Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Gift of Time

There have been many memorable gifts, like the easel, brush, canvas board and oil paints and the Shirley Temple doll with teeth locked in her characteristic smile, but I would have to say the year my brother turned the tables on me gift wise was the most memorable, even more so than the year my brand new husband bought me a black turtleneck collar and gave it to me wrapped in a big balloon filled with air and shiny mauve tinsel. He got it Christmas Eve just before the stores closed.

I usually manage to give gifts I am sure the recipient will love and I give the gifts with flair, like the year I gave my sister-in-law nothing lavishly wrapped in succeedingly smaller boxes. My brother took a page from my notebook and gave me a gift I still treasure -- paper. It wasn't as simple as that. There's more to the story.

Christmas Eve is the traditional big family gift exchange in our family. Everyone gathers at Mom and Dad's house with their kids, contributions to the feast and the bags of gifts. I usually attend alone since I'm single and my children are grown with their own families and do not live in Ohio (neither do I now).

One Christmas Eve about twelve years ago, I sensed something in the air and it wasn't the surprise I had planned for my father. It was something someone else had arranged and I could feel the tension, everyone's eyes on me. I tried to catch them staring, but everyone pointedly ignored me when I looked at them and much giggling ensued. Something was definitely up. I sat quietly watching everyone open their gifts and the children ooh-ing and aah-ing and squealing with delight as they opened the hills of wrapped packages in front of them. I got a gift from my parents, something my mother picked out and which i have now blocked out to retain my sanity and holiday spirit. It was usually something gaudy, something I would never buy for myself or even look longingly at in the catalogs that constant bombard me in the mail all year long.

When the tension was taut enough to walk across the room three feet above the carpeting, someone cracked. I think it was one of my brother's kids, probably Alisha since she has the secret keeping ability of a true tattletale. "Daaaaaad!" she wailed. "Now. Do it now!"

My brother and his wife locked eyes. His wife Bobbie shrugged her shoulders and Jimmy got up and walked into the dining room, appearing with a large and very heavy box and a mischievous gleam in his eyes. Something was definitely up and I was about to get it.

Jimmy drew my name at Thanksgiving and I, wanting to avoid more gaudy and horrid gifts, gave him a list of things I would like and need. To anyone but me, they didn't seem festive or Christmas gift-like enough, but they were what I wanted--and needed. With any luck, the box he hefted toward me and dumped with an ominous thud at my feet would not contain an anvil or yet another exercise machine I would put together, use for thirty minutes and then ignore until it was home to dusty cobwebs and dried out insect carcasses. I crossed my fingers and opened the box, careful not to jiggle or otherwise set off the holiday bomb I was certain waited inside.

With a sigh of relief, I uncovered a large box of paper just right for my computer. I said thank you and waited for everyone else to continue opening their gift while I mulled the logistics of getting the box from the trunk of my car and into my house without a hernia or worse.

"Go on. Open it," J.C. urged. I never noticed that his eyes gleamed with the same mischievous light that my brother's often held.

"I did. I love it. I was almost out of paper."

"No, open the box."

Oh, no. It is something gaudy and horrible. I'll just leave it in the garage and shove it in a corner. "All right. All right."

I lifted the lid and pulled back the tissue paper. Tissue paper? This is getting interesting. There was a piece of paper written with a calligraphic font and underneath were stacks and stacks of money. Fives, tens, twenties, and... oh, yes, it is . . .FIFTIES. Each neat bundle was wrapped with a banking band stating the amount of each. I was afraid to look any further. My brother wasn't rich, so he had to have robbed a bank and shared it with me. Bless his pale, hairy hide.

I picked up a stack and fanned through them, turning sideways so as not to ignite the flames of lust that surely burned in each and every one of my family members' greedy hearts. That's when I caught on. Each bundle was fronted by a Xeroxed copy of a bill and beneath were blank pieces of paper cut to size. I quickly checked the other stacks and they were the same. Not only that, they were only two stacks of bills deep. Beneath was the paper I needed and had put on my list.

"Read the note."

Since I can't afford to give you money, here's a box full of paper to make your own. I've started it for you.

I laughed until I cried. Jimmy's kids talked over each other, explaining how their dad had gone to the bank for the wrappers, used his new color printer to copy the bills and measured and cut each stack to perfection. He wouldn't allow anyone to help and he went through a few reams of his own paper to get the stacks and the Xeroxed bills just right. He had even pulled the magnetic strips from some of his own money to sandwich between the copied bills so they would seem real. It was a labor of love and time that I will never forget.

The stacks of bills are safely hidden in a locked metal box along with the note and the reams of paper became stories and novels long ago. The memory, however, remains fresh and bright and I bring it out every Christmas Eve to hang on my memory tree.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Behind the Scenes

Various friends, intent on sharing their favorite new shows, have urged me to check them out. The list keeps growing and I finally managed to get through a few of them, three to be exact: Hawaii Five-O, The Walking Dead and Mike and Molly. I have opinions about them all.

First of all, I do not like zombies. I almost want to add, "Sam I am." I have read very few zombie stories that actually had more in them that literary versions of George Romero's classic movie, Night of the Living Dead. There is not much about zombies to like and most people get the biology completely wrong, unaware as they are of the decomposition of the human body and that rate at which the decomposition compromises function. I have seldom been entranced, awed or even not disgusted by zombie stories. It's no wonder vampires are more interesting and palatable as forbidden fruit; they can talk and move without bits of them falling off and there's the whole being able to interact with humans on an intellectual and personal level that is absent with zombies. Few writers, or filmmakers, make it to the top of my list when zombies are in the mix. Cast a Deadly Spell with Fred Ward is a good example of an interesting story with zombies where they are mindless workers and muscle for the bad guys. In those capacities, they make sense, and there is also the mention that they come cheaper by the dozen and have a very short shelf life, although I doubt I would want to live in a tract house built by zombie labor simply because there would undoubtedly be pieces of rotting flesh in the plaster, beneath the flooring and in the walls that would make the houses uninhabitable for at least a few months until the bits dried out and were less smelly. The only writer who makes the addition of zombies about something other than the inevitable apocalypse and armies of animated rotting corpses interesting add other elements, like Brian Keene's old race coming into our world through a wormhole and animating the dead in order to take back this dimension and Scott Edelman's zombies that provide the backdrop to a larger human truth. Those stories are interesting.

And there is Mary Ann who wrote a fascinating short story that remains with me. It is she, who dislikes zombies as much as I do, who raved about The Walking Dead from the AMC channel and pointedly urged me to watch the show. And I did. Aside from what seems at this point to be a very short-lived series since the main goals are gained within the first three shows, I cannot see how it can continue and not fall into supernatural soap opera territory. However, the show is interesting and I was quickly engaged.

The story revolves around a wounded cop and his search for his family, which he believes survived the zombie apocalypse. I won't tell the story or spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen this well written and acted series, but I will say it held my interest and I went back to watch the second installment. I was not expecting to make it through the first half hour, let alone two shows, which is all that is available at this point. The main character is handsome, but he has brains and compassion. He is a thoughtful and well rounded character with depth and he can act. The other characters he meets along the way, apart from the walking, shambling and sometimes running zombies, have depth and purpose and the actors portraying them get it right. The show is smart and interesting and very well done. The budget is not endless and there aren't a lot of explosions, other than gun fire, but the cast and crew make the most of what they have. This show is definitely worth watching, although I do believe it will have to pull a zombie rabbit out of the hat to keep up the momentum and set new goals to reach since the original goal is fast running out of time and heading toward what could be a soap opera cliche moment.

Christy suggested I watch Mike & Molly, the story of two fat people looking for an possibly finding love while surrounded by skinny people who torture them with advice while gorging themselves on massive quantities of food.

I read some of the articles and forum postings about this show and I don't agree that the fat jokes over shadow and outweigh the relationship between Mike and Molly. Mike is a cop and Molly is a fourth grade teacher who meet by chance at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting (OA) and are interested. Mike makes a fool of himself, as some guys do, and Molly is baffled by what seems to be his interest and his rapid retreat, until she has to take matters into her own hands, as women often do when faced with clueless and socially inept men, or at least men whose social skills are rusty and stiff from lack of use. One blogger complained that she found it disgusting to see Mike and Molly in a romantic clinch, but I did not. Romance is romance no matter the size of the people involved, and a kiss is still a kiss. The fat jokes do tend toward the sophomoric, but they are, at least from the four shows I watched, not out of place, if a bit mean at times. I wasn't completely put off because that is how most people, the fat and the thin, deal with the issue of obesity -- by self deprecating humor and meanness. I still have quite a few shows to get through before I decide whether or not the fat jokes take away from the awkward and burgeoning romance of two very nice and complex people.

The final show is Hawaii Five-O and I wasn't as put off by the show as most of the critic have been. It is a show about blowing things up, car chases, gun battles and beating up the bad (and good) guys. I remember the original series and was suitably interested in Jack McGarret and Dan-o, but my favorite character was Chin Ho, now played by Daniel Dae Kim, who is much younger than the original character and Korean and not Chinese. The other character on the team, previously played by another Asian and quite forgettable as characters go, is now played by Grace Park and is Chin Ho's cousin. Grace Park, of BSG fame, is also Korean. I guess the Asian races are interchangeable, at least in television.

Alex O'Loughlin plays Jack McGarrett and he is real eye candy. I liked him the first time I saw him and loved him as the vampire detective in Moonlight, the CBS series canceled after one season. I guess they are planning to cancel him again and put him into another detective or cop or enforcer slot on another remake show if the howling over low ratings continues. CBS obviously likes the actor, but can't come up with the right vehicle for his considerable talents.

