Write something, DUMMY!

I remember sitting on the beach in Morocco thinking that I needed to write a book. I had no idea what it would be about, but I already had the title: Funny…Peculiar. It was just sitting there in my head…waiting for me to do something with it. I decided to ignore it, but a year or so later I ran across my journal from the Morocco trip, and I reread my book title notes. For a brief minute I considered the book idea again, but it turns out that, in order to write a book, you need to have something to write about.

“Now what?” I thought to myself.

I ended up just ignoring the whole thing for a few more years. No way did I have anything to really say to anyone! Every once in a while though, I’d get a little twinge in my gut (“WRITE SOMETHING, DUMMY!”), but I’m really good at ignoring those twinges…it’s one of my many super powers.

Just under a year ago I went to a birthday party for a friend and struck up a conversation with a gal I’d just met. We talked about our careers for a bit, but eventually ended up with me sharing a bit of my story. I talked about how I ended up in Oregon after moving from South Carolina (without having a clue as to where we’d end up), my crazy ex-husbands, selling comic books and my perspectives on the Northwest after growing up in Hooterville (aka Columbia, S.C.) We chuckled and she pushed for more and more, eventually asking if I’d written any of it down. She seemed stunned when I answered that I hadn’t.

“Well damn it….DO IT!” she prompted. “You HAVE TO!”

“Sure, um…I know I need to…I um, just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll really try…” I mumbled, not meaning a word of what I was saying.

Over the next few days though, I started feeling that twinge-y feeling in my gut again. This time, however, it gradually morphed into a burning feeling that I couldn’t ignore away, and no amount of Tums or Pepcid helped. I tossed in my sleep, not quite sure what was keeping me awake, and I listlessly wandered around my house, sort of poking stuff…looking for something to read or watch or paint…or DO. Nothing satisfied me, and I felt as though I’d lost something…but what?

In that synchronistic way that the universe has of ganging up on you when you’re missing a road sign you really should have followed, within a few days a friend sent me a link to “a funny writer you’d like”….and I was introduced to the bizarro world of Jenny Lawson. I listened a bit and was stopped in my tracks (even though I was sitting) with the realization that this woman was freaking hilarious…and that she mostly wrote stories about her crazy childhood and the things that happen in her everyday life! (You can DO THAT??? Who knew!)

I looked my new idol up online and found that she was a NY Times bestselling author and that her blog (The Bloggess) is one of the most successful out there. My (achingly slow) brain finally finished percolating and spit out the notion that maybe I, Tammy the non-blogger, could actually write small snippets from MY life and become (wait for it)… TammyInPDX…the blogger! (Yeah, let’s just say that I’m not exactly a rocket scientist…)

Now, while Jenny certainly has nothing to worry about, since last August I’ve managed to write 85 posts (including this one), I’ve had around 4500 post views, and I’ve gotten some really positive feedback. Most importantly, I’ve learned more about myself, the world, and my place in it with every post. At some point I will definitely be pulling all of this together into a book, even if I have to move a cot into Kinko’s to get it printed!

Thanks Jenny…you’re my hero. Thanks Rich for sharing Jenny with me, and thanks to Sarah for telling me to not listen to anyone else…to let my natural voice out and just WRITE.

And mostly, thanks to those of you who’ve read and, even better, have followed me or let me know that you enjoy my writing. To those of you who haven’t…don’t make me come over there!

chickenblog

Check out Doug Savage’s amazing post-it cartoons!

 

Don’t make me drop a house on you!

Because my mother and father were divorced when I was very young, I’ve never met anyone on his side of the family. That means that the only first cousins my sister and I have ever known are my mother’s sister’s two girls. The older of the two is Karen, who is the same age as my sister. She is known as “Sissy” to her little sister, Susan, who is ten years younger and now known in our family as Suey. Their family lived in Virginia Beach, and my sister and I always thought they had the perfect life.

My mom worked, so she shipped us off to stay with her only sister’s family during the summer months. Our family in Virginia lived on a bay, had a boat, belonged to a country club, and their neighbors had a swimming pool…our summers there felt like we had somehow ended up in paradise.

