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Wayne Gray

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Blog Entries posted by Wayne Gray

  1. Wayne Gray
    I've been working on a new sort of story, a sort I've never really written.
    I'm writing a story about a "what if" scenario. It's a tale, set in a world much like our own, with one key difference. That is, it's written in a world where Love is Love. Where healthy relationships of all kinds are simply accepted, and there's no social pressure to be something you're not supposed to be.
    The difference is actually quite profound. I have to think about it. I have to constantly rewrite bits, because my protagonists shouldn't angst over some of the things my characters in other stories have. They're just allowed to be.
    What a world that'd be. Where the only struggles a pair of guys have to becoming a couple are the same struggles a man and a woman would have.
    I'm on chapter seven. I figure I've probably got another four to five chapters to go before I'm done, and I'm looking forward to watching them make this journey together.
    Really, it's the journey we should all have the choice to make - regardless of who we choose to walk the path with us.
  2. Wayne Gray
    A reader emailed an article written by a woman detailing her struggles finding acceptance for both herself and her partner. The story details them sort of falling into life in an RV, and making their own path. It's a great read, and she has wonderfully perceptive views. Take a look.
    Gay and Lesbian RV Living
    After I read it, I was curious; I followed the link in the article to the campground in Florida called The Sawmill.
    And there it is. A warmer, sunnier, more tanned, though less social-justice leaning version of the campground in my series, Camp Refuge.
    The Sawmill is a place to party. It's a place to go, have fun outdoors, eat good food, socialize with others. But that's not all it is, and I'll explain why.
    The simple fact remains, we have to be careful where we display affection. We have to have constant situational awareness, and assess if a peck on the cheek, or holding the hand of the person we love will cost too much moment to moment.
    But at a place like this campground, we can just be. We can have fun with people like us, and do so unafraid. Even though the focus of the place is "party and party hard" it still offers a respite.
    It makes me want to make Camp Refuge real. I mean, I've never stopped wanting that, but yeah ... this has poked that desire and whispered, "See? If they can do it, so can you."
    Someday.
  3. Wayne Gray

    Blog
    My husband and I had our first night out in over a year in a physically distanced, but indoor dining situation. We went to a spot we love - a little, intimate place with dark, burnt orangey walls, ferrous-stained concrete floors with these glorious cracks filled with rust, and of course a terrific menu.
    The servers all wore masks, and all the patrons did too until served. Between courses we masked up again, and were all more than six feet apart from other tables. To add a bit of security, I've been fully vaccinated, but more important ... it has been two weeks since Kevin had received his first shot. By now he has built antibodies, and studies have shown even with the first of what will be two doses, he's protected from severe illness.
    So we took a chance. We went out to support one of our favorite little places, and to just ... be.
    We followed all the guidance. And as we sat there, eating our food and chatting, I watched my husband just ... I don't know. I watched him ... god, it's so hard to assign a word to it. I guess "hope" is the closest. Yeah, that'll have to do. It's a simple but sublime thing, hope. But I got to see it tonight in the man I love the most.
    We're close. We really are. Even with the variants, even with the mutations prevalent in all RNA viruses, we're close.
    Allow for hope. We're almost there.
  4. Wayne Gray
    Caution: Some personal stuff concerning sex and sexuality is in this post. The reason I post it is for my own thought process, and with the idea that it may prompt other guys to go get tested if they're having problems. That said, here we go.
    I'm not very evolved when it comes to some things, I suppose.
    I fully accept that there are men out there born genetically female. That's not at issue. I don't define their maleness; my role in knowing and supporting trans folks is to acknowledge their definition, not to superimpose my own.
    Selfishly, this is all about me. It's about my self-perception, and what I feel I bring to my relationships with my husband and Sam.
    I am attracted to a very limited set of examples of the human condition; that being Cis men. People who are pansexual or bisexual confound me. Like ... they've found some secret I'll never quite discover. Some within our community call out men who are purely attracted to Cis men as being trans-phobic. But that's just not it. If I could shift my attraction to include someone other than a Cis guy, then I'd have shifted until I were straight. No Kentucky-raised kid in his right mind chooses to be gay. I'd have been just like I was "supposed" to be.
    So those are my limitations. I talk about this because they're important to know before getting to the rest of this post.
