World Paranormal Day- Aokigahara Forest, Japan

Aokigahara Forest, sometimes called the haunted forest or the suicide forest, is located in a shadow.  The shadow of Mt. Fuji, to be more precise.  As in any forest, you will also be in the shadows, cast by the conifer and broad leaf trees.   Locals call it Jukai which translates into “sea of trees”.  The canopy is so dense, once inside you won’t be able to see the sun, again, you’re among the shadows.

              Having never been to this forest (or Japan, or Asia) I can only write about others’ experiences and the (fictionalized) accounts I’ve seen in the movies The Forest and Sea of Trees, the first a thriller/horror movie, the second more of a thriller, drama style movie.   I have also watched several documentaries about Aokigahara.  All of these depictions show the same thing- a vast forest of trees, devoid of sound and animals, almost a vacuum.  The living can tour it, and it is highly recommended they go with a local guide and NEVER stray from the path.  Cables, strings, flags, and other homemade devices are seen among the trees- more permanent path markers than Hansel and Gretel used, but this is no fairy tale. Compasses don’t work here; scientists believe it’s the iron in the soil.  Trees grow in multiple directions, their branches entangling each other, making it impossible to distinguish where one tree begins and another ends. But why is it haunted?

              Some legends say the first accounts of paranormal activity began in Aokigahara after ubaste took place there.  Ubaste is the Japanese folklore or legend, that elderly family members were taken to the forest to starve to death, during periods of great famine in Japan, or when a family had no other choice, and could not afford the care of their elderly relatives.  The Japanese people believe that Aokigahara is haunted by the Yurei, or ghosts, of these poor abandoned people. 

              Aokigahara is often referred to as” the suicide forest” due to the high number of people that have taken their own lives there (105 documented suicides since 2003, but Japan refuses to publish anymore suicide data). Unofficially, the number of suicides that have taken place are over 500, as of 2021.  Many believe that those are only the accounted for and found bodies.  Many people have gone to visit the forest and never been found, presumed to be dead, but not making the official unofficial count.

              Why? Why is Aokigahara Forest such a desirable place for those ending their life? Is it the call of the Yurei? The thought of not being alone in the afterlife?  To begin with, suicide in Japan is viewed very differently than most cultures.  Honorable suicide, or Seppuku, has long been a recognized Japanese custom.  Japan has one of the highest suicide rates among first world nations, as they promote a heavily unbalanced work and sacrificial life. Many workers find themselves working to beyond exhaustion and burn out and see suicide as their only way out- a way to release their family financially and remain honorable. Traditionally, Asian cultures don’t recognize mental health symptoms (expressing them as physical symptoms) and do not promote therapy.  Survivors of suicide attempts at Aokigahara have spoken of a powerful force, drawing them into the forest, then confusing them, both in direction and “mentally”. Many reported they chose the forest so that they couldn’t be found, but also so they would be amongst the others that had suffered and died before them.

              The draw to Aokigahara can not only be attributed to the paranormal.  In Kuroi Jukai a novel by Seicho Matsumo, the forest is described as “the perfect place to die”. After it’s publication in 1960, visits to Aokigahara sharply rose.  In addition to Matsumo’s novel, several songs in Japanese culture have romanticized the idea of taking one’s life in Aokigahara.

              Signs in several languages have been placed at entrances to the forest (which are also monitored via cameras by the Japanese version of Forest Rangers).  These signs read things like “Things will get better”, “You are a gift to your family”, and “Please reconsider”.   Volunteers routinely roam the paths of the forest, to dissuade any would be attempts by people they meet in the forest. Aokigahara is the second most popular site for suicides in the world, the first being the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sources: Welcome to Aokigahara – The Scary Haunted Forest in Japan (

Inside Aokigahara, The Haunting ‘Suicide Forest’ Of Japan (

Listening to: The Forest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on Spotify

If you or someone you know is thinking about harming themselves or committing suicide, please dial 988 in the US, or text “home” to 741741

In the UK please dial  0800 689 5652 or 0800 58 58 58. 

In Japan, please dial 03-6634-2556

International Suicide Hotlines – OpenCounseling : OpenCounseling


Double Oaks Bed and Breakfast, Greensboro

Well, this is at least not as awkward as last time…I’ve only been absent from the blog 13 months instead of two years.

A few announcements- a giant thank you to LDB Press, as they have picked up Paranormal North Carolina, and we all eagerly await it’s release date. (Ok, I eagerly await the release date).

Despite the fact that PNC is complete, the paranormal investigations, research, and site visits in NC haven’t stopped. I have done two investigations that won’t be included in this edition of PNC just because (and you know this if you’re familiar with writing, publishing, etc) once you have submitted your FINAL manuscript, with all of the changes, edits, etc. adding anything else just slows down the production process.

Therefore, I present my write up of Double Oaks Bed and Breakfast, located in Greensboro, NC. I am writing this in the style of each entry/chapter of PNC, so you’ll get a little taste, however it is not a true excerpt, for reasons stated above.