I talked with Suey recently, and she requested that I write about a time that the cousins came to visit us in South Carolina. They didn’t come down often (it wasn’t nearly as fun as their own part of the world), but my cousin remembered the time they visited when she was about two and a half years old. Her Sissy and my sister Lynnie were twelve, and I was around thirteen. Suey’s big memory, and the request for this post, was the time that we all played out The Wizard of Oz in all its glory..it’s my only memory of that visit, and it seems to have stuck with all of us.

I’m not sure why we decided to stage such a lavish production, but we all put a lot of energy into getting our parts just right. The living room of the house I grew up in was our stage, and I’m sure the neighbors could hear us emoting and singing our hearts out! My sister Lynnie had to be the cowardly lion…it’s always been her favorite character in the story, and I’m pretty sure that she wouldn’t take any other role. Our neighbor Cathy (who always got the best parts) was Dorothy, Sissy was the scarecrow, Suey was Toto, I was Glinda (the good witch of the North), and Mama was the evil wicked witch of the West.

We managed to make it work without a tin man, I guess…unless one of us did a dual role, but I really don’t remember. What I do remember is my sister’s spot-on lion (“If I were king of the fore-e-e-est…“) and Suey climbing around on the floor, playing a pretty darn good terrier. I was (naturally) a perfect Glynda, and I know that Sissy was a wonderful scarecrow with her long legs and limber moves. It actually makes me laugh out loud now to think of my sweet little Mama playing a mean old green witch, siccing those damn flying monkeys on us! (In this particular case, it should probably have been the wicked witch of the South…”Now, ya’ll know you need to give me those shoes….my pretties!”)

I wish I could remember more of the details of this story, but for now you’ll just have to settle for a very, very badly photo-shopped picture of me as Glynda, the good witch. You’re welcome.

Are you a good witch?

Are you a good witch, or just a terrible photo shopper?

 

 

 

Just hanging at the airport

I’m sitting in the Chicago airport, waiting for a connecting flight. Airports are usually not the most fun places, but they do seem to hold a world of possibility with so many people crossing each other’s paths. I always figure that if I fly enough, I might just see a celebrity in a big airport like this one. I’m guessing that they don’t usually hang out at the Chili’s bar though, so I might be out of luck. I’ll bet if Nick Nolte or David Hassellhoff were passing through, they might end up next to me ordering the Skillet Queso and a cold one, but I was hoping for someone more like Oprah. Not likely.

Unfortunately, of my two most interesting airport sightings, one was a pigeon just wandering through the Newark airport, and the other was when I saw Willie Nelson’s butt in an airport in Hawaii (it was in jeans, and he wouldn’t turn around). To be honest, I was so mortified by my travel companion on that trip that I’m glad that Willie didn’t know we were stalking following him.

My travel partner was a boyfriend who wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and he had a way of doing exactly what would mortify me the most at any given point in time. He blamed his lack of quick thinking on a past with wayyyy too many drugs, but I don’t think he ever really had that many brain cells to spare. Luckily, what he lacked in brain function he made up for with sweetness, and he tried to smarten up for me, taking ginkgo biloba by the handful…”Baby, I gotta stay SHARP for you!”

My guy was so excited to be going to Hawaii that the minute we boarded our plane he started flashing the shaka ‘hang loose’ hand sign at everyone. Yeah…that one. Note that Elvis looks pretty cool doing it…my friend did not.

My BF didn't look this cool doing this, but he certainly thought he did!

The King…no ginkgo required

I smiled and figured that a little of the touristy thing is ok once or twice…but he kept it up, and every single human being who crossed our path for the next WEEK was greeted with a goofy smile and the wagging hand gesture. Sometimes they got BOTH HANDS.

It wasn’t his only infraction…there was a long list. Among them, he called the hotel front desk to ask them if they were charging us for that call, stood on live coral after being shooed off several times, frequently walked away from his bags in the airport (in spite of the taped “Do NOT leave your bags unattended!” mantra), asked a lot of strange questions and generally just gawked at the world. I guess the only saving grace was that Willie didn’t turn around in the airport to be shaka-d to death!

I don’t fault my friend for not being worldly, but I did say ‘Aloha’ to him soon after we returned from our trip. It just wasn’t a good match, and it turns out that I was okay hanging loose all by myself.

