July 2012

THE NEWEST THING I’VE LEARNED

I’ve always loved animals. There have been very few times in my life when there hasn’t been a pet (or two) in my life. I think my record was when we bought our first house in Oklahoma. We bought Abbi a bunny (which immediately grew to five times it’s original size and became the Bun From Hell), followed by our realtor bringing us first one kitty, then a second. Then, he talked me into taking on a poodle — which I made him take back after it peed in a guest’s suitcase and destroyed all our blinds. That was followed by finding a home for the Bun from Hell who outgrew his cage in a matter of weeks, ate half our carpet and most of our wiring, was impossible to catch because it weighted more than Abbi, and bit us whenever possible. That left us with two cats, Black Kitty and Giovanni (named after my friend, Peggy’s cat).

That was in ’88. Several years later, I got tired of my secretary telling me owls had absconded with more of her barn kitties and made her bring the latest litter into the office. I found homes for all but two of them, Baby Black Kitty and Baby Kitty. Clearly, I’d had enough pets over the years that we’d run out of names.

Four was too much. I was allergic to Giovanni for some reason, and a guy I dated took Giovanni and Baby Black Kitty back to Dallas with him and found them homes.

That left us with Black Kitty and Baby Kitty.

Then, this cute little white ball of fuzz with a huge feather-duster tail was dumped outside my office in Oklahoma City. Knowing that my secretary  was a bigger wimp than I was, I petted him and left him there. A few minutes later, Lana came upstairs and asked if I’d seen the kitten, and ……. could we please bring him in and try to find his owner.

I went out and got litter and food while she retrieved the kitty. We decided he should be named Broadway Joe or Hollywood, and Hollywood stuck. He pranced around with that feather-duster tail high in the air like he owned the place. Which, of course, he did.  We put an ad in the paper, got several responses — but in Oklahoma at that point in time, people would get stray cats and sell them to the med center for research, so we were very specific when asking if callers could accurately describe him. No one did. Several asked if they could have him anyway. Not gonna happen.

Lana said she could take him home as a barn kitty, but that beautiful white, long-haired cat couldn’t possibly be his regal self covered in cow crap, and I didn’t want her to come in one day telling me an owl had taken him to feed the kids lunch.

After a month of him living in the office (and getting very strange looks from applicants who came in to interview), I took him home for Thanksgiving weekend. He never went back to the office.

Black Kitty died in ’05. Hollywood and Baby Kitty left Oklahoma City with me in June of ’06. Hollywood died in January of ’11, and Baby Kitty died in January ’12.  They were 17 & 23, respectively. For the first time in I can’t remember when, I have no pets.

Except for the mutt, Spot, and two weenie dogs, Nicky and Susan I had growing up and Sugar the Poodle, I’d never been owned by dogs.  I guess you can count Chowder the Poodle who, along with Cathy the Cat I stayed with part of the summer two years ago. Chowder I liked. He was a cool little dude who made friends every time we went for a walk.

And there’s a Golden Retriever I adore. His picture is on my website and was almost on the back cover of my book. Captain owns my heart. He really belongs to my friends, Gin & John Horton, but when I visit, this giant of a dog is at the door waiting for me. If I don’t have a piece of clothing with my scent on it to hand him, he raids my suitcase at night and carries one of my possessions around with him. When he’s resting, he sprawls all four legs out like a frog and rests his head on a toy or pillow. He jumps into my bed and pushes me over to the side. He leans against me and it’s all I can do to keep him from knocking me over, and when a camera is present, he has to be front and center. He is officially a photo hound. Captain could come live with me any time. He constantly makes me laugh.

When I visit Mary & Lina at the farm, they have their own dogs, plus Mary’s mother’s dogs.  Cookie passed a couple of years ago, and these two white furr balls were in the office at Other Options with her every day.

Jenni & Jason’s two dogs have great personalities and aren’t at all annoying. They even get along with the cats.

And when I visit people with dogs, I love having them around.

But I’m at Chris’s now. He, his girlfriend and their son have two dogs — a terrier and a ….. I’m not sure….. little yappy thing.  They have made me realize I’m not in any way a dog person.

Christopher Don owns an antique shop, so he’s gone all the time during the day, and Nikki works at Chesapeake Energy. That’s downtown and they live in Yukon. I’m betting she’s gone from about 7:30am to maybe 6:30 pm at the least. They leave the dogs outside. In 110 degree weather.

Yes, they have a large shaded porch, but it’s not enough. And I know I should leave them outside all day because that’s what they’re used to. But the second I put them out, Sophie (little yappy thing) starts panting and scratching at the door. She is NOT an outside dog. Blackjack puts up with it, but the second the door is opened, his waggy tail is inside the house and he’s knocking me down. At this very second, Sophie is panting and yapping and scratching and panting and yapping and scratching and making me feel as guilty as hell.

While I’m here, they’re inside more than they’re out.

That’s where the problem begins. Sophie wants constant attention. She’s on top of the computer and on top of me and on top of my clothes and digging in my clothes and back on top of the computer and back on top of me and Blackjack is jumping on me and he weighs a ton and then they’re wrestling beside me and spilling back on top of me and I’m trying to write, but Sophie is licking my face and chest and arms and Blackjack is bringing me squeakie toys to throw and if I don’t he’s on top of me along with Sophie and that’s the way my day goes…..and then, nighttime comes and I want to lie down. But Sophie wants to lat on my chest and lick me and Blackjack has his damned squeakie toys or toy dinosaur in my face and if I go to the bathroom they follow me and stay with me and Sophie wants to climb up on my lap while I’m going potty and Blackjack is licking my legs and then they follow me into the kitchen and back to the couch and if I take a shower they’re under my feet and it’s all I can do to not trip over them and then it’s back to the couch where Sophie is licking every inch of my body and Blackjack wants me to throw that damned squeakie toy and …………holy shit. If I wanted something that high maintenance in my life, I’d be married.

So, I guess that means I’m probably not a dog person. If a kitty wanted to lick my face, it would gently climb up on me and caress my cheek before giving me a gentle lick. Big difference. A cat would lie beside me or curl up somewhere on the bed at night, but wouldn’t wake me up at 3am licking the bottom of my foot. And cats sleep about 20 hours a day anyway. I think Sophie & Blackjack only sleep when I’m gone — reserving their strength for when I’m available.

I feel sorry for them, because obviously they’re not the type to be “outside” dogs and are starved for attention. And it’s too damned hot for anything except bugs and lizards to be outside. This week the highs are record-breaking — 108 – 110 – there’s a chance we could go to 112. Of course, it can’t be global warming, because we’ve been told it doesn’t exist. And I know I’ve become a wimp living in California where 79 is too low and 81 degrees is too hot. But no dog should have to be outside when it’s 110.  All day. Every day.

Abbi wants a dog. Not just a dog, a DOG. A Big-Ass-Great-Dane. They don’t require a lot of running-around time, and are great indoors, but I still don’t think she understands how much more work a dog is than a cat — even a cat like her psychotic Nyla who purrs and entices you to pet her just so she can attack and bite when you least expect it.

But I don’t. Want. A. Dog.  When I have income, I’ll send money every month to Save an Angel (check them out on Facebook)– it was set up by Kristie Sullen, and Angel is her dog who is a cancer survivor. It’s her goal in life to save every dog that ever hits a shelter, and I’ll support her and her efforts any way I can. That will be my contribution to Dog-dom. But I don’t see owning one in my future.

I don’t know. Maybe if I could find another Captain. Or if I really do decide to live on a boat I’ll feel safer if I have a sweet Pitty who will be gentle with me and protect me. Maybe I’m not just a hyper-active-type-of-dog person.

Maybe I should just stick to cats. Once I know where I live.

Until tomorrow, be safe out there. And do NOT bring me a puppy.