McGarrett was born on Oahu, the main Hawaiian island, and is drawn back there by a continuing hunt for terrorists led by two brothers, one of whom he has captured in South Korea. One brother is killed in a failed rescue attempt and McGarrett's father is killed by the remaining brother, thus luring McGarrett back to Hawaii to bury his father and continue his five-year-long hunt to end the international arms trafficking and terrorism fronted by the brothers. Jean Smart, once Charlene of Designing Women fame, is suitably a tough politico governor who is willing to give McGarrett carte blanche and immunity to form a task force to rid her turf of terrorists and bad guys. She wants them off her island. McGarrett initially refuses until he is caught trying to remove evidence from an active crime scene by the haole from the Mainland assigned to his father's murder investigation, the new and not much improved Dan-o, an arrogant cop from New Jersey who relocated to be closer to his daughter, his wife having remarried and moved to the tropical paradise. Dan-o doesn't understand why anyone would want to live in Hawaii since there are no big cities, no skyscrapers and too much beach and water. He doesn't swim for fun and doesn't like the sun unfiltered by smog and mile-high buildings.

Chin Ho is a security guard who was kicked off the force because he was suspected of being on the take who got caught and his cousin is a world class surfer who blew out her knee and is one week shy of graduating from the police academy who will not be taken seriously because she's a woman and his cousin. Chin Ho is not eager to join forces with his old high school buddy, the guy who broke his high school football record, and his cousin is only along for the ride because she is unknown and can go undercover with the head human trafficker in humans on the island. All in all, a fair mix of talent and sexes that supposedly mirrors a PC cross section of the social classes.

There is plenty of action and lots of explosions in the first few moments of the show and they predictably continue throughout. On that side at least the show works. It does what it is meant to do, give those jonesing for summer action films a dose of special effects, blood and bullets on the small screen to ease their cravings. The relationships work less. Dan-o is insubordinate and cocky and a smart ass. McGarrett is far too belligerent and tough with a mere ounce of humor and compassion, which is probably because his father was just killed and he is on the trail of his murderer. McGarrett is smart, savvy and very unorthodox and that does work in his favor. However, he has been away from Hawaii too long to understand how the island works even though that is why the governor chose him for the task, because he understands how the island works. Definitely a fail in dialogue and stated motives. The Governor is a no-nonsense, tough talking politico who folds under pressure even though she has extended the offer of immunity, and must be reminded of how things work. A bit on the wishy-washy side, although I still cannot figure out why a cop would need immunity in the first place, unless it's another way of saying McGarrett and his future team will not be subject to the law and will be in essence a black operations team.

One of the things I liked most about the original show was the integrity of the members of McGarrett's team. They may brush the edges of the law, but they stayed within its confines. Maybe that says more about the current state of affairs in the war on terrorism -- excuse me, the situation of terrorism since there is no more war with the current administration -- and the techniques used to gain information and bring down suspected and known terrorists. It's like saying water boarding is all right with the Governor and the team can do whatever they like without fear of reprisal, although I doubt that is an issue for the current McGarrett's team.

Chin Ho signs on and brings his cousin, Kono, with him. As Kono, Grace Park looks suitably waif-like, which is part of what worked for her as a Cylon in Battlestar Galactica and made her a sympathetic character even though she was a mole for the bad guys, but she is far from being a conflicted waif. She is as rough and tough and ready to smash in a guy's face with a "love tap" as any of the team. What happened to women who were women and not men in drag? I remember the women on the Mission Impossible team and how they finessed their opponents, not merely resorted to kick boxing and love taps. Kono is about as soft as a granite bed and just about as engaging. Daniel Dae Kim is more a prop than an actual character, a mine of information about the way things are done on the island, but barely there when it comes down to brass knuckles and gun battles. That is McGarrett and Dan-o's turf, and they do it without winning too easily and come away with a few battle scars. Well, at least McGarrett got a few bruises and battle scars while Dan-o remained clean and unruffled throughout, still trash talking and smart mouthing to the end.

Hawaii Five-O is a commentary on what Hollywood, on the small and large screens, thinks the real world is like and less about a smart cop show with beautiful vistas and lots of sand and surf. The characters mirror those goals and are good for a fight and show up well against the backdrop of crime, blood, explosions, and bullets. Don't expect any real depth, although there were glimmers that no doubt will be eradicated in future shows. Even the stated reason for forming the task force with McGarrett at its head -- because he knows how the island works -- is refuted in the first few minutes of the show when McGarrett meets Dan-o and signs him on because he has a new and different perspective and then bumps into Chin Ho Kelly for the first time in 15 years and is told he is out of the loop. This version of the original in no way improves on the original formula and is all about action and special effects and not so much about people or any insights into current world politics, methods, and means. It is a Band-Aid for die hard Die Hard fans and little more. Too bad, because it has the right talent and the potential for much more, and it fails. Still, Alex O'Loughlin and Daniel Dae Kim, what I saw of him in his rubber bullet uniform, are worth watching just as eye candy.

That's it for some of the shows I have been urged to watch. In short, The Walking Dead is surprisingly good and a smart, well written show. Mike & Molly has potential and is charming and the new and special effects improved Hawaii Five-O is not new, special or much improved. It would be better to wait until everyone who remembers the original shows when they were smarter, funnier and just better to die before remaking another old series. It seldom works out.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Changing and rearranging

I bought a little space heater and at first I wasn't sure it was a bargain. It smelled from the heat and the ceramic, but that went away. Then the automatic thermostat wouldn't work right unless I turned it all the way down, and then it did after using it for several days. And it gets very hot, hot enough to keep the furnace off even when it's on 60 degrees. It's good that something is going right for a change. It's about time.

After eight months spent on Authonomy, Harper Collins' website to work through the slush pile, and doing a lot of reading, critiquing and fending off evil people wanting me to back horrid books, Harper Collins decided to change the way things worked. I had moved up from the 10,000 range to 102 and November would mean finally breaking 100, down to 97. Imagine my shock when I signed onto the site after the retooling and found I had slipped to 538 and continued to fall throughout the day to 628. Books that had been on the site for less than 48 hours were on the editor's desk and I was languishing in the toolies. Not happy at all. I was devastated. After all, how should I feel after spending so much of my time and expertise reading and critiquing wretched dreck, and admittedly some few good books, to find I had lost so much ground. I nearly gave up.

After reading through the notes on the retooling and how the new algorithms work, I have finally inched up to 262 after nearly a week. I'm still not happy and the same old vultures are begging me to back their books and give them a boost, but that's all part of the game, and it is a game, of sorts, the game of getting noticed by a big publisher and getting published. Harper Collins doesn't take unagented manuscripts and I wanted to break into the UK market and HC in the US. It was the quickest way to do that since I haveommen queried fifteen agents and ten of them have turned me down. I'm still looking and submitting. At any rate, I've decided to give it another month and if things don't improve, I'm back to the old fashioned method of submitting by email and snail mail. After all, it's not any slower than the eight months it took me to get within striking distance of an actual editor and agent.

Tomorrow is November 1st, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, or, as those of us who have participated call it, NaNoWriMo. I don't know if I have the time to do it this month. However, I do highly recommend it as a means to provide a deadline and a definite goal. It helps a lot and helps writers to budget their time and hit a very low target of fifty thousand words in 30 days. It's worth the effort. Check it out. There are a lot of good people, many of whom have been doing this for years, and there are probably a few in your neighborhood where you can get together to support each other. Give it a shot.

I did a book signing and reading in Denver yesterday with another Chicken Soup author and had quite a surprise. I have fans, not a lot, but a few. I think I might have even made a few new fans after the reading because they bought several other Chicken Soup books that contained my stories. One fan, a guy, asked me to sign a copy of my novel, Past Imperfect. He said he hoped I would write more romances that guys would enjoy. He was impressed with the characters and especially the female protagonist (that would be Diana) because she was strong and knew exactly what she wanted. He wanted to know what happened to Adrian and Logan before and after the book, but I couldn't tell him because I haven't written that yet. He especially liked the parts about flying and said I got them right. When I asked him how he knew, he said he knew a little bit about flying. I'll say he did. He was an Air Force pilot stationed at the Academy. Yes, he knew a little bit.

Every day is different, and everything changes. I am enjoying the changes, most of them, and look forward to the future -- as long as it does not include being chained to a desk 8-14 hours a day typing operative reports. Maybe I will give NaNoWriMo a whirl. There are worse things I can do with my time and I might just turn out another book some agent and publisher will be excited about publishing. Stranger things have happened.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Tiger by the Tail

It is quiet for a change. The sounds of traffic on Colorado Avenue are muffled by the windows shut tightly against the cold breeze and another gray day. The little tree outside my window is finally turning gold and rustling briskly in the rising breeze. Inside, even with the thermostat set at 60 degrees, it is fairly warm, or at least comfortable, and I'm still smiling and chuckling from reading another Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse book. This time it was Definitely Dead and it was a pip, if a bit of a confusing book at first.

I already knew I liked Quinn from the previous book when he was Master of Ceremonies for the choosing of a new pack master for the Shreveport Weres, but I liked him even more as the book progressed. Unlike Sookie, I wouldn't have balked at finding a quiet spot and wrapping my legs around Quinn's substantial and muscular waist. But then, I'm not a twenty-something single woman who lost her virginity about a year ago either. I was married and divorced at twenty-five. I'm also not a telepath like Sookie either.

