A promising day in summer of 2020- cooler yet humid morning, buku bucks in my pocket from carona virus pua payments, and a plethora of garage sales to hit on my GPS, mainly in Forest Ridge.

I hit my dab pen going 37 down Valley, slowing down approaching Floral Home to get to Aaron’s house. I called him before I left, walking him up- he was always a slowpoke in the mornings on garage sale day.

When I pulled up, the time read 7:25 on the dash, which meant it was actually a minute till the half. I was bumping “Nice ride, whip glide, hips swish, left right, hit curbs, lick curves, bitch swerve, smoke herb” on the radio in front of his tiny house in his quiet neighborhood. After a text and a few consecutive honks, he showed up passenger side, tired and lanky with a huge container of superfood smoothie and a long crazy curly mane of dark hair. “Sorry I’m late, I just woke up and stared at the ceiling for like ten minutes for some reason”

He buckled his seatbelt and we headed out to a neighborhood sale in Forest Ridge near Riverside and Huber Heights.

That garage sale trip was very successful. I found a plethora of stuff: a box of bath and body works stuff, a GameCube with lots of games, a grandmother clock from Germany for $25, a stylish podium stand for Theodore, my Greek “marble” bust, a pillow and blanket for Raisin, a shelf for some of my Knick knacks, Knick knacks for some of my shelf.

Aaron was searching for and found in excess for one thing: mirrors.

“I dunno, I just want to get as many mirrors as possible and hang them all in my house. You think guests will feel comfortable?”

We both kinda chuckled.

I mean he hit the freaking jackpot. We found small mirrors, circular mirrors, one mirror with newspaper border and a matching trash can, a big mirror we had to play Tetris with the grandmother clock to fit in my mini van for the drive home.

There’s nothing like hitting up garage sales, one after another, leaving my belt unbuckled and purse under the seat while we go to the next one. That was an excellent neighborhood sale that sunny summer day.

What he loves

He loves my face
The shape of Cupid’s bow,
The curve of hazel,
Spotted scars sparse,
Extol my artistry, he does.

He loves my curves,
My thick mass,
The pulse beneath bust
My weight, my base
The sway of shark bite dress.

He loves my language
aberration of normal pillow talk,
Nibbles on his skin, sure,
Quick heavy breaths and sniffing,
Silly, immature play.

He loves my bad habits-
Leaving behind messes, yes,
Slacking on chores, yes,
But he always feels appreciated
Because I always let him know.

He loves my scatterbrain-
My emotional, empathetic organ
Although I have a mood disorder
He brings me Starbucks coffee
And a fistful of pills at noon out of love.

He loves my curse-
By that I mean he loves my Tourette’s
A quaint high-pitched “ Eeeee!”
An agile effeminate reminder
Tilted brows and drawn out “awe”

He loves my entity,
How I wield a knife to cut kale,
Or hold a brush to blend blue and pink-
Exactly how I come, my spirit,
My platinum bleach bangs.

Most of all, he loves our love
Our rock solid foundation of monogamous promise,
We both made up our hearts and minds-
He is mine; I am his
We are Soulmates💕

‘Started from the bottom now we’re here’

Mom often reminds me of ‘how far I’ve come’ from my rock bottom, my mental breakdown in 2013. Back then, I recessed into some other universe than the one Everyone else actually lived in, and was there for an impressive amount of time.

Nasty ass dirt compiled under my uncut nails as I was climbing my way out of my insanity, with my mom coaching up top and my family and friends cheering from the surface.

The first day I got out of inpatient on my 24th birthday, I remember a very exhausted mother making the two of us scrambled eggs with Swiss cheese melted on top and sliced tomatoes grown in the garden, and mind you, my mentality was still very fragile. We took our plates out to a very sunny secret garden in the back yard and sat down at the patio table with the pond babbling it’s fountain to the koi fish below.

I tried taking a bite of scrambled egg, but I was so shaken up, The egg wouldn’t stay on my fork. Again, I scooped, but the damn protein went flying down my shirt and into Natalie’s hungry salivating mouth on my side. I got embarrassingly angry, and shot daggers at my mother sitting at the table across from me, an action driven by the illness. She calmly continued to look down at her plate chewing, the stoic sage she was. “Would you like a spoon?”

God bless my mother. I remember thinking back then when I was lashing out at her in pure mental illness in excess, she was never going to love me when we both get older because I was such a burden to bare. I knew for a fact that this whole lashing out thing was temporary-I just knew I’d acclimate and things would go back to normal, because I don’t have the personality of a bipolar bitch. I am just bipolar.

