the perfect sort of day for a boy and a girl to curl up with Grandma’s crocheted afghan, a movie, and bowl of hot soup, one of the EMT muses. Cop a feel when a parental unit isn’t paying any attention. Watch the snow coat the ground and evergreens with a fresh blanket of white. Stay out the elements, keep safe and sound. Like what Barry Burbank, WBZ’s weatherman, said this morning.

Keep safe. And sound.

I am not aware of the siren screams, nor the strobes and snow falling, the men shoveling and carting in damaged bodies. I don’t recall that I’m in the midst of college break, it’s right smack midway through the glorious eighties, I’m nearly twenty and leaving my teens behind. I don’t know my first love, the one I’m supposed to be curled up with and swatting his hands away from my breasts, is reluctantly chatting with his mother in the small ER waiting room designated for loved ones of the injured about which new car she’ll buy since the Jaws of Life just destroyed her other one.

I lay comatose in an adjacent room. My mind, the faculty of my consciousness and thoughts, remaining numb to stimuli. There’s no perception, no transmission; it’s void, dark, deadly quiet. My brain is busy sustaining that void, deploying an arsenal of chemicals to compensate for the split in time, suppressing the sensory receptors from the blunt trauma—my broken bones, the hit taken to my abdomen that’s pulverized tissue and organs, and punctured veins and arteries. My heart, the renegade, the betrayer, as always, is not listening to my brain—its pumping blood out at a spastic rate through the holes.

An external disturbance registers. A voice. It’s relentless, miraculously breaking through that mechanism of my brain’s fortification, bringing me into the present. Breathe, Lease, breathe, it commands. There is only one person that calls me Lease. My mother. The person who heard Burbank’s forecast and eyeballed the elements herself and tried to protect me so my brain wouldn’t have to. I am granted a fleeting window of awareness. But not through my eyes. My lids are heavy, steel traps. A depiction of involuntary desperateness is felt in my body. Each gasp caused by my choking, thrusts a knife’s blade deep into my gut. Choke. Stab. Choke. Stab.

“Airway’s bloody.”

Something foreign is tickling the back of my throat. I listen to my mother, it’s a precedent. I stop resisting. Succumb. A tube slips down my windpipe. I can breathe. The stabbing doesn’t abate, giving rise to the melodramatic statement, it only hurts when I breathe. And not breathe. My brain is wrestling, calling me back to unconsciousness; the pain galaxies beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, flirts with my semi-consciousness, invites me to become fully awake. It’s a struggle. A shot of morphine provides no contest. My brain, working in concert with my mind, fires the artillery it has left. A barrage of fireworks ignites behind the closed lids of my eyes. I fall into that quiet dark place again.