Crossed-Wires: Anxiety in Overdrive

Sometimes I think that whoever wired my brain used the wrong schematic. They took the plans and flipped them upside down. They crossed the red wire with the blue wire, and thus I was born- an odd little duck in a world full of geese. I am a collection of juxtaposed ideals tied together with a pretty bow of contradiction. I am an enigma, even to myself some days.

For a long time I didn’t know that there were different types of anxiety. I saw one of my best friends fight every day to simply function the way that many of us take for granted. I knew what a battle it was for her to just get out of bed, get dressed, and make it through a day at the office. I still remember the last time she willingly engaged in a conversation with me- where she was convinced that I was only speaking to her out of pity, she refused to believe that I genuinely cared. I know what a battle with debilitating, soul-crushing anxiety looks like. But I did not fit that description. It felt disingenuous to claim a seat within those ranks. So there I was, struggling with an enemy that had no face, no name; a phantom that perhaps existed only for me. 

I’ve always known that I reacted a bit differently to the world than other people. The older I got, the more insistent my internal dialogue became. A small part of me was aware that I was being overly-critical, that I was looking too deeply, that I was causing problems where none existed. But I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t self-correct my thoughts and my fears. I was a runaway train slipping off the rails. And truthfully, that’s a feeling that has never completely gone away.

I was always envious of those people who appeared to flit through life so effortlessly; the ones who could make random conversations with perfect strangers. I was jealous of the people who were good at making friends, the ones who didn’t turn bright red at the drop of a hat. I wanted to be like them; I wanted to crack a joke without getting tongue-tied over the punch line. I wanted to be able to order something in the drive-thru without rehearsing it to myself before the person’s voice broke out over the speaker asking me what I would like today. I wanted to simply not feel a rise of panic inside when I saw someone approach me. Truthfully, I think it’s a bit of a wonder that I have managed to maintain friendships at this point. After all, it took me an entire year to really even start speaking to people where I worked. They politely say I was just shy; but that’s a rather simplified answer. It takes me a long time to get to know people because I can’t get out of my own head.

I can put on a smiling face, I can make conversation when it’s required of me; you might not even notice the way I nervously tap my fingers together as we talk, or the way my toes bop in my shoes. Perhaps you think I’m trying to flirt when I play with my hair- not realizing that it’s just another outlet for that fight-or-flight energy that takes over my body. Since my rapidly firing neurons can’t seem to distinguish a pleasant conversation from a life-threatening lion attack; I have to find these inconspicuous outlets for my energy.

I will berate myself for days if I stutter or stumble on a word. I will replay a conversation over and over again in vivid detail if your reaction to my comments wasnt what I had anticipated. I will dissect every word and every gesture, I will tear myself apart trying to find the deficiency in our interaction. Because I know it’s not you- it has to be me. And next time we speak, you may wonder why I appear more guarded, why I look to the ground so often- it’s because inside I’m insecure and, honestly, terrified that I will mess up again.

You’ll probably see me on my phone during down time; sitting in my car before work listening to an audiobook while playing a game, or reading my kindle while waiting for dinner to cook. Perhaps you’ll catch me scrolling through social media while I wait at the doctor’s office. You may dismiss it as the actions of a millennial who simply can’t unplug from the technology she wears on her hip. But if I were honest- I would tell you that my reasons are a bit different than you would expect. I don’t do it because I’m incapable of unplugging; I do it because I’m trying to tether my anxieties to the ground so they can’t carry my away. Idleness is dangerous for me; when my brain has too much free time, it starts going down dark alleys and jumping on trick staircases. When I have too much time on my hands, then the internal panic is able to catch up with me. I’ll suffocate on the fear if I’m not careful. So I stay busy, I tread water because I’m afraid I’ll drown if I slow down. I am constantly moving because I know what it’s like to fall down that rabbit hole; and it terrifies me. 

When life starts to overwhelm me, then I start to lose myself in more tasks and random occupations. For example, since January of this year I have read over 115 books. That isn’t because I’m an avid reader with a personal challenge- it’s because reading is one of my outlets; when the world goes wild I get lost in a book.

