Saturday, September 22, 2018

Pilgrimage--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Monday, June 24

     I watched a video on finding your soulmate that Yosef recommended. Here’s what it said.

     —Relationships provide us with opportunities to create unity with others and transform ourselves.
     —We need to go beyond our five senses when choosing someone. How does this person carry himself in the world? Is there passion, excitement? Is there only imagination or is there consciousness for achievement?
     —Don’t look at the potential of a person, look at what is.
     —Falling in love fades. True love is the byproduct of work. 
     —We don’t get our soulmates each lifetime but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a relationship. Our relationship should help us grow and achieve our divine purpose. If the other person is not where we are spiritually, that needs to be addressed. It will not go away. Our relationships exist to move us along. They are not there to provide comfortable complacency.
     —A true soulmate is a very difficult relationship. We are brought together to really work something through. The sign of a true soulmate is that it feels like a virtual ocean has been or must be crossed to be with that person. How is it possible that I should be with this person?
     —A soulmate relationship moves us to a higher spiritual goal.
     —Being physically together is not the glue. Being apart shouldn’t matter. You should still be fueling each other to grow, develop, and strengthen the partnership.
     —The relationship should help build unity in all other relationships, not create distance and selfishness for the love relationship.
     —A falling-in-love relationship can be like a drug. It may briefly fulfill you in one area but not long term. And it hurts other areas of your life.
     —Have no expectations or conditions on the other person. When we have expectations, we give our power away to the other person. We put ourselves in the backseat and hope the other person will drive where we want to go.
     —Don’t look for someone to complete you. Soulmates have the same work to do. We help each other transform. We don’t look for someone to do the work for us.
     —No matter what, we are the cause. Even if we have a signed agreement with someone and that person doesn’t live up to it, we created the space for that to happen. We are not victims. We have choices about how to deal with situations.
     —Always be giving. Give because it elevates our consciousness. We’re not to keep track of how much we give and how little the other person gives. There are right ways to give and wrong ways to give. But give because it makes us grow.
     —A physical relationship develops as the result of a spiritual connection. You do the work before getting physical. You know it will work before getting physical. Most people start with the physical and think everything should work out. No. You put the work in first and see what’s there.

     I sat for a long time letting that sink in. Then I checked email.

     “I'm not supposed to share these emails, but I would love for you to join me the weekend of August 30 to share this experience,” Lila wrote. “I CAN'T WAIT to see you in a couple of weeks!!”

     Below, Lila forwarded this.

     Dearest Devine Friends:

     Warm and loving greetings to you from the Auspicious Tour Department. We hope all of you are well, enjoying the start to summer, and each day feeling more and more committed to your spiritual paths!

     We are happy to announce that our Beloved Master Shaman, Don Pedro, will be returning in late August for the Fall Pilgrimage, and you are all cordially invited to participate in the Sacred Ceremonies and Pujas that he will be sharing with us during this time. 

     Ceremonies will be taking place on August 30th, August 31st, September 13th, September 14th, September 20th and September 21st, and space for each of these is available by pre-registration only. Pujas will be taking place daily throughout the Pilgrimage, and are open to the community.  

     Many of you have already partaken in Sacred Ceremony and Puja with Don Pedro, and have experienced his grace, love and inspiration of the Divine. Having Don Pedro join us again in our community is a blessing and an opportunity to keep advancing in our spiritual paths. Our Beloved Shaman, his Sacred Medicine, and the prayerful devotion he shares during Puja are a great support in the eternal quest for self realization.

     Those of you who are new to this work, we invite you to join us in this transformational and profound experience.  Please read everything carefully, and let us know any questions that may arise.

     Please note, each Sacred Ceremony does not end until the following morning upon completion of the integration circle and lovingly prepared breakfast. Your commitment to stay through until after breakfast is mandatory. In this way, you will receive the most profound benefits from the retreat, ensuring a good integration, and a good work for you and for the rest of the participants. Don Pedro will continue sharing a Divine vibration throughout all this time, so we can take advantage of this precious opportunity!

     Accommodations: You are welcome to sleep in the ceremony space at no additional cost.  Private accommodations are available at an additional cost.  For those who would like to camp on the land, we are asking for a donation of $5-10/night. Single dorm rooms, for $48/night, are available on a limited first come/first serve basis. There are also Private cottages starting at $350/weekend, and if interested, we will assist you to make this reservation.


     Yours in very loving service,
     Auspicious Tour Department

     “I want to do the pilgrimage,” I emailed Lila. “Give them my information.”

