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!

The Meemaw Chronicles

Let’s just get this out there: I’m not a grandmother.

I guess that may have something to do with the fact that I was never even a mother. To top that off, I’ve never even had a successful relationship with a man who has kids or grand kids. I don’t necessarily think that I’m child-averse, but it just never worked out.

Not having children in my life (other than a niece, nephew and the kids of a few friends) hasn’t really been an issue for me, but I definitely realize that I’ve missed out on a lot of things. On the plus side, I never had to deal with diapers, croup or the terrible 2’s, but to balance that out, I’ve never known what it is to be someone else’s whole world (even if it’s only for a few years). The worst part, I believe, is that I’ve never known the truly unconditional love that parents must feel. Yes, I’ve had the luxury of being able to be selfish in some of my life choices because I never really had to put anyone else’s interests before my own…but that freedom came with a cost.

My choices have also left me without the chance to pick (or be assigned) a sweet grandmotherly nickname. It’s interesting to me that these names have changed so much over the years. Whatever happened to Gramma, Grammy and the sweet old lady monikers we grew up with? Now it’s all YaYa, GiGi, MiMi and a host of other reduplicates, along with some that are designed to be NON-grandma names…I submit to you Glamma, G-Mom and Honey.  Not that some of these aren’t cute as hell, but who is actually coming up with these names…the grand kids or the matriarch?

My immediate family when I was growing up had fairly normal names for our grandmothers. My mother’s mother was called ‘Nana’ (pronounced Na-naw) when I was little, and ‘Grandmama’ later (after I started caring what other people heard me calling her). Her sister (my great-aunt) was known to everyone as ‘Nana’ with the traditional elegant-sounding pronunciation . It became a sort of vaulted title that suited her perfectly.

But then somehow, out of nowhere, came the name my nephew bestowed on my mother: Meemaw. It stuck like day-old grits and now that’s her NAME…she has become Meemaw to the world! I realize that this is a term of endearment that periodically surfaces in Southern culture, but I’d never heard it used before, and at first…well, at first it scared me a little. How could my sweet little Mama be someone’s MEEMAW? Now though, 30 years later with her grand kids all grown up, Meemaw suits my mama just fine.

We just found out that one of Meemaw’s now grown-up grand kids is going to have her own child. It’s exciting to know that my sister is going to be a Nana, or MuMu or maybe just a LynnieG. Whatever she (or the new little one) decide that she should be called, I know that my amazing little sister will simply be the best grandmama out there. Congratulations Lynnie!

Hmmm…maybe I need to establish a new tradition that requires great-aunts to have cool names too. Then I might just insist that the grandkids call me….wait for it….

 

TEEMAW!

Meemaw

Stolen, so please excuse the spelling!

Teacher’s pet on steroids

"Come on, you know you're just projecting..."

“Come on, you know you’re just projecting…”

I was wandering through a Goodwill store the other day when I ran across one of these dinosaurs. For those of you not from the era of mimeographed handouts (with that weirdly addicting, shiny-blue chemical smell that couldn’t possibly be good for you), or if the fun of turning the egg-beater-like handle of the requisite manual pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom is lost on you, this contraption ———> is an overhead projector.

 

These beauties were used to share super important information…like this:

Important stuff

Hey Jimmy…we can’t see THROUGH you!

 

 

 

School was pretty different back then. (And yes, I’ll see that bet and raise you a, “Hey you kids, get outta my yard!”)

 

 

One thing that probably hasn’t changed in the classroom though is that annoying kid who sits in the front row and seems to always have their hand up…you know the one. hand up

Well, let me just tell you, it’s not EASY being that kid! I would keep that hand up in the air until I sometimes thought my arm would fall off!

Eventually, that eternal hand in the air syndrome morphed into all of the telltale signs of a geeky teacher’s pet: refusing to cut school (even when threatened with bodily harm), being the kid chosen make bulletin boards or run to the office to deliver messages, and the one most likely to be left in charge when the teacher left the room on business (smoke ’em if you got ’em, boys).

