About My First Book Horizons and How to Order

Introducing My First Poetry Book, "Horizons"

  My first poetry book, Horizons (Atmosphere Press)  AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND AUDIOBOOK NOW!! SEE BELOW TO ORDER!!!! Embark on a captivat...

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Dear Friend Letter Three: What Disability; You're Crazy

 August 30, 2023

What Disability; You’re Crazy

Dear Friend,

Here is one of the letters where I start talking and I imagine you running the other way. Even farther than we are right now. Not only have you learned that I have been unsuccessfully married two times, but there was that odd time I mentioned in the last letter about feeling like I was two people and having a disability.

What does that mean?

And wait a minute, if I have a disability, how can I work full time? And why can’t anyone see it on my body?

First, I don’t talk about my disability much because I am sick of talking about it.  But I don’t hide it. It also has stigma attached to it.  And some people don’t believe me because of how well I adapt my surroundings to deal with it.

My disability is actually a cumulative effect of several different events and diagnoses.

It started when I was in my early twenties. Again, I was dating that farmer boy.  I went to my general physician, and explained that it felt like I was two people: the normal shy one, that was often sad and tired, and one that was outgoing and risky. My doctor had this sorrowful look on his face and sent me to a psychologist AND a psychiatrist. This was in the late 1990s. They diagnosed me as depressed, naturally extroverted, and put me on antidepressants.  It only made things worse.

While this was happening, I was dating the farm boy, but my “alter ego” that I call Rita—the outgoing hypersexual temptress that didn’t seem like me but possessed my body—was hooking up with anyone she could get her hands on. I broke up with the farm boy.  He didn’t like it, found out I (or Rita) was sleeping around, got angry, and decided he would “take what I was giving to other guys for himself”, as he put it.

Enter first husband, pregnancy, engagement, and a sudden huge depression. Rita disappeared. I thought I was cured.  Right? After baby number two, we had to be creative about our money management, so in order to cut costs for childcare, hubby worked days, I worked nights and took care of the kids during the days. So I didn’t sleep. Know what happened? Yup, here came Rita again. Another doctor tried diagnosing me with dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), but that didn’t feel right to her. I had a sort of affair with one of the board members of the place I was working at. Hubby got angry, put a hole in the wall right beside my head after cornering me in the closet of our bedroom.

What was our solution? Let’s move. We tried to settle down into a small town, but we’ll just say you can’t move away from your problems, and can’t drink them away, either. A doctor finally noticed something was very wrong….and found a correct word for it. They use the word Bipolar.  I use the phrase Manic Depression. I hate having a buzzword for a diagnosis… and feel “bipolar” is an inappropriate term for the illness. That was in 2006. 

I couldn’t get my illness in order.  Hubby and I had married for the wrong reasons, and the stress of that kept popping up in my illness.  I did finally get sober in December 2013, but after years of self-treating a mental illness with alcohol and an eating disorder, I wasn’t stable right away. He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) handle this, and left (with the kids and a threat to use my illness to never let me see them again if I tried fighting him) in 2015.

Somewhere in here is a series of catatonic episodes where I lost consciousness that led to a traumatic brain injury from a doctor giving me too much medication, becoming toxic from that, and falling down stairs dozens times and a car accident while losing a week of my memory—in April 2016. I fondly call it The Incident. It really messes with my current ability to recall basically anything. It is why I have notes and what looks like chaos around my house and desk at work: they are constant reminders of how and what to do.

Then there was hubby number two. I don’t talk about him. Some people don’t even know he exists. I don’t say his name (I say dickhead instead… even asshole is a compliment… there’s a poem for that, if you want to know more). We will just call him a sociological project turned parasite that ended up abusing me via gaslighting techniques, verbal threats, and cumulative stresses that brought up farm boy rapist memories and created my PTSD. Enter the second time I’ve had to get a protection order, the second time I’ve divorced, and the final time I have gone out on my own… this time more determinedly on my own two feet.

