Monthly Archives: January 2015
Day 1: March 20, 2013, Wednesday – Train 8, Empire Builder
We got to Everett, the first thing on our minds was breakfast or in this case, brunch. Poor Dan looked bummed as he ate his pancake sandwich – bacon, scrambled eggs and two pancakes. It was to be our last time together at Kate’s Restaurant. Dave was doing very well to distract me with jokes and making my brain pop. It’s a special talent he has with me.
The three of us, myself, Dan and Dave hung out in Everett for a few hours. I did not expect us to do much, however, Dan had some fun ideas. We stopped off at Mulkiteo Beach watching the wind howl up the waves into white caps. The shells were picked clean by the birds. The wind was blowing so hard that I was afraid Dan’s crumbled old leather hat would blow away. Walking along the pebbled and semi-sandy beach line, Dave was taken by surprise by some waves that got his shoes and bottom of his pants leg wet. He tip toed funny like to get away as I laughed. Once the wind was too much for all of us, we headed to Forest Park to hike the trails for a bit.
At some point Dan got the bright idea to hike to the bottom of one trail were it meets the windy street below. He wanted me to see the fountain. I had seen it so many times, it’s lost it’s enjoyment. Heading back up, we had to walk up a hilly service road. He has odd ways of being inconsiderate to others. Poor Dave on the 18th of March had walked his way from Arlington to Marysville just see me on my birthday. The poor guy had walked enough and Dan was making us go up this hill that nearly kicked Dave’s ass.
We get to Everett Station checking in my ticket and baggage. Turns out the odd time differences between Washington and Chicago doesn’t allow for baggage check in. It has something to with the three hours difference. I don’t get it. Afterward, Dan gave me some cash to buy a drink. I got an Italian soda with coconut, pineapple and banana flavoring. All three of us chewed the fat for an hour, until someone showed up at the station that I thought he wouldn’t make it. It was Nate Conley, one of my NJROTC classmates from MPHS. I had left him a note on FB since I saw his profile picture on a side bar and thought it would be wise to tell him of my new life and adventure.
I rushed to him hugging him tightly. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. There was an odd falling out that I wanted to clear up. Ann, his wife was with him and so was their three year old son Allistir. Their son is very rambunctious just like Nate apparently. I updated him as to what happened with Dan’s issues. Nate add, “Oh, good reason to move to Maryland so you could get as far away as you could. I totally understand.”
Nate and Ann had a hell of a time chasing their son down from running around all over the place. Who needs a gym membership or a treadmill when you have kids? They’ll keep you winded, but excising just fine for hours. After a while, Ann came back from their car with some art supplies and coloring pages. The boy was entertained for the rest of the time before my train arrived. A few minutes just before the call went out, Allistir gave me his colored picture of a Littlest Pet Shop kitty. I gave him a hug as I teared up from the kindness and cuteness of his actions.
Nate’s family and him went to the second floor of the station so Allistir could see the train better. Dan held onto me as long as he could before the train arrived. I said to him, “And for goodness sakes, take a vacation and relax.” Just then the train cruised into the station as I gave Dan a kiss good-bye on the lips. Yeah, not very appropriate, but who cares. I gave Dave a big hug and a kiss on the cheek as I went into the train with my luggage. Found out an hour later, Thor could not make it. He was stuck in the parking lot at his work trying to make his way out so to see me off, but it was way too late.
There was some confusion as to which sleeper I was to be placed in. Once that got figured out, the car steward lugged my belongings to the second floor. Next time, I’ll leave the main larger bag downstairs. Once I was settled in, I sat back and watched the Northwest pass me by as I realized I was free at last. I had cried tears of happiness finally. Being so worn by tears of sadness for ten years by Dan’s foolish; cold hearted withdrawals of me, that I actually recognized what tears of happiness actually felt like. As I blotted my tears with my handkerchief, that dinner was announced at 6:45pm. They do dinner in shifts by car. That way there is no over crowding in the dinning car. I had the steak with steamed vegetables and baked potato. For dessert I had the cheesecake with blueberry topping and a glass of water. The coffee isn’t too bad. Everyone was seated with another passenger or two. I struck up conversation with the two men about the economy and what forms of work each of us did for a time. It was very engaging conversation.
I apparently was more stuffed than I thought, however my room was overly stuffy cause the vent was closed. As it got dark, I could hardly see anything pass me by. This made me motion sick. Thankfully I brought along some anti-nasia pills with me and I took one the moment I realized what was going on. A middle aged woman, whom was picked up at one of the stops in Washington, let me borrow her mini fan. The steward was so saddened that my first train trip was starting out so poorly. There is always a first for everything.
I had pulled down my bed before the steward could get to me. I was impatient and ill, so I had to do something to keep my mind off of my swirling stomach. I propped myself up watching the night sky and some town lights go by while the fan blew in my face. After two hours my stomach felt better. However, sleep wasn’t so great. I never do well sleeping in a new location on the first night. I toss and turn most of the time, but for this case I had to urinate six times as I tired to go to sleep. I had drank two bottles of water and one glass of water with dinner and that cup of coffee. Yeah, I had to pee a lot. I think I did find sleep, but the gentle cradle like rocking and sound of the tracks beneath the wheels kept me awake. I dosed off countless times, but I’m not sure if I found sleep fully or not. I had left the curtains open so the morning light would wake me instead of an alarm clock.
Day 2: March 21, 2013 – Thursday –
I awoke this morning to the sun hazily peaking over the horizon. I wanted to stay in bed, but couldn’t cause breakfast was announced just as I woke up. I had a bowl of Special K cereal, four strawberries which were really, really tasty, half a cup of Greek yogurt which I didn’t care for and a whole wheat biscuit. I didn’t want to over stuff myself like I did with my dinner from last night. The way through the Rocky Mountains was snowy and windy. Just now, at 10:41am MST the train left the mountains behind and we are now on our way across the Great Plains.
After breakfast though, I was recorded some footage of the mountains with the camcorder. I’ll edit the pieces all together through this trip later on. The snow is scattered here and there in small or large mounds on the prairie grass. The skies are clear with some wispy clouds. I have traveled through the Great Plains many times before as a child and preteen on family vacations or on the whim weekend road trip by automobile. Traveling the plans by Amtrak train is the best way to see the plains by far. Nothing else compares. ‘Amber ways of grain’ is exactly as depicted in the American anthem. Our founding fathers and pioneer ancestors said it best while describing the vast flatness and rolling hills of this expansive earth and sky. There is nothing else like it I have ever seen and I’m not just saying that.
