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!

Rules of the road

I haven’t lived this long without picking up a few important things worth sharing. Here are some simple rules that I live by:

  • Never. Drink. Tequila.
  • Shake hands like you mean it…that limp girly thing is just nasty.
  • Never buy a piece of clothing that comes with jewelry already attached to it.
  • Don’t expect a confirmed liar to ever tell you the truth.
  • Know how to cook at least one meal that will impress company.
  • Understand that, if everyone threw their troubles out onto a pile on the floor, you really would pick your own right back up. (Thanks for that one, Grandmama.)
  • If someone tells you you’re pretty, just hush up and accept the compliment.
  • Don’t ever wear leggings without something covering up your important parts (or you won’t get any compliments to accept).
  • If all else fails and you have to lie…do it big. (Especially if you’ve been drinking tequila.)
  • Always wear a bra to work. (I stole that one, but it’s too important to forget!)
  • Sometimes all you actually have to do is breathe.
  • Floss those damn teeth!
  • Love yourself first.
  • That 3rd helping only sounds like a good idea.
  • Go ahead and dance…you’ll probably never even see those fools again. (Warning…disregard this one if there’s been any tequila involved.)
  • Learn to say no.
  • You can set as many alarms as you want, but it’s all about eventually getting your ass out of that bed.
  • A blinker doesn’t turn a car. (Thank you, Mama.)
  • Don’t leave until the credits are over.
  • You deserve top shelf liquor. Just no tequila…seriously.
necklace shirt

Just say “NO!”

Less of me around

And no, I’m not writing about my recent lack of writing. I’m working on that even as we speak! This time I’m writing about my favorite subject…ME.

I’ve talked before about having been a bigger girl most of my life. By the 5th grade I was 5’1″ and (almost) towered over my 4’11” mama. I already had a womanly shape, complete with boobs and the accompanying embarrassment over needing a bra before the other girls in my grade did. It took me years to understand the power of those curves, as well as to realize that they could betray me if left to their own devices…it’s a sad, sad tale.

By high school I was still shapely, but in a bigger boned sort of way. I still loved my southern food (hello, Banana Puddin’…I wish I knew how to quit you), and I never was one for sports. By the time I got to college and met my new best friend Michelob, I had been introduced to a whole new set of adventures and opportunities for getting even fluffier.

Curves aheadIt turns out that there’s a point for some of us when voluptuousness can take a left turn down a dark road called Chunky Lane… a byway littered with empty SnackWell and Quarter Pounder wrappers, Halloween candy bowls with only the nasty orange-colored marshmallow things left at the bottom, and the occasional half-drunk can of Slimfast. It’s a path that I’ve known intimately my entire life.

In my twenties I stumbled into one of those give us your money and we’ll give you nasty food that will make you skinny companies. I gave them a chunk of change, lost 10 pounds and crashed so badly from a potassium deficiency that the word attorney was actually thrown around (to no avail). Not being one to learn give up that easily, a few years back I tried yet another diet plan that involved plastic (both the food and the payments). I figured, hell, if it’s good enough for Marie Osmond, who am I to judge? Much to my surprise, I was miserable on the plan and couldn’t get past 10 pounds, and the counselor kept looking at me and shaking her head. Let’s just say that Marie wouldn’t have been very happy to see me eating about 10 bags of those teeny tiny cardboard cookies at one sitting!

It’s now been about 8 years since that last foray into $$$ for pounds. I started thinking recently about how my eating might be affecting me and somehow, in spite of myself, I managed to figure out that eating entire bags of ‘baked not fried’ carbs, adding just a little sugar to my morning coffee and hitting the Burger King once or twice a week might actually be a real problem…who knew?! What I did know for sure was that my curves were leaving Chunky Lane in the dust and Butterball Acres was coming up fast on the right. I had to get serious.

As it turns out, it’s not food in general that I have a problem with…it’s sugar. No, I’m not diabetic yet, but that was looming on the horizon, so I cut out all processed sugar, artificial sweeteners and am severely limiting my total carbs (oh bread and taters…you betrayed me!) On my new plan my old pal known as ‘The First 10 Pounds’ came off, just like it always has…but this time was somehow different. Once I got past the I’m definitely going to hurt someone if I don’t have a candy bar phase, things started falling into place for me. I stuck to it and am now hitting the 20 pound mark. I certainly have a long way to go, but I feel so much better that it’s easy to stay focused.

At this point I’m just setting the GPS for straight ahead…and we won’t be stopping at the Krispy Kreme.