Sometimes I think that’s why I love writing so much; it’s a sense of control I can feel when so little in life makes sense. I can edit and rewrite my character’s words until they shine. I can choose their flaws and their reactions. I can decide what battles they will face. I can write the story I want to read, I can create the people I want to know. For just a few fleeting pages I can become someone else. I don’t have to be my own worst enemy. And for once, all of those worst case scenarios that dance through my brain and torment me- they come in handy. Because worst case scenarios are a writer’s best fodder. I can take my own fears and construct something dangerous and enthralling. I can take the worst of me and force it to serve a beautiful purpose.

Anxiety is not romantic, my neurotic moments are not charming or adorable, contrary to what the movies would like you to believe. I look for the silver lining because I have to; because if I thought this internal pain and struggle was completely pointless- I would probably lose my mind completely. Telling myself that it might somehow assist my creative process is how I have learned to accept it. I can’t change the way that my brain is wired. I cannot convince my innate responses that I am not in life-threatening danger when I am ordering a burger at Red Robin. I am who I am. Some days I am okay with this, and some days it makes me want to pound the ground with my fists and cry.

For some people anxiety is a palpable shroud that hangs around their shoulders. For others, it is hidden behind smiles and avid productivity. Some people can’t get out of bed in the morning, and others can’t slow down in fear that they will fall apart. I move constantly; I stay busy and focused from the moment I wake up until I drop to sleep in the middle of a page. Its bittersweet to always be moving; and yet I miss the days when I would just sit there and breathe deeply, focusing only on myself and the way my body moved in the world. I miss viewing downtime as a luxury, not something to be afraid of. I constantly make to-do lists to get me through the day; because I find comfort in having a plan. It will consist of little things; read the paper, check emails, read ten pages, ten minutes on Facebook, research, write for 30 minutes. I intentionally put more on the page than I can accomplish because that means I won’t risk having extra time at the end of the day. 

You will never know the struggles a person is facing, or the reasons they act the way that they do- not unless you really watch what they are doing, not just listening to what they are saying. We need more compassion in the world, we need to remind ourselves that we are all doing the best that we can with the tools that we have available. Just because a person does not respond to the world the way that you would expect doesn’t mean that they aren’t still going through more than you can see on the surface. Sometimes we can’t help our eccentricities. For those who suffer through the various forms of anxiety, simple daily activities can seem like insurmountable obstacles. Just because a person isn’t falling apart on the outside doesn’t mean that they aren’t still fighting those same demons. I look like I have it all together- but my big secret is that I don’t. I have to focus on one day at a time, I have to fight for every step. My anxiety and I are inextricably intertwined. As much as I like to pretend it is some other entity that influences me- I know that it is just another facet of the woman I am. I was wired differently; but hopefully I will be a better person for it.

Long walks in the woods, great friends and good wine

There is something about Mother Nature that soothes the soul and puts a troubled mind at ease. We tend to forget that these concrete jungles and civil constructs  are human inventions; and truth be told, we’ve never been particularly good at knowing what was right for us. Stepping back into nature can feel like coming home after a long day.

Whenever I find myself feeling suffocated by obligations and expectations; when my smiles come less frequently and my mind can’t slow down long enough to let me breath- I know that it is time to hop in the car and find salvation on a trail. Truthfully- when my friends made plans for us to go on Sunday- I didnt want to. I was struggling internally, barely managed to pull myself out of bed the day before. I knew it was going to rain and that we would be up early. But they had managed to finagle a promise out of me on Friday night (a couple of drinks helped their cause). So, true to my word, I set my alarm and drug myself slowly out of bed. It was the best thing I never wanted to do.


Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am to live where I do. The Pacific Northwest is know for its rain, rain, and then for good measure- a little bit more rain. But there is a beautiful benefit to this onslaught of wet weather- our forests are lush, wild and green. You can’t go too far without stumbling across a babbling brook or a raging river. Which means that the hiking is fantastic.



There is a clarity and peace that you will only find when confronted with your wilder self; the fresh air, the trees, and yes- even the rain; can wash away the taint of the city and the stresses that inevitably accompany it. I was a bit of a hippy as a kid; Henry David Thoreau was an idol of mine, soon to be followed by the likes of John Muir. I wanted nothing more than to traipse off into the woods and live an unconventional life without the trivialities we inevitable bombard ourselves with. But then I remembered that I also like indoor plumbing, hot baths, not hunting animals, and space heaters. I grew up and became a rather conventional human being- though my soul is still as wild as it was when I was a little girl dreaming of traveling through nature’s hidden secrets.

