Whatdya mean I have to wear pants?!

Big news…I’m finally going back to work at an honest-to-God 8 hour a day so-called normal gig. For the past four years I’ve done free-lance project management which (somehow) paid the bills, but it was never very dependable. There have been quite a few sleepless nights — sometimes because I had to work all night to meet a deadline, and sometimes because I had no idea where the next insurance or mortgage payment was coming from. The best part was that I got to work from home and, while it can get boring not going into an office, at least you never have to work with a nosy office mate or smell anyone else’s lunch being nuked. Best of all though…PAJAMAS! There were some times when being dressed certainly added to the experience, but sweats and yoga pants were usually fancy enough for even the most formal conference call.

Six months ago I took on a second job, doing some part-time front office work for a small heating and air conditioning contractor. It was fun having an office to go to again, and since almost all of my work was computer and phone…no dress code. To top it off, there were regularly dogs in the office, which is a definite perk.

Buck happens to like my 'style'...

Buck happens to like my ‘style’…

Working the two jobs simultaneously was challenging, often requiring me to get up early for my freelance job to take client calls and then stay up late to meet a deadline…squeezing in 6-8 hours of phone work in between. I could no longer wear pajamas all most of the time, but jeans were standard and no one even cared if I bothered to wash my hair (scrunchies were practically encouraged). As you can see from the photo, my office mates were very non-judgmental.

My wonderful new job won’t have fun puppies to pet, but it will have a regular schedule (no more over nighters!), a 401-K with matching funds, insurance that will only cost me a small percentage of what I’ve been paying, and lots of other exciting benefits. I’m really happy about the whole thing, but there is the (unfortunate) requirement that real clothes be worn. Welcome back to the world of business casual, Tammywhich typically does not include fuzzy pj bottoms with bunnies or super hero logos on them, and where yoga pants just won’t cut it. I’m hoping that the extra time I’ll now have will make it easier to do more writing…assuming that I don’t have to spend the whole weekend doing laundry!

 

 

 

When my family wrote (in) the Bible

Grandmama’s bible smells the same now as it did when I was a girl…a scent somewhere between encyclopedia and nursing home, with just a touch of cigarette smoke thrown in. The pages are edged in red, their wispy thinness still protected by the hand-worn, zippered black cover stamped to look like leather. It was a gift from some cousins to my great-grandfather on his birthday in 1958 – the year I was born.

I don’t still own many of the physical things I grew up with…running away from home in your 30’s to find a new life 3000 miles away tends to scatter your stuff. This one thing is honestly my most prized possession and has, miraculously, stayed with me. It holds a place of honor on the bookshelf that faces me most of the time, where my special treasures are kept.

Bible presentation pageNow, I’m not a Christian, and I don’t necessarily value this piece of memorabilia for its content, but the book was important to my Grandmother. It had belonged to her father and was a part of her life for years. She held it carefully in her hands as she explained its stories to me, referring to the pictures of David slaying Goliath and the baby Moses being pulled from the river. I always preferred the Old Testament tales, somehow a little put off by the flashy red text of the New Testament…a tendency that has stayed with me over time.

Another reason that this keepsake is so precious to me is the penmanship in this particular good book. The presentation page was inscribed by, I believe, my great-aunt C, since her boys were the ones doing the gift giving. However, more interesting are the annotations by my sister…St. Lynnie the Defacer (note the green ink). She obviously disagreed with the year (XO, I say!), and added some artwork as well.

Lynnie’s writing continues later on when you get to the Who Married Who pages that follow the prophets. (She changed pens, but I’d recognize that slanty script anywhere.) Here are her notes on our family’s births, accompanied by what I like to believe is a pregnant fish…or something. Her artwork for the Marriages page is also interesting…was she trying to learn to write my name, or are those the three crosses that stood on Calvary Hill…um, probably just the T for Tammy…or some telephone poles. Marriage history

Not that I didn’t leave my own mark, but mine is in the form of a very practiced signature placed right before the beginning of Genesis. I don’t remember putting it there, but it appears to have been an attempt to establish ownership…not claim authorship. Or maybe I just wanted to prove that at least one of the Gist girls could actually write in real cursive (and do fancy swishy underlines). Note, however, the green marks – it seems that Lynnie got the last word.

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Tammy with a capital T got the book, though!

 

 

Lord Byron has left the building

I’ve been processing some very sad news that I recently received. My second husband (affectionately known here as #2) passed away two weeks ago today. He was only 50, and I still don’t know exactly what happened, but I strongly suspect that the disappointment he had in his own life just finally caught up with him.