Double Oaks Bed and Breakfast, began in 1906, finished in 1909 as a house for Harden Thomas Martin and his family. H.T. Martin was a grocer, and having a large, two and a half story Colonial Revival style house with a large wraparound porch, and a second-floor balcony, helped show the success of Martin and his store. The Martin House, as it was known, remained in the Martin family until 1973. It was sold to Charles Forrester in 1977, a Greensboro businessman. In 1995, it was sold to the Milam family, who operated it as a Bed and Breakfast from 1998-2007. It was a private residence for a while, until the current owners and innkeepers purchased it in 2016, opening it as Double Oaks B&B. Renovations to the third floor (addition of two suites) were done in 2020 and 2021, during the pandemic.

I had the very fortunate opportunity to spend the night in the Milam Suite (the most haunted spot!) in the house in late January, due to my job with a local non-profit. Our boss picked the lovely Double Oaks for a team retreat, and when she initially told us where we would be staying, I immediately searched Double Oaks with the query “Double Oaks B and B haunted”. I was very pleased to find a travel blog post that mentioned several staff members had reported that on three separate occasions, guests had reported seeing a lady singing and doing her hair in a bathroom. I emailed my team and asked if it would be possible to claim the “haunted room” and they were all too happy to oblige. (We as a staff, had no idea the setup of the house, just that there are six rooms, and we would each have our own room and bathroom.)

When I arrived at the house, my room was the Milam Suite, named after the first owners to utilize Double Oaks as a B&B. As a very lucky bonus, Double Oaks had just added a local coffee shop operation to part of their sunporch. I asked the barista, whom I later earned was also the Director of Operations, about any ghosts. He reported that he had heard and seen pots and pans swinging in the kitchen with no explanation. He also told me that several employees act as baristas, and they find their day goes more smoothly (operationally) if they pour the first shot into a tiny glass espresso cup and leave it on the windowsill with other clean cups. “Imogene’s shot” they call it, in honor of the woman apparition that several guests have seen.

I was at Double Oaks to WORK not to investigate, but if you know me, you know me. I put a digital voice recorder in my room as I slept and before I could even unpack my suitcase, I had a motion activated camera in the bathroom, pointing at the sink, mirror and what I will call “heaven”- a large, two shower headed walk in shower complete with an old-fashioned claw tub in the shower. At least four people could have fit comfortably in that shower, with a fifth in the tub. If I ever get to select where I haunt once I’ve passed on, please look for me in the bathroom of the Milam Suite of Double Oaks.

I also brough an EMF detector with me, hoping for some video Q&A with the spirit(s) but found that my detector remained between medium and high the entire time it was on, meaning their baseline for Electromagnetic Fields is HIGH. (Between 2.5-10 milliGAUSS. A room without this amount of EMF would rest at 1.5 miliGAUSS or less.) This is not too surprising- it’s an old home. The wiring is not going to be as sound as a newer build. I did find it interesting that it was between 2.5-10 milliGAUSS wherever I was in the bedroom. The bathroom and the attached sitting room had lower readings, but never low. Scientifically, I had to think if I was lying in bed with medium to high readings washing over me all night, could this all be just caused by EMF? (High EMF can cause sick feelings, paranoia, headaches, and hallucinations.) The psychologist in me thought that even if the ghostly woman was caused by hallucinations, it would be odd that all three guests reported seeing the same thing.

Mike, the chef, greeted me the next morning (with a fabulous vegetable and cheese frittata, by the way) and was happy to tell me what he had experienced in the house. He reported that he was finishing up dinner preparations one afternoon, when he noticed that the pots and pans began to swing. “Slowly at first, then harder,” he reported. Thinking it could be vibrations from traffic, or someone upstairs, he went and steadied them, but they began to swing again. He smirked as he told me that as he watched the pots and pans swing around a second time he began to smile, and texted one of the innkeepers “I don’t know who you have in the Milam Suite (suite above the kitchen) but they are quite amorous. My kitchen is shaking.” He finished prep and was getting ready to leave when he got a response “we don’t have any guests checked in.” He said the pots and pans continued to swing and shake, and he showed every employee that came in that day, as he decided to stay and see how long the movement continued (several hours). Another incident that happened to him was on a cold winter morning. He was in the kitchen, prepping for breakfast, when he saw what he described as “a young woman with a blanket or shawl around her shoulder, and lots of brown hair piled into a bun” pass by his kitchen window. That window faced onto the back part of the porch, into the backyard. He dropped his prep, and went to let her in, as he assumed this was a guest that had gone out for an early morning walk, and when he reached the door, no one was there, and no one was on the porch. He found out the couple in residence overnight was elderly, and when he served them at breakfast, they did not meet the description of what he had seen. Overall, he feels that whatever is present is not malevolent.

As we were doing group meetings on our second day, I ran into the housekeeper and explained that while my room was cleared and ready to be turned over, I had left a camera in the bathroom and a voice recorder on the mantle, was that ok? She looked at me kind of oddly for a minute, so I quickly explained “just ghost hunting stuff”. She nodded and then said “well, you’re in the right room for that!” Of course, I asked her if she could explain. She stated that whenever she was cleaning the Milam Suite, she felt like she was being watched and felt uncomfortable in there (see above notes on EMF). She also asked if I had spent any time in the attached sitting room, and I explained that I really hadn’t. She took me into the sitting room and showed me an antique cabinet. It remined me of my mom’s china cabinet. Drawers (wooden) on the bottom, then a glass hutch on top, for display. She asked me to open the hutch, and I realized it was locked, with a key in the lock. I twisted the key a full twist, and the hutch opened once I pulled on it. She pointed to small, old, pictures of children that were on display. “I was vacuuming in here, turning over the room one day. I start in the sitting room, then cross into the bedroom, then I walk back into the sitting room to unplug the vacuum,” she explained. “I had done both rooms, no issue, and when I went back to unplug the vacuum, the hutch was open, and several pictures of the children were on the floor, several feet from the cabinet.” She said she replaced them, locked the hutch and left.