Lunch was very tasty. I had the Chilope Black Bean Veggie Burger with everything on it, but cheese. Struck up conversation with two middle aged women. The woman across from me had a terrible lisp and stuttering problem. I learned a little bit more about patience with people this afternoon. The other woman next to me is going to see her grandchildren and daughter. Not much else to say, but I told them a tiny bit of why I’m on the train. They congratulated me on my new life and freedom. The women were surprised that my ex-husband paid for my trip and move. Dan’s not a ‘bad guy’ per se, he just doesn’t understand giving love back in return. He didn’t understand human interaction of how normal people react to bad situations. That it’s not normal for someone to strike up an argument just to get a rise out of someone even if that argument was false from the beginning. If you love someone you give them respect as much as the other person respects you back. He just never ‘gave back’ to me and it hurt, quite literately physically hurt and I have the scar on my right leg to prove it.
Before dinner though, right after lunch I took a nap for three hours. I didn’t ‘fully’ fall asleep, but I know I got rest. While I waited for dinner time, I recorded a few bit of the Montana scenery. I was able to capture a moment of life beginning. A cow was giving birth to her cafe in the cold spring snow. He or she was half out of it’s mother as I recorded the scene. Evening dinner was really good, even though I should have reserved for a later dinner say at seven o’clock. I ate at least half my dinner of the beef rib, mashed potatoes, vegetables and half my brownie pie. I’m pretty full, but not sickly full. More conversation with some more new passengers. The guy to my left was heading home to New York. His ex-wife did not want to move to New York while they were married. I can understand that. New York can be intimidating and large. He said he was a teacher for English and writing classes in many schools across the country. Now, he wants to calm things down as his epilepsy has now taken over his life, getting worse as the years continue.
The elderly couple, that I had met at the beginning of my journey had visited family in Seattle. They are heading to Fargo, North Dakota to see her daughter and the grandchildren. I had explained about my plight of my ruined marriage….they just called out over the intercom of needing help with someone downstairs for medical needs. I hope there is a doctor on the train…..Well, anyway, the elder woman added onto my story of her daughter’s bad marriage. The daughter’s ex-husband did not work for three years and kept abusing her. He basically went off the deep end. The daughter had to file for restraining orders, court issues of giving him the house, but she kept the kids and moved to North Dakota. So far the ex-husband has left her alone for six months at least.
Soon after that conversation, it shifted talking about the environment of ‘Global Warming’. I said my two cents of – If Mother Nature wants us dead, she’ll do it on her won terms. Why worry about something we don’t fully understand yet in ways to control it. The Earth will still be here long after we are all dead. All this thawing and warmer weather is a seventy to hundred year cycle. We don’t know enough in modern weather pattern to know any better or worse of this planet. I’m all for electric or hybrid cars, but other than that, forget it. The woman then explained about her time in China of how smoggy up the country is. I won’t get into that fuss, but it would be nice if the Chinese would get their heads out of their asses. It’s that simple.
It’s been snowy all the way from the Washington Cascade Mountains all the way across Montana. It was, however, very clear and partly cloudy at the beginning of Montana. Now it is getting dark. The snow is blending into the gray evening sky like white cotton sheets meeting gray silk. Ever so often I saw oil drills doing their ‘dirty work’. Left over oil that would come up from the vertical pipe would be burned off with fire ablaze at the top. I don’t know if it’s natural gas or crude oil in general. It’s something I thought I would never see but on television of the news. It seems unnatural to see oil fires like that in the United States. Maybe some day there will be a new form of working the oil out of the ground without burning off the excess. Maybe some day, in my life time, oil will be a thing of the past.
One of the most interesting bits about this journey so far, is hearing about how many passengers are taking the train for the very first time. There are at least five that I could hear in ear shot that say brightening good fortune thoughts of their new lives. I’m not the only one looking for a new start. I may be going the longest distance to get to it, but riding this train is like going down river to leave all my nasty past behind. Or, it’s like going up river, to ‘spawn’ for the first time like a salmon…nay, it’s more like going down river, enjoying the current taking me on a ride of a life time.
Stanly, North Dakota is the next stop. It’s nice to get off the train every once and awhile to get fresh air. The train will be filling up with seventeen more passengers. The conductor said the train would be nearly full. Amazing how many people actually take the train these days. I thought not that many did so, but considering the price of flight and baggage prices, it would be understandable to take the train instead. I keep hearing that it’s so much cheaper. So, if I took a flight it would have cost me maybe two hundred or three hundred dollars more. Not counting the baggage charges. Baggage is not charged for train travel. I really like that a lot about Amtrak.
Just now I’m passing into the Central Time Zone. It’s 9pm and it’s dark as pitch out there. The clouds are thick with snow, so the stars are hidden from view. I hope on the third day I can see some stars. I hear by some passengers it is to be sunny all day tomorrow. Here’s hoping so.
River of steel,
Deliver me to my new future.
Tears of happiness,
Finally let go false bondage.
Flowing down stream,
Leaving all past pain behind.
Sights never before seen,
Give inspiration to my mind.
Like the rhythm of the heart.
Vast skies of blue and white,
Open my eyes to life’s delight.
Blankets of cotton white snow,
Meet evening gray silk skies.
Haunting silvery white half moon,
Watching silently as the train passes by.
Train horn echos forth,
Does the vast plains hear the haunting sound?
Day 3: March 22, 2013 – Friday
I might have done a little better at sleeping last night, but still woke up off and on by the sound of the train and rocking movements. Apparently I’m not used to sleeping on trains yet. I thought for sure I would be able to sleep better last night.
Continental breakfast with oatmeal, strawberries and Greek yogurt and two glasses of orange juice. I didn’t eat the yogurt. I didn’t like Yoplay’s style of it. Those strawberries on the train are the tastiest I’ve ever had in a long time. Washington strawberries, that come from California, taste bitter and don’t have that real strawberry flavor.