And, back then, was freshly released back into society after being stowed away in the loony bin for a month.

“But look how far you’ve come” mom rang in my ear the other day on the phone. We went back and forth in counting my blessings, accomplishments, and over-comings since those extremely dark times. Moving out. Working. Finding Ricky. Taking care of my animal children. Sharpening my painting and drawing skills. Taking care of business. Making doctor appointments. Being financially responsible… for the most part.

I am overall very happy nowadays- I have my own little family and my best man a girl could ask for. However, I still struggle with my bipolar mania and depression from time to time.

You might be asking yourself “why is Steph being so open about this? Why should I care?”

Because FUCK A STIGMA. Mental illness affects a lot more people than you’d think and those more people are scared to tell their own stories out of fear of being judged. But I’m not- my name is Stephanie Staup and I was so ill I couldn’t eat scrambled eggs at age 24. If you’re not afraid of being judged, comment a hardship you’ve overcome in your life and how you did it. I’d like some encouraging inspiration after spilling my guts.

And I never listen to Drake, but the song ‘Started from the bottom now we’re here’ has been on repeat while I’ve been writing this. Might sound a little clichè but fuck it.

One of the reasons why I enjoy drawing portraits so much is the pseudo social bond you develop with the subject. Its all about portraying their deepest and most intimate personality traits trough their facial features, shapes, and shadows.

Self portrait, 2012.

When I was learning how to draw portraiture, I used to have arguments all the time in my head with each feature, it’s proportion, it’s irregular shape. An out-of-practiced hand made pictures that were close but no cigar, which was frustrating for an overachiever like myself back then.

Close but no cigar portrait of mine, 2009.

I had a breakthrough with the “Steven Todd Wyrick Experience, 2010.” Where I drew my AP English teachers half body length portrait, and it looked very accurate. I used graphite and hella eraser, but he was flattered except “Excuse me Miss Staup, but I’ve been losing more weight than what you’ve drawn , I look too fay-at”. His accent was the most educated southern language you’d ever hear.

The Steven Todd Experience, 2010.

My favorite people to draw have been those boys (and girls) I’ve been in love with. I’m free to obsess over the faintest angle of their Cupid’s bow, or the sparkle I beset in their eye when I make it gazing into mine. That’s why I have so many portraits of Ricky- I love creating his look and I love looking at the man.

Raisin and Daddy-man Progress, 2020.

Now when I draw there are no arguments- just using a trained eye and the pencil as a straight line to measure. Most the time, I come out very satisfied with the portrayal of a person, and the secrets I hold with it. If I won’t tell, hopefully the portrait subject will keep it’s big mouth shut too, jeezus.

The War

I was on my blue and green huffy 20 speed, on my way home from my friends house- it was already so late, 4 in the morning, when the sun barely kisses the brink of the horizon while the night still sparkles stars over the Ohio sky.

For some reason, I decided not to go home, but to swerve into the curvy parking lot of Aldersgate church, except the building wasn’t a church at all. Not one bit.

As I entered the double doors, I saw flashes of dark blue and gray on the walls and down the hallways. The smell of antiseptic, fresh padded socks, and soy burgers cooking in the cafeteria.

This was a mental hospital, and an awful one, at that.

I snuck around the halls, until I found a room with a hopeless Brenda sitting on a couch and wheel of fortune playing in the background. I decided to sit and chat with her, like I was just a volunteer there, raising her spirits a bit.

After a while, a large, bald man came through the door and started yelling, herding the psyche patients like cattle. He held up a hitting hand to Brendas wheelchaired body as a threat for not moving quick enough, which set off an alarm in my head.

“Hey, who did you think you are, you son of a bitch!” I immediately grabbed the man’s wrist with my left fist and threw a punch to his face with my right, but his flesh was slippery and bouncy, like rubber. It didn’t faze him at all.

There was consequence to the bout of courage I displayed- the next thing I knew an alarm started going off, and I was surrounded by hospital personnel, holding me down and injecting a needle of god knows what into my hip. Soon after, everything got dark.

A few hours after, I woke up on the floor in scrubs and padded socks in front of the entrance, but the door was locked. Now I was part of the war- I was a psyche ward patient again.

I looked around and gasped at another familiar face: my Waffle House boss Chaney was standing there on the phone. He is a famous actor, always busy making movies, talking to people. He could be my ticket out.

