Grumpy Book Grrrl

a reader and writer

From Amazon, “A collection of 32 poems written by mother and son examining love, family, breakups, mental illness, sexual health, self-confidence, and abuse.” I purchased this to support a friend from Twitter’s #writingcommunity, CJ Landry. I have wanted to read more poetry also and this was a fantastic place to start.

 

I wasn’t disappointed. It’s hard to lay yourself bear for the world to see, and this is an assembly of raw and moving composition that is yearning at times, heart breaking, uncomfortable, raunchy, funny, romantic, and hopeful.

 

From “I’m Saying Goodbye” –

“i will love myself
as much as
my children love me.
as much as i deserve.
and know i deserve it.”

 

From “The Stark White Walls of My Mind” –

“trying to walk through life
but no one moves
out of the way.
guess this is what
invisible
feels like.”

 

From “Tired” –

“you will not touch me
with your creepy fingers.
skin that is dead.
lips that drip falseness.
heart that is stone covered
with plastic love.
don’t play the game with me.
you won’t win.
i’m better at this than you are.
i’m the master of disguise.
i change with every
mood,
shadow,
song,
touch,
kiss,
pain,
scab,
food.”

 

I’m glad I read it.

 

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CJ is a Twitter star, her accomplishments include being a Dumpster Writer, creating #5MinuteAffairs, as well as voicing the Goddess Hera with All in the PantheonYou can also find CJ at her blog.

 

SUPPORT INDIE AUTHORS!

 

 

A few weeks ago, I got word that my application to All in the Pantheon had been approved! The site is a huge collaboration of writers voicing Greek Gods, Goddesses, Muses, and more. The premise is that Zeus called us all back to find jobs in the mortal world and become relevant again. Many had been lost in various revels and journeys, but now it’s time to interact and live amongst you!

 

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Not everyone is pleased about this, and we are a varied bunch, with some innocent and some far from it (looks at Eros). There are warriors, witches, scholars, healers, death, life, love, hate, partying, wisdom, anything you can think of.

 

The scribes are members from Twitter’s writing community. Some of the stories use established mythology and some are embellished a little. It’s a blast, especially when you get to play around with a character because there isn’t a lot of history. Like my goddess, Amphitrite. She is a Nereid and wife/consort of Poseidon, but I get to reinvent her because not a lot was recorded in ancient texts about her.

 

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So I’ve made her a huge flirt, flamboyant, confident, sexy, a partier, willing to push the limits with glee. Basically, she’s my complete opposite! Here is Amphitrite’s Bio page and my FIRST POST was recently published!

 

The Song of Delphine

 

Please check it out if you can. I’m proud of the finished product, and it was my first attempt at a re-telling of a historical myth!

 

I highly recommend following the posts at the site. The scribes are incredibly talented and I am honored to be a part of this wonderful project!

 

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All in the Pantheon links:
Website | TwitterGoodreadsFacebookInstagram

 

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Ah, the money in co-pays I’ve spent this past couple of months just to find out I have a common health condition: Aging. After x-rays, MRIs, and a CT scan, I have been informed I have “degenerative disc disease” (which isn’t an actual disease), and includes bone spurs, a couple of synovial cysts, and other near-incomprehensible terms such as spondylosis. Oh, and apparently, I’ve had scoliosis but no one has ever told me. I guess it’s so common, it’s not worth mentioning (sarcasm).

 

Treatment is – I’m too young for surgery, so physical therapy (and massage therapy if I can pay for it), over the counter pain medication, stretching, perhaps future steroid injections, and just live with it until I can’t function or work or do normal life stuff. I guess this is my introduction to chronic pain.

 

Thankfully, it is bearable. I feel it every day, but I can survive at current pain levels. It causes irritability and depression, but hey. It could be worse, right (sarcasm)? I was told the cause could be genetic or just the luck of the draw. I was in the military and have a sedentary job for almost a decade now. There hasn’t been any major injury that would ring bells. I just seem to have advanced wear and tear on my neck and spine.

 

My symptoms? Weird cracking neck noises, headaches, numbness in arms and hands occasionally, pain in upper thighs, lower back pain. Sometimes I am in pain after grocery shopping and now I know why I hurt so bad when flying because to stay in one position for long periods of time is triggering. At work, if I am standing in one spot and talking to co-workers for even fifteen minutes, my lower back starts to hurt.

 

It’s kind of depressing to know that I have a condition that is painful, but not painful *enough* to do anything about! It feels so typical of my general life vibe, though.

 

Anyone else have this? Back pain is supposedly the second most common issue people go to doctors for outside the common cold!

 

 

This is a collection of short stories by the creator of Ok2BeFat that comes with trigger warnings. Spacesuits contains multiple important ideas that are stated wonderfully. As a fat person myself, I understand exactly what it feels like to be invisible, yet feel very visible at the same time. Society frowns upon fat, looks down their nose at its untidy existence, makes jokes, points fingers, yet you are dismissed as sexless and undesirable, overlooked.

