An Imaginary Thank-You Note to President Trump

Hi, Mr. Trump -

This letter won’t win me a seat at the popular Facebook table of kindness and compassion and tolerance (funny, right?), but I take that as a compliment. I should say that the title won’t win me a seat, because the kids won’t read the letter anyway. The title is all they need for the hatred.

Anyway, sir, I admit that I didn’t vote for you. I didn’t vote at all. I will never vote for a Clinton, and I just wasn’t sure enough about you to go to the poll. I think all presidents over hundreds of years have done and said both bad and good things. People act like these are new and desperate times, but really, nothing is new, except that now it seems to be super cool to be unkind and intolerant online. The unkind and intolerant don’t see it that way, of course. They see anybody standing up for the shrinking middle class or above as an evil enemy that must be destroyed - physically, mentally, emotionally, you name it - while we pay their bills. I’ve always thought that the primary way you could show kindness and compassion was to show respect and civility, but people don’t seem to want to understand or admit that. I’m also convinced that all the nastiness on social media could be curbed if people were working and otherwise occupied. I think this would give them the opportunity to see what it’s like to be middle class in 2018. As you know, it’s no picnic.

I’m on the fence about a lot of issues, but I have landed on the side of the fiscal conservatives since I was young. My father always said that if folks were working, things were better, so in spite of all the tax credit woes these days, we need businesses to stay in business. Well, those of us who work do. Which leads me to the crux of this tiny letter of gratitude.

I have worked just about every weekday, and some weekends, since 1983. I have paid my taxes (including a few cases of penalties and interest) to my government to help those who cannot help themselves and to make our American lives more comfortable. The only forms of assistance I have ever received are three short stints with unemployment while I looked for work. Since 2002, I have worked as a contractor. I paid cash for some things due to a higher contracted salary for which I am grateful, and I made payments on others. This single mother qualified for no assistance for her son’s college education, and, again, paid for that in cash when possible and in payments when it wasn’t. Working as a contractor also means that I have paid for my own health insurance (until last year when I started working as an employee at a job I just left to return to contracting).

All was fine until this week when I went online to purchase a new medical insurance policy and discovered that the insurance I knew is no more. Now policies are either “medical packages” or “major medical plans”. The Affordable Care Act Marketplace also offers major medical plans that anyone can purchase, as you know. If you’re middle class, you are so lucky, so you get to pay full retail price. Since 2014, there’s a tax penalty for anyone who doesn’t have the full retail price version of insurance. Not just one of the more affordable “medical packages”, but full major medical plans. I doubt President Obama saw the effects coming, or maybe he just knew he could pass the problems onto the next guy (like all presidents do, I get it, when I left my job, I left some work for the next gal), but while the ACA is wonderful for some, it is an impossibility for those of us with middle-class incomes. The real winners here are the poor, forlorn, down-on-their-luck insurance companies who said, “You’re allowing people to pay to be uninsured? We’ll see this loss, and raise our prices four-fold.”

So, what I learned was that for me to be insured in this country in 2018, I would now have to pay for a major medical plan costing ~$700 a month. Me. One person. Not a family. Just me.

I worked through Clinton’s NAFTA, but I think this ACA Tax Penalty repercussion is the biggest fuck you to middle-class working people of my lifetime, thus far. Companies are going to do what they’re going to do, always have and always will, but the middle-class’s collective voice is shrinking. We’ve kept and continue to keep this country afloat and now add this to our load?

Then, a friend gave me the news that this tax penalty goes away in 2019. (I’m late, I know, I’m sorry, I’ve been working.) You repealed it. Now, I can purchase one of the more affordable “medical packages” and avoid the penalty!! You are responsible for the skip in my step today thinking about this example of common sense and sanity.

So, sir, I thank you.

And, might I add that while I do sometimes think you are a little loopy, I say what president hasn’t been? I admire your “damn the torpedoes” approach to life, and I’m sorry for all the nastiness your family has to deal with every day from the social media and news outlet (remember those? when news was actually news? ah, good times) lunchroom tables of tolerance and kindness and compassion.

I appreciate you today. Again, thank you, sir. Carry on.

Sincerely,

Karen Rutherford

More From The Abbey: The Critters

Saturday morning, I spotted animal poop outside the kitchen door and near the top of the hill that leads to the church. Sister Nettie, who’s only been at the Abbey just over two years (from the Abbey of Our Lady of the Mississippi in Iowa!), told me about the time a rattlesnake slithered and coiled in front of her on the path to the hummingbird feeders. And then about the time a mountain lion killed a deer and “consumed” it for two days in the wash below the retreat house. “But they’re nocturnal, you know.”

Yes, I understand that there are mountain lions and coyotes and open-grazing cattle and angry sheep and lizards and scorpions and killer ants (think fire ants with a lot of added Tucsonian drama) and mice and, yes, even gila monsters. I know to be careful bringing food or drink in the room and disposing of trash. I know to watch where I step. I know to listen for strange noises in tall grass. I know to carry a big stick to make anything think twice. Lucky for me, I can’t be outside for long anyway, what with my lily white skin made of all that is pure and holy. So yes, thank you, I know.

