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…

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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.)

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The Know-It-All Life

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

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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.)

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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.)

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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!

When ‘Mother’s little helper’ had crust

I just called my mama to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Knowing that she wouldn’t ‘get’ the Rolling Stone’s song reference on the gift I sent her, I figured I needed to explain the hooty little pill-box (as shown). I was right and when I mentioned Valium she said, “OH! Heehee…”pill box

During our conversation I mentioned that the anniversary of my marriage to #1 was last week, and Mama asked if I knew what August the 9th was. I couldn’t think of anything.

“That’s the day I married your father…August 9th, 1957.”

Naturally, I immediately started doing the math…let’s see…I was born May 14th of 1958…almost exactly 9 months.

“You weren’t pregnant when you got married, were you?” I asked. (I’ve always sort of assumed that she was, but I’d never asked her outright.)

“NO,” she said, using two syllables. “You were an early baby.”

“I was?” That actually surprised me since I’ve never even been on time to anything I can remember, much less early.

“Yep, the doctors told me that if I didn’t lose a lot of weight, they were going to put me in the hospital until you were delivered. So I just went ahead and had you before my next appointment!”

I had to sit on that news for a minute. My 4’11” mama weighed 98 pounds when she got pregnant with me and (according to her) she pretty much doubled her weight while carrying me (she claims that whole pies trembled and then disappeared in her presence). Naturally, when given the choice to (A) Stop eating treats or (B) Go into early labor and shoot me out into the world early…well, duh. I didn’t have to do the math on that one!

I love you, Mama. You’ve taught me so many lessons just by being who you are, and I know how hard you always worked to keep Lynnie and me happy. And now I know exactly where I got my addiction love for food!

Happy Mothers Day ya’ll!

 

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

 

How I’m the Cesar Milan of exes

Being a cat lady in training, I usually write about feline critters, but hubby #2 and I actually had two cats and a dog. Not being a particularly active couple, we should probably have gotten a puppy that would happily grow into a couch potato (like us), or so Animal Planet (and common sense) would tell you. Naturally, we instead opted for an incredibly hyper, Mensa-qualified Australian Shepherd who was more neurotic than I am. We named her Callie, short for the name in the old Louis Jordan song (“Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?”) I had no idea how appropriate it would end up being, that’s for sure!

To add fuel to that smoldering inferno-to-be, #2 truly believed that it was a dog’s job to bark at strangers and to protect us. Yep, this 6’4″ almost 300 pound man needed a 40 pound dog to guard US. By the age of a year and a half, our little Callie was a noisy, annoying, obnoxious dog who spent a lot of time herding me around the house. (Her favorite was to try to drag me by the hem of my bathrobe, but jeans would suffice. There was also a lot of good old heel nipping.) A few times she tried to back-foot me out of bed, so that she could be with her man! #2 would just laugh and laugh at our problem child.

Callie

This is what I was dealing with…yeah, she looks cute in this Glamour Shot, but looks are deceiving!

The duo spent a lot of time together while I was at work (and they…um…weren’t), so my efforts to enforce order (or at least reason) were pretty much useless. I often came home to find them sitting on the living room floor howling together like wolves, or passed out on the couch in each other’s arms (at least #2 was the only one of the two sporting a purple Merlot mustache). Callie’s giant Alpha would have fierce tug-of-war games with her, encouraging her growls and nips…it was a runaway train.

We took Callie the Fierce to doggy daycare for a while, but it was expensive and the folks who worked there said that she rarely played much with the other dogs…she just sat on the sidelines and whined. We stopped taking her there…or much of anywhere actually…because any time she rode with us she would herd other cars while in our car, actually crashing into the windows! We conveniently lived just down the street from a dog park, so we took her there daily to help run some of the crazy hyper out of her. Well, we took her for a while, but she eventually started attacking any dog that came near us. It was at that point that I decided that we needed to do some real training, in spite of #2’s protests.

I found a trainer who would come to our house (no driving!) and I threw myself into working with her to try to bring Ms. Callie back from the dark side. #2 joined in for a bit during the first lesson, but he grew impatient pretty quickly and gave up. (I think it was about the time that the trainer turned to us and said, “I don’t know what you two were thinking, but you do NOT need to have a dog…at least not THIS ONE.”)

