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Sometimes things get put into proper perspective and it's like a slap in the face or a good swift kick in the ass.

Hurricane Katrina is a good case in point. I've been griping and whinging for the last couple of weeks about what a major pain in the ass it is to move with just a few days notice. Well.

At least that notice didn't come with a hurricane of epic proportions backing it up. My stuff, my home, my family, all are safe and dry, thank you, God.

Unlike so many people, including my 15 year old eldest son (step-step son, actually. Son of my husband's dead wife), who lives in Slidell, LA, and whose home has been flooded out. His personal effects, except for what he was able to bring with him, are destroyed. And he and the grandparents he lives with are among the lucky ones. They had somewhere to go. A ranch near College Station, TX, a house in Innis, TX, and several other plots of real estate.

Currently, the grandparents are on their way back to Slidell to assess the damage, and UserSupport (my pet name for him because he calls us at 3 AM with stupid user questions) is staying with us for at least a week. The boy is traumatized and losing it every time he thinks about the last thing he saw on TV: the recognizable body of one of his friends from high school.

Or take the way I bitch and complain about the three sons who live with us on a regular basis, the trouble they get into, the headaches I get.

I met my new neighbors yesterday, Lance and Pam. They have a thirteen year old son who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. A few years back he had a double lung transplant, and now his body is rejecting the lungs. He's on the waiting list for a new set.

But that's not all. Pam and Lance had a daughter once. She died a few years ago, right around the time their Sean had his lung transplant. You guessed it, Cystic Fibrosis. And now it's looking like their son may go, as well.

This puts it all into perspective for me. Yes, I have had a hellacious move. No, my family and belongings are not dead or destroyed. Yes, my kids are little creatures from Where The Wild Things Are. No, I wouldn't trade that to have them laying in a bed gasping and fighting for every single breath they take.

So many little daily hassles in life, who would have ever thought that I'd be grateful for them? But I am.

I am truly grateful for a safe home and healthy family.

I am utterly heartbroken for all of the dead, dying, wounded, hurting people out there.

But me and mine, we're alive. That means that for us, there is always hope. Thank you, God.

It's been a long time since I last showed my big ass around here. My path has led me in a few circles since, and I've found myself forced to let go of nearly everything I ever loved or cherished or clung to, but I still love E2, and the love of human expression it stands for. My hiatus began one night in a hotel room in some nameless city in Indiana, where I was pacing the cold night away, worrying about my dubious future as a radical Christian youth leader in a town where the most intelligent people were already done living. My thoughts went something like this...

I can't do this any more. I can't stand there in front of those kids every Sunday morning and sing songs I don't comprehend, sit in church services listening to a pastor shouting things he doesn't comprehend, tell the people I love that I stand for things that I can't even understand... How do I tell my family that I don't believe all that stuff anymore? They think that rejecting their way of life would send me to hell. Even the small children talk about bad people going to hell. I can stay here in this small town, wash dishes for a living, and read Charles Dickens and the Sugar Creek Gang until time has silenced the unrest inside me, or I can tell them to take their crap and shove it back where it came from.

Unfortunately, my emotion prevented me from seeing the path that lay between those two, and my immaturity naturally brought me to the crap-returning alternative.

My path next led me to a white picnic table behind the no-name restaurant I worked at. It was sometime around midnight, and I was shivering under a tiny flourescent lamp. Opposite me on the other side of the table was a 50-year-old chef named Louis. Lou Dog was the type of guy who has seen it all, done it all, and still cries into his beer every time he hears a touching George Jones song. He and I were in the dubious situation of being in love with the same bonny lass at the same time, and said bonny lass was heavily in favor of the old man. I'm pretty resilient... it hadn't really come between he and I (it still hasn't... he's one of the few people I'm still in touch with from around there), and we were enjoying a decidedly odd discussion about the object of our affections, he over his Miller High Life, me over my fourth cup of coffee for the night. I think I was in a state of coffee-induced hallucination, because at that moment I had an overwhelming feeling that the old drunk on the other side of the table from me was the wisest, most understanding person on the whole damn planet. I still wonder if maybe he is... anyhow, I stopped him mid-conversation and told him about the dilemma I had come up with in the hotel room. He said something like this.

Well, Josh, it looks to me like you need to get the fuck out of here. I almost think of you like one of my kids, and I'd really hate to see you go, but this is no place to live your life.
I'm an old fucker, and there's no reason for me to leave this place, but somebody like you has a lot left yet to experience. You have to
see it for yourself. I can't tell you what's out there, I can't tell you what a pussy feels like, I can't tell you what a beer tastes like, or what a good acid hit does to your mind, but I can tell you that the shit you're growing up with isn't all there is. I can tell you that you're too fucking good to waste your life here, and this shitty job ain't worth what you're putting into it.
I always say there should never be such a thing as an 18-year-old virgin, and I feel damn sorry for you, not 'cause you are one, but 'cause you didn't have no choice in the matter. Get your ass out of here before you get too old an' fucked up to move.

I wasn't about to unconditionally agree with that, although I nearly do now. Anyhow, I followed the main jab of his advice and moved in with my grandparents here in Garland, Texas. It was hard as hell to tell the kids in my church goodbye, I love every damn one of them, but I got over it eventually. Now I'm getting a new footing on a lot of things I thought I had all figured out. Most of all, I found out I didn't know shit about what life is really about. Sucks to be wrong. It's not been a really easy ride, but it's been worth it, for damn sure. I've done a few new things since then... I've discovered Pink Floyd, had a taste or three of some very good things that good Christian kids don't drink, read a few awesome books that godly youth leaders don't read, and even kissed a girl (oh yeah).

I wonder what's next...

My mother died on this day, one year ago.