So diagnosed with Bipolar in 2006, sober but alcoholic in 2013, handed another neat diagnosis of PTSD around 2020 (happy COVID… here’s another label for you)… I didn’t feel put together until sometime in late 2021.

And from all this rambling, it sounds like I’m complaining, and it sounds like a bunch of made-up rubbish, which is why I HATE talking about it. But now you know.

Yes, I am disabled—trust me, some people have actually watched me have a psychotic episode outside a house in the town where I live now (a moment I am very ashamed of), I DO have hallucinations (including seeing a huge 6’6” 280 pound son of mine in my house when he wasn’t there and a pangolin in the middle of a road in rural Nebraska), and I have actually thought I could be in two places at one time because I thought I was two people (Julie and Rita…they can entertain two groups at once, right? oh my what WAS I thinking).

Now you can run the other way.

But wait.

Because I don’t sit down and roll over when it comes to my disability.  I don’t let it take over anymore.  I pay attention, and I listen. I see a specialist monthly. I take medication that we alter regularly. I log triggers daily. I am still sober. I fight—every day, every hour, I fight. I am not normal, I will never be “cured”, but I am better now than I ever have been, and I believe these experiences have taken me where I am today. I believe my creative spirit comes from this mis-wired brain as well.

At this point, if I could choose another song to live in (besides the “You’re Gone” from Letter One), it would be P!nk’s F**kin’ Perfect. Because no one is perfect, and I’ve fought hard to be where I am now.

So if you can put up with a slightly crazy, mis-wired but eccentric, never normal but unique, wonderful ever-changing me, welcome. Don’t go away. I miss you.

Thinking of you, every crazy part of me.



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Dear Friend Letter Two: Why Stay, In Love


August 22, 2023

Why Stay, in Love

Dear Friend,

I am still here. You are still there. I am still writing to you, reaching through the miles and the silence with words, written words about me and you and all of us, about how love can be and can’t be, how the journey of life can find us guessing at what is and what we thought it is supposed to be.

My parents celebrated their fifty-year anniversary last year. My mother’s parents were also married over fifty years. My father’s parents made it to 65 years. I have two friends from grade school who married their high school sweethearts…and at their late forties, are still happily married. I am elated for each of them.

Growing up, long-time married couples surrounded me. There wasn’t a question of what my future would entail: I would get married, have children, and stay married.  Divorce wasn’t an option.  I remember as a youngster, having a discussion with one of those friends who is still married to her high school sweetheart about love: we thought love is less a fleeting feeling, and more a deciding to continue with the same dedication as before. We were young; we hadn’t seen rough times or gone through anything yet. Our bodies hadn’t hit adolescence or felt lust, we didn’t know that changes can be severe and even understanding ourselves can be a challenge.  When I was young, it seemed so simple.

And it can be.  I can’t assess why every couple decides to marry, but the ideal situation is that two people choose each other because they have a common bond, they like and love each other, they want to spend their lives together because of what they see in each other now, and what they think they see the other person becoming with them.

And couples can make it through those tough times. Even when people change, couples can adjust. Even when they hit a rough spot, they can cling to that original reason they chose each other, can renew those reasons they first fell for each other, can find a new way to reach each other. Every couple has rough patches; every couple has the potential to get through them. My dad’s parents made it through the Second World War, when my grandpa was a medic in the army. My parents made it through a terrible farm accident.

I wanted to be one of those couples. I wanted to find love like that.

When I was in my early twenties, dating one of those farmer boys perfect for settling down with, I started having strange symptoms. I went to three doctors, told them it was like I was two people. They said I was just an extroverted person. I looked back at my shy life, my constant feeling that I didn’t fit in anywhere, and this didn’t make sense. My two sides split further. Why did this happen? That is for another letter. What happened is that farmer boy turned into a rapist. Lovely they-lived-happily-ever-after flew out the window. And I fell farther into my confusion.