 Dad's Last Stand

Dad's Last Stand

I’ve also seen jackrabbits and baby squirrels and roadrunners (try to see one of those and not hear the beep-beep in your head) and dragonflies and butterflies.

 Dejected Dad

Dejected Dad

And this morning, my last morning at the Abbey for the weekend, I heard two birds having somewhat of a heated discussion outside. Upon investigation, the bird with the fancy red hairdo was in a tree just up ahead squawking at the bird with no fancy hairdo on the ground just in front of my doors. If I’m not mistaken, the fancy hairdos on birds are reserved for the males. Assuming that’s correct, apparently, he was telling her to do something, and she wasn’t having it. Slowly, so she wouldn’t notice as much, he flew to the ground and started walking haphazardly towards her. Then and only then did she start walking towards him. And I was able to see that she had two babies following close behind her. She didn’t walk straight to him; she and her babies meandered. They stopped to smell some flowers, they stopped in the taller grasses to window shop for things (I imagine back-to-school supplies), and they stopped to dig in this dirt and that dirt, most likely for snacks. And mom and dad stopped squawking at each other. YES, she was coming! And so they toddled off, he ten birds or so ahead, stopping regularly to make sure she was still relatively behind him. He stopped at the next tree, looked back for her, and waited a little more. She chirped at him to come look at something, probably new shoes for the oldest, so he hung his head and trudged back to her*, reminding me of all the dads at the mall.

*Come to find out, these were Arizona quail. I suppose they’re named Arizona quail because they’re in Arizona? As opposed to Nevada quail or New Mexico quail? All under the watchful eye of the Border Bird Patrol!  

I have an abnormally large...

Patio.

It didn’t start out this way. When I moved in to my apartment on April 1st, the patio was much more normal in size. It was long, but not wide. Fit for a chaise and table and a few plants, but not much else. But now?! I think I could host volleyball playoffs. Do they have volleyball playoffs? I played volleyball in high school for a minute before I switched teams to tennis and was asked to quit. After that, I pretty much stuck to babysitting. I was good at that.

Anyway, my adobe (apartment) (almost) at the end of my dirt road dream has come to fruition, I realize. I don’t have as much, if any, neighbor fodder this year. I could talk about the wackadoodle that was my last landlord in Indianapolis, but I honestly don’t want to think about him. I have an office now at work, so I don’t even have a cubicle neighbor to whine about. In a writing way, it’s all very disappointing, but in a contentment way, it’s overwhelming. Gratitude makes me cry. And for this opportunity to experience the desert, and for this room to breathe like I have never known, I am both grateful and weepy.

I write this from the Santa Rita Abbey in Gardner Canyon, at the edge of the Coronado Forest of the Santa Rita Mountains. Silence is the rule, there is no Internet nor phone service (I’ve already played eight games of backgammon and three of solitaire), I am the only retreater, and the thunder from a quick-passing monsoon rain is rolling through my screen doors that give me a view of the summer green mountains. When I arrived at the office to get my key from Sister Pam, two happy and orange dragonflies welcomed me. I don’t know if you know this, but I am obsessed with dragonflies, to the point of an appointment for a new wrist tattoo before month’s end. They need to be near water just like this Cancer, they enjoy a good reed (get it? I also enjoy a good read!), they are wise and strong enough to go with the flow and fly in any direction, and they follow their dreams. I made up that last one. I don’t know that dragonflies have dreams, but I think they do.

Anyway, again. Not that long ago, the apartment management company expanding my patio to five times its original size would have irked me. It’s absurd. Plus, they gave us no notice, and workers begin their days at 5am to avoid the midday sun and heat. And it’s just screaming for outside activity, which, around me, usually leads to bad behavior, as you know if you know me. But when I came home to the beginnings of the new brick wall in the distance, I was just in disbelief. Then, I was confused. And when the last brick was in its place, it was just so ridiculous looking, I had to laugh. It’s funny, my abnormally large patio. But, it’s not as funny as the new tree.

 Cordelia By Day

Cordelia By Day

I sent a picture to Spawn who said, “That’ll be really nice in about 20 years.” I sent a picture to my friend, Pamela, who said, “Oh my God, it’s the Charlie Brown tree”. We pictured it with tiny Christmas presents around it. Tiny lights and tiny tinsel. Tiny candy canes and a tiny star on top. I recently bought a ring that came in the cutest and smallest box ever, and I can’t wait to put it underneath. I think I can make a decent tree skirt with a couple of Kleenexes.

 Cordelia's Shadow

Cordelia's Shadow

Then, the sun moved, and my little tree cast a little shadow onto my abnormally large patio. But, looking at the picture, I’m sure you get the same feeling I do. She’s proud. She’s trying so hard to be big. She. She needed a name. So I pulled a Goddess card, asking the powers-that-be to help me name her.

Cordelia. Of course, Cordelia!

Cordelia, with her message to go outside, her nudge to get some fresh air, her independence, her fierceness, her shade, her holiday magic, her strength in these storms of late, and her ability to make me laugh until I cried. I couldn’t love her more.

IMG_1166.JPG

The sun has set on the Abbey while I've been writing this. I stopped between paragraphs to take some pictures and a video of the view from my porch. It may take me the rest of my life to figure out how to upload the video to this, but below are some of the pictures. That's newfangled enough for now. Not having seen much of one for 14 years in Indiana, I wasn’t sure at first, but I think that’s the moon in one or two of them! 