I packed my belongs early as it is dangerous in Chicago like never before. I’ll be in the station the whole time waiting for my next train. Our car steward said we would arrive in Chicago by 4pm. This will give me just two hours to wait for my next train to Washington, DC. It is 8:48am and we are on our way now. It is snow all over the place here in Minnesota, Minneapolis. One of the fun things seeing the snow in the day time is figuring out the animal tracks. Deer and rabbit is what I can find so far. Deer are not afraid in this area, that’s for sure.
Even though I’m on a train for the first time and we go through many train stations and railways, I do not count the cars that go by right next to me. Family and friends who know me best know that when a train goes by while I’m in a automobile or walking down the street, I will stop and count the cars. I’ll count the engines separately and the cars all together. I’ve done this act since I was very little. Don’t know why I do it, I just do and it’s cute and fun. However, being on a train and seeing other trains go by, it’s not as cute to count the cars so close to me.
For the last two minutes I recorded some of the Mississippi River. You don’t know how large it is by automobile until you see it by train. Yes, nothing compares to traveling down river by steam boat, but to me this train trip is very special to me. Sights I had not seen since I was a little, little girl. Rebuilding old memories to make my own is a treat and a good strengthening excise for the mind and happiness for the soul. Half the river is frozen with ice at varying thicknesses. I thought maybe there could be some animal tracks, but the deer in this area are smart. They don’t dare venture onto the ice. There are deer tracks next to the rail tracks. How cool is that? Oh, even some coyote tracks and rabbit.
For some strange reason, the music of Enya goes very well with train rides. Something about her music that just mixes with the energy and movement of the train and scenery going by. The song, “Trains and Winter Rains” fits perfectly. I can see this song being used as a soundtrack to an Amtrak commercial in the future. Traveling by train is the best way to go. Not enough people realize how easy it is to travel by train to and from work. There is one man at today’s breakfast that he works as a construction protection consultant. He lives in Minneapolis, but works in North Dakota. He would rent a car in Minneapolis, take the train to work and rent another car. He would do this three days out of the week. I don’t remember how much car gas he said he saves, but the main perk is ‘sleeping while someone else drives’. I found that amusing. I’m glancing over ever so often and I see many, many tracks of deer. Hunting must be really good. I see grouse and pheasant tracks, too.
Dreaming for years to live on the East Coast, I thought I would drive myself. A road trip to a whole new beginning. Little did I realize that dreams aren’t what they seem to be. You may dream one process to get there, but then the Universe shows you another way. The train was one of those ‘other paths’ that never crossed my mind for the past three years. I didn’t realize I waited for another route. This blessed surprise by train, that my ex-husband paid for, is a wonderful treat for the senses. You get to see things you never thought you could passing you by on smooth, sometimes bumpy track. Leaving the driving to someone else is very nice indeed. It gives me time to reflect on my future. Not my past. My past was left behind on tracks of the West Coast. Fallen away like sheds of darkened; hurt soul fragments. Breaking free from a dark shell that no longer has purpose. I feel the ‘steel river’ below my feet delivering me to my future as my new wings of my inner self build up strength for the days and years ahead.
Lunch was very good. I had the Penini Pasta with meatballs and a salad. The three other passengers this time were different and had lots to say. The middle aged couple in front of me, her and her husband of three years are heading to Chicago to see an opera. The gentleman has been retired for many years now. His wife works at Angie’s Gluten free product company. She helps distribute new products to new locations. The beginning of Angie’s got started with their ill son who could not eat any gluten foods. She had made a kettle corn popcorn for her son that helped him digest his food better and become healthier. The product went so well that she then made a business out of it. Angie’s products are making their way to the west coast at this time. I gave the woman as much information as I could remember of gluten free stores and other grocery stores that would take the products. If I remember correctly, Angie’s products are already in some Fred Meyer stores.
The young man next to me is heading to Washington, DC for school, I think it was. He boarded the train in North Dakota. For the life of me I can not remember what line of work he does. I’m so sorry. He will be taking the same train into Washington, DC as I am. Maybe I should hang out with him in the station while we wait for our train in case there is trouble. Soon after the conversation repeated with more gluten free products. I mentioned my favorite bread – Dave’s Killer Bread. Praised the 21 Grain the most and wrote the website down for her to check out later. Next time I take a train I’ll be sure to keep a pocket sized note book of paper on hand.
Our train was late to Chicago by an hour due to signals not working properly in Minneapolis. Once that got figured out, we headed out. The conductor called out over the intercom that the train would be kept in the station until all Seattle passengers were on board the Capital Limited. All ten passengers, including myself, had to hoof it really fast down to the end of the station. Union station sure is large, but I only got to see the interior of the trains themselves, not the interior of the station itself from the inside. Oh well, I wanted to get on that train as quickly as possible and so did everyone else.
Dinner on the Capital Limited was the best dinner I’ve had on Amtrak. You want to know why? Sure you do. They were serving my favorite sea food – crab. Maryland Crab Cakes with green and white beans and rice and salad with roll. I love crab cakes. When I heard my car steward mention the crab, my ears perked up. The passengers next to me started to giggle at my expression and inquired about the crab in Washington state. I promptly wrote down my crab and salmon patty recipe and gave it to the man’s wife who he said was the chief in the household. I hope she likes them as much as I loved cooking and eating them back in Washington. I do intend to make those crab and salmon patties at my friend’s house as soon as the funds let us be able to.
My dinning buddies for tonight were a middle aged woman and her 9th grade son. He played flute at one time, but gave up as he was being teased. However, he picked up trumpet and liked it very much, but did not practice in the house as it was too loud. I can understand that. He also played piano and is still playing today. He’s getting a head start in physics to help with his math skills and is excelling in his studies. I didn’t quite catch what his mother does for a living, sorry.
The elderly woman next to me had been traveling for decades on Amtrak. She happily told of her experiences as the years went by that the services and food got better and better over time. When I say, ‘she traveled everywhere’, I mean it. She’s got some millage under her belt for sure. Maybe she should write a book about all those decades on Amtrak.
Well, now I’m on my way to Washington, DC. I won’t arrive until mid afternoon. Then I will be taking the Northeast Regional to Penn Station in Maryland.
