September 2012

THE NOT SO EASY FAST

Through Yom Kippur, so many things ran through my head….like the years my ex and I spent in a falling-off-the-right-side-of-the-cliff-Pentecostal church and doing three-day fasts for frivolous reasons, and how easy those fasts were compared to the one-day fasts Jews have as commemorations throughout the year. But that’s just one of the things that ran through themindofann from Tuesday at dusk until last night. 

The 25-hour Yom Kippur fast is about getting ourselves back in tune with our Source, our Creator, He/She who loved us before we was born and wants us to thrive, be prosperous and healthy. It’s to set aside all vanity and concentrate of nothing else.

It’s a time for asking forgiveness, for sins known and unknown…for offenses whether intentional or unintentional, and for all those things we do every day that we don’t even think about — gossiping, gluttony, lust (not just for a person, but for possessions), envy…..all the things that get in the way of the one relationship that keeps us centered. And from finding our purpose on this planet.

But that’s true of all of us, regardless of religion. We get so wrapped up in seeing how much money we can make, or the flip side, trying to survive. If we’re pleasing our boss. Or how much we can shove down at a buffet — or just wanting to eat a normal meal at a buffet and feeling robbed for paying for everyone else’s gluttony. Growing up in the Hyman family, the things that could send us to hell far outnumbered the things that could keep us out of that dreaded fate: roller skating,  playing cards, reading the newspaper before church on Sunday, smoking, drinking…..and that was just the beginning. As you probably already know, that was the Phyllis side of the family. The Bill side of the family took me roller skating, didn’t go to church because he got more out of watching TV preachers than walking up the steps to be greeted with “Good to see you, Brother Hyman” by a man who refused to speak to him if he saw dad walking down the street in his postal uniform. Oh, he also smoked — Camel unfiltered, played cards with me and drank Mogen David when mom and I went to Baptist Camp. Yes, she was usually my cabin counselor. When the “roll is called up yonder,” it will be interesting to see who made the cut. I think there may be some surprises. I’ve often laughed at my thought of Mom being offered a glass of wine at the Pearly Gates.

(I know. My religious path is confusing. Try to keep up.)

This year, more than any other, my ears perked up when we got to the point where we are admonished  in both the Torah and New Testament to, as a civilization, be mindful of those with less than we have. We are directed to clothe the homeless. Bring the hungry into our homes and feed them. We are to care for the infirm (unhealthy).

Then, my mind wandered to the people I’ve known through the years who were true givers: When I was working on the Child Protection Team at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, there was a beautiful lady named Nancy Gary. Her husband owned Gary Oil. She didn’t need to work, but her heart went out to abused and mistreated children and she dedicated her life to helping them. There was a day when she was making calls to friends about an award she was about to receive, who would be at the dinner (making donations), and whether to wear the sapphires or emeralds. But it wasn’t the jewelry or names of people that mattered — it was how much she could raise for her charity.

I look at Lori (Adams) and Kenneth Wohl, who graduated from University of Central Oklahoma with Abbi. Kenneth sits on the Edmond Chamber of Commerce. Lori is involved in a charity that gives clothes to kids before they start school, and so many other philanthropic endeavors. These two, and their baby boy, Tripp, will change their world. For the better.  If they’re not already 1%’ers, they will be.  And they’ll deserve it. But that won’t ever stop them from giving back to their community. It’s who they are in their hearts.

But it seems to me that it’s people in the middle or upper-middle class that usually do the giving. Abbi and I used to adopt families for Christmas. Without help from her dad, there were a lot of times things were pretty rough, but it never stopped her from loading up toys to give to Salvation Army kids. In thinking about it, you don’t see Christmas trees at Nieman Marcus with little ornaments attached for someone to make another’s wishes come true — they’re at Walmart, Target or maybe Macy’s.

I look at Other Options in Oklahoma City — it’s a non-profit to help the families of Aids/HIV victims. The people I know who support their cause are average people with average jobs — restaurant managers, office workers, a screen printer. They’re always having fundraisers that net between $2500 – $5000 — and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mary put up a post thanking someone for a $10,000+ contribution. Those who work hard for a living understand what it’s like to not always have what you want/need, and seem to find a way to help regardless of where they are.

This year’s political picture has been sad.

 Cut back on teachers. Tell them to take 20% pay cuts if they want a job. Cut Firemen. Policemen. Who cares if there are homeless or unemployed? Or that in many places, a child can’t go to school without an address? Tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get themselves a job. So what if a person with cancer or an adult who hurt himself as a gymnast when he was ten can’t get insurance? So what if 95-year olds are getting thrown out of their homes. They should have planned better when they were young. Company closed down and their pensions left with their jobs? Someone else’s problem.

When did we, as a country, lose our humanity? Become a nation of Scrooges? I miss the old US. That’s us and US.

Granted, I’m older than dirt, but that shouldn’t matter.  When I was growing up, if someone needed a barn or home built, the whole town showed up. The men did the building and the women kept them fed. If a husband died, the community or  company the man worked for took care of the widow and children. Jews kept Christian friends’ businesses open over their holidays and the Christians reciprocated. If parents died, there was no question that a family member would take in the children. Teachers were respected. We had the best educational system in the world, and were proud of it. We looked up to those who are there for us when we are beyond helping ourselves — the firemen and policemen. Our military was the strongest presence on the globe. Until Vietnam, our servicemen came home and were not only welcomed back into their communities, their previous jobs were waiting for them. They didn’t have to live under bridges. Neighbor helped neighbor. Family helped family. Churches helped congregants. Communities helped communities. Now, it takes a hurricane to get anyone’s attention.

