Dear Amazon: In Defense of My Review

Dear Amazon,

I appreciate your giving me a platform to sell my books easily. I appreciate your giving me a place where I can “one-click” all of my favorite authors’ titles. You’ve added hours of enjoyment to my life by providing me a convenient place to spend my hard earned cash on fictional stories, makeup and costumes for my children.  I value easy access to Kindle books, the paperback, and don’t even get me started on Amazon Prime. I support you, probably more than my pocketbook would prefer.

Having said that, this doesn’t seem to be a reciprocal relationship. In one month, I’ve spent  almost $200 on products, which doesn’t include the amount of money I’ve spent on audible books, kindle books, and paperbacks. That’s one month from one customer. I am loyal to you, Amazon. I heart you.

But I’m mad at you right now because I don’t think you care for me in the same way. You see, I’m a struggling independent author who published a kick ass book on Amazon (exclusively, I might add) who continues to sell copies every day; yet, you’re making it difficult for me to sell more. (Which, by the way, the more I sell, the more you make. We are in this together.)

Here’s why. As an avid reader, I’ve always been a little star struck by authors. Since becoming an author myself, I’ve puffed out my chest and sent “friend requests” to some of my favorites. A handful have *gasp* accepted those requests. To which, I performed a shocked happy dance each time. Let me explain though, we aren’t friends. We don’t know each other. Most of the time, we have never even had a conversation.

On some occasions, I’ve been included in social media groups where some of my fellow authors are also members. We discuss writing, books, marketing, and many times Amazon. We buy each other’s books when the books look interesting. Let me repeat: we buy each other’s books. From Amazon. From these purchases, you profit as an organization.

Writers, in general and as a whole, are supportive of each other. If you were to look at my kindle purchases, the majority of the books you will find are from authors who I follow on social media. I read their books. If I like them, I recommend them to my friends. I am a respected reader and am a go-to person for book recommendations. People know that I read; therefore, they value my opinion. Trust me, Amazon, you have profited from my opinion.

So here’s my question: Why are you deleting my reviews? Okay, you haven’t actually deleted any of mine yet; however, you have gone through my fellow writers’ reviews and removed some from them. People who have purchased  (from which you’ve profited) and read a book and written an honest review are having their reviews removed because they “have some connection to the writer.” Listen, Amazon, it’s 2016. Taye Diggs follows me on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean I have his phone number. (If you want my phone number, Taye, just PM me, K?) I am “friends” with Author Kim Holden. She has no idea who I am, but she’s a gracious author and accepts her *fans’* requests. That’s why we are fans. Because we bought books from you. We took the time to read the reviews, we hit “one-click,” and we dove deep into their words.

It seems you’re willing to take our money but not our opinions, and that is upsetting.

What you’re doing is putting a stick in the very spokes that keeps you alive. You are the biggest bookseller for a reason. You’re respected and valued by readers and authors alike. Our reviews are selling books on your site. Please, I encourage you to think about this before you remove the next review.

Sincerely,

Mandi Castle, Author, Reader, and Over-spender on Amazon.

Reviews

Look, you asked for it.

 

 

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Busted

It was bound to happen.

You know that moment when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing, and you get caught?

That happened to me.

You see, this whole writing thing that I do has been a huge secret from most of my real life people for a long time, especially my family until last week.

I was sitting at my computer “working” at my new job when I got a text message from my dad.

IMG_1793

Ignore my typos (fat thumbs)

Yeah, my dad found my book. My dad, the preacher, found my book that says the F word a lot, the book where the main character indulges in all things bad: sex, drugs, sex, alcohol, sex, swearing, sex, and being a terrible person in general. Did I mention there’s a lot of sex in my book?

I may have had a mini heart attack upon reading that text.

Or thirteen.

I stared at my phone for five or fifty-five minutes unable to make words. Then I bravely dialed “Dad” and waited for his response.

“Well hello,” he said.

“Hi,” I may have whispered.

“So what’s new?”

“Um. Yeah. You have my book?” Heart palpitations, shortness of breath.

“I do,” I think he enjoyed my discomfort with the conversation.

“Okay, great. Well, don’t read it.”

“Oh, I’m reading it,” he confirmed, rather boldly actually.