It’s refreshing and calming when you spend your time focusing on the world outside of yourself, when you are able to slow down and immerse yourself in the beauty surrounding you. This world has so much to offer us when we take a moment to truly enjoy it. So we walked, we took pictures, we ate snacks, and when we made it to our destination we celebrated with a small glass of wine. (I will note here that this probably isn’t the best idea in the world- do not imbibe too much when you are in the woods, near cliffs, or having to traipse through difficult trails to rejoin civilization. Be responsible, my friends).

A world of worries fell away in those hours; listening to the potter patter of the rain on the canopy of trees, feeling the burn in my legs as we climbed up and up, slowing down to watch caterpillars and snails, taking pictures of dew drops on leaves, feeling the force of a waterfall that carved out a cavernous pathway behind it. I am reminded of how small I am in the grand scheme of things, and rediscovered my connection to this hidden world of wonder and beauty. Being out in the world reminds you to feel alive. This is not a lesson I will be forgetting soon.











The blue-clad people to the left of the falls are for scale; no picture can do this place justice

Cheers, my friends, may we always find an escape when we need one, and may we always have time to rediscover this beautiful world of ours

Fighting the Tide

When I was a little girl I was swimming in a crab hole at the beach with my sister. We didn’t notice that the tide had changed and the sand bar hemming us in had been submerged. We just kept swimming around, buoyed by our life jackets as we raced around the deepening cove. It took a while before we noticed that we were drifting out into the ocean. And when we realized that our feet couldn’t touch the sandy bottom anymore, we bristled into a full blown panic. ‘Just swim back’ everyone said- a simple solution coming from someone sitting safely on shore. But we weren’t strong enough or big enough to fight the outward current. We just kept slipping slowly with each wave. Finally my cousin swam out and towed us back, all in a row like wayward ducklings. That event never stopped us from plunged back into the frigid ocean, but it did make the dangers more poignant. It kept me aware as I grew up that sometimes you can be swept away by something much stronger than yourself.

As writers we feel everything deep in our souls, magnified tenfold; joy and pain, peace and chaos, love and hate- we mirror the emotions swirling in the world around us, our hearts bear the sweetest burden of empathy for this life and those who struggle and persevere alongside us. It is one of our most pronounced strengths, and also one of our most misunderstood weaknesses. Oh, what a strange curse; to feel the world so deeply, to carry all these stories in our hearts, swarming with every emotion imagineable. Some days I feel like I’m crazy. The very power that makes me able to create is also the very thing that can cut me to the quick when wielded incorrectly. That being said, it should come as no surprise that at times those darker shadows hidden inside can pull at me, sucking me in to an uninvited embrace.

I’m known for being a positive person, for finding the silver lining, for rolling with the punches that life can throw, for shaking it off and moving forward. Most people in my life don’t realize that this trait is one I’ve  intentionally fought for; I see the light because I remember when my world was full of darkness. I say positive things because I need to hear them in order to believe them. I was young the first time I slipped into my own version of Dante’s Inferno. I walked through my nine circles of hell, climbed my mountain of Purgatorio, and found myself on the other side. I know the value of this journey because it’s seared into my soul.

I made my way through and felt a genuine peace on the other side, but there’s something that no one talks about when it comes to the taboo of mental health. Even when you ‘win’ your battle- that doesn’t mean it’s over. I am able to embrace the small joys in life, but there will always be a piece of me that remembers. There will always be a sliver of who I am that is holding its breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop. A part of me cannot help but wonder if and when I may slip back into that abyss.

It started with an anxiety attack. I’ve always had these to some degree, so I wasn’t all that worried at first. But then they got worse, culminating in one that left me physically shaking and trying not to cry in the back of a car on a short road trip just a few weeks ago. It’s just stress, I told myself. Everything is fine. I didn’t notice when the rest of the warning signs started jumping out; looking back it is so obvious that I was heading for deeper waters, but I couldn’t see it. I lost interest in everything, didn’t have the motivation on for the simplest of tasks. I told myself that I was just getting lazy when I didn’t clean or write (this Nano has been an ongoing struggle), but it went deeper than that. I couldn’t focus anymore; realizing halfway through a conversation that I had no idea what the other person was talking about. Or rereading the same line over and over again because the meaning wouldn’t soak in. Editing my novels became a nightmare of repetitive actions with nothing truly behind them. Some days insomnia kept me awake, and other days I could barely keep my eyes open, my sleep schedule moving up into the double digits. 