Tomorrow, I am fasting and writing. I am releasing, as they say we should, on this special lunar eclipse full moon. I still check his Facebook page almost every day from an anonymous account. I check hers too, hoping to witness the inevitable and dramatic end that must come when we chosen ones must walk away from the mental illness. I can’t see much, and yet, I check.* So, just like I did with my post-single motherhood angst, I would like to get this out of me. The gal who writes the Elephant Journal says, “When you tell your story, you heal your story”. I hope so. I could use the space in my head for all these new desert blessings.

*Disclaimer: It is from a place of curiosity, not pitifulness. Really.

Anyway, for the last time. Come to find out, my abnormally large patio is just the right size for me and lil’ Cordelia. I don’t expect that I’ll live much beyond her teenage years, and I’m sure I will move in the next year or two, but I am happy to be a part of her life. For now, I like to think of us as in this together. I throw more shade, but she is a strong and giant breath of fresh air.

 Cordelia In the Evening

Cordelia In the Evening

Kicking off My 20-Day Countdown to Nashville Tom Jones

I always kick off the celebrations with a reposting of "It's Not Unusual" because riding in the car with pre-Tom is one of the best parts of these sacred....well, sacred isn't really the right word....events. As he puts it, he’s just “200 pounds of heavenly joy.” Then. And now. And now again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I do love a road trip. Tom flies in from Vegas, sometimes another place depending on his schedule but usually Vegas, and we get to spend a few uninterrupted hours together. After saying our hellos and flipping through inserts together, I slide his shiny, still too cool for school self into the little slot in the dashboard and off we go.

He sings and I listen. I sing and he just keeps singing. I talk and he professes his love in so many different ways – each about three minutes long and separated by tiny moments of silence for reflection. I like to reflect on his hairy chest and unbuttoned white satin shirt with the ruffles, and he likes to reflect on my crackerjack driving skills and uncanny knack for navigation.

We laugh (oh, how we laugh when we pass the sign for Stinking Creek Road somewhere in Tennessee) and we reminisce about our other road trips together.

Most of our time is spent talking and singing about life and love. I say I’ll never let him go (meaning, I won’t leave him when I return the car to Hertz), and he says that he’ll turn the tide for me with his hands (tide, maybe, but apparently ol’ Thunderball can’t do anything about the yay-hoos going 55mph in the left lane).

At this, we laugh some more. He takes a sip of scotch (I’m driving) and starts singing “She’s A Lady”. I am reminded of how much he really does mean to me, so I pat his little jewel case, take back the unladylike namecalling and graciously accept the turning of the tide. 

Stay until tomorrow? No, I know. We say our goodbyes and he heads back to work. I take one last look as I put him back on the top shelf and can't help but smile. Till next time, young man, till next time. 

My Birthday New Yorkers

A really nice friend and I recently had a lunch conversation that included a mention of my love for The New Yorker. She divulged that she had an attic slap full of the things dated back to the 30s. Even though I was serious, she laughed when I asked about moving into her attic for the better part of 2011.

In an email the next week to check in as usual, she asked me when my birthday is. I told her and didn't think anything about it because it's in July and this is January. I told her that I knew hers was in September, because we had lunch last year to celebrate a particular milestone around her age. 

When we met again for lunch a couple of weeks later, she brought me two New Yorkers - one from the Friday before my Wednesday date of birth and one from the Friday after: July 13th and July 20th, 1963.

They were 25 cents each. There were ads for American Airlines' Astrojet, a Kodak camera with a new fangled auto-rewind feature, Marlboro cigarettes, Holiday pipe tobacco, Ferrara candy, all-polyester weatherproof Alligator coats, tequila, scotch, creme de menthe and more than a few brands of gin. Full-page ads for Haig and Haig Pinch, my father's Scotch of choice. Cordoroy was in. And so was Hawaii. Lots of ads for Hawaii. Ford and Sunbeam had new models with roll-up windows and lockable doors. Ventura had new lightweight luggage with keyless combination locks. You could go on an 8-day cruise from NYC to the Bahamas for $195 or take an "Around the World in 80 Days" cruise which stopped in 22 of the world's most romantic cities for $2,700.

The cartoons were timeless, albeit a bit sexist, of course. But what fascinated me the most were two articles of a three-part series written by Calvin Trillin, whom I've only known and loved as a poet, entitled "A Reporter At Large, An Education in Georgia", about two Negro (a word used often enough to make me uncomfortable) college students' experiences at the University of Georgia, which was apparently known for not being altogether welcoming to this sort of change in its population. I grew up in Georgia and attended UGA from 1982 to 1984. Trillin wrote about Atlanta and Athens and their newspapers and colleges and neighborhoods. He even mentioned Marist, my high school in Atlanta, which at the time was a pretty well-known all-boys Catholic military school. I was admitted to Marist's first class that allowed girls in 1977. Up to then, I had had some fairly decent character-building life experiences at home, but this was an initiation into the public kind and the Catholic guilt (and I'm not Catholic) that both continue to this day.