     “You won't believe how wonderful Don Pedro is!” Lila responded.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Weezer--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Saturday, June 22

     My mother called to tell me Aunt Edie died. My mom had visited Aunt Edie in Tennessee a few days ago. She’d driven Aunt Lori and Aunt Tess to Aunt Edie’s retirement home and they'd spent a day visiting her. Aunt Edie had begged them to stay longer.
     “We said everything there was to say,” my mother said. “Edie kept saying, ‘Don’t go. You can sleep on the floor of my apartment.’ Can you imagine us sleeping on her floor? Like we would do that? We said everything there was to say. You know how she was. She didn’t say much. It was time to go and we left.”
     I hung up and cried. 
     A couple hours later, I pulled myself together and took Tom to a free Weezer concert celebrating the opening of a Microsoft store at an enormous suburban shopping mall. Concert goers had been lining up since last night to get wristbands for early entry to the parking lot stage. The earliest birds got special wristbands for a meet-and-greet with the band. Tom and I parked, walked over to the stage, and stopped outside the guardrails. A guy wearing a Microsoft shirt walked over.
     “You want a couple of wristbands?” he asked.
     “That would be great,” I said.
     He handed me two. One was a metallic copper-colored one. “That one will get you in to see the band,” he said. “Put them on and go in. Don’t tell anyone I gave them to you.”
     “Thanks!” I said.
     Tom was grinning the biggest smile I’d ever seen on his face. I put the regular wristband on Tom and the metallic one on me. We entered the enclosure and were handed Microsoft beach towels and had our pictures taken. We walked to the front of the stage where a small crowed had gathered. People began streaming in, packing in tighter and tighter. Wheezer hit the stage and the crowd started moshing. I hadn’t figured Wheezer for a mosh band. Arms were flailing, people were jumping, bodies were slamming. I looked at Tom. He was petrified.
     “Jump!” I shouted to Tom. I was jumping in my flip-flops and moving with the crowd.
     Tom shook his head.
     “Jump, otherwise you’ll get run over! Bend your arms. Put your elbows out like this.”
     Tom started jumping. I got behind him. I steered him toward a less wild spot. We continued maneuvering like that the rest of the show.
     “That was awesome!” Tom shouted.
     “Well, you can mosh now. Wasn’t counting on that.”
     Tom and I laughed and began walking toward the mall for the meet and greet.

     “Are you watching Blackhawks (sic) game?” Golf Guy texted.

     I texted Golf Guy a  crowd-surfing picture. “At the risk of you thinking I'm a psycho, I took Tom to a Weezer concert. We’re going to meet the band now!”

     “Cool”

     Tom and I walked to the line in front of the Microsoft store and a mall cop stopped us by the ropes. “He can’t get in,” he said pointing at Tom.
     “He’s with me,” I said.
     “Every person who gets in line has to have a wristband. No exceptions.”
     I tore my wristband off and gave it to Tom.
     “Get in line,” I told Tom.
     “No,” Tom said. “You go in. I don’t want to take your wristband.”
     “I put that wristband on thinking we’d both get in. Go on.”
     Tom got in line. His shoulders slumped. His eyes darted uncomfortably. I gave him the thumbs up sign and did a little happy dance.

     “Are u there now?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Here,” I heard Tom say. I looked up from my phone and Tom was standing in front of me holding out the metallic wristband. “I feel bad taking it. You should go.”
     “Why did you get out of line? Look how long it is now. Go meet the band. I’ll be standing right here. I’m not going anywhere. Go meet the band and tell me how great it was.”
     I scanned the line looking for a parent with a child. I spotted an Asian man and his son. “Can my son stand in line with you?” I asked. “He’s uncomfortable doing this by himself. He was in line and got out.”
     The Asian guy gave me a nasty look. “We all had to wait our turn to get in here,” he said.
     A group of teenagers standing behind the mean man lifted the rope. “He can come stand with us,” a boy said.
     “Thank you!” I said. Tom got in under the rope. “I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. This is Tom.”
     “No problem,” the young man said.
     I shot the mean man a dirty look and watched him squirm.

     “Tom’s in line to get an autograph now,” I texted Golf Guy. I sent a picture of Tom in line proudly holding his copper wristband.

     “Sweet.”

     “Going to a restaurant to watch the 3rd period,” I texted.

     “We are winning 2-0.”

     “Are you a Hawks fan now? Cup is coming to the house.”

Friday, September 14, 2018

Ho Man--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Wednesday, June 19

     Pia and I saddled up and went for a ride in the woods. My text alert dinged.

