For the past 3 months, I have been keeping a gratitude log. In it, I add a quote for the month, and each day I write down 3 or more things I am grateful for… It could be anything from coffee to a text from one of my kids to the ability to cook to polar bear adoption to writing to getting a good night’s sleep. But 3 things, at least.
I started the log because I wanted to learn how to be more grateful, to be more consciously thankful for every day things. I can get so stressed out about money or the lack there of, about family, about writing, about our most recent political election. I wanted to teach myself how to take the simple things and be thankful. How to smile when things feel most unsettled.
Has it worked? I don’t know. I’ll admit that some days I struggle to find 3 things to be grateful for, while on other days, like today, I struggled to stop writing all the things down.
I am more aware of things like my impatience and my rush to judgment. I am more aware of the things I can’t control and the things I can. I am more appreciative of friendships and the relationships I have with my kids. I am more aware of things that I like and that make me smile. So, in those respects, yes, perhaps a daily gratitude log has helped me become more aware of things around me and more self aware.
This is an image I colored a few months back on a phone app. I don’t use it anymore, but I thought it was pretty and wanted to share it with you.
In the USA, it’s Thanksgiving Day. As a nation, we have a lot to be thankful for. We also have a long, hard road ahead of us. I am grateful for many things about this country, but I am not so grateful about others. I am, however, hopeful that in the coming weeks and months, I will continue to add to my gratitude log and find myself more open and compassionate.
I think we, as humans on this planet, could all do with a little more openness and compassion toward one another, the animals that share this world with us, and the Earth itself.
I have my friend Cassandra Carr on today to promote her new BDSM release…
MASTER CLASS by Cassandra Carr
Publisher: Loose Id
ePublish date: 12/11/2012
Word count: 47,250
Genre: BDSM Contemporary
Ryan Tomasi feels like a failure. His marriage is officially over; the ink dried on the divorce decree. His friend Jack introduces him to BDSM and he agrees to attend a Halloween party at a club. A submissive approaches him, offering herself, and how can he refuse the kneeling beauty? They do a whirlwind scene and Ryan is addicted—both to dominance and to her.
Lisette Rinaldo is returning to the BDSM club for the first time since ending a bad relationship with her former master. She spots Ryan and is taken by the combination of self-assurance and nervousness the man displays as he takes in his surroundings. And after he gives her an incredible re-introduction to the lifestyle, she knows she needs to see the man again.
Ryan and Lisette explore each other and the lifestyle, but what started out as playtime quickly evolves into something more. The problem? Ryan isn’t ready to get serious again and Lisette doesn’t want to fall in love with a guy who can’t give all of himself to her. Both of them are going to have to break out of the bonds holding them back from happiness.
“What the fuck is an acceptable costume to wear to a Halloween party at a BDSM club?” Ryan Tomasi muttered aloud to himself. He did that a lot these days, since he lived alone after his recent divorce. “Sheesh.”
From his Internet research, he knew people who practiced BDSM—the term “practice” cracked him up every time—already dressed in some pretty outrageous outfits. Between the leather daddies and the pony play, as well as the other strange getups he’d seen online, Ryan wasn’t sure what to think. Full-body latex encasement? He shuddered.
But one thing was clear. He couldn’t keep fucking random women and feel good about it or himself. The whole mess had started after Ryan’s now ex-wife had blindsided him with divorce papers about a year ago, saying she didn’t love him anymore. The fact he’d loved her and had wanted to work on the marriage apparently wasn’t good enough, and Ryan found himself living in a rented house with nothing but his recliner and a futon to sleep on. Over the past year, he’d done what he could to rebuild his life, and now it was time to take the next step.
Ryan needed to find someone for more than a one-night stand and, it seemed, someone who wanted to submit to him, since he’d found he really liked some of this BDSM stuff, especially the dominating side. He felt like a fool on the bar scene, and he really wasn’t a one-night-stand kind of guy, though that had been his MO lately. He’d never even known there was a whole formal “thing” like BDSM until his friend Jack, a fellow professor at the college where Ryan taught English literature, had asked one day, while Ryan was lamenting his pathetic sex life, if he’d ever engaged in any BDSM activities. Ryan had been taken aback, to say the least. He’d thought that kind of thing was limited to porn. Real people didn’t get kinky like that, did they? Hell, he’d gotten married at twenty-two and had been with his ex-wife for almost fifteen years. It appeared he didn’t know shit about sex—kinky sex scene in particular.
Ryan had been shocked when Jack offered to let Ryan see what his submissive, Callie, and Jack did in some of their “scenes” so that Ryan could get a feel for what domination was all about. Jack didn’t allow any actual intercourse or other sexual contact between him and Callie when they got together, which Ryan totally understood, so there was a little bit missing from what he wanted to experience after reading how great the sex could be.