Somehow, we got lost. Teachers should give up their pay so we can give money to Exon and BP (that’s BRITISH Petroleum — the same one that almost wiped out the Gulf with their oil spills. Why are we giving stipends and tax cuts to a company that’s paying us penalties?) Corporations are people. People are moochers.

I was talking to a man and woman from Australia who had one of those rent-a-traveling-trailer things and asked them about costs and how they were enjoying their stay. The conversation took way too long. They talked about how surprised they were at the disrepair of our roads and bridges. At the sludge they saw in rivers. at the number of homeless people they saw. The people were friendly enough, and they liked the attractions, but…..It kept going.

In my mind, I was thinking, “And Congress is more worried about  tax cuts for the wealthy and women’s health issues than they are about jobs creation, fixing our infrastructure, keeping our streets safe………..” When did our Legislative branch stop caring about Every American and start representing the few? What about Peggy, the teacher? Abbi, the small business owner? Ann, the retired person? Mike, the veteran? Am I using examples that are close to home? Sure. Because we all know these people. Who are your teacher, small business owner, retired person, veteran? I’ve worked since I was 14. Have had social security, Medicare, unemployment and payroll taxes withheld from my checks from the very beginning. Now, I’m told the money that the government set aside out of my check is an “entitlement.”

But Yom Kippur ended last night. As a nation, I hope we find our humanity again. Our empathy. Our pride. Our respect for others. I hope people become people and corporations become corporations again. This would be a good year to start the return to what America was.

As far as my fast, it wasn’t so easy. When I tried to stand up yesterday afternoon, I almost passed out. It looks like my days of complete fasting are over. And that’s sad. I broke down and had a protein bar and some water. But what I really, really was thinking about the last three hours of my fast was how much I wanted to brush my teeth, take a shower and wash my hair. And I was watching the clock. At exactly 7:46pm, I would be turning on the water for my shower and letting it get steaming hot as I brushed my gunky teeth. And at exactly 7:46 pm, the sky was filled with thunder and lightening.

After a time set aside for my name to be written in the Book of Life for next year and have it sealed with my name inside — and after consuming a protein bar and drinking water 1.5 hours before the end of my fast, I decided not to press my luck.

So, with Sophie snuggled up on my lap and with freshly brushed teeth, a scrubbed body and squeaky clean hair, it’s now time for me to do laundry, try to figure out what my new Medicare supplement carrier really offers, and make some other phone calls.

Until tomorrow, take some time to think about how you can help someone else…..or at least make their day better. Hand a buck to the guy on the street (unless they’re smoking or have a brown bottle — I believe in helping those in need, but not those on self-destruct – but that’s up to you), speak to someone you don’t know, complement someone just for the heck of it. Not only will you be making your world a better place, it will make you feel good, too.

Stay safe out there.

 

HOMESICK

After seven months of my world tour, I can honestly tell you a couple of things.

I miss the people of Oklahoma, but not the weather. I’ll probably go back again soon, now that it’s under 200 degrees.

I’d forgotten how much I love Colorado — Lowry AFB was Bill’s first assignment after re-treading into officerland, and we were stationed in Denver from ’83-’87. We rented a cute little house that the owners allorwed us to renovate, had a garden where I defied everyone’s advice and grew corn, along with all the other vegetables we wanted — while going to school full time at night, working as a temporary to pay for my education, and spending every other available minute with my 3-year old mini-munchkin, Abbi.

Having been raised (reared, for the picky) in West Virginia where the hills were the only mountains I knew, the Rockies held me mesmarized. Of course, directions were pretty easy — the mountains were either on your left or your right — but it was much more than that. There’s something about the mountains that brings me peace. They’re different every day. So are the clouds that cloak them. And where else can you ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon? It snows in Denver, but if you don’t live on the north side of the street, it’s melted by noon. Never, ever buy a house on the north side of the street in Denver.

After Bill and I separated, on a night when he’d have Abbi I’d check into a circular hotel close to the Mouse Trap and Bronco Stadium. After the first visit, I’d always ask for room 1802. It had a view of both the mountains and city lights. I’d order a cheese tray, and spend the night painting. It was so peaceful — and there was the mournful wail of a train whistle during the night. That always makes me feel at home.

Once I graduated from college and went to work with McBee, if I had an extremely stressful time, all it took was a trip to the mountains for a day, return in time to pick up Abbi from pre-school, and I was fine.  The sales staff  played a game in the office. We’d work our butts off the first of the month and hit quota as quickly as we could. Then, we caught what our secretary called, “White Flu,” where we’d all disappear for a couple of days before coming back and making our boss look like a hero for the rest of the month.

My favorite places to go were Estes Park or Echo Lake, which is just below Berthoud Ski Pass. I just discovered that Berthoud has been closed since 2001. How sad. Guess they even tore down the rustic lodge. That saves me a trip into the mountains and up memory lane — but I can still go to Echo Lake.

Alternates were Breckenridge and Georgetown, especially during the holidays. Georgetown’s overabundance of gingerbread buildings are all decked out for the holidays, and it’s impossible not to be drawn into the spirit of the season.

And, of course, there was the Junior League Thrift Shop where all the dresses/shoes/purses from the last major event showed up because they couldn’t be seen on the same person again.  It used to be on Broadway, but has moved. I’ve got to find that place while I’m here.

But the best thing was that I made friends who a) weren’t connected to Bill or the Air Force, and b) weren’t involved in the uber-religious lifestyle we began in Bellevue, Nebraska, jumped into in Honolulu, and embraced when we got transferred to Denver. It was in my last year with Bill that I started inching my way out of that life. I’m not going to say that it was a cult, because it’s an established church with a great reputation and their minister is internationally known. But we were cult members. It’s hard to explain.