Day 4: March 23, 2013 – Saturday
I actually slept. How can I tell? I had a dream. I know I woke up at 3am to go to the bathroom, but fell back to sleep fast. I guess I got used to the movement and sound of the train finally. I was so comfortable, I nearly didn’t get out of bed for breakfast. I had corn beef hash, potatoes, and crusant. I ate mostly the corn beef hash which was the best I’ve ever had. That canned stuff is nasty compared to the train service of corn beef hash.
As for my breakfast buddies, three middle aged women. The woman on my left was visiting family in Washington, DC. The woman across from me near the window was doing the same, but then mentioned she lived in New Jersey once and expressed in fair detail the beauty of New Jersey of the back country, rolling hills and even a few mountains that not many people hear about. She expressed that ‘it’s the Garden State’ is a true thing by far. Then the conversation shifted to ‘what is your profession?’ the other woman across from me asked. I mentioned my novel ‘Soul’s Little Lie’ and told a little bit about it. The woman near the window said she too wrote a few books, but has a nice stack of rejection letters she has tacked on the her wall. She has not given up. The woman across from me is named Regine Thomas. She wrote a children’s book – ‘Mister Taxi Man Meets Irene’. Her book is about a young man who drives a taxi and one day picks up a young woman. He goes out to lunch with her and later discovers it is a young version of his deceased grandmother. The book is written into a rhyme about twelve pages long with her own illustrations inside and the cover.
Her book can be found on AuthorHouse.com and Amazon.com. She kept saying she’s having a hard time trying to sell it since she self published. Everyone in her town bought copies and loved it, but she can’t seem to understand why AuthorHouse isn’t doing good in sells for her. I then mentioned about Deviantart.com to help promote her book and art there and see about self publishing on Lulu.com. After a while Regine and I got an itch to write out all our info to each other at the table. Each woman got a copy of our novel, website and email information. Next time I’ll be sure to bring a host of business cards with me. Never leave home without one when going on a long trip. You never know who you’ll meet.
Throughout this whole train experience I have expressed by words all the people I have met while having meals. The goofy part is, I can’t seem to remember any of their first names, save for Regine. How peculiar that is. Next time I’ll be sure to bring out my digital recorder. Apparently, I have found a new hobby. Writing short story excerpts of travels going by. There is a market for such things or if there is not, I’ll make one. I’ll have to clean this ‘journal’ up to show to a publisher later. Somewhere amongst this note taking babble is a short story waiting to be noticed. In a why the whole seven pages is a short story, but in my prospective as much as I can remember. The details of the scenery outside the windows can be put in later. I have a good memory for such things.
You know, even though this journey by Amtrak train was during the early spring with many areas of the country still full of snow and the trees have yet to grow their leaves, I will have to take this trip again back to Washington state when it has become green all over. That trip is long ways off into the future. As for what I have seen, besides fifteen new; expressive and polite people, I saw a mother cow give birth to her cafe in the snow of Montana. Thousands of Canadian geese waiting out the snow storm across the Great Plains. Wild turkey, at least six hens, walking around in the early morning mist. A few white tailed does grazing in the early morning. Many, many snow tracks of coyote, deer, rabbit, pheasant and grouse. I even saw two dark crowned cranes in a field. Streams and rivers moving past my eyes in the framed window by my side. The Mighty Mississippi never before seen from such a view by train. What a sight to behold.
Fields of gold, reddish brown. Stones of brown-red and granite gray. Oak, ash, pine, apple, birch, aspen, and silver birch. Old growth forests with twisted, knotted trees that could tell stories past. Old farm houses kept in good order for prosperity of American history. Snow caped mountains with spring waters trying to thaw the snow around them. Waterfalls cascading down hill or mountain sides bring life to spring. I now understand, in a small manner, why I feel a pull to the east coast so much since I was a little girl. The country of the United States is old here. The west is young and too wild. Here on the east coast it is set in it’s ways with wisdom and old growth forests that give a pleasant haunting of the past. I feel at home on the east coast. I have family in Tennessee, but I feel home near the Atlantic Ocean.
My task at hand, once I settle down in Denton, Maryland with my long time friend, is to save every penny I earn in a job. Once I have a comfortable amount of funds, I will move my way up north to Massachusetts. That is where my heart and soul are waiting for me. A part of me stayed behind in the Northern Shore in that summer of 2010. I intend to retrieve that part of me so I can ‘come home’ to where I feel I belong. This journey has been in the making since 1986 when I moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee so long ago.
Crying out, “Mommy, I don’t want to leave! We shouldn’t leave here. I want to stay!” the little five year old Tara proclaimed with tears in her eyes. The house on Palmar Drive was my grandfather’s that he built at the early stages of the Rothwell Enterprises Construction Company. Alas, she had to leave for new pastures that her parents set out for since the economy in the 1980s was getting worse. It would not be for three decades later that her parents would say, “Dear Tara, you were right. We should have never left Tennessee,” her mother expressed after having moved back there in 2004.
Where we moved to was New Orleans, Louisiana. Daddy had gotten a job at a Nissan dealership being a certified mechanic. He was good at his job, so good that I had somehow inherited his internal knack for ‘listening to cars’ of what made them ill. However, early on in the three years we lived there, Daddy had become ill himself with two hernias and some contagious sickness. He was unable to care for the family of two kids and wife.
(**To Be Continued of possible novel**)
There is hope for people who suffer from schizophrenia. This brings a smile to my face cause of all the people with the disorder I’ve come across in my life.
A Walk In My Shoes
The Saint Could Not Save Him
I had met him through a mutual friend in November 2002. Dan was tall, lengthy and had hardly any muscle tone to him. As I grew to know him, love him and observe him as I always did with people I got to know, over the years I noticed his muscle mass was shrinking. I had taken him to a doctor to test his testosterone levels and they were quite low, but the doctor said, “That’s because of his age. He’s nearly 40, this is expected.” That diagnosis, in 2008, didn’t set well with me. There was something else going on.
A few years later, in October 2012, an old classmate had come into town, finding me on Facebook. We started chatting it up and soon he came to visit to meet my husband Dan. It had taken a week to catch my husband’s work schedule from Boeing to get a chance for the two to meet on a weekend, but little did I know what an eye opening encounter it would be.
I had to nearly force Dan to come meet this old classmate. He was reluctant to do so because it was something new to experience. He never did well with new interactions. New situations, even new foods he had a hard time dealing with, but he trudged along for my sake. All I wanted to do was help him have a better life than the one he was so poorly raised in. After a few minutes, Dan came out of his study.
