Saturday, August 18, 2018

Bling-Bling--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


     Tom and I got ready to drive into the city for the Printer’s Row Literary Festival where I’d post pictures and interviews from the Kabbalah Center’s bookstall on social media. As we were leaving, Serena texted and asked me to swing by a recovery meeting to okay fliers that Tony Bling-Bling printed promoting me as a speaker at one of his upcoming meetings. Uncomfortable about the fliers, I told her I couldn’t and asked Serena to get Bling-Bling to email me a copy of them. When Tom and I got home from the festival, Bling-Bling called saying he couldn’t email me the fliers.
     “I’ll meet you at a meeting tomorrow and look at them,” I told him. “What do they say?”
     “I copied the cover of your book, put some quotes on it, and said you were speaking. They’re out on the counter. I hung some up and left some for the women’s meetings.”
     “You distributed them already?”
     “Yeah, they’re out. We need to get attendance up at that Sunday meeting.”
     “You should have shown me first,” I said angrily and hung up.
     I didn’t want Bling Bling promoting my book at recovery meetings. People don’t showcase their endeavors there. It wasn’t cool. Playboy Pete started that meeting years ago and used to deliver what amounted to a comedy act before presenting each week’s speaker. He’d drawn large crowds and the collection baskets brimmed with much-needed money. But Playboy Pete was recently asked to step down because he offended women with his dicey jokes and sexual innuendos. Bling-Bling had taken it over and attendance had dropped. Bling-Bling’s ego took a hit, and now he’s put me in a bad spot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Messed Up--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Thursday, June 6

     I refinanced my house. Yippee! I own my house—me and the bank. I left the bank feeling elated, relieved, but by the time I got home, sadness had moved in. Sadness about what could have been—a happy family living in that house. I want to love someone. I want to be loved. But you never really know another person, do you? It’s hard enough to know yourself. I’m far too messed up to be in a relationship now. I’m so messed up.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Smoke--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Tuesday, June 4

     I woke up feeling sad. Sad because I’m craving sex to feel desirable and loved—and it’s not a good indicator of either. Ever since my marriage blew up, it’s been full on.
     I got up and pulled weeds in the master gardener demo garden. It felt good to be outside, in the sunshine, volunteering. I taught yoga. I took Tom to his guitar lesson. While I waited for Tom, I bummed a smoke off of a guitar teacher because I’d just thrown away the pack of cigarettes I bought. I don’t want to start smoking again. But that cigarette was damn good.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Soulmate--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Monday, June 3

     Yosef explained a window in time Kabbalists say is supercharged with soulmate-finding power. It begins at sundown tonight and ends at sundown tomorrow. He’d emailed details before we spoke.

     “Who needs dating websites, secret love potions, and marriage counselors when you’ve got a kabbalist who is the chariot for soulmate energy?
     “Known as the ‘soulmate’ kabbalist, Yonatan Ben Uziel swore before he passed away that whoever will connect to his consciousness, gain affinity, and ask for his help will get his/her soulmate/soulmate energy in that year. The day that Yonatan Ben Uziel left the physical world takes place this year on Monday night June 3
rd until Tuesday June 4th  at sunset.
     “Yonatan Ben Uziel never got married, thinking instead that he’s (sic) married to the spiritual studies, and only shortly before he passed away he realized that you cannot do the 100% spiritual work without a partner, and therefore committed to be the chariot for that energy. It is said about him that his energy was so powerful, that if a bird would fly above his head at the time he studies or shares (sic) Kabbalah, the bird would spontaneously combust…
     “Asking for his support on that day can give us the energy we need for a complete unification, offering balanced cosmic support that is perfect for discovering soulmates and strengthening relationships.
     “In order to awaken this power and bring the harmony and love into YOUR life, I wanted to share with you this email along with my invitation for you to use the tools below:
     -       Scan from the Zohar – the portion of Lech-Lecha, volume 3 in the English Zohar, verses 346- 356, and the portion of Terumah, volume 11, verses 86-805, sending this Light to people whom you know need that energy.
     -       Meditate on the name #28 from the 72 Names of God to draw more soulmate energy (the picture attached is the place of burial of Rav Yonatan Ben Uziel. This place is the gate to connect to that energy.) 
     -       Think (and I invite you to act on it as well) how can you bring more Light and Kabbalah to someone else (the energy of Soulmates comes to you every time you think out of yourself). There is someone out there (that you might already know - and love) that needs this Light through the Zohar, the Living Kabbalah System, and other tools that can be for you the key to unlock your soulmate energy/bring more soulmate energy to your current relationship through caring and sharing, while you are the only channel for that person to connect.
     -       In addition, this is a very powerful day for actions of sharing, to draw down the energy of soulmates.  If you’d like to know more about it as well as doing a meditation along with the action of sharing, email or call me so we can schedule a time.

