Paradise Fallen

A Short Story written for vocal.media Competition

Entry Link: https://vocal.media/stories/paradise-fallen

“You could just walk away you know.” her voice is stern and her attention laser focused on the knot she is tying.

“You could accept help from a friend, you know.” he replies with a smirk and proceeds to help her tie down a tarp covering a mound of items she’s collected around the city.

“You’re not my friend, Lucas. You’re just some horny dude who happened to survive this shit and now you’re trying to be a savior because you think I’ll put out. Well, I won’t. So you could just walk away now.” her tone gains more disdain.

“Julia, we went to high school together. Give me a break. We increase our odds of survival if we work together. Is that really such a terrible idea to you?” his words trail off as a glimmer in the distance catches his eye.

“What is it?” she asks.

He shushes her and reaches behind his back for his katana, putting a finger to his lips and moving behind a wall for cover, motioning to her to get down.

A soft jingle echoes off the walls of crumbling buildings around them. Lucas grabs Julia down to hide behind the wall beside him.

“Lu—” he covers her mouth.

The jingle sound intensifies as it approaches them from the other side of the wall. She inhales sharply and he removes his hand, moving quickly to one side of the wall to look out.

Through the fog of the morning mist a shape takes form about 200 meters ahead of them. Lucas grips the hilt of his katana, preparing himself to defend. The figure hesitates as if it has become aware of their presence. The jingle stops with the figure.

In barely a whisper, Lucas says “Julia, do you still have that sling shot we found near the park?”

Without a word, she nods her head and moves carefully to the mound of items stealthily producing a fisher price sling shot. Lucas gestures over to a pile of rubble nearby, urging Julia to hide out there and use the smaller rocks as ammunition.

A crow cawing overhead distracts Julia, causing her to lose her footing on a few of the rocks. The mysterious figure is made aware of her presence and immediately charges in her direction. Lucas readies himself, prepared to defend his friend to the death if necessary.

From the fog emerges a goldendoodle with a full-body mohawk wearing a gold heart shaped locket.

“Gabrielle!” shouts Julia.

The pup happily approaches Julia, wagging it’s tail so vigorously the entire bottom half sways side to side. Julia laughs heartily and greets the pup with scratches behind the ears and a big hug.

“Girl, you scared us!” she pets the pup on the top of her head with a broad smile.

Lucas releases his grip on his blade and collapses to the ground in defeat, kicking his feet out from under him. “Are you kidding me? A fucking dog.”

“She’s not just ‘a fucking dog’ Lucas, this little locket around her neck has a projection map of the entire city. Do you know what we could find with this?” Julia explains with excitement.

“Oh, so now we’re a we are we?” asks Lucas.

Julia laughs. “Easy cowboy, don’t go getting ahead of yourself. I meant what I said, I’m not putting out. Although, I suppose if you did want to go on an adventure with me it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra set of hands. Who knows what we’ll find with a map at our disposal!”

“Yea sure, why not? It’s not like I have anything better to do today anyway.” Lucas looks up at the sky that’s an opaque green tint and briefly closes his eyes. “Just another day in paradise.”

Do You Love You?

A Seven Step Prescription for Self-Love from psychologytoday.com

I have seen a lot of folks when they hear “self love” they scramble internally. Namely for those who are not living in genuine love for themselves. They will either go avoidant, “of course I love myself” (leave me alone) or pensive “I think I love myself” (maybe?) or full on denial “that’s bullshit anyway.” It’s an interesting indicator of where a person is along the self-love journey*. And I get it, when your mind is depressed or stressed someone saying “you’ve just got to love yourself better” is probably the very last thing you want to hear. You’re sad or mad or just feeling bad and you want to feel your fucking feelings; not hear some hippy dippy peace and love bullshit. I’ve been there too.

In 2018 I got serious about making better choices for myself. To this day, I wear a ring on my right ring finger to remind me; I am worthy, I am enough and I am all that I need to be. The ring is from Kay Jewelers Open Heart Collection “leave your heart open and love will find it’s way in” was the campaign slogan. I cannot recall when or why I got this ring, all that I know is I wear it today to remind me I am in control of my life’s direction, I have choices to make every day and I am determined to make choices that most protect and serve my well-being.

Self love is not easy by any means, but it’s how we heal generational curses (hurt, pain, toxic traits); loving and accepting all of your self with sincere and genuine love. When you’re full of love it ripples outward, the same with hate. It’s all in our being. And a lifetime (even multiple lifetimes from our parents, their parents, etc) of hate and devaluation takes time to filter through caring kindness to become love. It’s a series of unlearning and relearning. Finding balance.