He proceeded to tell me that he had plans to do nothing until he finished it, that he wanted to start it that night. I explained to him that there were terrible no good things (like a very detailed chapter about a one night stand with multiple orga um things, and another where she performs something for her boyfriend on her knees, all of which is written beautifully in HD detail) that someone of his religious affiliation and faith in the almighty God should never ever read, particularly when the fingers that typed those words belong to one’s daughter who one sees as a precious little gem who never ever would think much less create such smut…or something like that.

He stopped me mid self-lashing verbal diarrhea to say, “You know you could never do anything that wouldn’t make me proud, right?”

I swallowed the giant lump in my throat and managed a meek, “Yeah, well er … you haven’t read it.”

He then told me that he had read all of the reviews (51 five star reviews and counting) and all of my blog posts (double gulp) and that he knew what he was getting himself into. He also reminded me that he was in the Navy and that he spent forty years in construction and therefore would be surprised if there was anything he hasn’t heard. I didn’t bother to tell him I’m sure there was, as I mentally went through the glossary of words I made up like c*nt punch and slutoweem, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I ended the call and then threw up in my mouth.

And then I dry heaved in the toilet for the rest of the day.

I wonder if this is what coming out feels like (on an obviously very much smaller scale).

The point of this ridiculously wordy account is that I have been hiding something for which I’m really proud, and now that it’s out there, I realize how foolish that was.

Having it out in the open, being able to put my book out on my bookshelf in my home, having the freedom to talk about this book that came out of my brain is freeing.

It’s liberating. 

I think I should probably thank my dad for opening this door.

I hope that if any of you are living under this cloak of fear where I spent more than four years, you’ll do yourself a favor and boldly throw it off. Stand tall, and be you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Trust me. I only wish I had been honest from the start.

So now that we have that out of the way, tell me, what secrets are you keeping? It’s no big deal. This is only the internet. It’s not like your dad is going to read it. Oh wait.

But seriously … spill.

 

 

Things You Should Have Learned in Grade School but Obviously Didn’t

It seems that people aren’t getting smarter with the invention of smart everything, so in keeping with the giving season that it is, I’m offering you a quick guide to help you not look stupid. Or Stupider. Part of it is your own fault:

A lot = two words

A lot of you never learned this.

Cannot = one word

I cannot stand it when people think cannot is can not.

Anyways = not a word. Let me repeat: ANYWAYS IS NOT A WORD.

What way would you like to go? Any ways. Because ways is singular. OH WAIT! Ways is plural. Any is singular. Can’t work together, not ever.

Any way you try it, anyways will never be a word, but people will continue to use it anyway.

Your means ownership

You’re is a contraction: You are

So, here’s something that might blow your mind: It’s not “your welcome.” It’s “you’re welcome.” You cannot own a welcome. I don’t care how hard you try.  You can however own a welcome mat. Your welcome mat says you’re welcome to come inside.

There going to they’re grandmother’s house over their.  Guess what? Grandma is going to die first because they’re never going to make it there until they realize their grammar needs help.

You do not loose your keys.

Your pants are not lose.

You may lose your keys because your pants are too loose, but that’s a personal problem.

I am not “to” opinionated unless you are “to” stupid to understand that there are two (no wait) three words that all sound the same, and as adults who type, you should probably learn the difference. I have two friends. I would like one to be my best friend. The other one is too dumb. She says “anyways.”

Its a pretty day outside because the sun is shining in all it’s glory. Nope!

It’s: a contraction of It is

Its shows ownership.

I know it’s confusing because the English language has done its job to be a great big challenge.

Because you were your jeans too tight, it made it difficult to make it to wear you where going. Because where you were going was obviously not a book store, but you can wear whatever you want. You can’t accessorize stupid no matter how hard you try.

I have a whole nother subject to discuss. If you could see my screen, you would see that there is a red jagged line under nother. Take out whole. Push a and nother together. And I’ve just given you yet another thing to make you look less stupid. Lucky for you, I’m charitable.

Other things you should probably never ever say:

Irregardless

Supposably 

Conversate

Undoubtably

Seriously. Just . . . don’t.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you already know these things and were able to have a good laugh. Feel free to share this on Facebook as I’m certain 99.7% of people who use it daily should have had to sit through Mrs. Lawrence’s third grade grammar lessons because they still say “should of.”

PS: I literally want you to share this because I figuratively want you to have my back.

 

 

 

 

 

Ch ch ch ch Changes

It’s not just the weather changing these days.

I get these reminders on social media sometimes that say, “This time last year” or “Two years ago today” and things like that, and I really like to see where I was. To look at those memories with a smile and a sigh.