Now my coworkers were very nice to let me have the room with the most activity, but I asked if the housekeeper had seen anything else in the house. She reported that one day she was cleaning the suites on the third floor, and she knocked on the door before entering, as is habit, even though she knew no guests were in the house. She heard a woman call “you may come in” in a strong voice, and when she opened the door, no one was in the room.

I loved hearing the staff’s genuine interactions and was hoping I had “caught” something” despite not having much equipment set up. I am happy to report, that around 1130pm the camera from the bathroom was triggered to record for a few seconds. Nothing is visible, but the last few seconds of the recording have quiet, music box-like music playing. I ruled out cell phones, etc. That’s my one find that can’t be explained. I am hoping to have a second investigation in the Milam Suite soon, with much more equipment, focusing on both rooms.

Check my Facebook Author page for some pictures and the video, and please watch for updates on Paranormal North Carolina.

So…this is awkward

How do you explain a two-year absence on your blog?

a) ignore it and just proceed like you’ve been updating it regularly

b) remind everyone your primary job is “therapist” and we’ve been in a pandemic

c) announce that at least during the pandemic you wrote a book

d) all of the above

Let’s go with D.

It has been a CRAZY two years y’all, but I don’t have to tell you that. This pandemic has touched every corner of the world, so no need to re-hash all that.

It kept me very busy with current patients, new patients, and trying to navigate a global pandemic WHILE providing support to these patients (what we have now termed “parallel processing”)

I had a period in the summer of ’21 where I had some time to kill, but the thought of writing a book about ANYTHING therapy just felt like it would burn me out. Yet, we’ve been told “Write what you know”… did I ever mention I’ve been on a Paranormal Investigation Team since 2009?

No…yeah, I’ve probably been too busy. Paranormal North Carolina is written, edited, registered, and has a publisher.

Yay! So that and insane work schedule has been my pandemic experience. Would like to make this a series, so we’ll see how long this pandemic goes (hopefully not much longer).

Stay safe and healthy and thanks for following a blog that gets updated every two years. (let’s try for once a month)

It’s been a while, but when lightning strikes…

I should have scrolled back to see when my last post was.  I really should have.  I am kind of scared to, because I am afraid that the year in “18” instead of “19” and that is just… well, there’s no excuse for that.  Despite working 4 jobs, 3 jobs? (I’m not sure how to count these two part time as needed jobs)  I do have time in my life to  blog.  Maybe not as much time as mommy bloggers, but still, there is time.

Ok, so moving on, what is new… I went to a 6 day training in Sedona, Arizona in May for Complex PTSD (C-PTSD). Fascinating stuff.  Both C-PTSD and the treatments for it are fascinating it, I mean. I’m already implementing the treatments in therapy with several clients and things seem to  be going well.

What made me remember that I have a blog and that I haven’t written in it in few months (at least)?  We (husband and I) were at Mom and Dad’s for an Independence Day cookout.  First, Mom and I had to go see Aladdin.  Confession, this was my third time seeing the live action Aladdin with Will Smith.  It just keeps getting better, seriously.

Anyway, on the way home from the movies, it was thundering and lighting. The rain was coming.  Mom said to me, “you better call your father and tell him to start the burgers now before the rain comes.”  Just as she said that, this huge streak of lightning went across the sky.  “We can wait Mom.  I’m sure no one is starving.” I assured her. “It’s not worth Dad getting struck by lightning over.” I was sort of joking, but serious too.

She’s driving and just casually says “Yeah, I guess you’re right, we don’t want him to get struck by lightning again.”

“AGAIN?  When was Dad struck by lightning?” How come they don’t tell me important things, but will call to discuss gas prices with me, and how much rain Dad’s new rain gauge has collected.

“Oh, in Vietnam. I only know  because he had to tell the heart doctor.   We think it’s why his heart skips.” She’s still super cool about all of this.

My takeaway “oh awesome, Dad’s got arrhythmia and has been struck by lightning, and how the f&*k did not make the book?”

So when we got home I asked him about it.  Dad and his soldiers were laying lines when a storm rolled in. (This was his first tour)  Not wanting anyone to get hurt, Dad sent his two soldiers to the truck.  As he radioed to nearby soldiers to let them know the situation he happened to be leaning against the switchboard they were installing.  Lightning struck the wire, traveled along the line, and hit the switchboard. He was knocked backwards, against the wall of the bunker, about five feet away.  Dad says he doesn’t remember what happened, just that a medic was over him with smelling salts and he felt tingly and numb at the same time,   They took him to an in country hospital for observation overnight.  “That was the best part, I got a long shower and clean clothes.” When he was released the next day, he was sent back to his unit with his release paperwork buttoned to his shirt, clearing him to return to duty.  A far cry from the electronic medical records of today.

This explained why my dad was so freaked out when we were younger and on the phone during storms.  I never believed that lightning could actually through lines, I thought it was more of a myth or urban legend. I still love a good storm, but will avoid corded phones, if any of those exist anymore.