But just watching the way Jack dealt with Callie, and then having the opportunity to try a bunch of things out himself during subsequent play sessions with the two of them, had given Ryan a light at the end of what had been a very dark tunnel since the ex had walked out on him. He believed he’d finally found what he was looking for; what he’d been missing his entire life. The high from a woman submitting to him was the most natural, yet most powerful thing he’d ever felt, and Callie wasn’t even his submissive. What would that feel like?
Shaking out of his reverie, Ryan decided reinforcements were in order and called Jack. “Hey, man.”
“Am I interrupting anything?” He was almost afraid to ask.
Jack laughed. “If you’re asking me if Callie is tied up somewhere waiting for me to fuck her six ways to Sunday, no, you’re not interrupting anything. That’s later.”
“TMI, dude, TMI. Anyway, I need help.”
“You need a lot more than help.”
“Yeah, yeah. Seriously, I need to know what a Dom should wear to this Halloween party.”
“Uh, clothes? Usually only the submissives are naked.”
“Are you going to help or not? You’re the one who said I should go to this.” Ryan knew Jack was just messing with him, but as this Halloween party was his “coming out” of sorts as a Dom, he didn’t want to make a fool of himself.
“All right. I’ll take pity on you. What types of costumes are you looking at? What will make you feel comfortable?”
Ryan snorted. “Not sure anything can do that. I’m nervous as hell.”
“Remember, a Dom needs to portray an air of confidence. If you don’t, no sub is going to trust you enough to play with you.”
“I know. And by the time I get there, I’m sure I’ll be a lot calmer. I’ve been pretty good when I’ve played with Callie, haven’t I?”
Ryan could practically see the smirk on Jack’s face.
“Yeah, but I was there too. She knows better than to disobey me and that I would keep the play safe. Goes back to that trust issue. Plus, you didn’t have any sexual contact or anything that might’ve freaked you out. Speaking of that, you got your medical test results, right?”
“Yeah. Sent them to the club the other day.”
“Good. They won’t let you in unless you can prove you’re clean. Now, back to the costume. How about something easy like a police officer or a soldier? Some take-charge type of thing would be fitting.”
“Oh, I like the idea of a soldier.” Soldiers were powerful, respected—everything Ryan thought a Dom should project. It was the perfect costume to convey the image he wanted during his first public play. Ryan quickly typed that into the search engine of the costume store. “Awesome. They have a pretty cool one.”
“See how simple it is, once you’re not freaking out? I know this is all new and a little scary for you, but remember, kinksters are people too.”
“Yeah, yeah. You guys are going to be there, right?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t let you go into the big, bad world of BDSM all by yourself. Also, I’m your sponsor, so you can’t get in without me anyway this first time.”
“Okay, cool. See you then. And thanks for talking me off the ledge.”
Jack hung up, and Ryan looked over the costume specs. It had a camouflage shirt and pants, along with a set of dog tags. He had black boots already for when he did stuff around the house. Though he wasn’t imposing by any means at five-nine and one-eighty, he wasn’t tiny either. Hopefully the costume would make him look like a bit of a badass. He flexed his bicep. Maybe allow him to show off the muscles he was just starting to develop with regular workouts at the gym over the past several months.
* * * *
On Halloween night Ryan dressed in his costume and drove to the club. Jack and Callie were waiting just inside the doors, and when Jack saw him approach, he spoke to the bouncer, who waved Ryan through without a word. Jack was clad as Zorro, and Callie’s dress, if you could call it that, was liberally scored with slashes. It looked more like a bunch of black bandages than anything else, and Ryan wondered how long Jack would allow her to remain clothed. If he knew Jack—and he felt he did after playing with him several times and spending hours talking to him about BDSM and a whole host of other topics—not long.
He wasn’t sure what was appropriate to say to Callie, so he forced his gaze away from her and greeted Jack, who grinned.
“You can tell her she looks hot. It’s not like you’ve never seen her naked.”
Ryan smiled, relaxing. He pivoted back to her. “You look hot, Callie.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Jack gestured toward the door at the end of the short hall, and Ryan could hear a bass beat pounding from the other side. He nodded, swallowing thickly. Ryan needn’t have worried, though. As soon as he stepped into the room and looked around, his nerves settled.
The people around him were engaged in all manner of things, but even a cursory glance at the various scenes playing out before him made him finally feel like he was normal. He wasn’t a freak for wanting sex and control like this, despite what his ex-wife had said when he’d suggested some pretty mild stuff to spice up their sex life.
“What do you think?” his friend shouted over the music.
“It’s fucking perfect.” Ryan couldn’t have kept that note of awe out of his voice even if he’d tried.
Jack laughed. “I figured you’d say that. I’ll give you a tour, but we need to do one thing first.”
“Lose the shirt. You’ll look way more Dom-ish without it.”
“Dom-ish?” Callie repeated with a chuckle.
“You behave before I decide to leash you,” Jack threatened. “Or maybe we can give Ryan here some more practice with that paddle you hate so much.”
She looked down. “Whatever would please you, Master.”
“Seeing your beautiful ass bright red and ready to be fucked would please me greatly, but we need to babysit Ryan for a bit longer before we can play.”