 

Has anyone seen Tammy???

I’m afraid that I haven’t been very successful at writing for a while, but I’m still here!

I’ve actually been working a lot and have also been very involved with a special project that I call ‘Time to Grow the Hell Up, Girl’. The primary goal of this particular endeavor is to get my wounded heart and bruised ego healed from the long overdue, extremely nasty breakup of a relationship that didn’t really exist.

So, you may be wondering to yourself, how exactly does a relationship not exist…isn’t that sort of an oxymoron? And, assuming that such a situation is even possible, exactly how does a witty, sweet, kind, not altogether unattractive, and (otherwise) intelligent woman find herself in the middle of such a faux-lationship?

Well, in this case, I just opened my heart up to the wrong person…but I’m hardly the first person to make that mistake. My real blunder was that I didn’t have enough sense to listen to either my gut or my family and friends when they told me to open my eyes and acknowledge the truth about the situation. I didn’t know how to put myself first, or to love myself more than someone else. (Especially THAT someone else!)

Nope, I insisted on clinging for far too long to the hope that things would somehow miraculously work out, and to the belief that I couldn’t possibly have trusted the wrong person so completely. (So much for any assumed intelligence on my part!)

Thankfully, things have finally changed. I’m happy to report that my eyes are now WIDE open, my heart is on the road to recovery, and I’m focusing on learning to love myself. Thank you for bearing with me…you should start seeing more of me here in the very near future!

 

healing

 

 

 

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

 

Too much livin’ I tell ya!

Well, to say that I’m disappointed in how little writing I’ve been doing wouldn’t be nearly whiny enough, so I’m just going to vow to do better. Here’s what I currently have going on, in case you think I’ve just been slacking off…

  • Two jobs
  • Yard work (since I’ve finally acknowledged…after 13 years in this house…that it won’t do itself)
  • A vegetable and herb garden (now that I’ve decided that eating things that grow in the yard isn’t a sin…and hell, if I’m out there anyway…)
  • Two crazed kitties with a new-found addiction to being outside (with their mama, while she slaves over the crops)
  • Worrying about if I still have any followers when I do write
  • A (more than) crazy, on-again-off-again boyfriend
  • A serious addiction to HBO
  • Periodic bouts of totally necessary retail therapy
  • Listening to my neighbor children grow up (to the South we have a budding Ethel Merman in the making who belts out that song from Frozen over, and over, and over …on the North we have a toddler named Wyatt who, if my ears don’t deceive me, may just be the most perfect child ever, cause all his mama ever says is, “Good BOY, WYATT!” She yells it a lot. A whole lot.)
  • Returning a lot of beer cans and…um, never mind that one

See? And I didn’t even mention all the time it takes me to put my makeup on and do my HAIR…I don’t wake up looking like this, you know!

The other issue is regarding what comes out when I finally DO write. Let’s just say that my last post was, well, maybe a teensy bit self-indulgent. Don’t get me wrong, everything I wrote was true, but I didn’t really need to dump all that on ya’ll. This is supposed to be a happy, feel-good break in your day…a time to check in and see what old wacky Tammy has going on. I can just hear you thinking to yourself, “NOW what has that girl gone and done?” or, more likely, “Damn, that girl better get funnier FAST, or I’m outta here,” or, “Hmmm…isn’t America’s Got Talent on right now?”

Well, keep your britches on…I’m still here and, like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m vowing to get back into writing more regularly. I’m also learning to type while drinking and watering the garden, so the odds are in our favor!

 

 

Bar Fly…without Mickey Rourke

The first bar that I remember going into was the one at the Knights of Columbus hall. I was a little girl, and my devout Catholic grandfather was often there, and for a while he was even the bartender. On occasion, my sister and I would be paraded through to say hi, or allowed to stay if there was a family friendly event. We knew we didn’t belong, so it felt a little bit wicked…and we loved it.

My one and only underage in-public drinking excursion was in the summer before my senior year of high school. I had a major crush on a boy who was a year older than I was, and a mutual friend set us up on a double date with her and her boyfriend. I was a nervous wreck as we walked into a small pub after being told to, “act like you belong here!” I fully expected to be found out as a fake at any time, but I was worried for nothing. The four of us drank beer and chatted, and it was a comfortable, fun time. It wasn’t until later that I found out that the object of my affection didn’t at all like me, other than as a friend. He actually had his eye on the gal who orchestrated the event, and he had agreed to go in order to spend time around her!