My daughter just turned five, so there was a memory of her birth, of her first birthday party. I even saw a picture of the time I put her in skinny jeans. They looked so cute on her chunky little diapered bottom.

I see my son go from a mouth full of perfectly lined little baby teeth to a new smile with holes and crooked teeth, but the light still sparkles in his eye, and I love to see how no matter what, the kids smiles with his whole head. He’s grown so much, almost nine years old.

And so it’s time for me to make some changes. I am no longer that frumpy mom who wore nursing bras and sweatpants covered in spit up. I no longer need to wake up in the middle of the night to crying babies or sick toddlers. My babies are big now, kids. And by the way, they’re awesome, wonderful, amazing little people who are the reason the sun rises and sets every day in my world.

But they don’t need me as much as they did nine years ago, five years ago, even a year ago, and so I’m ready to move on.

The birth of this blog happened as part of the transition. The time that opened up when my children became more self-sufficient allowed me to sit down at my computer from time to time and share my stories with you, and you read them! Thank you for that.

I’m not sure you know this, but I wrote a book. A really good book that’s getting consistent five star reviews by not just people who know me, but even strangers love my book. Have you read it? No? What are you waiting for? It’s here and here. Or if you prefer the kindle version, it’s here. And since it’s Cyber Monday, the kindle version is only $2.99.

The shameless book plug is not the point of this post. The point is that I’ve taken a full time job. I’m going back to corporate America, a place I hesitantly left nine years ago to raise my kids, and I’m scared, but I’m also excited. It will be a new challenge, a new lifestyle, and I know a completely different world from the one I left.

Blogging will take a back burner until I can get my schedule in order, but I won’t stop writing. I have about a third of my second book written, and I’m still stewing on a sequel to Dear Stephanie. In my head (and the very short rough draft), it is called Dear Paige.

I will try to keep up with all of you on your own blogs and will do my best to continue to support and share your work. If you ever want some extra attention on a particular piece, please message me so that I can help spread it over my social media platforms.

In the meantime, if something exciting happens, or hopefully funny, I’ll write about it here. I still have so many stories to tell you. Just thinking about going back to work reminds me of the time one of my employees brought flying squirrels to work with her. In her bra. Or the time I fired a guy, so he came to my office with a loaded gun to kill me. That was fun.

So maybe I’ll write those. Maybe. When I have time. Until then . . .

Can we still be friends if I’m not a full time blogger? 

Say yes.

(Also, I wrote this article which posted on Scary Mommy yesterday if you want to read something from my heart.)

 

 

 

 

Five Things My Pregnant Friend Doesn’t Know But Needs to Know

Dear beautiful pregnant friend,

Look how cute you are with your sweet little basketball belly and that nubbin of a button poking through your fitted maternity shirt. Isn’t it sweet, that pregnancy glow? I’m sorry it’s about to end.

pregnant belly

The thing is, my dear friend, they (whoever they are) don’t tell you everything. In fact, they don’t tell you shit, so lucky for you, I’ll give it to you straight. A few things you should know before that rib kicking uterus invader escapes:

  1. If you deliver your baby from your vagina, be prepared that sitting for at least a week is almost completely off limits. You are swollen and possibly stitched. You just squeezed a baby through a tiny little slit, and said slit will be very angry. In fact, your vagina will be screaming in rebellion at the turmoil you’ve just put her through. Thankfully you have me, and I’ve been there with the same obnoxious vagina. They may tell you about sits baths while your legs are still spread on the table as your doctor stitches up your taint. Take them as often as you can. They will help. Kind of. The hospital is going to give you these very ugly mesh panties along with what appears to be a year supply of horse pads. Take those bitches home with you. Have your baby’s daddy buy CVS’s entire supply of Tuck’s pads and place them near your toilet. Every time you pee, place as many tucks pads on that giant horse pad so that you can then feel the sweet relief that comes when you cool down your pissed off labia. This is the closest thing you’re going to have to an orgasm for a while.
  2. Remember when you said something about how awful your last period was? *laughs maniacally* You don’t know bad yet, darling. You see, you’re about to bleed for eternity, or at least it will feel like it, and it’s a lot of blood, a never ending red sea into a horse pad. Be prepared to ruin panties, clothes, and even furniture. There is no maxi pad equipped to absorb that much liquid, and again, if aforementioned baby came out of your vagina, nothing can go in for at least six weeks. It’s scary because it’s true.
  3. After angry vagina begins to feel normal again, you might notice that it doesn’t look the same. That once pretty seductive temptress will never look the same. You should probably take a picture of your pretty vagina before you deliver that precious baby just so you can remember it and mourn its once lush attractiveness. In fact, if I could go back, I would hire a professional photographer to take photos of spread eagle me and have my pretty kitten displayed all over my house. As art work.  Have you seen a turkey waddle? You will. Soon. I’m sorry.
  4. You know how your boobs are perky and full? Go ahead and have that photographer take a few shots of those cute little melons while he’s there. Because they get even more full. Porn star full. Or engorged. Whatever. Then they get unfull. Very unfull. Deflated balloons. Imagine what it looks like when you put a mandarin orange in a tube-sock. Hold it up, and let it dangle there. Meet your post baby boobs. But before they deflate, you’re going to put them through a whole new hell you’ve never known, should you choose to breastfeed. (If you don’t, that’s okay even if your mom and your Aunt Mildred think otherwise.) Your nipples, now surrounded by giant silver dollar sized areolas which now resemble the color of that giant glass of Malbec you’re drinking just to maintain sanity, will ache and burn and often feel like razors escaping through your skin. Sometimes they will leak. Sometimes during award ceremonies while you’re on stage wearing a nude colored dress. Or while you’re shopping at Target. Either way, it’s normal. It happens to all of us. You might also experience what’s called a clogged milk duct. Discomfort doesn’t even begin to describe this experience, but as my mom and your mom and our grandmothers have always said, this too shall pass. Even if it passes slowly. And painfully.
  5. Having a baby is a very emotional time. You might cry when he’s born. You might not, and that’s okay. You’re going to cry a lot. For no reason. Possibly because you haven’t slept more than fourteen straight minutes since the child descended from your formerly contoured abdomen. You might be experiencing baby blues (which are totally normal). Perhaps you’re just mourning that pretty pink vagina and those cute perky boobs with tiny areolas. It’s okay to cry. You and the baby can compete.  It goes away, your crying not his. You won’t be an emotional mess forever, and eventually, you’ll even figure out what the shit the kid is crying for and possibly be able to fix it.

It sounds pretty bad, huh? This whole parenting thing? It isn’t. Aside from a turkey waddle and sleepless nights, it’s the best experience life can give you. You made a person, a precious little breathing person.

You are a goddamned superhero. A rock star. A legend.

There’s no greater gift than that precious baby in there kicking you in the ribs. He’s going to make you laugh, make you cry, make you proud, and drive you crazy, and you’re going to love almost every minute of it. Congratulations, and welcome to the club. Gobble gobble.

P.S.  You’ll forget all about these things and want to do it again. Maybe.

890

And the Wind Cries . . . Samara

It can happen unexpectedly. Every once in a while, someone stumbles into your life, and you just know there’s something there. A kind of connection. Chemistry.

When I first met her, she was a phone girl in a whore house. Immediately, I developed a full blown girl crush. I thought to myself, I don’t hardly know her, but I think I could love herInfatuated with her words, I devoured them, unable to stop. Reading post after post, I became more and more enamored with her.

Cautiously and bravely, I typed a comment and hit “post.” She responded quite quickly,  and an easy and comfortable friendship developed. We learned we had a lot of things in common like our love for boys music.

She has taught me many valuable lessons about life. I’ve viewed a tragedy from another person’s perspective. I’ve felt a mother’s love for her son. She makes me laugh. She makes me cry, and she makes me think.

I’m lucky to call her my friend, to call her my SisterWife, and today, I’m fortunate to wish her a very happy birthday.

Samara, I am so very glad you were born and so happy that fate placed me on your blog. You have welcomed me with open arms into your world, and for that, I thank you. In those moments when I’m not feeling like myself, you are always there. Everybody needs someone beside them, shining like a lighthouse from the sea.

Go celebrate your day, shine brighter than the sun, and for all of us, please continue to sing your life. (any fool can think of words that rhyme.)

(I couldn’t pick just one song. You’re more than one song to me.)

Happy birthday, Samara!

Samara pimping me at BlogHer (true friendship, people)

Samara pimping me at BlogHer (true friendship, people)

Everything Does NOT Happen for a Reason

“Everything happens for a reason.” Bullshit.

“It was all part of the plan. His plan. God’s plan.” Bullshit.

I know. It’s what people say. They want to help, to make you feel better, to make it easier, to try to justify…injustice.

