Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Life Unexpected

Good Morning, World. It's been a while since I've greeted you. It's not because of a bad thing, but a good one. I've been a little busy with life. There's been some big changes going on, and while they're quite stressful, I couldn't be happier.

I'm going to be a grandma! My baby girl is having a baby. I can't believe it. I look at her face and she's still my baby, and then I look down at her growing belly and realize she's gonna be a mommie. My baby is having a baby. I'm happy and scared all at the same time. But I have much faith in her. She's strong and she's a survivor. She's kind and caring. She's made mistakes like the rest of us, and will continue to make more like we also continue to do, but I know her heart. She gives everything to what she loves, and I know without doubt she's going to be a good mother because she's going to give to her baby all that love and devotion. I love her even more today than the day I first held her in my arms almost twenty-three years ago.

I can remember a few months ago feeling very lonely and missing having a family. I was lost. I was trying to figure out who I was, what I wanted, and where I wanted to go and do in life. The world was my oyster and I had so many choices in front of me, yet I couldn't move and often couldn't breathe. I was trying to date and felt overwhelmed every time I sat across the table from one strange face to the next, all describing their boxes and what they wanted in life to fill those boxes. I started to lose hope because none of those boxes were what I wanted. The problem was, I already had what I wanted I just didn't recognize it, because it hadn't manifested yet and didn't look like an expected box. My impatience always gets the better of me. Like everything else in my life, nothing comes in a 'normal' box. Normal doesn't really exist. I have had a family for a while, one that I've prayed for, one that I've dreamed about, one that I love very much right in front of me the whole time, it just didn't come to me in a normal way. I have a man that I love and respect who is my best friend and soulmate, two teenage boys that I adore and cherish to the moon and back, a best friend that is closer than any sister I've never had, and three dogs that I love and love me unconditionally. Now my baby girl has returned, and I'm about to be grandma. Wow, so much can change in just a few short weeks. God is good. He sees the true desires of your heart, even if you don't know what they are, and those are the things He manifests. None of these relationships are without problems and issues, but in spite of all those issues there is LOVE, real, deep, devoted love.

I have a new job! With my new and rapidly growing family, I need better financial support. While my current job, Percepta/Ford, has provided for me this past year, it can't sustain the future. I'm sad to be leaving my co-workers because I truly adore most of them and consider many of them good friends. I don't think I've ever worked anywhere where I've been so close. I am going to miss them terribly, and this week is going to be bitter-sweet. I often cry thinking about leaving them. They've been there for me during my mother's death, my brother's recent brush with death, me meeting and falling in love and then the heart-break that followed, the moving, and the dating, the drama, the drama, and the drama that seems to surround my life. They made it a joy to come to work every day. Again, they are part of that family that had been right in front of my face that I didn't recognize. Tomorrow is my last day with them, and then Monday I start my new job as a buyer at Italian Terrazzo.

So, good morning, World. As my blog titled says, this is the whimsical world of T.L. Gray - you better hang on because it's going to be bumpy ride. So, throw your hands up in the air and ride it like a real daredevil. LOL!

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Controlling

I was told recently that I have control issues. That’s not the first time I’ve heard that, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But, what does it really mean? What are they trying to tell me?  Is it a positive or negative thing?  The way in which it is said, the tone in which it’s given, and the impression implied is never positive, but negative.  So, my conclusion is when I’m told I’m being controlling, I don’t think it’s said as a positive thing, it’s not given as a compliment, but a complaint against my character.

Am I controlling? I suppose I should first define what it means.
Controlling - 1. Determine the behavior or supervise the running of. 2. Take into account (an extraneous factor that might affect results) when performing an experiment.

By definition – Yes, I’m extremely controlling.  I’m a natural born leader, a supervisor, a planner, and a strategist. That’s how my mind works. That’s how it has always had to work. I’ve always been responsible for a large group of people, and that requires solving problems, being considerate of others, their needs, and their wants, and supervising situations.  So, I agree, I’m controlling in those aspects. But, why is that a bad thing? Why is it a negative thing? The alternative is chaos and disorder, lack of preparation, and incoordination.