I’m officially old

I haven’t got the AARP card application in the mail YET, but I got the second closest indicator of oldness- a Facebook invite to my 20 year high school reunion in October. Now I can do math (a fact that’s debatable if you’ve been to board game night with me and watched me struggle to add scores), so I know 2018-1998=20.  It’s just that the logical math fact that I graduated 20 years ago doesn’t compute with my head memories.  My head tells me I was in high school “about 10 years ago” and in college “about 7 years ago”, ignoring the logical fact that I’ve been married 11 years next month and I met my husband when I was starting graduate school  and married him 2 weeks after I graduated.  Graduate school? That was 3 or 4 years ago, right?  Never mind, that I’ve been in private practice for 9 years this year,  and logically, I couldn’t practice until after two years after graduate school (the time it takes to earn your licenses).

My friends seem to suffer from this mental math block too.  I don’t know if they personalize it to their own lives and careers, but we definitely think that the 1990’s were 10 years ago, 15 at best.

So how does this affect my writing?  Well, I just don’t seem to have the energy I used to after working a 12 hour day to pull out the laptop and squeeze a few 100 words in.  Working four jobs (I calculate it in my head as three, since two of them are very occasionally, funny, the IRS calculates them as four) and trying to still lead an active social life seems to be draining my creativity tap.

I will think of great scenes  for the novel here and there,  but they get fewer and far between.  Making the time to write is another challenge. I WILL be working at [occasional] job  4 next weekend, so hopefully, that might allow for a few hundred words to find their way to the hard drives.

Remember when I used to blog about February and March being my busiest times for not being able to write because it was “Walk Season” for ALS? [Occasional] job 3. (I should specify that the job is running two of their support groups, chairing their Walk committee was purely voluntary).  Now we don’t have a Walk to Defeat ALS where I live.  That should give me more time.  Of course it doesn’t!

NOW, I try to host a fundraiser once a year in the area where I live to raise awareness and funds for ALS so that people won’t forget that we are here.  Want to know the difference between chairing a Walk Committee and doing your own fundraiser?  There’s still about the same amount of sleepless nights, just with your own fundraiser you are starting from scratch when you are begging for donations and volunteers. (My ALS is For the Birds volunteers- aka, my family, friends, and interns that have been forced into this because they couldn’t come up with a quick enough excuse not to, I DO love and appreciate all of you. )

All of that being said, share your tips, busy writers, with how you squeeze time in to write.  I had a doctor tell me she wrote 3 books in between patients.  I’ve thought about that, and might have to start dragging the tiny laptop to work with me for those pesky no shows and last minute cancellations.  I could also schedule 2 hours a weekend to devote to writing.  Two hours isn’t much but it’s better than nothing.

Keep Writing, and send some energy to me!


No, we can’t cancel Christmas this year.

I’ve been hearing this A LOT this year from colleagues, clients, random people in the street.  This idea of canceling Christmas isn’t new.  There’s a movie about it, and even when I googled “Cancel Christmas” to fact check that there was indeed a movie about it, my hits were all blog posts “Why We Canceled Christmas”  “How to Cancel Christmas”  “Fed Up Parents Cancel Christmas”.  Those were just the top three.  So tell me, bloggers, why are you telling people to do something they can not do?   Canceling Christmas in my mind is like going to the beach and running out to the shoreline and yelling to the ocean “NO! Don’t send the next wave in!  Stop the waves!” You can’t do it.  YOU (or I, or the bloggers telling you to) don’t have that kind of power.

Why do you want to cancel Christmas?  Let’s address that instead because THAT (whatever “that” is) we have some control over.

  1. The Holidays/Christmas are overwhelming.  Take a step back, take a deep breath and keep breathing.  What aspects are overwhelming? Are you overextending yourself physically, financially, both? Is your extended family coming and you’re worried that everything has to be perfect?  These are the kinds of thoughts and behaviors that you can examine and change.  Limit yourself to one or two holiday parties, or NO holiday parties if that is the right answer for you.  Don’t participate in the office Secret Santa if that is too overwhelming for you.  Make a budget and stick to it. Let go of the idea of perfection.  Nothing is perfect.  NOTHING.  Work on progress, not perfection.

2.  I can’t afford Christmas.  Kids’ Christmas lists a mile long? Not sure how you’re going to pay for that PS4 and the tablet they are asking for?  Don’t.  Have the kids re-write their lists.  Give them a spending cap.  How do you explain a spending cap to a five-year-old?  You don’t.  You just tell her that she can pick from one of these 3 items (all within your spending limit) to ask Santa for.  You do explain the spending cap to the older ones, and not to sound like a cheesy Hallmark movie, but you remind them that Christmas is about giving.  Find an angel tree or have them pick out a new gift for Toys for Tots (Thank you,  Marines!) and explain that this gift they are giving will be in place of one they are getting this year.

Scale down the rest of the works, too.  You don’t have to have a 5-course holiday dinner or fancy, catered party.  Have the family do things pot-luck style, or go with appetizers and snacks on Christmas Day.

