Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I am not a PSA.

I recently encountered a well-intentioned friend who used me to make a point (albeit a relevant one) of female empowerment and self acceptance to her daughter, and guess what?

It sucked.

Now.......I'm all for female empowerment and self acceptance. Teach your daughters to love the body they're in. Teach them never to take subpar treatment from anyone. Teach them that they can do anything in the world, that they just have to put their mind to it. Hell, you can even teach them that beauty, true beauty, comes from within.

But, don't use me to make that point.

Not right now, anyway.

Now, I have to preface this with: this friend meant no harm. She's a pretty great person, and like most people, would never say something offensive on purpose. Nobody ever means to do harm when they say well-intented things. But alas, sometimes the best of intentions fly like a fart in church. And that's what happened to me. Only, surprisingly enough, it wasn't me farting this time. Shocking, I know.

Just call me Svetlana.

So I walked into my children's school with a new wig on. I'd won it in a contest, it was long, dark, and glamorous. I was told that when I wore it, I looked like a Russian assassin. I felt very sexy and pretty and beautiful and confident while I wore this wig...all feelings that elude me because of my hair loss. Bottom line: I feel like **** about myself all the time these days. It never lets up.

This is a picture of what a REAL Russian assassin looks like. Or what one looks like in my mind. Hint: I do not look like this. At all.

You see, Alopecia does something to a woman, whether you fight against the feelings or not. Whether you had infinite amounts of self confidence prior, whether you say that you'll never succumb to the self loathing Alopecia creates.... in the end, you will. It's part of the process. Alopecia strips you of every ounce of confidence you have, your physical identity, your self image, your self worth, your sexuality, your personality.....and you, the victim, are forced to rebuild it all, brick by brick. You have to find out who you are internally, without the facade, and what version of yourself you want to present to the world. You have to grasp that you're still a woman, despite not having your "crowning glory." You have to find acceptance within yourself, and with your partner--and you have to find some way (and so help me, GOSH, it's so much more difficult than it sounds) to believe them when they tell you you're attractive.

I have said it a thousand times, and I will say it again: it is infinitely more difficult to cope with the emotional repercussions of Alopecia, than the physical. Sure, the physical repercussions SUCK. Hard. The itching, the twinging. Ugh. The other day I had a scalp spasm that was so awful, I nearly peeled off my wig in PUBLIC at my children's school to find relief, I actually sweated through my shirt (it was cold that day, too) AND I started to cry. And anybody who knows me knows how out of character that is.

I'm told all the time "It's just hair." And honestly, I say that to friends often. "Don't feel sorry for me, it's just hair." But, inside my brain and heart, I feel completely different. And I've found that usually the people who claim dealing with the emotional side of hair loss isn't that difficult, are people who have likely never experienced hair loss. And no, I'm not talking about shaving your head in the 90's to prove how "non-conformist" and "feminist" you are. I loathe the videos on YouTube of the hipster millenials who are shaving their heads to free themselves. Get over yourself. You aren't brave until your hair is taken against your will.

I'm trying to learn how to rebuild my confidence now. How to present myself to the world without feeling broken or flawed. I've learned that wigs help. Some women prefer to rock their bald heads. Me, not so much. I feel naked and vulnerable. And as someone who struggled with weight issues for most of her adult life, having no hair makes me feel frumpy and overweight and uneven. When I have a long, glamorous wig on, I feel undeniably safer, more protected. My vulnerability isn't as glaringly obvious as it would be if I were walking around hair-free. That doesn't mean that's the road everybody else should take, it's just the right road for me. Having lots of wigs and trying lots of new looks helps me. Makes me feel powerful in a powerless situation.

But, I digress...

So this woman (who knows I have hair loss and wear wigs, as I am very open about it) spotted me in my new hair, and complimented me on it. She was really sweet and I was very appreciative. (Like I said, she's a good person) So, I said, "Thanks! I love the long hair. It makes me feel beautiful." I said that because it's true. When I wear short wigs, I feel boring, frumpy, and old. And since my bio hair was never very healthy, and was always translucent and wispy, it never grew past my chin. Wigs gives me a look I was never able to achieve, even before Alopecia. Long hair makes me feel feminine and pretty, and (to me) feeling feminine and pretty is important--especially now that I have been stripped of what 99% of the world considers a woman's "crowning glory."