When I see a need, lack, or a void, my mind immediately begins to plan a solution, find a supply, or seek alternatives.  It’s one of the dominate traits that have led to many successes in my life – in business, in writing, in marketing, in management, in life, and in relationships. I communicate, I plan, and I try to see things from all angles.  I try to make the best decision possible, take into an account of all the various elements, and conclude the best possible result.  As the Word says, I count the costs before I begin to build, and I consider the consequences before deciding. I will not give to my God that which costs me nothing.

I am in control of my life and my decisions and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I personally think it’s a good thing.  I have the same options as everyone else in the world. I have the same choices, the same temptations, and the same amount of hours in a day.  I choose what I do with those hours. I choose what I do with my body. I am in control of my choices. I, alone, am responsible for my choices.

Yes, there are things that happen outside my control and to which I am well aware that I have no control at ALL. Having two of my children run away from me and do things I have tried to warn, to teach, and to protect them against proved I had control of nothing. Having my fiancé die at the hands of Somalian soldiers proved I have control of nothing. Having a husband that never loved or wanted me proved I had control of nothing.  Having a family that abused and didn’t love me, beat me, abused me, and even try to kill me proved I had control of nothing. Having my soulmate tell me he didn’t want a relationship proved I had control of nothing.

Believe me, I am well aware I control nothing - nothing but myself, how I respond, and how I allow the choices of others to affect me and my life. I choose to be responsible. I choose to love. I choose to not do drugs. I choose to eat right. I choose to exercise. I choose to fight for what I want. I choose to work. I choose to do the hard things. I choose to open my heart and love, and give, and be there for my friends, and for my family. I choose to be organized. I choose to be excellent in everything I do, and try to do it to the best of my ability, and not just give a half-assed effort. I choose to be clean and not messy. I choose to make up my bed. I choose to wear make-up.  I choose to make decisions that would be for my betterment, which would make my life easier, more organized and happy. That requires being controlling of those choices.

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I’m often led astray by my emotions, but at least I have them. Most of all, I take responsibility for my actions, my reactions, and my choices.  It’s not ANYONE or ANYTHING else’s fault for the choices I make.  My excuses are not found in a pill bottle or the bottom of a glass, in my unfair genetics, my weaknesses are not in the inability to say “NO” to myself or anyone else.  If that makes me controlling to be able to say NO when needed,  or YES when needed, and know the fucking difference… then I choose to be controlling instead of controlled by addictions and weaknesses.

I’m surrounded by excuses every day. I hear them stemming from one addiction to the next, whether it be from drugs, cigarettes, food, or just the need to be touched and loved.  That’s another thing for which I have no control.  Sometimes I just need to be held and told that I’m loved, and if I had any fucking control I would be held every day and told every day that I am loved, and wanted, and needed, and appreciated.  So much for my fucking control!


There is one thing I will NEVER do, and that’s be somewhere I’m not wanted, force someone to do what they don’t want to do, or try to manipulate them to do it.  I have had to sit in silent torment as I have had to walk away from being unwanted or stood still as others have chosen to walk away from me for that very reason – that clear example of lack of control. Anyone in my life is free to leave at any time they no longer want to be there. I will never stop them or make them stay. I cannot make them love me or want to be with me.  I have no control – which is ironic for someone accused of being so ‘controlling’. 

~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray - The Story, My Story, Cheerleading



Casey’s Ridge in New Caney, Texas didn’t offer much in the way of success and progress, especially in education, recreation, and culture. It was a river town filled with bikers, junkies, squatters, and drug dealers. There were a few old people left from a time when the community was a thriving hub of trade along the San Jacinto River, but that had long since dried up from the Houston suburban sprawl knocking at its back doors with its golfing communities and state-of-the-art shopping malls. There were no local gymnastics classes, public pools, greenbelt trails, recreation fields for football or baseball, no track, no tennis courts, and no gyms for basket or volleyball like its neighbors in Kingwood. No, Casey’s Ridge had none of that on the north side of the river, lingering on the edge of the county line. The only recreation found was a civic center where the old people would play a mean game of Bingo on Friday nights and a little biker bar right off Hwy 1485.