 

The author mentions Wall-E, the cartoon about a futuristic Earth where humans left because the planet was poisoned. We eventually see that all the remaining humans became fat and can’t even bother to lift a finger or walk anywhere, and are shuffled around on hovering easy chairs. I remember this being a great joke to those around me, but I also remember thinking, that’s messed up.

 

The author also asks where are the fat girls in Star Trek. As someone who adores the franchise, I can only assume, as does the author, that the future has cured fat and it would be “solved.”

 

“These stories are born of my rage and frustration and terror.”

“A culture that wishes us erased from existence is a choking poison that I am forced to breathe every single day.”

 

NOTHING LEFT TO BURN

This is a story about a future where being short is desirable and a beauty expectation. Operations, exercise equipment, a strict nutritional regimen, are ways those growing taller can force their unruly bodies to conform.

 

I’M NOT SORRY

This is a disturbing story where people who refuse to “conform” to BMI standards are given the worst jobs and are not considered citizens. People are pressured to “volunteer” to be implanted with devices that monitor their steps, what they eat, what stores they go into.

 

WE SHALL ALL BE HEALED, AT LAST, AT LAST 

In this futuristic story, a character is part of an underground that helps other people who are not BMI approved. The main character has been implanted with a device that ruined their taste buds and controlled their lungs when they were anxious.

 

There is great LGBTQIA rep. I think this is an important addition to feminist and fat activism literature. It is a short and quick read that packs a punch. I hope the author continues writing. I will buy and read for sure!

 

You can find the author at Twitter, at her website, or at her YouTube channel.

Gorgeous cover by Jen Lightfoot.

 

I’ve dragged myself to therapy every other week since about July of this year? Use of the word dragged might indicate a poor attitude on my part from the get-go, but I have enjoyed it. Is that the problem? I have this idea that in order to receive that almost-mythical “breakthrough,” you need to be crying, uncomfortable, way out of your comfort zone, etc. I never get there.

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I’ve seen several therapists over the last decade, and it’s partially helpful. However, I feel like any epiphanies or revelations I’ve had happened on my own. (Honestly, I’ve had more “wow” moments listening to celebrity podcasts.) Recently, I’ve discovered a lot of my issues stem from shame, and I experience the need for control, but it’s from a fear of losing control over my emotions (I could care less if an alpha is in the room and wants to make all the decisions).

 

Every time I see a counselor, I pay thirty dollars for a co-pay and we have a very nice and safe discussion about how my life is going and how I feel about anything stressful or emotional that has happened since the last time. What do I know and is commonly discussed?

 

  1. I am unhappy with my job. My job is a good one and stable, but brings me no joy or passion.
  2.  Sometimes I have family issues that stress me out.
  3.  I feel unlovable and have self-esteem issues and an unhealthy body image.
  4.  I yearn to be creative and have issues with that.
  5.  I need to be more social.
  6.  I feel invisible.
  7.  My main triggers are driving, being around large groups of people, my Mom, my daughter’s father, multiple on-the-spot decision-making, hearing Trump’s voice.

 

There are other items, but the same ones crop up repeatedly. We discuss ways to identify negative thoughts (mood journals or CBT-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), ways to be positive like keeping a gratitude journal, and taking a mood “check” several times a day. These are all great exercises, but I feel like I could do an internet search and come up with this on my own? Is it just me?

 

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I also found out recently that I have arthritis in my neck and either a bone spur or calcified cyst in my lumbar spine. I basically have the back of someone older than me. I even have an appointment with an orthopedic doctor tomorrow. Yeah, I know arthritis is very common, but apparently, I have a lot more of it. I guess the desk job finally caught up with me? I guess my fat (yet flat) butt finally caught up with me?

 

I’ve been going to physical therapy (only recently since I found out). I’ve learned some great stretching exercises, but again, I feel like I could have looked this up on the internet.

Here we go. I actually learned some of these exact ones, only instead of “mid-trap exercise,” it’s a modified Cobra.

 

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Not to mention that all of these $30 co-pays add up like a crazy mofo. Who can afford mental OR physical therapy?! Health care sucks in America. I don’t care what people say. I have it, but I can only use it when my kid gets sick!

 

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I’m not this super-enlightened person, and I realize my issues make me selfish in that I am inside my head, ruminating over my perceptions and problems. I just kinda wish that therapy felt more productive and insightful (just like my blogs about mental health-illness should be, right???).

 

Eh.

Cluster is about Abra Collins, a young woman who journeys through life. Her father is abusive and she learns the heartache of death early. Her sister Gwen, and best friend Neal, supports her through transitioning (she is transgender). She meets a professor at college who becomes a dear friend. She is able to open her dream business, named Cluster.

