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Read Crissi Langwell a few times and you'll feel like you're really getting to know her.

Crissi, my colleague at The Press Democrat, has been tugging on heartstrings for a few years now with her personal tales of raising children and teenagers – first as a single mother and now as a mom in a blended family. Her stories have appeared in the print version of the newspaper and online at such sites as winecountrymom.com.

Crissi also wrote a pivotal chapter in last spring's "Sonoma Squares Murder Mystery," a fictional serial created by 16 Press Democrat and local writers. You can see her chapter <a href="http://digitalestories.blogs.pressdemocrat.com/17839/sonoma-squaresred-harvest-8-showdown/" target="_blank">here</a>.

Recently she's published her first novel, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/A-Symphony-Cicadas-Forever-After-ebook/dp/B00BV6GYSE" target="_blank">"A Symphony of Cicadas."</a>

"This book is based off a bad dream I had that was so vivid I knew I had to write it down," Crissi writes. The nightmare came while she was preparing for her own wedding.

Crissi acknowledges that for the novel's main character she transferred some of her own experiences "of what it was like to parent a teenager, and the evolution that exists in the relationship with a stepchild."

"However, the main purpose of the story was to share what happens when a life that is laid out so perfectly suddenly tilts on its side."

Here is a chapter from the book, in which the heroine, Rachel Ashby, in preparation for her marriage, takes her 13-year-old son to be fitted for a tuxedo. And then her world changes.

<strong>A Symphony of Cicadas

By Crissi Langwell</strong>

"That wasn't that bad, now was it?" I asked him. He turned to me in disbelief as we got into the car.

"Are you serious?" he asked. "That was horrible! Please say I don't need to do that ever again."

"Honestly, Josiah. What was so awful about that?" I kept my eyes on the road as we pulled out of the driveway and back through the quaint town. He mumbled something out of the side of his mouth in response that I couldn't quite understand. "What?" His sigh was deep as he shifted in his seat.

"She touched the 'd,'" he mumbled again.

"What? The 'dee'? What the heck are you talking about?" I asked him, confused.

"The 'd,' Mom. The boys. When she was measuring my leg, her hand brushed against it." It suddenly clicked as to what he was talking about. She had touched his penis during her measurements. And while the measurements had taken only a few moments, it must have lasted a lifetime for my teenage son. Judging by the way Joey slumped even lower in his seat, it may even have been an eternity. As I grasped what Joey was telling me, the laughter started bubbling up from deep inside me. I tried my hardest not to laugh, but I was almost crying by the time I gave up and burst out laughing.

"Mom! It's not funny!" he protested.

"I'm sorry," I chuckled, wiping my eyes. "It's totally not." I glanced over at him, and the wide look in his eyes almost sent me over the top. I bit my lip and shook with silent laughter. He couldn't help but smile as I laughed, breaking into a sheepish grin.

The Press Democrat Poll

The Press Democrat Poll asked registered voters three questions related to legalization of recreational marijuana, approved by California voters in November 2016.

Complete the following statement: I would feel safe with a legal outdoor cannabis farm one acre or less in size
Adjacent to my residence: 19%
Not adjacent but within one mile of my residence: 31%
I would not feel safe with a cannabis farm within any proximity to my residence: 46%
Don’t know: 3%
Prefer not to say: 1%

Do you believe cannabis should be grown:
Anywhere outside: 22%
Outside but only in agricultural areas: 36%
In warehouses: 23%
All cultivation should be prohibited: 12%
Don’t know: 6%
Prefer not to say: 1%

Do you believe California’s legalization of recreational cannabis use, and its new regulations for cannabis-related business activities will increase, decrease or have no effect on crime in the area?
Increase: 35%
Decrease: 18%
No effect: 40%
Don’t know: 6%
Prefer not to say: 1%

"Did you like it?" I couldn't help but ask, and he groaned in response.