The big confusion came with one of the main events of the story: settling cousin Hadley's estate.

Hadley had been murdered by another vampire a couple months before and Sookie talked about it as if it had been part of the previous book, Dead as a Doornail. I'm a careful reader and I didn't remember anything at all about Hadley's death, the search for her killer or the subsequent punishment meted out by Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Louisiana's vampire queen, or that she had come to Sookie's house to tell her about it. Uh, no, didn't happen. I wracked my brain and fussed and fumed over the missing scenes and info, and even went so far as to go back and read some of the latter chapters. Not there. How could I have missed it? Did I have defective books? Was I sold short? No.

The whole incident appears, I found after a Google search, in a short story, One Word Answer, in an anthology edited by Laurel K. Hamilton: Bite. Okay, I can deal with that. I now have to get the anthology and read the pertinent story, but at least I'm not losing my mind and I'm still a careful reader with excellent recall, a must for a book reviewer like me.

The usual blend of down home earthy wisdom and humor, Sookie's usual strength, intelligence and creativity in difficult situations and a blend of mystery, romance, sex and colorful characters are packed between the covers of Definitely Dead. I was not at all disappointed -- except for Sookie's very wise and completely inhibited choices, but that is who she is. She is at least true to her character and her nature, and she finally finds out that she is part fairy. Makes her feel that much more insecure, but not nearly as insecure as finding out Bill Compton, her first lover, seduced her at Sophie-Anne's orders. He says he fell in love with her once he met her, but it's too little too late and I'd react the same way Sookie did: disbelief and abjuration. Get out of my face and out of my life, you low life, double dealing, two-timing vampire Lothario!

Sophie-Anne in the books is not nearly as vapid and conceited as she appears on the show, True Blood, but few of the characters actually turn out the way Charlaine Harris envisions them in her novels. They are far different in Alan Ball's version, but that's what you get for artistic license, even when the license is as broad as Alan Ball sees it. I enjoy the HBO series and Charlaine Harris's books, but I do not confuse the two. I have seldom seen a movie or TV series based on a book that comes out the way the author intended. It's all about personal interpretations. I am sure that were I to dramatize some of my favorite books and stories, my take would be different than the author's original vision, but I would stick closer to the original plan than most directors, writers and producers usually do. It is the same in any relationship. People on the outside see a relationship differently than those on the inside, and the people involved in the relationship see it differently than their partner. We bring ourselves and our experiences, prejudices and viewpoints to every relationship and they are never the same as someone else's. Just like me being very willing to take Quinn for the tiger ride of his life while Sookie demurs. She is also reluctant to sleep in the same bed with him while he's still sporting his tiger tail. I think it would be even more fun.

Quinn is a weretiger, a Bengal tiger, 7 feet long and about 3 feet high at the shoulders. I do love cats, especially big cats.

Now I have to dive into a biography about the men who created today's tabloid journalism, and it's a big book. I'd rather dive back into the next Sookie book and see what happens next, but I'm a professional and must put the needs of paychecks before pleasure, and hope there is at least some pleasure in reading the biography. I have been surprised before.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gathering the ragged ends of family

Since I began a nightly regimen, I've been sleeping better -- and longer. This morning I was awakened by Beanie calling on the phone. I was half awake already, waiting for her call, and reached out for the phone with my eyes still closed and sleep-heavy limbs. I didn't even open my eyes when I thumbed the cell phone open and said hello.

"It's done," she said. "Took five minutes . . . and Randy brought Terry. He lied to his attorney when he said he wouldn't be there. That's why he signed the paper yesterday."

No surprise there. Randy is a liar. He always lies, most often to create chaos, keep Beanie off balance and just because, even when the truth sounds better, he goes for the lie. That's who he is.

It is over. Beanie is divorced.

Randy didn't expect Beanie to bring the Mushroom, but she and I planned it earlier this week to make sure she had a witness of her own. The Mushroom said that Terry said hello to him after they left the judge's chambers and that Randy was crying. Randy is such a girl, a real drama queen, and he has some serious psychological problems. He's passive-aggressive, narcissistic, abusive, histrionic and manipulative, and I'm just hitting the tip of the iceberg that is the psychological stew of his warped psyche. After all, he is the son of a man who, after a lovely anniversary dinner with his wife, picked up a baseball bat and bashed in her skull while she was undressing. He went to prison for twenty years and, when he was released, he moved right in with a multi-millionairess who keeps him in a style he rapidly became accustomed to. His wife, Randy's mother Cathy, still has lingering deficits from the trauma and has undergone some extensive surgery to repair the physical damage. Randy and his father are close, although, after the brutal beating, he refused to see or talk to his father -- at least that anyone knows for certain. They are close now, very close.

Randy has anger management issues and is a control freak. It's a good thing that Beanie got out when she did, even after 26 years, but she'll not be free of him, not as long as he's alive, and that the sad thing about it. Randy has splintered our rudderless family in the wake of my father's death three years ago and our mother and Hoity-Toity supported him through this divorce, not Beanie, their own flesh and blood. Hoity-Toity has gotten very close to Randy, supposedly because they share a common history (her fourth husband left her for another woman, a Malaysian woman who gave birth to his illegitimate son while married to Hoity), having been dumped by someone they loved. Now Hoity and Randy are taking ballroom dancing lessons together and he's free to follow his heart -- probably right into Hoity's bed and home. You just never know.

With Mom, it's easier to see what's going on. She loves to be the center of attention and is a big supporter of abusive marriages, since she abused Dad for over fifty years. There's also that gleam that comes into her eye and the unmistakable signs of flirting whenever Randy is around, any young man for that matter. She's a tee-totaling Calvinist, but she's not immune to testosterone and flattery. What elderly heterosexual woman is? I've seen it many times, elderly women without men of their own who preen and flirt with any young man who comes within shouting distance, giggling and batting their eyelashes and hanging on every word with a discreet touch of hand or fingers on the masculine arm whenever one is close to hand.

At least this part of the drama is over and Beanie can move on with her life. Mom bemoans the fact that none of her children are married now and because of that she will not be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. I guess those are reserved for people with spouses, however miserable they may be with those spouses. Family means two spouses and children; nothing else qualifies. She cries that her family is splintered, but there is no strong-willed matriarch clinging to the ragged ends of her family that should include her children (spouse or no spouse) and grandchildren. None of those matter without their anchoring partners to give them legitimacy. Any other mother determined to hold her family together would have a family Thanksgiving with her children and their children and their children's boyfriends, girlfriends and friends. That is how a family stays together, not because they are legitimate by right of marriage, but because they are legitimate by right of birth.

Beanie told me she probably wouldn't have Thanksgiving dinner either. "What's the point?" The point is family and stability. She could have dinner at her house with her children and her friends and their children and invite the Mushroom since he has nowhere else to go -- but to family, and she is family. The Mushroom might even bring his children and his son JC might bring a girlfriend. Family is family and the boundaries of family keep changing, should change as it grows and expands, spreading outward from a warm and loving center. If I still lived in Ohio, I would have Thanksgiving dinner and make sure Beanie, her friends and their children, my nephews and nieces, and the Mushroom were invited. I'd invite some of our other relatives, family that live locally and have fallen off the family map for whatever reason. A little help from everyone, a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm sure it would be fun and warm and . . . family. But I don't live there and will have to make do with my usual gallery of friends and fiends for the holiday feast. Family is what you make it.

All I can hope is that the reality of this divorce sinks in and Beanie takes up the ragged ends of her life and moves boldly towards a happier future. She has the means to make it so and she deserves a much happier life than she has had. Don't we all?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't crowd the mushrooms

There's a line in Julie/Julia that finally made sense to me this morning: Don't crowd the mushrooms.

I wanted something fast and easy this morning for breakfast. Didn't have any eggs, but I did have some steak and mushrooms, so steak and mushrooms it was. With Don't crowd the mushrooms repeating in my head, I sliced mushrooms, added butter to the olive oil and dumped the mushrooms in. Instantly, the kitchen filled with the fragrance of earth and butter and the fruitiness of olive oil. I get the good stuff. I shook the pan and flipped the mushrooms only one layer deep in the pan and something magical began to happen: they browned. Browned mushrooms. usually they become lighter in color and silt and sweat, but they don't brown, not until this morning. Don't crowd the mushrooms. When the mushrooms were done, I dumped in the beef, searing it quickly in the mushroom liquor, butter and olive oil, shaking the pan and turning the meat over until the pink was gone from the surface (I like my meat medium rare), reveling in the aroma of grass fed beef marbled lightly with white fat and beginning to crisp in the hot pan and the residue of butter, olive oil and mushrooms. Talk about seductive and mouthwatering. I could hardly wait to eat.

The first bite was heaven. the browned mushrooms were earthy and wonderful and the meat tender and still a bit bloody on the inside, just the way I like it. The only thing missing was eggs, at least two of them. Every bite was a taste sensation of fresh ingredients and culinary perfection. I lingered over each bite, letting the succulent juices linger on my tongue, savoring each bite. I am sated, not just by food, but by the wonderful taste and the aroma of earthy, fruity, buttery mushrooms that makes me want to inhale deeply to keep the scent fresh in my mind and on my palate.