Even though my first illicit drinking date was disappointing, the experience of being in a bar was a good one. I started going to that same establishment when I became legal (18 in S.C. back then). It was not too far from my dorm and was fun, but there was nothing really special about it. A couple of years later, a new venue opened up a few blocks away. It was called Group Therapy (still one of the best bar names ever), and it was my home away from home for about five years. It was the first bar that I felt that I was supposed to be in. Strangely, my connection to the place wasn’t really so much about the alcohol (not that I didn’t do plenty of drinking there–I did), but I was mostly connected to the bar itself. I loved the employees, the atmosphere, and the patrons. Group, as we called it (the damn place even had a nickname), was where I first realized how smart it is to make friends with bartenders, and it was the first place where I was thought of as a ‘regular’. I loved to sit at the end of the bar next to the front door, and was obsessed with knowing everything that went on there.group sign

One of the best things about Group was the mix of people who passed though the place. Late nights were mostly college kids, but weekday happy hours featured a colorful mix of students, old coots, blue-collar guys, local celebrity wanna-be’s and just plain crazy folks. There was the local TV weather man who was truly brilliant, but who was usually so drunk that he would try to pour beer into the bottom end of a glass. He was a sweet soul with a booming ‘radio voice’ who could read backwards and upside down, but who was one of the saddest people I’ve ever met. Then there was the strange older German hairdresser with the beret who fawned over any new good-looking guy who walked into the bar. He claimed to be married (to a woman), but he also claimed to have had sex with all of the local male athletes. Neither assertion was particularly credible, but he was a fixture in the place, and he gave me a wonderful recipe for shrimp scampi that I use to this day.

That bar was like a big old dysfunctional family, and I fit in just perfectly…but I eventually had to move on. After marrying husband #1, I started spending most of my time building a ‘real’ life, and my barstool connection faded. It wasn’t until #1 and I moved to Portland that I found another bar worthy of such devotion. It’s called The Space Room, and is a kitschy place with a 1950’s interior that you might see in a Tarantino movie. It’s one of those neighborhood dives that (at that time) hadn’t changed significantly in at least 40 years, and it felt like my kind of place the very first time I walked in.

The thing people usually notice first about this spot are the red and black flying saucer light fixtures hanging over the bar.  The wallpaper in the main bar once featured velvety red accents, but is now a washed out sepia from decades of cigarette smoke. If you venture up three steps to the main seating area, you can’t help but notice the black light murals featuring moonscapes and a Portland skyline. The drinks were (and are) strong and cheap, and there was a great old-fashioned jukebox. Basically, the place was perfect. space

When #1 and I divorced, I started spending more time in this eternally dark, smoky spot (I wasn’t good at staying home alone). It was just my flavor of dysfunctional with a quirky, interesting patron/staff mix. I became a ‘regular’ once again, and it suited me. (Several people thought I worked there because they always saw me there…I’m not proud of that, but life isn’t always the stuff you want to write about now, is it?) I found my sweet spot with the happy hour crowd…a mix of local hipsters (and wanna-be’s), employees from other bars, older guys who grew up in the neighborhood (some of whom had their 21st and then their 50th birthday drinks sitting in the exact same spot), and an assortment of teachers, business people and even a few homeless folks thrown in. The bartenders had all been there forever and didn’t take any shit, and everyone got along. Once again, I found a ‘family’ that accepted me.

I took a few years off from this family to get married to (and subsequently divorce) husband #2, but when I came back, everything was just about the same…in fact, some of those guys may have not even left their seats! I waltzed back in and things were just so normal. Between then and now we had some good years…we lost a few more of the old guys, and a few of the kids grew up and had babies, and Portland passed a law to stop indoor smoking. The ‘circle of life’ was playing out right in front of me, and I sat there, once again at the end of the bar…taking notes.

(If this were a movie, right now there would be calendar pages flipping…fast forward to the present.) I don’t go to this old haunt much anymore. It’s changed too much in recent years and just doesn’t feel like the same place. Some of the old men day drinkers died off, and the crusty old lady bartenders were all replaced. Hell, the great jukebox is even gone…replaced by a soul-less digital one. New owners redecorated a side area that once housed a diner…now it’s full of ET and other newish SciFi paraphernalia that just doesn’t ring true with the spirit of the place. There are still some great people on staff, but minus most of the older, seasoned crew that made it seem so alive. I guess I just decided to remember my family the way they used to be. Maybe I’ll stop by on a holiday for a visit, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll have a place at the end of the bar set for me.