  “Hey Brenda, sorry to do it but I'm going to have to reschedule tomorrows (sic) session, I have a new evaluation and don't have anywhere else to put him...can we reschedule?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Absolutely.” I sent a picture of Jack's head heading down the trail. Then I thought, absolutely not.

     “Amazing,” Golf Guy texted.

     Amazing you want to keep stringing me along—and my self esteem is so far down the toilet that I’m letting you.

     Pia and I rode for almost three hours then I cleaned up and got ready to meet Randy for dinner.

     “I may be a little late,” Randy texted. “I have my ho and her sista in my room. I like my women very nasty.”

     I stared at my phone repulsed, not knowing how to respond.

     “Alright ho man,” I finally texted. “What time?”

     “I'm kidding!”

     I exited the highway and Randy called. “I’m here,” he said. “I’m in the parking lot. I’ll wait for you here.”
     I spotted Randy right away. He was balder but looked the same. I hopped out and gave him a huge hug. “I think the last time I saw you was ninth grade,” I said.
     “That sounds about right. Damn.”
     We walked into the restaurant. Randy told me his parents were living in Florida, his mother was fatter than ever, he didn’t speak to his parents much, and his brother, Wendall, lived near them.
     “I know you’re friends with Wen on Facebook,” Randy said making a face. “Don’t tell him anything I tell you. He’s got a big mouth. He’s on his third marriage and that’s not going so well. My sister is on her third marriage, too, but she’s doing great. She and I talk a lot. We’re very close.”
     “How are things with your first daughter? You told me your ex poisoned her against you. You talking?”
     “Some, but it’s too little too late. She only calls to tell me how great she’s doing, which is bullshit, and ask for money. She called today. I didn’t call her back.”
     “She’s reaching out. You’ve got an opportunity to get to know her.”
     Randy nodded uncertainly. “You were married a long time. How are you doing?”
     “Better now that we’re divorced. I felt uneasy around JB for a long time. Knew something was off but didn’t know what. I couldn’t kiss him for years. Couldn’t do it.”
     Randy stared at me knowingly and nodded.
     “The Hawks game starts soon,” I said. “Want to watch it down the street at a bar?”
     “You’re okay going to a bar?”
     “I haven’t had a drink in ten years. Yeah.”
     Randy and I walked to a charming old hole-in-the-wall full of locals.
     “Your comment about not being able to kiss JB,” Randy said. “That really hit me. I haven’t been able to kiss my wife in years. I stopped sleeping with her, too. I’m living in the basement.”
     “No.”
     “Yes. It’s bad.”
     “I’m so sorry.”
     “Have you been dating?”
     “If you can call it that,” I laughed. “Are you seeing other women?”
     “I’ve thought about it,” Randy said, looking at me hopefully.
     I squirmed and turned toward the game. The second period ended with the Hawks ahead.
     “I don’t want to keep you out late away from your kids,” Randy said. “Let’s go. Want to get together Sunday? Have dinner one more time before I leave?”
     “I’ll check my calendar when I get home.”
     Randy and I hugged goodbye.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Life Is Fun--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Tuesday, June 18

     Randy and I decided to meet for dinner tomorrow. We picked a place between my house and his hotel then he texted me a photo of a gaudy pickup with giant tires and sparkling rims.

     “You should be able to recognize me when I drive my Hertz rental,” he texted. “Btw, if you have an extra book at the house, I'll buy it providing you sign it.”

     “Excited you’re showing up in that!!! You better take me for a ride. I'll bring a signed copy of my book but you're not buying it.”

     “That car is parked by my hotel at a tire shop,” Randy texted. “Always wanted to feel like a pimp in a 'hood car.”

     “Always wanted to be a bitch in a pimped ride.”

     “Yeah, I see it now: 2 white people in that car and the brothas thinkin it got stolen! Yeah, yo be my bitch, sista.”

     Apparently Randy was the same guy who had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt in grade school. Thank God.

     “How are u,” Golf Guy texted.

      “Good. I did yoga with my client by his pool. It was a gorgeous night. How are you?”

     “I'm good, have been super busy...weather was perfect today. How is your writing going?”

     “Writing is going well.”

      “My boys just left yesterday for 4 weeks of away camp.”

     “Where to?”

     “Timberlane in Wisconsin. And you should never end a sentence with a preposition... You should have asked… ‘where to asshole’"

     “That's good! Hahaha. The boys and I are going to Minocqua. Tom's going to his dad’s when we get back and I'm headed to the Smokies. My friend is taking me to the mountains to meet her shaman then we’re going to her beach house. How cool is that?”

