Snatch with Prompt

This was the Prompt:

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This is what I wrote in 30 minutes (unedited):

When Colors Run

Deep inside my colorless cocoon, I have a vague sense of other lives nearby.

I slither through their reality; where is my own? Surrounding myself with the darkness of my depression.

My mirror’d existence bursts into color, fireworks exploding with energy that drains my body, but never my mind.

Having Bipolar Disorder 1 is, quite literally, opposing colors of my brain. I see auras anyway, but during a manic episode, the colors scream off my body, tsunamis of energy crashing into my brain again and again. Voices screech… or whisper… I, never knowing which will be next… raging about how I look, feel, need to act, need to fly, need to find this or that, things that are elusive even after hours of mentally and physically searching.

Exhaustion never comes.

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When the electricity finally dissipates after months of zapping me, I collapse into that dark world once again, struggling to keep breathing and not smother myself with the thought that this will go on forever.

Reaching outward, always outward, needing several hands to keep me alive, I am fed my medication, waking only to swallow, then sleeping yet another 23 hours.

Writing is my emotional gauge. By how many words I write in a day, I’m able to see where I stand psychologically.

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Not writing for days, weeks, months… I am in that dark place and need help. Too often, because I am alone, I do not recognize the need for many weeks and, by then, am buried by the pain.

However, when I write 20,000 words in a day… several blog posts for me, blog posts and essays for work… long emails to friends and family… run-on sentences with divergent topics… it is they who sense my need for help and their well-rehearsed phone calls are made to see who can get me to the doctor the fastest.

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Walking the tightrope, umbrella in hand, I teeter, side to side, always searching for that inaccessible balance.

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Lest We Forget

My dad bombed Vietnam.

It was decades before I realized that when I said, “My dad works on B-52’s,” that that really meant he flew missions over Vietnam and bombed the country to smithereens. Men, women, children, babies, dogs, goats, high-rise buildings, houses, generations of lives… gone because of my father “working on B-52’s.”

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I never talked to him about it. He did not discuss his missions. Instead, he sent us pictures of himself in lush Guam or Okinawa, lovely girls by his side. Or he and his friends with flowers behind their ears, drinking beer as they grilled a pig outside on the sand. He sent souvenirs back from Iceland, the pelt of an Icelandic sheep, the wool many inches long and a very white white.

He died before I could ask his feelings about bombing a country that would be forever scarred because of his actions.

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Bomb craters 50-years later.

I wonder what he thought as he watched the rain of bombs falling from the enormous plane, seeing them from above, not below where they exploded and killed so, so much life.

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I wonder if he ever had any regrets or was The Mission the most important part. Was his need to follow so great he never even had one nightmare about what he was doing?

My dad was 19 when he went into the Air Force. 19 years old. That is such a baby age! At 19, I was still dancing in the disco, had barely had sex for the first time, was still years from marriage and having kids. And there he was, killing whole villages with one sweep of the carpet.

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Perhaps my dad never talked about these things because he was better able to compartmentalize pain than I. Maybe it really didn’t bother him at all. Maybe he just didn’t think about it once the mission was over and he was back in the barracks playing poker with his buddies. Maybe they didn’t even talk about what they were doing amongst themselves.

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If my dad was still here today, on this Veteran’s Day, I know I would still not bring the topic up. His never speaking of missions gave the clear message that the topic was verboten.

I wonder if I were to bring it up, could I have unleashed a gushing onslaught of hidden pain and anguish? Would I have realized, too late, that this should not be discussed outside of a professional’s therapy room? Might I have alienated my father forever? That I did not and allowed our relationship to stay calm and even is something I am glad about.

And even as I am happy things turned out the way they did with my father, that I never spoke about my growing understanding of the Vietnam War and his role in it, I am comforted only in regards to my dad.

When it comes to the country of Vietnam or the Vietnamese people, I can never erase the shame or hide the sorrow for what my father did to obliterate their lives.

VIETNAM WAR BOMB CRATERS
Water-filled craters after a B52 bombing.

Religion in Jail

When I was in jail in 1996, I was studying to be Jewish. I’d wanted to be a Jew for many years, eventually studying and debating for 15 years before deciding an atheist has no business converting to Judaism.

But, in jail in Orlando, I was, as far as I was concerned, Jewish.

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Christian Bibles were everywhere in jail. Laid on tables in the great room were many different types of Bibles, all Christian, however. When I asked to have a Jewish Bible (without the new testament), I was told my Rabbi would have to bring me one. I did not have a Rabbi to do this at the time, so went without.

All the reading material in the library were Christian “novels” (Historical Fiction). They were simple books, all with a Christian theme, usually a pioneer woman struggling to keep her family together and the husband always being the strong one who saved the day. It was revolting. Couldn’t we get mainstream books? Apparently, they only allowed certain organizations to bring in books and, of course, they were Christian outreach programs.

The absolute worst, though, were the Revivals. I don’t think they called them that, but I did.

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Our cells were in a square around the great room, bulletproof glass from ceiling to knee. Sounds flowed freely under the door.