“Dan, this is that classmate I told you about. This is Chris. We were in NJROTC together in senior year at Marysville-Pilchuck High school,” I smiled feeling the excitement rise in me and behind that excitement of hope in adding Chris to the current group of friends. I had hoped that Dan was going to be much more coherent and sociable.
Dan stepped back a bit, rubbed his neck and stuttered feeling the kitchen counter top with his hand for something to brace against as his anxiety kicked in, “Uh, hi,” is all he said.
“Nice to meet you, Dan. Tara’s told me a lot about you,” Chris extended his hand in greeting, but Dan did not take it. Instead his hazel green eyes widened and within seconds had scampered off quickly down the hall back into his study not saying a word as he closed the door behind him. Chris stood there for a few seconds dumb struck to Dan’s peculiar style of greeting. Without missing a beat, “There’s something really wrong with him,” he thumbed down the hall, raising an eyebrow.
At this point, I was still party in denial of what Dan’s mental state really was. I had been studying about schizophrenia for nearly six years prior cause I had a feeling something was wrong. The novel I had started writing in summer 2009 about a character with schizophrenia was just a cover so I could continue to study on the subject.
“Oh, that’s just how Dan is. That’s normal for him,” I chimed with a smile, but I felt an unease with those words. I knew right then that there was something wrong with my husband of nearly ten years.
“Really, Tara? Of all people, I never knew you to be this thick headed. I know you can see he needs help,” Chris advised as I listened to the tone in his voice of concern for me. It was then I realized that I could no longer hide the fact that my husband of ten years could not be saved by me. It was that very thought: I can’t save him had crossed my mind, is when I knew Dan’s family had not told me the truth about their son. I could feel my heart break when I realized his family’s betrayal.
If they had told me about his mental illness, I would have changed tactics to either find him the help he really needed or I would have left him at the alter. If they had told me the truth first hand I probably would not be writing this right now. I would have gone off to other things, but being the good-natured, whole hearted person that I am, I couldn’t stand by and let no one love him. I tried to love him were his family had failed in not loving him in return.
Little did I realize that Dan would never be able to replicate the love I had for him, back to me. He had no mental understanding of how to love fully due to his residual schizophrenia. It was not until a week after the divorce papers were turned in on January 26, 2012 that I had asked the question again to his half sister.
“Now that I’m divorcing your brother, what the hell is wrong with him?” I fussed. I was tired of the games his family was playing trying to keep me as the angel to care for him.
“What do you care anymore? You’re leaving him,” she fussed in return.
“I have to know so I can be at peace with all of this. I need to know, now tell me, what is mentally wrong with Dan?”
She sighed heavy, “Dan was diagnosed with residual schizophrenia and anti-social personality disorder. He was a sick baby all the time. He was skinny. Had a hard time drinking milk cause he was always so dirty. He constantly had diarrhea, so it was hard to keep him clean. Mom would just leave him on the bed on a towel without a diaper just crying,” at this point I began to cry. I could picture it perfectly as to how he was treated and my heart just turned to dust. “You shouldn’t cry over this. It happened decades ago,” she added. How could his half sister say such a thing about her baby brother? “Besides, I am to blame in treating Dan so poorly, too. I called him weak and I didn’t stand up to him when Glenn,” their stepfather, “would call him names and hit him. I should have stood up against the abuse and loved him more. I’m grateful that Dan had someone so wonderful to love him. It’s a shame you’re leaving him like this.”
I was furious.
I wanted to reach into the phone and smack her face.
I wanted to go back in time and steal little baby Dan away from that awful place!
After that, I called his biological father. You might be asking yourself right now – ‘Why didn’t she ask these questions early on while they dated?’ Oh, I did ask these questions but I kept getting the run around from all of his family, even his biological father until the end.
“What’s wrong with Dan?” I would ask his biological mother Jill.
“Let Dan tell you,” she always said.
“What’s wrong with Dan?” I would ask his stepfather Glenn.
“Let Jill tell you,” he always said.
“What’s wrong with Dan?” I would ask his half sister.
“Let Glenn tell you,” she always said.
Then it came for me to ask his biological father who was hard to get a hold of due to his very busy work schedule and better life with his wife of 20 something years.
“What’s wrong with Dan?” I asked, the first words out of my mouth over the phone. At this point I was at the end of my rope. If his biological father sang the same song as the others, I don’t know how I would react.
This is what I found out from his biological father after I backed up what he told me. Here are my findings. Again, just as in Part 1, all psychological information will be coming out of Writer’s Digest book Writer’s Guide To Character Traits second edition by Linda N. Edelstein, PH.D. Published in 2006. If you want to reference back to Part 1 http://www.psych2go.net/walk-shoes-part-1-brothers-mind-lost/ for the first collection of technical findings, by all means, please do.
Traits Of Children and Adolescents Who Have Later Become Schizophrenic
This disorder is rarely seen in children, and there are few definitive hallmarks in childhood that can predict a later schizophrenic problem. Though there are several characteristics that might indicate a predisposition toward schizophrenia, most children who display some of these traits will not go on to develop a mental illness.
(The above bold text I expressed in the above paragraph is because now, since 2012, there are a small handful of children born with schizophrenia that have been successfully diagnosed. These children are part of a life long study of the mental illness to find a cure. A little later in the article you will understand why I mention this now.)
Possible Early Warning Signs of Schizophrenia in a Child:
Is unresponsive, withdrawn in infancy; has poor muscle tone
Is irritable in childhood; flat in affect; easily distracted
Has low re-activity in childhood and adolescence; poor motor functions such as coordination and balance
Is shy and introverted; rarely joyful (girls, all ages)
Is disruptive; displays inappropriate behavior (boys, all ages)
Is unresponsive in adolescence; has poor eye contact, little facial expressions, and lack of voice inflection
Is socially incompetent in adolescence
His half sister, during the good times of my marriage to her brother Dan, would tell me stories of how silly he was while growing up. She would jokingly recount, “He could barely hold that large iron skillet with two hands while he tried to chase me around the house cause we were arguing as to who’s turn it was to do dishes after dinner. I can’t believe he was trying to hit me with that iron skillet when he couldn’t even lift it off the ground!” she laughed.