Boundaries are invisible lines which we choose to set by speaking up on what we do and do not want in our life. Integrity is at the core of being genuine, sincere and true to your being. Our relationships (personal, family, business) flourish when we operate in an arena of honesty and clear communication of goals with consistent enforcement of boundaries and limitations. When your focus stays on being true to yourself at all times your quality of life will reflect the work you put into your existence.

Lies are for leeches; users and abusers. Toxic behaviors becomes rapidly parasitic and we are left with a toxic wasteland guised as social networking. I have a vision to foster a community online where caring kindness and genuine growth are encouraged. I envision a utopian space where participants prefer to keep it a goodvybe. It will ultimately depend on those of you who join the community.

Sending love to y’all. 💛

self-love journey* is the most sincere way to view this process because it varies for everyone and fully depends on the relationship you have with your self — self love is the ‘how’ to healing internal wounds.

Mental Wellness

This image will link to its source page from Hope Services “Transforming lives through Hope since 1952”

May is mental health awareness month. Remember to be gentle with yourselves and with others because we never know what another is going through. There are few visual cues to tell you what a person has going on inside of them and even less understanding toward those who endure mental illnesses.

I am clinically diagnosed BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) as a result of multiple traumas beginning in childhood and perpetuating into my adult life–same shit getting repeated in my life, felt like a bad joke. In 2003, following my high school graduation, I enlisted into the U.S. Army in an effort to run from ‘that which bothered me here’ — only to encounter more use and abuse from those I was meant to trust there. I am obsessively concerned about others being ok because I know intimately what it feels like to not be AND what I am feeling as I progress through my own healing journey while I learn how to embrace who I genuinely am, develop more healthy boundaries and live my life by my standards and genuinely by my own personal ideals.

This image will link to its source from a Post University Blog article written in 2020 detailing methods to reduce the stresses of enduring mental illness.

Mental illness gets negatively stigmatized as this stain on a person, looked down on and deemed ‘less than’ and I believe it’s a problem. So many will brand another as defective because of a label — typically handed out prematurely and often erroneously. I do not disagree that my mind functions differently than others, that my emotions are intense and that it can get tiresome trying to work with me, or expecting a thing from me. The BPD diagnosis is one of many I’ve received in my years seeing psych-professionals; trying my damn’est to find help. Instead, I found a lot of pharmaceuticals.

I was given one pill to treat something and another pill to treat the side effects of the first pill. Before long, I had 6 – 8 pills a day, not including the ‘as – needed’ pills. I am 35 years old when writing this article and I adamantly believe our western world needs to embrace the power of mental wellness, stop slapping pill-aids on symptoms and get to the root of the problem, help people HEAL. Perhaps you’d prefer zombies, I cannot consent to my discomfort anymore. I want to LIVE before I die and I will gladly take my chances along the way.

Since the 2018 New Year I made a determination (resolution) to make healthier choices for myself. I had attempted suicide the winter before in 2017 after I was kicked out of my relationship for I believe the 7th time, on my birthday no less. Even that did not stop a final attempted reunion the winter of 2018, but it was only two weeks and I returned home more determined than ever to heal my internal wounds. There have been many challenging moments, opportunities to apply lessons I learn. Healing is HARD work and it takes a lot of practice to achieve change and experience growth. When your life depends on changing, you will conquer the challenge or the challenge will conquer you. You can be victorious, but you must fight a good fight.

What has helped me in my own healing journey:

Being gentle with myself, not berating myself for every falter and fumble in the journey. I was my own worst critic, I’d parrot back all the negative bullshit from the world, convincing myself hat it was true. I had to change my internal dialogue from “get it together” to “it’s ok to make a mistake, just keep trying to be better.” I was not failing, I am always doing the best that I am capable in the moment and that is enough. Accepting those who offer love and dismissing those who hate are monumental beginner steps. Mantras and meditation have been game-changers for me, but we do all function differently: What works for one may not work for all. In my experience, you often just have to sit with shit in order to effectively resolve. Trust your inner voice, intuition, gut, whatever you want to call it. Trust it. We have innate self preservation and that ‘ping’ is trying to save your life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article! I would appreciate your feedback in the comments below and invite you to join me on Thursday while I paint live on stream, I’ll be listening to a variety of musical talents who’ve shared their SoundCloud, YouTube or Spotify content with me to share with all of you while I create.

Remember: You Are Valuable. You Are Worthy. You Are Enough.

Sending love to y’all! — Until next time…

Taking Back My Power

Life is a journey. Along the way we encounter challenges that either teach us a lesson or leave a lesion that we’re left to heal, else it festers and infects our well-being. Healing is awkward and unpredictable; backslides happen and self-doubt can make you want to give up. NEVER GIVE UP!!