My ex was a huge man with an immense hunger for love, poetry and romance in the true sense of the word. His heroes were Hemingway, Baudelaire and (most of all) Lord Byron, whom he adored and emulated whenever possible. In fact, #2 wanted to be that ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ poet whose profile he had used when we met on an AOL chat site so many years ago. If he couldn’t have that, he would have settled for living in Hemingway’s Paris of the 1920’s, or for walking about an Ivy League campus with the leather-patched elbows of an English professor. This smart, funny man surrounded himself with books, candles, wine bottles, old paintings and dreams of being someone else…anyone except a warehouse worker from New Jersey.

I was recovering from my long, drawn out breakup with my first husband when I met #2. He powered into my world, bringing laughter, love and a sense of home back into my life. Even more importantly, he helped me to open my heart enough to rediscover the importance of family…something my cross-country move with husband #1 had forced me to bury out of sheer pain. For that gift, I will be forever grateful.

I didn’t write this to talk about myself, but it’s confusing and there’s just no way to know how you’re supposed to feel at a time like this. Obviously, there is sadness, but it’s a strange, muffled ache…like a heart-break once removed. We hadn’t spoken in years, and I no longer had any connection with his life back in New Jersey, but this man was once a huge part of my life. It has taken some soul-searching, but I definitely know that I’m not responsible for my ex’s fate…for someone else’s decisions or for the way their life turned out. I guess that what I’m grieving for is actually the life unlived…the fabulous, fulfilling life that this sweet soul could have had with a little more self-love.

We spent six years together, and were divorced ten years and two weeks ago.

Rest in peace Richie. Thank you for the lessons you shared with me, including this one.

 caspar-david-friedrich

 

I can tell it’s almost Christmas because the meat arrived safely!

My mama has a holiday tradition that tickles me. About this time every year I come home to find that a big old styrofoam box has been delivered to my front porch by UPS or the post office. The ice chest shipping container with rounded corners and Omaha Steaks on the return address has become familiar to me over the years, and it always makes me smile to know that Mama orders this for me as a holiday gift. (Living 3000 miles from your family has some perks, but being away from them at Christmas isn’t one of them.)

Inside my annual non-biodegradable treasure chest there are many smaller boxes, fitted together in a Tetris-like stack over a packet of dry ice. Each year the process of opening the boxes is like a scavenger hunt with varying levels of payoff…

  • Steaks – CHECK (the box doesn’t say Omaha Oatmeal, you know)
  • Pork chops – The ‘other white meat’ and I go wayyyy back.
  • Chicken and/or fish – This year I got both…SCORE! (One year there were two lobster tails…I remember that as the year that I finally believed that there really was a Santa Claus)
  • Hamburgers and gourmet hot dogs – I assume that this means a higher real meat to snout balance?
  • Twice baked potatoes – Seeing these just makes me smile…don’t judge.
  • To top it all off, there’s always a dessert…it’s a bit of a wild card. (A few times I got a whole chocolate tort – yummy but too much for a single girl watching her figure…um…expand. Then there were individually packed mini molten chocolate cakes, but they were better than the big cake, so I ended up eating all of them in one day. Sigh.) I have to say that this year’s dessert has potential…caramel apple tartlets! I’ll let you know if they’re binge-worthy.

So my treats are all stashed in the freezer and now I just have to figure out what to do with the empty styrofoam box. There are some plans online for converting them into everything from an upholstered foot stool to an incubator for snake eggs…which is NOT going to happen. No, like its predecessors before it, mine will most likely just be a cat toy and, if it’s really lucky, may someday be graced with a six-pack…or three.

WARNING Omaha

Click on the picture to find out the truth about this affliction…it’s a sad story!

 

 

 

 

 

Faux slow cookin’…

Other than the runny stuff you have on hot dogs, my family growing up in South Carolina didn’t eat much chili. The standard fare in our house consisted of lots of KFC, TV dinners, macaroni and cheese, roast beef, spaghetti (our international option), and fish sticks (on Fridays cause the Pope said my granddaddy had to). When the chili option was offered, it was because there was a lot of leftover spaghetti sauce, altered only by the addition of red beans and the slightest hint of cayenne pepper. Corn bread (Jiffy with sugar added) and iced tea were served with it and everyone was happy.

When I moved across the country to eventually end up in Oregon, my palette was shocked at first, but I quickly caught on. It turned out that, once you got past the Rockies, Chinese food didn’t involve cans, not all peanuts were boiled, and Tex Mex was a glorious thing! Who knew!?

I had been in Oregon for about 2 years when I decided to participate in a chili cook-off at a company I’d been with for a few months. The office-wide challenge was scheduled for one of our regular Friday afternoon ‘stop work early and drink fancy beer and learn to like your co-workers‘ soirees, and it sounded like fun. I didn’t really know many of the employees outside of my own department, and I certainly didn’t know how seriously people there would take the whole thing.