I wanted to go into a more mainstream lifestyle with a few more “thou shalt” clauses than “thou shalt nots,” but Bill wasn’t interested in making that transition. His,and his friends’ hard-line  stance drove Abbi away from established religion before she was in grade school.

I remember when we were moving from our rental cottage to our first home and Abbi had gone to choir practice with Bill (I’d already started staying home to watch Murder She Wrote instead of going to Sunday night services). He told them we were moving and asked for help. Of course, many members of the choir volunteered to help and assured him they’d be at the house that Saturday ready to go.

Saturday morning came, and my whole office from McBee was there, along with a friend I’d met at the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association and a couple more friends I’d met at school. One person showed up from the choir, and almost as soon as he got there, his wife started calling to see how long he was going to be. He left after helping load the first car. 

Abbi turned to Bill in front of everyone (including the guy from church) and said, “Dad, where are your friends? Everyone in the choir said they were going to come. They lied. I thought Christians didn’t lie.” Unfortunately, my “Christian” friends– the ones who fit the description in the Bible of what a Christian should be, for the most part didn’t go to church and some of them were having affairs. Most drank. A few smoked. My bet on the entry-to-heaven end of things will yield some surprises.

It was in Denver I realized that if I stayed with Bill, Abbi could never become the person that was inside of her. Bill was/is a “recovering Catholic” and overly judgmental and critical. Coupled with a very strict pentecostal religious bent, she would have been shoved into a box, and that just wouldn’t have been right. It was through the way he treated her that I realized how much I’d changed during our 10-year marriage. I wanted me back almost as much as I wanted Abbi to be free to be herself. She transitioned pretty quickly. It took me years, and I’m not sure all of the old me ever showed up.

Of course, the second we filed for divorce, the Singles Ministry slurped Bill in. I mean, good-looking, stable, military officer, almost-single men were hard to find. He was engaged twice and had a marriage date set before we even signed the final papers six months later. They asked me to attend the wedding — said God told them to. I told him I went to his second wedding. It didn’t work out. 

But no matter how much I love Colorado and enjoy watching the mountains change hour by hour, I’m longing for the West/Left Coast. I miss the free-spirited, but hard-working people. People willing to work full time at their “real” jobs while chasing their dreams with just as much zest, and getting very little sleep. The perception most people have of the west coast is so far off — these are people who will do anything to help someone else. Authors take new writers on book tour with them. Actors recommend friends for beginner roles. It’s a maze of inter-connected networks where everyone knows someone who knows someone who will try to help another someone get where they want to go. And help them find jobs until they get there.

I miss my ocean. Heck, I even miss winters in the Bay Area when there were nights I needed more blankets than I’d used in Oklahoma during blizzards. I miss driving down the hill and seeing the Bay every day. I miss being close enough to Abbi that we can get together when we want to, but are far enough apart we don’t smother each other.

I miss my writing community. In the Bay Area, that’s who all my friends were. My critique group, The Novelistas, got together every 3rd Wednesday for a couple of hours, traded 20 pages, and (lovingly) tore each other’s work in shreds over Book Passage lunches. We’d stay forever once the critique was finished, just laughing and talking. Sometimes, others would sit down to join us. Book Passage is one of the things I miss most about the area. There are book signings going on all the time — sometimes multiples. There’s always a class to take. There’s Left Coast Writers, filled with newbies to best-selling, award-winning authors from every genre — all equals — with Monday night meetings at Book Passage in Corte Madera followed by munchies and drinks at Izzy’s. What I’d give for an evening with those crazy people, a mojito, skirt steak, creamed spinich and Izzy’s potatoes. And my Sisters in Crime (SinC) crew — “guppies” (great unpublished) who get together online with other guppies and mentors online, and a crew of published friends (guys allowed — Simon Wood was president of NorCal SinC when I joined). Relationships I still enjoy long distance today. I miss them terribly. The only time I get to see them now is if they have a book signing somewhere near me. Even that isn’t happening on my world tour.

I miss the diversity of Los Angeles. Being seated by Dave Navarro (and ignoring him for privacy’s sake) in a restaurant, seeing drag queens wearing cheerleader uniforms with a gigantic W in the center of the “Hollywood” across the manufactured chests (West Hollywood, for the uninformed, is Rainbow Land). I miss the spots of beaches where I could sit undisturbed for hours and the hotel no one else knew about. I’d read, sleep, read, sleep the day away on the beach and go to sleep listening to the waves blanket the shore at night.

And the culture — so much history in one place. So much talent. So many different things to do. And so many places to go if you don’t want to do anything. And don’t forget the afternoon I passed a bunch of people with pickets and small dogs in front of the Beverly Hills sign. The pickets read, “Pugs for Peace.” Where else would that happen?

If someone can drive through LA on any given day and not find something to make them laugh, they’re already dead.

Regardless of what transpires between now and then, I know that’s where I’ll retire. Probably in the Oakland area or to the Oakland Embarcadero — next to Jack London Square, where tall ships visit on a regular basis. Oakland has grown from the “murder capital” of the world into a trendy artists’ community. Several of my author friends already live there — of course, in haunted houses. I want one. I miss Katie Horn from my San Diego State, Alpha Chi Omega house. Maybe I could drop by and invite her to move with me. No….she’s having too much fun there. And what would Chef Gerry do if he didn’t come in every now and then to find the pantry re-arranged?