I imagine, though, that ginkgo biloba sales in the Portland area dropped significantly…sorry, GNC.

When your feet aren’t handy…

I’m pretty handy, if I do say so myself. I know how to use a screw driver, think needle nose pliers are the perfect tool, and I almost always hit stuff with a hammer the first time I aim.

I wasn’t exactly born handy, though. In high school I was tricked into taking a wood shop class (it’s a long story, but the teacher needed girls to take shop in order to keep the funding for the class, so someone talked me into it). The class turned out to be remedial shop though, and was filled with somewhat troubled (aka rowdy) boys who couldn’t be trusted with power tools. We used a lot of very small pieces of (pre-cut) wood and did a lot of sanding…and I still managed to almost cut off my little toe when I dropped a chisel on it. The teacher ended up helping me finish my one project, a tiny footstool, after I whined a bit. (Okay, okay…so he actually just picked it up and did it for me, probably out of fear that I might really cut something off the next time.) I guess I just hadn’t found my inner handy-woman yet.

Ralph

My favorite handywoman Ralph (from Green Acres) may not know how to cut bread, but I’ll bet she wore SHOES!

When I was married I assumed that the husband was the tool user, but that didn’t always work out so well. I was a little agitated when I came home years ago to find husband #2 tearing down a wall on our back porch. He had a huge water-glass full of red wine in one hand, a crowbar in the other, and was standing in his sock feet among a big pile of boards peppered with bent nails and huge splinters…and probably some razor blades…and maybe a grenade. He just grinned at me with what looked like a KoolAid mustache while I yelled to, “Put some damn SHOES ON!” He didn’t flinch and just stared at me like I was the one doing the crazy thing. I eventually gave up and stomped away, leaving him to certain foot-doom. I realized right then that I was probably just better off fixing stuff myself.

A few years later Mama asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I told her that I really needed a cordless drill. Like #2, (who by now had moved back to his mom’s in New Jersey), she just looked at me like I might be a few cards short of a full deck.

“Honey, are you teasin’ me?” she asked, looking like I’d just told her that I desperately needed a back hoe…or a cannon.

I shook my head and replied, “No ma’am…a girl needs to be able to FIX STUFF!”

I guess she just didn’t have it in her to buy her first daughter a power tool for Christmas, so Mama sent me a gift certificate instead. I went straight to Walmart and got my very own Black and Decker 12V cordless drill (no, it’s not pink), complete with a big old set of bits. I finally felt HANDY! I was like a dog with a new toy, and I wandered around the house looking for stuff to drill holes in. I didn’t find much actually…but I was PREPARED!

When my sister and my mom bought a house a few years ago, I flew back to South Carolina to help them get settled in. My nephew and I did all of the repairs and hung a houseful of window shades, curtain hardware, shelves and pictures. I was up and down a ladder for three days in a row and happily perfected my power drill skills…I was in DIY heaven! Unfortunately, no one ever told me that you need to wear shoes when on a ladder, and I ended up with a painful case of plantar fasciitis in my (bare) left foot that left me wearing orthotics and very boring shoes for almost a year.

The lesson, I think is that being handy is tough on your feet…or at least that’s been my experience. Mama, if you’re reading this, how about a pair of steel-toed boots, this year…size 8.5 wide…basic black is best.

 

The shiny ain’t worn off yet…

You know when something new starts, how there’s a break-in period when everything just seems soooo perfect? People refer to it as the ‘honeymoon phase’, but I personally think of it more as a shiny period. Whether it’s a new job, computer, car, boyfriend or whatever…the first few weeks/months are often idyllic…the sky is blue, your skinny jeans fit and God loves you! Then one morning you wake up and walk outside to find that first damn scratch on the fender, or maybe you arrive at work to find out that your new cube-mate is a non-deodorant wearing self-talker. Yep, it’s all fine and dandy until that fabulous new laptop won’t boot up or, much much worse, when your new guy decides it’s been long enough that farting in front of you is ok. That’s when you know for certain that the perfect life is over and done. That perfect new Kia/Hottie/Job at the car wash just isn’t what you thought you were signing up for. Oh, there’s shiny there, but you have to actually look for it.