The friend smiled and said, "That's good." And I thought the exchange was over, but then the PSA happened. (Makes me cringe thinking about it.) She turned to her daughter, who is, probably around 10 or 11, put her arm around her, and announced in a voice loud enough for both the daughter and I to hear, as well as anyone else around, that "It's good that Mrs. Moss feels beautiful, but what we all know is that real beauty comes from within, and that she's beautiful on the inside. That's what really matters."

I know it wasn't intended as a backhanded compliment, I am.

I smiled at this sweet little girl who was staring at me curiously, probably wondering what I looked like underneath my hair, because that's what kids usually want to know. I nodded in agreement with her mother (who was I to argue with the woman? It's not like she was saying something bad! She was right. Beauty does come from within.) Then, I briskly walked away, and went down another hall to have a good cry. And, if I'm being honest, I've spent the last few weeks rehashing that moment in my mind. Because that's what I do. I rehash things. I overanalyze stuff. Its a curse.'s not lost on me that the point she was trying to make was poignant. AND...very kind. True beauty, the beauty God sees in us, and the beauty we should be seeking in others, is that which comes from within. This I know. As a Christian, and a decent human being, I try to remember this often.

However, making me the example for a "life lesson" moment with a kid, literally while I was standing there smiling like a moron, was painful. Imagine what I looked like a few years ago, when I was overweight....

What if someone had said to their child, "Now, see? It's good that Mrs. Moss feels so good about herself, despite how fat she is. Because we all know that true beauty comes from within, and it doesn't matter whether a person is skinny or fat."

I would've been mortified.

However, in this day and age of fat-shaming and "loving the body you're in", I don't imagine that would've been said. At least, not right in front of me. Most people would've had the forethought to save that "life lesson moment" for a time when I wasn't present. But because I've chosen to be open and transparent about my hair loss and wig wearing, I've opened myself up to unwarranted criticism and unsolicited opinions. People give their opinions, even when I haven't asked for them; and they aren't afraid to be honest. Which is good....but also sort of bad.

In a way, I've shot myself in the foot by opening myself up, and telling people up front that I have a shaved head and bald spots. In the same way that a celebrity opens their life up to the world simply by starring in TV shows and movies, they open themselves up to the criticism of the world, the opinions of the peons, and the paparazzi hounding them night and day. Or at least that's what we (the said peons) say, right? They deserve it! They're the ones who became movie stars! It seems I have done that to myself: I'm the one who told everyone that I have hair loss and wear wigs, therefore, I have opened myself up to everyone's opinions about said hair loss, my choice of wigs, and (inevitably) my treatment options.

***Now, I have to clarify, I am not a celebrity. The only thing Angelina Jolie and I have in common is a giant family and (what I am assuming to be) a very expensive grocery bill.***

But, in openly sharing my journey with my friends, family, and readers, it seems I have automatically made myself painfully vulnerable. I've basically (inadvertently) told the world: tell me exactly what you think about me, my choices, my illness, my health, my life, and my freaking hair, without one thought to how it is received. People don't consider what it feels like to be told "I don't like that wig. You should go back to the other." or "Why wear wigs at all? You should rock the bald look. That's what I would do." or "I think wig wearing sounds fun! I wish I could do it!" (Spoiler alert: it isn't fun when it's happening against your will, and you, too, can wear wigs whenever you want to. They're not available by prescription only.)

If I'm being honest, I freaking hate it when people offer their unsolicited opinions. If I ask, then that's another thing. But just offering your thoughts on my hair? *shudder* Stop it. Just stop.

This "PSA moment" with a friend is not the first time someone has said this (or something similar) to me. In fact, since "coming out" to my expat friends here in South Korea (about my hair loss and wig wearing) I've heard it all:

Oh, I have hair issues, too, so I can totally relate. My hair grows slower on this side, than the other, so I am practically bald, too. I'm forced to wear it short! 

For what feels like the 387th time...never compare your hair GROWTH to a person's hair LOSS. This is bad form. Don't do it. It's thoughtless and tacky. And will inevitably make the bald chick feel like crap every single time.

Or My grandma used to wear tons of wigs, and we loved trying them on as a kid. I wish I could wear wigs. I think it would be so fun! Trust me, ladies, I used to say the same thing, until my hair actually fell out, and I was forced to wear wigs. That is a horse of a different color. Once you lose your hair against your will, living like Kim Zolziak no longer looks like fun.

Then there's the all-offensive: Did you see there is a new hair loss clinic on such-and-such road (South Korea is the most beauty obsessed place I've ever known, so there are hair loss clinics everywhere!) Why don't you go try their products? Or get hair replacement? Why don't you do something about it? If it were ME, I would at least do something!