For now, I’d like to go back to being a House Mom for awhile — hopefully at UCLA or USC, but if that doesn’t happen, somewhere else. LA has a great writing community.  Sisters in Crime, SoCal California Writers, Mystery Writers of America. And I already know other house directors on both campuses, so that would be cool. I have my eye on one sorority that’s opening houses on both campuses next fall, but they have to pick me before that can happen.

I’m an east coast girl at heart. Love the warm Atlantic. Love my Suthehn (southern) friends. Could do without all the fried food, but still…..to be able to set up a chair at the edge of the surf and have water wash over me that’s only a couple of degrees lower than the air temperature? You’ve got to be kidding if that doesn’t sound good to you. And nights dancing the Shag (State Dance of South Carolina) that puts no pressure on my knees. And the Shag music that sways with the wind? Man, I miss that. But Delta’s ready when I am.

I still want to mine for gems with my sweet sorority sister, Lynn Crislip, maybe hook up with other high school friends — Sherry Doss, Lynn Tincher, Margi Moses — no married names allowed in my memory. And I can still do that. But unless something drastic happens — like the west coast falling into the ocean before I can get back — that’s where you’ll be able to find me when the time is right.

For now, from Peggy’s in Denver, where I’ll be spending Yom Kippur reading studies on the computer in my room upstairs (again, no tickets or clothes), and hopefully having a meaningful and easy fast. To all my Jewish friends, I wish the same for you.

So, I’ll be locked away from about 6pm this evening until about 7:30 tomorrow night. Hopefully, we’ll talk again on Thursday. Until then, stay safe out there.

UPDATE ON SOPHIE

I know. When someone has no job, doesn’t know where they live, and is on a “world tour,” it’s probably not the best time to get a pet. However, according to Sophie, it wasn’t my choice.

This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. I would live off the affection of friends’ balls of fuzz until finding my new home/sorority house/boat at which time I would adopt two cats and name them Bogie & Bacall or Holmes & Watson or Nick & Nora (you’re showing your age if you get that one). But Plan A was not to be.

She found me at Mini Ha Ha Ranch in Oklahoma City.

As a house cat who had either been misplaced or discarded, Mary found her emaciated  — nothing but bones and hair –and torn up. With no front claws, she couldn’t find food or defend herself. Mary nursed her back to health, except for a very distinctive nick in her right ear. Every morning and evening, Mary would give a shrill “Here, Kitty, Kitty” and an equally shrill whistle that I still can’t duplicate, and Kitty Kitty would come bounding up the deck stairs for breakfast and dinner.

You already know how we got to the name, “Sophie,” but it wasn’t till a couple of days ago I realized I’d named her after one of the sweetest, most kind-hearted, fun and adorable girls I’ve ever had the privilege of living with, Sophie Kish. Sophie is an Alpha Chi Omega who graduated from San Diego State in May and is modeling – big time. Oh, and she’s Miss Mission Beach. But regardless of how beautiful she is on the outside, or how defined that six pack of hers is, that beauty could never compare to the Sophie inside. It’s times like this I realize how lucky I’ve been over the last six years.

But I degress. Mini Ha Ha Ranch would have been impossible for Sophie-the-Cat during the winter — with only the open barn or the crawl space under the deck for cover.

So, as I drove away from Mini Ha Ha Ranch, a cat carrier sat on my front seat.

She’s obviously travelled before, because she didn’t want to get in the carrier at first. But when I opened the door once we were on the road, she’d only come out of her fabric, airy cage enough to lie on the unzipped lid and be petted.

We spent time with all the “J’s,” and it became obvious she’d been around kids and dogs before. But cats, even small harmless ones, scared her. Probably because the feral ones had been a problem for her during her unplanned freedom and what I’ve gotten to call “field training.”

When it was time to move on, she came to Peggy’s with me.

At first, both of Peggy’s cats freaked her out. Now, she and Josie have no problems, but Indiana Jones and Sophie are still working out the details. Jones has been through a lot of changes in the last couple of years — the most recent being Peggy’s youngest daughter, Brooke, moving out with her cat, Amelie, and Peggy’s adored cat, Socks losing a battle with a mountain lion. Then, this new black thing moved in.

They started with intense hissing and a couple of run-ins, and found that though Mr. Jones is definitely an Alpha male, Sophie’s “field training” was more than he expected. He has claws, but Sophie always stood her ground. They graduated to an “I’m going to hiss and you’re going to chase me,” followed by, “You’re going to hiss and I’m going to chase you,” with no encounter other than both cats going to their separate corners. Usually, Jones would be somewhere in the living/dining room area looking very guilty and Sophie would perch herself on the stairs with an innocent “What?” look. She’s good at passing the blame.

Now, we’re at a peaceful co-existence stage. There’s still a degree of hissing, but there are also times they’ve laid within a foot of each other with no incidents. Jones, who hates just about everyone and has even been known to turn on Peggy, let me pet him for some time a couple of nights ago with Sophie at my feet.  I think we’re going to be OK here until the settlement.

Sophie didn’t have a clue how to play. Luckily, Peggy is adroit at making “nip” toys, and it didn’t take her long to learn. Then she discovered scrunchies. And you know how cats love tossing scrunchies around. She’s even playing with the cat toys I bought her at the beginning and has discovered how to play “blanket or curtain” monster. We put Socks’ kitty tree in my window, and except for using it as a step stool to the window ledge, she didn’t know what to do with it. Then, she discovered one of the ledges, and started standing/sitting/lying on it. Last night I came in looking for her to be in the center of the bed waiting for me and couldn’t find her. Assuming she was running late, I got under the covers and looked up to see two tiny ears above the rim of the crow’s nest part of the tree. She had figured how to not only get onto the next ledge, but got through the hole to enter the tippy top little cabin where she could sleep. And she did — through the whole night. 

