SEPTEMBER 4, 2022: “The Day Of The S & H Greenstamps Tattoo” …

It’s no longer a big secret that I had a twisted and dysfunctional childhood, and also no secret that some of my mental pictures aren’t so homespun and stellar …

… BUT …

… I very much DO also have some precious and beautiful memories seared so deeply into the skin of all my days gone by that they’re a virtual tattoo inside my mind.

It’s raining, grey, and what some might consider miserable here in Dallas this afternoon, but as I walked into the kitchen just now and saw my favorite “Mindset Is Everything” coffee mug sitting on the table amidst a pile of skeletons and spookiness I’m about to HAUNT The Williamson Manor with, I literally snapped back in time to the MANY “Sundays” with my mom and HER coffee cup sitting around our often very rainy, New England kitchen table.

You see, Sundays were ALWAYS our “Green Stamp” days, and I fondly remember the countless hours she would spend with us at our tiny wooden table as she’d bust out all the stamps she’d collected for that week and let me and my sister help her put them in her books. We’d sit around that table drawing circles in “the catalog” around all the treasures we were saving for while having our little mother daughter chit chats about life.

For God’s sake, I even smelled the giant pot of scratch made Italian “gravy” that was ALWAYS simmering in the background while we were stamping our fingers to the bone, and how as all this was happening on those cozy afternoons, there was the best anxiety EVER simmering in my gut because I knew that soon my beloved Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins would all be coming over for our weekly “family dinnuh”!

Jean-Claude Van DAMN I’m so proud to be turning “Fifty-THREE-It’s-SO-Good-To-Be-ME” next week, and while I do so adore all you young ones out there, grab a pen and paper and take NOTES from ALL of s “OMG, they’re like, SO old” ones, ’cause we know EXACTLY how to keep on keepin’ it REAL!

Meanwhile, as I’m writing this, my girls are upstairs all hunkered down in their fluffy pajamas and blankets as the storms are moving in while I’m downstairs just doing the mom thing. I’m overwhelmed with joy and an abundance of gratitude that I not only do I get to live this ethereal existence, but that my heart has been broken and put back together well enough to know that even when I’m not sifting through the ashes of my life, there is still so much beauty to be found in them that it just shows up during the storms like a ray of light shining through my soul. I am blessed.

… and THIS, my friends, is yet another “Grey HIGH” moment from my virtually tattooed heart and love-filled Williamson Castle to yours. Oh, and (PS) … there’s something that I’ll hope you’ll remember …

All you get to keep is all you’ve shared.

{“The Brighter Side Of Grey” … by Five Finger Death Punch}

~ REAL Cat 🖤

APRIL 4, 2022: “The Grey High” …

Ain’t it funny how things happen? I mean, c’mon people … do any of you still only believe in random coincidence? As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m yummily wrapped up in one of the king’s grey sweaters that on any other given Monday would have traveled in Gia’s backpack to her dad’s house. But for the fact that I just happened to be doing laundry last night instead of on my regularly scheduled Sunday, it wouldn’t have been here to greet me this morning when I decided to just make it a “grey day” and stay home to enjoy the peaceful oblivion of my happily solitary existence. Hell, I wasn’t even done reveling in and relishing the last four beautiful days I had of time spent with my precious kids and family, the message I got from Skid Row, and that fucking EPIC German schnitzel sandwich situation. I mean, BRING IT you badass fucking Cosmos

I HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR!

Meanwhile, I popped on to the Instagram earlier today only to find that while I was busy “queening” around the castle in one of the best “grey highs” I’ve had in months, that today marked yet another powerful Death Punch moment. It was the release of the official “Brighter Side Of Grey” video:

It’s hard to believe that our last record “F8” came out over 2 years ago in the beginning of 2020, born into the whirlwind of events that dominated our lives and will echo into the rest of our history. Those of you intimately familiar with that album, now know how some of F8’s dystopian lyrics became rather prophetic. Brighter Side of Grey was an important song on that record, but especially personal to Ivan (who’s the only parent in the band). It is a more than fitting commentary to what’s going on in the world that probably needs a good reminder right about now that we are here only for second, a tiny blip on the flow of time… not just as individuals but as an entire species. It took a trillion conditions to be just right for human life to exist in this Universe, yet it takes just one to go terribly wrong and make it all disappear. This song also serves as the perfect bridge to our new album we just finished this week, which generally revolves around similar existential questions. It’s incredible how much we don’t understand about our own existence, yet everyone’s relationship with the concept of death permeates, even orients their entire lives. Can’t wait to share it… enjoy this video and stay tuned for new music and big tour announcements in the very near future!
{FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH YOUTUBE}

In case you didn’t get the memo yet, this isn’t just another song and grey isn’t just a color. “The Brighter Side Of Grey” is an entire mindset and way of life for me:

Grey is not just a color to me – IT’S EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN! It’s the grace I’ve received that is so undeserved yet given to me anyway by The One who has never loved me with black and white conditions. He “takes the best parts of me and locks them away without the key” and I know that He is never far away. He’s the Light that shines ahead of my journey and dilutes the blackness of the abyss into the most beautiful shades of grey. For more than four decades, I lived a black and white existence with no room for the forlorn grey I knew I needed but didn’t know how to connect with. As I look back at this picture now, I’m filled with the most unbelievable solace you can imagine. It reminds me of just how far I’ve comethat it was always supposed to be this way, and there is always a “Brighter Side Of Grey”. I’m not gonna lie … it is now my final wish that when it’s time for me to move along, this is the last song I hear as they bid me farewell.
{“The Brighter Side Of Grey“}

I could keep going on about the “grey” of it all, but honestly, I’m so done writing about it. Now, I just want to live in it! I want to sit back, relax, and inhale all my life nuggets of goodness.

Today is a good day in the music world, people. Not just for the factions of knuckleheads like me who’ve been anxiously waiting for this video, but likewise for anyone who sees it, hears the words, and really bites in to its sobering and bittersweet message.

This life we’re living really is just a blip, and yes, the lights will go down. So, do everything in your power to ensure that when that door closes behind you for the very last time, you leave a light on for your people and not just a darkened void. It’s how you’ll become “nothing, everything, and ALL of it” and leave this place better than you found it.

NOVEMBER 1, 2020: “Crossing Over” …

Some days I rise with all the words I need to say just pouring out of my soul, and often because of a dream. Like today, which would have been our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s been just over a year of on this road I never planned to travel, and though I knew it was fast approaching, I also knew it would be a major turning point in my final ascent out of the darkness and into The Light. Let me tell you how my beautifully shattered life works …

To begin, indeed, I dreamt last night, but not before closing my eyes to the ethereal sound of my daughter and her crew’s Halloween shenanigans up above. Lol. Did I ever tell you that one of the very few flaws with Williamson Manor is that Gia’s theatre and game rooms are directly above my bedroom? YUP! They are! As it turns out, though, it’s not a flaw at all! Believe it or not, especially in this last 438 days, those echoes of stomping, laughing, and chaos into the wee hours of so many nights are but a lullaby to me. It’s why he built this home, “from the ground up“, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Knowing she’s here, happy, safe, and whole, is one of the realities that comforts me the most.

Damnit, I’ve digressed. Where was I? Oh, my dream! I was front row center at a Five Finger Death Punch show, but instead of a traditional concert venue, it was an intimate gathering where Ivan was singing to me:

The widow’s life ticks out like clockwork … a thousand tears she’s cried a hundred times before. But now that he is gone, she’s ready to move on …

As he was singing, a single tear fell from his eye, but it wasn’t Ivan’s face I was seeing. It was Zack’s face on Ivan’s body holding that legendarytuning fork mic stand” of his in one hand, while reaching out to me with the other like a muse calling out to her daughter. He was practicing “the great alchemy“, just like he always does, and delivered a message from The Cosmos straight to my heart and soul. It was the most absurdly beautiful insanity imaginable! In the dream, I was thinking to myself, “This HAS to mean something, but what?”