     “This is a powerful window,” Yosef explained. “At sunset, light a candle and let it burn for twenty-four hours. Candles connect the physical with the spiritual. They draw positive energy into life. Mention the name of the rav when you light it and look at pictures of his burial site. You will transcend to this place. Meditate and fly there after you light the candle.
     “Write down, refine, and understand your desire for a soulmate, who that person is. You should complete each other’s journeys in this lifetime. You want someone with whom you can grow spiritually, greater, shine on each other and others. You want something really meaningful with a lot of energy to fulfill you, him, and others. Write it down. This is what I want. Be exact, accurate, and very focused on what you want. The sooner you do it, the better. When you write down something, you manifest it from the upper to lower realm.
     “Scan the special sections of the Zohar for half an hour to an hour during this twenty-four hour period. Scanning is more powerful after midnight, between one and four a.m. Set your alarm and wake up. Wash your hands and face and sit down, not in bed. Go next to the candle and scan the Zohar there. Make it a special moment.
     “Meditate on the number twenty-eight name of God. Don’t be done with this after the twenty-four hours is up. Invest a lot of time and energy doing this until you find the guy. Use it again and again.
     “A special tool for blessing and sustenance is charity. Charity is the number one tool that can give you a totally new movie. You should give something that is beyond what you have—illogical giving—and it should be done with a lot of happiness and love. If you can give charity during this twenty-four hour period, you will get a huge benefit.
     “When I get into something, I’m all in,” Yosef continued. “When I started studying Kabbalah, I took out my savings, sold my car, and gave it all to the Zohar Project through the Kabbalah Center. The place you give should be where you expect to get transformations in your life. There is a specific meditation to do when you give charity. It’s the most powerful tool of all. The meditation is done with a teacher. Let me know if you want to do this.
     “Keep using your tools. Heighten your desire. Work with a lot of restriction. Restriction, restriction, restriction. Restrict your tendencies to want to receive for the self alone. Work with the light. ‘If this person is good for me, make the connection stronger. If he’s not, take him away.’ The right person should feel perfect on every dimension: physical, spiritual, and emotional.”
     So, the Kabbalah Center wants me to give it an amount of money that’s uncomfortable to give. I’m uncomfortable alright. I began looking at pictures of the rav’s gravesite, placed a large candle on my bedroom dresser, pulled the recommended Zohar volume off my bookshelf, put everything in place for sunset, and left to meet Kari for dinner.
     Kari and I’ve know each other for years through recovery, but neither of us showed an interest in hanging out with each other. I was surprised when she invited me to dinner and curiously accepted. I walked into the steakhouse and, minutes later, Kari swished in on stiletto heels and halted in front of me.
     “Come for a ride with me,” she said coquettishly. “We’ll come right back. I have to drop my son at an eighth-grade graduation party and we’re late.”
     I followed her out. Kari’s son was sitting in the front seat.
     “Get in back,” Kari told him. “This is Brenda.”
     Her son and I said hello and he got in the backseat. One minute later, Kari pulled in front of a restaurant doors down from the steakhouse. It made no sense that she didn’t drop him off first. Maybe she wanted me to see her new BMW?
     On our minute-long drive back I said, “I was surprised you invited me to dinner. What’s up?”