Dan replied, “What? I don’t remember that.” I was surprised at his remark. How could he forget such an important part of his childhood even though his family didn’t know that their son had a mental illness so strong as residual schizophrenia.
During the first few months of getting to know Dan, I found I was falling in love with him. Then one day, in the first week of January 2003, Dan came down with mononucleosis. His parents brought him home to Camano Island to get healthy. I offered to clean his apartment the entire time he was ill. I cleaned his apartment for one reason: to express how much I loved him. It was not to give up my power as a woman. It was out of real love that I wanted to express in this way. It took a week of back breaking labor from ceiling to floor in every room of the Edwardian style house apartment. A single bedroom, with a large square living room with fireplace and hallway attached to the original kitchen.
Later, when Dan was relieved of his illness of mono, the kissing disease, I saw how much further his muscle mass had diminished. The doctor that did a check up on him was surprised that I had not caught the disease since it was so easily transmutable by sharing of silverware and kissing. I had relayed where he got the disease, but he did not believe me considering his mother and stepfather had told me that Dan was born with a compromised immune system.
“You caught mono from your roommate you had living with you for two years. The same person that introduced you to me – classmate Jenny from Marysville-Pilchuck HS.” She had, all throughout those years of school got around. I knew better than to hook up with her that night during the sleepover at Dan’s apartment that late November in 2002.
Onward with my investigation of Dan’s mental state, as I gradually got to know him through his family, I asked a few questions here and there. The case was building. It was then I could not keep this all to myself. Over time I would force him to go to doctors for different medical situations that came up. As I studied, I found that schizophrenics are born with compromised immune systems. The more Dan got sick from odd things, the more I dug into his medical history through the books I read.
This is what he had during my marriage to him in chronological order.
Concussion at work
Staph infection a second time
Concussion at work a second time
Concussion a third time, along with hairline fractures of his L12 vertebrae when he landed on the stairs backwards
Blocked right sinus due to 2in polup which was removed, sight of his own blood pouring out scaring him half to death
Doctor said to me and him, “If you get a third staph infection, the antibiotics will no longer work for you due to your immune system.”
Doctor said to me and him, “If you get another MRSA infection, the antibiotics will not work on you and could counter act against your already compromised immune system.”
Doctor said to me and him, “If you had landed on your T1 vertebrae, which is connected to the nerve system for your lungs, you would have died instantly due to your lungs collapsing.”
As I mentioned a few times already, that schizophrenia can cause low immunity with or without it being a genetic disposition. The reason behind a low to highly compromised immune system in schizophrenia I would say has a lot to do with the chemical imbalance of the brain. What can enhance the low immunity further to also make schizophrenia worse, could be a protein allergy from cows milk. Dan had an allergy to cows milk and breast milk in general, but it was heightened during his teen years with milk having hormones being injected into cows. The high levels of testosterone, a hormone injected into cattle to bulk up muscle size and increase milk production, can cause a low testosterone level in a child born with schizophrenia. This would then create a compromised immune system. With this in mind, what the doctor said to Dan was spot on – with his compromised immunity he was born with and the low testosterone level, it would counter act with any antibiotics he was given to fight off any infections in the future. His body could not produce the amigo-acids needed to build stronger red blood cells to maintain muscle mass which then drastically lowered his testosterone levels and lessen his white blood cell count.
(Now, I will go on record right now that I may have gotten some of my information wrong from trying to remember this from memory. If in fact I have gotten some of the info wrong in the above paragraph, please let me know.)
As to what Dan’s biological father had told me over the phone in mid January 2012 was quite shocking.
“As you may know, I’m divorcing your son,” I began.
“No, this is the first I’ve heard of it. No one told me, not even Jill,” the inflection of his voice was absolute shock. “What brought this on to happen?”
“Dan has not held up his part in the marriage. I’ve done all that I can, but he hasn’t come through. He ignores me at every turn since the second year of marriage. He had odd mood swings. He eats the same foods all the time. He clams up when I confront him on things that are not rational to get in trouble over. He would get into false fits to make me unhappy and then when I’m crying my eyes out and in crisis he would turn around to treat me like a child who needs healing. He got a reaction out of me and kept doing it over and over. Frankly, I’ve had enough. It’s like raising a child that won’t grow up,” I took a breath. My emotions were getting the better of me, “Tell me, Lee, is there something about Dan I should know?”
Lee took a long sigh, “So, Jill never told you, I see. Tara, Dan was a very sick baby when he was born. His mother had mental issues herself and it was hard for me to get her to stop doing drugs during the first trimester of her pregnancy with Dan. It wasn’t until after Dan was born that I divorced Jill and then shortly after she found Glenn who would care for her small family. I dropped all contact from her after that. When I tell you it was hard for me to reach her, I mean it. She was a difficult woman to deal with even when she wasn’t using acid. There was something wrong with her, too.”
At this point, I realized looking back at Jill’s own behavior that she exhibited symptoms of schizophrenia, particularly paranoid schizophrenia with a hint of residual, too. I hadn’t the heart to tell him of her true mental state as it was far too late to do anything for her and to leave him with a possible burden of guilt along with, would have been bad on my part. I felt he knew inside his heart how really mentally unstable she was.
He continued, “She also drank Diet Coca-Cola, nearly five cans a day, every day since she was married to me. I had looked into it that with the mix of drug use and the constant consumption of the Diet Coca-Cola which has the sweetener aspartame in it, both factors kept eating away at her brain. Whatever was left of her genetics, I’m sure she passed on schizophrenia to Dan.”
Then it dawned on me. Glenn had tried for decades to get Jill to stop drinking the soda, but she refused. Jill was in a trance to consume the same foods and drink all the time. Exactly the same behavior as Dan. She would black out and her short term memory loss got worse. Not to forget, that Glenn continued to bully and name call Jill, too. All the while, Glenn not knowing that he had married a mentally unstable woman who desperately needed medication to control her ever growing symptoms of schizophrenia and at last, she was on medication for her seizures. Her seizures were caused by the constant consumption of Diet Coca-Cola and the drug use in the past had eaten away at her brain. Her brain looks like Swiss cheese, the doctors said, which Glenn had told me later about.
