Smell Well

It’s said that some of our earliest memories are tied to our sense of smell, and I can’t disagree. Some of my own early recollections involve the scents people wore…the stiff sweetness of less than sincere smiling church ladies drenched in their cloying Estee Lauder Youth Dew while their husbands’ Old Spice cowered in the upper air, obviously not up to the challenge

The most important of these memories isn’t even technically scented. It’s of my grandmother’s treasured My Sin – rarely worn, the tiny bottle sitting in its place of honor on her dresser. I struggle to remember the actual smell of the stuff, but probably because it’s overshadowed by the sheer wickedness of the name, so much in contrast with Grandmama herself. I remember a musky undertone though, and I’ve always preferred my own scent to be spicy, musky, with amber notes.

A few nights ago I went out with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We chatted over drinks, ending up at an extra divey bar for (not as great as advertised) nachos. When she left I stayed on for a bit, gambling on the penny slots. Slowly losing money has an allure I haven’t quite figured out yet, but it’s mindless and makes for some interesting people watching.

After a while I smelled something like soap mixed with beer, melted cheese and and a tiny bit of amber. It actually smelled almost pleasant, and I turned to find the source. A couple was gambling while their food was being brought to a nearby table. The guy sat down to start in on a huge burger, his protruding belly leaned close to the table. His partner moved to the machine next to me, her skin-tight white pants and sparkly belly shirt catching my eye. Her black hair was long and insanely straight, but somehow more plastic than human. Being cursed with a hatred of silence, I said, “What’s that scent you’re wearing? It’s familiar…”.

Well, before I could get the full thought out, she shoved a small roller ball applicator under my nose…obviously proud of her signature smell. I took a much larger whiff than intended, and it was honestly all I could do to not turn away…the taste of hour-old nachos creeping up the back of my throat. She told me the name of the concoction, but I was far too focused on not falling off my stool to catch it.

About that time she grabbed my left wrist, her long neon orange nails glowing in the poker machine light. “Here you go!” she squealed, coating my inner wrist with the greasy roller ball from fragrance HELL.

“Oh my god,” I thought to myself in slow motion, movie-scene words as the hussy grabbed my other wrist to spread the evil smell even farther. It felt like she was trying to start a fire, rubbing my wrists together, the friction stirring up the atoms of the noxious liquid and throwing them up into the air and farther up into my brain.

“She’s a hooker….” I screamed silently, “…obviously a hooker…”

“If I live through this, I’ll never talk to strangers again…”


And then her counterpart waved the scent demon over to the table with an angry swiping motion, and the funk dispenser was gone…her damage done. I cashed out, grabbed my coat and left, a trail wafting behind me.

When I got home I scrubbed my wrists, but mere soap was no match for the smell. I finally dowsed my hands in rubbing alcohol up to my elbows, and the world was good again. I slept restlessly that night, waking periodically to odd thoughts of Irish Spring, Budweiser, wet dog and dying gardenias.

I later described the roller ball smell as a cross between Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke and a Dollar Store air freshener but, in retrospect, there may have been just a tiny bit of church lady thrown in. I’m also pretty sure there was some Sin in the mix, but it wasn’t mine, so I think Grandmama would approve.


I Sing the RONA Blues

It’s day 36 of my lockdown at home with only 4 field trips reported…

illicit outings to get meds, food and booze…each one carefully recorded.

‘Stay at home, be safe’ – it’s the rule of day, but it almost feels like a war.

‘Wash your hands…wear a mask’, and worst of all,

‘For God’s sake don’t party no more!’


My days are spent working and missing my life,

trying to make sense of it all.

I do love those Cuomos, but I’m sick of the news

and the statistics that only appall.


I swear that I’m finishing up NetFlix this week,

even the lame subtitled shows.

My disdain for the Tiger King ain’t going nowhere,

but my love for those Derry Girls grows!


All the chores that I swore 

would be finished by now, they just sit there and laugh in my face.

The closets aren’t clean and the floors aren’t mopped,

and cat toys still litter the place.


‘Have you written? you ask. ‘You know that you should.’

A strained look comes over my face.

I know that you’re right but writing means thinking

and right now that might not be so good.


And don’t think that I’m down or depressed

from that last little bit that I wrote.

I know just how lucky I am in this life, 

hunkered down with my cats and the rest.


At the end of the day, we’re all just hanging in,

doing the best that we can.

I’m counting my blessings but looking ahead

to a world with US back in it again.


Writing a journal was a friend’s idea – we’ll call him the Alien. I fought him, but when I tried to say it wasn’t a big deal that I wasn’t writing any longer, an ice cube in my glass actually exploded right in my face…it cracked so loudly that we both stopped talking and then stared long and hard at each other, our eyes wide. The universe was basically laughing at me…forcing me to think about the ideas I’d just put out there like they were totally logical.