     “Amazing.”

     “Ever see a shaman?”

     “No...I don't even know what that is.”

     “A spiritual guide, healer. Should be interesting. My friend says she’s been getting a lot of signs from hawks.”

     “Sounds great.”

     “Are you being sarcastic?”

     “Not at all.”

    “Life is fun.”

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Father's Day--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Sunday, June 16

     I woke up feeling angry and heartbroken for Blake. The picture of JB standing feet away avoiding him was cemented in my head. I snatched my phone.

     “It's Father's Day,” I texted JB. “You didn't walk over and say hi to Blake last night.

     “I am we’ll (sic) aware it's Father's Day,” JB texted. “You think i didnt (sic) want to say hi to Blake? I was afraid he'd tell me to go to hell. I decided to focus on Tom, it was his night.”

     “Coward.”

     “Ok I was scared of being rejected to my face. And I wish I had said hello. If that makes me a coward, fine, I'm a coward. And please don't mention Father's Day unless its to wish me a sincere happy Father's Day. Otherwise I'd just rather you said nothing. It's a tough enough day for me as it is.”

     I seethed and let my thoughts and feelings tear me up until I decided I didn’t want to waste one more unit of energy on JB and started cleaning the house. At one o’clock, as arranged, Tom walked through the door. I started wondering, why didn’t JB keep Tom all day and spend Father’s Day with him? Did he have a date with some child-free divorcee that took precedence over Tom? I started shaking. I began jumping around hoping to rid myself of my rage and began texting "Happy Father's Day" to my guy friends.

     “Thanks,” Golf Guy texted back. “Maybe I can watch you hit some balls this week at Deerfield.”

     “Cool. What days are good?”

     “So far thurs (sic) looks best.”

     “Got a time preference?”

     “3 or 4?”

     “Three is good. Looking forward to it. The pressure is on. Hope I don't totally suck.”

     “You better not.”

     I started making dinner. My text alert dinged.

     “If I were to ask Blake to meet me to talk would you be willing to encourage him to do so?” JB texted.

     “I've never discouraged it,” I responded. “Good luck with that.”

     “Ok, thanks. Ill (sic) try and see what happens. By the way (sic) for Mother's Day I gave Tom $20 to buy you a card and a gift, which he tells me he did. It would have meant a lot to me if you had returned the favor. This isn't meant as dig (sic) so please don't come back at me with both barrels. I'm just asking for enough of a thawing so we can exchange these basic courtesies. I think we'll all be happier as a result.”

     A short time later, JB texted again. “I texted Blake asking him to meet for coffee on Friday. I know he makes his own decisions, but I do think he'll at least listen to you. If it's in your heart to encourage him to meet me, Id (sic) be grateful. I don't want to be estranged from him for the rest of my life.”

     I walked into Blake’s room. “Your father said he asked you to meet him for coffee.”
     “I’m not going. Why should I?”
     “He feels bad he didn’t come over and talk to you last night. He knows he fucked up.”
     “Yeah, I know. He’s been texting me. I’m not texting him. Did you say something to him? Is that why he’s texting me?”
     “Well,” I said taking a deep breath.
     Blake laughed sarcastically. “Thought so. If he really wanted to talk to me, he’d call. Why doesn’t he pick up the fucking phone?”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Whatever--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Saturday, June 15