Theo Lacy Facility jail

When the Christian church was called, I am sure every inmate attended but me. First, it was a chance to get out of the cell when it wasn’t time to be in the main room as well as a great way to blow off steam.

And yes, finding Jesus was a common theme among those in jail.

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But my preferred religion was really unhappy with these meetings. They quickly became raucously loud, “Praise Jesus” repeated over and over again. Singing hymns with intense passion.

I tried not to listen. I read (the Christian books!) or tried to write, but the singing and praising permeated my space.

It annoyed me no end.

I tried to cover my head with my blanket (no pillows in jail). I tried to sleep. None of it was successful in drowning out the Revival atmosphere.

Then I was extradited to San Diego and religion took on a whole different tone there. Sure, women were Christian. They had meetings and found Jesus, but they were subdued about it. When they went to pray together, they left the compound area and, from inner knowledge, they were quiet and prayerful, not raucous and praising Jesus with raised hands and stomping feet.

What a difference!

I can only think that jails in the south must do things differently than on the west coast. The food was certainly different, why not religion?

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Islamic Misbaha (Arabic: مسبحة mas’baha)

Butter Pats (in Jail)

The one thing I did love about jail… and hoard… was the pat of butter for the bread we got at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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You see, I was… am… a lip balm addict. Have been for probably 40 years. So when I went to jail, they, of course, did not allow me to take any with me. My meds, they let me take (didn’t give them to me properly, but I did get to take them), but not lip balm.

Therefore, I used butter pats. I took the pats from anyone who would give them to me, kept them in my locker in my room and used it sparingly.

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It was always a drag when we had inspection because my stock of butter pats would be tossed and I would have to start all over again.

Blessedly, I was given money on my books (in my account) by those who loved me and I could buy Chapstick brand lip balm, the one in the black wrapping. Plain. I love my Blistex Medicated Lip Balm, but I was not going to complain.

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(I just put some on. HA!)

When I was extradited to California from Florida (during my second stint in jail for the same crime), I lost my bought Chapstick and had to endure dry lips for a couple of days through the traveling. I was bereft.

When I got to California, my then partner, a Deputy Sheriff in the jail I where I was incarcerated (another story) slipped me his Chapstick to put on before going to my bed. It was not black so I couldn’t keep it, but I was careful to keep it on as long as possible. In the morning, I traded some food for Chapstick… and paper and pencils (another jail story… writing in jail).

The first thing I did when I was released 3 days later was to put my own Blistex Medicated Chapstick on. I was in heaven.

Today, sitting next to me, I have… counting… 10 sticks of Blistex. And another 6 or so in my purse. One by my bed. Clearly, I have been traumatized by being in jail and not having my lip balm. (You see I also hoard pens. I’m terribly worried about running out of something to write with. Really, really. It’s a sickness.)

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Now that is my deterrent for not doing any more crimes.

Jail Food

I was in jail for Welfare Fraud in the late 90’s.guilty

I was the only guilty person incarcerated, but I was guilty. I did pay back all I owed, I served 21 days in jail and 300 hours of community service as well as 5 years’ probation.

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But this is about the food I had to eat in jail.

It was ghastly.

And I was really fat, the fattest person in there, by far. I had to wear men’s jail uniforms because none of the women’s ones fit me.

So eating jail food as a fat chick? Extra gross.

Mornings were the best time. Frosted Flakes, powdered donuts and a banana were common breakfasts. Yes, all on one tray.

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After that, lunch and dinner were vile.

(And I know, one does not expect gourmet food in jail and I suppose it could be used as a deterrent for some people to not do the crime, but I had no clue what I was in for when I was handcuffed and taken in. And yes, I do know there are constant debates about why inmates even get free food at all, but at the time, these were not part of my reality.)

Unknown mush that was supposed to be meat (so what if I was a vegetarian… I ate it or went without; I ate it), unknown mush vegetables…

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…(I remember green beans with bacon, but the green beans were so overcooked as to nearly be baby food) and milk or fruit punch. I think a piece of fresh fruit, but my mind is stuck on the grossness of the other items on the plate.

The absolute worst was the morning we got an egg. It was purple!

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I had not one clue why, but when I took a bite, I spit it right back out into my napkin, the girls on each side of me were pissed I was wasting good food. It was one of the grossest tasting foods ever. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned it had been pickled. Pickled eggs. Like pickled pig’s feet. Disgusting.

As I researched this, I see that jails around the world have issues with jail food and in some places have rioted to get better rations.

I am not even sure how to finish this. Perhaps with another picture from a jail that looked similar to what I was fed.

Incredibly appetizing, right?

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Biliary Obstruction

(This was written the first morning of NaNoWriMo. I was dreaming about writing so thought I might as well get up and write! 4:00am)

I have an off again, on again Biliary Obstruction. Biliary Obstructions are rarely like this, from what my Liver doctor says.

Apparently, because I went about 10-12 years before getting my gallbladder out, I seem to have a gallstone stuck in my bile duct. What is weird, though, is it moves around, sometimes blocking the duct and sometimes not.