I didn’t give up though. This woman knew her stuff, and pretty soon she had my terrible dog sitting quietly. Within a few hours she taught Callie to stop whatever she was doing by using one command: CONTROL. I was stunned…just like those crazed dog owners that Cesar Milan helps on TV! I was thanking her for her work when she took me aside, looked around to make sure #2 wasn’t listening, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know…these training tips work on PEOPLE TOO. I’m not telling you your business, but you should try them on…um…people.”

Over time I sorted out the mysteries of how this sweet dog got turned into a mess (naturally submissive, forced into an aggressive state, too smart to not have a job…the list is long). Callie ended up being much better after she and I learned her magic word, but it only worked for me…#2 never picked it up. I could get her to stay put, drop whatever I didn’t want her to have, or stop growling by just using a word, while my husband just mumbled under his breath about how I had ruined his dog.

I tried to follow the trainer’s advice about using the training tips in other other ways, but I never quite mastered any trick to get #2 to behave or to be happy. What I eventually did figure out was the word that worked best for ME: “Goodbye.”

Epilogue:

Callie went on to live in New Jersey with her grandmother and her Alpha. I’m told that she once chased a moving car until her face caught it and she lost a canine tooth. She supposedly had a good (if not CONTROLLED) life.

I now have a dog who comes when I call her and sits on command…but that’s another story.

 

Pictures of dead people

My house is a cute little 1923 cottage on a quiet street. It has a black and white tile fireplace with an oak mantel and built-in bookshelves, crown moldings, great energy, a wisteria-draped front porch and an established yard with fruit trees, flowers and two 90-year-old grape vines. I knew it was supposed to be my home the very first time I walked into it.

Husband #2 and I had been married for about a year when we started house hunting, and he hated the process so much that he wanted to buy every house that we saw. He was a really big man (6’4″ and about 260 at that time), and one of the houses he ‘wanted’ was so tiny that his head almost brushed the ceiling! I finally took the real estate agent aside and asked her to just stop listening to him. She laughed and nodded, and we came up with a sign that I would give for houses that I wasn’t at all interested in. That realtor and I made a pretty good team–we would walk into a semi-crappy house in a less than lovely neighborhood, and I would wave away a ‘fly’. Before #2 could start to say, “Honey, I really like…” my co-conspirator would point out some huge problem with the house and we’d be on to the next one.

(Side note–this is the same ex who actually liked that our Australian Shepherd barked too much, taunted her to make her bark even more, and thought that turning this neurotic puppy into a growly ‘watch’ dog was a great idea. When we finally hired a trainer, on her first visit she asked, “Who on Earth told you two that you should own a dog?!” Later, she took me aside and explained that some of the training methods she’d shown us also ‘worked on people’…as she glanced over her shoulder at #2!)

Back to houses…there was no secret signal needed when we walked into the little cottage with the amazing fireplace and (as the ad read) the ‘Martha Stewart back yard’. It just felt like home to me, and I hadn’t had a real home in a very long time. We made an offer and planned our big move.

We began hauling our things into the quaint little house, and quickly realized that we didn’t have many nice pictures to hang. You may have read in an earlier post that #2 was a bit eccentric…he was into Lord Byron and the Romantic poets, loved all things French, and was obsessed with anything from the 1920’s. One day I came home from work and he had framed and hung some old sheet music printed during the flapper era (that he just happened to have lying around), and they looked good! I never would have thought of doing it, and it was unique and seemed to fit the house.

Somebody else's Grandma

Somebody else’s Grandma in her early years

Boy with cart

It’s a boy…and that’s not a wheelchair

Taking those old framed pieces as our starting point, we looked around for more vintage pictures on eBay and at the local Goodwill. (If you’ve never been to Portland, we have some of the best Goodwill stores anywhere. Maybe it’s a result of our rampant recycling, but thrift shopping is a huge deal here.) What we ended up with were some amazing old photos that I still have hanging, including a hand-tinted panoramic view of Portland from the late 1800’s, a Victorian sepia photo print of ‘Our American Poets’, and some reprints of old shots of downtown Portland. My favorites, however, are the pictures of dead people from someone else’s family. 

I was (luckily) not awarded custody of that crazy dog in the divorce with #2, but I refinanced the house and I got to keep the dead folks on my walls. When friends come over for the first time, they usually ask about all my ‘relatives’. I explain that I don’t even understand it myself, but it’s oddly comforting to me having these old portraits of random strangers who expired long ago hanging on my walls. I guess it turns out that I’m a little eccentric myself, and these faux relatives suit me…and this house…just fine.

Oh, and #2 was also the lawn guy. When we split up, Martha Stewart took back her yard. I figured it was a good trade.