“Only the good die young.” Truth.

“Gone too soon.” Truth.

“Life is short.” Absolutely.

I lost my first friend when I was in the sixth grade. He and his brother thought it would be a great idea to play with his father’s rifle, which was loaded and in their reach. BAM! Dead.

Another friend in junior high shot himself playing with his father’s loaded hand gun. BAM! Dead.

The next death happened when I was in the 9th grade. We all drove off campus for lunch. Well, I didn’t drive yet, but I was blonde and cute, so I easily found a ride and was spared the cafeteria food. Every single day, we drove the same country road. We passed the same friends, classmates, upperclassmen. We went to Sonic, and McDonald’s, and Subway, and Taco Villa, and every single day we drove back down the same two lane country road until one day. One day, four guys decided to pass another car on the shoulder, in the ditch, and they lost control, and one of them died. This was the first funeral I attended of a friend. Standing room only, sad music, and the chorus of, “everything happens for a reason.” “It’s all part of God’s plan.”

Tenth grade, another car accident, another friend, another funeral, another string of bullshit lines.

Junior year of high school, I became friends with Jason. He had big blue eyes, freckles on his nose, and a wide smile, and he knew how to make me laugh. He always sat next to me on the bus to Speech and Debate tournaments, and we talked the entire time, laughed until my cheeks hurt, and occasionally slept until we arrived to whatever high school was hosting the tournament. He was larger than life, but smaller than I. He was my friend, my good friend, and I loved him. The summer between our Junior and Senior year of high school, I got a phone call. He was gone. Dead from a car accident. Another friend, another funeral, another string of bullshit lines. My older brother came into my room and held me while I wept. He said it would be okay, and eventually it was, but still as I type this, I can’t see through the tears. Jason. He had the best laugh.

Senior year, Calculus class, Thursday afternoon: My friend Allison, Jennifer, and I sat together, all excited for prom, talking nonstop about dresses and hair and parties. “I’ve decided to go to prom. Jack and I found a dress last night. It hardly even looks like I’m pregnant,” Allison said.

“I’m so glad,” I responded honestly. I told her several times that nobody would care if she came to prom pregnant, that it was something she should experience. “We’ll all have a great time.” We whispered about plans for the rest of the class. I walked out and headed to my last class of the day, Government. As I turned the corner and walked down the hall, I saw my good friend, Katy, in the school office. Her dad was there, which wasn’t normal. Then I watched her sag, drop to the ground, shaking and sobbing.

I continued to Government, sat down in my desk and asked every single person who walked in if they knew what was going on. I heard a scream. Finally one of my classmates walked in clutching her books to her chest with a look, that look, on her face.

“What happened, Angie?”

“Jack just blew his brains out.”

I looked at her then, questioning. Did she really just say that?

“What?” I asked, defensively, hugging myself.

She repeated it again, stretching out the words this time, “Jack just blew his brains out.”

I can still see Angie’s face.  I can still feel my heart shatter. I can still hear the scream of my friend, my pregnant friend, who found out that her boyfriend, her husband actually, the father of her unborn baby, the guy who helped her pick out her prom dress the night before had just shot himself in the head with his grandfather’s shot gun. Katy, who I saw in the office, was Jack’s aunt. They were only a year apart and were more like siblings. I cried, big salty wet tears, sitting in my chair, heart broken for Katy, for Allison, and for myself. Jack? He was so young, so happy, so beautiful, such a great guy. Football player, popular, great looking, nice, funny, smart. Sure, his parents made him marry his high school girlfriend since he got her pregnant. Sure he wasn’t ready. Maybe he thought it was the end of the world, but suicide? His Junior year of high school?

He didn’t die immediately. He was in the hospital for two days. Prom was Saturday. He died that morning. We all agreed to go to prom anyway. My friend Katy, Jack’s aunt, was crowned prom queen. She cried giant ugly tears. We all did. They played his favorite song and dedicated the prom to him and said he was dancing with the angels. That is was all part of the plan. That he was in a better place. That it all happened for a reason.

Bullshit.

Freshman year of college. Another friend was killed in a car accident. My high school boyfriend’s best friend. Another funeral. Same story every time.

Sophomore year of college: a kid in my church got killed. He was sixteen. He went through a stop sign and was smashed by an eighteen wheeler. My father was the minister of the church and handled the funeral ceremony. He said something that I’ll never forget.  “This was not God’s plan. This did not happen for a reason. We live in an imperfect world, and bad stuff happens.” It was the first time I attended a funeral and wasn’t pacified.