 

I loved this store! It’s something I would want to run; part coffee shop and music venue, part seller of memorabilia and nostalgic toys and figurines. The setting reminds me a bit of Empire Records or one of those coming of age stories where people hang out and play video games, listen to music, and discuss random fun topics.

 

Plus, Abra runs it with her best friends. Despite the trauma Abra has lived through, she lives a pretty happy life, until a harsh lesson begins to unfold. The one that dictates people move on and change, and evolution as a human will happen, whether you want it to or not.

 

Some life lessons pull Abra along, kicking and screaming (and often are overlooked in denial until they explode). The book is about acceptance, friendship, making your own family, letting go, and many other themes, including feminism, and LGBTQ+ issues.

 

I really liked Calli, Abra’s on and off manic girlfriend. I liked how their relationship evolved and they stuck together even through tough times (which include mental illness).

 

I got involved with all the characters and felt the author did a great job with emotionally writing the cast. Gwen, Olivia, and Calli were my favorites. Abra goes through a LOT. It was pretty realistic with a HEA that is flawed (realistically imperfect) and yearning, yet fulfilling.

 

This was a great debut by an indie author, and I quite enjoyed it. If you are looking for a book that highlights the LGBTQ+ community and features a transgender (she/her) protagonist (or might not be, but want to understand more), you should really read this! Great rep.

 

I found out about this author through the awesome writing community on Twitter. You can purchase Cluster here. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited.

When I was five years old, we began going to a Pentecostal church as a family. This continued, much to my utter dismay and gnashing of teeth, until I was nineteen, and fled the state to go live in New York City with my best friend, who had received an inheritance and decided to invite me along. I didn’t have to pay rent for a year, but that’s another chapter.

 

As a young child, I had no issues with church. I went to Sunday School and colored Bible scenes like Noah and his animals filing into the Ark, Moses with the Ten Commandments, and Jesus nailed on the cross, impaled by a spear in his gut. You know, family friendly Christian stuff.

 

One day, my Aunt was watching me at home, and I was in my room, playing “Bible.” I had taken off my shirt and put a vest on because I thought that was how people might have dressed back then. My Aunt walked in on me and saw me with no shirt on and started ranting at me. “What are you doing? Why is your shirt off?” I was dumbfounded. But her response closed me up tight, and I refused to offer her the simple explanation and truth.

 

It was something so innocent, but she made me feel guilt and shame. I was punished by having to remain in my room. I sobbed so hard and long that it made me vomit, and I was sick that night. I refused to tell my Mom what had happened and so everyone thought I was “wrong” of doing something, but what? This is how suppression and shame can cycle through extremely conservative religions. The adults in my life cared, but they certainly weren’t progressive.

 

As I grew older, I started getting a little feisty and mouthy, asking questions. Things started to sound fishy to me and when I asked questions, I was never fully satisfied with the memorized, canned responses. “Well, when you get to Heaven, you can ask God all the questions you want.”

 

I remember one young preacher’s sermon where his argument consisted of, “What can it hurt to just be saved and live a godly life? If it turns out there is no God or heaven, then you won’t have lost anything.” Yeah, except a whole life I could have spent having pre-marital sex, drinking booze, watching rated-R movies, getting tattoos, and saying fuck whenever I wanted to.

 

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I remember going to the beach and all the women wore long denim skirts, wading right in the water. Female Pentecostals, at least the members of the church I went to, did not wear pants or shorts, makeup or jewelry. They grew their hair out long and mostly kept it up in matronly buns. Your average sixteen-year-old looked thirty. Hey, I’m not judging (except maybe a little, I’m working on it), and I write this with humor in mind. I went through the phase and tried to adapt to this lifestyle. I was not an attractive teenager by any means.

 

My mother once wore culottes to a Saturday family volleyball event, and an elder came up to her privately and asked that she not wear them again. This same man married a fourteen-year-old when he was twenty-four in the early 1900s and started putting babies in her belly until twelve or fourteen came out. Priorities. I asked about it, and the response was, “Well, that’s just how it was done in those days.”

 

I had a crush on a young man who would go on to be a preacher. Once, at a church gathering in Tennessee (or some Southern state I can’t remember with certainty), I had stayed with his older sister at a long-forgotten person’s house for a week, even offering to iron his shirts because that’s what good women do for men, right?

 

During this revival camp he informed me, in front of several people, that he knew I liked him, but he liked petite girls. Another time during that week, I debated with him about sex, and he insisted missionary style was the only godly position, and he would never have any other kind of sex. He met a fourteen-year-old girl there and claimed he would talk her father into allowing her to marry him by the time she was sixteen. They have about seven or eight kids now. Two examples don’t make a pattern necessarily, but still – those Pentecostal men.

