The Other, Other, Other, Other, One About the VA

It’s not enough that we have maggots. The Other Other One About the VA

Google auto fills “vet suicides at” with:

  • Phoenix VA
  • VA
  • Denver VA
  • Attempts per day

It doesn’t tell you about the one that happened in Albuquerque on the 22nd. Just like no one reported on James Ingram III setting himself on fire in a VA parking lot (The One About Ending It All) because apparently people pretend like none of this is happening.

All I know is what was reported by disabled because there’s nothing else to find. I even checked the Albuquerque Journal‘s obit section and none listed the cause of death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while standing at the doors of the Albuquerque VA hospital .


Reach out. I didn’t seek help – it was thrust on me. A friend made the appointment at the VA for me. It wasn’t my answer. Compartmentalization will break down. Seek help and/be the help. Anything less is a Rook mistake.

The One About Rogue One

Growing up, Star Wars was my thing. Had the action figures and  basically played pretend for years. Cut the head off of a blue mop handle and a green broom one. Got in trouble and SWORE never to do it again. Then endured the grounding that followed when Mom brought home red handled replacements.

Broken fingers. Bloody knuckles. Lumps to the head. Lightsaber duels were my first secret fight club.

Even made up my own character because Leia wasn’t badass enough – plus there was that slave girl thing. Ugh.

Saw Rogue One and LOVED it. Loved the story. Loved the homage to the 70s. Loved the set dressing. Loved the settings. Loved the characters. Loved that it was dark. But even with all the love, there was just something missing.


Group of evil scientists – all dudes.

Crowds – no chicks

Military /Rebel Base – Mon Mothma

Wait … no.  That’s it. Mon Mothma.

Squad of assassins, saboteurs, and spies – DUDES.

In the Star Wars universe, there are only moms, displaced princesses, Mon Mothma, and Jyn. Even the droids are male.

I’m not even looking for more female speaking parts. But can’t we just be part of the regular everyday Star Wars background?




TL;DR: There are females in the world. When you exclude us completely, it’s distracting. Some of us are even FANS. Ignoring us is a Rook mistake.

The One About Exit Strategies

Have one.

Not just from the room you’re standing in right now, but from your current situation. Know how to extract yourself from a busybody, a toxic relationship, an insensitive friend, and that one guy you were mistakenly nice to that won’t go away.

Know how to change a tire. Know the basic functions of engine parts. Do not rely on the kindness of strangers, friends or family.

Know how to leave a job that no longer fits you. Know how to leave any relationship that no longer fits you.

Shake yourself awake and look around. Do not let rote activity lull you.

Stop and think. If there was an active shooter in my location, where would I go? What would I do?

Paranoid? Maybe.

But have you thought about it?

Then maybe we’re just paying attention.


TL;DR: Know your escape routes in life and use them as needed. Don’t become too complacent, that would be a Rook mistake.

The Other Other One About the VA

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Help me understand how anyone can come into the hospital with an infection and NOT have their bandages changed regularly. Help me understand how a hospital staff could allow that infection to not only go septic, but then to grow MAGGOTS in it.

“During the 21 days I was there, … I pled with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to      increase his meds so his bandages could be changed,” Parker told Tulsa World. “I was met with a stonewall for much of that time.”

And yet, as far as Parker is concerned, the nurses were excellent. He placed the blame instead on senior medical staff and the bureaucracy.

There are several articles about this incident.

The Washington Standard

Tulsa World

Stars and Stripes


TL;DR: If the VA doesn’t terrify you, you’re not paying attention. Again, don’t assume the VA is the best place for treatment. Do your research. Anything less is a rook mistake.


The One About Ghosting

There’s this piece of PTSD that’s haunted me for years, long before I even considered there was something “wrong” with me. I disconnect. It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when it happens, but like today, I wake up and realize that I’ve distanced myself from everyone again. I can’t really feel anything. Like I’ve wrapped myself in some industrial plastic sheeting. I can noise the polite noises, smile the polite smiles, but the care’s gone.

I can’t touch it.

This is when I ghost.

I know that I want to be included, to see friends and family, be social, but that’s all preprogramming. Under that, I’m on emotional lockdown and want to be alone. That’s not what I need to break this pattern though. Left alone with the lizard brain, it just becomes harder and harder to cut my way out as the layers get tighter and thicker. And I do know that eventually I’ll want out.

Just can’t care. Just not right now. It’s fucking comfortable in my plastic protector.

So I’m here, but not here. I might even be in the same room with you, but you’re alone.

Just like me.


The One About Belonging

Some of this will sound like I’m bragging. Forgive me.

See what I did there? Please don’t reject me over being proud of my accomplishments. Let me erase some of who I am for another’s approval.

Fuck that.

When I was a kid, we lived in rural Texas. My brother drowned while on my big sister (at 4 years old) duty, making me an outsider in my own family. Dad’s 24 hour/48 off rotations at the fire station left me at home with a mother who couldn’t look at me.