THINGS ARE SO DIFFERENT NOW

I made it through a whole 24-hours without stopping at Braum’s OR Taco Bueno. I can’t make any promises about today.

I’ve been a very bad girl the last two days. All this moving around made me tired and sucked every drop of creative juice from my body.  But I’m feeling much better now. An evening with Kenneth and Lori Wohl, and the precious tiny dancer, Tripp brought me back to life.

Tuesday, I left Jenni & Jason Hawkins house (along with their kids, Jerzie, Jaxi and Judson, two dogs (don’t remember their J names) and 2 cats, Jayda Belle and Jinx.  I remember when Jenni was pregnant the first time. I was at their house and on their coffee table was a book, “Beyond Jennifer and Jason.” Cracked me up.  But they’re running out of J names.

Then, 2 days at theSteve-the- pilot’s house while he’s on a world tour with Mary, Lina and other friends to go to a concert. By all reports, no one has been arrested so far.

Now I’m at Chris Kennedy’s for a week puppy sitting. Christopher Don Kennedy. What a kid. He was one of the 30 or so who filled every inch of our home from about 8th grade through the end of high school, and sometimes beyond. He was the hand-full. Hands down. Now, he owns his own antique shop, has a beautiful wife and little boy, and the home where I’m puppy sitting for two “outside” dogs who spend their day scratching at the door and begging to come in. It is, you know, about 100 degrees outside. Even with a good roofed porch, that’s damned hot. Oh, and a fish. I’ve never had fish — this tank has (as far as I can tell) one yellow fish, some kind of eel, a frog, and something yellow hiding in a corner — it’s either a bright snail or something dead. I’ve got to ask his mom today. His mom, Cheryl, was the other brave soul who housed the crew of 30 – from Chris’s age (a year younger than Abbi) to his brother’s (a year older than Abbi) and everything in between. The stories I could tell…and maybe someday I will.

Today I’ll flip through the final, final, final, (hopefully) final proof of Diary of a Sorority House Mom and (again, hopefully) get the Kindle conversion back on track.  We’re having a heck of a time with the PDF conversion. It keeps switching in the middle of the book to putting first pages of chapters on even-numbered pages instead of odd, and it’s not consistent throughout the book. Makes us crazy. We’ve been working on it for a month. Keep your fingers crossed.

NOW, let’s talk Oklahoma City.

When Abbi and I left in ’06, Tulsa was considered cosmopolitan and OKC was the cowtown. And in many ways it still is.  But at that time, so many of the things that gave OKC personality were disappearing:  the railroad bridge on Western where for as long as anyone could remember, people would paint marriage proposals, draw pictures, sport scores and random messages. The bridge was an evolving work of art. It was demolished.

Then, the T-Bar disappeared. This was a great bar on Western that got it’s name from the brass T-Shaped handles that opened the solid wood doors. The inside was rustic, there was good music several nights a week, the food and liquor flowed (and were good) and it was a fun hang-out for our state congressmen and lawyers.  Its space is now a tiny strip mall.

We’d just lost our arena football team, The Oklahoma Wranglers, because no one would buy them. They’re now someplace strange — maybe, Waco.

I got lucky and sold my house at the full-price offer, but the housing market was starting to go south. There were For Sale signs everywhere.

Now, so many things have changed.

I think it started with the New Orleans basketball team coming here when their stadium was demolished. They had a better turnout here, and were making more money than they ever made in New Orleans, but had made the promise to return — and did so — which opened the door for OKC getting the next NBA team. The Oklahoma City Thunder.

Then, downtown started to thrive. The Skirvin, a wonderful old and elegant hotel that had been left closed and deteriorating for the entire time we lived in OKC was renovated and re-opened. Bricktown, which was just getting started, blossomed around the Redhawks Stadium. Mickey Mantle’s restaurant has thrived. The boats travel up and down the canal constantly. Tourists are coming here as a destination instead of a stop on the way to someplace else. The bombing memorial has become a part of the city’s history and we still visit it on a regular basis. Each new Thunder player is taken there and told that this, and the city it represents, are what he is playing for. But its no longer the city’s only defining element.

“For Sale” and “Foreclosure” signs are hard to find. Roofing company signs, on the other hand, are in front of almost every house after a storm that produced apple-sized hail and caused way too much auto, window and roof damage. Most of Tripp’s room’s ceiling fell in. It would be a great time to be in the auto body repair or roofing business.

There are still churches on every corner. And more being built. I’ve seen as many as 5 within a mile stretch. Okies may drink all Saturday night, but they always make it to church in the morning. But the Life Church people don’t even have to worry about that — their services are televised now.

What surprised me is that there are more thrift shops, pawn shops, and “we buy gold” shops that I’ve ever seen. Across the street from each other  – on almost every block- We’ve always had our share of antique shops, but this is out of control.

And fast food. Holy cholesterol attack. On one street, side by side, are Carl’s Jr., Jack in the Box, Sonic, Taco Mayo, and a couple I don’t remember. There were like seven in a row. You can’t go a block without seeing at least one — anywhere.

I haven’t been to downtown yet. Was going to go a few days ago, but was lucky to get an early warning that American Idol or one of those shows was holding auditions down town. It’s bad enough when I had to take detours around Hollywood Blvd. almost every night for some red-carpet event, but I’m not going to do the same thing with downtown OKC. Maybe I’ll make it down this week.

What I’m hearing is that it’s coming alive, too. Lots of trendy cafes, some new businesses, etc.  When I left, there were still way too many reminders of the bombing — boarded up and abandoned buildings all over the downtown area. I’m anxious to see what’s happened to those.

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is in Abbi’s university, The University of Central Oklahoma. Edmond is about half way between Stillwater (OSU) and Norman (OU). When we were there, it was a comfortably large school with classes small enough the students had contact with real professors rather than grad assistants or auditoriums of 400 with no chance to interact or question the profs.

They had just purchased a hotel to meet the increasing demand for campus housing, and had broken ground on the new forensics school. Now, that forensics school takes up both sides of 2nd street — two gigantic buildings — and is the premier forensics training center in the country.

UCO is now large enough to be a Division I school, has the same size population as Oklahoma State and meets all the criteria to become one. They choose to stay D II. There’s no advantage to the university to jump into the D I community. The only difference would be the sports teams we’d play. No big deal. It’s a smart move. UCO’s teachers are already highly recruited, their nursing program has over 300 applicants for 50 or less acceptances each year, the UCO degree is respected in the community and its graduates are slurped up into the community and are constantly being named “Best under 20, Best under 30,” etc. They’re making their names in banking, law, medicine, and Kenneth even sits on the Edmond Chamber of Commerce. There are also self-employed business owners — framing shops, a published author, dance studios, retail stores…..

The beautiful Samantha Lamb is an accomplished photographic artist, plus is making her mark among a growing group of young people nationally who have gone back to their roots to become self-sustaining farmers.

The weather in Oklahoma has not changed as far as I can tell, but Kenneth tells me there are both spring and fall seasons now. When I left, there were two seasons:  January and August. And tornado season this year didn’t seem as bad as in the past. But the droughts continue to hurt our farmers. So much of Oklahoma is still dust and cracked earth. And a fire hazard. And the winters are still unbearable.

But I think the biggest change is inside me. When I left, I was “Abbi’s Mom.” Returning, I’m still proud to have that designation, but primarily, I’m “Ann,” both in the way I’m perceived and in my own mind.

And I’ve actually thought about staying. I talked to the Alpha Gam chapter at UCO about becoming their house director, but they only pay $500/month and expect their HD to have an outside job. I’m so over that.

We’ll see. I’m a little anxious for a resolution to my life situation so I can make some of those decisions. Now, I’m still on a short leash and need to be able to get back to California quickly if necessary.

So the adventure continues. Again, send good vibes to whatever supreme being you embrace that the resolution to my life in limbo happens quickly. I’m ready to know where I life — or make the choice to not live anywhere. Or just take a freaking vacation.