    Back late last year, I began to have trouble. Lack of desire, depressed a great many days, in a real and true funk. I felt like I was no longer the man my husband needed, and really? Well, that hurt more than anything. That's the whole reason I pushed us to open things up a bit. I wanted my husband to get laid again, even if it wasn't with me. Before anyone says "sex isn't everything," yes ... you're right. But it's very important to us; that connection is deeply critical to us as a couple. Maybe more proof of a lack of evolution. But I've yet to evolve not needing the other biological drives either. Why sex is different is beyond me.
    Anyway, we met Sam. The newness of him sparked things for me, and for a while I managed to stave off what became inevitable. After a few more months, I got to the point of no desire at all. Nothing. And that was so eerie. It's like knowing how delicious a bite of cake will be, but you no longer care about experiencing anything delicious.
    Finally, I went to the doctor. I found out I had the testosterone of a ninety-year-old man (I was forty-five at the time). He started me on the lowest dose medically prescribed of injected testosterone.
    Odd things began to happen shortly after I started the regimen. Within a couple of hours, the first thing I noticed was stuff was ... ah ... tingly. You can laugh. I know I did. I even looked it up, and sure enough, that's a common side effect of treatment. But ... only in guys who are actually low. The body has this resource it needed again, and suddenly it is put to work. Another nearly immediate effect, was this weird fog I had sort of lifted. It was like I had been operating at 95% as my base level for so long, it became "normal." Now things click faster, I spend less effort on complex problems. I'm back at 100%, and it feels so nice.
    I also began to finally notice strength gains in my workouts. Who knew that having a normal testosterone helped with weight lifting? Well, I did, but still.
    But what about sex? I mean, that's the big reason for getting tested in the first place.
    It didn't happen right away. It took a few months of my body figuring things out again. I am not exactly patient either, so my poor Doctor had to endure quite a few messages from me about it, and all the gory details. He kept telling me to "just be patient. Stop trying so hard. It'll happen."
    He was right. I feel now like I did when I was in my early thirties. My levels are dead center of normal range for a guy my age, and I have way fewer "dark" days. Importantly, I feel like I am, again what Kevin needs.
    The whole thing taught me a lot. It taught me about my self-perception, and how deeply it's tied to the physicality of my body. It taught me that there will come a time when I will have to evaluate this "What Makes Me a Man" question again, and maybe a different answer will be necessary down the line. It taught me that a relationship isn't defined by monogamy. But there's more too.
    A few weeks ago, while laying with my husband I asked what we'd do if something happens again, and I can't be "fixed". Kevin lay there for a bit. "We'll figure it out. We already did once, we'll do it again." Just that. Simple. Uncomplicated. Then he ruined it as he turned with a smirk on his face. "Besides, there's no fixing you. You're a wreck!"
    I guess, ultimately this whole experience taught me that I am indeed a wreck. Yet, my husband loves me anyway.
  5. Wayne Gray
    I have a meeting every Monday morning. In that meeting, we discuss SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and specifically news and our response to the virus.
    Today the following information was released by our medical director, based on a huge sample study of folks who had been previously infected
    Concerning reinfection: To date, we have proof that five of thirty-eight million people have been reinfected by SARS-CoV-2.  This means once someone gets the virus and recovers, then they're functionally immune, and reinfection is anomalous.

    That's amazing news that I really needed. I wanted to share it, in case it can help someone else out there.
  6. Wayne Gray
    I manage medical labs. Part of that management is I decide which tests ordered by our providers are integrated into our EMR (electronic medical record). Some will never be "mapped," as it's called, because they're esoteric, or just too rarely ordered; it takes effort and time to do this mapping, so we pick and choose which get added.
    Well at the request of a number of providers who particularly like this odd genetic-based test for cancer screening, I began the process of mapping this new item.
    Part of that mapping process includes digging up something called CPT codes assigned to the testing. So I contact the company. I ask for the codes, as they're not available on their website (an oddity I could overlook). This lady tells me, "Oh the CPT codes change based on payor. You know, the insurance."
    I sat there a moment, then finally found my voice. "So ... what you're telling me is based on how good someone's insurance is, your organization is picking and choosing which procedures to run, completely apart from the legal orders submitted by the provider?"
    Silence for a good twenty seconds. "Uh," *whispering to someone* "I think I need to give you to my supervisor."
    "That sounds great."
    "Please hold."
    "Sure."