In case you ever wondered what happened to those annoying kids, well, this one just recently found out her Myers-Briggs scores during a training event at work. It turns out that the Extrovert part of ENFP can be somewhat…um, I think the word the Introverts used was EXHAUSTING. They also mentioned something about having to fight to get in a few words during classroom…, um, I mean office discussions. Of course, I was so busy trying to get the instructor’s attention that I may have missed a few details. Maybe I’ll be able to do some extra credit follow-up…or at least buy the boss a latte.

 

 

 

 

Write something, DUMMY!

I remember sitting on the beach in Morocco thinking that I needed to write a book. I had no idea what it would be about, but I already had the title: Funny…Peculiar. It was just sitting there in my head…waiting for me to do something with it. I decided to ignore it, but a year or so later I ran across my journal from the Morocco trip, and I reread my book title notes. For a brief minute I considered the book idea again, but it turns out that, in order to write a book, you need to have something to write about.

“Now what?” I thought to myself.

I ended up just ignoring the whole thing for a few more years. No way did I have anything to really say to anyone! Every once in a while though, I’d get a little twinge in my gut (“WRITE SOMETHING, DUMMY!”), but I’m really good at ignoring those twinges…it’s one of my many super powers.

Just under a year ago I went to a birthday party for a friend and struck up a conversation with a gal I’d just met. We talked about our careers for a bit, but eventually ended up with me sharing a bit of my story. I talked about how I ended up in Oregon after moving from South Carolina (without having a clue as to where we’d end up), my crazy ex-husbands, selling comic books and my perspectives on the Northwest after growing up in Hooterville (aka Columbia, S.C.) We chuckled and she pushed for more and more, eventually asking if I’d written any of it down. She seemed stunned when I answered that I hadn’t.

“Well damn it….DO IT!” she prompted. “You HAVE TO!”

“Sure, um…I know I need to…I um, just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll really try…” I mumbled, not meaning a word of what I was saying.

Over the next few days though, I started feeling that twinge-y feeling in my gut again. This time, however, it gradually morphed into a burning feeling that I couldn’t ignore away, and no amount of Tums or Pepcid helped. I tossed in my sleep, not quite sure what was keeping me awake, and I listlessly wandered around my house, sort of poking stuff…looking for something to read or watch or paint…or DO. Nothing satisfied me, and I felt as though I’d lost something…but what?

In that synchronistic way that the universe has of ganging up on you when you’re missing a road sign you really should have followed, within a few days a friend sent me a link to “a funny writer you’d like”….and I was introduced to the bizarro world of Jenny Lawson. I listened a bit and was stopped in my tracks (even though I was sitting) with the realization that this woman was freaking hilarious…and that she mostly wrote stories about her crazy childhood and the things that happen in her everyday life! (You can DO THAT??? Who knew!)

I looked my new idol up online and found that she was a NY Times bestselling author and that her blog (The Bloggess) is one of the most successful out there. My (achingly slow) brain finally finished percolating and spit out the notion that maybe I, Tammy the non-blogger, could actually write small snippets from MY life and become (wait for it)… TammyInPDX…the blogger! (Yeah, let’s just say that I’m not exactly a rocket scientist…)

Now, while Jenny certainly has nothing to worry about, since last August I’ve managed to write 85 posts (including this one), I’ve had around 4500 post views, and I’ve gotten some really positive feedback. Most importantly, I’ve learned more about myself, the world, and my place in it with every post. At some point I will definitely be pulling all of this together into a book, even if I have to move a cot into Kinko’s to get it printed!

Thanks Jenny…you’re my hero. Thanks Rich for sharing Jenny with me, and thanks to Sarah for telling me to not listen to anyone else…to let my natural voice out and just WRITE.

And mostly, thanks to those of you who’ve read and, even better, have followed me or let me know that you enjoy my writing. To those of you who haven’t…don’t make me come over there!

chickenblog

Check out Doug Savage’s amazing post-it cartoons!

 

Spud buddies

My friend Wendy and I don’t spend as much time together as we used to. She is a true ‘super mom’ of two kids and she, her husband and the little ones moved to another state a few years back…ok, so it’s only 10 miles from my house, but still–it’s WASHINGTON!