Until tomorrow, stay safe out there.

 

64%

I was just getting ready to put a post on Facebook that said, “I got nothin’ this morning,” until I saw Emily Zain’s post about 64% of Americans agreeing the government is the problem.

My first thought was, “Duh.”

I, for one, am over it. O V E R   I T.

It’s time for the government and the legislature in particular to get down to business. BUSINESS. The Country’s business. Not their buddies’ business. Not what’s best for their stock portfolio. The   Country’s    Business.  What’s right for America. And her citizens.

How many congressmen need a staff of more than two or three people? How many sub-departments are really necessary? If the average business owner takes less than a week of vacation every year, why should our legislators get months off? And why aren’t they held accountable for the number of bills they don’t even vote on.

The legislature sees no need to examine and get rid of their own drain on the national debt. How about making them pay a portion of their insurance premium — they have the best insurance plan in the world, and it’s not costing them a cent. And what about their car services? Shouldn’t they have to drive themselves to work and pay for parking like the rest of us little people? Or opt in for car service and pay for it? And let’s talk about their vacation time. Holy Crap. And writing off their travel? They’ll vote anything into law just to make sure they don’t miss a day off.

And what about their staffs? How much work do they actually do?  When I sent a letter to one of my Oklahoma congressmen slamming him for a position that was not only contrary to his campaign promises, but not in the best interest of our state, I got a form letter back “thanking me for my support.”

I remember back when I became eligible to vote. The Charleston (WVa) Gazette and Daily Mail had a post every day on how each of our legislators had voted. I looked for that square every single day. You could bet that Arch Moore’s name had an Absent beside his name. Yet, we rewarded his “contribution” by electing him governor. When he was indicted for embezzling, once again we rewarded his actions and contribution to the reputation of our great state by putting him back in congress. Good God.

Our legislators need to get back to the business of doing what’s best for America. It’s none of their business whether birth control is paid for by insurance policies — that’s the decision of each of the insurance companies. And talk about unnecessary coverages? How about those little blue pills.

It is their business to vote into law bills that make sense — not fill them with special-interest crap. We need to work on the infrastructure, even if it means creating something like the WPA again to put people back to work and getting our country back in shape. We need to get our people back to work. Then they can pay taxes instead of being a drain on the system. Trickle-down economics has never worked, and it never will. Now, it’s trickling sideways to Brazil, Thailand, China, Russia, India…..American business’ trickle-down system is contributing to the economy of a hell of a lot of other countries. What’s it doing for the Good Old U S of A?

It’s sure as hell not helping our educational system. My daughter’s German teacher at Putnam City Original in Oklahoma City was a finalist for Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year. He worked at White Water every summer to supplement his salary. When his third child was born, he could no longer afford to teach.

Of course, the congressional answer is to give more tax cuts to business, because that’s worked so well before.

We owe our servicemen jobs when they return for their tours. They should be able to have a home to sleep in.  Instead, we bring back shell-shocked men and women who have been given no skills that help them find jobs in the workplace. I’m pretty sure there’s no market for tank mechanics or infantrymen. Military suicides are at an all-time high. PTSD is rampant, yet there’s not enough military care when they return. Part of our military budget should include 6 – 8 months of retraining and re-orientation once they return to the States.  It’s estimated that 20% of our homeless are ex-military. That’s just wrong. These people laid their lives on the line every single day for us. Yet when they return, they’re non-citizens. Shame on us.

What’s being done to help those who have been laid off? Lost their houses to foreclosures because the banks wouldn’t work with them? It’s estimated that up to 40% of the homeless are women and children. That’s a sin. There are those who chose to live on the street — there’s a guy with an umbrella for a roof who has lived on a Santa Monica beach for as long as anyone can remember, and a park in Berkeley where the residents refused to accept housing when the temp went below 20 degrees. Let them. But help the rest.

We need training programs that would require welfare recipients to attend classes to get them back to work. When a welfare kid hits 18, they should have to move out — get a job or join the military. Day care centers could be opened in projects and welfare mothers could work at the day care, gain a skill, and be rewarded by letting their kids stay free for compensation until they were certified and find a job on their own. Then, they should be given “x” amount of time to find their own place to live. It wouldn’t cost a cent more than we’re paying that person now — to do absolutely nothing.

The same could be done with maintenance,painting, construction, landscaping/gardening, housekeeping, property management. These are jobs that could be done within the welfare community to train these people to become self-sufficient. Like it or not.  Welfare was never intended to be a life-long situation. Or a multi-generational entitlement.  There should be drug tests for welfare recipients. If we’re giving them a free place to live, a living allowance AND food stamps, we deserve to know that money isn’t being spent on drugs.  There should be spot-checks of welfare housing to make sure no unit is being used for illegal activity. And that no unauthorized (men/husbands or friends) are living on the property. I, for one, am tired of seeing someone who drives up in a Mercedes or carries a Louis Vuitton purse paying for purchases with food stamps.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m all about the country making an investment in its own people. Help those with degrees or training get back into the workplace. Train others so they can become working members of society. Give them a place to live and sources for clothing so they can be presentable for an interview. Provide people to teach them how to present themselves when looking for a job. SHARE is a volunteer organization that would help with this training and teach interview techniques. Let’s take advantage of our seniors who may have retired but want to help. Encourage companies to give jobs (and a hand) to the homeless. Or the military. Give tax benefits to companies that ONLY do business in America, and take away those benefits for those who hire people in foreign countries so they can give multi-million dollar bonuses to their CEO’s.  When a company’s profits exceed the tax incentives we’re giving them, take the benefits away; they no longer need them. Use those same funds to help another company become profitable.

What I’m NOT for is funding for treadmills for shrimp, studies on why a cow chews its cudd or why boll wievals like cotton.

We should make each of our congressmen and women take a stack of bills into their offices and not come out until they’ve highlighted every bit of stupidity in the bill — and the add-ons included to buy votes. Get rid of the sludge that’s slowing our country down and wasting our money. Just getting rid of these idiotic expenses would have us out of debt within a year. Hell, we could buy ourselves back from China.

I’m over it. So are at least 64% of all Americans.

And yet, I was in line at Walmart yesterday, and as if that wasn’t enough of a hellish experience, I got behind two grown men who were blasting Clinton for getting a blow job (without mentioning that Eisenhower had a mistress the whole time he was in office) and saying that Obama is probably snorting cocaine.  Not one thing about a political issue or what’s right for the country or how they could help.

How can we, the 64%, make a difference? VOTE. Not by party lines. Not because of things the President couldn’t get done because members of congress have mandated that they won’t vote for anything he wants. If we continue voting by this criteria, we will also continue to get what we deserve. Unfortunately, we’re NOT getting what we pay for.

We have become just what William J. Lederer’s book anticipated. “A Nation of Sheep.”

We’re the only ones that can fix this mess. We have to bring in some moderates so the aisle isn’t split completely by red and blue. There should be some shades in between to bring logic into the equation.  Voting in people because they’re the MOST conservative or the MOST liberal is killing us. Voting in people who swear they don’t care how good a program might be for the American people they’re paid to serve if it’s the President’s idea hasn’t accomplished a thing; kindergartners who will take their ball and go home if they don’t get their way. Let them take their freaking balls (or lack of same) and go home.

It’s time we all took a good, hard look at the people who represent us. Who are they as individuals? How have they voted in the past? How do they represent their country? Are they “in it” to genuinely make America the very best country, with the best educational system and the most respected military, or are they just biding time at our expense?

Time to get rid of the dead weight. Reward those like Tom Coburn (R-OK) who have the guts to stand up to their own party when it’s headed in the wrong direction? And yes, I’m using a Republican as an example of what is right with this country and could be right with our congress. I’d vote for him any day of the week. And we need to find more like him. Who vote on behalf of the people they represent. Who vote to make our country a better place. And get rid of those who want to create log jams — just because.