I was no fool. At the age of ten, I was old enough that the golden sunny haze of imagination and fantasy began to give way to the dull, dark gray skies of truth. I hated what I witnessed. This was about the time I began to hate and mistrust men, well humanity in general. When I was eight, my third-grade teacher Mrs. Akers told me that I could be anything I wanted; I just had to first see the truth of things and then make a plan of escape. Those words still stick with me today. I made to vow to myself, and the invisible god that damned everything that I wasn’t going to become like my surroundings. I wasn’t going to be hooker, a drug addict, or dealer, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to abuse and neglect my children. No, I was going to get out of that life and fly away from the nightmare. I fell in love for the first time, with a man in a red cape. I wanted him to swoop down out of the sky and save me from the beatings, the gun violence, the drugs, and the late night visits.  Superman was my best hope at this time, but since he wasn’t a real character, I focused instead on school, martial arts, and cheerleading.

It’s not to say that I didn’t give God a chance during this time in my life. The Christians at school always seemed to be happy, have good, loving parents, got to dress up in pretty dresses and go to church on Sundays. There was a little blue school bus that drove through our neighborhood every Sunday picking up the Ridge Rabble, as we were called. So, I decided that maybe if I caught that little blue bus to the Porter Baptist Church, things would change, because then God would see what was happening and save me, like I kept hearing. So, I studied the times and routes of the blue bus for a couple of weeks before I finally dared to make my bold move for salvation. I got myself, and my four brothers, dressed in the best clothes we had. I was a tomboy and didn’t wear dresses, but I borrowed a sundress from my neighbor across the street, Stacy Stowe. She was a tomboy too, but her grandma made her wear a sundress on Sundays. Dressed in my Sunday best, I stood outside on the street, holding tightly to my brother’s hands and we caught the little blue church bus that morning.
Now, I had no idea where that bus was going to take me, or when or if it was ever going to bring me back. From my reconnaissance mission the weeks before, it always seemed to bring back the kids it picked up earlier, so I was confident we’d at least make it back home. We traveled a good distance to the nearby town of Porter to a little Baptist church. It had a main building for the sanctuary and then a gym for the Sunday School. After listening to some loud gospel music where people often clapped and shouted, we were then separated from the adults and led out to the gym. At first I was really worried because they wanted to separate me from my brothers and put us in different classes by our ages. I didn’t like not being able to see them or keep an eye on them. They were often a rowdy bunch, and needed someone there to keep them in line. I couldn’t image the damage they’d do to that fine church out of sight, but I relented and went into my own classroom.

So far, I liked this church. They gave me a brand new bible and a paper bag full of goodies, such as candy, pencils, and a little hand held toy game. All I had to do was memorize a Bible passage and it was mine. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” In no time at all I was holding my brand new King James Bible and a brown sack of goodies. But, things didn’t stay fun for too long. Because then the weird psycho stories started. I remember shutting down and putting my psychological walls up when the teacher started talking about how we ‘owed’ Jesus our love and trust because he was beat and died for us. I remember my thoughts looking at that teacher and wondering if she’d ever been beat in her life, and how silly it was that she thought I was going to simply love and trust someone I never met who didn’t do any more for me than I did for my brothers on a regular basis. To protect them, I remember getting beat so bad by my dad one time with a hickory stick, ‘til it broke and he started using his fist, that I was out for almost four days. Hell, Jesus was only dead for three before he came back. But, I did appreciate the idea of him placing himself in danger for someone he was supposed to protect. I got that. I related to that. That is where the teacher should have stopped because she completely lost me when she started talking about having to be washed in the blood to be cleansed of my sin. I was ready to find my brothers and get the hell out of there, ‘cause nobody was going to be putting their blood anywhere on me or my brothers, no matter if we were dirty or not.

