Posts Tagged With: Family

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

The Story, My Story, Chick-O-Sticks

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 dreamt.

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

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Happiness.  Is it real?  Does it really exist? What does it look like? What does it consist? What are the rules, parameters, stipulations?  How can something undefined, unsolidified exist?  How can something so distinctly relative and individually interpreted be definable in any common sense or in a general definition?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, happiness is the state of being happy; an experience that makes you happy.  But, what is happy? Again, Merriam-Webster declares that happy is an adjective that means feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.; showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment; pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.

Well, then everyone in the world has had such moments, even the most depraved, repressed, depressed, enslaved person has at one time or another experienced such moments.  But, does that make them happy?

A writer friend of mine, Tom Piccirilli, well, more or less a writer acquaintance of mine, passed away a few days ago. I had the pleasure of interviewing him last year for West Georgia Living Magazine.  I think fondly on our interview, on his appreciative words about my article, on his gifts as a wonderful writer.  His wife posted about his passing today on his Facebook account.  My heart broke that he had finally lost his battle with cancer, but it wasn’t sadness I felt when reading his wife’s words, it was something deeper than that, something precious.  I was being shown what happiness was in the midst of grief. His wife spoke of the happy years they had together.  Sure they had plenty of bad times and bad moments, he battled cancer – it was tough, but they spent those times together, loving each other, supporting one another, and that is what made them happy.  Bad moments couldn’t destroy their overall happiness; they didn’t matter.

I remember loving James during the most stressful time of my life, and when he died and the darkness settled in on me, that’s when I knew I had been happy right in the middle of the struggles.  I have many, many happy moments with my kids: I remember playing outside in the rain with them, splashing in the mud, lying in bed telling them stories, slip-n-sliding in kitchen floor (it was my way of mopping), smack-talking during a board or card game, having Guitar Hero competitions, letting them show me how to pop waves on the jet ski, playing the clean-up-race-game, dressing up in costumes for a mid-night book release party, and so on and so forth.  My kids loved me and I loved them… and I was really happy.

Things change.  People grow up, lives get disrupted, and some leave this world and leave us behind.  My world has changed so much in the last few years and I’ve shed quite a few tears because of it, but you know what… I’m still happy, I still know happiness, it’s just in different things and comes in different ways. It’s never in what I think it should or would be. I’m kinda lost trying to figure out who I am and where I belong.  Happiness, for me, is now found in a random text, while killing aliens, in an occasional touch, in a sweet kiss, or in a simple embrace.  Some days I’m so sad I can’t breathe, but even in that I find happiness.

I can’t go back and grab happiness from anything in my past.  Those things don’t work for my present. I can’t sit and wait for happiness to happen, because it’s not something you can make happen, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.  It’s a present state of being, regardless of feelings, because of what is happening here and now.  I’m learning happiness comes from loving and being loved… and I love very much, and am loved very much.  Is it ideal, how I think I should be, or consists of what I should do, or wrapped in a way I think it should come?  Does it matter?  No.  I can’t fit my life into the shape, the mold, or the ideal of anything other than what it is.  It’s crazy.  It’s odd.  It’s different.  It’s unconventional.  It’s weird.  It clashes with every group of society and I’m really sick and tired of trying to make it fit somewhere.  I don’t fit in, and those strange creatures who don’t often understand why they love me, love me for all that I am.  They can’t seem to get rid of me, but they can’t define me either.  Doesn’t matter… as long as they love me, I’m happy.

Should I leave this world tomorrow… know that I lived today and I was happy.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

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My Family, My Clan


Family is a mixed up concept for me.  I often struggle with the thoughts of whether my emotions are connected through an intangible bond or from man-made expectations.  I understand the biology, the nature, but I have also witnessed the nurturing bond that families produce as they take care of one another.  I even understand the bond that survival produces – when people are thrown together in violent or volatile situations.  Yet, all this understanding doesn’t answer the question of why it hurts so much to be rejected by those we expect to love us most. Is it some unseen bond that has us endure that which hurts us, or just stubbornness?

I’m a beautiful woman.  I’m adored by many.  I’m pursued by several and even have inspired arguments, fights, and jealous disagreements. Yet by those who are supposed to love me most, I’m rejected and unwanted. But, don’t judge my ‘family’, because the feeling is mutual – I reject and do not want them either.  I’ve often felt guilty for feeling this way.  Many of the people that have come through this life often try to make me feel guilty for feeling like that, but I’m honest about how I feel. I always have been, and that’s not something easy to face.