I’m fortunate to have surrounded myself with some very bright, intelligent, funny (but seldom called normal) people: politicians, business owners, authors, educators, government workers, homemakers, college students, physicians, artists……yet it amazes me when I see some of them get into arguments on Facebook that are strictly by party lines; going as far as to say that the other is stupid for not believing the way they do.  Granted, it’s easier than thinking and studying, but we, THE VOTERS, are the only way to clean up this mess. Let’s get to work and do it.

Or, we could move to Equador or Thailand. Live in a beach house for $500/month. They both have great ex-pat communities who have already jumped ship.

And that’s about as pissy as I can get while remaining totally bi-partisan. You’ve gotta give me credit for that one.

Until tomorrow, stay safe out there.

 

 

ITS NOT MY HOUSE ANYMORE

No, I’m not talking sorority house.

For the last six years I’ve been  missing my beautiful, old house in Oklahoma City…..with its stone fireplace that opened onto both the living and family rooms,  ceramic windowsills, ancient 2″ planked wood flooring that cost $20/foot to replace 10 years ago, the master bedroom suite I created — along with the huge door I added so I could look out at the 20′ stand of 50-year old trees that made my city home appear to be in the middle of a forest. There was nothing like lying in bed, reading a good book and watching the snow fall on the trees that shielded me from the world. And sharing all those trees with the birds that chirped me awake in the morning and cooed me to sleep at night.

Mildred lived in the front half of the house — the old master-bedroom suite, living room and dining room. Who is Mildred, you ask? She’s the lady who, along with her husband, designed and built the house in 1949. She never left. Since she still had use of her master bedroom, every now and then I’d hear her toilet flush. I purchased her living and dining room furniture, along with a couple of other pieces from her estate — the furniture they bought when they moved in (we found the receipts) — so the front of the house was still her “home.” People would walk in the door and tell me how peaceful the house made them feel. That was Mildred.

I lived in the back half — my (3rd bedroom) office, new master-bedroom suite, the “family room” I called my lodge because it was walled with raked pine, had the fireplace at the far end, and a full-wall set of casement windows that gave an unobstructed view of that beautiful back yard and my totally renovated kitchen. (With all due respect to Mildred, I couldn’t work in a totally pink kitchen — cabinets, counter tops, sink, appliances, flooring, curtains — I swear Barbie lived there. And there was a reason her husband died before she did.)  My mountain lodge gave me so much peace — and privacy.  Since Mildred lived in the front, she got the traffic noise. And everyone else lived on the other side of the forest so I never heard them.  Abbi had parties that hosted a cast of thousands, but no one in the neighborhood knew. She and her friends could swim, bar-b-que, play water volleyball, sunbathe and play music as loud as they wanted and not be heard from any direction.

My first act after signing the papers was to add a swimming pool. That 16 x 32′ incredibly private pool allowed me to swim laps a couple of times a day or lie on a float for a nap. That made my forest even more magical. Dragonflies would lite on my hand and rest with me as I lounged. The breeze in the trees joined the birds to create a symphony that centered me and made the rest of the world go away.

A turtle had adopted the forest, too. He was an old guy, and I painted a section of his back red so the lawn guys could find him.

There were planted flowers, perennials and small shrubs along a twenty-foot strip on one side of the back-yard’s lawn — the side where I put in a patio for the lawn furniture and gas grill. And the hot tub deck was flanked by iris’ and day lillies. A hammock provided a peaceful space to read, shaded by the wispy mimosa branches.

When I moved in, I planted wisterias on both side of the walkway to the house and they had matured into beautiful bushes that produced fragrant purple blossoms during the spring and summer. The peach tree I added provided enough fruit for all the pies I could possibly bake, plus plenty to trade for my neighbor’s pecans. The stained-glass stepping stones I designed and made were spaced to separate my property from the neighbors on one side, and I’d added some elms to do the same on the other.

This must be very boring to you, but to me this house was my refuge in some pretty tough time; the place where Abbi could bring her laundry home from college and do a little sunbathing while I got her clothes ready for the return trip (it was her only nod to needing mom anymore, and we both enjoyed the pretense). When her friends didn’t want to make a long drive from work to their homes in snow, ice, hail storms, tornado seasons or were between apartment leases…….they’d sleep over in Mildred/Abbi’s room. It was Abbi’s place to run away when her hectic life filled with a full college class load, coaching several cheer and dance squads, choreographing for others, practicing/performing/competing with the university’s dance/pom squad, staffing with a cheerleading association, performing with the city’s arena football team’s squad (along with being part of the public relations crew), and holding campus offices while helping run our shop on campus became too much for her to bear.

And then, I got the job in northern California, sold my beautiful home, and drove away for the last time.

Over the years, many people have told me not to drive by the house if I came back to town — that the new owners had changed it too much, and not for the better. I had been back in OKC for about four days before the car pulled onto 33rd Street and I found myself pulling into the driveway.

I knocked on the beveled glass door I’d added, but no one answered.

They’d made some interesting changes at the front of the house — added a more stylish mailbox, put a wooden deck around the tree that centered the living room windows — but they’d taken out the elm trees that provided a break between my property line and the neighbors, removed the shrubs that provided privacy in Mildred’s bedroom while adding the benefit of making it difficult for burglars to get into the otherwise easy-to-enter casement windows, and removed the wisteria I’d planted by the gate to the back yard. The two that flanked the walkway were still there, but they’d trimmed the heck out of them. And my peach tree was dead. Nothing left but a trunk and one set of branches.

The pool cleaners were there, so I went into the back yard (and past the junk car that was parked on the other side of the gate) and asked if I could look around. They didn’t care.

Almost all my trees were gone. They left the ones that provided shade and privacy for the master bedroom, but all the rest were gone — only ugly stumps remained. All my flowers had been removed. The pool was still there, and I longed to jump into it, but there was no more privacy — 3/4 of the back and all of the western fence were open to the neighbors’ yards. No more forest.

Originally, I’d wanted to peak into a couple of windows to see what changes had been made, but after seeing the outside decided that wouldn’t be a good idea. It wasn’t my home anymore. Someone else had made it theirs, and though I didn’t understand the reasoning, it wasn’t my place to question their decisions.

It’s been a week, and I’m still sad. For some very strange reason, I guess I’d always figured that if the time came to return to Oklahoma to live, I could walk up, knock on the door, and tell them I wanted my house back. But now it’s not even one I’d consider buying. At any price.

I wonder if Mildred stayed around. Or the turtle.

So, I can’t go home again — at least to that home.

But visiting it made me realize that I’m ready to know where I live. It doesn’t matter whether that’s on the road, or at another sorority house, or in an apartment, or on a boat. Or maybe it’s the kitten at Jenny & Jason’s who spends half her time hiding from three rambunctious kids aged three to nine. She’s adopted me, because I’m gentle with me…..but tonight is my last night here.  For oh, so many reasons, I’m ready to know.

Janis Joplin was right. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Today, I have errands to run, more friends to see, some interesting/uncomfortable phone calls to make, and I’ll spend another night in someone else’s bed. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve laughed so much in the last couple of weeks visiting friends I haven’t seen in six years — have gotten to experience the first day in the life of a new foal, loved seeing both Brittney at work and watch JRobb dance for the first time. I’ve gotten to visit Jenny and Jason’s beautiful home and meet their three very different kids, caught up with some amazing people, and plan to do even more of that in the next few weeks. But……

before I go, I’m giving you a homework assignment. As you know, I have friends of just about every religious persuasion. I’m asking all of you — Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wicca, Misc. — whatever supreme being you communicate with, will you please put in a good word for me? Ask that answers come quickly so I’m not in limbo anymore.  I promise to be here for you when you need me.