Of course, later in life I now understand what this teacher had been referring, but to a ten-year old abused waif of a child, I thought Christians were a secret alien race, much like the t.v. show “V”, where they had human faces, but were reptiles beneath, with all their talk of washing with and drinking blood, and eating flesh. I didn’t care too much for religion in my life. On one hand there were ignorant people who called me names, a thief, and a crook for one faith, while another one wanted to save, but not really save because I still had to live and go through all the shit I was going through, and then do some bathing in blood. Nope, I didn’t want anything to do with gods or religion. I just wanted to get out of Casey’s Ridge and get away from my family and become everything they were not. So, I turned to martial arts, gymnastics and cheerleading.

Texas football is serious business, and so is their competition cheerleading. There were trophies to win and scholarships to earn, and a social status to maintain with it. So, for the next few years while I survived hurricanes, tornadoes, gun fights, dog fights, and being an Anderson, the daughter of a drug dealer, I focused on cheerleading. I learned so much for being a part of a team, having pride in something, being good at something. All those things cheerleading taught me were never a part of what home taught me. To some it was simply a social status. For me, it was my salvation. It gave me the tools and courage I needed to rise above, the fight for something, to set and achieve goals. I will always cherish the little time I got to train in martial arts and gymnastics, and I will always treasure the time I spent as a cheerleader. It’s who I was, inside and out, and who I still am. I am still a cheerleader to myself and to those in my life. Casey’s Ridge is still in the same place, filled with a lot of the same people, but I’m not there anymore. I cheered myself out of that place, and developed a strength inside that gives me the power to cheer myself out of any situation.  I may not currently live in Casey’s Ridge, but still often face different forms of chaos. It’s fine. “Ready, Set, Okay!” is strong within me.

This is the story. This is my story. This is my life.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray ©2017

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray - The Story - My Story - Chick-O-Sticks, Sunkist and Gas Lines


In life, what you really want will never come easy.  It is full of chaos and a series of moments.  Some days it seems nothing happens. Other days it seems to be filled with more than I can bear.  Some days I feel I can conquer the world and nothing is impossible. But on those “other” days, I fight just to breathe from the weight of the pressure. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. Within those days is where memories are made, nightmares are hidden, hopes are born, love blooms, and dreams are dreamed.

One of those moments that stand out in my mind is an everyday moment. It’s nothing big or tragic, only a simple amber moment in the middle of black period. It’s a sense-memory moment, one where you smell something, taste something, or see something that makes you think of something else, or takes back to a time and place in your amber-colored past. Have you ever wondered why memories are sometimes colored in amber?  I wonder sometimes if that’s a product of our cinematic age, or vice versa.  Anyway, one of those sense-memories has captured a simple day in my chaos-ridden past. It seems to be a good day, a simple day in the life of the early 80’s. This memory is often triggered by Chick-O-Sticks, Sunkist and gas lines.  Come along for the ride.

Silver squiggly lines snaked across the pavement on Highway 1485, just past the bridge that crossed over the San Jacinto River, in New Caney, Texas. It was hot outside and extremely humid.  I wore a flowered sundress, which wasn’t normal for me being as I was the biggest tomboy around. I usually sported shorts, tank tops, flip-flops (if I wore shoes at all) and had my long, brown hair in a ponytail.  But this day I had on a sundress and sat in the back of a Chevy Malibu in a long line at the neighborhood gas station.  The windows were rolled down and I sat with the door opened, staring at the mirage on the pavement. It seemed sitting in a long gas lines was one of the weekend neighborhood get-togethers.  Everybody was there, friends, neighbors and strangers.  New Caney was about a half-hour north of Houston and Trinity Bay at Galveston Beach just along Interstate 59.  It wasn’t a strange site to see cars loaded down with surfboards waiting in the gas lines with everybody else. 