After looking at tons of traditional Western-style chili recipes (and putting off shopping and cooking until the very last minute), I fired up my off-brand slow cooker and just opted to make a pot of good old spaghetti sauce chili…the kind my grandmama used to make. I doctored it up a bit by adding what seemed to be a sufficient dose of chili powder and I even threw in a few red pepper flakes I figured there would already be a ton of better chili chefs there than I could ever hope to be, and I thought, hey…something different would be fun…right?

Um…not so much.

I set my innocent enough looking Brand X crock pot alongside my competitors’ Rivals and officially trademarked Crock Pots, grabbed a foo-foo beer and headed over to the side of the room to find a spot from which to watch the festivities. I had no more than found a chair and tasted my beer when, from across the room, came the loud exclamation/question that shook me to my core:

WHO THE HELL PUT SWEET BASIL IN THIS POT OF SO-CALLED CHILI???!!!”

I wasn’t quite sure how to react to being outed as a faux chili-maker, so I just looked around the room like everyone else was doing…trying my best to looked shocked at this affront. Who would DO such a thing? SWEET BASIL…the very nerve! Tsk!

I bolted, suddenly deciding remembering that I had some urgent work to finish back at my desk. I made my apologies and sidled out of the room…putting as much space between myself and that off-brand cooker fiasco as possible!

I heard a few hours later that I’d taken last place in the cook-off. I waited for everyone else to leave before I returned to (anonymously) retrieve my (sadly still full) cookware, wondering how they judged it to be last place without even tasting it!

I know, I know…it’s a sad story of wasted food and an ego crushed even more than the tomatoes in a jar of Ragu, but I recovered. It’s worth mentioning that I still don’t care for fancy beer, but I actually do LIKE my own chili. In fact, I have a big old pot of it simmering right now. These days I do add a good bit more chili powder and I learned to replace the basil with cumin, but it still has enough day-old spaghetti flavor to make my inner Southern girl happy, and my cook-off losing inner chef smiles with every spoonful.

Pepper hat girl

Yeah, I’m hot stuff…just sayin’…

 

 

Back on the right (wrong) coast

I’ve lived in Oregon for 22 years now. When I first moved across country from South Carolina to the west coast with #1, I was so busy learning to be an Oregonian (and trying to forget the life that we ran away from) that it was seven years before I finally came back east to see my family. These days, I’m a better daughter/sister/aunt, and I travel the 2320 miles (as the crow flies) once or twice a year.

Currently, I’m on my second trip this year back to S.C. and, so far, it’s been a doozy…

  • I had boiled peanuts for the first time in about 25 years (it may have been that they came from a gas station, but I think I can go another 25 without them and be just fine)
  • I had the worst Starbucks of my life (Portland does ruin you for some things)
  • I ran into childhood TV host Mr. Knozit (Joe Pinner) while out at dinner (and forced him to talk to me)
  • I tried on eye glasses at Walmart and had to explain to the nice lady that yes, I do in fact have a head so enormous that I have to wear men’s glasses (she didn’t believe me until I tried on the lady glasses just to show her how strangely tiny they looked. Thanks, Walmart lady…thanks a lot.)
  • I went to the movies with the entire family (Mama, Lynnie AND the niece and nephew) for the first time EVER (and no seat arms were harmed)
  • I arrived and it was 80 degrees – two days later we woke up to heavy snow (the earliest snow they’ve EVER had here). Thanks, Al Gore Roker.
  • I listened to my sister Lynnie yelling at the Gamecocks (that actually has happened this early in the year) and
  • I discovered the true beauty of Adult Swim TV (thank you, Nephew! Oh Rick and Morty…where have you been all my life?)

The best is yet to come though…today my sissy is going to make her famous fried pork chops for dinner, along with rice with (real) gravy, roasted Brussel sprouts and Sweetie Pie’s macaroni and cheese. I may need an extra seat for the trip back to the other coast…but it’ll be worth it!

Knozit

Oh Mr. Knozit…you haven’t changed a bit!

Did ya miss me?

I just realized that it’s been almost a solid month since I’ve posted anything, and that’s just WRONG. I’ve certainly thought about it plenty of times, but too much work and too little sleep just don’t contribute a whole lot to the creative process.

Not much new and exciting to report…it’s fall again, so my yard once again smells like a Welch’s grape jelly factory — it’s a beautiful thing but I do seem to be buying a lot more peanut butter than I normally would.

Big banking news…I used my debit card online so much that the bank thought terrorists had it and shut that sucker OFF. I didn’t really buy that much actual stuff, but (note to self) it’s probably not wise to have five Amazon repeat orders, two eBay finds and a pet supplies order in the same week. cat thingy

The good news: the cats have a new scratching post tower climby thingy that was on the last credit card charge before the plug on the BofA connection got pulled. The bad news: I must have picked a dud, because those damn ungrateful cats don’t seem the least bit interested.

I’ll try very hard to have some better adventures before my next post.