Please Do Not Drink and Drive!

On the night I graduated from high school, I went to a party with my friends, then to eat supper with my family.
When I woke up the next morning, I started planning the rest of my life. Months later, I went to college, met some great friends, had a lot of fun, learned a lot.
Over the next twenty years:
I went to New York, Nashville, Las Vegas, and Mexico.
I watched my brother marry his high school sweetheart, and then become a father of four.
I met the best friends anyone could ask for in a lifetime.
I walked a half marathon, and wrote a book or ten.
The one thing I did not do . . is die on the night after my high school graduation.
Four girls were injured here in east Texas, and two of them have died, not because they did anything wrong, but because their car was hit by a drunk driver.
Two lives were lost, and two others altered forever, because somebody did not have enough sense to stay off the road!
We won’t know the things these ladies would have accomplished or experienced, or the changes they would have made in the world. Chance encounters with strangers that might have lifted up a person in need won’t happen.
Their future friends will have lesser lives for not meeting them, and they don’t even know it.
And I can think of nothing more heartbreaking than a love that should have been, but never existed.
And WHY?
All because a person these girls never even met got behind the wheel while intoxicated!
I don’t know these girls who have died.
I don’t know anyone involved in the incident.
But I am heartsick over this!
I am disgusted, and furious at a system that allows this crap to continue! These kids were just out riding around, like you do after you graduate high school, and gain your freedom, and have your whole life in front of you.
They DID NOT . DESERVE TO DIE!
If the driver in question just had malfunctioning brakes, we could call this an unavoidable tragedy.
But instead, after fifty or sixty years of drunk driver-related deaths, they got drunk, and drove a car!
This is senseless!
There is no reason for things like this to continue happening! I don’t understand why drunk drivers don’t immediately lose their licenses. To my mind, driving is a privilege, not a right.
People say, “Oh but that wouldn’t be fair, these people have to get to work.” Guess what.
I’m blind, and I can’t drive. So I rely on public transportation, paid drivers, or rides from family and friends.
If you can’t be responsible, then you should not be driving, endangering yourself and the lives of others.
My heart hurts for the families and friends of these two unique individuals that were lost to this world.
I could say I’m keeping them in prayer, so sorry, all the things you say when there really is nothing you can say.
But I am sad, I am mad, and I want this senseless stupid COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE killing to stop!
You can drink all you want, but stay somewhere while you do it, or set it up with a friend in advance so they can take you where you need to go, or call a damn cab!
Just stop thinking you are invincible and above natural laws! Stop believing it won’t happen to you . . . because it will. Please don’t drink and drive!

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Bug Vs. Blind Girl: A Battle Royale!

July 10, 1995
Midafternoon in the piney woods of Texas was a scorchfest, and the overcast skies did nothing to alleviate the discomfort of 95-degree temperatures with high humidity. However, I was serene. I had my own apartment in a college town, things were cool inside, life was cool outside. I had classic rock on the stereo, a Sonic Diet Coke on my desk, reading for class was done for the day,,, what more could a 21-year-old girl ask for?
Cloudy days force you to be creative, finding things to do indoors. I decided to sort through my cassette tape collection, keep what I wanted, throw out what I didn’t. Since I was back and forth between home and college, I carried ten years worth of the soundtrack to my life in a good-sized zippered bag. I began sorting tapes, enjoying the walk-shudder down memory lane.
Mili Vanili? What was I thinking?
Debbie Gibson? Tiffany? . . Yeah, not so much.
There are labels on cassettes, the adhesive kind that you can write on, then peel them off, and stick them on the tape of your choice. I had discovered that I could put the label in a Brailler, so my tapes were labeled that way, in Braille. I reached into the bag, into a corner, and took hold of a loose label, one that had obviously peeled off of a tape. I pulled the label out to see what it said, so I could find the matching tape and put it on. (I can identify cassettes by the feel of them, and/or the sound they make when you shake them, but Braille labels make it faster.)
As I held the label in my hands, a shadow fell over the summery college afternoon, a pall of slowly dawning horror, as I came to the conclusion that the “label” in my hand was a leg, a dry rubbery-textured crinkly-sounding leg that was attached to the body of my lifelong sworn enemy, the water bug. Continue reading “Bug Vs. Blind Girl: A Battle Royale!”