I’ve attended so many funerals. So many of my classmates have died. In the last two years, I’ve lost five friends, classmates that graduated with me. Five. One was my best friend in junior high school. I can still smell her house, like a second home to me. She fought cancer, fought it hard, but she lost, and she left behind a husband and her six year old daughter. Our mutual friend spoke at her funeral, talked about childhood memories, memories that I shared. Then almost exactly a year later, she died, too. Of cancer. Two kids and a husband left without her.

Don’t tell me that it happened for a reason. Don’t tell me that their deaths were all part of some plan.

The worst death though, the one that I still can’t seem to get over the grief happened in May. I woke from an uneasy sleep at 1:30 am. I looked at the caller ID. Kimberly’s name flashed. Kimberly, my best friend of thirty years was calling me at 1:30 in the morning. This can’t be good, I thought. I expected her to say that her grandmother died, maybe that her mother was ill. I braced myself to be her strength.

What she said will forever echo in my mind.

“Thomas,” she whispered. I could tell she was crying. I sat straight up in my dark room, heart sputtering in my chest.

“What, Kimberly? Thomas what?”

“Thomas is gone.” She sobbed.

“What do you mean gone? Gone where?”

She kept talking about a phone call, about his friend going to her sister’s house frantic telling her to come with him that he was gone, gone. “Dead,” she finally said.

“No. No! Are you sure? It must be a mistake.”

“I’m on my way there,” she continued and told me in broken words about the car accident, rolled several times, no seat belt, ejected, died instantly.

“I have to go!” She said. Her sister, who I love like she is my own sister, was calling on the other line. The child’s mother. The mother who gave birth to a boy eighteen years before, a boy who was no longer on this earth.

I called my dad and begged him to tell God that He made a mistake. I had to repeat myself at least a dozen times before he could understand, maybe because I was hysterical, maybe because it was 1:30 in the morning. I don’t think he realized what I was saying until I finally screamed at him to wake up and listen and told him to pray as hard as he could that it wasn’t true. “Please, Dad,” I begged through breathless tears.

I stopped praying a long time ago, but my dad still prayed. He still believed in miracles, and I needed one. Kimberly needed a miracle.

But there wasn’t one.

It didn’t happen for a reason. It wasn’t all part of a plan. It was definitely not part of God’s plan to take a kind, caring, clever, funny boy away from my best friend, away from his mother, away from his younger brother away from a world that had yet to give him all of the wonderful things he deserved.

Everything does NOT happen for a reason.

Stop saying that.

Grief-sisterwives

It’s Been a Long Day

People always say that you don’t get to pick your family. I disagree.

When I was six years old, a family with three little girls moved into the house next door. My mother was thrilled. Being the only girl with four older brothers, my hobbies had become making and eating mud pies, getting into fights on the playground (yes, in Kindergarten), and looking at trashy magazines with the boy across the street. My mother saw these three little girls hop out of their mom’s Vanagon and forced me (kicking and screaming) to go introduce myself.

She had no idea they would become my sisters, that I would fall so deeply in love with them, that their mother would become a second mother to me, that their father, one of my favorite people, would influence my sense of humor for the rest of my life. Nor did she ever imagine that the oldest of the three would turn out to be my soul mate, my person, my best friend of thirty years (and counting).

We were inseparable, the four girls on our block. We spent every weekend night together, staying up until ungodly hours playing dress up and rock stars and barbies when their dad would finally come in and in his deep gritty voice tell us to go the hell to bed. We learned life together. As we grew older, our friendships grew with us, and we held each other’s hands through shopping for our first bras, then first kisses, then teenage heartbreak. We applauded each other’s successes and cried together when things went wrong.

When we were seventeen, our world changed forever. On February 29, 1996, we had our first baby. As scared as we were for our sister to become a teenage mom, we had her back. We knew that together we could make this work, and we did. A little boy entered our lives and changed everything. He was all the things a first baby is. Confusing, adorable, funny, exhausting, and he was ours. He brought a new life into our world, a sense of wonder and excitement. We took turns babysitting him and watched as he grew from a chubby little brown eyed baby to a sweet little boy who at seven years old announced to us that he would one day become a paleontologist.  And we believed him.

We all grew up, went to college, moved to different towns, got married, etc. But we managed to get together as frequently as possible, and when we did/do, it was/is as if time never passed.

