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!

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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!

 

I was a flounder…er

Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s meant fish on Fridays for many families, especially those who had Roman Catholic roots like my granddaddy’s. Because we grew up in my grandparent’s home, every Friday night was fish night. Every. Friday. For. Years.

Even days were covered, and Fridays were fish stick days in the school lunch world. Not that I don’t totally enjoy a tasty, crunchy, overly processed Gorton’s treat from time to time, but even good things can get boring after a while. When we were lucky, our family went out for dinner on Fridays (I assume to avoid fish sticks for two meals in a row), and we sometimes had supper at the S&S Cafeteria. It was an honest-to-God old-school affair, complete with a huge stack of brown plastic trays, still damp from someone’s efforts to wipe them down.

Just past the mountains of trays was the salad area, a primarily greyish-white wave of lettuce wedges punctuated by the occasional shiny, wobbly, Jello-like square, complete with pineapple, nuts or mystery veggies. (I notice that I can’t seem to bring myself to use the words Jello + salad in the same grouping). Then there were the popular mayonnaise-based ‘salads’ – potato and macaroni versions being the most popular. I, however, had my own favorite pseudo-salad…grated carrots with sugary raisins and mayo. I thought it much healthier than the other non-lettuce options and I could live off of the stuff. I will admit though that I was really disappointed years later when I learned that this delicacy was laughable in the salad world…a sort of embarrassing distant cousin.

Continuing down the long narrow line, you next encountered the rows of steam-tabled veggies. First were the green items (keep movin’…nothin’ to see here), followed by the extensive, oh-so-Southern representation from the carb family. Macaroni and cheese, corn, white rice with gravy, mashed potatoes and candied sweet potatoes were plentiful, and don’t forget the hush-puppies and french fries…also popular ‘veggie’ choices at the old S&S. Those were the days…we were ignorantly on the not-yet-identified diabetic path with a vengeance, and ‘all you can eat’ was the short-cut!

Then we were on to the MEAT! You could choose from the beefy (hamburger steak…really?), chicken (meh) and fishy options. We were supposed to get the fish to appease the Catholic side of the family and, luckily for me, fried shrimp qualified! Shrimp weren’t always available, but it was a happy day for me when they were. Fried flounder with a big side of tartar sauce was my second choice…if you gotta have anything healthy at least slap some breading and (slightly disguised) mayo on it, I say. Funny…I don’t remember any pork being present, but I’m pretty sure it was there in abundance.

Next came the bread, dessert and drink selections. For me, cornbread was a given, and it had enough sugar in it that it probably should have been pushed a foot over into the dessert area. For real dessert I was always torn between strawberry shortcake (featuring somewhat plasticine whipped topping) and a slice of (not too shabby) coconut cream pie, but there were also other options. You could go fruity (not technically a dessert in my world) or choose an alien-like green or blue dish (welcome back to the table, Jello old friend).

I was also pretty predictable in the beverage department. It was, after all, the heyday of good old sweet tea in that part of the world, but the S&S also offered a few others to pick from. If you were really brave, you could even wash down your feast with neon-blue generic Kool-aid. (I have personally never believed that blue foods or beverages were a real choice, but Lynnie was partial to anything that looked even remotely like Windex. She also gravitated toward oddly colored desserts and anything with Jello-like qualities.)

It was a great spread, but I’ll have to say that I was never completely comfortable with the logistics of the cafeteria world. Until I was about 10 I wasn’t even trusted to manage my own tray – I had to rely on my Grandmama’s well-honed tray-wrangling skills as she pushed my plastic platter of goodness along, in front of her own. She did allow me to choose my own food, but often prompted me to ‘hurry up’ when I dilly-dallied too long over my options (“But Grandmama, I swore I saw that carrot salad somewhere!”) She also backed me up when my extreme shyness prevented me from piping up to ask the lady behind the counter if there really were no more fried shrimp left anywhere…maybe in the back?

Sometime before puberty I gained full tray responsibilities…I had arrived! Lynnie, on the other hand, still had to take a back seat for a few more years as Mama guided her tray and, often, her food choices. Had she not, my sweets-loving sister would have ended up with an entire tray of jewel-toned, wobbly items that would, in today’s world, have probably initiated a child protective custody situation. And that doesn’t even take into account the time that some strange man came out of the S&S’s men’s room with my 5-year-old sister in tow. She had apparently wandered in on her own…I’m guessing sugar and red dye #5 were at least partially to blame.

Not sure I'd trust that one...

♪ “Trust the Gorton’s Fisherwoman” ♪

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

 

 

 

Do mannequins dream of electric curlers?

“I’m goin’ to Walmart… ya’ll need anything?”

I had a long, extremely detailed dream the other night that involved (what felt like) hours and hours of me trying to put my hair up in those old-fashioned black brush curlers…the kind your grandmama might have worn. I fumbled with a myriad of bobby pins, psychically willing the aforementioned demonic brushy tanglers curlers to stay put, but most just slipped out, clattering to the floor. A few stayed put, but only because they were hopelessly caught in my hair like lame crickets dangling from a fat mama spider’s web. I tell you, I woke up exhausted the next morning!

After waking and checking the mirror to make sure that I hadn’t really turned my hair into a mass tangle, I looked up curlers in my dream dictionary: To see curlers in your dream suggests that you are thinking in circles. You may be going over the same problem/ situation again and again without any conclusion.

Then I looked up bobby pins. Shocked to actually find a listing for such a random item, I learned: To see or use a bobby pin your dream represents your need for order and neatness. Everything needs to be in place. You are feeling insecure about something.

pinsWhen I looked online today to find pics of these outdated rollers (as the beauty parlor set calls them) for this post, I found plenty of pics of the brushy things, but I also saw that there were PINS that go with them. Not bobby pins at all…big honkin’ plastic party skewers that hold things in place by basically stabbing them to your head. No wonder I couldn’t get my hair up in the black monsters…I was so insecure that I had to pick dream bobby pins instead of the appropriate dream tools!

I’m not going to lose any sleep over the interpretation of this particular dream (see what I did there?) Lucky for me, I happen to already KNOW that I’m neurotic.

Oh, and my apologies to Philip K. Dick for the title of this one. I couldn’t resist!

 

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!

 

 

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!