I married my first husband because the pregnancy test I took was positive. He proposed by asking me if I could find it in my heart to marry a drunk like him. Our daughter was 13 months old and was our flower girl at our wedding. We put the cart before the horse, so to say. But I was convinced this could still be that childhood love story in our dreams… the house, the children, the happy couple.

I think some couples can stay together if they marry for other reasons than if they are truly connected as an equal couple.  But many can’t. We couldn’t. We weren’t together for ourselves; we were together for the children. There were other problems; I won’t go into that now. But I believe if a couple is together for reasons other than each other, the stresses between them may often be too much to create a healthy marriage. Or a stable, long-term one. I resisted this divorce; I held resentments for a long time. It took me a while to let go of this.

Why should someone stay?  When should they go? If a person must hide something in order to stay, that is a red flag. If they are giving up something or someone that earnestly makes them happy, that is a red flag. If they have changed enough through the years that they no longer walk the same path or have an epiphany that significantly alters their course and the other person can’t follow, that is a red flag. If their reason for being together in the first place was based on something other than truth and each other, that is a red flag. If they didn’t know who they were, and discover that later, and the other person can’t change with them, that is a red flag. If they are staying together to make someone else happy, that is a red flag. If they are staying together because they are scared, that is a red flag. If there is less trust now and more jealousy, that is a red flag.

That seems like a lot of red. I thought I could stay, sacrifice contentment for the kids. Cover it up with dedication. Paint a good picture. Pretend. My miserable sickness kept bleeding out through the cracks. Who am I to be giving advice? Perhaps I know what to do now because I have done what you are NOT supposed to do.

But if a couple can bend, can change together, can make the commitment to truth…if a couple isn’t hiding or looking elsewhere…if a couple started out looking at each other, and are still looking at each other…if there isn’t a piece of themselves they are destroying in order to stay together …then I believe they have a chance.

So am I urging “stay” or “leave”? Fight or flight? We or me? That is not my choice to make. That is not my journey.

What is love? Perhaps it does start with a fluttering, a fleeting feeling, a bit of lust. Perhaps it is, like my friend and I were discussing, a little decision each day, to continue with the other, on top of that fluttering.

Perhaps love is also letting the person choose their own journey. Perhaps love is wanting them to be happy, no matter where that leads them. Perhaps love is not a possessing, but also a releasing. Perhaps love is holding the fluttering, then watching the horizon between you, no matter what distance that becomes.

But the most important person to love is yourself. Is what you are doing each day a mirror of the self deep inside? Are you loving YOU, too?

Thinking of you.



Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Dear Friend Letter One: Feeling Music & Being Left, Alone

 August 16, 2023

Feeling Music and Being Left, Alone

Dear Friend,

I am here. You are there. We can’t or don’t or won’t talk in ways I wish we could. So much, oh there is so much I want to say to you. Since we do not talk, I will say these things to you here. I am afraid the words will not come out right, that I will scare you away, that what I mean to say and what I do say will not match. This is not poetry. I can do poetry: I dream, I think in verse. So have a kind heart as you read these letters.

I was numb for years. I was numb not only from the three years and four months (yes, I have been counting them) since the protection order was first issued for my second husband, in order to keep me safe from him and allow me to start my own life. My PTSD started before that. I was numb from the trauma during the abuse, numb in order to stay in a situation that I needed desperately to get out of. Then I was numb in fear. Numb out of habit. Numb out of lack of trust.

But then I trusted you. This past week, suddenly, I have started feeling. It is amazing. It is partly because of you, because I trusted you. I woke up. I am learning how to manage my emotions again. It is similar to when I first got sober nine years ago. Everything is amplified and messy. My brain is now sorting it all out, but slowly.  And, as I was told by a wise friend, feeling “wrong” feelings for a person is better than feeling nothing at all.  After all, there is no such thing as a wrong feeling.  If it is there, it needs to be acknowledged.  It is coming from somewhere. I have learned that the hard way: I used to drink to drown those confusing feelings. They stayed there until I acknowledged and dealt with them. Now I get to do this again. It is wonderful and mild-swirling and overwhelming and awe-inducing and made me cry for the first time this weekend. I haven’t cried for months. I think this is good.