Mother of pearl, I hate that comment. "If it were me, I would do it" Of course you would! Just like I used to say I would love to have a closet of wigs. Well, fate has an interesting way of shutting people up. And it shut me up by making my hair fall out. 

It's not you going through this. It's me. It's MEEEEEE. It's not you. If it were you, you could do whatever you wanted, but it's me. And the truth is, if it were you, you might change your tune. Suddenly expensive shampoos and onion juice and needles in the scalp don't feel so beneficial, do they? Suddenly wasting precious money on ineffective treatments feels frivolous and excessive. But you never believe it, until you're going through it.

I don't use hair replacement centers, because my hair loss has no real pattern. It falls out, grows back, falls out in a new spot, grows back, and so on and so forth. Bottom line is: If I replaced the hair in my current bald spots, the likelihood is it would fall out in another spot within 6 months, thus making my time, discomfort, and money go to waste. Not to mention that these treatments are overpriced, not terribly effective, often boast hyper-exaggerated results, and many times will involve painful shots.

Yeah. Needles in your scalp. And not just a few. We're talking 5 to 10 shots of steroids in EACH bald spot, to be repeated every month or so for a 6 to 10 month cycle.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in putting myself through that for what will most likely be little to no results. I want things like a new house, and vacations with my family, and to live debt-free...and spending my money on BS Witch Doctor hair loss treatments seems like a waste of money. Call me crazy, but I think the fact that I am a relatively healthy woman is cause for celebration, and that if hair loss is my one health issue right now, I should be celebrating.

This is how I feel when people mention hair restoration clinics.
Seriously? Does ANYBODY know how alopecia works?

Back to my original point: I've heard different variations of the same sentiment at least twenty times. Though I can't quote them all verbatim, they're all generally the same, and they go something like this:

"Yes, you look pretty in your wig, but what really matters is that's you're pretty on the inside."

Good. Great. I couldn't agree more. Truly, these words couldn't be more correct, than if God himself had uttered them. Maybe He has. It would suck to be as gorgeous as Kate Middleton, but be icky and gross on the inside like Saddam Hussein. I wouldn't want that.

But...that doesn't mean I want to walk around looking like I fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch down! That's not to say that's how ALL bald women look (because that's simply not the case--some women with Alopecia are stunning. I happen to not be one of those women.) But ugly is how I feel right now. When I look in the mirror, I am literally filled with disdain.

And frankly, I don't feel like exploiting that feeling just for the sake of placating everyone else's need to spout "bumper sticker" slogans at me all the time!

Fact: I swear, people say these condescending "positive affirmations" to me,  not to make me feel good, but so that they can feel better and more confident about THEIR own response to MY hair loss. That way they can pat themselves on the back for being a good friend.

Stitch that on a pillow, because I just preached the Gospel. PRAISE THE LAWD.

Again, I must state that most people who say these things to me mean no harm. It's just that you don't really "get it" until you're living it. This is fact. This is why now that I'm thin(ner) I never make cracks about someone's size. It wasn't until I experienced life as a morbidly obese woman AND a thin woman that I realized how much my jokes about "skinny b*tches" hurt.) Nobody can expect a person who has a full head of perfectly healthy hair to understand why their "positive affirmations" sting to the girl with no hair.

I'm sorry. I have no interest in being a poster child for Alopecia. I don't want to bear my bald head proudly, daring people to judge me, and rudely reminding them that my beauty comes from within. I don't want the role of advocate. I have no interest in being the face of positive self acceptance. I have a hard enough time accepting myself as it is, adding the pressure of being an advocate for empowerment is too much for me! I'm barely hanging on here, folks!

I'm not that person. I'm just a chick with Alopecia who is trying (desperately) to find her footing after it was washed out from underneath me. I'm not "there" yet. Don't put me on some sort of pedestal to make yourself feel better about my ailment.

But here's the (real) rub.......

The absolute worst part of being told/reminded/lectured that "true beauty comes from within," is that it is often said by women who, they themselves, look fantastic.

They are dressed nicely--and in this city, they're usually wearing designer clothes on their perfect bodies with red bottoms on their shoes, and a Coach or Givenchy purse slung over their shoulder. They have faces painted up perfectly with expertly applied  department store makeup that costs 5 to 10 times more than my cheap Maybelline or Cover Girl. The often bear white, orthodontically straightened teeth that are surrounded by Botox smoothed skin and silicone pooched lips. They often have manicured nails, and if I could see into those Manolo shoes, I'd see that they have matching pedicures--in gel, of course, which costs twice as much, but last twice as long! (<<<<Do detect the note of sarcasm there)

And--here's the clincher--they often have full heads of their own bio hair. Lush, curly, shiny, straight, long, short, highlighted, straightened, happy healthy hair spouting from their very own follicles. Not cool.