Usually, she starts lying beside me, goes under the covers for awhile, comes back out, sleeps by my feet, and I awaken to find her curled up beside my head, paws on my shoulder and head leaning against mine — which of course, makes me oversleep because it’s so comforting. When I go to the next sorority house, I’m going to have to buy an alarm clock for the first time in about eight years. But I’m fine with her feeling safe someplace other than beside me. She’s still a little needy.

She’s the most affectionate cat that’s ever owned me. Wherever I am, she seems to find me. I get that. After being alone in dark, scary worlds for so long, I’m her safe place. At this moment, I’m trying to look around her to see the computer screen. She’s nuzzling my chin with her head letting me know that there’s nothing more important than paying attention to Sophie. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Still waiting for word on the settlement, but have been given some potentially-good news this morning that I’m hoping will work out. I’ll keep you posted. Once it’s over, I can choose whether to settle down while waiting for a sorority job I’m coveting for next fall, or continue the world tour.

Until tomorrow (OK, maybe the next day), be careful out there. Stay safe. You are loved. And you’re important in ways you don’t even realize.

 

WORKERS’ COMP HELL

It’s been going on for 4 years, 9 months, and 13 days.

As most of you know, it started with me intervening when a very drunk, out of control rugby player was throwing my girls around like ragdolls — into walls, down stairs, and I was afraid one was going over the bannister. I politely asked him to leave, and he didn’t like the idea.

The next morning, I called our national headquarters’ property management division and they told me to immediately get to a hospital and file a workers’ comp claim.

It took weeks for them to assign me to a doctor, but his first words to me were:  ” The good news is it’s our job to get you back to where you were before this happened.” If only I’d known.

In all that time, I haven’t had one day of physical therapy. I have had chiropractic treatment, which was a joke because they’d approve six treatments and I’d have to wait six weeks for another six to be approved. Oh, and three different approvals for accupuncture. The last was actually working…..but he’s in LA, and I’m not.

When I moved — San Francisco, LA, San Diego, LA, it could take up to five months to get new physicians approved.  So, with damaged back and legs, I was having to drive anywhere from three to 6 hours one way.

The good news was that I had been told that as soon as we got our AME’s (Approved Medical Examiners — someone both the insurance carrier and my attorney agreed upon) and they deemed me “permanent and stable,” we could solve the case. That was two years into the case when I went to dental (TMJ and broken teeth), psychological and physical AME’s. No settlement.

A year went by. Once again, AME’s with psychologal and physical. Both deemed me “permanent and stable” again. Again. We got a settlement hearing. Both their lawyer and my lawyer approved a settlement. But when they called the adjustor, she said they ” needed more information.” She did not say what additional information they needed.

The next year, same thing. “Permanent and stable.” No settlement.

Now, we’re waiting for Medicare’s approval for future medical. I was told 6 months. Then, I was told by my lawyer that he’d talked to “his guy,” and it was going to be mid-August.  It’s now mid-September. My lawyer called him again, and the news now is that they’re backed up and it will probably be February. Once we receive the future medical approval, we may have to appeal. If not, it will be two weeks of negotiation on our part, and two weeks of negotiation on their part and then, if we reach an agreement, I’ll get a settlement sometime in March or April. If not, more months to get a court date and start all over.

And how, prey tell, am I supposed to live until then?

All this for something that should have been ended at least 3 years ago.

I haven’t had any medical care since the end of May, and they’re jacking me over for my last expense account for mileage, etc. for April & May. It should have been here the end of July — now, they’re telling me mid-October.

They started disallowing one of my medications, Lidoderm patches, several months ago. “It’s too expensive.”

We haven’t even started the process of getting new doctors because I don’t know where I’ll be.

I just learned that it’s a black mark on an adjustor’s record if a claim is settled under their watch. WHAT? Are you freaking kidding me? No wonder everytime I come close to a settlement I get a new adjustor and have to start all over.

I understand there are people who abuse the system. I’m not one of them. But I’ve been trying to get out of this hell for the last 3 years. They’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on care and AME visits (at about $5000 a pop) when all I want to do is get out. Out of the system. Out from under their thumb. Out from under being held prisoner because I can’t be too far from California. I want to have my physical care in my own hands — get some physical therapy, see a sports medicine doctor so I can hopefully start running again — maybe even swimming again. Because I’m damned sure I’m not going to get it under the care of Worker’s Comp.

Whoever invented this system should be shot — on the job — and have to go through the Worker’s Comp system.

But for now, I’m thinking of going to Sacramento, camping out on Governor Brown’s couch and sleeping in his parking lot at night, calling the press, and not leaving till I have a check in my hand.

And I’m being called a “moocher.” I don’t want to be. I want to work. I want the freedom to live my life as I want to. I should have been able to retire by now, but the times I’ve been unemployed between jobs, I’ve gone through my retirement and the proceeds from my house. And I’m being held hostage by California. I’m told “it’s hard” to find doctors out of state. Suck it up. Nothing we can do about it. And now, I have “pre-existing” conditions. I don’t know if going to my Medicare doctors for the things they’ve decided not to cover will hurt my case. Getting another physical AME will delay my settlement, but without medical care, I’m worse than I was a year ago.  With all due respect to the wonderful doctor who saw me that first day, it’s not their job to get me back to where I was before “the incident.” It’s their job to drag this out as long as they possibly can, and to hell with the individual involved.

So, I’ve been in a pissy mood all week. That’s why I’ve been so sucky with my blog. I promise to be better next week.