“Chaney, man, hey,” I waved while walking over, trying to get his attention. “Chaney, can you help me get out of here?

Okay, so I was interrupting his phone call, but I didn’t care at this point. He saw me, but started walking away as if he didn’t and I panicked.

My one ticket out. I followed and continued to call after him. “Hey, Chaney, you have to get me out of here!” He kept a steady pace down the dark blue and gray hallways, and I followed as I passed doorways, lockers, couches. My heart was steady flitting, as if my one chance was getting away while his pace hurried down the polished tiles. He moved faster and faster. His voice on the phone reverberated down the halls and taunted my ears while they beat with my hurried heartbeat of the chase.

Chaney turned the corner and went into the men’s bathroom, to which I didn’t give a damn and followed in as well. And as the anxiety built up about being part of the war, having to relive the abuse, going through strange sensations of foreign psyche meds, I cornered him all the way into the bathroom stall.

“Ok, I’ll send you that script. See ya” Chaney flipped his phone shut. “Okay Steph, let’s get you out of here”

And then I woke up.

Wildflowers

“Now, I know I’m not the most Godliest woman,” I started, my six foot stature crunching grass and straw under new Drew clog slip ons. “But isn’t it weird how the universe throws people in our lives for specific amounts of time to make an impact, and then they’re gone? How paths just bend and intersect.”

There was the back tail of my mismatch print kimono I was wearing dancing at my ankles; it continued to tickle the edge of my tight leggings as we strolled down the afternoon sun-trail. We stopped for brightly colored flowers along the way, collecting them at the stems in left-palmed bunches.

“Yeah,” Lori interrupted the silence, “life is so fragile”

Her bouquet had about 3:1 yellow compared to mine, thanks to a large yellow flowery bunch she found a few seconds before I did- but my wildflower bouquet had more purple from when I picked a bundle which I didn’t notice the wasp nest in the bird house nearby until I about got stung. I stopped and picked the most perfect, ripest orangest daisy I could find and offered it to the pretty lady herself.

Lori smiled and chuckled a little. “You know, growing up, I would always go out and pick wildflowers for my mother.” She stopped and put the daisy up to her nose, and started to breathe it in.

“She would get a vase and put water in it, and always go on about how pretty they are… I know you want to give some flowers to Ricky, but I think you should make another bouquet for your mom.”

I ended up making one huge plethora of flowers to divvy up, but they all ended up wilting and dying in my van from the September sun. I could have sworn I put them in the shade…

Tiny Rainbow Bag with a Brown Button

This one time when I had money in my pocket, I went to A Full Moon Rising and found this miniature rainbow bag with a brown button hanging on display for sale, along with many other variations of the same bag in different colors.

The bag screamed my name and the tag screamed $10. I wrapped the hacky-sack material around my wrist along with a couple other goodies in bags hanging from my wrists, like a faux white marble bust I later named Theodore, a vial of blueberry essential oil, a variety of glass Buddha heads, and an impressive chip of rhodochrosite (MY stone, with MY energy).

That was up until about two days ago, where I’ve started wearing the baggie on a string around my neck all day and night. Like a lucky emblem, I show it off in pictures and when I go to public places.

So what’s in it? Wouldn’t you like to know….

Just know the power of this little bag is AMAZING. almost bigger than myself, if I wasn’t a catalyst of the two.

And that’s all I’ll say.

Strawberry Cough

Some people prefer breathing in fresh air from the countryside, breezes wafting around hints of lemongrass and pure chlorophyll photosynthesis.

Others prefer the finest perfumes from Europe, the Coco Chanel’s and the Yves Saint Laurent’s tickling their noses.

I like the particular skunky, earthy, flowery sweet stench of a fresh jar of unopened strawberry cough, straight from the dispensary.

See, I was born and raised in Ohio, which has taken baby steps in marijuana legalization within the past couple years by making medical marijuana legal in 2016. I got my card in 2019 for my Tourette’s and what would later be diagnosed as arthritis in my pelvis. There was only one dispensary in the area and it happened to be really close to my house- Mad River Remedies.

At the risk of sounding like some sort of stoner frat-boy, me and pot go way back, man. I was 18 when I had my first experience getting baked- I had a hot tall big boob body and wore what young adults wore to fit in and go out, kissing frogs or whatever we used to do. Erica Timmonds took me to Adams house, with a bunch of other older guys I didn’t know. Everyone was already baked and the two of us jumped in rotation. We smoked bongs, bowls, and blunts. After hitting a blunt, I coughed for a solid two minutes, as all newbies would, with Erica patting my back.