    I'm put on hold. Five minutes later I get a guy. "Hi, I hear you have questions about our test?"
    "I sure do." I repeat my question, and add, "Feel free to tell me I'm wrong. Because unlicensed individuals making medical judgments based on financial situations is antithetical to everything my organization stands for. So I'd love to be able to tell my medical directors that isn't happening."
    Silence. Finally, a cleared throat. "I feel as if there's no good way to answer your question at the moment. I'll have to do some research and get back to you. May I have your phone number?"
    "Sure."
    I hung up after I gave him my number.
    Here we are. This ... right here, is why for profit healthcare is an abomination.
    Edit: 18 June 2020 - Still no call. I've dropped this into the lap of our compliance officer. He's talking about turning them over to CMS (the folks governing MediCal - California's version of Medicaid) for fraud. That could end them entirely if CMS decides to go after them. Good riddance.
  7. Wayne Gray
    Do you really want to know who I am?
    Or do you want the carefully edited version of who I want you to see? Of who I expect you'll want to see?
    Because the real me? Well, he's doughtful, and questi0oning, and drunk, and scared. And he doesn't really know what tomorrow will bnring.
    Reality is niot clean or carefully designed. It simply is. And if you can't handle  that, then you should unfollow this imperfect vessel. And maybe follow someone who will more careully alighn himselrf with what you expect of an author of stories, tales, and maybe even legends.
    I'm not that.
    I'm just me. Ugly, flawed and real. I know ... that's just awfulness wrapped in a pretty bow. 
    If you want a cracked ghem with a tight band of leathe4r wrapped 'round, to hold it all together ...
    Well, I'm your man...
  8. Wayne Gray
    "My batteries are almost gone, and it's getting dark."
    This was the slightly-romanticized description of the last transmission from the little, tenacious rover, Opportunity, on the planet Mars. It had been there and operating for fifteen years - thirteen beyond the wildest dreams of NASA engineers. It heavily depended on solar power, and over time the dust storms on the planet slowly covered its solar cells. That last transmission came when a planet-wide dust storm hit. The rover sent the transmission, then did what its programming told it to do - shut down, and hope when the dust cleared, enough light would fall on it to revive it. Though engineers in Florida, California, and Texas all knew ... it was the last time we would hear from the little machine.
    I think about those words and how poignant they are. Even though they were attached to a hunk of metal, plastic and carbon, there were so many lives involved in creating, assembling, rooting for, and mourning their speaker.
    I can't help but draw comparisons. A lot of people right now are pretty low. Batteries are empty. The only thing keeping them going is that maybe tomorrow will be a little brighter. What we do to and for others matters - perhaps now more than at any other time in our lives. We have the power to make the light in the lives of those around us.
    I know there are days where I can't. I can't. I can barely lift my head, and I have to force myself to work, eat, and function. Those aren't the days to give anything of myself. Instead, there are uplifting messages, conversations, and positivity from people I've tried to lift on my better days. Sometimes, when it's darkest in my world, someone I love shares their light with me.
    And so it goes.
    Unlike Opportunity, when I cry out, "My batteries are almost gone, and it's getting dark," someone shares their light.
    Just as I will for them.
  9. Wayne Gray
    I never thought I'd be playing God.
    I manage twelve small clinical labs, including the staff that go along with them. I plotted out minimum staffing levels to run each. I asked for volunteers to go on unemployment while our business contracted, and patients stopped coming in for routine visits. The idea, so beautifully expressed on paper, was to have those "extra" staff waiting - out of the line of fire, and hopefully staying healthy away from the front lines of this epidemic.
    One of those front-line staff has been hovering on the edge of sick for a week. Yesterday, it was worse, and her temp climbed past the cut-off. We sent her home, and she has been tested. We're now waiting on results.
    Her relief is a mother of two small children who has asthma. I called her this morning.
    "Hey. Good morning. I need you at the clinic on 10th."
    "Good morning, Wayne. Okay." She says something to someone in the room, then comes back to the phone. "I'll be a little late, I just need to get the baby set up for my husband."
    "No problem. Take your time. I'll let the site administrator know the lab will open a little late." I pause, debating. How bad would it be if that lab stayed closed? This particular clinic is right on the plaza area in town. It's a place where homeless and the worst off in the county congregate, even now ... since they don't have anywhere else to go. I'd essentially take medical services from them if we closed this lab. To keep it open, I'm asking her to risk her health ... considering her condition, potentially her life. I clear my throat. "Hey. Thanks for working."