So, until tomorrow, be careful out there……and remember to put in a good word for me. If Kenny G. doesn’t have a home yet, it’s time to give him one. Me, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY BIRTHDAY — AND RANDOM STUFF

Yesterday was overwhelming. I have always gotten a kick out of sending birthday notes to others, but receiving them blew me away. The list was unbelieveable.   There were high-school friends and people I almost knew in high school who are now friends, people I met through business and haven’t seen in 20+ years, girls from every one of my sorority houses with the sweetest notes — some including memories that cracked me up, more notes from friends of Abbi’s ranging from junior high through college and her professional life who have become friends of mine too, author/writer friends who took time out from slaving over plot lines or spending the best weekend of the year at Book Passage’s Mystery Writers Conference….even one from an old boyfriend.

So many of us go through life assuming people don’t care about us; that we’re alone… when in reality, we’re buying into the crap others try to feed us rather than seeing the truth that we are important to people around us — or far away –and that our lives mean something. I was as guilty of that as anyone until recently. So thank you — so many of you — for the birthday wishes. They topped off a really great day.

 

Jump shift (as we say when playing bridge) — I’ve never understood how anyone can commit suicide. I’ve had some really bad times over the years, but there was always something in the back of my head that said I was giving up on the chance that everything could turn around the next day. You never know.

The only time I understand the concept is if someone is in such excruciating pain that prolonging the inevitable will only bring more pain and expense to those they love. In cases where everyone they care about is informed ahead of time and understands, I get it.

But the questions suicide leaves behind?

I went through this twice in my younger years. My daughter has had to deal with the all the angst it leaves behind. One of my girls from San Diego just went through her father’s suicide. She was a daddy’s girl. And so successful, beautiful, sweet, accomplished — she must have brought him so much joy. She’d been a cheerleader and dancer for years, won both All-American and National Championships, was in a couple of the “Bring It On” movies, had just graduated from college…..  How could anyone leave such a wonderful daughter — and a wife – and  friends with so many unanswered questions?

Why? What could I have done? Were there signs I should have seen? What did I do wrong?

Questions that will haunt their survivors for the rest of their lives.     I just don’t get it.

 

On a happier note — again, jump shift — FOOTBALL season starts in 48 days. It seems like forever. But so soon. I can’t wait.

I don’t understand all the jumping around in the conferences — how did West Virginia end up in the same conference with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State? And what will we do without the Red River Rivalry (OU/Texas) every year? But still…..bring it on. I, for one, am ready for this season.  Will Oklahoma State get even better? Will Ohio State come through for me? What’s going to happen with the Penn State program? And will USC be so over their suspensions that they won’t even let another team take the field? I’m betting we’re going to be hearing a lot of “FIGHT ON!” If they don’t win the national championship, I’ll be surprised. I’m not a USC fan, but this is going to be fun to watch.

And the pros. Since the 2009 play-off game when Minnesota gift wrapped and handed the national championship game to New Orleans and I drained every drop of purple blood from my body — after 41 years of die-hard loyalty — I don’t have a favorite team. But I still hate the Cowboys, and that’s all that really matters. I like Oakland. And San Francisco (because I’ve got two girls dancing with the Gold Diggers). And I’d really love to see the Rams come back to LA once the new stadium is completed……

I wish I still had season tickets to the Hall of Fame game at Canton Bulldog Stadium….what a weekend. It was such a privilege to see people like Y.A. Tittle and Sam Huff and Vince Lombardi inducted into the Hall of Fame. And how much fun it was to sit in that pre-historic wood stadium watching the first pre-season game of the year.  The only place I’ve been that was more awe-inspiring than the Football Hall of Fame was at Churchill Downs. Still gives me chills.

 

OK — another segue…….Today I saw a post on Facebook asking everyone on the east coast (Republican states) to let FEMA know how much they had lost in the storms this year — what they had to pay for a generator, how much food they lost (unless they were on food stamps, of course), damage to their homes, etc.  As someone who has gone through multiple tornados, tsunamis and earthquakes — and has had friends lose everything, my heart aches for them.

However,  it occurred to me that these are the same people who are going to vote for someone who wants to take away the medicare and social security I’ve (and they have) paid for/invested in through the years, eliminate Planned Parenthood and all the services (including cancer screenings) they provide free of charge, take birth control out of health insurance plans, and don’t give a flying frisbee about the homeless or veterans who can’t find jobs and end up on the street.  So I guess the message is, “Social programs cost the country too much money, people should just go out and find a job, and my money shouldn’t be used to help anyone else —- unless I’M the one needing the help.”  I’m so over the duplicity of politics.

 

And that’s my rant for today. Oh — except I read an article on the USA Olympic basketball team that said Koby Bryant is probably the team’s weakest link. I always love it when that bitchy little girl gets slammed. But that’s just me.  Isn’t it great that for the first time in history, three Olympic team players are from one NBA team — the Oklahoma City Thunder?

 

So, until tomorrow when The Mind of Ann will be wandering with the same zest, twists and turns as her new World Tour, be careful out there. Can’t wait to see what happens when I walk out the door today…..

 

WHAT A TRIP!

Arrived in Oklahoma City a few days ago, and immediately headed for MiniHaHa Ranch to visit Mary and Lina.  Carlita decided to wait until I got there to foal. Beautiful baby boy — long legs, wobbly, great ornery personality — but couldn’t figure out how to nurse. After two days of syringe and bottle feeding, plus having momma stream milk onto his head, he finally figured out at about 4am this morning how to nurse. Now, everything’s great. So cute to see his little belly all full and puffy.  And he drinks until he acts like he’s drunk. What an incredible gift to be there through the whole experience.

Yesterday, I took a trip to University of Central Oklahoma, where Abbi graduated. As soon as I saw the stadium and big Blue & Bronze Broncho on the side of the building, I got homesick. Immediately wanted to go to another ball game, watch Abbi dance, laugh as Jared Meers would wait to watch his touchtown on the jumbo-tron before he’d line up for the extra point. So many incredible memories.

Then, went to the Wellness Center to see one of my four sorority “nieces.”  Some houses call alumna who have an organized group of adults who connect with selected sorority actives “Alum chums.” We are a niece/Aunt-kinda-group. I’m lucky to have four amazing young women. The first, Lori, is a teacher. Number two is her little, Crystal. She’s an RN now, and married to an Air Force officer — has a baby boy named Aiden.  Brittney and Jennifer adopted me. Brittney works at the University’s Wellness center, has her Masters in Public Health. Jennifer is in grad school working on her MBA and dances on the weekend. She’s a world-class belly dancer — started taking classes with her mom when she was in high school, and now travels to India to study. They’re all so smart, fun, gifted, and I adore each one of them. I’ve got the greatest “family.” Of course, one of them had to be the first person I visited once my bags were in the house. The funny thing is that everyone who has heard of me in the house refers to me as “Auntie Ann.” I’ve been called so much worse.

Today, I moved into a pilot’s home while he’s out of town. Got to do a little research towards both the thriller and a true crime story that needs to be written. Has been screaming at me to be written for years. And now, I’m in a place where all the information is readily available. It may be the only true crime I ever write. Hope it is. But the person it’s about deserves to be known. Heroes exist. They should never be forgotten.

Hit “my” jeweler to have a couple of pendants fixed. We talked forever. The shop had been a client of mine from ’88 – ’97, and they became great friends. Abbi got her first ring there. It was a little gold bow with a tiny diamond in it. That ring got turned into a charm for my bracelet.

Then, went to an antique store owned by the orneriest kid in Abbi’s bunch when they were growing up.  He was one of the 30 that camped out on my floor every single weekend from 9th grade through high school graduation. Chris was always up to his elbows in trouble, and now he owns his own business and has a great family complete with baby boy. Pretty amazing. I’m going to be house sitting for him when they take a trip to Cancun from the 26th through 1st.  Another one of the kids is working for him while he’s waiting for a job to open up at the Air Force base. He just got out of the service, went back to school and upgraded his skills as a plane mechanic. But back in “the day,” I kicked him out of my house more than once. He kept coming back. I kept letting him in.