That's the thing about food. You can eat quickly and without fuss, getting a random taste of this or that ingredient, passively noting the taste of unexciting and ordinary food that nourishes and fuels the body, or you can eat slower and enjoy each mouthful before, during and after the meal is finished. There is something to be said for home cooked food, but what it really boils down to is simply well cooked food that makes use of the best ingredients by the best methods. You can eat to live or live to eat, and the latter is not really a bad thing. Eating to live is simply pumping in the fuel without regard for the ingredients or method of delivery. You could take vitamins and supplements and wolf down the food and it will still fill the engine and do the work it's meant to do. In living to eat, we absorb the nutrients and engage all the senses until food becomes a spiritual experience that connects us to the earth and the elements. I know, it sounds so airy-fairy; in a way, it is. That doesn't mean it's not right.

What got me thinking about the way I've been eating to live lately is an ad I came across for Rocky Mountain grass fed beef and lamb. I buy organic, grass fed meat, but I haven't given it much though or spent much time in preparing the food, except as fuel and not as a whole body-mind experience. No wonder I've been out of sorts and feeling a bit down lately. I have been fueling the engine, but completely forgot about fueling the mind and spirit. We are more than an intricate mechanical contrivance with sentience, we are an entity of mind, body and spirit and every part of us needs to be nourished, fed, nurtured and honored. I guess that is what is meant as the body being the temple, a temple that houses the intangibles that make us who we are: the spirit and the mind.

The more science uncovers, the further we get from being whole. We treat ourselves as though we can detail the outside and forget about the engine, the fuel, the electrical and computer systems and everything that makes the vehicle go. It's like having find leather seats and a state of the art CD/DVD player in a car that is rusted and has no tires with brake lines that are completely dry. Okay, that's a very simplistic analogy, but it makes a point.

Everything we do, everything we see and experience, is all part of what nourishes the whole being, the body, mind and spirit. I've been feeding myself, but not in a substantial way, not in a way that takes into account the whole being. Eating without engaging the senses, without feeding the mind and spirit, is eating to live, fueling a broken car or one that is nearly broken, falling into a deep rut that keeps getting deeper with every passing day that I ignore the rest of me, the intangibles that make me whole. I will never crowd the mushrooms again and I will definitely spend more time on living to eat. I already feel better. Think what days, weeks and months of living to eat will accomplish. I can hardly wait to find out. Time to get out the pots, pans and utensils. I'm going shopping.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just missed it again, but there's hope

I suppose I should be humble, very humble, about my latest honorable mention, but I wanted at least to get in the running. I did notice that most of the stories in the semi-finals for the Red Room's Scandalously Short Story Contest are literary stories and mine isn't. Two days is not enough time to write and polish a good literary story, good enough to win a prize, especially when I have a full time job and a part time job writing book reviews that takes up so much of my time. Doesn't leave a lot for writing, editing and polishing a literary story, especially when I'm polishing two novels at the same time. I went with a story I wrote for another contest, Legacy, one that I will spin out some day and throw in some length, depth and words so it will be a full length short story. Legacy is based on an idea for another story and may even end up as a sequel to a novel I've written. I do love dark fantasies, especially when they involve Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of my favorite Robert Louis Stevenson stories.

Stevenson wrote a lot of dark tales, horror really, in the dark vein of Edgar Allen Poe, and I do love horror. I don't get enough of it any more now that horror is considered to be less interesting than paranormals and thrillers and zombies. Speaking of zombies, I actually have a story mapped out that includes a whole lot of zombies -- in a good cause -- and war. After all, where else would you want zombies but in the battle zone. Lots of material to work with. Believe me, the South will rise again . . . and again. And I'm not a big fan of zombies. There's not much to work with.

At any rate, I began this post to mention the mention of one of my stories and find myself actually eager to continue writing. I hope you don't mind.

Although I've been busy with work, very busy, and keeping up my various obligations with promoting my books and reading review books, I haven't felt much like writing. The muse has been inconsistent and I've been a little less eager to write than I usually am. I work best when I have a deadline and some specific goal ahead. Otherwise, I flounder and waffle and do the avoidance dance. I have come up with an idea that might help boost my energy and get me excited about writing (editing and polishing really takes it out of me) and I wonder if there is any interest here, or suggestions to refine the idea, so I come to you. I've only told one other person, and my paper journal, so I thought I'd toss out the idea and see what comes back.

As some of you may have noticed, I've had a lot of stories published in anthologies, quite a few in Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort. After years of rejections (no news is no news), I finally began selling all the stories I submitted. I had found the key to getting published and I think it's time to share the key. Many people have interesting stories to tell and just need a little help, or a lot of help, to make their stories publishable. To that end, I thought I'd put together a seminar to help writers get their nonfiction stories published, how to make them evocative, how to polish and hone the main theme (you usually only get 1200 words or less) and make the stories read for submission and publication. There is a method to the madness and I enjoy sharing what I've learned. Here's your chance to stop the madness (me putting together a seminar or workshop) before it gets rolling. Tell me what you think.

In the meantime, I'd also like to suggest taking a chance and writing your 1st or 101st nonfiction story and win an autographed copy of the latest anthology containing two of my stories: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters. There is still time until October 19th for the Make Me Laugh contest. I look forward to your entries.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Long ago and not so far away

While in a nostalgic old Disney movie mood last weekend, I watched Summer Magic, the end of a long weekend of Hayley Mills movies that included The Moon Spinners and Pollyanna. I don't think I had ever seen Summer Magic with Burl Ives, Dorothy McGuire and Peter Brown as the charming Yellow Peril who could swoop down at any moment and take away the Carey family's new home in Beulah, Maine.

The movie was charming and old-fashioned and included lots of Disney's natural wildlife series footage, of bugs since Burl Ives was singing At the Ugly Bug Ball to Jimmy Mathers, younger brother of Jerry Mathers of Leave it to Beaver fame. Burl Ives was affable and smiling, as he was in most movies, except when he starred as the Captain Morton in Ensign Pulver when Robert Walker, Jr., as Ensign Pulver, under the guidance of the Doc, played by Walter Matthau, takes out Captain Morton's appendix while drunk on native fermented frog juice. I enjoyed the music and the simple tale of a widow and her children suddenly down on their financial luck who move to the sticks in Beulah and renovate an old birthday cake Victorian home that doesn't belong to them while the owner, Thomas Hamilton, supposedly in China (hence the Yellow Peril moniker), gives them carte blanche to do what they will without paying rent as long as they honor his mother by hanging her portrait in a prominent place and placing a bouquet of flowers on her birthday, Halloween. Needless to say, it was a charming little film, typical of Disney in those simpler days of the 1950s and 1960s. The kicker came later when I checked out Peter Brown.

I didn't recognize the name, but I did recognize the face and wonder what had happened to him. It didn't take long to find out that the charming, handsome young actor had turned into a steroid behemoth bent on destruction, mayhem and crime as he got older. See for yourself.

Young Peter Brown

Steroid Behemoth Bent on Destruction

Needless to say, I would not have made the connection without my Internet connection.

Hayley Mills turned into a perfectly lovely young woman, and a still vibrant older woman, who doesn't do much in movies nowadays. Peter Brown is still going strong in voice overs and acting, having moved from charming leading men to nefarious characters. But he is still acting, and Hayley Mills, not so much. Both have been relegated to the back lot. At least they both still have careers.

I miss the younger Mills and Brown and was perfectly happy with the simple plots and lack of techno-pyrotechnics and special effects when stories had heart and required a hanky for the occasional tear of happiness or even sadness. I grew up on these movies, on Disney before it became so internationally commercial and full of its own virtue and technomagic. There was something elegant and timeless about the matte frames and animation that went into a Disney movie. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, the Sword in the Stone and Fantasia, among so many others, still hold a bit of magic, and I miss that. I enjoy technomagic in more modern movies, but they lack a certain heart, evidenced by the original Tron with Jeff Bridge and Bruce Boxleitner and the remake of Tron with its computerized special effects and slick look.

I guess it is official. I have become an old fogey and I never saw it coming.

As I lingered and dreamed while watching The Shaggy Dog with Tommy Kirk and Fred MacMurray, and it's not as successful sequel, The Shaggy D.A., with Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, and then moved on to other Disney favorites, I realized how much I miss watching old movies, not just the Disney movies with their music and magic, but grittier films like Ship of Fools with Vivien Leigh and Lee Marvin or A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois. I realized that in many ways, I too am dependent on the kindness of strangers, the strangers in film, to pull me out of a funk or allow me a moment to dream and shed a private tear over simple stories and uncomplicated characters who just want to get through to the credits. Don't we all.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

There are times when coming home from a vacation and getting back to the daily grind is a relief and times, like this morning, when it's not so much a relief as a pain. I want more time, at least a whole week, and preferably two weeks. I'm out of luck.

For the past five days I've been lolly gagging around having breakfast in a lovely dining room, tea at a castle and dinner at a new place every night and it has been lovely. Add in long luxurious baths, reading vampire novels and taking long walks with no particular destination in mind or having to be anywhere at a certain time, and it was perfect. Fresh towels I didn't have to launder. Sitting on a big porch in the sunshine reading books and waking up in a huge four poster bed on clean sheets I didn't have to wash or change was just the icing on the vacation cake. Now it's back to work and back to doing my own laundry, cooking my own food and changing my own sheets in a bed with no tall posts. I may have to fix that one of these days and create a little Victorian atmosphere of my own. But it's home and at least one good thing happened. I finally caught a mouse in my expensive and humane trap. Only one more to go and I don't have to break down and poison the little wretch.

In a few minutes, I shall take off the vacation clothes and put on work clothes and get down to the business of earning enough money to go on another little holiday in a few weeks. I'm still trying to decide if several short holidays are better than two week-long holidays. I guess I'll find out.