With this realization that Dan, my husband of nearly ten years, was born with residual schizophrenia due to a woman who herself was schizophrenic and took drugs and drank a nasty artificial sweeter to make it all worse without her being conscious of what she was doing to a fetus so early in gestation. Never mind the fact that with the constant bombardment of verbal, physical and mental abuse from Dan’s stepfather, half sister, and possibly countless school piers bullying him making his mental state worse, he would have still had schizophrenia even if Jill never took drugs or ever drank the soda for decades.
To conclude part two, Dan was born with schizophrenia and with the abuse he was given he also developed anti-social personality disorder. When someone hides crucial information about someone just for the sake of protecting them from possible harm, is in fact harmful. To expect a person to suddenly swoop in to care for your ill adult sibling or adult child just cause it is covenant to do so, is also harmful. If you love your family member who is so ill in the mind, you would be in good graces with them and medical professionals if you would not hide the facts from everyone cause you are ashamed.
Shame and a hint of false pride is what kept his family from helping Dan get the proper care he needed. Along with the fact, that now in the year 2015, neuroscientists are finding new workings in the brain of how sensitive a chemical imbalance can be. How malleable the brain is from auditory, vocal and physical stimuli during early development is so very crucial these days.
Join me again for Part 3 – Schizophrenia: A Walk In My Shoes – The Ones Left Behind, where I will discuss about classmates, customers, neighbors and friends that I watched in horror as the disease, they might not even know they have, consume their lives into a viscous cycle.
A Walk In My Shoes
Brother’s Mind Is Lost
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was awake in my bedroom at the Canyon Creek Apartments in Phoenix, Arizona. I couldn’t sleep, so I listened to my New Kids On The Block album Hangin’ Tough. I turned down the music cause I felt a tension in the air. I could hear my mother in the living room waiting for my brother to come home, who was twenty-one of age at the time in 1991. The door slammed shut and my brother was in tears, nearly screaming at the top of his lungs.
I’ll call him, Travis.
“Travis, now calm down, honey,” mother cooed as I heard her follow him slowly into the kitchen. The kitchen and my bedroom shared the same wall. I didn’t even have to press my ear to it, I heard everything as though the wall was never there.
“No! I won’t calm down!” he yelled, his tone was fussy, growling almost, teeth clinched as he spoke.
“Shhh…you’ll wake Tara,” she soothed, getting slightly closer to him. I can tell in the location exactly as to where she stood before my brother. The walls acted like sonar bouncing their two voices right into my ear. My father, this whole time, was asleep in the bedroom down the hall, as far as I knew.
Travis began to cry. “I can’t calm down!” he growled.
“Did you take anything tonight?” she asked calmly knowing previously his past interactions with friends he hung out with.
“No! I can’t make the voices stop! Stop yelling at me!”
“I’m not yelling at you,” she spoke so calmly I was stunned. Where had she learned to be so cool under such pressure, I thought to myself.
A drawer opened. His fingers fondled around for a few seconds in the silverware container and then slammed the drawer closed. “Make them stop!” he growled, half yelling.
“Travis, take the knife away from your throat. Honey, please.”
I could hear his stance change. I could hear his foot move forward toward mom. All the while my hand was relaxed, open palmed, on my Joey McIntyre poster as I tried to calm my sobs. My other hand lay on the white of the wall. At that very second I could hear him move his arm outward. A slightly heavy jacket rustled as his arm moved forward toward my mother’s chest. I knew were the knife was headed.
“You can’t stop them! I want to die!” he cried, tears choking his words as the emotions poured out.
“Put the knife down. Here, give me the knife,” after those words were spoken by my mother, her full cool in action, the clatter of the knife was laid on the counter top.
“What’s wrong with me!” he sobbed into mother’s chest.
All the while, I cried. My body shook. My tear filled eyes I wiped with my left hand. I remember like it was yesterday – my tear soaked fingers trailing down the poster leaving streaks behind.
schizophrenia schiz·o·phre·ni·a [skit-suh-free-nee-uh, -freen-yuh] n. Any of a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances. Schizophrenia is often associated with dopamine imbalances in the brain and defects of the frontal lobe and may have an underlying genetic cause.
My brother had been in the Navy from 1988 to 1991. He was dishonorably discharged having done something against regulations while he worked in computer programming. He had also been caught too many times selling and using drugs on base. These were not symptoms of his schizophrenia. Even way before that, when he was little, Mom had told me stories that he was a very overly hyper child. Always getting into trouble and was hard to deal with especially in his teen years. He had dropped out of high school during his Sophomore year. That is when all his mental upheavals really started.
However, in 1996 he suffered a nearly fatal car accident in the state of Washington, were my family had later moved to. My brother was the middle passenger in the truck. A Marine friend was sitting on the right and a friend to them both, a blond woman drove. The light to turn left was green. Just as the driver made the turn half way, another driver ran the red light broad siding into the truck. The Marine died instantly. The driver of the truck my brother was in only bit off half her tongue.
My brother had the worst of it. Broken legs in two differently places. Broken left arm and broken right wrist. Shattered jaw. Closed head trauma. He was unconscious on impact. He was kept in a chemical induced coma for six weeks for his brain injury to heal. To encase his brain, a metal plate was placed over the opening. Due to his previous issues with the beginnings of schizophrenia from his teen years into his early 20s, this closed head injury activated it a hundred fold. The doctors and psychiatrist diagnosed him as: Paranoid Schizophrenic.
Now, to the technical information that I have studied for years. How I come to find schizophrenia so fascinating and kept up with my studies on the subject, even though I never went to college to obtain a degree, was when I unknowingly married a residual schizophrenic (that subject will be for ‘Schizophrenia: A Walk In My Shoes Part 2: The Saint Could Not Save Him’).
All the information I fill this article with, up to this point, are all coming from one book: Writer’s Guide to Character Traits (second edition) by: Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D. Published by: Writer’s Digest Books, copyright 2006.
Early Warning Signs of Schizophrenia:
None of these signs by themselves indicate any mental illness.