On this particular day, sometime in the summer of 1980, I was nine years old, the Beach Boys’ Good Vibration played on the radio, and I was eating Chick-O-Sticks and drinking an orange Sunkist soda.  It was a full time job saving up and scrounging for change for my weekly indulgence as we waited in the long gas line.  I dug in couches, checked ashtrays and floorboards in cars, phone booths, and under the washing machines at the laundry mat just to have the $0.75 cents I needed. My drink cost $.50 and the Chick-O-Sticks were $.05 each and I always had to have five of them.

This was a time right before my mom starting getting sick and losing her ability to walk to Multiple Sclerosis.  She was so young and vibrant and very sociable.  I can still see her standing in front of the Malibu, talking to some people standing outside their Volkswagen, smoking a joint.  She wore cut-off blue jeans, had a bikini tank top, and wore a big sun hat.  I wonder if that’s why I like big hats. I never thought about that.  I remember her smile, she had s distinct smile. I see that smile sometimes in the mirror or in my selfies, complete with the gap between my two front teeth.  My mother had that same gap, the same high apple-round cheeks, and the same thin lips. I look a lot like my mother, at least how she looked then in my memory.  Our differences are her long, thick, dark hair.  I always envied her hair, full of body, wavy, and beautiful. I have baby-fine, straight, limp hair.  This day she wore it in braids that hung down the side of her face beneath her straw beach hat.  She was dancing.  She was laughing.  She was so full of life and energy.  My mother was beautiful when she smiled.

My mother didn’t smile often in my memories and maybe that’s why this one is so special to me. Life was hard at this time, the economy was bad, and my dad wasn’t around for a while. I think this was a time he was away in jail. It didn’t matter we were poor. It didn’t matter what struggles we faced.  It was the weekend and I was happy to be sitting in that gas line, listening to the Beach Boys on the radio, eating my Chick-O-Sticks, and drinking my cold, orange, Sunkist, in my summer dress.  Every time I hear that song, see Chick-O-Sticks in a store, or Sunkist I am instantly teleported to that time and place in history.  Life is hard, and while some days are battle days, other days are Sunkist days.  No matter how nasty, mean, and sick my mother became, that’s not how I want to remember her. I’m hoping wherever she is now in whatever afterlife exists, she’s dancing around in cut-off shorts, a bikini tank top, with braids and a sunhat, and has a big, beautiful, gap-toothed smile on her face.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I Am the Biggest Fool



I am fool. I am a fool because I care and love those who are even bigger fools than myself. I’ve always heard a phrase that God watches over fools and idiots. He must have a league of angels watching over me.

I’m not unintelligent. I’m not naïve. I see what’s around me. The world is an ugly mess. People are an ugly mess. I try so hard to be something beautiful in this gray world, but sometimes I get tired of carrying that light.  Yet, I’m a strong person because I’ve been forced to shine that light for myself, find my way out, and put up my guards and shields all my life. Yet, poison still gets in. I open the door to danger. I invite in chaos. Why?  Because of love.

Not because of others loving me, or that I’ve fallen into that crazy, wild love and can’t see what’s around me, or that I’m refusing to see the truth. No, I see the truth and walk in it anyway. THAT’s why I’m a fool.  I’m in love with what can and will never be in love with me, who chooses the company of vampires and leeches over me.

But I deserve better than this.  What about me?

I remember another God moment, where I was on my face, nose in the carpet, pouring my heart out and praying for my kids, my ex-husband, my church, my friends, my job, etc. 

When I was done unloading all that worry, I heard a whisper calmly ask me a simple question.  “If you knew one of your children were starving, hungry, and in pain, what would you do for them?”

I answered, “Anything, well, anything that would help them, even if it was hard for them, hard for me, or misunderstood.”

The whisper replied, “If they were in danger, would you risk your own life to save them?”
Without hesitation, I answered, “Yes. Always.”

There was a long silence. Whisper said to me, “You are my child, and you’ve neglected yourself trying to take care of everyone else.  You’ve ignored your needs, buried your wants, and your soul is starving for the love it needs.  You’ve abused my child long enough. I won’t tolerate it anymore.”