     “You published a book,” she said. “I haven’t read your book, sorry, but I want to pick your brain because I’m interested in helping two of my friends co-write and publish a book. Dinner is on me.”
     We were seated. I ordered salmon and black bean soup. Kari ordered the same.
     “I’m a very smart business woman,” Kari purred, lowering her head and fixing me with kittenish eyes. “My ex had the technical end, but I had all the business savvy. He made software and I made it big. So I can make this book big, but I don’t know anything about publishing.”
     “You want to self publish?” I asked.
     Kari nodded.
     “Hazelden published ‘Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife.’ I didn’t self publish.”
     “Oh,” Kari said, taken aback.
     “I can direct you to self-publishing vehicles. You know it’s a hard way to make a buck, right?”
     “Oh, this book is going to be big,” Kari said, looking at me seductively. “Two sexy southern society friends of mine married and divorced the same man. Everyone’s going to want to interview them.”
     “Have you read their book? Is it good?”
     “They haven’t actually written it. They keep talking about it and arguing about it. But they have a great story. They don’t need to write well. An editor will pull it together for them.”
     “Good luck with that,” I laughed. “If you want to self publish, you’re going to have to hire someone to rewrite it, edit it, design it, lay it out in e-book and print formats, promote it. I can give you recommendations once you have something to work with.”
     Kari nodded distractedly.
     “Have you and Kat patched things up?” I asked.
     Kari stopped speaking to Kat a year ago. Kat accused her of slutty behavior, a drug and alcohol relapse, and had gossiped these judgements to others. I knew about it because Kat called me frantically talking in circles attempting to justify her actions. Recently, Kat said she and Kari were friends again.
     “I see her here and there,” Kari said flatly.
     I told Kari how things went when Kat was at my house.
     “Kat’s just crazy,” Kari said. “She’s had run-ins with everyone. Being with Kat is like hearing the doorbell ring, opening the door, and getting punched in the face.” Kari and I laughed hard.
     “Kat has helped me see things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” I said. “I’ve purposely consulted her wanting her blunt unpolished viewpoints. But she’s a know-it-all. And I don’t like how she gossips and psychoanalyzes people.”
     “Like we’re doing now?” Kari asked.
     “No, I’m not speculating on her motives, judging them, thinking I’ve got her nailed inside and out, like she does with me, my ex, my friends. She talked about Kent, made horrible judgements about him.”
     Kari curled up in the booth, tucked her chin to her chest, and batted her eyes at me. “Kent has said some things to me. He’s gone to strip clubs. I don’t know if you consider that cheating on your wife or not, but believe me, the comments he’s made, the way he looks at me, if I gave him the green light, he’d sleep with me. Any guy would. They’re all the same. I’ve tested it.” Kari tilted her head toward the bar. “You and I could walk into that bar and get any guy to leave with us. I’ve done it just to see.”
     I stared at Kari.
     “Being divorced isn’t fun Brenda,” Kari said. “I’ve been at it for seven years. It’s depressing and lonely. You find someone, think there’s something there, but after six to eight months it falls apart. That’s the timeline. I’m not going to date anyone exclusively anymore, take myself off the market. It’s a waste.”
     I drove home feeling depressed. The sun had set half an hour ago and I’d missed the precise time I was supposed to light the soulmate candle and meditate. I went upstairs to my bedroom, lit the candle, beckoned the rav, meditated on his gravesite pictures, and asked him to connect Angie, Jody, Sharon, Lila, Golf Guy, Paul, and me to our soulmates. I want Golf Guy removed. Then I sat down and made a list of what I want in a man.