3.  I just can’t get into the spirit this year. Now, I am a therapist by trade, so I am totally going to give you a pass if you’re grieving or dealing with something larger than life right now (terminal illness, extreme mental illness) but if this is just a case of the blues- get yourself into the spirit.  Watch a TV special and eat a Christmas cookie, damn it!  Go window shopping.  Drink some Limited Edition seasonal tea or coffee that screams “Holidays are Here!”

What I’m trying to say, is that who are we, to stop or cancel Christmas (or any wintertime holiday*)? I am not even coming from the religious aspect here (although that is important for many). If nothing else, the holidays should be about a feeling of peace and love and if you’re wanting to cancel that, it might be time to rest, take a breath and examine what is really going on and what you are really running from.

*footnote, just utterly curious if people of other religions/beliefs threaten to cancel their festivities?  I have never heard of anyone threatening to “Cancel Hanukkah” this year or “Skip Kwanzaa”.   I have a feeling that might have to do with how much expectation and commercialization are associated with Christmas, but I was just curious.  Feel free to comment.

Happiest of Holidays to you, and Peace always,  Joanna.



I survived Black Friday- as a retail clerk!

Many of you know that my “real” job is not an author.  It is being a therapist.  So you might wonder why I was working retail on Black Friday.  Over the summer, I picked up a few hours here and there (PRN, as we say in the medical world) at a little, locally owned, used bookstore and art gallery.  AND I LOVE IT.  (I know, don’t start a sentence with and.)

I love being around the books, I love seeing what people read, I love the quiet, I love the rotating art we display and the privilege of meeting some of the artists.  When my boss (who is the nicest lady in the world to work for) informed me that Black Friday was mandatory, I was not surprised.  This was the retail world.  Black Friday is always mandatory.  It’s a day off in the therapy world for most therapists, because everyone is too turkey hungover or busy spending money to come in for therapy.

I was excited until she mentioned that because it is in conjunction with Dicken’s Holiday ( a Fayetteville tradition) it would be the biggest, busiest day of the year, AND I would need to be in Victorian dress. Um, what?  Thanks to my recent weight loss of 40 lbs, anytime I’m not wearing “normal” work clothes or my standard jeans (now with a belt) I have to play a fun game of “will this be too big or too small?”  If you’ve ever struggled with weight, you have a closet like I do- several sizes too small “just in case” or “I couldn’t bear to part with it”, or “my inspiration outfit”.   I stopped doing that crap years ago, but I do have several dressier outfits that I’ve held onto.

“Just go to a thrift store!” my nice boss told me when  I explained that I knew I didn’t have anything that passed for Victorian in my current size.  Now, I don’t know the thrift stores she frequents, but the ones I went to head skin-tight leather pants and cropped black tops with “bebe” emblazoned across them. Or REALLY old lady stuff.  Not Victorian though.  I managed to find a size too small $6 long plaid skirt on an online shopping app I use, a $16 blouse at Burlington (way too much for a blouse I will never wear again, but it was long sleeved and kind of ruffly).  Those, paired with a decorative black scarf tied around my waist and ankle boots, and I kind of looked like a pirate/waitress.  My boss loved it, so it worked.  I couldn’t really breathe in the skirt, but it zipped, so that led me to sit with Victorian-like posture for most of my shift- which was slammed.   For a small bookstore, there was barely move to room- gotta love that with PTSD.  Luckily, I was behind the desk for most of my shift, or I would dash outside, to equally crowded streets, for fresh air.

I survived, and  I will do it again next year, now that I have a year to search for Victorianesque items, or as my one coworker said: “just make it look like you work in a fancy Italian restaurant and throw a crinoline under your skirt.”

There you have it.  I hope you survived Black Friday, and that you will support your local business for Shop Small Saturday!

Let’s start over- a lesson on the Missing Man Table and respect in general

So my hometown kind of has a bad rep- Fayettenam, The Ville (or Da Ville, if you prefer), Fayetteville is known for it’s “go go dancers and car lots” as my one LCAS supervisor used to say.  (“Go Go dancers” is putting it mildly.)

Over the past few years, there has been a small group of people trying to change the overall look and reputation of Fayetteville.  From the new slogan- History, Heroes and a Hometown Feeling  to a downtown you can actually walk around (if you can find free parking 😉 ) to enjoy the great shops and restaurants, Fayetteville is really improving.  Our patriotism really shows too.   Fayetteville has really outdone themselves this time, as Veterans Day approaches, over 50 local businesses have decided to set up a Missing Man Table to honor the fallen,  and the missing.  Those lost in action, those that still might be imprisoned, those that their status is unknown.   They are important and shouldn’t be forgotten, and business owners are going out of their way to make sure those MIA are not forgotten this coming Veterans Day.

So please imagine my shock this past Friday (yesterday) when this took place during my training session.  Satan’s sister, I mean, my trainer, was talking to me about a local business while putting me through my torture workout.

Trainer: Do you know {name of business redacted}?

Me: (barely able to breathe) Yes.

Trainer: Well she {owner} set up a missing man table, and she posted on Facebook yesterday that some moms and their kids came in yesterday and the kids were playing on the table.  And they were letting them!  I don’t blame the kids, I blame the moms.

Me: (dying) pant, pant, pant.  That’s bad parenting.  They need to learn respect.