    I listen as she takes a breath. "It's what we do, right?"
    "Yeah. Be safe. Let me know if you run low on masks, I'll steal from other sites if I have to get them to you."
    "Thanks, Wayne. I'll be online soon. See you then."
    She hung up.
    I don't like playing God.
  10. Wayne Gray
    I do not need this right now. I am so freaking busy. But ...
    - Scene - I am seated around a table with one of our medical directors (Kelvin), my boss (Stacy) and our risk manager (Koreen).
    "Wayne, do you have an update on turn around times for LabCorp COVID-19 samples?"
    *I am idly scratching an itch on my neck* "LabCorp is saying their turn around is three days, but it's averaging more like six. Regardless of what we're being told, it's six."
    Koreen pipes up. "Should we include this in the messaging going out to providers? What do you think --"
    "Wait." Kelvin stands up and leans over toward me. He's staring at my neck.
    "What?" I frown and look askance at the medical director.
    Kelvin grabs my hand and moves it. There are little gasps from both Stacy and Koreen. "Wayne, are you breathing okay?"
    "What!? Yes! Why?"
    "Raise your pantleg. Roll up your sleeves. Now. Do it now." He's tiny, but very insistent.
    I do. There's a massive rash all over my limbs, neck, all the exposed skin.
    "You're having an allergic reaction." Kelvin looks at my boss. "Stacy, do you have Benadryl?"
    I get a big dose of Benadryl, then I'm promptly run out of the building before the medication hits me.
    I think I'm gonna sleep well tonight.
    Or, maybe in a few minutes.
  11. Wayne Gray
    The coronavirus is large and in charge in the news cycles right now. Since I work in healthcare, it's sort of center-stage in my world. I'll say this now - though I work in medicine, I am not an expert in virology or epidemiology. However, I have access to both of those types of experts, and I listen very closely to what they're saying.
    The overall messaging is: It's likely that there will be a worldwide pandemic. It's likely that there will be a huge disruption of services, due to how many people will be sick at once. It's likely most people will recover with no treatment - so long as basic needs for food and water are met.
    The virus ranges in severity from that of an annoying cold, to SARS level illness. Severity seems heavily linked to overall health of the sick person before they displayed symptoms.
    People forget that influenza can be deadly, and that circulates every year. The difference here is COVID-19 has no herd immunity in our populations. Meaning, if you're exposed, and the virus makes it into your respiratory system, then you will likely come down with the bug.
    You can protect yourself. Wash your hands. It's the top way to stay healthy. Yes, really. Stay away from those you know are ill if you can. If you can't, ensure you're not coughed on by anyone with symptoms, and use hand sanitizer/handwashing after you leave the sick person's area. Also wash your hands before applying make up, eating, or using lip balm.
    If you do get sick, communicate with your local public health department, and your primary care physician. You will likely be asked to self-isolate if it's determined that you have COVID-19.
    I know this all probably sounds scary, but ... this is not E.bola. My working in healthcare means no matter my precautions I'll probably end up catching this thing, and I'm not afraid. I've looked at the numbers and panic isn't warranted.
    Don't take my word for it. Look to the experts, those who have spent their entire lives studying for this very moment.
    Coronavirus 2019 CDC Information
    WHO Coronavirus 2019 Information
    Be sensible, watchful, and proactive, and soon this thing will burn itself out.
  12. Wayne Gray
    I got the results of my blood work back a week and a half ago. I will go see my doctor to officially discuss them in a couple of weeks, but he messaged through our electronic health record. He applauded the twenty point drop on my cholesterol, but ... said that he'd still like me to consider statins. That the drop alone isn't enough to push me into the "normal" range for heart-attack risk.
    Well, I need one more data point to decide. If what I'm doing is working, even if it's slow ... then my cholesterol should be even lower the next time we check it. I replied with this, and reaffirmed that I'm still committed to this path. I also said I'd agree to take the meds if what I'm doing at the end of the next ninety-day period isn't enough to get me out of the red zone. Then after replying to his message, I walked over to his clinic a few blocks from my office.
    He agreed, with a bit of a headshake. The word "stubborn" may have been bandied about. So, at the end of May or the beginning of June I'll have another test.