Until tomorrow, when I plan on being my perky, peppy self, take care of yourself. And for God’s sake, don’t get hurt on the job.

 

THE SADDEST THING —– TOTALLY NON-POLITICAL

Part of the reason for the Oklahoma City stop on my “World Tour” was to do new research for a thriller that an agent wants me to re-write. And I knew exactly how it would start.

“In the thick, early-morning mist that clung to the water of Lake Hefner, a sailboat was anchored offshore. From the deck, an invisible figure with night vision glasses watched as the play that had been so intricately orchestrated was about to begin just north of the lighthouse.”

 

And that’s where the problems began. I drove to beautiful Lake Hefner, camera in hand to take pictures of the the lighthouse, the lively restaurants perched just south of it,  the marinas that flanked it, along with the boats on trailers just south of the restaurants, and to get pictures of focal points from the north and south sides of the lake so Abbi could send me the zip drive stored in the front cover of the finished manuscript that will be Castles in Quicksand is stored. Then, from Peggy’s in Denver or wherever my life leads me from here, I could work on the re-write, get it to the agent, and start the rounds of pre-publication re-writing. I was stoked.

As I turned off the freeway at the Lake Hefner exit, my heart started sinking, and it hasn’t stopped.

The light house is fine. End of story.

I knew Bahama Breeze had closed, but Pearl’s wasn’t there anymore either. Now, there’s construction of what looks like will be office buildings where they used to be. There’s an almost-visible sign that says “We’ll Be Back” for the Red Rock. There are a couple of restaurants there, but they have no personality.

Some of my most pleasant afternoon/evenings were spent sitting alone on the outside deck of Pearl’s, having a cocktail and nice dinner, and watching the sailboats flit through the waves. The wakes they created made waves lap up against the rocks below the restaurant. I could close my eyes and feel what I pretended was  ocean breeze. The sea birds that had found their way to Hefner provided the musical overtones.

But the restaurants’ absence was just the beginning. The once-filled marina between the restaurants and the lighthouse was almost empty. The boats that were still in slips looked like they were balancing on sludge. The water level was below the painted bases of the boat that mandated the necessary water level for manipulating the live-aboards out into the lake.

I walked around the children’s park for more heartbreak. The seawall is about 10′ high — that’s an estimate — I couldn’t climb down the rocks to look up and get a good judgment.

My thoughts went back to when Bill and I were looking for a home in Oklahoma City and went to see a house just across Hefner Road on the north side (dam) side of Lake Hefner. Since it’s a man-made lake, the road is higher than the street on the other side of it.  We loved the house, but looked behind it to see a wall that we knew was the dam with a paved road atop it.  That wall (this is strictly from memory; Bill and I haven’t been together for over 20 years) was about three times higher than the house.

The realtor saw the look in our eyes and told us not to worry. That the dam for Lake Hefner had been designed with a run-off system so if it ever got too high, we’d be safe. After re-assuring us she told us that, of course, we would need to get flood insurance. That wouldn’t be a problem anymore.

The water level was well below the sea wall, and had been for some time. If I could have gotten down the rocks to the base of what used to be the lake, I could have easily walked about 20-30 feet in places where terns were standing. Dry land that used to be under at least 8 – 10 feet of water. I thought about going to Liberty Park on the south side of the lake to see how far I could walk out, but by then I was crying.  I looked out across the lake to see one lone sailboat, wind in its sails, skimming the water. But how could they possibly know where the lake was deep enough with the water so low?  Most of those lovely homes/cabin cruises/sailboats are now up on trailers, looking as forlorn as they did the day after the tornado swept across the lake and either capsized or moved them onto the land. Broken. Displaced. Destroyed. No longer able to bring the peace to their owners that they gave just the day before.

And then, I thought of the people who lived on Ski Island. This is a quiet housing development just west of Hefner with a causeway into the lake. Most houses have docks attached to the property and a boat waiting for a day of fun. I wondered if their boats were sitting on the silt of the lake bottom, too.

Lake Hefner gave me so many memories — of the time when we discovered a parent of one of Abbi’s friends was a child molester. I heard about it the night before all hell broke loose because I was on the Board of Trustees, but didn’t know how to address it with her. Then, the next morning, she heard it on the news on our way to school. She asked why people were talking bad about him. I pulled over, we sat by the lake, and talked for — don’t have any idea how long. She had stayed at their house numerous nights. I had visited them unannounced to pick up his daughter. There were no signs. Abbi spent so long telling me how much she liked him…that he showed them kid movies, never came in his daughter’s room at night except to see if they were asleep, took them to fun places like indoor carnivals and spent the day with them. Such a horrible situation brought us one of our closest moments.

And there were those evenings I just wanted to be in touch with water. I’d sit on the banks to read, or have a drink at a restaurant, or just park my car in the area north of the commercial/lighthouse area where people camped out for the night and listen to the waves. I’d smell the food they were preparing,  barely hear their muffled conversation that joined the night-time cooing ofbirds……all my stress would leave.

Or use it as a center for social get togethers — we loved Bahama Breeze, and that’s where my friends and I — or Abbi’s friends would meet for dinner. Away from the maddening crowd.  Good food, good drinks, great company, and the most peaceful place in town.

Or watching the parade of boats. Or taking our new pledges to the park for bonding after bid day.

I wanted to walk down every street around the lake, pull out the water hoses, and turn on the water — figured by the time they caught me, I might be able to get the water level back up — if even enough to reach the sea wall…..or get myself arrested. Not a good option.