How Porch Swing Writing Got Its Name

My stuffed animals heard a lot of stories when I was a little girl. A pen and paper was no option for a tiny blind writer, and a Perkins Brailler was too bulky to be carried everywhere.
All of the drafting, character sketching, writing, and revising occurred inside my head.
For better or worse, very likely for the better, the audience for those early imaginings was limited to my Grandma, and my stuffed animals. I made up the stories, and just told them to whoever would listen. The “writing” was like dreaming then, but so vivid!
As I grew older, I liked to be outdoors when I was dreamwriting. In the springtime, I spent hours on my Mam-Maw’s porch swing, surrounded by the scent of hyacinths and lulled by the sound of birdsong. Stories took shape against that peaceful backdrop, and although I technically had no way of writing them down, those are still my sweetest writing memories.
Time passed and technology eclipsed my imagining. I possess ways to write that fit in my pocket! Now I write indoors, and publish instantly if I so desire. But I named this blog for the time and place when my writer’s voice was formed, on a porch swing, with spring and youth blossoming, and the possibility of magic in every dawn and evening.
Welcome, to Porch Swing Writing!

The Front Porch

Welcome to my front porch.

Sit a while, have a glass of sweet tea, or a bite to eat, and I will tell you a little about myself.

My name is Jena.

When I was a little girl, hay and honeysuckle were the scents I loved, and the sound of mockingbirds was my symphony. In my little hometown in east Texas, I sold Girl Scout cookies, took ballet and gymnastics, played a cow in the Christmas pageant at church, and had amazing birthday parties. I went through an awkward preteen stage, but it all worked out. In high school, I played drums in the marching band, acted as class President, stressed over SAT scores, and even won Band Sweetheart. A fortress of loving family supported me through all of it. I grew up sweet and slow, in a town filled with good people.

I went to college, got a cool apartment, and thought I knew a lot more than I did. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, but I had a lot of fun along the way. Later, I met my best friends, walked a half marathon, read a lot of books, and wrote some as-yet-unpublished novels to pass the time.

These days, I adore animals, including skunks and snakes. I am slightly obsessed with the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I will watch football for twelve hours straight, and baseball doubleheaders for as long as they last. Diet Coke is my oxygen! I love exercise, once i can get myself into it, and swimming is my favorite outdoor activity. Sometimes, I do stupid hilarious things that make my friends love me even more, and sometimes I give everything I have and don’t succeed. In other words, I am normal, quirky, imperfect, and occasionally amazing.

I have been blind since shortly after birth. It’s inconvenient on occasion, but otherwise, no big deal. I have a severe sleep disorder called Non 24, which is a result of my inability to see light. That challenge is much more difficult, because it disrupts my life on a regular basis. I also have temporal lobe epilepsy, and although my seizures are infrequent, they are the greatest hurdle for me where my health is concerned. In short, I am no stranger to adversity.

Even so, I love my life, and I feel blessed! My parents and grandparents taught me to see the world through a lens of optimism, to view unfairness or hardship as a challenge rather than an end, and most of all, to be grateful, for things big and small. My younger brother taught me that blindness made no difference, by treating me normally. My uncles taught me to laugh. My friends taught me about grace, dignity, and selflessness. If I am a good person, it is because every person in my life played a part in making me who I am today.

There is still so much I want to do.  I want to visit Scotland, see animals in Australia, become a life coach, try scuba diving, and a million other things. I hope I can share my vision of the world with you, make you smile, and leave you glad that you read this blog.

Come by any time.

I will be out here on the porch swing, writing and dreaming.