There was a heartbreaking story entitled "A Leave-Taking" written by Shirley Hazzard that made me google her. She is an Australian author of fiction and nonfiction, and her 1970 novel The Bay of Noon was shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010, according to the Wiki. So, what's a girl to do but see about finding this book at the library? My to-do list never ends, I tell you.

I'm sad that I have to return these treasures at lunch tomorrow. But I'm just so fortunate to have a friend who gave me this New Yorker glance into that week around my birth! I just found out that anyone can see the NYer covers online here, and subscribers can also flip through the magazines online after providing their account information. I prefer touching and holding and smelling books and magazines as I read them, but I understand you "e" types. Either way, it was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

I Know. Yet Another Post About the New Year. But This One's Brought to You by the Car Talk Boys!

If you know me at all, it could come as a surprise that I'm a huge fan of Tom and Ray, the NPR Car Talk boys. (If you ever want to know how to do a Website bio right, read theirs here.) I don't do electronics. Is a car an electronic? I've no idea. Anyway, while we respect and appreciate each other, technical things and I avoid any deeper relationship. I don't want to know how they tick any more than they want to know about me.

But Tom and Ray (or Click and Clack, as they call themselves) are adorable and funny and charming and very Massachusetts-y. So, when folks call in with car troubles, I sift through the gear and shaft and oil and cylinder talk for the good stuff and the reason people REALLY listen: they're just so darn fun.

Naturally, I cut out their interview in November's Yankee Magazine and pinned it up on my desk. My favorite part went like this:

"...He told us this whole story about how he drove his old Chevrolet from Minnesota to Alaska. The car had 350,000 miles on it, and he'd made a major repair using a barbeque grill. He wanted to know if he should drive the car home. We told him, "Go for it."

Some of our best calls are from people who are trying to go on some kind of adventure and need encouragement. A lot of people lead predictable lives and don't take any risks. But if you don't, then you won't have any stories to tell your kids. You don't want to do something that's going to end your life, but it's good to do stuff where things can go wrong.

If something happens, and it creates an adventure, you'll remember it forever. I remember one guy who was going to take a trip with his father and brother. They were going to drive some old Dodge Dart or some other old clunker. Doug [Berman, the producer] was in our headphones suggesting that we tell these guys to rent a newer car. I said no. The best thing that can happen is you break down every hundred miles and you get into arguments and everything goes wrong. It'll be the greatest trip you ever took."

**The whole interview is here: http://www.yankeemagazine.com/issues/2010-11/features/the-big-question/1

Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project likes to have a one-word theme for each year. How simple and to the point. I like that pretty fine, so about a week ago, I came up with mine for 2011: ME. Yup, Me. I do know that this sounds horribly selfish, but we'll just have to live with that for a year. After that, it will be YOU. Seriously and I mean it. YOU. And maybe, if there's time left, a good cause or two.

This past week, I organized ME into specific categories and goals as suggested by Chris Guillebeau of the Art of Nonconformity and I developed a workable timeline which I divided into quarters. Then today, I spotted Ray and Tom's interview on my desk. They're so right about what makes for the best times in life and the best memories when we have to look back upon it. And adventure does fit right into my ME theme (into the theme, but not quite yet into the non-willy-nilly gal that is me).

So, how to have both? A year's worth of specifics while having a year's worth of adventures? I've really no idea, but I think I'm going to have a plan and a non-plan. To kick that off, for example, I've looked up the definitions of fun and spontaneity, and I've just scheduled a trip without a play-by-play itinerary. (Dear God, typing that sentence just gave me a hive.) If all this means I get lost or stuck on a road in the middle of nowhere, then so be it and lucky ME!! Right? Yea. Must remember to breathe. And tape iPhone charger to body. ME is clearly a work in progress.

Cheers to YOUR 2011!!! That's it, though. Must get back to ME now. ;)

Christmas 1970. Again.

It's a nostalgic time of year, so here's another holiday-themed repost from 2004. It's probably my most favorite memory of my father.  

=================

I was seven years old and at the age when, way back then in simpler and slower times, most children just begin to seriously contemplate the logistics of Santa Claus’ annual visit. I had asked a million questions that Christmas season, but no explanation made sense.

I announced at the dinner table that Christmas Eve that I would be staying awake all night. I intended to prove once and for all that there was no Santa. After all, I was too grown up for this nonsense. With whom did they think they were dealing - a 5-year-old?

My parents agreed to the plan, but insisted that I still go to bed on time, explaining, for yet another year, that Santa only visited sleeping children and thinking, of course, that I wouldn’t last too long anyway once my head hit the pillow.

I reluctantly participated in their charade but I was confident that I would prove how silly this whole concept was. I knew there would be no signs of Santa that night.

I lay in my bed with the drapes open, staring out my window. I watched. I listened. And I waited. And waited. I refused to give in. I would not fall asleep! I was sure hours had gone by.

All of a sudden, I saw a tiny red light moving slowly across the sky. I jumped out of the bed and ran to the window for a closer look. Then I heard the bells. I saw the red light travel to the top of our neighbor’s roof and stop. The jingling stopped too. It was dark and I couldn’t see much, but there was no mistaking that light.