I also got some research in on a -- wait for it -- zombie story set in the Civil War. I don't do zombies, but Mary Ann got my mind turning on zombies and a Civil War setting when we discussed her zombie story set in the Civil War. My story isn't set at Shiloh but at Gettysburg at the turning point of the war. I spent quite a bit of time looking at the battle plans and reading some of the accounts and found the perfect place for a little evil and mayhem at Devil's Den. It has just the right atmosphere for the darker side of war.

For Christy, (I received your letter this morning), I have an answer to your question. No, I didn't take my camera, but I do have a picture for you. This is what some of the suite looks like.

Parlor Suite

I believe I may go back there again or I might find another little place I've been thinking about where breakfast is delivered to the door and there are woods to walk in and a river to meander beside. It's anyone's guess. Or I shall simply save up some time and put all my energy and time toward a seaside cottage in New England for a little writer's retreat with one of my favorite friends. The decks are clear and anything is possible.

Enjoy the week and don't forget to have a little fun along the way.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Through Bloody Tears

Like the day President John F. Kennedy was shot, I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001 when the planes took out the Twin Towers in New York City.

Eight years old and sitting in the stairwell with Debbie Kennon talking, playing a game of War in the still humid silence, we were stunned by my mother careening down the stairs weeping and saying over and over, "He's dead. He's dead." We stopped, cards in mid air in the midst of play and looked up as my mother near fell over the banister and dropped to the landing above. "He's dead. He's dead," she crooned,a sob-clogged refrain. My heart stilled and the only sounds were her echoing cries winding down like a worn out clock and Debbie and my breathing. I ventured the question, my curiosity stronger than the chill of fear icing my limbs and blood, "Who?" afraid of the answer.

"He's gone. Shot to death."

Only my father's death could have unstrung my taut-stringed mother's composure.

"When? Where?"

"Today. Dallas. Kennedy is dead."

A rush of warmth and relief suffused me. Not my father. And yet my heart still refused to beat.

In the coming months, my world changed. The Kennons who lived upstairs were posted back to the States to Fort Hood in Texas and a new family moved in, a young couple with a toddler and newborn twins. The years have taken their names, but I remember the fact of their existence falling into the void left by my best friends' absence and failing to fit the space. The Torch is Passed appeared on my mother's bookshelves and became a treasured artifact of that November day just after the rains had passed that Panamanian autumn when everything -- and nothing -- was altered.

So many years between that and the Monday morning after my car accident when I drove to the doctor's office in the rented van with blood filling the spaces around my left eye from the stitched gas in my scalp artfully hidden beneath the rearranged remaining hairs where the doctor had chopped my long hair to stubble to repair the damage. Restless and frightened of losing my sight, I searched the radio channels for something light and breezy, a song to sing that would take my mind from my own troubles. I got more than I bargained for.

It was about 9:00 a.m. and the shock in the deejay's voice was evident. A plane had crashed into the Twin Towers in NYC, bringing them down. Into my isolation and solitude the world rushed, a category five tornado devouring peace and silence. I didn't hear the rest of the story until I got back to the motel where I'd been staying and from where I was moving into a converted garage apartment on the outskirts of town, hidden among the trees and away from the side roads around the bedroom community of Hudson, Ohio on the other side of the tracks. As I drove, I wept bloody tears, unaware of the crimson tracks down my cheek until the receptionist handed me a tissue from the nearly empty box everyone in the office and waiting room shared.

I had just broken off a two-year affair and was broken and still bleeding and the heartache that sent me out to put down roots receded. I went through the task of moving from the motel where I'd lived for two two years into a larger echoing space with a fireplace that no longer delighted me and more space than I could fill with my meager possessions.

From my wooded sanctuary, I emerged to find human contact, gravitating toward my ex-lover's friend where I sat in his living room and watched in horror the falling, falling, falling buildings that disappeared into the white dust clouding the rubble and broken bodies of those who had jumped or fallen or ridden down the monolithic towers. In my memories I heard my mother's voice, "He's dead. He's dead. He's dead," echoing in the rainy silence and my heart and body stilled, encased in creeping ice. There was no warmth of relief suffusing me and I wondered if anyone or anything would ever quite fill the void that opened that day on my drive along the tree-lined country road to the doctor's office while blood filled the delicate spaces around my left eye.

Darrel and I wept together, connected by our shared shock and disbelief in the safety of our small world as we had never been connected by our work: his installing and maintaining and me writing about the security industry in a world where security had become a myth.

The skies, once full of planes, now stretched silently ominous, we exposed and vulnerable with nowhere to run, darting furtive looks toward the empty blue where passing clouds masked terror and death. Ohio was too close and nowhere was far enough away from danger. We were too few hours from the field where the passengers of another plane brought down the winged missile arrowing toward another building to be swallowed in fire and clouds of marble dust and blood. Nowhere was safe and so we clung to tenuous ties, cinching them tighter to find consolation and freedom from fear. If we could only hang onto this moment and the next, we would be safe.

Three years later on the anniversary of 9/11 and nearly two thousand miles away, something came to fill the void, overflowing the boundaries with joy and life. Like all joyful moments, it ended too soon. Love from a forgotten time and place appeared and took over, breaching the wooded margins of my sanctuary where I lived in peaceful solitude in a valley surrounding by mountains and filled with the murmurings of passing elk, mule deer and pine martens flying singly and in pairs from tree top to tree top among the green needled arms of lodge pole pines.

The love lingers alongside the memories of death and destruction, dimmed by tears, time and neglect, softening the razored lines and failing to blur the stained glass shards scattered on the ground among the flesh, blood, and bones of lives among the debris of that church of technology dissolving in white clouds beneath the silent endless blue skies illuminated by hard brittle light. I imagine that day will live as clear and undimmed as the day my mother lurched down the stairs sobbing and collapsing in a boneless heap, her ramrod stiff spine folding beneath the weight of lost innocence and the dissolution of secure dreaming days.

I remember. I will always remember. Death and life conjoined in an endless dance of despair and hope painted in sharp-edged primary colors while the rest of life dims and softens like colored tissue paper in the rain seen through bloody tears.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dysfunction on my mind

With everything that has gone on in my family recently, dysfunctional relationships are on my mind, and not just as it applies to abuse (emotional, mental, verbal and physical), but as it applies to many kinds of dysfunction, including addiction. Abuse can be as addicting as alcohol or drugs, and much more insidious. The really horrible thing about dysfunction is that there is no hiding it from the children or keeping them from being affected.

If you fight privately or keep the abuse hidden, saving it for those tender moments when you're alone, it still affects everyone in the family, especially the children. Kids are like open lines, picking up everything that goes on around them, and they are affected whether they realize it or not.

During my research, I found this and would like to share it. Although it was written for Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), it applies to anyone who lives or has lived in a dysfunctional home. Take the test. It's not pass or fail, but enlightenment.

The ACOA laundry list 

Take this test. You may be an ACOA if you have any of these traits.

You don't have to have all the traits to be an ACOA. But this is the laundry list.

DO YOU...?

1. Guess at what normal is.

2. Have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.

3. Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

4. Judge themselves without mercy.

5. Have difficulty having fun.

6. Take themselves very seriously.

7. Have difficulty with intimate relationships.

8. Overreact to changes over which they have no control.

9. Constantly seek approval and affirmation.

10. Feel that they are different from other people.

11. Are either super responsible or super irresponsible.

12. Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved.

If you'd like more information, check out Squidoo and the ACOA website. You don't have to be the child of an alcoholic, or drug addict, to fall within these guidelines. Dysfunction wears many masks.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Serendipity and Loss

I enjoy reading essays and have discovered several wonderful writers by reading their essays. Sometimes I read a book and find out they wrote essays and search until I find them. I'm seldom disappointed. It's a habit I acquired a few years ago when someone introduced me to Henry Miller. I had already read Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn years before and then I was guided to the essays. I was entranced and inspired, so inspired I began writing more essays and getting published. I had found my way.

A couple years ago, I discovered a columnist/essayist named Caroline Knapp through an Amazon suggestion. I had just finished reading Elizabeth Young's book of essays and literary criticism, found by way of her chick lit books, and Caroline Knapp seemed interesting, and she was. The only complaint I had, and still have, is that Young and Knapp are both dead. They each died too early and left too many books and essays unwritten and I feel the loss. So, imagine my surprise when one of the books sent for review is a book that is about Caroline Knapp by her friend, Gail Caldwell: Let's Take the Long Way Home. Serendipity. Pure serendipity.

I was in the midst of Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden and decided to take a look at Caldwell's book. It was short and Caldwell won a Pulitzer Prize, and I wanted to see why. Caldwell writes about her friendship with Brutita, her nickname for Caroline Knapp, and their dogs, which is what brought them together. They were as different as night and day on the outside -- Caroline short and blonde and very upper class and Gail tall, dark and rangy as a Texan should be. Caroline was a rower and Gail a swimmer, Mutt and Jeff on the water. Their love of their dogs and the friendship that grew out of their similarities (both recovering alcoholics, very shy and writers) are the poignant threads that shine throughout the memoir. Serendipity. That's how I discovered this connection and how it came to me.

Gail writes that her friends call her the gregarious hermit. I can relate to that. I am sure there are many writers who relate to those seemingly opposite words. Someone who is friendly and open and outgoing and yet spends most of their time alone, by choice, to wrestle and communicate with the muse. Caroline was politely persistent and Gail finally relented, forging and cementing a friendship that resulted in Caroline leaving too soon. Gail inherited Caroline's beloved dog and some other personal memorabilia, and she inherited memories of the kind of friendship that most people long to share, the kind that changes and makes one better, more in touch with themselves and with the world. What more could anyone want?