Even the dog noticed before I did. Link is not particularly cuddly; he only wants to be close like that when someone is sick. I should have known that he sensed something was wrong when he wouldn’t leave my side, pressing himself close beside me when I lay down; one day even going so far as to flop down right on top of me and lay flat- like he couldn’t get enough skin to fur contact. And then on Saturday I could barely get out of bed, opting for sweatpants and a baggy shirt because I didn’t have the energy to do my laundry or put jeans on. I had no choice but to admit that I’d been blind to all of my warning signs once again; I had lost my footing, and had slipped for no real reason. There I was, halfway out to sea before I even realized there was a hint of danger.

There’s something about depression that makes you feel so damn small, so insignificant, so pointless. There’s something about that darkness that makes you feel so weak, so helpless, so broken. It’s hard to admit to yourself and to others that perhaps you can’t do it on your own. People want to fix you without realizing that you are not a math problem to be solved neatly on graph paper and turned in on Monday morning. Not everyone understands that you can be sad deep in your soul without having a reason you can articulate. You can have a good life and still feel like you are drowning.

I’ve been down this road before, and the only real benefit is that I learned all of the wrong things to do once upon a time. Mainly; trying to fix it all on my own. It goes against our nature to admit out weaknesses. But at the end of the day, it is the bravest thing you can do. Instead of pasting on a plastic smile, this time I took a deep breath and I opened up.

We always forget that we are not the only ones who have been forced to face our demons. We are not the only ones who have hurt deep down in our souls. When I made my confession I had a certain expectation when it came to their responses. And yet I was so wrong; instead of judgment, I was met with compassion. When I couldn’t force myself out of bed, my fiancĂ© curled up beside me with healthy snacks and turned on our favorite show. When I wanted to stay there all day and melt into the mattress, he coaxed me out with simple goals that would nudge me back towards normalcy without sending me diving under the covers again. He didn’t try to offer solutions when there were none to give, he didn’t get frustrated with the fact that he had a hundred other things more important to do. He just gently reminded me that I wasn’t alone and that it was okay to let myself feel it all for a little while without wallowing in it.

My friends forced me to get up and go out with them- no questions, no expectations, just a group of us in the woods on a rainy Sunday. I always forget how healing nature can be, how easy it is to put your life and your problems into perspective when you are surrounded by so much beauty.


There are some battles you should not face alone. And that’s why I’m here right now, spilling the less-than-glamorous secrets of my life for anyone to see. So if I don’t post as often as I used to- be patient with me, I’m still trying. Every day is still a bit of an effort; some more so than others. I’m just reminding myself to take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. I slipped, got in over my head, and now I just need a little help to tow myself back to shore. I can do this, but I do not have to do this alone. Sometimes the bravest thing you will ever do is admit that you need someone else to help you on your path.

The Healing Power of a Well-Placed Curse

My feet seem to have an uncanny ability to always find the one missing lego or the edge of the table leg I wasn’t paying enough attention to. I am not exactly what you would call a delicate flower; I am clumsy and uncoordinated, and when I hurt myself I can have the mouth of a sailor. If you see me in my regular daily life I seem pleasant enough, but watch me stub my toe once and you’ll hear a string of curse words you didn’t even know existed, laid out in colorful combinations you never would have thought to try. They usually don’t make sense, and my face will probably turn beet red after I realize what exactly I said in front of you; but you will walk away feeling thoroughly educated.

I never put much thought into this knee-jerk reaction, I just knew that yelling my obscenities and jumping up and down on my good leg made me feel better. But as it turns out, there is actual science behind this little fluke of humanity (studies like this make me kick myself internally for not joining the scientific community as my own career path). It is no secret that words have power; they can evoke tearful compassion, blood boiling anger, they can inspire uprisings and tear down governments. Words have the ability to lift the spirit or break the soul. Swearing itself evokes an emotional response; if you have ever been yelled at by a parent or glared at by a co-worker after allowed a particularly colorful four-letter beauty slip from your lips, then you have witnessed the response firsthand. We have created our own taboo language and imbued it with power, determining on a whim what is socially acceptable and what is not. If our response to mere words is so strong that we have created our own form of self-censorship, then what else can they do? Once again, science swoops in with the answers.