I learned to read at three and spent my childhood as a tomboy/athlete/bookworm trying to fit in one of those categories of kids while still belonging to the other. I was the only girl on a all boys’ soccer team. I cut my hair short and was proud when people mistook me for a boy, so my mom put me in dresses. My fifth grade math teacher told me in front of the class, “If you can’t do honor’s level math, then you probably shouldn’t be in honor’s reading either. We moved back and forth between this little country town and Dallas suburbs – perpetually the outsider new kid.

I joined the Army. Work harder, do more, or be labeled a cock-holster, barracks bunny, or some other pervasion of slut. Got passed over for a promotion because I was female. Because the men won’t respect a female leader. All of this in the time of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  I was an outsider.

Got married. Spent ten years in an abusive relationship. Other soldiers avoided me or asked, “Why are you with him?” But they didn’t help. Physical abuse. Verbal abuse. All of it easy to hide when my training and PDS took me 1200 miles from home and I moved 13 times in 4 years. And then when I finally did leave, that family doesn’t understand, doesn’t think it could have been that bad.

In 2001, I suffered a traumatic brain injury. For as much as the aforementioned sucked, I lost some of who I was. I now forget things, can shake uncontrollably when I’m tired, and can get easily confused. I am an outsider in my own head.

Had a relationship with a woman. It was beautiful and amazing and so was she. Except it was a secret. She didn’t want anyone to know. Again, the person I loved made me an outsider.

My friends at home are published authors. Named, for real, honest to god, multiple books with actual NY presses, AUTHORS. One of them asked me when I was going to get serious and get published so I could sit at the big kids table with them. Subtext: I don’t belong.

There’s more. There’s the job that I work with a bunch of females who have never seen the outside of their own backyard, They clutch at their rigid ideals like so many imaginary pearls around their necks. They fear me. They cannot or will not understand me. I am the weird one. They wonder why can’t I just teach Where the Red Fern Grows and be satisfied?

My point?

I’m getting there.

Sirens. I see myself in these people. I walk out of discussions heady, drunk on the ideas and words being shared without shame – without judgement. The Ft. Collins/Springs/Aurora crew with their warrior hearts and thoughtful talents, the PacNorWest thespians and play writes and poets bring out a joy (a motherfucking JOY, do you hear me?) I thought I’d lost. These are the people I’ve been looking for all my life. These are my people.

A thoughtless phrase almost killed it for me.

Up on the 5th floor, the club floor, the elitist floor, you have to card in with your key in the elevator. It’s where my friend and I shared a room for this conference. Through the Club Lounge windows, I saw  a few folks as we headed to our rooms after the dance. I smiled at the person I’d had a very pleasant encounter with earlier in the day and we, my friend and I, used the key card to open the door. Happy to be in this woman’s presence again, I was going to ask if we could hang out with them. I wasn’t ready to give up the feeling of Sirens just yet.

Didn’t get the chance. I was met with this instead, “Do you even belong on this floor?”

Do I?

I don’t know.


What I do know is that I belong at Sirens. And so does she. We both have a lot left to learn.

TL;DR: Don’t be a classist asshole, mmkay? And don’t let one bad encounter sour an otherwise great experience. That’d be a Rook mistake.

The One About Anticipation and Anxiety

It’s a weird and jagged line I walk between anticipating something exciting and anxiety about  it. I don’t worry so much that I’ll say something that brands me an idiot among geniuses, that’s a given. And I’m OK with that because I’ll turn it around. I don’t worry that someone’s not going to like me any more. I’ve lived enough to know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t have a lukewarm personality and  probably don’t care for those that do. Casper Milktoast would not be my bestie.

The fade from anticipation to anxiety starts when I pack my suitcase.

We were blue-collar poor growing up. My father was a fireman and my mother stayed home. That meant my clothes consisted of hand me downs from my cousins (one was a female and rail thin and the other was male that outweighed me bout about 50 pounds), garage sales or shift stores, and for special occasions Sears. As a kid that suited me just fine.

In high school I discovered that I didn’t have the gene or eye necessary to put an outfit together. I lied to myself that I didn’t care.

Then there was the Army. I didn’t have to worry about what I wore. But it fed into the idea that I didn’t know how to dress myself like an adult type person.

Back to the anticipation feeding into anxiety. As I’m packing for my trip on Thursday (it’s Sunday now) I realize that I’ve been buying pieces here and there all year for this conference. There will be people from everywhere – all walks of life and incomes. And I don’t want to fit in or stick out. What’s that about?

It’s ridiculous that I am so excited to be heading to Denver for Sirens, but freaking out about something so banal as clothes.Especially since I know that it doesn’t matter how much I’ve spent on everything, I’m probably just going to wear jeans and a t-shirt. It’s what makes me comfortable.


Rook Riley: writer, game enthusiast, and all around linguistic bad ass