 

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Ironically, I once made an unconfirmed deal with the devil, in the shower (what other mischief was I up to in there?), that I would give him my soul if I could just marry this charming fellow (this was before the “I like petite girls” revelation). I think the devil knew I would make a miserable preacher’s wife, and as such, declined my offer. Talk about dodging a bullet. Thanks, Satan?

 

During church services, the congregation was often screamed at and threatened with fire and brimstone. In the bathrooms, Chick tracts were left on the toilet lids, just waiting to terrify any innocent person who happened to pick them up. I read several and they included scenes like a woman on LSD screaming in the mirror, “My face is melting” and horrified tiny humans standing before old man god on the throne being judged for their sins, while Satan waited hungrily, ready to take them to his pits where they could be tortured for an eternity.

 

Often, a person would stand up during the service and start speaking in tongues. It sounds like gibberish but is supposed to be a special language that might be angelic or unknown to humans and has a fifty-cent word assigned to it: glossolalia. Inevitably, after the person relayed the mystical message, another member would stand and give an interpretation in English. Sometimes, if a revival meeting got really exciting, someone would faint or dance in the spirit. The Holy Spirit. They just fell down, conveniently falling in a manner which caused no injury. It was typically a female, for whatever reason, and there were blankets tucked in the front pews just for this occasion, and another sister would place the blanket over her legs. I’m not sure if this was for modesty or to symbolically keep the Holy Spirit in the worshipper as long as possible.

 

Once I became a teenager, I remember being consumed with boredom and indignation at having to be there and would stare bloody daggers at the pastor because he would just go on and on, running well over the sensible noon-ish cutoff period. I would glare at him while trying to write dark, gothic poetry in my mind. (This was after I discovered goth music and clubbing.)

 

My first concert was Amy Grant and a lot of the congregation thought she was too secular.

 

When I was about twelve, my parents found another youth group at a non-denominational Christian church that my brothers and I started going to, supplementing our mandatory religious experience. I actually did meet some nice kids there. This was when The Monkees had their first reunion, and I devoured their music and the TV show with a girl there.

 

We went to camp once in Tennessee, and I refused to go rappelling because I was self-conscious about my weight. The youth leader convinced me to hike up a mountain with everyone and there was a spot where they had to pull people up over rocks. It was mortifying. There also happened to be a pile of human shit nearby. A random hiker just popped a squat, not even bothering to try and tuck that odorous package away somewhere off to the side.

 

That, combined with the trauma of having my large teenage body handled by men, made for a truly fun-filled adventure. We also had a camp fire where I burned my Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and Ratt cassette tapes because I was shamed and scared into believing they were demonic. Good times.

 

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Ironically, I went home with a girl from the Pentecostal church when I was no older than twelve. She introduced me to shop-lifting which was how I acquired those hair metal band tapes. She also took two marijuana joints from her brother’s closet, and we smoked them, got high, and laughed our asses off in the back of her mother’s car.

 

I ate dinner with them, and the main course was alligator tail. It tasted a bit swampy with a hint of chicken. One other fun fact from that period: this girl and I were walking around her neighborhood (before the marijuana) and a guy pulled up in a car. His window was down, and he leaned over and asked, “Do you girls know where Cherry Street is?” We both seemed to notice his flaccid penis hanging out of his pants at about the same time and ran off screaming, “Gross!”

 

So, the formative years of my life were filled with a religion that shamed and intimidated me. Things didn’t add up; I knew I didn’t belong, but I wasn’t certain that I wouldn’t end up in hell, burning for an eternity if I wasn’t a good enough Christian. Praying to Jesus felt weird. I was the sort to offer up fervent prayers when I needed help. Like, “Please God, don’t let my parents find those Stephen King novels in my closet.” Or those Duran Duran tapes hidden under my mattress.

 

When we weren’t in church, and at home, we wore pants and shorts and bathing suits. My parents weren’t quite as hardcore as most of the others, but even watching PG-rated movies with curse words or crude jokes got the inevitable sidebar comments from Mom and Dad about how Hollywood just couldn’t resist adding those offensive bits in.

 

In case you weren’t aware of The Hollywood Agenda (according to conservative religious Republicans) – it’s all about making everyone gay, godless scoundrels who growl “God Dammit” every other breath, while fornicating with a cigarette in their mouth and a drink in one hand. Off-camera, they believe the actors spend all their time on social media convincing young women to murder unborn babies in a secret bid for population control and to convince the poor and minorities to vote Democrat so they can not bother to work and live off the Government.

 

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It’s safe to say I ended up with issues in my twenties due to religious indoctrination. I know my parents intended well, and they agree now that they went overboard in their misguided and inexperienced youthful parenting. We can’t go back in time and we can’t blame our parents for our issues as adults. But it did leave some issues sealed deep enough that I needed at least a decade to unravel. Perhaps I am still unpeeling the layers.

 

© Shelly Teems 2019

 

Photos from Pixabay

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