Researchers at Keele University’s School of Psychology were curious about the potential physical effects of swearing, and so they conducted their own experiment. This little test has been repeatedly replicated, and even found its way onto the TV show Mythbusters. They took 64 lucky undergrad volunteers and had them all partake in the ice water test. Each participant was asked to submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as they possibly could while repeating a single word. For a control, participants were asked to do this while repeating a fairly innocuous word describing a table. And then we got to the good part; those involved in the study were then told to do the exact same thing, only this time they choose whatever curse word their heart desired. As it turns out, when repeating their favorite swear word, participants were able to hold their hand in the ice water for substantially longer than they could with a regular mundane word. In fact, they were able to tack on an average of 40 additional seconds to their time. As we all may know from plunging our hand into a slightly-melted cooler looking for the perfect beverage during the summer months: an additional 40 seconds in once water is a long time. After repeated experiments, they were able to confidently declare that, yes, the act of cursing actually did have a pain-lessening effect.

Scientists aren’t sure why this link exists, but they suspect that the act of cursing triggers our natural ‘fight or flight’ response. The heart rate of volunteers accelerated, which suggests that the amygdala was being activated (this part of the brain is responsible for the fight or flight reaction). It might account for a slight increase in aggression; and anytime we physically experience an increase like this, our body is internally preparing for a fight- which means it is bracing itself for possible pain to be inflicted on us. As a measure of self-protection, it dampens the pain receptors so you can focus on what you need to do to get out of your sticky situation.

But why curse words specifically? Why couldn’t you just scream ‘pop tart, French fry, monkey , handlebar, potato’ at the top of your lungs instead? It’s interesting to note that curses themselves work differently than traditional language. Studies suggest that they originate in a different, older part of our brains. They are more closely tied to the emotional centers in the right side of the brain, whereas most language production takes place in the left cerebral hemisphere. This is something that can be seen in certain cases of brain damage where most language function deteriorates, and yet the patient can still scream the f-word quite clearly and at regular intervals. Pretty crazy, isn’t it?

Now, before you foul-mouthed fiends start jumping for joy, there is a little bit of fine print here. As it turns out, the more frequently we curse, the less emotionally potent these words become. This translates into your physical reaction as well. Which means if you curse like a sailor all damn day, then when you drop a slew of f-bombs after stubbing your toe, their pain-dampening effect won’t be nearly as strong as the girl who sits 3 desks down from you at the office and only says ‘snickerdoodles’ when she gets a paper cut. When she finally lets a good four-letter friend fall from her lips, the effect will be stronger. If you over-use your curse words, you are left with just plain words. You’ll be like Tony Stark without the Iron Man suite- it might do something, but it won’t be enough. So please, swear responsibly my friends.

A Toast for our Critter Companions

I am on  of those people who gushes with excitement at the thought of going to a kitten coffee house (yes, it really is just a coffee shop full of kitties you can pet as you enjoy your favorite beverage); I grin like a Cheshire Cat when I come close to the dog park; and every time I make my way to the mall, I will inevitably drag any poor soul who happens to be accompanying me over to the pet store where I will pine and beg them to help me rescue all of the critters. I am simultaneously the type of person who balks at the thought of going to a party with acquaintances, I get tongue tied and awkward during regular conversations. I have not mastered social interactions with other human beings; and so, I find salvation in the paws of other species. Needless to say, I am an animal person. And as we just passed Nation Pet Day, it seemed fitting to raise my glass in celebration for my beloved little beauties. (Side note: apologies that this was not posted on the actual day- I had it all finished, but a technical glitch made the entire post mysteriously disappear without a trace right before I could hit publish. Today it magically reappeared; instead of questioning it, I will thank my lucky stars and send it off just a couple days late).
Animals bring out the best in us; at least they do for me. These compassionate creatures can enrich your life and teach you more about the world than you had realized. I’ve had a myriad of critters who’ve graced my existence with their own; from dogs, cats, ants, gerbils and guinea pigs, right down to hedgehogs, chinchillas and ferrets. And who can forget the attempted capture of snakes, wolly bears and millipedes? With these creatures have come joy, pain, and life lessons I cannot forget.