We met each other shortly after I moved to Portland, working in a catalog call center (it was before the internet pretty much ran paper catalogs into the ground). We knew that it was a crappy job, but we were both transplants from the east coast and it suited her schedule while she studied for the Oregon bar (I was just glad to have a job). We started as ‘seasonal’ employees, brought in to handle the overload of incoming Christmas shopping calls, but we were kept on as customer service reps after the holidays died down. We connected immediately and were a team from day one, and after about a year at the company we were both nominated to be on a committee tasked with resolving employee grievances. In truth, it was a PR stunt contrived by management (aka ‘the Man’), with the intent of placating the motley crew of phone reps, but we embraced (milked) it, and were given all sorts of preferential treatment. Consequently, we were ostracized by the ‘little people’…our constituency turned on us! It was at this point that we came up with our idea to create a cast of characters for a movie version of our strange workplace…starring us, of course. Casting Amy Irving and Candace Bergen to play Wendy and Tammy was the solidifying moment in the origin of our story together…how could it not be?

Our friendship continued, even after we stopped working together. I regard that as the truest test of friendship…I mean, how many ‘work best friends’ have you had that fell by the wayside when you left your crappy waitress job to start an even crappier print shop or (shudder) office gig? The people you decide to take with you to the next level are the keepers, and Wendy was one of those. She’s managed to stick by me for about 20 years now…I guess the entertainment value of my life shouldn’t be sneered at! We’ve often attributed the strength of our bond to the shared insanity of the intensely crappy work experience that we endured together. I’ll always be grateful that she was there to go through those days with me. Her gifts to me have included many life lessons, not the least of which is learning how to not take life’s little jabs too personally. Not to mention that she taught me how to (almost) convincingly use quite a few Yiddish terms!

Our friendship is so tough that it was able to withstand many challenges, including:

  • The painful (but entertaining) last days of my first marriage…to a Buddhist car salesman (can’t picture it, can you?)
  • My first divorce…complete with a yard sale that the local junk dealer called the “best washing-that-man-out-of-my-hair sale” that he’d ever seen
  • My subsequent need to move into Wendy and her husband’s spare room for a while, until I got my own place
  • The early days with the man who would be husband #2, including our pagan wedding, where she cast the sacred circle with incense
  • The following 4 years with the ever-entertaining #2
  • My assistance at the birth of her second child (in a birthing pool…in her living room…with blood and placenta…and my crockpot…don’t ask)
  • My tendency to periodically run in fear from anything remotely resembling a real friendship
tater

Not Wendy, in case you’re confused

I also give credit to our habit of periodically trying on clothes together at Goodwill. I’m telling you that if that doesn’t define true friendship, then nothing does! In fact, this woman has (on multiple occasions) taken it on herself to try on hideous outfits just for my enjoyment…stuffing herself into wayyy too tight leather pants, ‘interesting’ Christmas sweaters (she’s Jewish), slinky 2-sizes-too-small dresses that looked like coffin interiors, and our favorite–a shit brown, wrinkly one piece that we dubbed ‘the potato bathing suit’. I wish I had a picture for you…the one I posted here will have to suffice.

Another thing about Wendy…she’s always been very health conscious and is very careful about what her family eats. As an example, I remember shopping with her for a birthday cake for one of her kids, with the criteria of no gluten and very little sugar. Now, it’s not hard to find über healthy stuff like that in Portland, but finding one that tastes like something other than cardboard is a little tougher. She super-sleuthed it though, and we were able to enjoy a cake that tasted almost like birthday cake! On another occasion, we went to a video rental store with her (then) 3-year-old son in tow. He noticed a colorful display that turned out to be a Good Humor refrigerated case. Pulling her hand toward the case, he piped up, “Treats!” Without losing a beat, my gal responded, “Oh honey…those are doggie treats…you don’t want those!” all the while giving me a knowing side glance. I just wondered what was gonna happen the first time that kid was old enough to go into a bakery by himself! Luckily, a little of her food sense has finally worked its way into my thick skull, but not without a fight!

I think back on our friendship and I know, once again, that I’m blessed. It’s a fact that Wendy and I (happily) have one of those ‘I have to stay friends with you now…you know too much’ stories, but isn’t it nice to have someone in your life who knows most of your history…and still loves you? I mean, what shmendrick is gonna walk away from a friend who dressed like a vegetable just to make her laugh? Not this shiksa!