“Just let in burn in your throat. It’ll be over in a second and you’ll be so high it won’t even matter”

I turned to Erica with red, glassy eyes and a scrunched up nose. Without reason, I lost my composure and burst out into boisterous, childish laughter. The sweetest sativas have taken over my funny bone, because I couldn’t stop laughing.

The older guys started spitting out slow, low-toned chuckles, no good stoners.

Now I only buy my product from the dispensary, mostly oil pens because of the convenience. They don’t lasts the longest- I’m known to blaze through cartridges, but I definitely get medicated in the process.

What does it feel like to be elated? The pain subsides, yes, the the toothache or joint pain withers to complete homeostasis. I always tend to feel superhuman, where I prefer those to answer to all three of my eyes, including the one on my forehead. I feel like more of a spiritual, comfortable being, and, via the magic of marijuana medicine, one who can live in the present moment.

Earlier today, I hit my pen so hard that I coughed and had a rush of serotonin to the noggin to extreme, I had a superhuman 6th sense hearing moment where I rode the wavelengths of pitches and frequencies of YellowBelly’s canary song. I looked him straight in the eye while he sang his assortment of bird calls, and I registered each detail of every whistle. His throat feathers fanned out as he flitted his wings while chatting. Now his song is forever burnt in my memory. How pleasant is that?

So, as you can see, my life just wouldn’t be the same with a breath of fresh skunky air, and the euphoric utopian Tao that follows. I’m able to do spiritual work. I’m able to just exist freely without qualm or quandary. To just be.

A Morning of Love

This morning was a time for the books- a high quality morning of a day off for both Ricky and myself.

The sun gazed a cool, September overlook among the questionable neighborhood I live in.

YellowBelly’s chirps and melodies reverberated volumes throughout the apartment.

The GameCube ran Animal Crossing hours on end, killing any anxiety that might have been lingering.

Ricky rolled out of our king sized sleeperbefore I did around 1pm. I was greeted by the smell of pumpkin spice coffee and a loud, high-pitched “good morning!” From Ricky, my wonderful jubilant happy man. His gray trailer park boys shirt was blotched dark with dish water where he was halfway through washing the dishes.

I embraced his large, barrel chest clumsily, with a loud thud and a “Hibst!”

I used so much force he rocked back on his heels to keep himself from falling backwards.

I could hear YellowBelly chirping quietly under the navy silk sheet covering his cage- he was ready for his morning song from his mother, and so was the rest of the family.

I slowly slid off his sheet and he bounced off his swing, flitting from one place to the next. His chirping grew louder and louder in volume.

I greeted YellowBelly with my usual shrieking “Good MORNING! Good Mor-NING!” And he got really excited and started to lose his shit. He started to virbrado his chirps a bit. Ricky started laughing in delight in the background.

“Gooooooooood…. morning, good morning! I have to let you knoooooowwwwwwwww…….” I paused for a second. His chirping and fleeting never stopped.

“Good morning, good morning, to you! Wooooo! YellowBelly! It’s going to be a great fucking day!” I cheered, which is my usual song and chant.

Ricky stood in the kitchen, drinking in my cheerful songs energy. “Aw, hib..”

One of his knuckles were steady dripping Palmolive suds at his side while the other gripping pink around pumpkin spice coffee mug at his lips.

Raisin, our sticky-bald hairless cat, mewed loudly for my attention while posted up on the cat tree, her hip bones dancing from side to side. She has these curly tortellini ears that I have decided are little pesto listeners. She gets a tiny tiger half can of wet food mixed with salmon oil, ground up mussel for a joint supplement, and raw instinct food topper when we get up in the morning, sometimes the extras at dinner.

This is it- this is my tittle family at almost 29 years old, and what a fulfilling, childless family it is. I’m perfectly happy with the apartments company, and I wouldn’t wish it any different. Ricky instinctively knows how to make this house a home, and I have enough room in my heart to house everyone snug and warm,

Comfortable,

Content and loved.

Ricky Edward Humerick, Raisin Aioli McGoo, and YellowBelly McGee. Eternally loved by their mother and partner.

I’ve made up my mind, from what I feel in my heart. Ricky is here to stay and he is family. He takes care of me when I’m sick and doesn’t judge, while working when I cannot to provide for us. He’s my hero, and while I put aside my doubts of being betrayed in the most heinous ways a long time ago, I can’t help but envision growing old together in our partnership and chemical relationship. I am utterly and genuinely (and safely) head over heels in love with this fine specimen of masculinity. He’s loyal and true. His heart beats for me, and he has also made up his mind for what he feels in his heart.