I’m still in the shiny phase right now.  My car (while not pristine) still runs, and though the skinny jeans don’t quite fit, there are lots of other good things going on…hell, the flowers in my yard are even blooming! Life is good, and I just figure that once that shiny starts wearing off, there’s always spray paint…or Glade.

Best cubemate ever

Best cubemate ever

 

Of hobbitses and such

I’m watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on HBO, and it’s bringing back memories. I’ve had several encounters with the world of Tolkien, the first of which was when I read and loved The Hobbit in the ninth grade. I never managed to make it through the other books, and didn’t think much more about it until I met husband #1 about 10 years later. He was a huge fan of all things Middle Earth, and told me on the night we met that he actually had kept a backpack ready and waiting next to the door for years…just in case Gandolf came to invite him on an adventure. It was a part of the mystique of the man, this love of adventure and fantasy.

During my first few years with #1, I learned a lot more about the world of Bilbo and Frodo (and Hemingway, and guns, and survivalism, and lots of other things…but those are different stories). #1 had Tolkien-oriented nicknames like Strider and Sting for various things, and once purchased a particular walking stick because it look very Gandolf-esque. I learned to love cottages and any house that looked even remotely hobbit-like. It was a wonderful world to want to belong to.

When we bought our comic book store, we decided to include regular books, but limited our selection to science fiction and fantasy. The Hobbit and the Trilogy were always big sellers, and it was comforting to have them in such close proximity on a day-to-day basis. I had always loved Ray Bradbury, and I soon learned to appreciate Anne McCaffrey, Terry Pratchett, David Eddings and many others, but Tolkien was the granddaddy to all of it, and his works were home.

Since Peter Jackson brought this fantasy world to life on screen, hobbits, dwarves and elves are no longer just geek territory. I hope that, in doing so, he’s opened up the world of fantasy to millions who didn’t have a #1 around to make them sit up and take notice of the marvels that await there.

 

 

Dear baby Jeebus…

It’s almost Easter. Now, I’ve never been a very religious person, but I have certainly worn my share of shiny white shoes. For your enjoyment, here’s a pic of a 6-year-old me doing a little Easter Sunday après-church fashion modeling. (I definitely missed my calling!)

Easter model

Work with me, baby…

Lynnie and I were baptized as babies and, up until the age of about 15, were herded off to Resurrection Lutheran Church every Sunday (whether we liked it or not). We were forced to sit through (the boring babysitting service called) Sunday school, and then we did our best to keep quiet during the sermon. Grandmama let us draw and fed us butter rum Lifesavers every Sunday until we were old enough to be interested in what Pastor Derrick was actually saying, and some of it made a lot of sense (how can you argue with ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’?) I was even Mary in the Christmas pageant, complete with a warbly solo. I figured that playing Jesus’s mom pretty much sealed my future as a Church Lady, but it turns out that I was wrong.

What I didn’t count on was one day thinking to myself, ‘Hey…WAIT ONE MINUTE…ANGELS?’ Did they really expect me to believe that stuff? And what about the whole deal with HELL (the place I’d end up if I didn’t stop talking back)…really? Didn’t anyone realize that I was the smart-ass kid who, at 5, looked up the Santa myth in the encyclopedia…did they really think I’d fall for harps, wings and sulphur?

I was never more sure of my lack of belief in churchy stuff than on Easter, when I was supposed to buy off on the idea that God’s son got out of his grave (after three days, no less), walked around for another month or so doing stuff, and then disappeared. It was kind of creepy and certainly not very logical. Of course, I also didn’t believe that a rabbit came through our house in the middle of the night to dump off a bunch of candy and eggs, but I preferred that to the Jesus zombie tale. I decided that it just made more sense to keep on eating the candy, and I managed to keep my mouth shut about both works of fiction…no sense messing up a good reason to eat sugar. (And those Cadbury eggs are only around that one time of year.)

It’s well worth mentioning at this point that I have absolutely NO problem with whatever it is you want to believe…knock yourself out. Luckily for everyone concerned, I gave up being judgmental for Lent.

Here’s a link to the best prayer ever, in my book.

Will praying