    Coincidentally, I joined a CrossFit gym this week and I'll be making myself suffer for an hour a day, four days a week.
    If I can't get there with all that I'm doing now, then it's just not going to happen. And ... that's okay. But I need to know for sure before I start the meds.
  13. Wayne Gray
    tim shared his Apricot-Almond baked oatmeal recipe, and I thought ... "Yeah, there are eggs, cream and butter in it, but ... the oats and nuts will help with the cholesterol. It should be okay if I don't go crazy and eat half the pan. Okay, let's go to the store for ingredients!"
    Off I go. I spend forty minutes in total driving there, walking around with my barely acceptable "I don't care" hair, selecting stuff, then driving back home. Once back here, I begin the process of prepping the dried fruit and nuts. Then I put the dry ingredients together in a big bowl, while the wet ones and sugar are in the other.
    I'm very slow in the kitchen. I'm not afraid of it, I'm just plodding and methodical. One thing at a time is how I work. Music is playing, and I'm drinking a latte so, it's not exactly a bad time - I rather enjoyed myself, actually. Anyway ... another forty minutes go by before I'm done. I pour the dry ingredients into a 9x9 baking dish (as instructed) then pour the wet ingredients on top. By this point, I'm pretty proud of myself. I can tell, this is gonna be great.
    I turn to the oven, my dish of soon to be baking oaty deliciousness in hand.
    "Oh, shit. SHIT!"
    Our oven is broken. And I had literally spent almost an hour and a half gathering and preparing ingredients, only to remember the oven was busted right when I needed it.
    So ... now, two loaf pans of oaty unknown are probably not even close to the right temperature in an old, cantankerous toaster oven.
    Some days ... you just gotta laugh.
  14. Wayne Gray
    I now have two weeks under my belt, and I'm beginning week three of my workout/meal regimen. I'm still getting used to some things, but it's a lot easier to roll out of bed at 440 than it was when I started. So far I've lost four pounds and gained strength on the bench and under the bar. It's rare for me to do both at once. I am enjoying this combination of routine and meal planning.
    If you're interested at all, here's what I'm doing. I hid the details behind spoilers ... because, frankly, most just won't care. lol
    Meals
     
    Workout
     
    What I'm doing is working. It means going to bed early, getting up before the sun, closely monitoring my meals, and working really hard, but it's moving the needle in the direction it needs to go. More important is the fact that I can maintain this approach.
    I'm looking forward to the end of the week when I weigh in again. I've not been below 205 lbs in a while ... and I might hit that mark by Sunday.
     
  15. Wayne Gray
    I hate watching people tear down others for simply living their lives. You'd think that within the LGBTQ community we'd have figured out how hurtful and damaging it is to do this to one another, but we've still such a long way to go. Some of it is so very subtle.
    People who are pushed to the fringes of an already marginalized community have it the worst. They get used to little jabs, "good-natured" fun at their expense. Usually these come from the people who they depend on to understand the most - those under the LGBTQ umbrella. It's like, since we're different from the larger society that we have tacit permission to give those different from ourselves a hard time.
    When I was getting to know some of my friends here on GA, I listened to some of their struggles. I heard of scorn and judgment passed due to the lives they live - just being who they are. As I did, the following thoughts passed through my mind. "How could they do that to my friend? Can't they see that they're a part of the damn problems that our larger community deals with?!"
    It's so easy to look at the actions of others, judge them, and then skip any sort of self-reflection. I can't possibly be guilty. I'm good, I care. I can't be guilty of the very thing I despise.
    Right?
    No. Nope, I too am a part of the problem.
    In my last blog entry, in one of the comments I jokingly referred to a Dom as "Sir". I'm not a sub. I don't have the right. There's self-reflection, work, effort, natural inclination, and more involved in being a sub. There's a shared experience that I don't possess. It was an overstep. One I knew better than to take. It was something that showed a lack of respect to a piece that's integral to who he is - that belittled something important to him.
    I thought about removing it, but I won't. It's a mistake, and I want it there to remind me to just do better.
    I've already apologized to the people who matter. The only reason I put this entry here, now, is because I don't want people to see what I did and think it's okay. It's not.
    You don't play with certain things - not if you call yourself a friend.
  16. Wayne Gray
    I recently went to the doctor. Had some routine blood tests done that I've not had in a long time.