Plus we keep each other very happy. Very, very romantic moments fill our days, weeks, and months 🥰 it’s been a very wholesome 4 and some months together, but it feels like status quo for a lot longer. Oh how I love him…

A Visit with Lori

Yesterday I had to drag myself out of bed for another long, Ricky-less Sunday where he worked a double at the Subhouse. I had promised Lori that I would meet up with her in the mall and walk around, catch up, and people-watch, her favorite thing to do. The spoiled side of me didn’t want to go, given the fact that I didn’t have a dollar to my name and I’m usually not quite fond of getting fooled around with by the temptation of new Bath and Body Works scents and the smell of mall Chinese food.

And, while I started thinking of every excuse not to go, via my normal anti-social habits, I still decided to give Miss Lori a ring and plan to meet at Sbarros in the next hour.

Lori came strolling around the mall corner some 15 minutes late with a warm greeting and smoothie from Auntie Annie’s. I asked her where she would like to go first, and she said she was looking to get her nails done.

She meekly grabbed a pamphlet at the salon and started flipping through. An Asian woman working there yelled out at us that the prices were $2 more than listed on the menu.

“We could get it done together. It’ll be on me”

Like butter to my ears. She flashed that signature smile she ever-so enjoyed flashing so much when she’s conducted an act of kindness. I’ve seen it many differing unique times with many differing unique gifts.

We decided to get pedicures. I was excited to finally get the remnants of Colorstreet sticker off my toe tips and get new color. We went to the polish wall to pick our colors. I went with this gaudy bright yellow orange hue I only regret a little, only because they came out neon. I thought if I’m having a hard time spreading sunshine through my unstable disposition, I might as well try to spread it through my toes when I wear my gladiator sandals.

Lori said she was looking for a specific color of blue. After I suggested 3 or 4 different shades, she went with a pale pink, which almost blended in with her pale skin. told her it looked very 90’s business chic, which made her haunch one loud hearty chuckle, followed by “what makes you say that??”

See, Lori is very special company. Her open, non-judgemental ears have healing energy every time you open up. She’s quietly arrayed and attentive when you spill your guts to her, and prefers to think about the advice or empathy she’s going to give. And, while I always like to focus on healing others, I almost forgot how much lighter my heart feels after my Saturday evenings with Lori when she heals me.

While in the pedicure chairs, I kinda spilled my guts through my cat-patterned mask to her sitting next me. I told her about how I’ve been unstable and manic lately and I’m still adjusting to the social deprivation of not waitressing anymore. Of course she understood, like she always does. She lives on her own, and told me that it takes time adjusting to spending time with yourself, when Ricky isn’t home.

I showed her a picture of the Bipolar Beast painting I did a few days ago when I was manic. She said it looked like a Superwoman with fangs. I really like that interpretation- makes me feel more… worthy. Super. Heroic instead of defeated.

I wiggled my toes into the foam flip flops after the final top coat and hobbled over to the drying station. Lori followed close by after, and I scooted over to give her some room to stick her feet in the black light fan.

“Stephanie, would you like me to pray for you? Right now?” She flashed the most caring, almost maternal eyes as she looked over her glasses into my sight.

“Yes, Lori. Please, pray for me”

She meekly asked if I would mind if she touched my shoulder. In response, I grabbed her hand quickly with a gentle force. A burst of warm pink energy started to spread from her right fingertips to my left palm.

We bowed our heads and she began to speak to the Heavenly Father on my behalf.

And while she asked for blessings in an audible tone, she was sure to touch on nearly every aspect of my life. “Give Ricky strength and will to take care of me when I’m mentally ill. Give Raisin and YellowBelly long-lasting health to help me carry on. Give me the will let my happy jubilant self shine again”

“In Jesus name, Amen.”

I looked at her, with tears in my eyes. She smiled back a soft, caring grin. “Jesus loves and cares about you, even when you feel like no one else does.”

While I admit I am not a Christian woman, I was still greatly moved by the magic she conducted in her own language. Her inspiration never stops making an impact, nearly every Saturday. And I’m just starting to get to know her.

Before we parted ways, I reached out and hugged her for the first time. I left the mall with my aura morphed into a unique mix of pale 90’s business chic pink and gaudy neon yellow orange sunshine.

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