I felt so ashamed, because I had ignored myself. I’ve always done whatever to survive, to meet what everyone else needed, because I was in need. I knew what it felt like to be hungry, so I spent more than 17 years feeding the poor.  I knew what it felt like to be unloved as a child by your parents, so my heart reached out to any unloved kids that crossed my path – I still do. I knew what it was like to be pregnant and alone, so I opened my home to a pregnant stranger. I knew what it was like to not have a friend in the whole world, have someone to help me in a time of need, so I became the kind of friend I needed.  But, it doesn’t come without a cost.

A friend posted a meme on their Facebook wall the other day that said, “I want someone to look at me and say, ‘Damn, that’s mine!’ and just be proud to have me.”  I responded with a simple, “It’ll never happen.” A complete stranger sent me a message that had me crying in the middle of my shift at work. I hid the tears as much as I could, but I couldn’t help feel the pain, a pain that I’ve been stuffing down and trying to ignore.  This stranger messaged me, “…you’re a very attractive woman. So, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even this year, but you’ll find someone who’s proud to call you theirs.”

What this stranger doesn’t realize is that I have MANY people in my life who love me, even more that respect me, and I’m not in want for friends. Remember, I’ve spent my life being a good friend. But, no one has EVER claimed me as theirs – not my parents, not my family, not my ex-husband, not any of ex-boyfriend’s – who are still my friends because they love me as a person.  I’m great to love – as a friend, to depend on, to respect, to turn to, to be there when no one else will, but… to love me – the woman?  I’m turning 46 years old next week, and I’ve only ever felt truly loved once in my life… for just a very brief moment and then he died.  Loved …for ME.  In love …WITH me.  I’ve been in love 4 times, but only deeply, madly, crazy in love once. But, they didn’t want me.  They love me, but not how I love them. They choose their chaos over me.

I’ve been neglecting myself again, putting myself on the back burner to focus on others and their needs. There’s always a reason. There’s always a need.  All the reasons are good, but it doesn’t mean they’re not interfering. When do I matter? When does what I need and want matter? Life is shit. Life is chaos. There will ALWAYS be something – but WHEN do I put me first again?  I have needs too.  I’m such a fool. I’m not naïve. I know the reality of my situation. I know that I’m loved, but unloved.  I’m not blind. I see more than I let them know I see. I’m not stupid, either. Just because I don’t expose what I know is in the dark, doesn’t mean I’m unaware. I just choose to be a light, something positive, and spread a message of hope instead of judgment. I choose to focus on what’s important.  I love because I need love. I help because I need help.  I’m friendly because I’m lonely. I give, because I’m empty.  I go without so others won’t. I have to believe it’s not for nothing. I’m not stupid. I know I will not be chosen. I will be left behind for the vampire, for the leech, for the lotus flower, for the opportunity, for the drug, for the convenience, for the addiction, for the easy way, for the simpler path …. I always have been, especially by those who claim to love me most. It’s hard to love me. 

My whisper, my God, my love watches over me. They have to, because I’m the biggest fool. 

“Someday when my crying’s done, I’m gonna wear a smile and walk in the sun. I may be a fool, but darlin’ you’ll never see me complain, ‘cause I’ll do my cryin’ in the rain.” ~Jaime Ellis

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray - The Story - My Story - Meeting God


Everyone has their own journey, their own experiences, and their own meeting God moments.  As a human being, there comes a time in our lives when we face our mortality and understand that our time and presence is limited on this rotating rock.  We finally see how small we are compared to the vastness of the universe. Or we finally understand the physics that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Yet “our” worlds do revolve around us, we are at the center of it, and everything that happens to us or comes from us, stems from the center of our being.  We don’t experience what’s going on across the universe – only what is within our scope, our reach, and our influence.  Some of us have a very limited reach, while others have a vast one, but we all have one, even if it’s only within ourselves.