    My vitamin D levels were low, while cholesterol and a test called CRP (c-reactive protein, a test that shows inflammation) were very high. Even though I work out hard, I'm predisposed to high cholesterol and heart disease.
    I have three months to knock my numbers down. If I can't do it on my own, then I go on meds for the rest of my life. I've always said that I won't do medication when hard work could fix something. Well, we're about to find out if I can do enough to fix this without meds. If not, I'll take them and be thankful that I get a shot at retirement thanks to the miracles of medicine.
    Ninety days. I have Ninety days.
    I'd better make 'em good.
  17. Wayne Gray
    Warning: If relationships that include sex with others apart from committed partners offends you then skip this entry.
    Like so many of us who have a non-hetero identity, I've done a lot of research on sexuality.  I've also researched for stories I write (particularly the one I'm currently posting, Camp Refuge).  One that I discovered while researching was demisexuality.  Here's urban dictionary's definition of it, and it works pretty well.  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Demisexual
    In my younger days I had a lot of fun with many partners over the years (thank you, US Navy).  I never had any issues having sex with people I met for weekends in Seattle, or with other sailors.  It was all fun, physically satisfying, and a simple physical release.  No connection was needed or wanted on anybody's part.
    Now, after nine years of being with my husband, we've opened things up.  We include others when we're comfortable, and I get a lot of joy watching my husband have a great time with others.  But... I don't often get to join.  Objectively, I can look at these men and say to myself "Yes, they're handsome by societal standards.  Hot, even."  But there's no... fire for me.  It seemed my days of just hooking up were gone.
    Then Sam happened.  We met Sam in August, and we were both interested in him.  Sam showed a lot of interest in both of us, but I felt as if he focused a bit more on me.  I wanted so badly to make things happen with him, and... after a while, they did.  But he had to be patient, sweet, and thoughtful.  He was all of that.  When we said goodbye to him later, he asked if he could see us again.  Mind you, he lives three hours south of us on a farm.  So, that he'd ask was a happy surprise.
    He came back in September and this time he spent the whole weekend.  I found myself trusting him a bit more, reassured by his continued patience; as a result, things were firing on all cylinders.  At the end of his visit, he asked again if he could come see us.
    He's due back next week.  We're excited to see him, and more, I'm pretty sure he has taught me something about myself.
    Between Sam's visits, my husband and I have enjoyed the company of other men.  I truly do enjoy them, but mainly that enjoyment comes from watching my husband have a great time.
    Sam is different.  I can be with him in a similar way that I do my husband, and that made me wonder.  I wonder if I could have slowly shifted to need that emotional connection before I can really physically enjoy someone.  Can a person go from homosexual to DemiGay?  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=DemiGay That's not an official sexuality, but it fits. 
    It's a lot to think through, it's a lot to consider.
    But, I do know this: I'm really looking forward to next week.
  18. Wayne Gray
    We’re now on the road, headed back from our house-boating vacation.
    The first thing we did was load everything onboard, then we got a crash course on not crashing the boat.  After our thirty-minute briefing, we pulled away from the dock and onto the open water of Shasta Lake.
    Our only goal was to have a good time.  To that end, we tooled along on the beautiful and sunny lake until we found a safe, secluded little inlet.
    We docked by motoring slowly forward and gently kissing the shore.  Then a couple of us jumped out and pounded a pair of long metal stakes firmly into the clay and rock, then we roped off to the stakes.
    Once safely moored, it was party-time.  We drank, prepared food, swam, kayaked, and floated on various devices.  This pattern held for three days, and all was great.
    Last night was our final one on the boat.  We found a new spot, and I noticed that our stakes were moving a bit.  We did our best with the rocky shore, and at last we went to bed.
    I woke at 2 a.m. because the boat was rocking side to side kinda hard.  There was a massive thunderstorm over us, and wind, water, lightning and great peals of thunder all served to announce the inclement weather.  I got up, and one stake had pulled completely free of the shore.  We were drifting toward the rocks, sideways.
    We go rushing out.  My buddy, Craig had the freed metal spike and a hammer.  “God, this is so dumb!” He yelled, and jumped into the water while lightning streaked across the sky overhead.  I agreed, and jumped in to help.
    While I’m pulling as hard as I can on the mooring rope to straighten the boat, Craig hammers away.  Finally, the spike is in and I’ve managed to turn the watercraft enough to avoid catastrophe.  We wrap the rope to the spike.