So, when I close my eyes to see Lake Hefner, I get the same feeling as when I think of the house I love. It’s not mine anymore.There was such a long battle to build this man-made recreation area, and now, the city is doing nothing to maintain it.

I’ll have to write a new beginning to Castles, but that’s no big deal compared to the hole in my heart that’s as deep as the absence of water in this once-beautiful lake.

But today, from Peggy’s living room in Littleton, I wish you well. The Jewish New Year has just begun, but like so many things Jewish, it’s not quite what it seems. We’re really two weeks into a month and no where close to our real New Year, but that’s a celebration with a different name.  But my Rosh Hashana wish for you, my friends, is a year filled with good health, prosperity, good friends, good luck, and all the best life has to offer. And may we have peace.

Until tomorrow, be safe out there. You’re important to me.

THE WORLD TOUR…….

An appropriate ending to that sentence would be “confusing.” I can’t find anything. I don’t know where I am. Waking up in the middle of the night, I don’t recognize the room I’m in or remember where the bathroom is.

This morning, I noticed a banana in the fruit bowl was getting a little overripe and decided to bake banana nut bread. I remembered seeing two other bananas in the freezer. Just enough.  Oops. Wrong freezer. Have no idea which one has two frozen bananas “ripe” for baking, but if they need another one, I can put it in the mail today.

Thought about dropping by my beyond cool consignment shop to see if they had any fun purses, then realized it’s in Brentwood — about two days away.

Wanted to hit a really good oyster bar and got in the car.  Woops, it’s at Palace Station in Vegas.

Left the house yesterday morning to head to the grocery store — couldn’t find it in spite of the really great map Peggy had drawn for me. Two hours later, after stopping at another supermarket, I had driven by both of the ones I was looking for and couldn’t find my way home.

Luckily, I keep a book on tape in the car. At least I’m enriching my mind (with a really good Brad Meltzer book). I love his stuff. His research is so concise that I automatically assume I’m going to listen to each CD twice just to make sure I’m getting everything. Oh — and a GPS. Don’t leave home without it.

A strange thing happened a couple of weeks ago. As you probably remember, on a whim I applied for a house director job at Oklahoma State. I love Stillwater. It’s an authentic university town with a good sports program (and you know how I love college football) and active Greek life. They have true celebrations. Homecoming is a world-class event. A sorority and fraternity team up to build a float that could easily cost $10,000.  In California, nothing is really celebrated. Homecoming is just another game. Greek Week is more a “mandatory fun” than something to be excited about. And I was sitting in Oklahoma City when the job came open. Figured, “What the heck.”

The job in Stillwater was SO not right for me, and I promised myself I’d run like the wind if I got danger signs. There were plenty of them in this situation, and I made the right decision.

But everytime I open my facebook, the joy I feel when I read posts like, “Dude, I surfed with dolphins this morning,” or seeing one of my beautiful gals become Miss Mission Beach, or finding that so many of my girls are connected — One of my girls from Berkeley and another from San Diego State are both now sales reps for Gallo Wineries. My pageant girl from San Diego State is friends with my pageant girl from Central Oklahoma. I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my NorCal girls when my World Tour took me to Vegas. We laughed about her first two years until we were both on the verge of crying. Her other friends just looked at us with questionning eyes. They thought we were kidding about kegs in the bathtubs.

In Oklahoma City, I got to watch my sorority “niece” dance. And visit with an Alpha Gam and Acacia who married and are now the proud parents of the most charismatic little dude I’ve ever met. It’s marriage season for my first senior class in NorCal. I wish I could be there to celebrate with them, but hope to be at another sorority niece’s wedding in OKC in October.

I was pretty sure I wanted back on the Cali coast, but a job in the (stick with me on this one) eastern-mid-west opened up, and I sent my resume. It’s a sorority I love and respect. We’ll see.

Abbi doesn’t “need” me anymore. She’s entrenched in her business venture, has a great boyfriend, a ton of friends, and connections that would be the envy of people who have been in LA for much longer than she has. I can get a computer with a camera, and we could skype. When I lived ten minutes from her we didn’t get together that often, so we could really celebrate when we were able to get together. Meet in fun places for real vacations.

And I could be close enough to my east coast friends to go to reunion weekends like old classmates are holding in Lewisburg in October, or the All-Class Reunion for my high school next summer. Or just to visit. I want to go mining for gems in North Carolina.  Swim in the warm Atlantic. I have a friend at Butler University in Indianapolis. And Delta’s ready when I am. I could get back to Cali on a non-stop.

I miss my girls. And watching Jeapordy marathons with them (because I know more answers than they do — one of the advantages of being four days older than God). I love having my Pie Nights when I bake for a couple of days and put out a couple of dozen pies during mid-terms or finals…..or surprising them by having the piano bench stocked with scantrons and blue books for tests.

The thing that has been holding me two days from California is that damned worker’s comp case that’s been dragging on for almost five years. I’m tired of waiting for the past to take care of itself and keep me from living a life. It’s time to move on to my next life.Ross Kilroy sure as heck hasn’t let that event interfere with his.

 Hanging out on a college campus, writing, seeing friends; I think I remember that a cousin I haven’t seen since high school is over the university center at the same university with the opening. Another one is in Virginia. I haven’t seen my brother in West Virginia for about ten years.  Being close could be interesting. Physically, I won’t be climbing hills or jumping off cliffs, but I can at least move on and let my past take care of  itself without owning me.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I’m anxious to find out. Of course, you’ll be right there with me. So, until tomorrow, be safe out there. And don’t let anything keep you from living your life or going after your dreams. Life’s too short. And too precious.