I’ve heard the name of God my whole life. Most often in a damning expression when something went wrong or someone was angry, or when danger was present, which was during most of my childhood.  God was damned about every four to five words that escaped the cigarette or joint-ridden mouths of my parents. The concept that while God gave life to all things, my parents were ultimately responsible for my birth, and they alone had the right to take that life from me should they choose. I do believe the words were, “I brought you into this world, and if I damned-well please, I’ll take you out of it.” Have you really thought about the phrase ‘damned-well’?  That’s an oxymoron.  Nothing damned is well.

I’ve had a few meeting God moments, but one stands out in particular.  It wasn’t when I died after being attacked by a Doberman Pincher at age 5, or when I rode on top of a car through a barbed-wire fence, or when I fell off the back of a pick-up and got ran over, or any of those life-threatening moments. No, Meeting God moment that sticks out to me was a happy moment, a peaceful moment, a vision of beauty and grace, surrounded by nature and probably one of the first instances of human love.

I was about five years old. From my life time-line, this was some time after the burned-down house, the place where my little yellow canopy bed was destroyed and where I was attacked by the dog following my fifth birthday, and some time before we moved to Texas where I started Kindergarten, so sometime before my 6th birthday.  We lived on what my parents refer to as ‘the farm’.  I’m not sure what the farm really looked like because my memories are brittle pieces. I do remember some scenes, such as a log shack with a fold up cot me and my brothers would play in, until we got bed bugs.  This is the place I learned about chiggers, muddy wells, horses, and how to hoe a vegetable garden, and the first time I heard the name William Smith.  I’m still not sure who he was, only that he was on the farm with my family, had dark-curly hair, and couldn’t ride a horse. 

Next door lived an old black couple. I wish I could remember their names, but I can’t.  I do, however, remember their hands, and their smiles, and their chickens, and their red-painted barn.  I remember happiness riding on the back of an old Chevy pick-up truck, (my father hated Fords – so it isn’t ironic that I grew up loving them) through bumpy, dusty, red clay dirt roads and mazes of corn. To this day I still love riding down winding dirt roads among corn fields. Our old neighbors had a bunch of chickens that ran around the yard. I loved chasing them, feeding them, picking their eggs, and then running from them as they chased me back.  It was carefree fun. It was a moment I got to just be kid. I didn’t have many of those moments, but that was one of them.  The old lady, who I will call Henrietta, told me stories about the farm, about her animals, about love, and about God.  I remember her telling me that God was watching me, and watching over me, and sending angels down to protect me. It as a nice thought because I always felt danger. 

I remember my Meeting God moment.  I was lying in the deep green grass next to Fred and Henrietta’s red barn.  A tin pail sat beneath a water spigot that dripped crystal drops in a constant rhythm, creating a harmony with the universe, with the birdsong, with the wind that swayed the tops of trees.  It was like the universe in that moment was singing a universal song and they had allowed me to hear them, to see them worshiping in harmony with the sun, the grass, the wind, the trees, the air, the animals, all of life and all of nature, and even with a little five-year old girl lying in the grass, touching their cool with the tips of her little fingers.  I turned my head to the side and watched a tiny ant meander through the forest of blades and wondered if he knew he was being watched, if he realized how small he was to the world I knew? Wondered if this was how God watched over me? 

I looked into the sky above me, realized how small I was in the universe, and tried to imagine the world beyond the clouds, beyond space, beyond everything – not in distance, but in reality, beyond deeper than what we could see, and wondered if that’s where God lived and if he could see me on this side of the veil, to see little ol’ me lying in the grass. I can still feel the warm tears slide out the corners of my eyes and trickle down the side of my face as I yearned to know THAT God.  Not the god of my father, not the god that damned everything, not the god that people were killing for, but the God that all the universe was apart, the God that watched over me and sent his angels to protect me. I wanted to know him with all of my being, all of my heart, and all of my hope. I believe I met God in that moment. I believe that He heard me, and He touched me, and He smiled because He loved his creation, and his creation loved him back.