     —A man I love deeply who loves me deeply.
     —A man I bond with on a soul level.
     —A man who expands me, makes me better, and I do that for him.
     —A man who deepens my spiritual connection and I deepen his.
     —A man I light up around who lights up around me.
     —A man I sexually desire who sexually desires me.
     —A man who is full of joy and light.
     —A partner who will spread great amounts of light, joy, and fulfillment with me.
     —A man I laugh with.
     —A man who is faithful, honest, loyal, and trustworthy.
     —A man who would never purposely hurt me.
     —A man who is handsome.
     —A man who is financially wealthy. (Feeling shame here but don’t want to.)
     —A man who is humble, kind, compassionate, empathetic.
     —A man who is smart, savvy, wise.
     —A man I respect.
     —A man who loves God.
     —A man who will help me complete what I’m here to do, and I do that for him.
     —A man who is genuine, real, authentic.
     —A man who is a partner, an equal.
     —A man God picks for me.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Maybe--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Sunday, June 2

     Sonia gave me the artwork I'd had her frame at breakfast.
     “How are things with Golf Guy?” she asked.
     “Eh. He gave me a couple of golf lessons. I took him to dinner to thank him. He kissed me in the parking lot and texted later that he liked kissing me. He asked if I wanted to see him again, I said yes, and nothing since. He sends texts like, ‘How was your day?’ That’s about it. I feel strung along, toyed with.”
     Sonia nodded grimly. “You don’t need any of that. Those golf pros are notorious. After everything you’ve been through, stay away from that Brenda.”
     “On the other hand, he’s been a perfect gentleman. He kissed in a nice way. No dirty innuendos. I don’t know. He’s done nothing. But that’s the problem, he’s done nothing.”
      “Well then, say maybe. I’ve learned maybe is a really good word. You don’t have to decide or make up your mind about anything. You can just leave it hang and say maybe.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Like A Turtle--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Friday, May 31

     My next-door neighbors of sixteen years put their house up for sale today. They bought a farm in Wisconsin a few years ago, built a house, and today the for-sale sign went up. I wanted to cry. As I stared at their sign from my window, Judy called and asked if I wanted her horse magazines. She’d been subscribing for years, hoping to get a horse once they moved. A few minutes later, Judy was on my front porch with a stack of “Horse and Rider.”
     “Dennis told me about JB,” Judy said solemnly as I opened the door.
     Judy’s husband and I had been gardening and I told Dennis that JB and I were divorcing.
     “I read your book,” she said. “You’ve been through a lot. Changed a lot.”
     “I have.”
     “When I was in my yard and JB was in yours, I’d wave and he’d duck his head like a turtle. He wouldn’t say anything.”
     “He did that to you? I’ve seen that move of his. Ugh. Please don’t take it personally. It’s just him.”
     “Sully and Sammy were running up and down your side of the fence barking at Ernie and Ernie was running with them. I like that Ernie gets exercise that way.”
     “I like it, too.”
     “Sully stepped on Sammy and made him cry. JB came flying out of the house with an angry look on his face and demanded, ‘What happened to my dog?’ like I kicked Sammy or something. I told JB Sully stepped on Sammy, and JB walked back into the house with his tail between his legs.”
     “Other people have been telling me JB’s wasn’t nice to them, too. I’m just glad he’s gone.” I gave Judy a tearful hug. “I’m sad you and Dennis are leaving. You’re wonderful neighbors.”
     My phone dinged as Judy was leaving.

     “How are you?” Golf Guy texted.

     I didn’t answer.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Eighteen Holes--"Thank You Ashley Madison"