When someone, who is lovely and looks like they (clearly) put a considerable amount of effort into their own outward appearance tells you that "true beauty comes from within" comes across as condescending and patronizing.


Again, nobody means to do this......but alas, it happens. Just like when I used to make "skinny b*tch" jokes all the time. It was mean! It wasn't intended as mean....but it was.

Who likes being patronized? I don't think anyone enjoys that. Especially when your self confidence is hanging by a freaking thread, and you're convinced everyone around you is laughing behind your back. Nobody likes to feel like someone is pitying them. And nobody wants to be made into a PSA about women's self acceptance or empowerment when they themselves are still trying to muck their way through the emotional war their body has decided to thrust upon them.

Geez, man. Just wait until I am out of earshot to have your ABC After-School Special/A Very Special Episode of Blossom moment with your kid. Because when it is deliberately said in front of me, at full volume, the only thing that I'm thinking is that you want me--and everyone else around--to hear how kind and accepting you are.

Besides...there is something else that all the girls in the world should understand, and I feel really strongly about this: it's okay to want to be beautiful.

They shouldn't have to be beautiful for a boy, or for a job, or for enough "likes" on Instagram that she "breaks the internet." (IMHO, that's not empowerment, that narcissism and a skewered sense of self value wrapped up in their sexuality...but that's a blog for another time.)

But if a woman wants to feel pretty and beautiful so that she can like what she sees when she looks in the mirror, and so that she can face the world with confidence, then by all means, do what you've got to do! Whether it's by dressing modestly, or showing more skin. Whether it's with a blank face, or covered in cosmetics. Whether it's in Converse or five inch heels. Whether it's in Victoria's Secret or Hanes. Whether it's walking around with long Russian assassin hair or going Kojak bald. Whatever makes HER feel good about herself, that's what she should do.

There is no shame in wanting to feel beautiful, and I'm sick to death of the pseudo-feminists of the world making women feel like it's something to be ashamed of!

I guess the moral of the story is, I need to wear whatever freaking wig I want, and stop explaining to people why I chose what I chose. No more telling people that long wigs make me feel pretty. No more explaining that I have alopecia and that's why I'm wearing fake hair. No more "coming out" to the people I meet. I need to wear whatever I want to wear, and let everyone scratch their heads in confusion when I go from blonde to redhead to Russian assassin hair all in the space of a week. No more admitting to these people--who clearly do not get it, and likely never will--why I am doing what I'm doing, and why I make the choices I make. It's no longer their business. It's mine. And I'm done explaining my business to other people. I am not the face of your PSA, world. Choose someone else. Someone less broken.

My transparency is a blessing and a curse at times...and right now, it feels like a curse.

Le sigh...


Sunday, April 17, 2016


A few days ago, I packed away my "Buggy ring." This ring is a gorgeous peridot ring surrounded by sparkly rings of diamond chips. My husband bought it for me after we lost our daughter (read all about that hellish nightmare here, here, and here. Oh, a little bit here, too.) and I've been wearing it loyally for the last (almost) two years.

I love it. It reminds me of my Little Bug, who clearly has an August birthday, who is now 4 and a half. She is likely running around wild and free somewhere across the city from the house where I loved her, and rocked her, and made her mine. She's probably feisty, ornery, and judging by the home she's being raised in, she's likely on her way to repeating all of the mistakes her bio parents made in their youth--because that's what happens when kids are put back into the homes of their abusive parents. They repeat the patterns. We had hoped to break the cycle, but God had other plans. So here we are.

She probably has no recollection of the year she spent with us, but I remember it. All of it. And for two and a half years, it has haunted me like a ghost following me from room to room, reminding me not to celebrate too much, laugh too hard, or smile to brightly, because that might somehow take away from the tragedy that the whole experience was. Now, as a smart woman, I know this isn't true. What happened happened, and nobody can take that away. But still...that damned ghost continues to haunt me, and a ****ing hate it! It's like walking around with a weight tied around my ankles. I can move, but not too freely. I can do things, but not with full enjoyment.