I may never have to find a place to live.  Which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Can’t wait to see Chris’ mom. Cathi was the other “mom” of the group. If the clump of kids wasn’t at my house, all the parents knew they were at Chris & David’s. It’s been a great birthday…….and no one here even knows I’m having one. Maybe that’s the best part.

Still making plans to see other kids — sorority / fraternity kids from UCO, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State — Abbi’s dance team members, collegiate/all-star/professional — other friends from along the way.

It’s been the best birthday ever — and no one even knows I’m having one.

For now, I’ve got to make a couple of phone calls and then, will start writing. Have no idea what will come out, but excited to find out.

I love my life.

So, until tomorrow, keep a good thought and be safe out there. Snuggling in for the afternoon/evening.

 

THINGS I’VE LEARNED ON THE ROAD…….

So far, I’m having a ball. But have learned so much in the last several days.

1) The part of Utah I drove through may be some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen — huge red statues for miles and miles that no man could have ever created. I must have said, “Wow” a hundred times, and there was more than one “Thelma and Louise” moment when I almost lost track of where the road was…..

however, it’s time for man to step up and add a few things…..like exits. Exits with servics. Don’t they want us to stay and enjoy the beautiful territory?  Or get gas? Or feed us? Evidently not.

If driving through Utah you see a sign that says, “No services for 115 miles….No Bull,” believe it.  Unfortunately, that sign was right AFTER the last exit for 115 miles.

That was fine with me, because “little car” can go six hours without being fed. And I figured that exit was too early to stop for the night, so another 90 minutes would have been just about right. Unfortunately, the next several services AFTER the 115 miles were tiny service stations; some of which had closed for the night. I was into Colorado before I found a motel.

2) If there has been no motel for about 3.5 hours, the hotels in Fruita, Colorado (where there were no fruit stands, damn it. I really wanted some fresh fruit) can charge whatever the hell they want.

3) At least for me, it’s probably not a good idea to drive a full day on a diet of suckers and popcorn — even if they are organic and from Trader Joe’s.  My bad.

4) We had lived in Denver for four years between ’83 & the end of ’87. My ex had training and eventually was stationed at Lowry AFB, and we divorced there. That’s just one of the reasons I love Colorado so much.

I’d forgotten how much I love that beautiful state…..where else can you go skiing in the morning and swim in the afternoon? And know that as long as the mountains are either on your left or your right, depending on where you’re going, you’re headed in the right direction.

I was in sales back  then and when burn out hit, all it took was a trip to Estes Park or Echo Lake or Breckenridge or Georgetown, and by the end of the day, I was fine.  I found myself calling Greek Life departments at University of Denver, Colorado State and University of Colorado to see if they had any house director openings for fall.  I could so live there again. And Peggy and I could see each other more often than every 10 years.

5) If I cover myself in Lidoderm patches — literally — three on my right leg (plus ankle brace), one on left knee, and one on right hip,(don’t tell my doctor — I’m only suposed to use 3 a day) and take a Vicodin, I can drive without too much pain. Once they’re taken off, however……..

6) Regardless of how many years it’s been since I saw an M & M with nuts, and in spite of the fact that I’ve been eating healthy for so long, the damned things jump into my hand — by the handful. And if they’re in a Cosco-sized bag, I’m in big trouble. There may have been a day when that was all I ate until Peggy yelled at me and fixed me a healthy grilled-cheese sandwich with spinich….but I think I had some more M & M’s for dessert.  I was a very bad girl.

7) I don’t sleep well the night before I’m going to be driving. The night before leaving Peggy’s, I didn’t get to sleep until 3 or 4 am…..and the painters next door started clanging and banging at about 7am.

For the first time in the history of Ann driving (and there were times I used to get in the car in Omaha and not stop except to get a Coke, go to the bathroom, and fill up the tank between there and Charleston, WV — about  a 20-hour drive) I acknowledged I was too tired to drive and stopped by the side of the road for a power nap.

And though I probably could have made it all the way to Oklahoma City last night, I stopped for the night. However, I have no idea where I am.  Driving east from Denver, once there are no longer mountains in the rear-view mirror, there is nothing. NOTHING for scenery.  I may be in Nebraska. Or Kansas. Or Iowa. Hell, I may even be in Oklahoma. But I may as well put the car on cruise control and take a nap, because as long as the front end is in alignment and I don’t run out of gas, the car can just keep going straight and within the speed limit, and it doesn’t need me. I could stop at Costco and pick up peanut M & M’s and a good book.

So until tomorrow when I’ll have much more wisdom to share, be safe out there.

 

STAGE 2

For the last week I’ve had the unbelieveable pleasure of spending time with my friend, Peggy Coen in Denver. In all my moving around,only two places have felt like “home;” Denver and Berkeley. Though I’ve enjoyed other places, there’s something about these two that soothes my soul.

Peggy and I met during a time when I knew my marriage was circling the drain and took part-time jobs at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center while attending college at night. She was my supervisor at a new assignment.

When she arrived that morning, I went to her door, knocked, was invited in, and sat down. The first words out of my mouth were, “What I need is a good affair.”  Before we even exchanged names. Don’t have a clue where the words came from, but we became instant friends. She nursed me through my divorce, learning to be a single mother with no emotional support from family or financial support from my AF officer ex-husband.  She was going through an interesting time, too, and we had daughters who were about 5 & 6.  When life was getting us down we’d head to McDonalds, order the most disguesting thing on the menu and talk about locking our kids in a closet — drawing turned heads from every direction. Of course, we never actually locked Abbi & Ashley in closets, but gross food had to be punctuated by ridiculous conversation. Talking about circumsizing our husbands up to their elbows wasn’t an option back then.

The last time we spent time together was about 1999.  Yet, every time we pick up the phone, it’s like we’ve never been apart. We’re so different yet so much alike, and I treasure her friendship more than she’ll ever know.

We took a road trip a couple of days ago to Estes Park (one of my favorite places on earth), through Rocky Mountain National Park, then to a wonderfully-hidden Hot Springs with 24 different pools, all with different mineral sources. We spent the night in a room with aqua metal furniture I’m pretty sure hadn’t been changed since 1920, and I got to go to sleep to the sound of a train rumbling close by along with hearing its mournful whistle — comforting sounds for someone who spent summers in Tioga, WV and heard them all day and every night…..disconcerting to those who didn’t. I slept through all but one. Peggy, not so much.

We got back last night and her precious daughter, Ashley — who had been Abbi’s friend when we lived in Denver until ’88 — along with her adorable fiance, Brett, joined Peggy, myself, and Peg’s younger daughter, Brooke (who is fondly called “Junior”) for a great steak dinner and rousing game of ladderball. I was the scorekeeper.

Tomorrow morning I head to Oklahoma City for Stage 2 of my adventure.  First stop will be to visit my friends Mary & Lina at MiniHaHa Ranch. Hopefully, her mare will wait until I get there so I can experience my first horsie birth.  Their ranch and Mary’s mother’s house (how I wish Cookie was still here) will be my home base.  Plans are in the works to spend time with my sorority “nieces” and their “family” of bigs and littles, special time with Kenneth & Lori along with their precious baby Tripp, who somehow got to be an 11-month old without asking permission. With any luck at all, that visit will include more of my University of Central Oklahoma “kids.”  I’ll see Abbi’s friends who used to spend weekends sleeping wall to wall on every available inch of bed and floor space.  I may even get to spend time with some people over 32. You never know.  There may be time to move in with Jenni and Jason Hawkins, their 3 kids and assorted pets — all with names starting with “J”.  Jenni & Jason are both coaches; their kids are all jocks. It’s hard to figure out when they spend time together.