There is this group of people that have come into my life recently where I feel such a deep bond.  I question if it’s because I’m in survival mode and I’m bonding with them for that reason, or is it because they nurture things in me that have been long neglected.  They adore me.  They make no secret I’m wanted, I’m needed, or even that I’m desired.  This group I’m talking about is my Destiny clan, Omega Victrix Mortalis.  They’re my family, and like all families, they are a motley crew of one mess after the next.  It’s like we are the clan filled with misfits, rejects, and the misunderstood.  What makes us different from the other clans we meet in the land of Xbox Live, is because we care about each other as people.

Recently my beloved clan has endured a division where a couple members (family) cared more for the game, more for the power and control, and more for the stroke of ego than for the people behind the controllers.  My gameplay is important, something I often struggle with much stress and trepidation, but it’s the lives behind the controllers I care about most.  This split hurts because I have to watch more people I care about walk out of my life.  I will stand by and watch them go, because I’ll never be where I’m not wanted.  I’ll never want or force someone to be around that doesn’t want to be around. Just because I’ll stand to the side, doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pain of that separation, or the rejection.

For those who have remained, they’ll never know how much they mean to me. As I mentioned before, we’re a group of misfits, but this bunch of misfits have some of the greatest hearts I’ve ever met.

Phoenix Mortalis – (the defender) is a young, twenty-year old, gorgeous, shy college student, studying to become a CSI agent.  He’s loyal.  He’s sensitive.  He notices the little things.  Though a girl getting upset makes him very uncomfortable, he’s always there, even if it’s being there in silent comfort for those in his circle.  He’s a true knight in shining armor, willing to risk everything to protect, to defend, or to support.  He’d make a great soldier because he already has the natural instincts of a defender.  He has a tight inner circle and guards it well.  But, if you’re lucky enough to get inside that circle, you’ve truly found a beautiful treasure of a friend. He’s a great player.  I watched him do amazing things with a broken controller.  The greatest was his determination.  I watched him do amazing things with limited abilities, and since he’s regained a lot of those abilities, he’s gone on to do even more amazing things.  He reminded me of how wounded soldiers who never let their disabilities define them, but strengthen them.

iTz CriMSonDxsk – (the nurturer) is a young, twenty-year old, gorgeous, shy college student, studying to become a Surgical Technician and currently works as a transporter at a hospital.  He’s also loyal and sensitive.  He’s an Empath – he feels what others feel around him. He’s one of the best gamers I’ve met so far, a beast in the battlefield, and there isn’t a feat yet I haven’t seen him unable to accomplish.  He’s a natural.  He’s humble. Yet he desires no power or praise for his acts.  He doesn’t seek the limelight but prefers to sit in the shadows, yet is unable to hide in obscurity because he’s in great demand.  Players constantly seek him out to join them because he’s the best.  He’s greatly misunderstood, often thought of as naïve, but he’s much more complex. I see a great man in the making.  There’s no ego, just a quiet confidence.

RevertantPath – (the counselor) is a young, seventeen-year old (going on 40), not sure if he’s gorgeous or not because no one has seen his picture but he has a heart of pure gold (with a dash of trickster), shy, high school student who doesn’t yet know what he wants to do with his life.  He’s also loyal.  He’s a fountain of information and wisdom.  There’s no task he’s afraid to tackle.  He’s independent, yet he understands the bonds of our family.  He never hesitates to jump in and help someone out, yet never asks for help (because he doesn’t need it).  He’s mostly quiet, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t listening.  He’s always listening.  When he decides to speak (it usually starts with … “So, I’ve been thinking… “) you should pay attention because what follows is always something deep, something profound, something often unexpected from such a young man. He’s left me speechless many times.  He’s not afraid to confront, yet chooses his moments with precision.  He’s one of the wisest people I know (and I know a lot of them).

iTz CrimSon Jr – (the mascot) is a young, thirteen-year old, who I’m sure is adorably cute, funny, and a big ball of energy.  He brings life to the party chat and game no matter what’s going on.  He’s a reflection, a symbol, a mirror of who we are as a clan.  He loves without question.  He trusts without wariness.  He’s a treasure to be protected, not manipulated and used.  He reminds me what it’s like to be a mother.  I miss being a mother, being needed.