After a bit, the light took off again for the sky and the sound of jingling bells got louder. I couldn’t tell where Rudolph was going next, but I was positive that he was headed for my roof. I ran back under the covers and pretended to be fast asleep. I sure did hope that Santa didn’t see me watching him from my window!

Needless to say, I was a firm believer in Santa Claus for two more years.

_______

My father told me when I was a teenager that he and his best friend who lived next door had done all this from his friend’s deck. We were positioned on a corner lot and the back of our house faced the side of theirs. I had a perfect view of their roof and deck from my room. They had actually lain down on the deck so I couldn’t see them and shone a flashlight with red bulbs across the sky and onto the roof. My mother always insisted on a ridiculous amount of Christmas decorations, so they had no problem finding loud bells to jingle.

Today, I am the same age that my father was in 1970. As a parent, I can appreciate the desire to preserve our children’s innocence. And, as a middle-aged adult, I understand the power of Crown Royal on a winter night and the intense need for something fun, silly, and different to do.

Used Books

Today's Black Friday trip to the used book store reminded me of this post past (2006). It still makes me smile, so I'm playing it again. I'm redundant when I wanna be.

=============

They were at least in their seventies. The wife was looking at paperback novels, when her husband spotted a chair near the window.

“I think I’m going to go sit down. I can hold the books you’ve picked out while you keep looking if you’d like.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he assured, and took a seat in the chair opening his arms so she could fill them with the dozen or so Agatha Christie books she had selected to take home.

She laughed. “You know, I really have enough here. I don’t need any more.”

He looked at her and smiled. “You go ahead and get as many as you want.”

She accepted that with a nod and a smile and went back to the shelves, but just for a second.

She came back to him and started to thumb through the book spines, giggling. “I can’t remember what I already got.” He smiled and repositioned the stack so she could see more easily.

She returned to her search and, in just a few minutes, came back to him and said, “I think I’m through looking. I really do have all I need.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

She smiled at him and said she was. They went to the cashier, walking side by side, him carrying her books for her.

The Thanksgiving Gift That Keeps on Giving

This time of year takes me back to the trip north to Indiana. I'm pretty sure it always will.

On Thursday, October 17th, 2002, I received a telephone call about a job in Indianapolis, Indiana, working as a contractor for Eli Lilly. Eleven days later, I moved and started my new job. I left my son with his nonworking father, who had ever so graciously agreed to temporarily move into my house and “baby-sit” his son so he could finish the Fall semester at school. I felt better leaving him there until I had organized our new life into some semblance of a routine. It took almost two months to just recompose myself, so this turned out to be a smart plan.

Nothing seemed the same to me: the streets, the stores, the businesses, the weather (I needed a coat AND GLOVES in October!), the nicely kempt midwestern people with absolutely no accent (how do they do that?). I participate in this craziness now, but when people in these parts give directions, they actually use east and west and north and south, rather than right and left, as in “Go south on Meridian, then west on Fall Creek”. Imagine! It really requires a lot of unnecessary thought as far as this Southerner is concerned.

But it turned out that driving confusion would be the least of my worries. The movers arrived in Indiana at 1:30AM. Yes, A.M.  Then, I ended up moving twice because my first apartment was a nightmare. Sign-on monies and paychecks wouldn't come until the end of December. When you're from out of town, new bank accounts require a 10-day deposit hold, and little things like rent checks require in-state checking accounts. Indiana has something called "hard water", and it's just nastiness. Did I mention cold? The 2002-2003 Winter season resulted in the highest snowfall record for the city this century. I could go on and on.

I was sleeping almost an hour each night and, by that weekend, I had developed a newfound attachment to crying. I’m typically not one to express too much emotion or admit defeat, but I told a bestest friend, Sheila, who was back in Memphis about my problem. I told her that I had no idea if it was due to the haze of overwhelming change, the feeling of loss from my son not being with me, or just plain worry about me, about him, about whether or not this decision would go down in the books as right or wrong for us.

She asked me what we were doing for Thanksgiving. There really was no logical way to spend the holiday with my son. Driving to Mississippi and back twice to bring my son to Indianapolis was too much for the four-day break. I couldn’t stay with my ex-husband in my house, and he certainly had no plans of meeting me halfway. She asked about flying my son from Memphis to Indy. She even offered to take him and pick him up at the airport. He had flown before, so his “unaccompanied minor” status wasn’t an unfamiliar concern. I was touched by her generosity, but I couldn’t do it. I was so close to broke by this time and still had to pay for my second move.

The next day, I received an e-mail from American Airlines notifying me that I had been given a gift certificate from Sheila and three other friends she had recruited to donate to my cause. My son and I spent Thanksgiving together, and he was actually excited about the new digs. By spending those four days together, it eased his mind and mine, and helped us both begin to think of this change as a fun adventure. And I finally stopped crying.

What's funny is that I recently had to refresh Sheila's memory about this kindness, while I think about it often and with gratitude just as intense today as it was then. For me, she was God showing up when I least expected Him and so much prettier, too!!