More life to write more essays and books.

I look forward to the next serendipitous entry into my life and essays that will inspire and fire my imagination. Don't we all?

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Once more into the breach

So far, so fairly painless.

One of the hardest things for me to learn was to ask for raises in pay. In my transcription work, the only way to earn a raise is to work more hours and type more pages, a difficult task at the best of times.

The first time I asked for a raise from Authorlink was four years ago -- and I got it. Two years ago I asked for and received another pay raise. I just finished asking for yet another raise, and am not sure of the outcome. Whatever it is, the past seven years have been a learning experience, and not just because of the nearly 300 reviews I have written for them. No, the last seven years have been a time of upheaval and change and of discovering what it is I really want, and then asking for it, and usually getting it. No one has been more surprised than I have.

Possessed of a shy nature when it comes to extolling my own virtues and abilities, I am a staunch supporter of anyone willing to stand up for themselves, even when it looks as though the odds are stacked against them. Win or lose, the experience is not without positive value, if only to underline the fact that nothing is impossible. Impossible just takes a little longer.

Beanie is going through an ugly and difficult divorce and often talks of giving up and going back, tail between her legs. Whatever she does, she is still my sister and I will support her, even though I think such a move would be a huge mistake. It is after all her life, not mine.

I remember those feelings when I was divorcing my husband, the father of my children. The devil you know, as they say... Then one of the boys woke up crying from a nasty nightmare. He dreamed his father and I were fighting and I was hurt. I knew then I could not stay married and had to keep going, no matter how difficult the road, and it was difficult. I don't regret it. It was the right decision at that time.

Beanie feels alone and cut off, as indeed she is in some ways, but her married life has been difficult enough that keeping all those feelings and pain bottled up inside have begun to erode the lining of her stomach. She has ulcers, two more new ones since she began the divorce. Her married life is killing her and it's showing up where she's weakest, in her stomach. Despite the appearance of being cold and indifferent and hard-edged, my sister is sensitive and caring with a soft, creamy center, something she doesn't want the world to know. These qualities are what have made her a perfect target for abuse and for laying down the guilt trips. She takes it all to heart in the name of doing what she has been told is right. That is a crock of shit. It is never right to endure abuse by anyone (friend, enemy, family or spouse) and deny happiness in the name of propriety, social standing or religious beliefs. Forget about heaven when you're living in Hell on Earth. You may not survive the journey.

I am certain someone has said somewhere that the rough road leads to paradise, or at least to a better place, and I believe that. Change is good even when it is a bit uncomfortable, like asking for a raise or being willing to confront a difficult situation. Whether or not I get the raise is immaterial. What is important is that I constructed a strong argument for the raise and I have an excellent track record as an astute and careful reviewer. I have done all in my power to get what I want and need and it is now in someone else's power to determine my fate -- on this issue.

The results will soon be in. Until then, I have more books to read and review.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Roe v. Wade

I was 17 when Roe v. Wade was passed on January 22, 1973.

I was a senior in high school and had just become engaged on my birthday less than a month later when I knew the worst had happened. I was pregnant. I had to decide whether or not to keep the child I was carrying and fear was definitely a factor. I didn't have the money, so I kept the child.

Meanwhile, my best friend also got pregnant at about the same time. Her parents paid for an abortion while my parents allowed me to use my savings to pay for my wedding.

Roe v. Wade changed a lot of lives, and not always in a good way, but it hasn't been because of the decision to make abortion available. It has been because people do not understand what exactly Roe v. Wade means to women and what it is at its heart all about. Roe v. Wade is about upholding the right of choice, the choice to keep or terminate a pregnancy. It is a personal choice and one that no government, Supreme Court, church or individual has a right to contravene.

I've heard all the arguments for and against, and participated in more than one debate on this issue, but people still do not get it, especially not the people who bomb clinics where doctors perform abortions, kill doctors and nurses and even the mothers carrying unborn children, or people at the clinics for other reasons. These extremists are so certain of their right to end another's life to save an unborn fetus that they will destroy anyone who gets in their way. How is this respectful of life?

I will not get into the argument about when life begins; it is the equivalent of determining how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. When did people who were born and have lived less valuable and less worthy of life than a fetus that may or may not come to full term if not aborted? Where is the logic in that?

Women have for centuries aborted unwanted children and it has been no one's business but their own. Women who could not afford a child or carried a child of rape, incest or of a diseased sire went to a midwife or wise woman and aborted the fetus. There are many reasons for doing so, but it is no one's business but the woman carrying the child.

Adoption has not always been available and was made popular during the 1930s and 1940s when Georgia Tann made it popular to Hollywood actors and the wealthy and famous, often taking children from their parents by force and through deceit to make the adoptions possible. Today, adoption is much more accepted than it was before Georgia Tann's day and has provided a means to give homes to unwanted children from Russia, Eastern Europe, China and other countries where female children are often warehoused or killed outright, males being more valuable. But adoption is not the answer for everyone, and it still comes down to choice. Couples or singles unable to have their own children, for whatever reason, choose to adopt. That does not mean that women who wish to abort their children should be forced to carry a fetus to full term and give birth just to satisfy some religious belief that all life is sacred, except when that life is involved in offering and maintaining a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body and her own life.

I have a son because I could not afford an abortion and I'm not sure whether or not I would have been able to go through with an abortion; however, other than not being able to afford an abortion, I had a choice because Roe v. Wade made upheld my right to choose. My best friend had an abortion and she says she regrets it; maybe she does, but she had a choice.

It all comes down to choice in this as in every other aspect of life. We choose to steal or not to steal, murder or not to murder, but no one stops us from making the choice. There are always consequences, but first there is a choice. If you want to use a religious point, according to Christian beliefs, and the beliefs of many other religions, we are all born with Free Will -- the right to choose. What we do with that Free Will is up to us and as a god-given right, no man has the right to take it away. Men try all the time because, in their ignorance and pride, they believe they have the right to herd us like cattle or deny us like children unable or unintelligent enough to use our Free Will wisely. They do not have the right. We as individuals have the right to exercise our Free Will in whichever way we choose. No government, Supreme Court, man, church or individual has the right to take away anyone's Free Will, their choice. No one can live another man's -- or woman's -- life.

If I have cancer and choose not to go through chemotherapy or radiation therapy or surgery, do you have the right to force me to do what you would do in my place? If choose to have chemotherapy or radiation or surgery and it will endanger my life, do you have the right to choose differently for me? I could name a thousand different scenarios and come up with more when I'm done, but it all comes down to choice. My choice. Your choice. A woman's choice to decide what to do with her own body. From the beginning of time, women have chosen whether or not to bear or not to bear children. This time is no different just because we know more about the process and feel we know what is right or better for someone than they do for themselves. How much simpler and better life would be if I make my own choices and you make yours.

Let's make a pact. I won't deny you your right to choose the path your life will take and you do not deny me mine. It's a simple pact and one that works as long as everyone lets everyone else live their own lives.As for me, I have enough to do dealing with my own choices without making choices for everyone else.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beyond the stars into the minds of the gods

What subject you like to become more knowledgeable about, and why?


The Greeks had a very intricate and complex mythology that I think we have mistaken for religion. It is religion in a sense, but it was so much more. The story of Zeus defeating his father with the Titans, the birth of his children, especially Athena who sprang from his head and Bacchus who was born from his thigh, sound less like religion than astronomy. It sounds like the birth of the universe and the various galaxies.

By learning more about astronomy I would be able to get a better idea of how Greek mythology fits into the cosmos and where the various galaxies, planets and stars that coincide with the events in mythology would likely be and maybe change the way we view, not only the Greeks, but all ancient mythologies. To see these advanced civilizations of the ancient world as somehow less than we are now with our technology is to ignore the proof of what they were and what they still have to teach us about the cosmos and about our own world and its place in the universe. They knew so much more than we do with our atom smashers and colliders and fiberoptic connections as has been amply shown in some of the devices that have come to light that we cannot equal or master.

Astronomy for me is the first step toward understanding so much more, a leap into the vastness of the universe and revision of all we think we know.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who wants to live forever?

Would you want to live forever? Does your answer change depending on whether or not everyone else gets to live forever as well?

Forever is a long time. Love is supposed to be forever, but it usually isn't. Memory is forever, but gets caught behind spun strands of aluminum or congested arteries or simply inaccessible due to lack of use. Vampires, at least in literature, are seldom forever, unless you consider 3000 years forever. Nothing lasts forever. Everything dies. Academically, I don't think there is anything that is forever, not even the universe, which will spin out to a point and then collapse back on itself creating a new Big Bang and begin the whole process all over again.

So, that being said, and forever off the table, would I like to live for a very long time? Yes.

Took a long time to get to the yes, didn't I? I'd like to be able to get around comfortably with a minimum of pain and not have to fight my weight during the whole time; however, living for a few hundred or few thousand years, regardless of who gets to live that long with me, would be interesting. I would outlast my critics, enemies and frenemies. I would be a part of history and, as a writer, I doubt agents and publishers would hesitate to publish my work, even if I had to use a new pseudonym every few decades, recreating myself from my own ashes, a living phoenix without the inevitable dying. The petty worries of a short life span, like having relationships with younger men wouldn't be an issue because everyone would be younger than I, and the upside is not being a slave to procreation, although it might be nice to experience the whole childbirth, raising of the children and letting them move on to their own lives and choices fascinating.