     Tom’s band, Gamma Ray, played the youth stage at Libertyville Days, and JB, who had Tom for the weekend, played roadie. Blake and I walked the three blocks from our house to the middle of town for Tom's show and I told Blake, “Don’t be surprised if Dad comes over and talks to you. I'm thinking he will.”
     Blake groaned. “I hope he doesn’t.”
     “Be open to it. See what he has to say. It might be good.”
     “Really?” Blake asked sarcastically. “What could he possibly say that would make things better?”
     “I don’t know. But he’s your father. You’re going to end up talking to him at some point. This may as well be the time.”
     Blake sighed. “Whatever.”
     We continued walking in silence. I glanced at Blake periodically. He appeared to be mulling it over, softening.
     Tom and his band were on stage and Blake and I planted ourselves front and center. I began waving wildly at Tom. Tom waved back and shot us an enormous grin. JB, standing off to the side, was holding up his iPad to record video. Periodically, JB whipped his head in our direction then whipped it back like he wasn’t looking. Our old neighbors, Gerald and Fran, were standing behind Blake and me.
     “Hey,” I said.
     “Hey!” Fran said. “When are you going to Lakeside? We’re going to my friend’s cottage by you again this summer.”
     “We got divorced and JB got the cottage,” I said.
     “No,” Fran gasped. “What happened?”
     I told her.
     “Wow,” Gerald said, shaking his head. He motioned toward Gamma Ray. “Those kids are really good.”
     “You recognize the guitar player?”
     Gerald shook his head.
     “It’s Tom.”
     “Oh my God. Tom. He really grew.”
     “Here’s Blake,” I said, pointing.
     Tom was strutting on stage. He strutted too far and his guitar unplugged from his amp. Bob, an old high school friend of JB’s, rushed over and plugged it in. He walked off the stage and stood next to me.
     “Hey Bob,” I said.
     “Hey!” he said and gave me a big hug.
     Bob had sent me a Facebook message earlier asking for JB’s phone number, which I thought was odd.
     “I’m guessing you know we’re divorced?” I asked Bob.
     “Yeah,” he said, shaking his head. “What the hell happened?”
     “JB was on Ashley Madison the last five years.”
     “Ach,” Bob said, throwing his head back. He squeezed his eyes shut in a pained expression. “Look at you. You’re gorgeous. You dating anyone?”
     “Not really.”
     “I know a lot of nice guys who’d like to meet someone nice,” he said. “I should fix you up.”
     “I might take you up on that.”
     Tom finished his set and I ran on stage and squeezed him. “You were great. You guys sounded fabulous.”
     “Thanks,” Tom beamed.
     “You were great Buddy,” Blake said and high-fived his brother.
     JB, packing up band equipment, was shooting more furtive glances our way. I waited for him to walk over and say hello to Blake, but he never came by. When the last of the band equipment had been carried off, I turned to Blake and said, “Let’s go to Tommy’s, eat dinner, and watch the Hawk’s game on their patio.”
     We silently walked to Tommy’s. Finally, I said, “I’m stunned your dad didn’t come over.”
     “I’m not,” Blake said. “I’m glad he didn’t come over. He’s a pussy.”
     I looked at Blake. I felt like crying but held back the tears. A bouncer was standing on Tommy’s patio not letting anyone in under the age of twenty-one.
     “But I’m his mother,” I said. “He’s not going to drink.”
     “I’d let you in but it's not up to me,” the bouncer said. “I have to ask the owner. He’s probably not going to let me. He’s being really strict with Libertyville Days. But I’ll ask.” He walked off.
     “That’s a first, my mother trying to get me into a bar,” Blake smirked.
     The bouncer reappeared shaking his head.
     “Let’s go to Chili U,” I said.
     Blake and I walked down a few storefronts and somberly ate chili while the Hawks played in the background.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Pussy--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt


Friday, June 14

     I saw Kent at a recovery meeting this morning and mentioned I was playing golf with Blake at Stonewall Orchard in a couple of hours.
     “That course is really hard,” Kent laughed. “It’s beautiful but hard. You’ve barely played. Good luck.”
     “I’ll wear a short skirt,” I laughed. “Stopped me from getting yelled at last time.”
     Kent shook his head and laughed harder.
     I drove home, kicked Blake out of bed, and headed for the golf course. Blake strapped our bags on the cart and drove to the first tee. My text alert dinged. An old grade school friend I hadn’t seen in thirty years was in town. Randy friended me on Facebook years ago and had randomly called days after I'd asked JB to move out. He was living in Wyoming, his first marriage had ended badly, his ex had poisoned their daughter against him, he had two children with his current wife, and that marriage was going great, he said.

     “Hey Brenda!!!!” Randy texted. “I’m in town til (sic) the 24th. Would love to see you!”
     “Love to see you, too,” I texted. “Playing golf with my son now. Maybe dinner the 20th? Gotta go.” I switched my phone off and threw it in my golf bag.

     I was hitting well for a beginner. Made it over some water features. But I was slow. Blake let two parties play through. On the eighteenth hole, as I was lining up a shot on the fairway, an old man yelled,  “Hit the ball! Every single shot!”
     “Shut the fuck up,” Blake shouted back. “Mind your own fucking business.” Blake looked at me. “Really? He yells on the last hole? You’re taking longer than most, but not bad. And you’re making up for it by not being a duffer. I’m reporting him.” Blake flagged down a ranger. “That guy up there is heckling my mom,” he said.
     I wrapped my arm around Blake’s neck and kissed his cheek. “Thanks,” I said. “Thanks for standing up for me. You’ve got balls. Dad wouldn’t have done that.”
     “Dad’s a pussy.”