It Really is a Small and Sometimes Unprofessional World

I've been a contractor and freelancer for eight years now. This means that I have done more than my share of interviews and conference calls. So much so, that I've kept a running tab and have just done my 57th since 2002. I'm fairly good at them now. In fact, I could pretty much interview myself while they just take notes. The plus here is that the interviewer has a lot less work to do and they can be appreciative. The minus is that I can be too comfortable, which brings me to Wednesday.

Five people from all over the country. 50 minutes into the hour-long call, we finish up and say our goodbyes and thank yous and we'll-be-in-touches.

Hiring Manager(HM) in Charleston, SC: Soooo, you don't sound like you're from Indiana.**

**It feels a little like this was obvious on my resume, but people don't often go back that far.

Me: No, I was born in Memphis and spent most of my life in Atlanta.

HM: Atlanta? Really? What part?

Me: In a suburb called Dunwoody.

HM: Really? I grew up in Dunwoody!

Me: SHUT UP!!**

**This is where the too comfortable part begins - this shouting SHUT UP to the guy in charge. 

HM: Yep, I lived across from Dunwoody High School.

Me: SHUT UP!!!!!!!! I lived across from Vanderly Elementary right next door to the high school, in Meadowlake subdivision.

HM: No way. I TOO lived in Meadowlake subdivision.

Me: SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did you go to Dunwoody High?

HM: No, I went to Pius.

Me: SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  YOU DID NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!**

**There's no turning back now anyway.

HM: Why? Did you go to Pius? Please don't tell me you went to Marist!!**

**Pius and Marist were THE rival Catholic high schools in Atlanta at the time, which was convenient since we were also the only Catholic high schools at the time.

Me: Yep, Marist. 1981.

HM: Pius. 1980.

Me: Well, this is just nuts! But, it's a really good sign. I mean, you have to hire me now, right?

HM: Well, I don't know. I remember Marist kicking our ass on the football field every weekend and the pain is still pretty fresh.

Me: Well, that's not how I remember it at all. I remember us as best friends.

I haven't thought much about high school since leaving it, and it has never even remotely come up in a conversation, much less an interview in Indiana. After a little more laughter, we talked for a minute about football games, college, Atlanta, how true it is that you can't go home again, and what a small world it is at times. Even though I'm pretty sure I won't land this project, all is not lost. I do have a new and very valuable Note to Self: No matter how much they shock ya, don't tell "The Decider" to shut up.

Update: Score! Did get it. Currently working out details.

If a writer falls in the forest, does anyone hear her dog making fun of her?

If Thoreau fell at Walden Pond, would he have found further inspiration or just assumed the mangled position and enjoyed the silence? I know he wrote about dogs, but I'm not sure he had one faithful companion in particular to call his own and accompany him on his many walks. If he did and had he fell, I bet HIS dog would have immediately gone into protector mode and barked and barked and run for some sort of help without a moment's complaint.

My dog? Not so much.

I couldn't sleep the other morning, and I've had a gnawing frustration about not being able to complete a particular writing/visualization exercise, so I took Sabrina, the 14-year-old crank of a beagle mix, and headed to the forest. Well, the woods.

My condo community is nestled in a little patch of nature and is very nice to be amidst. It's never far from civilization, though. In fact, you're always just a stone's throw from seeing a bit of house or deck from most directions. (Hey, Thoreau wasn't exactly in the wilderness himself, truth be told.) But there are trees and slopes, and a creek, and lots of little critters to ask about life. And now that bug season has subsided, I'm really good outside.

Anyway, I'm a firm believer in the manifestation and "write it down, make it happen" schools of thought, and the exercise I've been working on for well over a month now is this: "What would you like? Visualize your ideal situation one year from now. Know where you're going and take the straightest way there."

I can't count the hours I have stared at this. Every once in a while, I have started writing only to realize at some point into it, that I really don't want what I'm writing at all and return to the proverbial mocking blank page. I don't know what's thrown me off so, but I'm pretty sure it's the whole thing. "What would I like?" Sayyy whaaa? Having been a single mom for so long, that question hasn't even entered my mind, and to be honest, it still throws me for a bit of a loop.

Anyway again, I took the dog and my little notebook to nature in hopes of some transcendental inspiration. Half-way up the second hill, about 20 minutes into things, it was bound to happen. In my own defense, it is acorn-falling season, which makes it even harder to keep ones footing.

I landed on my shoulder. I think. It hurts today in a way that makes me think I may have to give up my shot-putting dreams. My arm and leg are pretty scraped up, so there was sliding, too, I guess.

But while on the ground holding my arm cursing the heavens through the pain, I looked over at Sabrina. She sat down and doggy-sighed and, had she had opposable thumbs, would have started filing her nails. We should be walking, after all, not sitting down. This is how the conversation went as I remember it:

"Seriously? I got my leash on for this? We haven't even been gone 20 minutes."

"Sabrina. I am in pain. Can you not see that or doggy-sense it or something?"

"Um, no, not really. Just get the hell up. You look ridiculous."

"Maybe something's broken and I need help."

"I've lived through two wars and numerous lost squeaky balls. I'm too old to get help."

"Fine. Let me try."

"Yea, you do that. I'll be over here. Sniffing things more interesting."

I'm writing this, so obviously I got up, admitted defeat, and walked home to clean up. Today, I'm still sore and still staring at a blank page. Although, I do have a temporary handle on what I really want: a dog who still gives a shit and, in the words of one of my favorites, grace, eventually. Besides that? A full page. Maybe tomorrow.