Then, I woke up and I KNEW!

In order to fully appreciate where I’m going with this, you must understand that I am led solely by intuition and feelings. Call me a spiritualist. Call me a “good witch”. Call me a “practical magician“. Call me whatever in actual Heaven or Hell that you want. It’s my truth, and it’s never gonna change:

In every thing there is a meaning, in every moment a message, and something means everything, even if it’s nothing!

Am I bat-shit effing crazy? Perhaps I am. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, and let me tell you why: What if I’m RIGHT? What if it’s true? What if the Cosmos really is speaking to me? What if it really is Zack communicating with us through the fog and the crows and the lights in the bathroom? That, my friends, is the “crazy” blind faith that costs me nothing, but gains me everything! Sooner or later, I, too, will cross on over, and either I’m right or I am wrong about everything I believe. Meanwhile, just after waking from that most ethereal dream, this was right beside my bed. It’s nothing, really. Nothing at all. Just one of Gia’s bracelets that either Good Cat or Bad Cat must have found and deposited at the exact spot my foot hit the ground. “C’mon Cat, it’s just a bracelet.” Ya think? But why did it show up in the “endless” twist of “F8” that way? Hmm?

So, with that …

Ten years ago today, I kissed a frog who turned into a king. Five years ago today, that king turned me into a princess. Today I woke up from a dream on the edge of literal “eternity”. With that, I was reminded of the endless joy he brought to my life that I get to keep until it’s my time to see the brighter side of grey. There will never be a day that I’m not eternally grateful for the true love and immeasurable gifts he left me with, not the least of which is the fire he lit in my soul that will light my way through every darkness. Loving that man changed my life forever, so it’s no wonder that losing him has done the same.

Today is the day!

I think it’s finally time for me to start moving on, whatever that actually means, and I’ve asked God to just keep leading my way. My heart is completely open to anything and everything, but as for now I’ll just keep inhaling every moment one precious breath at a time and holding them in for as long as possible, for I know full well that every time I exhale, I’ll be making the space for whatever is out there waiting for me. Knowing God the way I do, the chances are high that whatever it is will be extraordinary. In the meantime, win, lose, or draw, this is the beautiful picture of me that I’m always going to love the most and the “me” I’m going to punctuate the world with!

Happy anniversary, Zachariah, my love. I don’t mind you hanging with us as long as you feel it’s necessary, but hey – don’t wait for me here. I’ll be there soon enough!

CROSSING OVER

All perched alone he sits there broken. An eldered man with storm clouds setting in his eyes. He counts the sands of time – remembering days gone by. It seemed like yesterday before it washed away. Hey, don’t wait for me there – just find your own way. Hey, don’t wait for me there – ’cause I’ll be there soon enough. The widow’s life ticks out like clockwork. A thousand tears she’s cried a hundred times before. But now that he is gone, she’s ready to move on. It all just fell away – it seems like yesterday. {Five Finger Death Punch}

MARCH 11, 2020: “The Brighter Side Of Grey” …

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TO MY KIDS …

I’m writing this in case I’m gone tomorrow. I’m writing this in case I’ve moved along. There’s something that I hope you’ll remember: That life is not a game, it’s a song. So, take the best parts of me, locked away without the keys, and know that I’m forever by your side. When the lights go down, know that I am never far away. When the Sun burns out, I’ll be waiting on the brighter side of grey. If you’re reading this, I know you’re feeling sorrow. If you’re hearing this, I know you’re probably scared. Just know that all the things you want are borrowed, and all you get to keep is all you’ve shared. So, wipe away the tears for me, know that we’ve made history. Remember no one ever really dies.  When the lights go down, know that I am never far away. When the Sun burns out, I’ll be waiting on the brighter side of grey.
{Five Finger Death Punch}

THIS PICTURE. It’s one I sketched in my early 20’s using the literal ashes from both my father’s and His ashtrays. At the time, I had no idea the impact this or any of my 32 Sketches would have on me down the road, yet as I look at them now, I can’t help but notice that although I was in very dark place when they were born, something inside me was distantly hopeful. Still … this one. It begs the younger me to stay focused on the very bright future I couldn’t see through the fog I was in yet was patiently calling to me all the while.