The rest of our clan is filled with other wonderful members too.  They have their own set of skills and diverse personalities.

  • CJBIGMAC never fails to make me laugh. I could listen to his silly stories all day, his natural and free responses to every situation, and his KV worship is like no other.
  • gr3y ninja is often really quiet, but when he gets relaxed and lets out his personality, it never fails to make me laugh. Just don’t depend on him if his girlfriend calls. She comes first.
  • XxTrsXshoTxX is a little passionate in both positive and negative ways. He’s a beast in the Crucible and a great asset in the raids, and a faithful helper when you just need someone to hang out with to help with missions and bounties.  I like to listen to his silly stories.
  • Oz Bacon is another little trixster like RevertantPath, but he’s also fearless, ready to jump in no matter how big the task.
  • Set off the DJ is still getting his feet wet, but so far he’s doing a good job. If only I can get him to understand the usage of ‘wilco’.
  • Deathstroke1997, Phoenix Mortalis’ brother, while busy with school, he’s a great player and never hesitates to jump in and help where it’s needed.
  • Mike Honcho470 is guy I went on a date with and the whole time talked so passionately about Destiny that I inspired him to go out and buy an XboxOne and Destiny. While this is his first FPS game, he’s got a zeal that’s to be envious.  He never fails to make me smile.
  • Last, but not least, is Godly Furrrball. I love Destiny and the concept of clans because of this gorgeous man. The way he talked with admiration and pride about the boys in his crew stirred a deep need in my heart and made me realize I had an empty space in my own that needed to be filled. My clan has done that for me.  I also admired the pit bull in him that would come out to defend his family, even if was against me.  He’s taught me a lot. He’s pushed me beyond my limits.  He’s broken my heart.  Hey, he’s family, what can I say.

There are other players in the Destiny universe that I play with often whom I also view as family even if they’re not in my clan … (ZeroFX AirB SGT, SxProphet, WARSHAC, OZ Vinyl, UCindian11, ShumateClan(Little Light), logjmr, Blaxican, SkyBlaster, and all those guys in I Am Leg3nd, and my son, JewsDestroy99.

So, what is family?  Who is family?  How is family defined? I suppose it’s defined by whatever I choose.  I choose my Destiny family.  I love them dearly.

Till next time,

~KV Kvothe

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I’ve written maybe a dozen blog posts in the last week but haven’t posted them and never will because they’re just too painful.  This time of year is really hard for me, especially lately as I’ve had a brush with mortality.  I can’t lie, there are days I miss some of the things I enjoyed in my old life, the holidays are one of them.  The holidays are about family.


What does that mean? Come on, what does it really mean? I learned a long time ago that being related to someone doesn’t make them family.  I’m related to a lot of people, mostly people that have hurt me, lied to me, stole from me, abused me and used me – all in the name of family, as if that word gave them carte blanche to do what they wanted.  I look around me today and laugh, because it hurts too much to even cry about.  I’m done. I’m truly done.

I have no mother or father.  I have no brothers or sisters.  I have no husband, no in-laws,  no aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces, and no nephews.  I have no church family.  All these people told me (or never told me, but were supposed to) they loved me.  They lied.  Empty words mean nothing.  Words lie, but actions speak the truth.

Yes, I’m the one that ran.  I’m the one who opened the door and walked away.  I’m the one who closed the door behind me and invited no one to come along.  I’m the one who finally decided to love herself and realize I didn’t have to take their shit and listen to their lies anymore.

Not one tried to stop me. NOT ONE.

But I am not without family.  I actually have a beautiful family of my own choosing and its getting bigger every day.