So I decided over the holidays that I was going to take some steps. Not big ones, per say, because it's taken me two years to get to this step, so bear with me, but I made the decision that I was going to start making small changes to eliminate that weight tied to my ankle. Which is why I cleaned my ring, told it goodbye, and put it deep into my jewelry box for safekeeping. And later this week, when nobody is around, I'm going to remove her picture from our china hutch, wrap it in some tissue paper, and pack it away. Not because I don't want it anymore, but because I am sick to death of seeing it every single day.

Now, I probably wouldn't feel this way if I'd lost her to death. If that were the case, I would likely keep her things in my home forever, as a homage to the daughter I want to remember forever. But that's not the case here. The truth is--and my husband wholeheartedly disagrees, for the record--I do not want to remember Liyah any more. I do not want to think about her. I do not want to have that moment, every ***damned day of my life, literally, where I think about her. Wonder how she is. Wonder if she remembers me. And pray that she's okay. I don't want to have that instinct to Facebook stalk her trashy bio family, scouring the internet for updated pictures of the little girl who was mine, but not really. I don't want to think about the good times, the bad times, the in-between times, the late times, the early times, or any other times we had with her at all.

I'm tired. I'm almost 40, and I'm hella tired. I feel older than I am, and I feel more bitter than I should be. I hate getting advice on getting over grief from people who have never lost a child, but I resent them for not knowing the gravity of what loving Bug meant to me. I loathe the child protective services and all their employees, but feel endless gratitude for all of the foster families working so hard to love kids their own damn parents couldn't be bothered to love. I want to bring Liyah up in conversation, then once I have, I immediately want to kick my own butt, because I really don't want to talk about it at all.

I'm not dumb. I know she doesn't remember me. And in all honesty, that's how it should be. I don't want her to remember me, because then she'll grow up resenting the parents she does have, because nobody, and by God, I mean nobody, could ever love that kid the way I did. Honestly, there are days when I legitimately wish I could Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind her right out of my brain. My husband says he would never do that. That his memories of her are some of his most precious. But me? Nope. Take 'em. Every last one.

And so the ring got put away.

Maybe someday I'll wear it again. Or give it to my daughter. Maybe someday I'll be buried in it, since God knows Liyah's will likely be one of my last thoughts that go through my mind before I die. But for now, I am pleased that it is gone. I can't look at it anymore. And that photograph--the one I have been dragging around from Spokane, Washington, to Songdo, South Korea--will be packed away next. My family will probably resent me for doing it. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I'm the one who lost their grip on reality when she was taken away, and I think that affords me some liberty. We'll see.

I feel okay. I mean, I feel bitter, but I always feel bitter. But I feel good about "Sunshining" these items from my life. Onward, and upward, and all that crap, right?


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Excerpt time!

Candace wasn't looking for love...and then love moved in next door...

I stopped with my hand hovering over the door handle, and peeked over my shoulder. My new neighbor stood at the end of my front walk. No shirt on. Just pajama pants and a sleepy smile. His dark hair was cropped close to his head, and a five o’clock shadow—maybe his first one, judging by his baby face—peppered his skin as he squinted at me in the morning sunlight.

Good gracious, he’s a tasty treat.

“Yes.” I averted my eyes from his bodacious chest. “Well, you know how mother-in-laws are.”

What a stupid thing to say. Of course he didn’t. He was barely old enough to buy beer, let alone marry someone.

He chuckled. “Uh, okay. So… you okay?”

My eyes rolled back up to his face. His mouth still held the polite smile, but his brows pinched together. Was this kid always such a boy scout?

“I’ll be fine.” I wrapped my arms around myself. Did I put on a bra before walking the kids to Mama Chang’s car? Feeling the telltale bumps under my arms, I sighed. I had. “After about an hour more sleep, and a pot off coffee, I will anyway.”

He nodded, and recognition flickered in my mind. Wait, had he delivered my newspaper last summer? No. That wasn’t it. Did he bag my groceries at the store yesterday? No. Not it, either.

“Don’t let her get you down.” His face split into a grin, wide and childlike. His hands went to his hips, accentuating the “v” of his pelvic muscles going down into the waistband of his pajamas. I wasn’t sure whether to walk over and ruffle his hair, or wrap myself around his leg like a dog in heat. “I think you have every right to date if you want to.”

“Oh, thank you.” I started to walk away, then stopped. “Wait. Uh, what?”

He gestured down the cul-de-sac. “Sounded like she was your husband’s mother. Right?” 

When I nodded, he added, “And your husband is deceased, right?”

“Yes.” My voice cracked, so I cleared my throat. “Yes, he is.”