“No one wants to read anything I have to say…and I’m stuck with nothing to say anyway!”

“CRACKKKKKKKKKK…no ma’am! Maybe it doesn’t matter whether anyone wants to read what you write,” said the Universe. (At this point I should point out that I imagine the universe’s voice sounding like the love child of Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland…carried to term by Kathleen Turner.) “Maybe, Tammy…just maybe…you simply need to write.”

Well damn, the Universe has given me many subliminal messages in my day, and some that were pretty damn direct, but rarely has it thrown ice shards in my face and called me on my bullshit in a voice that would scare Charlton Heston!

“But what should I write about?” I squeaked. 

This time the Universe used the Alien to do his talking. “Just start by writing about your day…try writing a journal.”


Today I worked from home, because we’re in the midst of a pandemic. I’m just lucky enough to have a job that allows it, and I’m grateful for that. We wear face masks and gloves to the grocery store, and we wash our treasures off when we get home…every can, every bottle, apple, lime, box of pasta, bag of beans, and pack of paper towels (if we’re lucky). We fear contact with our loved ones, friends and pretty much everyone out there. We pray that the liquor store won’t close, and we thank our Morgan Freeman/Donald Sutherland/Kathleen Turner voiced deities that we have the internet and Netflix. We get depressed and worry about our families far away…will they get sick? Will we ever see them again? 

And then we pour a glass of wine, take a breath, sit and reflect. And, if we’re smart…

We write.

Dear Universe,

So, dear universe, I opened my mailbox today, and there was a wayyyyy overly generous gift card from my ex-husband.  You know…the guru one that I now call friend.

“What’s up with that?” (I says to myself)…but I get no response. So I wait. And then I wait some more.

“Damn Tammy,” says the universe, (after a pause that makes me question just how in touch with this whole universe thing I really am), “…don’t you get it?”

Now, this sets me on my heels for a second. “Get WHAT?”

I sit for a minute, but I get nothin’. Normally, when that happens I figure I just have to sit and worry things out for a bit, but nothing was happening, and this puzzlement was getting me pretty worked up. What the hell did I do to deserve this sweet gesture?

After a bit it finally hits me. I didn’t do anything…I never had to. I just sat back and let my life take its path…hell, I let several of them play out. Sometimes there’s no reason for goodness, or sadness, or a combination of both of them. It’s not about ME…it just is. Sometimes there’s no need to understand…or to ‘get it’. Sometimes, you just do, and you surrender, and you breathe…and things are good. Or they’re not.

Thank you friend, and thank you universe. I’m a pretty lucky soul.

The Thelma to my Louise?

So I was sitting at the bar of a neighborhood tavern after work, watching The Goonies with the sound off…you know, like you do. I saw an older lady at the poker machines off to the side, but I didn’t think much about it.

After a bit, I sensed a presence behind me, and there was a bit of banter about who’s sitting where. Next thing I knew, the bartender was helping/hoisting someone up onto the bar stool to my left. The first thing I noticed about her was bright red “I Love Lucy” lipstick, accompanied by an even brighter red blouse and black pants. The outfit was completed with a striped white and red neck scarf tied tight, and a shapeless black hat atop curls a shade somewhere between old pennies and Cheetos.

The barkeep put a glass of ice and a fresh can of Ranier in front of my new bar mate. With queenly grace, she poured the beer over the ice.

“Beer with ice?” I wondered out loud.

“That’s how I like it,” she replied, scanning the bar for something that was obviously missing. “Young man, can I have some salt?”

She took the offered shaker and sprinkled salt over the beer in her glass, admiring her work. After she took a healthy sip she turned to me.

“I’m Beverly, and I’m 86 years old. I haven’t been here in many years. The first time I came into this bar, I was 17 and pregnant. They called this place The Punjab back then.”

Well, she might as well have said, “I’m Queen Beverly, and I’ve come down from Mars to visit with the Earth-peasants,” as far as I was concerned. I was awe-struck and the questions poured out.

I learned that the queen lives in the neighborhood and no, she didn’t drink when she was 17 and pregnant. She also explained that the establishment only let her in back then because she was with her husband, “Things were pretty different back then…a woman couldn’t really go to the bar without a man.” I shuddered at the thought!