In 2014 I drastically limited my pursuits on dreams (modeling, writing, creating) because I was going through divorce and slipping into a depression that is only now nearing resolutions in 2021. I rebounded out of a 7 year marriage into a toxic whirlwind guised as a relationship for 3+ years. My sentiment after the veil of the ‘honeymoon phase’ faded was always that I went “from the frying pan into the fire” in my relationships. We had multiple break ups and very dramatic emotion-driven reunions, a lot of false hopes and promises of change that never proved valid. It has taken me the better part of 7 years to heal the lesions and learn all the lessons from that entanglement.

My ex-husband and I had demons of our own that clashed often and eventually led to our divorce–he is still a person I trust to this day. We do not see eye to eye on many things, but we respect each others pursuits in living happier and healthier lives. I am grateful he remains in my life as a confidant, a person out there who’s in my corner and wants me to be successful.

On May 22, 2021 I went to meet a local photographer for an impromptu, chance-connection photoshoot and y’all — Modeling is so much fun for me! I have limited myself with beliefs that I could not be a model because I am a disabled veteran, because I have had sexual assaults in my past, because I am too old, because, because, because. I am taking my power back!! I can and will express myself. 🔥💛

Such tremendous thanks must be given to the man in my life today. He holds me accountable, he supports me being whoever I want to be, he helps me to help myself to become a more confident, healthy and happy version of myself. He even holds lights for the photographers and captures great ‘behind the scenes’ content! I am immensely grateful for the way he operates, how he simply fits into my life. A woman glows differently when she is valued. Thank you, Mister. 💚

If you would like to work with me in any of my creatives (photography, paint, yarn) I can be reached on most social medias @salleysmile. Thank you for reading my blog! Your engagement and support to my success are genuinely appreciated; attagirls keep me going. Sending my love to y’all, stay focused!

NaNoWriMo 2020

I decided to nano again this year and I am currently, at the time of writing this, at 11,675 / 50,000 WORDS to meet the www.nanowrimo.org 50k words in 30 days goal. The novel I am working on is from a previous nano, who knows when ago, that I had planned to be finished with in July (for my birthday). Life being life, that goal came and went and here I am, typing 90WPM+ of a 70k manuscript with edits. This is the final draft, folks!

A young southern-raised mother and wife who struggles with mental illness returns to Louisiana after living in the northeast with her husband and two prepubescent daughters. A trigger event that leads her to overdose into a coma puts her mind into a fantasy world where fairies and mermaids exist. In this world, she is doted on as the new Princess in the land to live happily in the expansive castle nestled at the center of it all. Nevertheless, there is darkness she has to face and choices she must make or both of her worlds, real and fantasy, could disappear forever.

Synopsis from theory of the heart

Currently I have four selected readers with access to my active google doc and they have the first 3 Chapters to review as of now. I would like to open up to 10 readers total on the doc to get a solid ‘test audience’ in place and see what works and doesn’t for potential readers once I move into the publication phase of this project.

If you would like to read this novel as I write with reckless abandon, send an email to salleysmile@gmail.com with the title READER READY and complete the following form in the body of your email for consideration. None of the questions are requirements to be considered, I aim to have a variety of varied readers for best analysis of how my writings are read by others.

  • Name:
  • Email:
  • Location:
  • Age:
  • Gender identity:
  • Preferred reading genre:
  • Literary Interest: (writing, reading, editing)
  • Why do you want to read this work in progress?
  • Any additionally relevant commentary:

Whether you would like to read now or wait until I complete publication, your support and attagirls are appreciated. 😁💛

Adventure Log 02232020

Today was reminiscent to a hail and farewell from the military, Xe and I spent most of the day with Chief, a pilot I worked with in Afghanistan in 2006 (14 years ago). He knew I was coming to the area and we set aside time to catch up face-to-face. I am eternally grateful to souls such as his for being so kind and caring through a lifetime of hardships and triumphs. Never give up, my friends. Life is beautiful when you embrace what you have instead of obsessing over what you don’t want.

Xena encountered horses for the first time. She was quite excited while maintaining her manners, I’m very proud of her. Grateful to the owner of the Ranch for welcoming us into her space.

As promised…

Night sky photos using Canon 5Dmii (still learning, had some post-edit fun)

Adventure Log 09222020

Xe and I drove into Fire Valley ($10 admission fee for everyone) at around 5pm today, we stopped a few places along the way for photo ops. I had planned on going to Lake Mead, which I think we accidentally did? We did see a Lake today. 😁 I took a sudden turn off and discovered a lake view with a few houses down a dirt road.

After we soaked up the water views we ventured back toward Fire Valley, stopping in a pull off area to set up and get a few sunset and night shots (coming soon) after the sun had set. We got back to the house around 11pm and we are properly snuggled in bed for the night.