He nodded solemnly. “So then—”

“Wait.” I held up a hand and narrowed my eyes. “How did you know my husband died?”

A strange expression flashed across my neighbor’s face, and for a second it looked like he was going to say something. Then the garage of the house on the other side of mine creaked to life. Out waddled Mr. Hopper—who’d had a hip replacement three months earlier, and carried the pictures of his stitches on his cell phone to prove it—with his garbage can in tow.

“Morning, kids!” He scooted the can into place next to the curb. “Better turn your air conditioners on… it’s gonna be a hot one today!”

I waved. “Thanks for the tip, Mr. Hopper. Have a good day.”

We watched the old man meander back into the house, then faced each other again. I noticed the kid had the start of a good tan, his skin kissed with golden brown.

I averted my eyes. 

“So…” I paused and bit the inside of my cheek. I didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t even know this kid’s name.

“So my name’s Mason, by the way. Mason Ledger.” His eyes searched mine for a beat, before his face melted back into a grin. “I’m your new neighbor.”

“You sure are, aren’t you?” Laughing at my own awkwardness, I took a step backward towards my door. “I’m Candace Chang.”

“Yes, you are.”

Well, that was a weird thing to say. My heels hit the front steps and I stumbled backward. “So how’s that house treating you? Last time I was inside, it was stuck in a time warp.”

“It still is.” His eyes twinkled. They literally twinkled. How old was this kid? “I’ve got big plans for it. In fact, my realtor told me about some of the things you’ve done to your house. She said it was an impressive remodel.”

“It was mostly my husband.” I nodded at the front of my house. “He was really into restoring the whole mid-century modern thing, but managed to do it with a more up-to-date twist. He was very proud of it.”

“I’ll have to come see the inside sometime.”

I must have made a face, because Mason put his hands out. “I mean, purely for architectural reasons. And only if you, you know, want me to come in sometime, or whatever.”

“Of course.” I pressed my lips together and backed up onto my porch. “Maybe we’ll do that sometime.”

“Sounds good.” He released a laugh. Boy this Mason kid was a happy fellow. “Go on in, and get that sleep now.”

“Okay.” I felt for the handle behind me. “Nice to meet you.”

“You, too, Candace.”

I practically fell into the house, then shut and locked the door behind my back with a definitive click. Breathing hard, I pressed a hand against my chest to calm my heart. Why was I out of breath and my skin so clammy? What was wrong with me?

And by the way… had Mason winked at me as he was walking away?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Excerpt time!

Demo and Marisol didn't exactly get off on the right foot...

I glanced at my watch. It was almost ten o’clock. Nobody called me this late, except for the occasional booty call. But I wasn’t currently involved with anyone, a fact that irritated me almost as much as the fact that my cat insisted on taking a hour to take a dump every night.

 A booty call sounded nice right about now.

“Probably Lexie,” I murmured to myself, slapping across the hardwood floors with my bare feet—which were still repulsive on the bottom from my little adventure earlier. She was probably up feeding the baby, and fretting about the quiches. She was infamous for adding an ingredient at the last minute that transformed dishes from good to great, and unfortunately that inspiration only seemed to happen long after we’d stopped cooking for the night.

I plucked up receiver, and answered without looking at the number. “Lexie, this is the worst booty call I’ve ever gotten. You know I haven’t swung that way since that one kegger in college.”

There was silence on the other end.

“Lex?” Pulling the phone away from my ear, I looked at the tiny screen. “Oh, um. Sorry. Who is this?”

“Is this Marisol Vargas?” The deep, gravelly voice on the other end sent a whirl of excitement shooting up my spine. 

Demo-the-mechanic. I’d left him my home number back at the shop, since my iPhone was still missing. Note to self: replace cell tomorrow. Well, well. Maybe it was a booty call after all.

Not interested, my ass, I snickered to myself. “This is she,” I purred. “And let me guess. This is Demo… Demo… uh…”

Dang that crazy last name of his. It was blowing my sexy cover all to pieces.

“Antonopolous,” he replied.

“Right.” I pressed my lips together and reminded myself to keep my temper in check. “So why are you calling me so late? A little lonely in the garage at night?”

“I towed your car after we closed,” Demo said simply.

My eyebrows rose high on my forehead. He’d done something nice for me. Maybe there was hope after all. “Oh. Well, thank you.”

“Since it was after hours, I’ll have to charge time and a half.”

My eyebrows dropped back to their normal spot. “Of course.”