Thursday, May 30

     I pulled into the parking lot of the Schaumburg Golf Club, opened the rear hatch, put my golf shoes on, and Paul pulled up behind me in a golf cart and said, “Throw your stuff on and let’s go.”
     “You already checked in?”
     “Yeah. I put it all on my credit card. Pay me sixty bucks later.”
     I threw my bag on the cart, strapped it in, hopped on, and Paul made a beeline to the starter. I needed to pee but figured I could hold it nine holes. The starter paired us up with two young guys, one who looked like John Hamm from “Mad Men.” Paul drove toward the first tee and the cart died. He flagged down the starter.
     “I’m going to the bathroom,” I told Paul.
     “Go, and make it fast,” he said.
     I ran to the clubhouse and back to the cart. Paul and the two young guys were waiting.
     “Sorry,” I said.
     We drove to the first tee. The two young guys whacked their balls down the fairway. Paul hit a bad shot. I unstrapped my bag, having only walked nine holes a few times, then realized I should leave my bag on the cart, put it back, and pulled out my driver.
     “Just so you know,” I shouted over my shoulder at the young guys, “I’m new. You’re probably going to hate playing with me. It’s okay if you want to ditch us.”
     I teed up my ball, took a few practice swings, heard a big crash, and Paul laughing. I nailed the ball about one-hundred-and-fifty yards down the fairway.
     “Nice shot,” the guy who looked like Hamm said.
     “Thanks,” I said, hopping in the cart.
     “Just so you know, you can’t just throw your bag on the cart,” Paul laughed.  “You need to strap it in. Your clubs just went flying.”
     Paul’s ball was the furthest from the hole. He made another bad shot. I grabbed my hybrid, lined up my feet, positioned myself, and took a few practice swings.
     “You got quite a system there,” Paul said.
      I nailed the ball and sent it flying straight down the fairway another hundred feet. I hopped in the cart.
     “You probably want to take fewer practice swings,” Paul said. “Move things along faster.”
     “Okay,” I said.
     The first hole was a par five. I sunk my ball in seven. On the third hole, Paul got his swing down and started crushing it. The two young guys and I started chatting.
     “I just graduated from college,” the one who didn’t look like Hamm said. “My friend graduated last year. We played on our high school golf team.”
     “What’s your degree in?”
     “Marketing. I start a sales job tomorrow. Not what I went to school for. What do you do?”
     “I’m a writer,” I said. “I had a book published a couple of years ago. I’m working on another.”
     “Well, you’d never know you just started playing golf,” he said. “You’re playing really well.”
     “Really?”
     “Really. You’re doing good.”
     “I’m a writer, too,” Hamm said. “I cover high school sports for "The Daily Herald" part time. I have a sales job, too.”
     “A stringer,” I said.
     “Yeah. Do you have any advice for me to get ahead, make money in the writing business?”
     “Ha. Wish I did. I started out as a journalist. The business is all different now. Create a name for yourself, an identity, write well. That’s all I got.”
     We finished the eighth hole and I climbed into the cart and whacked my head hard on the roof.
     “Duck,” Paul laughed.
     “I’m not used to wearing a hat. Can’t see above the visor.”
     “We’re letting these guys play through on the ninth,” Paul said. “They just told me, ‘Uh, we have an appointment so we have to hurry the last nine.’”
     “I’m surprised they stuck with us this long. They waited for me a lot.”
     “Yeah, they did,” Paul laughed.
     The two guys teed off and waved good-bye.
     Paul and I smacked our balls down the fairway, hopped in the cart, and stopped near my ball. I grabbed my three wood, took a few steps away from the ball, lined up my feet, and started to take a practice swing. Paul began laughing.
     “If you weren’t you in that short little skirt, those guys would have wanted to fucking kill you,” he said. “You have no idea. You have no fucking clue. Before you hit every ball, you line up your feet, get your stance just right, practice your swing a few times. Any other person out here, anyone, and they’d have been screaming, ‘Hit the fucking ball! Hit it! Hit it now you fucker! What the fuck is your problem?’ But, no, they’re just standing there smiling and being nice.”
     I started laughing so hard I crossed my legs to stop from peeing myself.
     “I’m serious,” Paul laughed. “You’ve been getting away with murder.”
     “Now you're making me take even longer,” I laughed.
     “Seriously, you have to start walking up to the ball and just hitting it. Maybe take one practice swing and hit it. Some courses have clocks at each tee. They let you know on the score card how much time you’re allowed on each hole.”
     We finished nine and Paul parked the cart by the snack shack. “You want a hotdog?”
     “No,” I said, stuffing a handful of raw almonds into my mouth. “But I’ll hit the bathroom.”
     Four men in their seventies whizzed by in two carts and shot me big grins.
     “I think they like me,” I told Paul.
     “They were playing behind us,” he said. “They should be wanting to fucking kill you.”
     The last nine holes, my arms were tired, my shots weren’t good, I hit without lining up and taking practice swings, and picked up my ball a lot to be quicker.
     “See,” Paul said. “You can hit well without taking all that time.”
     “Uh, now the ball’s not going where I want it to.”
     We were on the fairway a good distance from the green. I smacked my ball onto the green and Paul smashed his into the trees. We hopped into the cart to look for it.
     “Well hell,” Paul drawled in his best hillbilly accent. “I shore don’t know what happened to that there ball.”
     “Hell, baby, it’s just ‘cause you’s so strong,” I drawled.
     It took Paul two shots to get out from under the trees and he wound up in the rough on the edge of the fairway.
     “C’mon Baby!” I rebel yelled from the green. “C’mon up here with me Baby. Hit one for Mama. Hit a nice one up here for Mama!”
     Paul’s shoulders were shaking with laughter. He shook his head and whacked his ball onto the green. Two men in a cart behind Paul were gawking at me like WTF?
     When Blake got home, I told him about my golfing.
     “See,” he laughed. “I kept telling you but you wouldn’t believe me. You do this.” He lined up his feet and bent over. “Then it looks like you’re going to take a couple of practice swings but you don’t. You’d do a few wrist breaks.” He flicked his wrists a few times.
     I doubled over laughing. “Oh my God.”