After that moment there would be many angry times, hurt times, and lots and lots of doubting. There still are because life is hard, it is complicated, and it’s formed with many different levels and layers. But, anytime I stray too far from my faith, I’m always drawn back to that moment, back to that Meeting of God, and I’m reminded of that experience and my faith is restored. I still have lots of doubts. I still believe with my whole heart that we’ve got it all wrong, for the most part, when it comes to God. I hate religion.  I hate the things men do in the name of God. I hate the way humanity treats one another.  But, sometimes I get a glimpse of the beauty of nature, of the universe, and even of humanity and am reminded that God is love – and love (not the world’s version of love, but pure love) is not of this world, is not of nature, but it is something more, something beyond the veil, something I can’t really describe because it must be experienced to understand.  I’m never afraid to meet God, but of man I am terrified.

The Farm was a brief happy moment in my life.  I always think of it with a smile every time I smell burning wood, or see a corn field, or a red barn, or chickens, or a tin pail, or a water spigot, or a horse.  Many nightmares follow the Farm, but that’s another part of this story. This is where I met God.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my life.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray ©2017


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray - The Story - My Story - My Play Time



While my childhood is riddled with lots of darkness, it’s also filled with lots of adventure and play time.  My imagination may be the cause of my greatest pains, but it’s also the source of my greatest joys.  Despite the realities of my situation, when left alone, I was a happy kid.  My happiest memories are playing in the woods across the street from my house in New Caney, Texas. 

I lived at the end of Idlewild Road on a half-acre lot in what started as a two room shack with no running water or indoor plumbing.  A man named Greg from Wisconsin lived next door and the Janosek’s lived on the other side, the Stowe’s lived across the street.  Greg was a novelty, having come from a place that made me think of stinky cheese and maple syrup.  Listening to him talk about how his family harvested the sap from maple trees shed a positive light to a name I had been given and would come to hate.  The Janosek’s were everything I wanted and hated because they had what I didn’t have - two parents that worked ‘real’ jobs and a little girl that played with Barbie dolls, wore pretty little dresses, and had birthday parties, a beautiful yard of green manicured grass, and a vegetable garden.  The Stowe's had about dozen dirty little children with elderly parents that often ran wild and free. We had a dozen pit bulls and a yard full of broken-down cars, and a long list of Mexicans and Rednecks coming in and out on a regular basis as my dad started working his way up the ranks with the cartel.

Though I could see the reality of my situation, I also dreamed of escape.  That house of danger became my playground.  The top of the outhouse became my castle’s keep, the fence my city walls, the driveway my drawbridge. The ditch, filled with tadpoles and crawfish when it rained, became my moat teaming with monsters.  The roads were to the paths to other kingdoms, and the woods, oh, the woods became my refuge, a place I got lost for hours, where I could run among the animals, swing from the, and build  places of safety and solitude where I could escape, where I could hide.  In my woods I wasn’t Sap, the drug-dealer’s daughter. I was a warrior, a king.  I never played a princess, because I didn’t believe in being rescued.  I was Robin Hood, I was Lancelot, I was Elliot, I was Luke Skywalker, I was Wonder Woman, I was Evel Knievel, I was MacGyver, I was Magnum P.I., I was Remington Steele, I was  Three-Eyed Willie, and the Three Musketeer’s, and then I was all the characters I began to create.  I ventured to the Island of the Magic Apple Tree, Magic Island.  This is where Lemuria and Montes Lunae and my Necromancers - Gabriel, Azrael, and Sybil Claire were born.  These were the beginnings of my stories, and the expressions my imagination. 

My play time was my freedom; freedom from chores, freedom from responsibilities, freedom from pain, from abuse, from smoke-filled back rooms and mid-night visits.  I fell in love with Superman, wanting more than anything for him to come out of the sky and fly me away.  No one could hurt him. No one could force him to do what he wanted. He had no parents. He had no siblings. He had amazing powers and strength.  I loved him and Jesus, because I needed to be saved.  Neither saved me; I learned how to save myself.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my play time. This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017