    At last, dripping wet and scraped from the rocks, we wearily reentered the boat.  After a toweling off and some first-aid we went to bed.  Luckily there were no more such events.
    The late-night unexpectedness was exciting, and we all still had fun.  If nothing else, I’ll never forget this trip.
  19. Wayne Gray
    "Good Things are Coming"
    I stared down at the carefully written chalk letters on the sidewalk under my feet.  I was on a walk during my break, and I wondered why someone wrote such a message.
    I continued on my way.
    "Good Things are Coming"
    'Are they?'  I asked myself as I rounded the corner to head around the block and head back toward my office.  'Are they really?'  It's so hard to be positive sometimes.  I'll admit, I felt a little irritated at the blind, uninformed, and baseless hopeful message.  'How could you know?  You don't know.'
    "Good Things are Coming"
    I walked into the parking lot of my office building, and I saw someone leaving the place.  The man's face was red, he wore a frown, and he stormed across the parking lot to his car.  I caught a glimpse of a wadded piece of paper in his hand.
    'Lab bill.'  I know that blue, yellow and white form well.  I am the guy patients come to when they have a dispute, or when there's an error.  The sidewalk prognosticator was wrong.  This was like the opposite of a good thing.
    "Excuse me, sir?"  I flagged the man down as he's about to get into his beat up Toyota.  "Did someone help you?"
    "No," he growled.  He held the bill up, presumably so I could see, but he shook it around so much I couldn't read it.  "Nobody in there knows what to do, and now even with my insurance, I've got a six hundred dollar bill for my lab tests."  He shook his head.  "I never would have agreed to get them if I knew how much they'd cost."  I noticed that the man was dressed in clean, but worn clothes.  His hands were wide from years of manual labor of some sort.  I got it.  He was someone who couldn't afford that cost.
    "Well, can I ask you to come back inside?"  I stepped forward and extended my hand.  "I'm Wayne.  I'm our Lab Manager.  Maybe there's a way I can help you with this."
    He blinked, then he gripped my hand.  "Gerald."  From that distance I saw the worry on his face.  "I really hope you can help, because I don't know how I'll pay it."
    I took him inside and up to my office.  We sat, and I looked through his chart, dug up his financial information that we had on file.  Turned out there was an error when he was registered and his insurance wasn't correct.  After some phone calls with his updated insurance information, the amount he owed on his lab bill dropped to $72.
    I walked him out to his car.  There, he shook my hand again.  "Thank you."  I could tell he was relieved.  "You turned a terrible day into a good one.  So, thank you."
    I waved and smiled as he drove away.  I turned to go back into the building, and then realization slammed into me and I barked a laugh.
    "Good Things are Coming"
  20. Wayne Gray
    In Fleeting Eternity, Tad, one of the main characters is an artist.  He drew in a graphic novel style, and he depicted many of his experiences in a sequential way - essentially creating a wordless, "novel" of his life over the span of a few years.
    So many readers asked if the story was based on something I had read, if there was such a book.  It made me think about the possibilities, and mourn my lack of skill with drawing.
    I'm nothing if not stubborn, so I thought around the problem.  I purchased a good digital camera, and I subscribed to a photo editing program I had already learned to use (it has a free version I had tinkered with for over a year).  And now, I'm trying things out.
    Graphic Novel Project - Proof of Concept
    I really like the first panel.  The goal, eventually, will be to tell a wordless story.  One anybody can follow, one told within the pages of a comic book length work (about 22 pages, 3-4 panels a page).
    First, I have Silverwolf to finish.  But, once that's done, then it will be time to truly focus and see what it is I can do with visual elements alone.
    Maybe I should stick to words, I don't know.  But, I'll never know unless I try.
    I'm gonna try.
  21. Wayne Gray
    Last night, I wasn't in the best place.  Introverted, still sort of spinning.  But, wildlife doesn't care about my moods.
    Our chickens were restless.  It was dusk, and we went out to investigate.  I spied a little skunk - small enough to squeeze between the wire that made up the chicken run trying to hide in the darkness of the run.  So we're out there, trying to get this little confused, scared critter out of our chicken run AND avoid getting sprayed.  Kevin grabs a wire door, to block off part of the run we don't want it to scamper through.