Sleep disruptions; inability to sleep or unusual waking hours
Withdrawal from family and friends
Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
Deterioration of personal hygiene
Rambling or disorganized speech
Flat or expressionless gaze
Unusual sensitivity to stimuli such as light or noise
Smelling or tasting things differently
Steady, noticeable decline in school or work performance
Threats of self harm or harm to others
Can demonstrate sexual promiscuity
Opposition to authority; truancy, vandalism or theft
Feelings that others are watching or laughing at him
Extreme preoccupation with religion
A growing sense of deja-vu
Believing that independent events are connected
Irrational fear or anger
I can not stress this enough – the list above shows all the basic signs. It takes a combination of them, each person is different in combos of symptoms, to exhibit full on or medium functionality with schizophrenia. A regular person can experience ‘deja vu’ at some point in their lives or many times in their lives, but for a schizophrenic they experience it often to the point it can make them paranoid to take precautions that can endanger themselves and others.
The most common food that I found that my brother did not like and still does not like to this day was – tomatoes. I found this to be strange, so I looked into it years later. What I found confirmed even more that my brother had a chemical imbalance in his brain that caused his schizophrenia. A schizophrenic will absolutely hate the taste, texture, and smell of tomatoes and bananas due to the potassium compounds in the fruit. The smell especially triggers a reaction to their frontal cortex instinctively to stay away from the fruit. It may seem irrational to normal people, but to a chemically damaged brain it is a sign that there is something wrong. Now, there are people who don’t like tomatoes for other reasons, but a normally healthy brain will still try to consume something new.
As for the preoccupation with religion, in a normal person they will do ritual actions that make them happy. A ritual is only something someone does constantly at the same day and same point of time. This does not mean the person will ‘worship’ their toothbrush in the morning. This means a normal person has a routine that they are comfortable with every single day. In a schizophrenic the constant actions of something religious in scope can become so obsessive they take it as full on reality. A fabulous thing my brother said more than once in 1993 to 1998 – “I am an angel from God! I am here to guide you into the righteous light!” He would scream this during false arguments with my parents just to get a reaction from himself onto others. He would then go into a fit and slam the front door screaming at the top of his lungs. He was not under the influence of cannabis. However, cannabis can induce more schizophrenic behaviors if someone does not know they have the chemical imbalance.
Not to be confused with ADHD, having a lack in concentration for a schizophrenic person is sporadic and has no pattern. What can make them lose concentration easily can be the voices in their mind or the basic stress of being in a crowd of people that are talking all at once. For a regular person, losing concentration can stem from being overly interested in different stimuli all at once or being easily bored with one subject you are working on and then needing something to awaken you to get back on track. A normal person will take breaks if they are becoming distracted, but for a schizophrenic taking a break from distraction is very difficult to master if at all.
Those are just a small handful of what my brother exhibited in many combinations of onset schizophrenia when he was not on any medication. In the list above, he experienced nearly the whole thing in varying degrees throughout his 44 years of life so far. Today, for the last five years or more, he has been on three different medications to maintain the symptoms. At this time there is absolutely no cure for schizophrenia.
Traits Of A Person With Schizophrenia:
Experiences bizarre delusions; alien thoughts are inserted in the mind
Has disorganized speech: rambling, incoherent, wandering from topic to topic, provides answers that do not respond to questions
Has bizarre thinking patterns: unusual associations, illogical connections
Experiences disturbed moods: may go from very stubborn to peaceable
May exhibit peculiar behaviors: disheveled appearance; lack of hygiene; inappropriate sexual behavior; agitation; talking to self; jumping around
Is confused; responds to internal stimuli, not to cues in the outside world
Hallucinates; any sense can be affected but the most common is auditory: hearing voices that comment, threaten, or instruct
Is anxious, apprehensive, and plagued by self-doubt
Is socially alienated and feels misunderstood
Is usually expressionless in speech with little body language
Shows inappropriate affect; laughs or cries without reason, or shows no emotion
Feels estranged from self; does not feel real
Has difficulty concentrating; poor memory
Avoids new situations
Can be out-of-control and impulsive
Withdraws from others; is secretive and inaccessible
While growing up with a brother with schizophrenia, I found myself keeping away from all that he exhibited toward the family. His outbursts of raising his voice because mom, dad and myself would be talking nearly at the same time, he would be overwhelmed and yell to us to shut up. Whenever the television was turned up load cause dad’s hearing was going, and if anyone, even one other person was talking along with, he would get visibly agitated. He would then demand the sound be turned down. The slightest argument, or hint of it from my parents to supposedly scold me over something minor, my brother would raise his voice to shut everyone up and then burst out of the room saying, “I can’t take this anymore! Will you all just shut up!”
The worst onset of his schizophrenia was a day I will never forget. He was hyped up on cannabis that was laced with something. He had been gone for a week and my parents were worried sick. He came home one afternoon totally out of his mind. An argument, as I would call it a false argument ensued. I don’t remember what exactly was said, as I was traumatized by his outburst to block it out. I remember coming down the stairs in the house we lived in in Marysville, Washington. I had enough of it. I sat down in the leather chair and yelled at him to just leave the house. He then got into my face, nearly nose to nose yelling at me. I do not remember to this day what he said to me, but I remember gripping onto the arms of the chair shaking. Both my parents rushed behind him grabbing his arms and both saying, “Don’t you touch her!” My father then rushed to get the camcorder to video tape the event. My brother noticed this right away and changed his tactics. He acted normal again as though everything was fine. He then stormed out of the garage yelling at our parents that they were being paranoid.
I was then fussed at for starting a bigger argument. I was in tears and my mother said, “Why are you crying over this? He didn’t do anything to you. You have nothing to cry about.”
What they did not know and still do not understand to this day, now that I’ll be 35 of age this year, because of my brother’s wild behavior due to schizophrenia has caused me to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are other factors for my PTSD that I will be discussing in a later article about that subject alone.
As for now, I will conclude this article by saying this to all readers: If you love someone no matter if they are a family member or a dear close friend, even in school, and they exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia you must guide them to the help they need. Schizophrenia is a quiet mental illness that the person does not know they have. Their consciousness is so removed from reality it takes a healthy person’s mind to recognize that there is a problem. However, there will be times that the one you love can not be saved. No matter how many times you try, a schizophrenic person may never find treatment. There are those that are just coherent enough to allow the realization that they have a problem.
At this time there is no cure only medication treatments and years of psychotherapy will a person with this mental illness be able to cope with their daily lives on a schedule.
In the next article, I will discuss my experiences being married to a schizophrenic and show examples of other people I came in contact with over the years from school all the way into my working retail career.
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