I remember reading about a woman who was 140 years old. She lived in an isolated Chinese village high in the mountains. She had a daughter 70 years old. Consider the possibilities? No, better not. I might change my mind and want to live my allotted 150 years and leave it at that, even without the added pressures of a fertile womb.

Living forever? Not really an option. Living for a time long enough to watch the unfolding of history and the falling away of petty worries and hangups? Definitely yes.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Following the Leader

Every few months writing magazines and web sites put out a list of no-nos for writers, what not to do when writing a book.

1. Never start a book with the main character waking up. It's boring and banal. Then there's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which is an excellent book where the story begins with the main character waking up in a Soviet gulag.

2. Books based on role playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons, will never be published. One of Andre Norton's best selling books was Quag Keep where the characters were role playing gamers who were caught up in time and space and transported to a world where they became the characters they played in a board game. There was a sequel that was equally successful, Return to Quag Keep.

3. Writing about dragons is passe. Anne McCaffrey cannot be improved upon. Along comes Eragon which was an instant best seller written by a teenager. Yeah, that advice was definitely good.

I could go on, but I won't. The point is that whenever someone sits down and writes a bunch of rules, there will always be someone who comes along and shatters the rules, making the rule maker eat his words. I live for those moments.

Everything that has been done, and done superbly, cannot be surpassed. That's like saying the four-minute mile is impossible or a quadruple axel cannot be done. Uh, yeah, they can.

When it comes to writing -- and to live -- read the rules and remember them, but don't live exclusively by them. A time will come when you could be the one to break them and set a new precedent. That is what precedents are all about.

If something can be measured, it can be exceeded. The sound barrier has been shattered and bettered many times over. The speed of light cannot be surpassed and that means books featuring hyperdrives are not based on science fiction and are squarely in the realm of fantasy, and yet there is a speed faster than light. It is the speed of thought. As long as it can be measured, it can be broken.

Just because the universe seems to follow certain rules doesn't mean that those rules are unbreakable. Rules are made to be broken and broken they will be. Don't follow the leader, follow your heart and your instincts. They will seldom fail you.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On writing and communication

There are times when I wonder if I was not meant to live alone. I am more prolific when men are off the menu and there are no claims on my time and mind. Some of the best writing came from times when my emotional and personal plates were clear, and I have been clearing out a lot of people and things over the past few weeks. Finally, the muse speaks to me again, and she is casting gold beneath my fingers.

Of course, there is the possibility that this is all a dream and I shall awaken to find the gold little more than faery glamour, but for now, I am content to write and write and write.

I had been involved with someone for the past six years who was more gone than here and he finally got the message a couple days ago. He was sad and sorry, but he always is when I point out how long it has been since we last communicated. This time he responded by saying that we couldn't seem to communicate. I had to laugh. Only one of us was communicating and it wasn't him, unless he was doing it by telepathy. No emails for six months, no more than two phone calls over the past three years and, except for the 2-minute drive-by gifting in December 2009, I haven't seen him for eighteen months. That's not my idea of communication.

When he responded to me, he said that I didn't communicate, I wrote. I always thought writing was a form of communication. Evidently, I got it wrong. "We," he insisted, "stopped trying a long time ago."

He doesn't like to take responsibility for his actions. Stuck in some emotional adolescent limbo, he will only go so far as to share the blame, when the fault lies in him. I call. He doesn't return the call. I email. He ignores. And so I write, putting my message into a blog post because I know, I have seen, he checks that from time to time, preferring that small point of contact to a more direct approach. Of course I write. What other method of communication do I have when he thwarts all my attempts at getting closer, at talking things out?

When he read I laughed at his claim that the fault lay with us and not him, he responded in typically bruised ego fashion. He would keep reading my posts to remind himself why he "never wanted to have anything to do with me ever again." His final words were in full flounce. "I doubt I ever loved you." I doubt it, too. Had he loved me, he could not have lied to me so completely, so smoothly, so easily without a second thought. He would have communicated. Instead, he chose silence, brooding and lurking in the shadows looking for messages in blog posts instead of talking to me. He gave up on us a long time ago when he realized that for the first time in his life he felt something so deep and profound it dizzied his senses. He finally told me that two years ago after telling me for three years he wasn't sure if he ever loved me. Could I write a book about his waffling and roper dope bobbing and weaving he chose to call romance. The problem is that it wouldn't sell. People like clear story lines with mysteries that are possible to solve. This mystery has no solution because he plays the truth like a game of three card Monte where the queen is usually up his sleeve and not on the table. Emotional sleight of hand is his favorite game, after refusing responsibility and blaming everyone else -- in this case, me.

And so I cut him loose. It was not pretty and it wasn't easy, but it was long past time. Had we been roped together climbing some sheer, craggy peak and he dangled at the end of the line, pulling us both into the abyss, I would have cut him loose a long time ago. Better one of us should live than both die. I still have books to write.

Does it matter in the great scheme of things? Probably not. It isn't that love has left the building, quite the reverse, but I can no longer tend the fires of romance by myself, turning on the spit of love and desire endlessly. It's time to move on. I've given him six years to figure it out and he has spent most of it brooding in the cellar, silent and taciturn. I've no more time to give him.

Now that I have shut and locked the door, after removing the knob on his side, the muse has granted me audience and the words flow like spring thaw down the river of creativity until I am helpless in her grasp to do aught but write. To communicate the best way I know how.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Laughter is the only medicine

What cheers you up the most when life gets you down?

Any number of things. I have great friends who know me well enough to say just the right thing to make me smile and laugh out loud. I have a brother who never fails to make me laugh because he's such an idiot. That's the Mushroom. Passages in books cheer me up and certain movies bring me right out of the horse latitudes in no time flat, especially if there dancing and singing are involved. And then there are times like last night that something that was meant to be serious makes me laugh.

Last night someone told me that he was sorry things didn't work out and that what we hoped didn't happen, but it was because we couldn't seem to communicate. I couldn't help myself. I had to laugh, really laugh, laugh so hard I nearly wet myself. Couldn't seem to communicate. When I shared it with a really good friend, she made me laugh even harder.

"Communicate? When did he TRY to communicate with you? Was he attempting telepathy? Because he wasn't writing and he wasn't calling and he wasn't visiting."

I guess that was the couldn't seem part of the communication. I didn't have my receiver turned on when he was transmitting Morse code or telepathy. I was too busy getting on with my life. Working, reading, eating, sleeping, you know, the usual things that take up the hours I wasn't sitting by the phone or the computer or the door in case he popped up. Definitely laughable.

That's the thing about communication. When someone wants an excuse why things don't work out or how you could be angry with them, they use lack of communication. That is the second time this week someone has pulled the communication card on me, and Mercury doesn't go retrograde until next Friday, on August 20th. She asked why I was angry with her and had cut her out of my life like a malignant cancer, so I told her. Not all of it, just enough to let her know there were reasons I wanted nothing more to do with her. I hit the big points, the highlights, and she came back with, "But what did I do?"

Uh, weren't you paying attention? I listed a few more and she came back with, "That doesn't have anything to do with me. What did I do?" I realized at that moment, that even though I was communicating she wasn't paying attention. She was trying to suck me back in. I ended the conversation at that point. I was done. And when I'm done, that's it. There's no going back.

Communication isn't difficult. You open your mouth and speak, clearly and plainly. You carefully type out an email using simple words and ideas. You pick up a phone and speak without shouting or letting the emotions take over, keeping to the subject and stating the case simply.

I'm a writer. I communicate for a living and yet there are some people who cannot seem to tune in and pay attention, like one of my supervisors. I flagged an operative report and used the work number, job number, doctor's name and date of dictation. She emailed back and asked me which dictation it was. I responded with the same information again and added the patient's name. She emailed again. "Oh, that one has already gone back to the hospital. If you had just let me know a few minutes earlier." Now that was laughable. We'd been emailing for over 30 minutes. Well, it took her 30 minutes to figure out which report I had flagged, even though I had added flagged the report electronically as well as manually.

There are times when nothing seems to go right and the anger boils up like lava, and then something completely incongruous will happen and make me laugh and I can't hold onto the anger. Usually, it's someone farting in a serious situation, like while they're saying their wedding vows or tooting while walking down the aisle or shaking hands with the mayor. Let's face it. Farts during any occasion are funny and everyone laughs no matter how hard they try to hold it in, except if the farter is female and mortified beyond words. The red face is a dead giveaway.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Old-fashioned manners

One thing I find continually fascinating is how people view someone who is polite, even when they are irritated or angry.

I was brought up to be unfailingly polite and it has served me well in some very sticky situations. Being polite has also made some circumstances a bit weird.

When I worked in New Orleans as one of the attractions in a haunted house on Conti about a half-block from Bourbon Street -- I was the gypsy fortuneteller -- people often came through drunk. With all the daiquiris and Hurricanes floating around, it wasn't a surprise. Add cheap and plentiful beer in 32-ounce, or larger, cups and you have a sloshing mix of vomit, slurred speech, passing out and belligerence that makes everything else seem pedestrian. All that alcohol, especially in most men, super fuels their worst traits. One inebriated tourist who was scared when he found out I wasn't a wax figure, like Madame Tussuad's on Bourbon, tried to impress his friends with his knowledge of animal anatomy.