    Well, he tripped.  He smacked on the concrete walkway, cracking a rib.  But, worse... he really slammed his toe into the side of the walkway.
    When my husband takes a tumble, he does it right.  I'm watching his ribs, to make sure the bruise there doesn't grow.  But there's nothing to be done for a broken toe other than tape it up and let it heal.  It's sad to say, but a baby skunk really did a number on Kevin.
    Oh.  Don't fret.  The skunk is fine.  We saw it again tonight... the little bugger.

  22. Wayne Gray
    There are days when you just show up.  Days when you do what you must, hating every iota of effort spent, every word spoken, every interaction.  Days when all you want to do is hide, but you can't.
    So you straighten your spine, raise your head, put on the expected show.  You - "Fake it till you make it."  Sometimes, a smile at a terrible joke from a coworker is so hard, it feels like you'll crack.  But you know it's expected... so you do it.  When someone asks how you're doing, you have to suppress the flash of irritation you feel, because they don't want to know.  Not really.  The smile comes again... "Fine."  Somehow your voice is steady.  You're good at the game.
    Finally make it through the day... your adulting duties are done.  There's a sanctuary in your vehicle.  You're alone, and you can't even bear to turn on music.  You just need quiet, and to be still.
    You get home.  Your partner isn't there yet, but it shouldn't be long.  You go in, slide into your chair and sit.  The mind is still swirling with thoughts, and your belly flutters with stress.  You frown at yourself, annoyed at your own mind, and your lack of ability to "deal" with what is there.
    The door rattles.  You avoid looking at it.  They'll know, and there's no reason to worry them.
    "Hey!"  Happy greeting from the newly opened portal.
    The door closes, and you glance over your shoulder.  "Hey."  You try, but the inflection in your voice isn't quite what is expected.
    A frown from your person.  They step into the room, stand beside you sitting in the chair.  "What's going on?  You okay?"
    You look up at them, feel something in your chest... the knot there wants to unravel, but that'd mean dragging them into your pain.  You force a smile.  "Yeah."
    They cock their head, a little frown.  Your heart beats a bit faster - they don't believe you.  A gentle hand extends and rubs the back of your neck.  "Really?"
    You swallow.  That knot slowly begins to pull apart.  "I... nothing's wrong."  You slump, and they continue to gently stroke the skin of your neck.  "There's no reason to feel this way."
    Your person is quiet, their fingers pass gently over the nape of your neck.  It feels nice.  You know they're used to seeing you happy.  You're usually the one to brighten things, to make things better.  Well, not today.  Today you're broken, and you just can't be anything else.
    "I'm sorry," you murmur, miserable that you'd drag your love down with you.  "I'm fine.  Just feeling sorry for myself."
    "Hey."  They kneel before you, hands on both sides of your face.  There's an understanding smile that grows on those beautiful lips.  "It's okay."  Those eyes you've admired for so long fill with fondness and concern.  "You're allowed to have a bad day."  They run those feather light fingers over your face.  "So long as I'm allowed to have it with you."
    ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜
    I'm a lucky man.  Being allowed to break is something valuable - something beyond words.  I have that in my husband.
    It doesn't have to be a partner.  It can be a friend, a close coworker, or a family member.  It can even be someone you trust over the wires of the internet.  But, we all need this.  We all need someone we can show our belly to... someone we can be vulnerable with.  Someone who will accept us at our worst, and enjoy us at our best.
    You're allowed to break.
  23. Wayne Gray
    It's a drizzly Friday morning on the northern coast of California.  Banks of low clouds blend into fog blanketing the forests of what has become my home.  Big, brainy, loud ravens shatter the quiet as they bicker at one another in the field beside my work.  Still, I'm amazed by the serenity, peace, and beauty of this place.  I love the green, the fog, the wetness and the cool.
    I love our trees - the tallest in the world.  Walking among them instills wonder in me, even after thirteen years of living here.  They sway, their tops moving over twenty feet in the wind.  It's like watching giants silently dance to some unheard beat.
    There are so many things I miss about Kentucky - where I'm from.
    But... this place...
    It's home.
  24. Wayne Gray
    Until today, I have never done a writing prompt.
    In true fashion, I chose a weird, silly, off-the-wall start to writing prompts.  See the little, ~750 word story behind the link if you want a giggle.
    Demonic Dentistry
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