New photo shoot with Aña Monique

“It’s your job to get vulnerable. It gets you into the flow and unlocks your subconscious so that you get out of your head and into your heart.
The part of you that is gonna do a good job is the part that you want to most deny.”
John Cusack

Aña asked if I’d be willing to do a vulnerable shoot, and since I’ve gotten to know her—as a friend and an artist—I told her I was in.
Opening up like this in front of a camera—whether on a set or in a studio—takes a lot of trust, and she’s more than earned it.

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We Were Young

cemetery

We were young once
Vibrant
Violent
Vitality
Beyond the touch of fate
Dragons to be slain
Halls of fame
And legends to claim
But now the pain
Is all I’ve got
Sheets of rain
On a marked soul
Struggling to explain
Why it had to end this way
Why
Why
why
And the echoes go ever, ever on
Never to be answered
Only shouted back
Plastered
Leaves tattered
And dying on a shadowed road
Somewhere in the mountains that you loved so much.
-ijs

*author’s note: 14 years ago, I lost one of my best friends.
Justin, I’ll always miss you. You brought gravity and stillness to those around you, your quiet reflection always pointing to the One who made this beautiful, wild world you loved so much–a world that’s darker without you.

Scars

Embrace your scars
Never-dying reminders
That define you
Make you
Beautiful.
-ijs

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*I wrote this poem a few years ago when I was in the process of writing my book. It kept coming back to me as I walked through the journey of telling my story. Too many people think they’ve got to hide their scars.
Screw that. Your story is your story; it’s what makes you who you are; it’s what has brought you to where you are today.
Embrace your journey.

The photo was a bts shot that my photographer snapped on her phone when we were shooting the book cover.

Grape Soda – a short film by Justin Robinson

A couple months ago I got to work with my good friend, Justin Robinson, on his film “Grape Soda.”
To say that this dude is gifted is an understatement. Couple that talent with the wonderfully deep performances by Mark Ashworth, Rachel Hendrix, and Cranston Johnson, and then bring in Brent Christy to shoot it . . . and well, it’s just marvelous.

Watch.

Somewhere – a short story

Evenin’.”

The night-shift nurse smiled at the small man’s quiet drawl as he passed, the familiar John Deere hat, faded by countless summers spent in the fields on the back of tractors, twisted in his hands. He shuffled to the window, the sure movement of a man who knew his place in the world, who wore his skin with quiet comfort. Looking through the darkened glass, his somber eyes took in the sight.

“Hey there, Scout.”

The clock on the nurse’s desk beeped the passing of midnight, the death of another day.

“I been tryin’ to sleep, but it’s been hard. Jus’ too quiet. . .too quiet. Guess I done got used to bein’ round all the machines, what with the beepin’ and all. And now—“

His voice hitched. He rubbed his knuckles into his eyes not even noticing the hat still clenched in his fingers.

“Now with your mama gone….” He fell silent. There was something huge pressing on his shoulders, something so big he didn’t think he’d ever get out from under it.

“They turned the machines off two hours ago. Doctor said wasn’t anything else he could do, said she didn’t feel no pain though; hope he was right. She couldn’t talk none at the end, but I know what she was tryin’ to say, and I told her I’d tell you for her. She loves you, and she’s waitin’ for you. You know her, she’s stubborn when she sets her mind to somethin’. Yep, the nurses said she couldn’t talk, but I could read it in her eyes. I always could. . .I could read her eyes. That’s just somethin’ most folks don’t understand.”

The glass was silent. It never answered. Like a giant muted television screen. Little moving pictures with no sound, just wires and lights and that dismal hum that seems to breathe the lifeblood of every hospital.

“Sure wish I could come in and hold you. That moment right after you popped out was just too short, too short. I thought you’d be bigger, and Doctor said you shoulda been and that’s why they had to take you away so quick…. I was just so proud standin’ there in that room when I saw you. . .you was so pretty. . .the prettiest little baby girl in the whole world.”

He leaned against the window, shoulders tensed, holding the weight that was escaping from his eyes.

“And now Doctor says I gotta say goodbye to you too, but I don’t know how. I think maybe, if I could jus’ hold you and rock you for a minute then maybe you could tell how much love I got inside me. But I know when they turn them machines off for you, I’ll be lost. I’ll be lost, Scout.”

A fluorescent light overhead flickered, buzzed, and hummed back to life. He pulled on the John Deere hat, placed both hands on the NICU window, stared at his feet.

“There’s a clearing by the river up there on the mountain where me and your mama used to go to watch the northern lights. When you get up there, just know I’ll be lookin’ up at you, and I know I’ll feel you with me, and somewhere up there when the north star shimmers all alone in them green flames, somewhere up there in that black wilderness, somewhere between nowhere and goodbye, I’ll see you.”

Don’t Tell Me – a rant

Don’t.

Don’t tell me you understand

If…

you’ve never seen the role that you were born for handed off to someone else who doesn’t have a clue.

you’ve never sat at your table at night looking at your bank account trying to figure out how you’ll buy food.

you’ve never huddled in your room fantasizing about those warm, bright blades, just wanting to cut, just once, so you could feel something, anything.

you’ve never woken up crushed by a murky depression that shadows everything with a pall, choking your lungs.

you’ve never stared at yourself, while skin and bones stared back, and the mirror whispered “it’s still not enough.”

you’ve never wept in a car outside a diner late at night watching those tail lights pulling away while you scream “why” and punch the wheel. over and over and over.

you’ve never sat in the office looking at an x-ray, floating, while the doctor says he’ll give you a minute, a minute to embrace the timer he just started on the balance of your life.

you’ve never stood in the shower and watched chunks of matted hair fall into the drain.

you’ve never trembled in the NICU watching your child, small enough to sit in the palm of your hand, wheeze, whimper, and you just pray, “oh God oh God oh God.”

you’ve never stood helplessly watching the accident that you’re powerless to stop.

you’ve never hated yourself for not being there when it happened.

you’ve never sat on the edge of the hospital bed promising that “no, it won’t hurt” when you have no idea and you just pray that maybe, just maybe you’re right.

you’ve never listened to the death rattle going on and on and on for so much longer than you could ever have believed possible.

you’ve never watched the monitor go silent.

you’ve never stood over a grave that shouldn’t have been filled, not yet, smelling the wet dirt, knowing it’s true, knowing this has happened.

So don’t tell me.

Don’t.

*author’s note: this is not autobiographical. some elements came from my own life, some from friends, and some from stories that have been shared with me

My book “Suddenly Single”

My indiegogo campaign for my book “Suddenly Single” is now live!

I’m in the last stages of the editing process, and I’m planning to release my book on Amazon in March.

Thanks to everyone who’s been asking for more information about my story. Click the picture below to jump over to the campaign page where you can watch my video where I share more of the story behind the book. And if you feel like sharing with your friends, I’d be extremely grateful!

suddenly single