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Every time I pee, I look in the toilet to see what color my urine is. If it is clear, I can breathe a sigh of relief. If it is darker, like it is today, I get worried the gallstone is moving to block the bile duct again.

pee comparison

Why this matters is because when the stone is wedged in, I get really sick. I feel horrid, can hardly sit, but instead, lay curled on the bed in horrid pain, alternating between constant nausea and periodic vomiting. I also have a fever and that makes me feel terrible on top of it all. Twice, I have had incredible itching, so bad I was using scissors on my back to scratch, finally going to the ER when I saw blood on my sheets from cutting myself (accidentally) with the scissors.

Itching in Primary Biliary Cirrhosis

Then, after that specific episode, the obstruction crazily vanished over a 12-hour period and I felt perfectly normal again. It was bizarre! Everything I read on Biliary Obstruction said SURGERY, but here I was, feeling fantastic and peeing clear again.

A few weeks ago, the obstruction began… my pee turned rust colored first, then my poop turned the color of white clay, then the nausea and stomach ache set in, then the vomiting and fever. I called the Liver doc and got an appointment 2 weeks hence.

Then, after 3 weeks of this, the obstruction left again and by the time I saw the doctor, I was feeling normal. I was able to ask two main questions:

Why was this happening? And When do I go to the hospital?

He explained the stone moving back and forth.

Retained stone in a bile duct. In some cases, a gallstone will remain in your common bile duct after gallbladder surgery. This can block the flow of bile into your small intestine and result in pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and jaundice soon after surgery. You may need an additional procedure to remove gallstones that are retained in your common bile duct.

No, there was nothing I could do to change its movement… no positioning, no food choices, no drinking extra water. It was completely random. Sheesh!

He said to go to the hospital when I had nausea and vomiting and a fever.

I looked at him and asked, “That’s it? I don’t wait until I am itching to death?” He turned and looked at me and said by the time I am itching I am near liver failure. “Do NOT wait until you are itching.”

Well, alright… I had a plan!

Part of why I got the new bed was for when I am sick with the Biliary Obstruction. After I had the gallbladder removed in February 2017, I remained feeling horrible, even worse than before it was removed, and it wasn’t until the discovery of the obstruction that I learned why.

So why don’t they just remove the gallstone? Because I have to be symptomatic before insurance will pay for it to be taken out.

I have to wait at least one more time to feel yucky before they will do something about it.

Until then, I look at my pee and wait.

Being Scared

This was a 500-Word Snatch.

I hate Halloween.

I Hate Halloween

It’s scary, spooky, blood-tinged and images of death and dying abound. All the reasons others love the holiday, I hate it.

When I was about 14, I saw The Exorcist in the movies (remember when there was no rating system except X?), my friends egging me on that I was a chicken shit and get over it. Even now, at 57, I wake with nightmares of Linda Blair’s head spinning and green vomit gushing out of her mouth.

I read Amityville Horror because everyone was reading it. I had to keep it covered with a dishcloth under the couch before I could go down the lonely hallway to my bed, lying there for an hour, terrified, before I stiffly fell asleep.

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For the same peer pressure reasons, I rode scary rides at amusement parks and fairs. I am a Disneyphile and once had a vow to ride any ride Disney created because, “How bad could it be if Disney made it?” I’d waited eons before considering going on the Tower of Terror, a 13 story ride where the elevator drops, free-fall, over and over again, as people’s screams resonated throughout the park.

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I was part of a worldwide Disney newsgroup and we would regularly meet in the parks. When one faction began taunting me that I would not go on the Tower of Terror, one of the guys said, “What do expect from a Democrat? They are all scaredy-cats.” Well, that was just the challenge I needed to get myself in line, shaking terribly and feeling like I was going to vomit the whole queue to the actual car that flies up and down. Once in and the bar went down, I screamed to get off, but it was already too late; the ride had begun.

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The huge “elevator” car, carrying 22 people, slowly wended its way through the storyline before clicking into place to go up the 13 floors. It seemed to climb forever upward. (I thought about Charlie in the Chocolate Factory flying out the top in the glass elevator.) Then, once at the top, it goes into a complete free-fall, down several stories, stops, climbs again, only to drop a different number of floors. Over and over until eternity passed and I was finally able to escape the Republican friends who congratulated me on my bravery.

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Me, nearly barfing in the front, with all my friends laughing at my misery!

I began to faint and two people led me to a side corridor, still by the ride’s car, and I sat on the floor, head between my knees, shaking so hard my teeth chattered. I could not get up for 30 minutes. I had several visitors while scrunched on the floor including paramedics who wanted me to go to the hospital for a check-up. I declined.

While I sat there, I resolved to never do anything scary again. No ride. No movie. No book. I would never put myself through that stress again. If I go to a movie and it gets scary, I leave right away and go to a rated G film in the movie complex.

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This has extended to finishing books or movies I do not like. It also melded into what I watch on television, mainly the news.  I figured I was old now and deserved to enjoy what I was reading, watching or listening to. So, if I do not like something, I move on to the next option, releasing the intense urge to complete the task, as I was taught to do growing up.

Nope. Not anymore.

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