Now before you jump all over me for the bad parenting comment, I want to say 1) I love kids.  2) I understand that a 2, 3 , 4, 5, year old is NOT going to understand the significance of a Missing Man table, or gravesite, or a religious relic, or anything that others hold with a sense of reverence or honor.  3) I’m fine and survived the workout, thanks so much for asking. My shoulders ARE burning as I type this.

Yes, I am not a parent.  But I do have a wonderful just turned one nephew, a just turned one niece and a 5 year old niece.  Do they act out?  You better believe they do.  They are kids.  We re-direct them.  Because that’s what parents (or aunts) do.  So your kid wants to play on the empty table at a coffee house?   I guess that’s ok, assuming its safe.  Just make sure it’s not the Missing Man table.

I get it, the Missing Man table is cool looking.  It has hats, and a rose, and some other nifty things on it.  But each one of those things has a reason for it’s placement on the table.   Grab your kid, take them to another table, and try to fascinate them with Splenda packets, an empty coffee cup, your phone (not my usual endorsement, but in this case, yes).  If all else fails get your coffee to go, or chat with your friends outside.  Just please don’t disrespect the Missing Man Table.

Just in case those moms didn’t know, here is the significance of the Missing Man Table.

The Missing Man Table, also known as the Fallen Comrade Table, is a place of honor, set up in military dining facilities of the U.S. armed forces and during occasions such as service branch birthday balls, in memory of fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service-members The table serves as the focal point of ceremonial remembrance, originally growing out of US concern of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

  • Table: set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one isolated prisoner. The table is usually set close to, or within sight of, the entrance to the dining room. For large events of the Missing Man Table is set for six places: members of the five armed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) and a sixth place setting reminiscent of the civilians who died during service alongside the armed forces or missing during armed conflict. Table is round to represent everlasting concern on the part of the survivors for their missing loved ones.
  • Tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
  • Single red rose in the vase, signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.
  • The red ribbon (yellow ribbon for Air Force ceremonies) represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.
  • Slice of lemon on the bread plate: represents the bitter fate of the missing.
  • Salt sprinkled on the bread plate: symbolic of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
  • Inverted glass: represents the fact that the missing and fallen cannot partake.
  • The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God. (The Bible has been removed from several displays at federal facilities due to pressure from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation)
  • Lit candle: reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
  • Empty chair: the missing and fallen aren’t present.

(Source Wikipedia)

Therapy and “IT”

This post will contain spoilers of the new movie IT (2017 version) but not the TV movie/mini series version or the book. The book is third on my to read list.  I figure if I survived the movie with minimal hiding behind my hands, I can read the book.

I am particular in which horror movies I see, and I can’t find a pattern.  I had no problem* seeing The Conjuring and it’s sequel, or Annabelle.  I found Paranormal Activity and it’s sequels boring.  The idea of IT scared me and I think it has to do with the fact that  IT has been around since my childhood and it was scary back then. Tim Curry as Pennywise looked pretty frightening from the clips I’ve seen, and this new guy? Pure terror.  Still, curiosity got the better of me, and with a rare early evening off, my husband and I were at IT on Friday.

(* “no problem” here really means  that I hid behind my hands less than half of the movie)

I was dumb struck when Georgie just talked to the clown in the sewer.  Then I had to remind myself that this was the 80’s, a happier time, a more innocent time, before we knew about child porn, internet stalkers, To Catch a Predator and such.  But really?  A clown in a sewer?  And no red flags went off? Before TMNT when it was cool for things to be in the sewer?   Anyway, that’s not the point of this blog…

As I was driving home after the movie I couldn’t help but think of how despite my unanswered questions (remember, I haven’t read the book yet), the basic theme of IT is pretty simple (no disrespect to Stephen King, of course).  Good vs. Evil.  Whether you’re looking at the losers vs. the bullies,  Bev vs. her father, or the kids vs. Pennywise, you’re essentially looking at good vs. evil- the cornerstone of many stories.


What seemed almost simplistic to me (in the movie) was once the kids faced their fears (which I realize SOUNDS a lot easier, because I wouldn’t have gone into that house) the less control IT had of them.  When they figured this out, they almost taunted Pennywise with the fact that they weren’t scared and he tried to up the ante.

Immediately therapy came into my mind.  I think so many clients have fear in their life– fear of the unknown, fear of their past traumas incapacitating them, fear of their anxiety, that they allow it to control their lives.   It doesn’t manifest quite like a creepy clown that lives in the sewer (unless they are coulrophobic, of course) but they see it everywhere and it starts to mess with their mind.  Like Bev, they are desperate for someone else to see their reality too, to make sure they aren’t crazy.  But as Billy asserts inside the house “it’s not real”.  Their fear is comfortable to them though, in a way.  Think of the boys that didn’t want to confront Pennywise at first. They weren’t happy about the fact that a terrifying clown was creeping them out with their greatest fears, but they didn’t want it to get any worse.  Billy felt he had nothing to lose, as did Bev, because they had reached their breaking points.  Their home lives were worse than any fears Pennywise could dish out.  It shouldn’t have to come to a breaking point for people to reach out for therapy, but often that’s when people come in the door.  They come in the middle, or after the crisis, when the counselor is working with them to pick up the pieces.  In reality, they had signs and warnings that the crisis was coming, however they ignored them, or maybe, they were afraid of what they would find?




It has been a while, but now I can see!