Sometimes it was a simple reminder found in the most mundane of activities, something so subtle you could easily miss it. The simple ant farm taught me to see the beauty in nature; from the designs that they built out of the earth itself right down to the teamwork they used to create the masterpiece of their home. The chinchilla reminded me how delicate the beautiful things in life can be, and how you must treat them with care as respect. She also taught me that the only way to truly live your life is to let go and get a little dirty on occasion.

From the snake and millipedes I learned that sometimes the best thing you can do is fight for yourself, in spite of the best intentions of those trying to ‘rescue’ you. Only you will know what is best. Fun fact: yellow-spotted millipedes are surprisingly common in the Pacific Northwest, and when they feel attacked they emit cyanide. The internet will try to tell you that it is a strong almond smell- do not believe those lies. It is horrible and does not wash away easily. 

My hedgehog was rescued from an abusive situation, so he had some trust issues. You always hope that all of the love you shower them with can smother the pain they have endured. But real life is not always like a story. Spike and I had good days and bad days; there were times he would run and play, trying to eat my hair as he scurried through the mazes I would make out of our pillows; and there were other days when the slightest movement from across the room would send him into a shivering and spitting ball of quills. From him I learned the importance of unconditional love and compassion, and how to read the signals others are sending. He also taught me that food is usually the best bridge between two creatures- nothing would change his mood quite like his favorite treat being gently placed beside him (in fact, this is a trick that still works on me).

For those of you who aren’t aware, ferrets are notorious thieves. Mine was no exception; he also had a bit of a sweet tooth. His favorite hauls were tootsie rolls and pop tarts. In theintjs following his passing I would occasionally find another little nook or cranny stuffed full of his sugary delights. Bandit was full of joy and life. He taught me the importance of dancing and singing for joy as he hopped and chirped around the living room, eying any unsupervised candy. He was persistent in his love and affection; poking and playing with the cat until she finally gave in. His joyful persistence finally broke through her grumpy exterior. They became the most unexpected of allies.

These days I have just two little critters- one cat and one dog. In fact, they are both curled up with me as I write this. Most days they try my patience, they push every single button and then come back around for a second time. They howl and bark when all I want to do is catch 5 extra minutes of sleep. They poke at each other and skid down the hallway to determine who is king of the castle. But at the end of the day, they are my partners in crime. They are my cuddle buddies when I am sad or sick. They give my kisses when all I want to do is cry. They are usually the first to hear my most recent work in progress. They remind me when I’ve been sitting in front of the computer too long, so I need to get up and go for a walk. They never let me forget the importance of play or tasty treats, or head scratches just because you care. When I’m bored they surprise me by dragging in their favorite toy to toss around (and occasionally the cat will drag in something dead and leave it on my lap as an unexpected gift). At the end of the day, they run to the door- as excited to see me as I am to see them. I learn something new from them every day- whether I want the lesson or not.


It is the worst cosmic joke that us humans are forced to outlive our beautiful creatures when they are far more deserving of that extra time. I heard once that it’s because they already know how to live with love and compassion, and so they don’t need as much time here on earth to get it right. Not like us. It seems fitting, really. The most poignant of lessons were not ones that had to be vocalized to me. They were ones my furry friends were able to show me.

So for all that they do- to us and for us- for all of the times that they make us want to pull out our hair while simultaneously dying from a cuteness overload- here’s to the pets that make this world a bit brighter, a tad happier, and a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

Tell Me a Story (Writing Prompt): Fears of the Future

Write a story inspired by the prompt and/or the photograph below. All styles and word counts welcome. May the odds be ever in your favor, my friends.

“Much like Icarus flying too close to the sun, our arrogance had been our undoing. In our boastful confidence, we never took the threat seriously. We had been giants for far too long to feel the true danger we were in; not once did we realize that we were Goliath on the verge of meeting David. Oh, how the world shook when we toppled. Some celebrated, some mourned; but everyone knew that nothing would ever be the same again. The meek did not inherit this earth, something more sinister did. That was a generation ago, and we still have not found our road to redemption.”

Original photo taken by myself in Seattle, WA. Shamelessly filtered later
Be bold and brave: leave a link to your story (or the story itself) down in the comments.