Beverly and I bonded – we ooh’ed and ahhh’d over the oh-so-young 1985 Josh Brolin as the head-banded Goonie on the screen in front of us. We discussed how the bar had changed in 69 years (‘Not so much, really.’) She told me that her single son lives with her (‘Is he cute?’ Well, I’m his mama…so I think so.’ I quickly changed the subject.) She admired my FitBit and I shared the miracle that is with her (‘And they send it right to you?’) We discussed her love of gambling (‘It’s actually my money, but my son makes me stick to a daily limit…I just put $350 into that machine right there!’)

It was at this juncture that my new idol ordered another beer, adding, “I have to be careful you know…I’m driving!”

I guess my face showed a bit of concern. She gestured grandly over to the wall next to the poker machines. There, at rest in the dark, was her carriage – a red Rascal scooter, plugged into the wall.

I think it was at that point that I realized that I was having a moment from a different movie from 1985. The Goonies had ended on the TV, but in real life it was suddenly Back to the Future, and I was young Biff meeting old Biff!

I would have loved to stay later and learn more from future me (‘Will I ever really get to stop working? Is there another future ex-husband out there? When do the wrinkles kick in???), but it was a weeknight, so I had to head home. I heard stories later about how her highness had yet another beer, how she playfully squeezed the bartender’s arm as he walked her to her chariot, and how she eventually drove off down the sidewalk with no lights on. I like to think her curls were just a little wild in the breeze.

I don’t think Rascal makes a two-seater, but I’ll see you again, Ms. Beverly.

I’m probably allergic to you

A few weeks back I bought a GroupOn deal to get some allergy/sensitivity testing done. It was a good price, and I’ve been wanting to get some help in figuring out any food or environmental things that I’m particularly sensitive to. What could go wrong?

The testing kit finally came in the mail and I was excited to get started…until I read the following instruction:

Cut approximately 90-120 hairs, as close to the scalp as possible. The amount should be roughly the width of a pencil.

A PENCIL??? Needless to say, the whole idea was quite alarming. Didn’t those allergy test peddlers know how much time and energy I spend on my hair? How it’s my glory…my best feature? And to top it off, I had paid for this golden opportunity to wreck my ‘do’!

OK…I took a breath. I had to come up with a plan, the goal of which was to not end up with a big old missing clump that would grow out looking like a spiky post-chewing gum hair debacle from my sister’s past (more about that in an upcoming post). I first tried pulling out some hairs, but that got old really fast. (So much for the high pain tolerance I claim to have.)

Plan B – I would selectively cut teeny bunches from a variety of locations, thereby spreading the damage out so that it wouldn’t be noticeable. After patting myself on the back for such an ingenious plan, I picked up my (impossibly awkward) work scissors, decided I didn’t really need a mirror (since I was sitting at my desk at work), and got on with the cutting. The first few, ‘shhh-nip, shhh-nips’ went well enough, but when I bundled my harvest together the grouping wasn’t even the width of a pencil lead…much less a full Ticonderoga #2. Deciding that bold action was called for, I decided to slightly increase the size of the bunches. I would be careful to distribute the damage and was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.


I pulled my hand away…afraid to look. When I did I saw that I was holding at least a good half-pencil’s width of 18-inch strands, ranging from gunmetal gray to L’Oreal #8 Medium Natural Blonde. It was at that point I decided that my career as a beautician was over.

So far I haven’t noticed any real damage, but I check every single day for evidence of my (lack of) tonsorial skills. Was it worth it? Yesterday I received the following Allergy/Sensitivity List:

  • Ragweed / Mixed grass pollens – Duh.
  • Milk / Lactose / BUTTER FAT – I knew about the milk thing, but THIS explains sooooo much….sigh.
  • Courgette – OK, I had to look it up…only to learn that I’m allergic to one of the only vegetables I actually like. Goodbye, Zucchini…I’ll miss you.
  • Anise – I never liked licorice…I’m SO vindicated!
  • Pine – I think I told ya’ll I’m allergic to Christmas trees.
  • Pine nuts / Pumpkin seeds / Castor bean – And I care because…?
  • Box elder – I’m pretty sure this is the big old tree that #1 planted right in the middle of my backyard 15 years ago – the one that throws seedlings all over the whole neighborhood. Thanks, buddy.
  • Moths – Um…that’s just weird. I guess I’ll have to give up that ‘hanging out under the street light’ habit I’ve been working on.
  • Horse Fly Bot – WTF???? I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far of avoiding most bugs, but especially the larva of flies that live around horses. So much for my dream of becoming a farmer…cause that was so gonna happen.
  • Trimelletic Anhydride – OK…I had to look this one up too, and it turns out it’s an industrial POISON. Wouldn’t pretty much every human being on the planet be sensitive to it? (I hope they didn’t charge me extra for that one.)