Then one day, our world changed again. Shattered for a minute. And an hour. And a lifetime.

Our baby was gone.

Just like that.

A car crash.

My pseudo baby sister lost her first born child a few months after he turned eighteen, just a few weeks prior to his high school graduation.

No words can help because they can’t bring him back. No flowers or cards or hugs or good thoughts make any kind of difference because he’s still gone, and my sweet friend who I love as if she shared my blood will never be the same again.

And there’s no word for her. There’s no widow or widower or orphan. She’s just a woman, a mother with a permanent hole in a heart that will never beat the same again. But she’s more than that to me. She’s my family, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her or him.

Please watch this video all the way to the end as a tribute to this amazing kid that was taken from us far too soon.

“Guys,one day we’re all gonna die, so have fun, and have fun the way YOU want to have fun. Don’t listen to anyone else. Word up.”  Thomas James Gomez-Reddish (February 29, 1996 – May 6, 2014)

Thomas

The Inner Dialogue of the Pre Girl’s Night Out Struggle

I love a night out, having a purpose to wear something pretty, to apply perfume and make-up, and a reason to actually fix my hair. What I don’t love is the process it takes to get ready to go on such an outing. If you have a vagina, chances are you can relate to the inner dialogue that screams in my head Every. Single. Time. I go out.  It goes something like this:

4:49: I can’t wait to go out tonight. Should be funI’m supposed to meet the girls at 8:00. I have plenty time to clean my kitchen, mop the floor, cook dinner, practice spelling with son for tomorrow, and get ready. Hmmm…What should I wear? Oh, I’ll wear that green dress. What shoes? 

Ding: Oh, look, Beth mentioned me in a comment on Facebook. Wonder what it could be.

Two hours and seven minutes later …

Oh shoot! I have to cook dinner and get ready, but these girls keep talking about boobs and showing me naked pictures of men who look exactly like my book boyfriends.

Quickly types: “I have to go get dinner ready, mop the floor, shower, shave my legs and armpits, and work on spelling words for tomorrow’s spelling test. AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M WEARING TO GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT. See you later, girls.”

Runs through kitchen, pulls out frozen pizza, turns on oven, throws pizza into cold oven even though the directions clearly state preheat first, and grabs broom. Sweeps feverishly. Gets two paper towels and dampens them with water, puts one under each foot and scoots along kitchen floor like a penguin or a walrus or a pregnant woman purposely stopping at the place where son spilled Powerade after school. Looks around.

Good enough. Dangit, I forgot to set the timer on the pizza. It’s been about seven minutes. 

Sets timer for 18 minutes.

Runs to the shower. Strips and jumps into cold water.

Mother #@$% it’s cold. Who designed this place with the water heater in the attic? How am I supposed to shave my legs in this glacier cold shower?

Fifteen minutes later…Places two cotton balls strategically on cut ankles. Walks into closet searching for green dress. Pushes hangers aside in a panic searching for green dress like it’s the holy flipping grail.

Where is my green dress? 

Hand lands on dress. Pulls it off the hanger and tries it on. Stares at self for approximately eleven minutes and twenty three seconds in full length mirror.

Not bad.

Turns to the side. Sticks out chest and butt. Sucks in belly. Turns around. Looks over shoulder at butt.

Does my butt look funny? Oh my God. Yes. My butt looks terrible and weird. Is it the mirror? Why is my right butt cheek bigger than my left? How is it humanly possible to be this white? What is that? Is that a varicose vein? ON MY CALF? Jesus Christ!!! 

Pulls off green dress, throws it on the floor, and studies lopsided ass in the mirror.

I must have a tumor in my right butt cheek? Did I squat too much on one side? How can I build up my left cheek to match the right one?

Does 20 one legged left sided squats. Falls on the ground in underwear. Cries for a minute. Looks at the time.

What is that beeping? Oh no, the pizza. 

Runs into kitchen wearing only underwear and pulls slightly crispy (black) pizza out of oven. Calls kids for dinner.

“I’m not eating that,” Kid one.

“Gross. What’s that smell? Is something on fire?” Kid two.

“No darlings, it’s dinner. It’s a delicious pizza. Here sit down and have a slice, and I’ll let you have some of mommy’s candy stash for dessert.”

Little ungrateful brats don’t deserve my rolos. 

“I see your butt,” Kid two.

“Where are your pants?” Kid one in his best Lego Movie impersonation.