“You made it sound like money wasn’t your primary concern,” Demo explained in a flat voice.

“It’s not,” I hissed. “Do you always work this late at night?”

“I knew you wanted it back quickly,” he answered simply. “So I brought it back and took a look.”

I leaned against my kitchen countertop and waited for the bad news. The booty call scenario fizzled right before my eyes. “So what’s the verdict?”

I heard him shifting some papers, and then the clang of something landing on the metal desk. “You’ve got a bad alternator.”

“The car’s only a year old!” I blurted.

“It happens. Got a buddy across town who works with BMWs all the time. He says your make and model are infamous for alternator problems.”

“Can I get his number?” Grabbing a pen and paper out of my nearby mail stack, I readied myself to write. “Maybe he’ll be able to fix it.”

“Oh, I can fix your car.” Demo’s voice took on a defensive edge. “I’ll have it ready by ten tomorrow morning.”

“You can?”

“I can.”

“You’ve got the right parts, and everything?” I didn’t know much, but I knew enough to know that BMW parts weren’t usually sitting on the shelves in most Spokane mom and pop auto shops. That was the reason why I usually took it to the specialty shop at the dealership for maintenance.

“Got a buddy who owns a parts store.”

“My, you certainly have a lot of buddies. He let you into his shop to get the part this late at night?”

“She opens at six am. It’s in stock.”

A random spark of jealousy blinked inside my chest. I really needed to get a grip on myself. “Well, I underestimated you, Mr. Antonopolous.”

Yes! I got his last name right. Score one for me.

“Seems to be a habit,” he grunted.

I grit my teeth together. “And you’re telling me that you’re going to fix my Beemer first thing in the morning?”


“For time and a half, right?”

“The tow was more,” Demo growled. “The labor will be standard cost. Unless you’d like to pay more, Princess.”

Seeing red, I pushed myself away from the counter. “Hey, who do you think—”

“Sorry. Listen. You want me to work on your car?” he interrupted. “I’ve got a client who needs new sparkplugs in his delivery van real bad. I can do that first, if you like.”

Excerpt time!

When Lexie met Fletcher, she barfed....but not because he wasn't attractive. Because she was already knocked up...

I watched as a tear rolled off of the end of my nose, drop on my knee, and soak into my jeans. I’d reached a new low. Someone needed to write a country song about my life.

Tap, tap, tap.

Gasping, I jerked my head up so hard, it thumped into the headrest. There, standing outside my window in a battered leather biker jacket and jeans with holes in the knees, was Fletcher.
I bit the insides of my cheeks. Couldn’t he, for once, look terrible?

I wiped my eyes on the end of my sleeve. Then forced a smile as I rolled my window down. “Fancy meeting you here, Dr. Baby.”

“Likewise, Bump.” His smile was wide and genuine, and shot a bolt of heat right to my core. “Are you stalking me now?”

Snorting, I glanced into the mirror to make sure my tears hadn’t dragged any mascara down my face. “You got me.”

“Hey.” He knelt down so we were eye level. “You’re upset. What’s wrong?”

I forced a laugh. “Me? No. I’m fine.”

He reached through the open window and put a hand on my shoulder. His cerulean eyes softened. “Nice try. Come on. I took a psychology class in college. Try me.”

I sighed, and let a few more tears fall. What did I care about looking pretty and pulled together in front of him for? He was dating Marisol, the woman who could shave her head and wear a burlap sack and still look like a lingerie model. Who cares if Fletcher made my pulse race? He was taken. TAKEN.

“It’s my mom. She…” I pressed my lips together and collected myself before finishing. “She ambushed me. She just tried to set me up with the owner of Roundtable Cutlery.”

Recognition registered on Fletcher’s whiskered face. “That medieval looking place? I went in there a few weeks ago.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Got a big knife collection, Fletch?”

When he chuckled, the sound had a very ‘dice in a cup’ quality. It was lovely. 

“Nah,” he said. “I inherited my grandmother’s silver collection. I was having it polished and sharpened. They did a good job.” Pausing, his nostrils flared. “Wait. She set you up with the guy in the jester costume? The short one?”

“That’s him.” I rolled my eyes and suppressed a laugh of my own. “Seriously. He was sweating through his costume. It was horrible.”

Fletcher’s shoulders shook. “Satin’s not a real breathable fabric, is it?”

“Nope.” I picked at a loose piece of leather on my steering wheel. “Anyway, his name is Norman, and he’s a small business owner who will apparently forgive me for having another man’s baby. This is who my mother would like to see me marry. Preferably before my due date.”