"I totally got wood," he said, to which I caved to the hilarity of the situation and burst out into a full-on fit of giggles. Even Joey, despite his red face, grinned as we moved further away from the store.

"See?" I said. "Going to a wedding shop isn't so bad. I mean, you might get felt up by the staff."

"Ugh, Mom. You're so gross. She was like fifty."

"Watch it, buddy. She was younger than I am," I shot back, taking my hand off the wheel to nudge him. He laughed as he ducked out of the way.

"Mom, watch out!" he cried, the terror in his voice breaking the moment without warning.

I jerked my head forward as a semi-truck straddled the yellow line on the windy road, coming straight at us. With no shoulder on the road, there wasn't anywhere to pull over on my right. Instead, the right hand side was bordered by a sheer hill that crowded the road. On the other side of the road was a steep drop carpeted with thousands of trees. I had nowhere to move as the truck barreled towards us, and I weighed out my best chance of survival in a flurry of thoughts that lived within a second. My foot hovered over the brake, but I then saw my chance in the widening space on the other side of the truck. My only hope of survival was if the truck driver understood what I was doing, and moved over to the wrong side of the road to allow me to drive on the left.

I jammed my foot onto the accelerator and gunned it forward, driving over the yellow line and onto the left side of the road. The truck driver blasted his horn as I passed his truck, my tiny car teetering on the edge of the sloped roadway. I breathed a sigh of relief as I sensed the truck making room for me. However, I didn't anticipate the cars behind the truck. An older red car appeared out of nowhere, and I only caught a glimpse of the driver's terrified face before I swerved left to avoid hitting them. All my efforts of staying on the road were for naught as our car sailed over the edge of the roadway, floating towards the sea of green that lay in the forest below.

We were going down.

In between the chaos we'd just left on the road above us and the impact we were headed for on the ground far below, there existed a few silent seconds that became little lifetimes wrapped up in the shifting of tides. As memories and thoughts of John and Sam, my parents and sister, and everything I held close to me fluttered in scattered images behind my vision, I looked at Joey's silent and terrified face. He never made a sound as his eyes met mine. We both knew that this wouldn't have a good outcome. I reached out for him and he took my hand, squeezing it as if my hold would keep him safe. And it felt like I held his hand for years as we waited in the silence for what was going to come next.

"I'm sorry," I mouthed to him, unable to break the silence. He only nodded and squeezed my hand tighter.

There was a loud bang as his hand ripped from mine, and a searing pain electrocuted my body. I could hear a piercing scream inside my head as it rattled through my chest. The wail that escaped my lips drowned out the muffled crunching sounds of the trees colliding with the metal of our car. I grabbed blindly for Joey, no longer able to see anything. But I couldn't find him. The world thundered around me, making up for my loss of sight by flooding my ears with an undecipherable static. My voice was silenced by the eruption of sound, and by the gurgling liquid that invaded my lungs and left a copper vapor in my mouth.

The deafening noises around me began to fade into the distance, and I felt relief at the silence. There was peace within the absence of chaotic sound. The car seemed to have stopped falling, teetering upon what I guessed was a branch or the top of a tree. I couldn't feel my legs, and my hands were starting to go numb as well. It was like they were sleeping, inviting me to go with them as I faded in and out of consciousness.

Somewhere far away, a bird tested out the startled quiet with a soft song. It was soon joined by other calls in the forest. Sensing how alone I was, I focused on the cries that surrounded me, letting them become my faltering heartbeat, my labored breathing, the heaviness in my head. Their song wove in and out of my senses, echoing in a dance of sounds. They, too, began to fade away. I yearned for the sound to remain in my ears, knowing that once they disappeared I would be on my own. But the sense of peace grew, wrapping my cold body in its layers of warmth. I felt my head grow even heavier against the car seat, the pain in my body evaporating with the sounds. When the last bird had sung, the whole world became quiet.

And I was cast into a sea of nothing.

You can learn more about Crissi and the novel at <a href="http://crissilangwell.com">crissilangwell.com</a>

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