Awfully Quiet, but for a Good Reason

I've been working on a new Website intended to be a supportive community for Post-Single Mothers, like myself. The years right before and after my son left home for college were paralyzing for me, and I'm still a struggling work in progress. In the meantime, I have given the situation a name and conjured up a way to hopefully connect and share with other women in the same boat.

If you have had a child leave home recently (or know someone who has), I hope you'll visit and share your experiences! The Website is here: http://www.psming.com (PSM is short for Post-Single Motherhood)

Blog Post Titles are Hard

I don't know how the real bloggers do it. I am hard pressed most days to find anything to talk about in real life, much less write about here. I had no idea my last post was in April. Oh well, not much has changed. (Don't worry, THAT is a good thing.)

But today is a writing day. On a specific project I'm working on. So, here I am. Writing on this silly thing. And washing bath mats. And my ring and watch are soaking in the jewelry cleaner as we speak. My umbrella has rain spots, so that's gnawing at me, too.

And I'm a little sleepy. Sabrina, the dog, is always a problem this time of year. She hates storms, has allergies that make her gasp and cough and snort, and is just cranky (almost 14). So, if she wants to jump off the bed at 2am for a little drink of water, then holler and cry when she's good and damn well ready to get back on the bed again, you better oblige. And toot suite. (She can jump off, but can't quite make it back up at this age. Or maybe she can, and it's a test. Bitch.)

Last weekend, we had stress over a lightning bug stuck between the window and the screen. It must've looked like the lightning of the previous umpteen nights and she wasn't having it. Up, down, up, down. Finally, down. And a pit-stop for a TYlenol PM for mama. I was over it. It was a fucking lightning bug. I explained until I was blue in the face, but no sale.

I was rewarded once again, though. The last time I took T-PM, I hung out with Craig Ferguson. I have mentioned this before. This time...........Tom Jones. No, I'm serious. I've never been happier. I have mentioned my obsession before and since.

We were in his homeland of Wales. He had a castle or something. Beautiful green countryside. He had a few days off between shows or something. Why was I there? I'm not sure. He liked to cook, he liked to lay around and watch movies, he liked to eat, he liked to go for walks, and he liked to talk. So much in common, except, I like to listen, not talk. Sympatico. There was a "thang" goin' on, but I'm a lady and not going into details. He was the age he is now - not the young Tom. So, he was slower, more philosophical, calmer, deeper, and too tired for the Wilt Chamberlain numbers of the past. I must have liked him an awful lot because I was leaving too and I was very sad. Clingy, almost. He wasn't. He was kind and seemed to like me, too, but not in a clingy way. He just wanted to eat dinner, really.

Maybe I'll take a T-PM late this afternoon and hook up with Colin Firth. I am overdue for a visit, he has complained. Now, wasn't this fun? A whole lot of nothing after 2 months of nothing.

Maybe I'll dust the baseboards now. Or organize my desk drawers. I'll close with this: Jorge Cruise is a horrible, horrible man, and I'm pretty sure I could take him in a fight over a piece of sheet cake.

Pacer Fans?

This is a picture from the local newspaper of folks watching Indiana’s professional basketball team’s final game of the season last night.

Well, not really watching, because everybody is looking at the camera.

The folks are actually the team owner, manager and president, which maybe makes it a little less funny, but not really.

A Salute to Hugh MacLeod

Sometimes, I find it pretentious when bloggers post things they recommend, because it can sound all I-know-so-much-and-am-so-cool-and-have-everything-under-control-and-you-can-only-wish-to-be-as-fancy-as-me. But this is different, I swear. Firstly, I’m not really a blogger. I mean, I have a blog, but am I a blogger? gapingvoid.com daily cartoon 3/24/2010 I get the definition connection, but….oh dammit, back on topic. Second, I get distracted. A LOT. How I fit that into my already packed schedule of negative self-talk and procrastination, I’ll never know.

Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com knows me. In fact, he reads my mind every day and takes time to send me a brilliant little cartoon accompanied by some magical words every morning. Thanks, Hugh. Marry me immediately, if not sooner. Even if you do live in an adobe in the middle of nowhere. We can work through all that.

Thing is - and this hurts a little to type out loud - he will speak to you, too. I get a lot – okay, a fair number - of hits and emails related to freelance writing and building portfolios and an online presence, so I hope you might find this to be a fun pick-me-up and addition to your daily creative process, too. He’s all over that procrastination, negative self-talk, and distraction stuff.

Now, where’s my dog’s squeaky ball? I know she’ll want to play ball with me.

Last Spring Break, We Didn't Kill Each Other in NYC

I love the fact that my son has a day planner. He used to make fun of me for writing in mine.

“Why do you have to write everything down?”

“Because I’m old.”

“Yea, true dat. But there are PDAs and computers for that, nowadays. It’s the 21st century, y'know.”

“I spend all day on a computer. I like to hand write things whenever I can. It makes me happy.”

“Whatever.”

And there he goes, writing when rent is due, when his credit card bill is due, when assignments are due, when his dentist appointment is. Sighing with exasperation when schedules change and he has to erase or cross out. It makes me think of us as the two peas in a pod we used to be.