Leaves children cracking up and picking at burned pizza. Runs back into bathroom. Passes full length mirror and flips off reflection of lopsided ass.

Carefully walks into closet avoiding stepping on ass distorting green dress.

Maybe I’ll wear this white dress. It’s cute. No it’s going to rain. Throws white dress on the closet floor. Hmmm…how about this pink dress. That will look cute with the new bracelet Nikki convinced me to buy. Tries on dress, goes back to asshole mirror. Nope. Throws pink dress on the floor of closet. Ooohhh! I forgot about this. Takes never worn shirt from a hanger, holds it up to body, looks in the mirror, tries shirt on. Now I remember why it still has the tags on it. Hell no.

Walks out of closet defeated. Starts applying makeup. Turns on music to get in the mood for dancing. Shakes booty while powdering face. Daughter enters the room.

“Mommy, what are you doing? Why does your butt shake like that when you dance? It looks funny, mommy.” Breaks into hysterical laughter.

“Let’s turn on Bubble Guppies, my sweet honest little asshole girl.”

Runs back into bathroom ignoring both the full length mirror and the clock. Heart is racing. Runs to bar. Pours a glass of wine (shuddap it’s girls’ night out, and I’m ubering).

Back to the bathroom. Drinks wine while applying make-up. Pulls out new microfiber lash mascara purchased from friend who wouldn’t leave her alone on Facebook. Reads directions twice. Applies lashes.

What the actual? Eye is on fire. My eye is on fire. Eye is on fire. 

Runs to sink, puts eye directly under running water. When eye no longer feels like it is searing from its socket, stands up and looks in the mirror.

Great. I am a raccoon, with Medusa inspired hair. 

Hair is a complete halo of frizz. Sprays lion’s mane with leave-in conditioner then volumizer. Dries hair, continually tangling roll brush into hair and whisper screaming as the brush yanks clumps of hair out of scalp. Quality mirror check.

What is wrong with my hair? Why will it not lay down flat? Is that a gray hair?

Climbs up on counter and puts head up against the mirror. Plucks out three hairs just in case.

Why couldn’t the gray hair have been part of the scalping the brush just performed?

Notices smudges on mirror. Gets glass cleaner. Cleans smudge. Sees another smudge. Cleans it. Cleans the entire mirror. And the counter. And the shower.

Washes black stained face. Re-applies make-up. Opts out of microfiber eyes. Makes a mental note to delete “friend” from Facebook. Goes back into the fifth realm of hell aka the closet.

Pulls out nine dresses, three pairs of pants, five different tops, and two pairs of shorts. Throws all of it on bed. Looks at clock: 7:45. Grabs phone to request Uber. App has to do a manual update to work and asks for credit card number, phone number, drivers license number, name of first born child, social security number, bra size, and shoe size.

At least it didn’t ask for my ass size. 

Ding: Your uber will arrive in nine minutes.

Nine minutes? Nine minutes? 

Searches through nineteen outfits on bed, fourteen outfits on closet floor, and the dryer. Sits down in a panic on bedroom floor in nothing but bra and panties. Cries for about two minutes because:

I have absolutely nothing to wear. I must go shopping tomorrow. I have a lopsided ass, desperately need a tan and a hair cut, and my eye lashes are short and thin. I am not going. I want to stay home in my yoga pants and eat popcorn and rolos, but my kids just ate all my rolos. 

7:52 Ding: Your uber has arrived

Shit he’s early.

7:53 Ding: a text message from a friend: What are you wearing? I’m running late. I look like shit, and I’m already drunk.

Sigh. At least I’m not the only one.

8:01: Walks into closet.

It's kind of like a autopsy of clothes.

It’s kind of like an autopsy of clothes.

Puts on green dress, gold earrings, and tan wedges. Kisses darling children goodbye.

8:24: Arrives at bar. Greets the girls.

“Oh my God, you look so cute. I love your dress. Your ass looks amazing. Let’s have a glass of champagne.”

I have the best friends in the entire world. 

Toasts with girlfriends. Hears favorite song. Drags girlfriends to dance floor. Dances and dances and dances, twirling around in a haze of green and gold. Smiling and laughing.

Nik and Mandi

1:42: Quietly walks into house. Sheds green dress at the door, tan wedges in the hall, drops purse on the floor by the kitchen. Drinks 32 oz of water. Takes two tylenol. Walks into bedroom. Passes full length mirror. Winks and smiles at reflection.

Tell me, ladies … is it just me?