I have not written much about this before. It is too personal, too fresh, too painful. It is my pain, not for upvoting, downvoting, C!ing or whatever. But Mother's death is what eventually led me here, so I felt I should write it.

Mother spent her entire life moving around this big state. She reached the end of her life at the age of 76 in a cozy little home near where she grew up. She was a lady of surprising inner strength. While she could be judgmental, bigoted and sometimes cruel, she was also strangely loving and sweet. As an adult, I carefully learned to befriend the woman who had given birth to me as the strange and complex little person that she was.

You see, I was not too fond of my mother until I was in my teenage years. My parents had a great deal of strife and I always wound up on my Dad's side. It was only much later, when I began to reason more like an adult, that I realized that a lot of what I had thought about my mom was erroneous.

My father, who was 24 years her senior, died in 1995. Soon thereafter, Mom moved out of Dallas and back to her miniscule hometown of Brownwood. I went to visit her almost every month, despite the eight hours of driving.

As the years ran on, the Marlboro cigarettes mother had smoked since the age of 15 began to catch up with her. Her breathing sounded more and more like a gurgling steam engine. When she walked from her tidy little kitchen to her cigarette-scented, but neat-as-a-pin den, she would huff and puff and wheeze and groan. This was what inspired me to quit smoking cigarettes. It took three tries, but I haven't had one in over two years. Emphysema eventually claimed her life.

Friday (September 3), Suzi and I had gone to Mother's home. Mom had been in the hospital for a long time, and was finally home, in the care of her handyman and friend, Clayton. It had been sad to see her in that sterile hospital, a weak, frail old lady with tubes in her nose and mouth and a horrifying collection of catheters and IV tubes. At home, she was peaceful, quiet, serene. A lifelong Christian, Mom felt that Jesus was coming for her, to re-unite her with her long-lost parents and friends. I kissed her head as she lay sleeping. She awoke briefly and told me not to fear, she seemed to finally have been at peace.

Saturday night (Sunday AM, actually), mother slipped away peacefully, she went gentle into that good night at about 4:00 in the morning. Clayton called me, awakening me from a deep sleep. It is funny how certain moments in a life are blasted into the mind in high relief. They are packed into long-term memory forever, while others fade. The neuroscience nerds call this "consolidation," if I remember my neuroscience nerd days correctly. The funeral was held on that Monday.

I never wanted to be one of those people who regret all the things they never told their dead parent. Over the last few years of her life, I made sure to tell my mom everything that I wanted her to know. I harassed her into making peace with her feelings for my significant other, I told her the regrets and joys of my youth and I told her that I love her ... many times.

I held it together, there was some grief, some crying, but nothing cataclysmic. Then, one night, as I was driving around, doing my part-time delivery job, I heard an old favourite, the song Purple Heather, Rod Stewart's version, on a CD. The dam burst within me. All the pain, all that loss, it all blew out like a floor that could not hold another gram when a heavy item is thrown upon it. I discovered that, as an adult, crying doesn't go "boo hoo" or "wah" ... Crying is a shouted gale of profanity and curses, expletives and so forth. Scattered among this torrent of invective, a stream of incoherent nonsense and a thunderstorm of tears. It hurt like hell. It felt good.

Sometimes, I thought I heard her comforting whispers in the dark as I was in that weird liminal state between sleep and waking ... the hypnogogic state, I think they call it. Auditory hallucinations? Probably. One time I awoke and smelled her perfume—it was that weird Chanel smell that always was in her home. Another time, I dreamt that mother and my deceased cats and ferrets were with me. Mom did not like animals much, but there she was—cuddling them and saying comforting words.

A month or so later, our little ferret Indiana died. It was not an easy year for us.

After my dad's death, I changed my career. He had spent 92 years on earth doing some very prestigious jobs, but he told me that he was never happy with them. I knocked around until I found a career I could truly love. When Mom died, I wanted to make another change, but I could not afford an around-the-world vacation, and I lack the grit to do something drastic like run away to a foreign land.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was a child. I wrote short stories and attempted to write a science fiction novel in high school. Writing did not come easy for me, though. I had a rough time mustering the spirit to write for some reason. I knew of a place on the Weird Wide Web which I'd been visiting for years. A place that I might be able to pass muster, even if it meant taking a few lumps.

And that is how the death of my mother brought me to this magical place where I am writing a lot every day, improving and enjoying the hell out of it.

Day 2 begins. It's now 4:15pm. I haven't really felt like writing about it today. I woke up again at 8:30am, and felt pretty much okay. My stomach was growling and I was hungry, but didn't feel sick.

I was very sleepy last night by 10:00pm. Unusually sleepy. I drank my herbal laxative tea around 10:30pm and went to bed after a little light reading. I woke up in the middle of the night with an urgent need for the toilet.

My morning salt wash of my intestines went easier than yesterday. Most of my bathroom time was done by 10:00am yesterday, but today it lasted past noon. I was fairly alert and energetic for most of the morning. This afternoon I have had a hunger headache aching right behind my third eye.

I have had 4 of the drink mixes today so far. I changed it up a bit and had limes instead of lemons. I find that it's easier to juice the lemons, but the limes taste better. I also went up to a little more than 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. This makes the drink more filling and easier to get down. I am definitely more hungry today. It has been seriously difficult for me not to raid the refrigerator when I was getting my limes out. A chocolate bar was staring me down. And leftover chili from Friday was calling my name. But I have resisted so far.

Some observations: I never realized just how much I enjoyed eating. The texture, the taste, the rituals of dining, and the companionship is quite wonderful. Even the plain peppermint tea I have been allowed tasted wonderful! It was soooooo good. I have been making mental notes of meals I want to have after the fast is over.

I feel like I have made it through the second day. Day 3 is supposed to be more difficult. We shall see.

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