And, last but not least…

  • Cat dander

I guess my consolation is that vodka, hair dye and ladies Rogaine weren’t on the list.

The Story of Buffy

Buffy came to me about 12 years ago, via the humane society. My friend Sabrina first spotted her while doing some volunteer work at the center; she saw there was something special about the grey-striped kitty with the chill disposition and told me that I really needed to go and just give her a look. I had recently lost a cat to old age and my heart was broken–I was pretty sure that I wasn’t ready for a new critter. My Sophie had been a gift from #1 many years ago, when we were still in South Carolina, and the spunky little cat was the only thing I still had from that previous life. Losing her after 18 years together felt like I’d lost a part of myself, but I finally gave in and decided to go and check out this ‘special’ girl.

I met up with Sabrina at the animal shelter and we walked over to the living room set-up that is the showroom for about 20 cats of varying shapes, colors and sizes. I noticed a smallish, silvery-striped tabby lying stretched out comfortably on her back….on top of another cat. I laughed and Sabrina said, “You see her, huh?”

“That’s the one?”

“Yep…she’s something, isn’t she?”

I wasn’t gonna be had that easily though, and insisted that we do a walk-through to check out all the other available cats. Sabrina went along with it, but she obviously thought it wasn’t necessary. We started down the looping hallway lined with glass-fronted cages, stopping at each to read the placard put there to explain the idiosyncrasies of its resident (Pookie doesn’t like to be held, or Mittens is a quiet girl…etc.). Most of the cats were sleeping or playing, oblivious to our presence, and as we got farther along I could feel myself being pulled more and more strongly back to the fake living room where the uniquely relaxed tiger kitty was. Then it hit me…what if someone else saw her while I was dilly-dallying, pretending that there was any other cat there that I’d even consider? My saunter turned into a faster paced hustle, and Sabrina smiled as we rushed back to the cat she knew should be my new friend.

We asked to see the lounger and were led to a small side room to meet her. We sat and waited on a bench, and shortly the attendant came in with a box. She opened the lid and a sweet, curious cat face popped up. It was then that I noticed a pink, heart-shaped nose outlined in black, and two smiling green eyes with a crazy amount of personality. Within a few seconds I had two sets of claws lightly scraping my leg. “Say hello to Buffy,” the volunteer laughed, “I’ll leave you folks to visit for a bit.”

I swear it was as if that cat was auditioning for me…after she finished the ‘clawing disguised as a stretch’ against my legs she purred, stretched some more, rubbed her face on my hand and did all the adorable things cats are supposed to do, finishing up with her butt up in the air as an invitation to scratch her back quarters. I was totally smitten. Sabrina and I did note that she wasn’t afraid to use those claws, but she wasn’t rough or wild about it, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I was sold.

In the years since then, the Buffster and I went through a lot together. I learned to handle her occasional sofa clawing, and she loved me with an aloof but wide-open heart that made my world a much better place. She charmed everyone she ever met and was loved so much by her Aunt Linda (a fellow cat lady friend who house-sat for me and always treated Buffy like a princess). They played for hours with a special ‘cat fishing’ toy that I keep behind a glass door in my entertainment center, and Buffy would run to that cabinet whenever Linda came through the door. She knew a sucker when she saw one!

We also made it through a few human boyfriend types–Buffy tried to warn me about one of them, but I was oblivious (Note to self: When the cats don’t like ’em, back away). She was notorious for using her ‘butt in the air’ trick when she liked someone, begging them to scratch at the base of her spine, and my latest boyfriend was graced by this gesture more times than we bothered to count. (He obviously wasn’t the one she tried to warn me about!)

Along the way Buffy and I lost a cat friend–Zoe, the beautiful but dumb one that I called my “Anna Nicole Cat”. After that we endured the somewhat chaotic entry of Pickle into our lives. We barely saw him for the first month he lived here…he hid in the basement, petrified of both of us…but he finally cozied up to her, and the two eventually became buddies. After about a year they were inseparable; her favorite thing was to cuddle with him and let him groom her…and then turn around and box his ears. She was the boss, and he adored her.

After Pickle gave in to Buffy’s charms, he even started sleeping with us. He liked to snuggle up with his head on my pillow, and his sister would circle up into a ball right behind my knee. I was trapped, but happy with the arrangement, and I slept soundly.

Pickle and I are both sad right now. Our Buffy left us almost a month ago, and neither of us has yet figured out how things are supposed to work without her. He cries and looks for her, and usually tries to sleep on top of me these days. I toss and turn and wake up just enough to pat him and tell him it’s going to be okay. Eventually, it will be.