“It’s wacky how you’re not using a PDA for all that.”

“What?

“You used to make fun of me for writing things down in a planner and not using something like a PDA.”

“I never did that. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, you did.”

“Whatever.”

“Will you ever stop saying whatever?”

“Will you ever stop making up things about me?”

“Oh, What. Eh. Ver.”

“I’m going back to Bloomington now.”

“Finally.”

(Quite the letdown from last year's Spring break.)

In My Dreams

Last night, I took a Tylenol PM and here's what happened. I was on assignment to interview Craig Ferguson for some famous magazine. The article's angle was to reveal the everyday man, so it required spending lots of time getting to know him. Another day, another dollar. 

He had a home remodeling project going on and invited me to hang out while he and his friends (one of whom was Gerard Butler poor me) worked on the house. He had recently purchased this huge fixer-upper near his actual residence as a fun project. He hadn’t decided if he was going to move into it himself or just sell it. He said it depended on the market. Yes, it was discussed at this level of detail. I’m an idiot.

I hung out with him for what I think was a week or so. I’d ask him questions and watch him work, sometimes handing him things and answering questions he'd ask me about myself. Some days, we drove to get coffee in the morning and pick up deli for everyone for lunch. We also went to Home Depot, a hair salon, a lighthouse and the arcade at the mall. We barbecued in the empty swimming pool a couple of nights after grueling days of not a lot of working but a lot of mutual interviewing. 

He let me stay in the house at night. There was one bedroom magically and completely move-in ready, so that was dream-convenient. There were no lights yet, so I assume there also was no AC and no heat. The world was of the perfect temperature, I guess, because I was comfortable. There also was a light hazy gray misty color about the atmosphere so I could see around. Must have been some sort of romantical night vision dream machine. We talked about how complimentary it was. 

In other words, Craig and I really hit it off. For obvious reasons. ;) And, as you would expect after a few days of hanging out with me, the relationship crossed the line into animal attraction. Again, duh, for obvious reasons. 

Anyway, I was upstairs in the dream-convenient-ready-made room eating pizza (yet again, for obvious reasons) when the doorbell rang. It was he. In a t-shirt and jeans with his hands in his pockets sporting a puppy dog and 5 o’clock shadowed face all leaning up against the door jam. 

“I like you, ye know.”  Being creative even in my dreams, I came back with, “I like you, too.”

We stared at each other for a moment until I broke the silence with, “You have to go home now.” 

And, with that, I turned away Craig Ferguson. Why, you ask? Something about my knowing how much he loved his wife. And, because I cared about him and his happiness. But mostly because I can’t even do drug-induced dreams right. 

So, he sat in his car in the driveway, hoping that I’d change my mind and invite him back into his house. I watched him from the window while I ate some more pizza, but I didn’t go get him before the alarm went off.

Cursed With Higher Expectations

Wouldn’t you know it - a traffic snarl about a half-mile from where I needed to turn. It was Saturday and the weekend number of cars on the road usually made this particular stretch pretty uneventful, so I assumed there must be a wreck ahead. 

I noticed that all the cars were leaning toward the right lane with their turning blinkers on, which was perfectly normal behavior to get around an accident. But just ahead, I could also see a long stretch of lights and turning blinkers from cars pointing towards me and waiting patiently in the left-turning lane. Not exactly. The real situation involved more diesel truck exhaust. :)

When we finally moved up a car length, I got my first glimpse at the situation. The first thing I saw was a gigantically tall wind wiggler cowboy. Then, dozens of balloons floating from the corners of things. Then, a line of people completely wrapped around the building. Then, a ginormous inflatable Red Burrito Taco Salad out front.

Yes. It was the grand opening of the new Hardee’s in Plainfield, Indiana.

My first and gut reaction was, at it usually is, to poke fun at these morons. I mean, who in their right mind would sit in this line for their turn at a speaker or parking place to get a biscuit? Is this seriously the best they could come up with for a Saturday morning? Then, I got a look at the people waiting in their cars. There were parents and grandparents and children and babies and they were all talking and laughing and oblivious to the ridiculousness of it all. Dang it, they were happy. Why, God, WHY? 

I read this year that the people of Denmark are the happiest among us and the primary reason is their low expectations. Denmark, meet Plainfield. Plainfield, meet Denmark. This happy lot in the middle of what used to be KKK country (a big goal around the office is to retire to some land smack dab in the middle of Martinsville, because it’s the hilly part of Indiana, and to hell with the decades of bad karma) doesn’t ask for much and doesn’t expect much. 

Damn you, Universe, for exposing me to things and cursing me with higher expectations. I know I will never be as happy as these people sitting in a line to see their new neighborhood Hardee’s on opening day. 

When I drove back by at lunchtime (contrary to popular belief, there is more than one road in Plainfield, but I had no idea that the hoopla would last into the afternoon), I noticed that a cop had been called to direct traffic. It wasn’t helping much that I could see and this, of course, opened up a whole ‘nother issue in my head: How can a traffic cop direct stopped traffic? 

Argh. Foiled again. Must stop asking why. Must stop asking why. Must stop asking why. Must stop....