There was a small skull on my black velvet covered table next to the crystal ball on an ornate golden stand. "What's that?" he asked as he lurched over the short railing that surrounded my enclosure. "The jawbone of an ass," I responded, smiling sweetly behind my black lace veil. "Don't you recognize it?" He nearly broke his neck attempting to jump the railing to get to me as he shouted curses and spilled beer over his friends, the drapes and the walls. He wanted to kill me for killing his punch line. The roaming specter caught him just in time and hauled him off to the relief of his wife and friends.

Most of the people who have flung their disdain and pique and foulness in my direction have been similarly met with a cool and calm demeanor and some very cutting and quick retorts, but most of the time I prefer to rely on what I was taught: always be polite. Sometimes it's the best defense.

Recently, someone I know pretty well but who just didn't get the message that we were through until a couple of days ago, had contacted me on Monday morning after six months of silence to ask a favor. I didn't have what he required, but I did point him in the direction where he could find what he wanted. He thanked me and I responded with, "You're very welcome." It was a short and to the point exchange. No frills and no conversation. Just the facts.

When he later finally paid attention and found out that I was done waiting around for him to show up or carry on any kind of normal communication expected in a relationship, he was devastated. He could not understand how I could be so polite and obliging and not give him a sign that I was angry at him. It's because I'm not angry. There is a point where someone has ignored you and caused so much pain and so many tears that you reach a point where there are no more tears and no more pain. Emotional resources are exhausted, at least where they are concerned, and all that remains is cool politeness, common civility of the kind reserved for casual acquaintances and strangers. It's always best to save the anger, rancor, bile and venom for people close to you so you can hurt them as much as they hurt you. After all, we only hurt the ones we can reach. Don't you find that so?

He keeps searching for an answer. Why was I polite if I was so hurt and angry? The answer is simple. I am no longer hurt and angry. The emotional trash has been taken out and we continue now as common and indifferent acquaintances, as Jane Bennett observed. It never hurts to be polite to people, even the ones you can reach, and I've found that common civility and politeness usually leave a deeper impression than screaming tantrums and tearful scenes. I certainly left a lasting impression on the pickled and beer-soaked tourist who found himself likened to an ass. That was one polite retort I doubt he'll ever forget, no matter how drunk he gets, or at least that is the impression his wife left when she showed up at the box office the next day to deliver a message for the gypsy fortuneteller who put her overweening and pompous husband in his place.

A kind word, a smile and a polite manner always leaves them guessing. Old-fashioned manners are best.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Second chances

Someone asked if I have ever given someone a second chance.

Yes, and it didn't turn out well. Some people refuse to change. Like my brother-in-law.

Beanie filed for divorce, again, after 26 years of marriage. She has been in an abusive marriage for 26 years and has left him several times. He doesn't beat her. What he does is worse. He abuses her mentally and emotionally and treats her like a possession most of the time and a piece of meat the rest of the time. Well, she filed for divorce and Mom and Hoity-Toity came down on Beanie's husband's side. Beanie had to move out of her house away from her children and animals and the home my father left for her to move in with our brother, the Mushroom (mushroom because he's always in the dark).

Meanwhile, BIL, the brother-in-law, was calling and talking to Hoity-Toity every day and Mom almost as often. Hoity-Toity told BIL who Beanie's attorney was and about all the private stuff Beanie didn't want BIL to know, sold her right down the river. Hoity-Toity has her own agenda, but that's a story for another time. Anyway, BIL called Beanie's attorney and said he was ready to sign the papers and he began working on Beanie.

He went to a psychiatrist and got on Celexa to show that he was trying to change. He bought a futon and moved into the living room, which was before Beanie eventually moved out. He whined and cried and begged and told her he was sorry -- again -- and that he would change. This is a familiar song and dance number he has used in the past, this time with the psychiatrist and medication twist to show that he is serious. In the past he has given up alcohol, promised to changed and managed the change long enough for Beanie to become convinced he really meant it this time, and even started going to church and talking to one of the parishioners and the minister about their problems. He does love to talk about what's wrong with Beanie, I mean, their problems. As soon as Beanie drops the divorce or moves back in and settles down, he goes back to being his abusive self and blaming her for all the trouble. This is known as the end of the honeymoon phase of the abuse cycle, which quickly follows the begging, pleading and apology phase of the cycle.

At any rate, taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist (he only went long enough to get the meds and has already canceled all future appointments), convinced Beanie that he meant it this time. She also missed her boys, 23 and 19, who still live at home and who BIL badgered until they agreed to move out with him when he was planning to move, and her animals, Dad's house and her things. She felt like she was being punished and losing everything while BIL was taking it all from her. She also hated being alone. Living with the Mushroom is still living alone because he's caught up in his own world on Second Life with Jess from London and doesn't pay attention to her. Beanie has never lived alone before.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Add pressure from Mom and Hoity-Toity and the belief that maybe this time BIL really meant to change and giving up everything to be alone, and Beanie caved. "We have had some good times," she told me when we talked on Monday. "It hasn't been all bad. After 26 years, I feel I owe it to him to give him one more chance. But this is the last time."

I've heard this 'last time' speech so many times I could write it in my sleep, and have. I'm still asleep now.

Beanie is co-dependent and she enables the abuse, so she is right in saying that this is partly her fault. Then again, it's not her fault because she is caught in a cycle of emotional abuse. Yes, there are good times because that is how the abuser keeps her off balance and sets her up for the abuse. There has to be a reward in order for it to work. It's not love, as BIL keeps claiming, but control. BIL doesn't like losing control and he will use, and has used, every trick in the book to further his agenda. He gets Mom on his side by appealing to her feelings about divorce being wrong no matter the reason. He appeals to Hoity-Toity's sense of greed by telling her that he'll talk Beanie into selling Dad's house so she can have the money, despite the fact that he and Beanie have a survivor's deed and have been living in the house and paying the mortgage for three years. There's a lot of equity built up in that house after Mom and Dad living there for nearly ten years and BIL and Beanie for another three, equity that Hoity-Toity can use to pay off her debts and cover up that she's been skimming money from Mom's accounts for the past year so she can buy two more houses (a condo and a house) in addition to the condo and house she already owns.

BIL tried appealing to the Mushroom, who went through a divorce a year ago, but the Mushroom wouldn't play. He told BIL, "You can cook, clean, shop for food and work. The only thing you won't have is a relationship. You need to let my sister go and give her whatever she wants."

He knows better than trying to appeal to me because I know him for the skeevy abuser he is and he tries to keep Beanie from talking to me and having anything to do with me. That's also part of the abuse -- isolating the person from family and friends -- and he has isolated Beanie for years. Emotional abuse is all about control. Read about abusive relationships and check out the graph near the bottom on the right.

Not everyone deserves a second chance. BIL certainly doesn't, but Beanie can't see it because she's caught in the cycle of abuse. Some people never get a second chance because they're dead or brain dead from being abused.

It's not just abusers who don't deserve a second chance, but anyone who has no intention of changing. Seldom do men and women who cheat on their spouses and lovers give up cheating. Once in a while, it's a one-time incident, but on average people who cheat once will cheat again, and they'll lie to cover up their activities.

Be careful about giving second chances. Weigh all the factors and pay attention to what has gone before. If you're in an abusive relationship and want to give your abuser one more chance, talk to a counselor or doctor. You may be co-dependent and/or an enabler and the best thing you can do is get out. You can always get more stuff and, if you're afraid of living alone, find a roommate. No one should have to live this way. The only way to deal with people like that is to starve them of their food source -- you.

Okay, that wasn't what I intended to write about, but sometimes I just go with it.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

In the good old summertime

The best summer job I ever had was being a teenager. I never had just a summer job. When I began working, it was year round.

My first real job, outside of baby sitting and doing odd jobs around the neighborhood when I was ten, was working at Gilbert's shoe storm on Town Street in downtown Columbus, Ohio. I had to get a permit to work since I was only fifteen. I began as a salesgirl in the accessories department selling wallets, purses, shoe laces, etc. and then was promoted to cashier. With the job came a 20% discount on shoes. I had a lot of shoes in those days and spent a good portion of my paycheck in the store. How could I resist the newest styles and fashions? It was the only time I had a lot of shoes. I was fifteen and shoes were important to me then. I had a few handbags, too. Not so much now. I have four pairs of shoes: tennis shoes, slingback short heels, 3-inch black suede heels and sandals. I mostly wear the tennis shoes.

I moved from Gilbert's to a part time job at McDonald's. That lasted about six months before I got a job working with my mother at a data processing job. I made $100 a week 1971. The minimum wage then was $1.65/hour and I made $2.50 an hour, enough to buy my father a diamond tie tack for his birthday and my mother a pair of quarter karat diamond earrings for her birthday. I bought all my own clothes and gas for the car I bought with my own money. I had a lot of money in savings even though I paid room at board at home every week. I continued working in data processing for 25 years, moving to medical transcription and office management along the way. I still work in medical transcription, from home now, and supplement my income by writing book reviews and selling essays, articles, stories and books. I haven't sold enough books to quit my job, but I sell enough that I have to put aside a chunk of my income for taxes at the end of the year. I make a lot more than $100 a week forty years later.

No, my best summer job was being a teenager with no responsibilities and going to the pool when I could scrounge up enough money. I was told my parents couldn't afford a season ticket, which cost $15 in those long ago days, to the Hilltop Swim Club, which is why I started working. Until then, I sun bathed in the back yard, read a lot of books, walked everywhere with my friends and listened to a lot of rock and roll music. Those were the days.

That is all. Disperse.