Raising Abbi alone was tough. I made more mistakes than I’ll ever know.  In so many ways, I’m glad her dad wasn’t involved. As a recovering Catholic (with other issues we won’t ever duscyss), he was judgmental and extremely critical and Abbi could not have become Abbi if he had been in her life on a constant basis.

Oh, my social life took a hit. It was hard for a single guy with no kids to deal with picking me up to find 30 or so kids waiting to check him out, or show up expecting to spend a quiet afternoon with me and discover an impromptu BBQ/swim party complete with guys jumping off the roof into the pool.

But because of those times, I’ve been blessed to have Chris, Kelly, Danielle, Angela, ChiChi (my little Enchilada), Kenneth, Lori, Raymond, Lori (Lori’s little sis), Jenni and Jason (who took Abbi to her first frat party at 13), Kristin, JRobb, Brittany, Crystal, another Lor, Dayna…….way too many to name, and they spent their lives training me to begin my life living with even more college kids in ’06.

I’m still hoping to get a call from a sorority at USC about a fall job, but if that doesn’t happen, I’m sure it will be an interesting, exciting, fun-filled year with me learning to be spontaneous again.

I recently learned that Santa Monica allows people to sleep on the beach. The lifeguard called them “vagrants,” which I think is a pretty strong word for someone who just wants to sleep on the beach, but I think I want to do just that for at least one night. I’ve discovered a spot north of Santa Monica and Will Rogers beaches that is pretty secluded and difficult to access. But I’m far from the left coast right now, so that won’t be happening soon. Maybe someone in Oklahoma will let me sleep on their boat for a night. We’ll see.

So, until tomorrow, sing along with me…..”On the road again…….”

 

WHEN FRIENDS CROSS THE LINE

I haven’t written anything for a couple of days because I had to cool down. My next blog was going to be fluffy and friendly and light — about my trip from Cali to Denver. Hopefully, I’ll get around to that the first of the week.

However, I shared a cartoon on Facebook that on one side said, “What is your plan to get America back to work.” The answer from the elephant dressed in shirt and tie was, “We’re against gay marriage and abortion.”

The cartoon was posted because I’m so tired of only hearing rhetoric and no answers.  No answers on job creation, fixing the infrastructure, taxes, immigration reform, fixing the educational system…….so many questions, yet absolutely no answers. As an Independant — Yes, I’m an Independant who researches individual candidates and votes for those whose beliefs and ideals best line up with mine. But we have no idea what the Republican candidates stand for — except for some scary things — wanting to overturn Roe v Wade; eliminating all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest — taking birth control out of health insurance coverage without answers about what to do with the unwanted children —  (and is birth control really more expensive and relevant than ob/gyn care, delivery, years of pediatric care, welfare for those kids who were abandoned by their fathers, cases of child abuse/murder and putting the abusers in prison?) –and why should little blue pills be kept in health insurance coverage if there’s not going to be any place safe to use them?

In California, Governor Brown recently passed into a law that illegal aliens who have gone to school here can go to college free. F’ing free. What about the hard-working parents who have to take out thousands of dollars in student loans so they can put their kids through college? Or the kids who work multiple jobs to put themselves through? Oh….and California is already bankrupt.

When the “Occupy” movements were sweeping the country, it sickened me when thousands of these homeless, unemployed, “downgraded,” terminated, laid-off,  foreclosed-on-because-the-banks-that-were-receiving-subsidies-refused-to-use-that-allocated-money-to help-them  people were camping out in tents and sleeping bags to make a point that all those tax benefits to the wealthy were NOT creating jobs. That the multi-million dollar bonuses CEO’s were getting wasn’t helping them a bit.

They wanted to work. They wanted their homes back. They didn’t care if it was a private sector job or government job. They wanted that “American dream” they’d been promised — that if they worked hard enough they could have anything they wanted — and earned. That white-picket fence thing. A safe retirement once those 20-50 years of honest work was over.  Or that if you served your country with honor in the military and put your life on the line so those millionaires/billionaires/corporate giants would have a safe place to live and thrive, there would be a job waiting for them when they got home. And health care. And respect.

Instead, those tax breaks and bonuses the government promised  would create jobs in the private sector weren’t “trickling down,” they were flooding sideways — to Brazil, Thailand, Russia, India, China — while the people at the top were pocketing the rest.

And what response did they get? Some asshole in a BMW convertible would drive by honking his horn and yelling, “Get a job!”

That’s what triggered my pissed-off-dom.  I received a response to the cartoon from someone I’ve thought had been my friend for a decade.  After a rant about fornication, abortion, etc., she finished up with:  “Find your own plan to get back to work…..get out of the freaking bed, look for a job, and when one is offered…TAKE IT. Poor little helpless fools.”

First of all, coming from a friend, it was terribly insensitive considering my current situation. Because of the career path I’ve chosen, if I don’t find a job for fall semester I’m basically both unemployed and homeless. That’s the nature of the job. Hiring season is March – August. There may be a few around Christmas break.  My job includes my living space, food, cable, internet, etc. If I’m not working, there’s no place to live.  And though I’m looking at the prospect as an adventure, it’s still a fact of my life.

But what really pissed me off is that for the last six years I’ve lived with bright college women who worked their butts off to get a high grade point and over-participate in campus activities to set themself apart and graduate in exactly four years with the intention of using that degree to get a good job after graduation.  These were girls from University of California at Berkeley, USC, San Diego State, and UCLA. Some got those great jobs. Others?  The jobs they anticipated? Not there.

One girl who graduated a semester early had only one prospect in the first six months — selling fake perfume.  Many — MANY — others ended up tending bar. Or as bank tellers. Or $10/hour “management trainees” for rent-a-car companies. Or are working part-time jobs at Starbucks in the hope that they’ll eventually be promoted into management.

Dozens took “administrative assistant” jobs where for the most part, all they needed were basic clerical/computer skills.  Several took jobs overseas because there was nothing here.  Still more went back to grad schools in hopes that the employment picture would be better when they graduate the next time. Or gave up the job search and signed up for another year of school at a different university to get teaching certifications.

And what are the country’s plans for the thousands of military personnel that will be rotating back to the States now that we’re bringing them back from the Middle East? The military sure as hell doesn’t retrain them or do anything to prepare them for the outside world.  They’ll be added to that “poor little helpless fools” category. Of course, that means they’ll be too lazy to find a place to live, too, and end up on the street.

I’m pissed. I want answers. No more canned answers. No more flip-flopping. Real. Honest. To. God. Answers. Answers that stay the same from speech to speech. I’m tired of the negative ads that are usually filled with mis-information and lies.  This election year, everyone’s mad. Mad as hell. We want our country back. The country with an education system that was the envy of the world. The country where anyone who wanted a job could get one. At a decent pay rate. Where health insurance was affordable. And so was a college education. Where there were ENFORCED immigration laws. If someone didn’t come into the country legally, we sent them the hell back home.  Why should my daughter’s boyfriend have to pay $5000 and go unemployed for six months to get a legitimate work visa while others are getting all the benefits without the responsibilities that go with them?

Answers. I need them NOW.

One of my high-school buddies made a comment that she loves my political posts because I have friends who are intelligent enough to carry on discussions about real issues. I try to surround myself with people who, regardless of where we stand, we respect each others’ opinions and think we might just learn something from each other.

But “poor little helpless fools?”

Whether she and her husband like their jobs or not, they both have long-time, well-paying jobs with good benefits. It’s easy to slam those who aren’t as fortunate when your life is stable. Just close your eyes. It’s easy. As easy as pushing one lever on election day so you don’t have to think about individual candidates.

I look at the great Republican presidents — Lincoln, Eisenhower — if they were here today, they wouldn’t be Republicans. Check out what they stood for. Look at their quotes. Read their speeches.