Not that I couldn’t see before, but I was hoping to gain a little sympathy from my publisher, also a writer, whom has probably killed me in at least three of her books. I have put aside all work on my novel and marketing and everything to help the  baby sis get ready for her wedding.  We are less than a week out and I actually have some writing time scheduled for next week (if no last minute wedding errands get thrown my way).

Since so many people wanted to know about my recent Lasik eye surgery, I thought I would make it a blog post, instead of just a Facebook post.  This way I can hopefully tell those that want the play by play about it (honestly) and appease my publisher  by bringing a little traffic to my blog.  (see Nancy, I’m doing marketing, really!)

Like most important, life changing things in my life, I decided to Lasik with some research and then jumping in head first.  I took about two weeks this summer to look into different doctors in my area and surrounding areas.  Sorry Fayetteville docs, Raleigh docs just seemed to have more experience in this area (I suggest everyone do their own research and find the doctor/practice that is best for them).  Plus a friend of mine and my dad had used this doctor and they both gave very good reviews.

I did my consultation in late July.  The consultation was free *IF* you are going to use that doctor. It is about 90 minutes of eye tests, some that you’ve probably had before if you’ve had any regular kind of eye exam and some that are specific for laser eye surgery.

This particular practice is very popular and busy.  They have snacks and water (and free wifi!) in the waiting room, so you won’t need much as you wait.  You do a few of the eye tests, then watch a video, then meet with an optometrist/ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who looks at your glasses/contacts and does that “which is better, 1 or 2?  3 or 4” with the lenses.  I had a really nice eye doctor, Dr. Amy. I expressed my concern that if I picked the wrong number (by accident) that my eyes would be surgically corrected to the wrong prescription.  She assured me that there were many fail safes in place for just that sort of thing.  She answered my 4,394 questions and never stopped smiling.  I asked if she would be doing my surgery and she said no, only Dr X, (whom the practice is named for) performs surgeries.  We discussed the two kinds of surgery I was eligible for, PRK and Lasik and the advantages/disadvantages of each.  I chose to go with Lasik, the more expensive of the two, mostly because it has a faster recovery time.

I tried to get the surgery scheduled as quickly as possible, but their next date that worked for me was 24 August- only 9 days out from the wedding. I spoke with the office manager about my concerns and Dr. Amy came back in to reassure me that I would be “wedding ready” two to three days after the surgery.

Two weeks before surgery I stopped wearing contacts (recommended is 10 days, I wanted to be super safe).  Doing workouts in glasses SUCKS, at least for me.  I found it affected my balance and some moves I could do with no issue I really had issues with wearing glasses.  That just made me more eager for surgery day.

I was asked to bring three filled prescriptions back with me- 2 different kinds of eye drops and 2 tablets of valium.  The instructions were clear– do not take anything, we will give it to you at the appropriate time.  I picked up my meds Weds (day before surgery) and the pharmacist asked if I was nervous, and I was like “I haven’t even had time to be nervous”.  I’ve been seeing patients double time to prepare for the week off for the surgery/wedding.

Even on the drive to surgery Thursday afternoon (yes, I worked up until 12:30pm Thursday) I was too busy trying to work to be nervous.  My husband drove me (you HAVE to have a driver present) and I was on the phone, trying to send last minute texts and emails and make vacation plans as we made our way to Raleigh.  We got a call around 2pm from the Doctor’s office, asking if we could get there sooner.  I told them we were enroute, and they said “great, when you get here, no need to wait, we had a cancellation, so you’ll go in a little  before 4pm.”

I all but ran into the office when we arrived at 3:10pm.  There was one other patient, who was VERY anxious.  My main concern was “do they have to run an IV line?”  I am NOT a good stick.  As far as an IV? Forget about it.  Ask my iron doc.  I had brought 48 ounces of water with me and was preparing to chug like a frat pledge during rush week.  I got called back almost immediately. First, more eye pictures.  The tech explained these were for comparison purposes to my last set of pictures. Sent back to the waiting room again. Called back again, this time to an eye doctor (not Dr. Amy) who explained that she was comparing my two sets of pictures (ones from the consultation, ones from that day).  She explained that I hadn’t been wearing my contacts for 10 (actually 14 days) in my current set of pics, and I HAD been wearing contacts prior to taking the consultation pics.  One of the fail safes Dr. Amy had told me about.  She then did the “lens 1, or 2” thing and assured me that all of my answers were on target with my Rx. She then administered one of the eye drops- antibiotic into each eye. (no IV line, by the way)

Back to the front for the most painful part (haha) the payment. This particular doc accepts cash, credit card and the payment plan/credit line Care Credit.  I’ve done Care Credit in the past for surprise dentist bills, but I had budgeted for the Lasik.  I slapped my Disney Visa down (woo hoo, lots of Disney points here) and they swiped.  They then went over the informed consent (smart, made sure I had the money first) and then handed me a “hello my name is” sticker with my first and last name on it and “Lasik, both eyes” on it.  My first thought was “damn, I could have paid for PRK and then switched stickers!”

My husband and I were then escorted back to a private waiting room with a TV, more snacks and water, a large fan, and books.  A tech administered my eye drops and then asked me to take one of the Valium tablets. Then she made me put a cap over the top part of my hair.  She told my husband to hold on to the other Valium and that I was to be given it as soon as I got to the car, after the procedure.  (Please remember this for the next part of the story.)