Ryan pulled off his shirt and stuffed it into his brand-new toy bag. Who would’ve thought a duffel bag he got at an academic conference would come in handy to hold the instruments of pain and pleasure he’d spent a small fortune on?
He followed Jack through the club as the other man pointed out the public play area, the theme rooms, and the staircase to the private rooms upstairs. Then they all went to the bar, which served no alcohol so as to keep the clubgoers sober for play, as Jack explained in answer to Ryan’s puzzled question. They procured soft drinks—drinks were included in the price of the membership—and found a comfy couch that was close enough to the public play area that Ryan had a good view of several scenes taking place. Jack and Ryan sat, and Callie settled on a cushion in front of her Dom.
“That girl,” Jack said, pointing to a submissive tied to a St. Andrew’s cross as a man whipped her from thighs to shoulders, “is a hard-core masochist. As you can see, she’s not wearing a collar, so she’s not owned, but stay away from her. Until you get more comfortable with impact play, all you’ll do is frustrate both of you.”
Ryan nodded, forcing himself not to wince as the man laid another welt on her ass.
“That one,” his friend continued with a jerk of his head at another submissive, “is a horrible topper-from-the-bottom. She’s definitely not a good fit for you as a beginner. I’m not really sure why any Dom would play with her. It would drive me batty to have a sub questioning my every order.”
Jack dismissed a few more for one reason or another as they sipped their beverages. There weren’t a ton of subs running around without collars, and Ryan was beginning to believe none of them would pass Jack’s muster.
“She’s a pretty one,” Jack remarked, and Ryan followed his gaze. He nearly swallowed his can of soda pop whole. Pretty didn’t begin to describe the woman. She was a few inches shorter than him, from what he could tell in his current position, and had enough meat on her bones to be curvy. If he was going to be tying a woman up and fucking the hell out of her, he wanted to be sure her ribs wouldn’t crack at the slightest provocation.
Her long brown hair was piled on top of her head, leaving the slim column of her neck exposed. Ryan loved to nibble on women’s necks, and if he had this one restrained, he’d happily spend hours torturing her in that spot. She was wearing what looked like a harem girl outfit, with a jeweled bra and flouncy, gauzy pants. From the looks of things, Ryan was pretty sure she was naked underneath them.
Jack had been speaking with Callie but straightened up. “Callie said her name is Lisette, and she’s an experienced submissive who hasn’t been to the club as far as Callie knows since her split with her Dom a while back. She’s not owned, as you can see from the fact she’s not collared. The lack of a collar doesn’t always mean a sub is not owned, but at open parties like this, all owned submissives must be collared. As you know,” he continued with a grin in Callie’s direction, “some of us can be possessive bastards, and it cuts down on potential problems.”
“Makes sense,” Ryan murmured. His friend’s eyes suddenly widened a little in anticipation, and Ryan turned in the direction of his gaze.
“Hey, do you mind if we go take advantage of that spanking bench? At these parties, equipment doesn’t stay empty long.”
“No, go ahead.”
Jack helped Callie up and landed a hard swat on her ass. “Go get it for us, pet. I’ll be right over.” He turned to Ryan. “Feel free to watch us or anyone else. We should be back within a half hour or so. Callie’s been naughty lately and needs a good dose of the belt.”
Winking, he walked away, and Ryan laughed. Before Jack had agreed to bring Ryan here for public play, he’d insisted on several private sessions at the house he and Callie shared, so Ryan knew Callie’s favorite implement was the belt. He doubted she would be too upset if Jack used it tonight.
A completely naked woman, save for a collar, came by and took their empty soda cans. Ryan gave her a small smile but kept his attention focused on the scenes unfolding around him. Jack was busy tying Callie to the spanking bench, and the masochistic woman was still being whipped—Ryan couldn’t hold back his wince this time at a particularly hard strike—and a male submissive was going to town on his Mistress’s pussy like he was mining for gold. Turning away from them, he saw a female submissive strapped to what Jack had called a bondage table with cane marks decorating her ass in perfectly spaced lines and her Dom’s dick in her mouth. He’d never tried caning, but it looked interesting, if a little scary. Hell, almost everything looked interesting right now.
Ryan continued to watch as Jack bared Callie’s ass and started out lightly flicking the belt across it. He’d explained to Ryan how important it was to warm the bottom up by bringing the blood to the surface to prevent bruising, and Ryan had spent long hours in the past couple of weeks practicing with a pillow and the strap he’d ordered along with the other stuff Jack had said he’d need to be able to play. The club had a nice selection of implements lined up on the walls of the public play area, but Jack had recommended he get used to his own so he didn’t make a mistake and hurt a submissive.
He was just about to rise and make his way back to the bar when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. The submissive Callie had called Lisette knelt directly in front of him, a bottle of water laid on her upturned palms. Ryan raised an eyebrow.
Copyright 2012, Cassandra Carr
“It’s a job. It’s not a hobby.” — Rosellen Brown