I am listening to music again. Really listening. I had been stuck in silence before.  I have started with familiar songs, the music of my past. I am recalling memories attached to those songs.  It has made me wonder: what song would you choose to live in?

If I had to live in a song, it would be You’re Gone by Diamond Rio.  It would be a bittersweet living. This is for two reasons. 

The first is because I remember my friend Timmy when we were both in graduate school in Nebraska.  He was my dancing partner; we would go to street dances and country bars, wherever there was a band playing.  We could dance to anything—two-step, waltz, polka, you name it: he led, I followed.  We even danced to Metallica; we also made up our own steps to Ants Marching by The Dave Matthews Band. You’re Gone was our song in a way; he would sing it to me because we knew he was going to Hawaii for the Pioneer Seeds breeding program after graduation. I never heard from him again. He was a respectful, fun friend. The choices we make affect the rest of our life. It is a good memory.

The second reason I would choose You’re Gone is because, although I have supportive family, many people who used to be in my life aren’t in it anymore, or they are on the outer fringes, looking in. I acknowledge that my disability and who I am in general is not easy to live with, and I have changed over the years, but few people have had the courage to see me as I am, and stay close.

I say that is okay, because I am used to being alone. That seems strange coming from a twin. When I was first forced into a situation where I had to make it on my own, I resisted it.  I was scared. I made some strange and poor choices. This is a discussion for another letter. Now I believe it is better to be alone and find contentment in myself than be with someone and pretend things are okay: to be together and be miserable or living for someone else’s wishes or their supposed happiness only spreads sorrow.  It took me years to come to this realization.

Today’s devotion in my book The Promise of a New Day opens by letting me know “A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do” (Carlos Castaneda). I certainly am on a path I didn’t predict when I was younger, and have had to back up, start over, switch paths at different moments in my life.  But that is okay.  Revisiting my compass, where I am, is better than plowing down the wrong path for the only reason that I started it and I think I have to finish everything I start. 

Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Perhaps as I get older, I have learned to try to control less (especially people) and do more of what I need, not what others want. This has given me a certain freedom, and a certain peace. And I think that peace is what can bring some sort of happiness, if I let it.

But this is my path, my story, my truth. Every person has their own.

What song would you live in?

What song are you living in now?

Thinking of you,



P.S. Before you freak out that I am telling everyone to get divorced and leave if things are tough, I’ll tell you why I’m glad people stay together—and why I would have, and wish I could have taken a different road.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Once, Again: An old poem revisited

Posting an oldie but a goodie.  I wrote this for my sister, who was a state officer in the Order of Rainbow for Girls.  But the symbolism in this can touch so many other people at this point in the political and cultural scheme of things.  If you have reached out and fallen; rest.  But don't stay.  Find a rainbow, and reach again.  You will indeed find a friend. 


Once I tried to
                        touch a star
                        reach a constellation.

I  s t r e t c h e d
my hand way up there,
            but I couldn’t
                        touch the stars.

Once I tried to
                        touch a star
                        reach a constellation.

I struggled, hanging on to nothing
Hoping for my life.

But they  t h r e w  me back
            and I went hurtling
to the ground
where I began.

 Yes, once I tried to
                        touch a star
                        reach a constellation.

But instead of getting everything—
                        the heavens and unknown—
            I ended up back on the ground.

The stars were not my own.

 Yet later,
            in a cloud
            I found a ladder made
                        of a rainbow, arched
                        and to take step by step.

So, daring once more to
                        touch a star
                        reach a constellation

My hands grasped the edges
and my feet found a rung.

I began my climb once more. 


Tansy Julie the Soaring Eagle Paschold
June 1994