If you know me well, you know that grey is my favorite color, which is evident in my predominately “black and white” or “nothing but grey” artwork. What’s interesting about this one is how poignantly it reflects upon the mental illness I fought so hard to overcome for the better part of my life, long before it was diagnosed. My disease imprisoned me in the dichotomy of black and white thinking and held me for ransom in the compartmentalized boxes of my mind where I stored all my pain and trauma. Before I put went into remission, I was unable to accept people, situations, emotions, or behaviors as anything other than “good or bad”, “right or wrong”, or “one way or the other”. MY ENTIRE WORLD WAS BLACK AND WHITE AND THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR THE GREY! I had a defensive view of both the positive and negative qualities of myself and everyone else, and there was no way for my broken psyche to allow anything in between to exist in one cohesive space.

How did this happen?

It is believed that “splitting” is the result of severe emotional and psychological abuse from my childhood, and I tend to agree. You see, I was raised in a conditionally based system of love and acceptance. If I was “good”, I was praised, affirmed, and rewarded. If I was “bad”, I was admonished, punished, and rejected. They’d “wash their hands of me” when I screwed up or failed to follow the rules, and ZERO was there validation or consideration of my feelings. So, my mind would “split” as I desperately attempted to shield myself from the constant fear of being abandoned, betrayed, or eviscerated by anyone who claimed to love me.

For the record, I do not believe these traumas were visited on me intentionally, but the trauma was real indeed, as was the effect it had on my damaged psyche. For years in the wake of not only my broken childhood, but as much so in the wake of my own self-inflicted destruction and imprisonment, I felt alone and voiceless, regardless of the people who “appeared” to be standing beside me. At this point it, is no longer a secret that I myself attempted suicide on November 8, 1996 and lived to tell about it. But I’ve digressed …

Them

Music of all genres has been an integral part of my mental wealth journey, but one of my favorite bands, Five Finger Death Punch, has been at the forefront. Their songs have not only helped identify some of my lost and broken feelings, but have also given my former “voiceless self” permission to either cry my feelings to the surface or YELL AND SCREAM THEM OUT LOUD! I’d pre-ordered their new album months ago and had been counting the days until it was released, so I was stoked to finally get to listen to it, starting from the beginning, as I headed out of the house today. Meanwhile, when THIS SONG cued up, I had to pull my car into the breakdown lane on the highway as the words began to cut me in all the most bittersweet ways. I couldn’t stop the tears, or the physical heartache, and I literally couldn’t breathe. It was one of the most cathartic, awful, fucked up, and beautiful moments of my life. It was almost as if he were singing it to me himself. To me. To her. To Christian. To the very few people he left behind that he truly loved and let into his very private world and who loved him just the same. Someday, when it’s time for her to read the letter he wrote but never gave her, I will let her hear the song. Knowing God the way I do, when she’s finally able to receive these most beautiful lyrics of both our lives, in conjunction with the most impeccable words a secretly dying father could possibly have written to his daughter, they will become as significant a part of her healing as they have been to mine.

HERE’S THE THING

Grey is not just a color to me – IT’S EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN! It’s the grace I’ve received that is so undeserved, yet given to me anyway by The One who has never loved me with black and white conditions. He “takes the best parts of me and locks them away without the key”, and I know that He is never far away. He’s the Light that shines ahead of my journey and dilutes the blackness of the abyss into all the most beautiful shades of grey.

For more than four decades, I lived a black and white existence with no room for the grey I knew I needed but didn’t know how to connect with. As I look back at this picture now, I’m filled with the most unbelievable solace you can imagine. It reminds me of just how far I’ve come, that it was always supposed to be this way, and that there is always a “Brighter Side Of Grey”. I’m not gonna lie … it is now my final wish that when it’s time for me to move along, this is the last song I’ll hear as they bid me farewell.