We’re out of control. We have legislators who are falling off both sides. There’s no one in the middle to speak the voice of reason and work on compromises. It’s more important to look like a way-too liberal Democrat or a way-too conservative Republican than a Real American who wants the best for our country. And the majority of the people in it, not just the elite. Obviously, that plan didn’t work. But half our Congressmen are millionaires, and that’s all that really counts. And Supreme Court justices are investors in, on the boards of, or used to work for companies and are now voting on laws that effect those same companies.

I don’t care what color underwear you have on — red/blue — don’t give a flying F. We need Congress-people who vote America First and choice of animal second.  Step up and show me who you are. Eschew party lines and let me know what YOU believe. That will get my vote. And I’ve got a feeling, you’ll get a lot more than mine.   And after you’re elected? Vote your conscience — not what your party tells you to do. We need more Tom Coburns (R-OK). I’d vote for him any day of the week.

So, I’m through now. For now. I’m still steaming. “Poor Little Helpless Fools?”

I still love you, my friend, but you need to clean all that wax out of your ears. It’s time to let some fresh air flow through your mind and take in some reality.

See you Monday. Hopefully, it will be a happier post. Damn, I’m mad.

THINGS MY GIRLS HAVE TAUGHT ME

At a time when I’m questioning whether I’ll ever be a house mom again….or if I’ll take a year off and start up in the fall of ’13…..or……., I’ve done a lot of thinking about the last six years. God, I’ve changed.

During my interview for that first job, I remember laughing and saying, “I can’t believe you’re going to pay me to do this job.”

I’m a little wiser now.

The reality is that there were times the job warranted hazardous-duty pay. And others that were beyond bad….Big  Bang, hydrogen bomb kind of bad. But every single one of those situations radiated from an individual. That’s all it takes. One board member. One person who spreads gossip. One girl who thinks she’s more important than the other 150 members.

But all of those moments, coupled with the pain and sadness they brought, pale in comparison to the times I cherish.

Of the twenty-two members of my first graduating class, probably a dozen of them are in the D. C. area or within a short train ride. There’s another clump in San Francisco. I smile everytime I see a group of faces in the same Facebook post. Several live together. Three-room suites have evolved into three-bedroom apartments. On the 4th of July, I pulled up my Facebook page to see several of them in cute, grey wife beater tee shirts that said USA DRINKING TEAM. They’re all lawyers or government employees or respected businesswomen. Responsible adults. But they’re still best friends who would rather be with each other than anyone else. The experience they gained maintaining high grade points while carrying full class loads, attending all the mandatory point-driven sorority/philanthropic/campus life activities, a social life that would make Lindsey Lohan die with envy, and working and/or holding campus and sorority offices has carried into their adult lives.

These beautiful ladies taught me that people who are seem so different can also be very much alike.

Seeing their involvement in philanthropic causes warms my heart. These ladies are Junior Leaguer’s, members of Spinsters in San Francisco; one has been involved in fund-raising and event planning for the San Francisco Zoo and Opera for as long as I can remember.

 

Most campuses have sororities and fraternities mixed up on and individual Greek Row, or streets around the campus.  I’ve learned to sleep with street lights spaced inches apart outside my window. Even full-blown parties in the house next door don’t disturb my slumber, and I slept through my first 5.0 earthquake.

 

I surprised myself a couple weeks ago when, after finishing lunch in a health-food restaurant, I asked where to find the recycling bin and was aghast to find there was none. And their manager heard about it.

 

My girls taught me to have respect for the planet. I recycle paper, cans and plastic. And make sure there are no loose papers or junk lying around the cabin of my convertible so I don’t inadvertantly litter when the top is down. Lights are turned off when I leave a room.  When at a buffet, I don’t take more than I know I’ll eat. It devistates me to know that restaurants and grocery stores throw out perfectly good food when it could be taken to a homeless shelter.

 

My policy with Abbi and her friends was to be non-judgmental and and non-critical in all situations; to listen without giving away my feelings, and only give my extremely valuable opinions when advice was requested.  My girls put me in situations where I wanted to explode, shake them, or blurt out  how to fix their problems from a perspective of someone who (supposedly) was much older and wiser – because my 18-22 year period wasn’t spotless, either.

They taught me to continue my habit of loving kids where they were, being available when they needed to talk, not saying, “I saw this coming,” when their instincts were wrong, and being available to them whenever, however they would allow. My girls always knew anything they said would be kept in confidence (unless we decided together that it should be taken to a different level).  I’ve been through abusive boyfriends, pregnancies, deaths of family members, close friends and beloved pets, suicide watches and panic over less-than-perfect grades or the possibility of not graduating in exactly four years.

And whether one of my baby girls was living with me as recently as February or as long ago as the fall of ’06, they still know they can call me any time of the day or night, and I’ll always be there for them. They’ve continued to teach me to love unconditionally.

 

After living with nutritionally-conscious young ladies for six years, my dietary decisions are also different.  I find myself ordering vegetarian options more often than not. Oh, I already had some strange proclivities in the eating-department. You know about them…..I don’t eat pork, veal, lamb, or lobster (because lobsters mate for life) anymore. And though I really want a steak every now and then, most of the time I’m meat free. I ordered a new gluten-free option at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) yesterday — chili rellinos — and the whole time I was eating it, wished I’d ordered it without the chicken because I wanted more of the black beans and corn salsa.  At a picnic, I’d rather eat a beautiful, sweet ear of corn than a burger.

They’ve taught me to be more conscious of what I’m putting in my body. I look out for GMO’s,nitrates, nitrites. I ask how food is prepared, and become a high-maintenance orderer.  I purchase grain-fed, organic, and locally-grown products whenever possible.

 

For the last week or so, my heart has been with all my friends on the east coast who have been facing hellish heat with no power. I remember growing up without air conditioning, but “hot” was 85-90 degrees back then. Going without lights meant we lit a fire in the winter or pulled out flashlights in the summer and read through the night.

My girls taught me to find the humor in anything and roll with the punches. Their computers usually had enough juice to keep them studying through a black out. When our internet was out, they’d hack into the sorority’s next door. Ice fights courtesy of the frozen stuff still in the ice machine cooled off both tempers and temperatures. I’d see girls huddled in a corner watching a movie on one computer, and after that one was over, switch to another fresh computer for the next.  Power outages at my first house meant grabbing supplies for “Candlelight Scrabble at Sigma Chi.”

 

Out of my six years, about 300 live-in girls and around 6-700 active members, there are less than a dozen I wish I’d never met. That’s such a small percentage that no matter how much a pain in my posterior they were at the time, in retrospect, they’re no more important in my life than mosquitos at a picnic.

My girls, the 95+% who have me as Facebook and LinkedIn (if I ever figure it out) contacts, who keep me posted on weddings, babies, new jobs, travel, boyfriends, new shoes, and of course, the drink they’re about to consume…..those who meet me for lunch or want me to jump out of an airplane with them….. those girls have taught me to embrace the memories of Shark Week, marathon showings of Enchantment or Mama Mia, and day-long reruns of Jeopardy. Of laughing at a girl who was afraid of cats dressing up as Baby Kitty for a costume party. Or the 4am prank on a house manager than involved dumping out the entire ice bin, covering the floor with it, and calling the poor gal away from a party at a frat because of the “emergency.”

The laughter they brought into my life trumped the tears.  They taught me to enjoy the picnic and remember to carry insect repellent in the future.

Oh…..and to take vacations when I’m supposed to and not sit around waiting for someone to call and tell me there’s work to be done.

So, until tomorrow, I’m on VaCaTion at my friend, Peggy’s in Denver. I have no idea what we’re going to do, where we’re going to go, and I’m pretty sure none of it will be planned. From there, I’m going on VaCaTion in Oklahoma City. And after that? Watch out. There could be a white convertible on your very doorstep.

Seeee Yaaaaa. And thanks for being patient with me.