I have my children, Meagan, Johnathan and Kelly.  I love them more than life. I have no doubt they love me.  I don’t get to see them much because they’re adults now and living their lives and making their way in this world and I’m not about to try and control them.  I’m here for them if they ever need me. But I won’t let them use me, nor will I ever use them.  I’ve enough bitter taste in my mouth from my own family to ever subject my children to such selfishness.  I would give them the world, but I know they’d only appreciate it if they gained it by their own strength.  It’s hard sometimes to back away, let them fall, let them make their mistakes, let them run headfirst into disaster.  A mother wants to make their children’s lives easier, to spare them hardships, to protect them from the vultures.  But, it’s the only way they’ll truly learn to stand on their own.  The best thing I can do for them is to let them know that I love them, mistakes and all.   They could never do anything to make me stop loving them.  I know the pain of being unloved.  I also know the strength in being loved.  I may not support everything they do, but I will always support the persons they are… and show them I love them no matter what by being honest with them.  I miss them.  I mostly miss the sound of their laughter, seeing their faces light up on Christmas.  The parts that really tear me up – I miss playing card and board games with them, showing them how to play in the rain, how to slip and slide on the kitchen floor, the clean-up game, the poker matches, the morning cuddles before school, the book debates (Snape is still the hero Johnathan), riding around looking at ‘kismas-ights’, laughing till you can’t breathe at all the Ozzies going ‘moo’, the swimming pool, and all the long talks about everything.

They are my family and I regret nothing I’ve sacrificed for them.

I have other family that have been with me these last couple of years.  One is a crazy-ass writer in Washington who frustrates the hell out of me, but who I admire so much.  No matter what I do, how much I try to run, how much we argue (and we argue all the time), Jeff also makes me laugh like no one in the world, makes me feel safe, and is always there to encourage me in my lowest moments.  He tears me down too and has hurt me more times than I can count, because he’s not perfect and overly opinionated,  but he’s real.  I don’t doubt his love for me, nor my love for him. He is my best friend. I never see him and may never lay eyes on him (except when we Skype), but he is my family and always will be. He showed me what a true friend is like.

Another is a crazy-ass woman in Florida who lives with her crazy-ass cute dog.  Jenna understands me more than anyone in this world.  She knows when to push and when to back away and loves me in the middle of my craziness.  I love her and all her craziness.  She’s my conscious.  I share everything with her because I can trust her with the most delicate part of me – my heart. I don’t share my heart with anyone, because I don’t trust them, but I can trust her.  She knows all my sins, all my faults, all my fears, all my failures… and yet she seems to love me anyway.    I’ve never seen her (except on Skype), but she’s my sister in every way a sister should.  She’s family.

There’s a valiant soldier who has the thickest walls around his heart I’ve ever seen, (maybe even thicker than mine) but for some reason he let me into his circle.  We’re not close, yet very close at the same time.  Emilio touches my soul and I’ve seen a peek at his, and it’s beautiful.  He’s a muse for me.  He’s a hero to me.  I respect him, love him, and want to see him happy.  He’s young with an old soul.  He’s wise well beyond his years.  He’s smart – oh, man, is he smart.  Most see no further than his beautiful smile, but I’ve seen his beautiful mind. He makes me think and see life differently.  He’s family, and so is his little brother, Michael.  I love them both, deeply.

I’ve added a few new members to my family lately.  Though they’re recent adds, they’ve already stolen a huge part of my heart – they’re my clan ‘We Are Immortal Gods’.  They pick on me, haze me, and tease me more than a pack of angry dogs, but they also surround me, include me, and make me feel wanted and a part of the team.  This is MY family, one of my own choosing, not one chosen for me.  Though I’ve felt abandoned by God lately, I believe He sent them to me, because our coming together makes no sense, yet it feels right.  This is a tight group and they don’t let just anyone in, yet they invited me without hesitation. I’m sure I’ve left them often scratching their heads, making them wonder what they’ve done.  They make me think of a pack of wolves – there’s an alpha who leads them, but they move as one, hunt (play) as one, fight with each other on a daily basis, yet defend one another in the blink of an eye.  They look out for one another.  I already think of them as family and they’re mine… my Flop, my Crimm, my Haze, my Phoenix, and my Furrrball.  I’ll fight with them, but I’d also defend them, and will always be there for them however I can.  My door will always be open to them.

I have lots of other friends that I consider extended family, cousins perhaps, and I love them too.

I may be alone during the holidays, but I’m not without family.  I will toast to them on Thanksgiving because I’m thankful they’re in my life, whether through writing, skype, or video game.  My Christmas wish is for their dreams to come true.  My New Year’s Resolution is that they find happiness.  My Prayer is that they each know they’re much loved.

Happy Holidays,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: Blog Post, Inspirational, Musing, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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