Fletcher’s eyes flashed. “She doesn’t want you to be a single mother.”

“Not exactly,” I said, my eyes filling again. “She’d marry me off to the postman if he were willing to tolerate another man’s child.”

“Tolerate?” He winced.

“It’s okay.” I felt a reassuring flutter deep within my abdomen, and my hands went to my belly. “I know I’m capable of caring for my child alone. I’ve never doubted that. Not for a second. I just wish everyone else believed in me, too.”

The sound of a rumbling engine passed by while Fletcher scratched his chin thoughtfully. The quickening in my stomach subsided, and I suddenly felt very heavy and tired. Maybe, like my mother, Fletcher thought a baby needed to have a father, too.

Maybe he thought the way as Candace and Marisol did, like I owed it to everyone to tell them who the father was. To hold Nate responsible.

It seemed I would never make everyone happy.

Until Fletcher cleared his throat. “Well,” he said, squeezing my shoulder. His touch lingered for just a beat or two longer than what was appropriate. “For what it’s worth, I believe in you.”

I turned my head and smiled at Fletcher. My first genuine smile of the afternoon. That was good enough for now.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ramblings from a bald author.

As many of you know, I have alopecia. This is a new thing for me, even though I've lost my hair before. I just foolishly assumed it was an isolated incident. But now that I'm going through it again, I've accepted it. I have hair loss. It runs in the family, so I sort of had it coming. And sucks. But it could be worse. I could be sick. But I'm not. I'm just....bald-ish.

Losing my hair (this time) has been emotional. I feel like less of a woman, less attractive, and generally just cranky and put out by the inconvenience this alopecia thing has caused. My husband is very supportive. That crazy man loves me no matter what I look like. I adore him for that. But, as all women know, the people who are most hard on women are usually women. Most of the time I'm hard on myself. Other times it's other women who cause strife, but mostly it's just me. People say stupid, inconsiderate things because they don't know better. 

I just say stupid, inconsiderate things because I'm a jerk to myself sometimes.

I had someone tell me the other day that they thought I needed to stop being so open on social media and my website about my struggles. Struggles with grief, weight loss, hair loss, etc. She felt like because my words make her uncomfortable, they must make everyone else uncomfortable. That may be true. Though I do know that through my transparency online, I've found friends that I can share the grief of the loss of our daughter with, I've met friends who can understand my pursuit of health and WLS, and I've met friends who, like me, woke up one day and discovered that God had decided they needed to be bald. 

I really like my friends. It's nice to go through life's rough patches with people who know what it feels like. Plus...if my words touch someone else, then they aren't a waste. Good grief, if I've done nothing else with my life, touching the heart of another human is good enough for me!

I'm starting to accept that I may need to wear wigs forever. Or maybe once we're done with this expat experience, and I am finally able to get my stress management under control, I won't lose anymore patches. Whatever. Either way, I'll be fine. Summers will be hot, and wigs will be expensive. Such is my lot in life. Like I said, it could be worse. I could be sick. My husband could be sick. One of my children could be sick. I'm golden. I'll take my life, bald spots and all.

I'm so glad that each of you, my awesome reader friends, are going on this journey with me. Through each of my books, my grief, my expat're all there with me, and for that my life is permanently impacted. What an awesome blessing this internet thingy is, isn't it? It's so incredible to be able to log on and whine about my bald patches and find 5 or 6 other women who have the same worries. Sometimes my immediate friends and family cannot help. They want to, but they can't, and I am so lucky to have each of you to whine to about it!

How many of you are as excited as I am that my 15 month stint with writer's block is over? 

Me, too.

So, so, sooooo excited.

I think you'll like Jude and Amy. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What book were you assigned to read... school....but wound up loving it?

I never got into The Old Man and the Sea. That one made me crazy. I liked Johnny Tremain, though. But the one that stuck with me the most, the one I've read and re-read at least twenty times over the years, is Silas Marner.

Do any of you remember reading about poor old Silas and his hoarded money and sweet adopted daughter, Eppie? I don't know if that story has ever left me. And frankly, as a foster/adoptive mother, I wonder sometimes if it had to do with my choice to care for children that aren't biologically mine.


This is what writer's block feels like.

I'm excited to share my latest story with you all. It, too, is inspired by Silas Marner and George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) and I really hope all of my awesome readers enjoy it. After fifteen months of writer's block, I hope my latest characters touch their hearts as much as they touch mine.

Can't wait!