The afternoon after Buffy’s last trip to the vet was quiet and empty in our house. I sat on the couch, neither noticing nor caring about the few shredded areas of sofa material, scars from my girl’s errant claws. I turned on the TV but wasn’t watching it…I just felt alone. I shifted my gaze to see what Pickle was up to and, when I turned back, the previously closed glass door to my entertainment center was suddenly wide open. The same door that houses the favorite cat fishing stick and feathers, the toy that had been idle and untouched for some two months. That cupboard hadn’t even been open in a long while, but it suddenly just…was.

I smiled and picked up Pickle, holding him to me whether he wanted to be cuddled or not. He snuggled back against me briefly before he squirmed his way out of my arms, jumped to the floor and ran.

It really is going to be okay.

Sweetest. Cat. Ever.

Book ’em!

I have a friend who just finished writing his second book. I edited it for him, and I now have a much better appreciation for what a huge task it all is…frankly, I’m in awe.

I continually tell myself that I need to write more, and I get lots of love and encouragement from those who read what I do manage to get in writing. However, being a dues-paying member of the Procrastinator’s Guild, I’ve pretty much just been poking a stick at the process for quite a while. Not a lot of actual writing going on, but I have been jotting down a few initial sentences and notes. In a tentative, half-assed way, I guess I’ve finally started making the first attempts at beginning to write my own book.

One thing that’s been a big challenge for me is feeling like I don’t have a crystal clear vision of what my first book is supposed to be. Hell, I don’t know that I even have a muddified Portland fall morning’s notion of what it’s supposed to be. I keep worrying at it though and (in fun) here are some of the titles and ideas I’ve been throwing around in my head…


Lessons From Losers

The diary of a middle-aged woman as she reflects back on the more entertaining choices in suitors that she’s made. Not for the faint of heart. (Look for the upcoming sequel   —   Go Ahead…Date the Drummer.)


The Know-It-All Life

(sub-title: A Professional’s Guide to Pissing People Off Without Even Knowing It)


Don’t Wear Your Hoochie Mama Dress to Court…The Tammy Kelly Story

A racy coming-of-age tale with just enough bluegrass, booze and jury duty to keep you on the edge of your bar stool. (Come on, you know you’d buy it.)


Big Hair…Will Travel

She came into town with a can of Aqua Net and a dream. (Soon to be a minor made-for-tv movie…see your local LifeTime channel listings.)



It’s obviously still a work in progress, but I’m feeling better about it every time I put fingers to keyboard. Stay tuned for further developments!

Not exactly a DAYdream believer…

So I just read through some old notes about dreams I’ve had, and I ran across this winner…

A few months back I dreamed about being in a movie; I wasn’t sure what the story line for the script was, but there were lots of thugs and tough guys involved. At some point I came up with an idea that ended up being included in the movie, and I got really excited about it. My brilliant idea was to take a Monkees’ song and change the words around…because you know that’s so gangsta. (For those too young to remember the enigma that was The Monkees, they were a goofy teen heart-throb band from the late 1960’s that was made up for a TV show. They had a few songs that were actually good though, and some sad, middle-aged women apparently still have dreams about them.)micky davy final

Back to the dream…the next thing you know, The Monkees themselves were actually there on the movie set! It was big stuff for me, and I decided that I needed to help them ‘get’ my version of their song, so I sang the heck out of it. Not sure how long that part lasted, but it was a big part of the dream and seemed to go on and on. I guess I must have been singing a bit emphatically (as is my nature), because Davy Jones kept staring at me and he didn’t look too happy (maybe he knew I always liked Micky Dolenz better?)

The dream continued for quite a while, with me singing and Davy being all aloof and snooty, just like I knew he would be. I must have eventually worn him down though, because at some point he came up behind me and told me to walk across the room. He then reached out his hands and sort of held my butt while I walked, as he’d requested. In typical non-linear dream style, I suddenly remembered that I had been having a terrible backache…and he fixed it! Then he started to hold my…well…things started to turn a little sexy…but my back felt great!

Sorry Micky, it wasn’t a lucid dream, or I might have made better choices!

And then I hit 9000 hits…

I love you…every single damn person who’s clicked on this site and spent their minutes reading what I write. Thank you…seriously.

I haven’t been having any damn luck writing lately. The truth is that I’ve been trying to get my gumption up to write a book. A real life, honest to goodness booky book, with a beginning, middle and end. The challenge is what (in the hell) such a thing looks like…? I continually overthink this…should it be a fantasy/fiction? I can’t say that I’ve ever been good at that. Or maybe it’s my story…cobbled together from blogs and tall tales? Hmmm. How ’bout my story told through my grandmama’s eyes…or maybe…her story told through mine?

Thoughts? I welcome your feedback, gentle reader.