I was given a few minutes for the valium and eye drops (numbing) to take effect, at which point I got extremely hot (Valium) and turned on the fan.  Then a nurse came in and told Husband he could wait in the big waiting room and I’d be back shortly.  She led me directly across the hall to the OR, which was a huge room.  I met Dr. X, whom I had seen around the office on my first day.  It took me a moment to recognize her because 1) Valium 2) she had her hair under a surgical  cap of sorts 3) my eyes were numb.  She made me state some PII, I guess to verify it was me, which I did.  I then sat in a chair and she examined my eyes with a bright light and a machine.  Then I laid down on the operating table, which looked more like a leather lounger, but sterile. They made me repeat my PII again.

Dr. X talks you through the whole surgery.  They do tape your eyelids open, as it is human instinct to close your eyes whenever stabby items or lasers are pointed right at them.  It was at THIS point that I thought “oh shit, maybe I DON’T want to do this.”  Remember that valium?  Yeah, they give you that for  reason.  I was aware that Dr. X and two other people were looming over me and she kept telling me to focus on a green light that was surrounded by red lights.  The red lights would completely obscure my vision at times.  Then she told me she was going to suction my eye and that I would lose all vision at this point but not to worry, it would come back.  She did (I’m guessing my other eye was taped shut) and everything went black for several seconds and then slowly came back into blurry light, like in a movie scene, when a person is coming out of a coma.  Then she told me I would hear and smell a laser, and to keep very still and to keep looking at the green light.  It did smell odd, like burning hair, but no pain.  I focused on staying still.   Same process was repeated for the  next eye.  They helped me up, Dr. X looked at my eyes again through the machine, and then the nurse taped large, clear discs over my eyes and took my hair net off.  She walked me down the hallway, and RJ (another office manager) led us outside, told us not to take the steps, and reminded me to take the second valium and to supplement it with OTC sleeping meds if I needed to.

And the next paragraph, my friends, is why I will never do drugs.  If I could do it over again, the ONLY thing I would do differently, is get a room in Raleigh, so that I could have had a quick 10 minute drive “home” instead of a 2 hour drive home. Poor, poor, Husband.  Apparently I had just enough Valium to drug me up, but not enough to knock me out.  Also, fun fact, Valium gave me nausea. So the two hour ride home was me shifting around the front seat, wearing the eye shields, my sunglasses over those, and a blanket I had found in the back seat over my head.  At some point I began gagging and spitting, crying for Husband to pull over and get me 1) more medicine 2) sprite or ginger ale  3) chapstick.    He made it to Linden Oaks area and ran into a drug store where he grabbed it all.  We then found my friends’ house to pick up a surprise for my sisters’ wedding (can’t post it here yet, in the off chance she reads it). I’m sure I was helpful in that endeavor as I remember taking off the blanket as it was “too hot!” and then immediately putting the blanket over my head again “it’s too bright and the light hurts my face!!!”

I then demanded we call the doctor because I started to panic.  My closed eyes wouldn’t stop tearing and I wanted to know if this was normal.  This was also causing my nose to run and clog up.  I wanted to blow my nose so I could breathe, but I was afraid that if I blew my nose, the pressure would blow my eyeballs out of my head. (Valium)  My husband called the doctor where RJ patiently answered the questions.  That was not good enough for me (Valium).  *I* needed to speak to RJ.  Husband patiently called him back and I proceeded to ask RJ if constant crying was normal and if I was ok.  RJ assured me it was fine and I swear I heard him say “you know you can supplement that Valium with OTC drugs to knock her out, right?” to Husband.

We made it home, where I took off my snotty, spitty shirt and took another Tylenol PM.  I lay in bed for an hour or so, (time is meaningless- Valium) where I had crazy stream of consciousness thoughts about work, the surgery and the wedding until I finally did fall asleep. I slept in the guest room so that I would be free from cat hair (relatively), cats, and any stray elbows thrown around in sleep.  Husband woke me at some point to take my nightly meds (not related to eye surgery) and I went right back to sleep.  Woke at 3 am starving, but realized I could open my eyes (behind the shields) and could see the alarm clock without aid.  Darn Husband hadn’t left any food or drinks around.  Got up, made a peanut butter sandwich, drank the rest of my diet Sprite and took some more Tylenol PM.  Complimented myself on my survival skills.  I can definitely survive if left in any suburban setting, with a semi to fully stocked kitchen.

Dr. X’s office had told me I could drive to my follow up appointment, but it was at 9:20 am (leaving at 7:20am) and I kept wanting to close my eyes, even with sunglasses on, so Husband cancelled his plans for that morning and drove me.  Dr. Amy examined me and told me that for less than 24 hours surgery I looked great, and that my light sensitivity was normal.

My takeaways from this:

Do your research.  Doctors, types of surgeries, payment options, all of it.

If you have to travel a far distance, seriously consider a room nearby, as you usually have a follow up the next day.  When they said “mild discomfort” I think they were downplaying it.  I had straight up pain.  Not the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but it was odd pain, as I had never had eye pain before.  I spoke with a guy in the waiting room at my follow up appointment and he said he had to take several muscle relaxers to sleep in addition to his valium and said “no, that wasn’t discomfort, that was pain.”

That being said, by our ride home from the follow up visit I was feeling better.

Eye drops will be your best friends.