 

PART OF WHAT’S WRONG WITH OUR COUNTRY

It’s 12:30pm Mountain Time. Here’s how my day has been spent so far:

Trip to grocery store. Left at about 9am.Couldn’t find King’s Soopers, even though Peggy had drawn me a very detailed map. Stopped at an Albertsons. Couldn’t find my way home, but found both King’s Soopers trying to do so. Got totally lost, ended up almost in the mountains, when I should have been heading east. Finally turned on GPS, which decided it was time for an update. Pulled over to wait for it to find all the new roads since the last update that happened when I was in the middle of traffic, and got home at about 11:30.

Finally found Peggy’s, though I’ve already left and found my way back at least a dozen times in the last week. Started making chili — reason I went to store was to pick up missing ingredients — and realized I hadn’t picked up meat. Or peppers. Used the last 1/2 pepper we had, the minced onion/pepper/black olive we had in a bowl from — don’t remember, but we used it for something. Found the veggie crumbles and threw them in instead of the meat. So here we are.

Thought you’d like to know I’ve figured out what’s wrong with our country.

It’s TV.

Remember when we only had three channels? And had to get out of a chair, walk across the floor and turn the knob?  We didn’t need a TV Guide. We knew what was on each channel at any given point in time. 

Soap operas were 15 minutes long. Sometimes we argued over what show to watch — because they were all good — even “My Mother, The Car.”

TV was entertaining, the acting was good, the variety shows made us laugh out loud, and Masterpiece Theater was a must-see.

Now, we have 4-600 channels. Here’s what’s on at this very moment:

The Steve Wilkos Show – parents take lie detector tests to proove they don’t abuse their children.    

Excused: Dating show – contestants try to find true love while eliminating one person at a time.   

The Talk — Brooke Shields, Katey Sagal, chef Aaron Sanchez.

Judge Mathis – a woman and her ex-fiance accuse one another of being alcoholics.   

Sid the Science Kid — Sid is disappointed when his cardboard wings don’t work.      

General Hospital – Molly presses her sister to tell her which man she chooses to live with.  

The Doctors — “The Doctors Get Their Game On” — play health-related games.                 

Judge Joe Brown – a woman is accused of using an unauthorized food-stamp card.    

Sons of Guns – Will and the crew are tasked with creating a sniper rifle silencer. 

Flashpoint — police show.  

Everybody Loves Raymond — not a bad sit-com, but it’s a 24-hour marathon.     

 Zumba fitness 

Joseph Prince Ministries   

Ice Elements Skin Care       

NCIS – marathon – 20009 (have to admit — I’ve been known to watch this)

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse       

Animal Cops: Extreme Exotics

Looney Tunes       

American Restoration

CNN Newsroom          

The First 48 – story of a young man who is shot to death

Wife Swap – A family preparing for the end of the world – trade wealthy wife    

 Coast Guard Alaska – Helicopter rescue     

Fascinating Gem Facets (shopping channel)     

The Princess Bride – cute fairy tale — not bad  

Keeping up with the Kardashians (why do we care?) 

The Waltons – John Boy’s third novel is rejected      

Toddlers & Tiaras, followed of course by  

Honey, Honey Boo Boo                

 Bait Car    

 Beerfest (movie)   

 Mean Girls — “The Suite Life on Deck.”                                                                                                                                                  

I can’t do this any more — but there are about 300 more channels with equally excellent programming. 

And yet, we sit for hours in front of the boob tube every night. It’s no wonder no one thinks rationally anymore. We’re getting our thought processes from  “Swamp People,” “Jerry Springer,” “Cajun Justice,” “Las Vegas Jailhouse.”  The list of White Trash TV is endless. And it’s on 24-hours a day. 

There are only a few shows I really like — Castle, Revenge, the NCIS  (Original and New York) series, Big Brother, Survivor, and the Bachelorette/Bachelor series (though it’s primarily because the show is so unrealistic and the people on Top Chef have a better record of permanent relationships.)  Oh, and I like Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen.  I’m kind of over the Heidi Klum thing, but there’s another fashion designer show where the winning outfits are for sale the next day at Macy’s, Nieman Marcus or H & M. You see these designers making money immediately. That’s pretty cool.  The show may end up with one winner, but the rest of the contestents make money and a name for themselves along the way.

But the rest of the reality series? Holy crap.  I know. There’s no script, they pay the people about $3000 a show, and there’s not much work involved.   But I, for one, wouldn’t mind going back to three channels with great shows on each. Shows the family could watch together rather than mom in the bedroom watching America’s Next Top Model, dad in the reclining chair in the living room sleeping through a game of golf and the kids in their bedrooms watching God only knows what. 

No wonder our culture is going to hell in a handbasket. Kids are killing their schoolmates. Wives murder their husbands. A husband kills his wife because she’s too liberal. There are known plots to kill President Obama before the election. States are passing laws against teaching progressive thinking and sex education. A US Senator reads scriptures about killing the president and his children being homeless and abandoned by their communities. Government is telling insurance companies what they should and shouldn’t cover. Priests abuse children and are sent to another parrish. A friend posted on Facebook this morning that only the New Testament should be taught. How many of us does that eliminate? Me, for one. 

I can’t say for sure that these things are being learned from watching too much White Trash, radical, violent TV, but it’s got to be coming from somewhere — and we can’t say it’s not from church, because churches have been telling people how to vote for years, and let’s not forget Westboro Baptist. There are nuts in every religion.

My dad was a renigade. In the 50’s he taught me that all people are equal until they proved themselves different. There’s a picture of me sitting on the Capitol steps beside a little black girl — we were looking at each other like “who the heck are you?” I still love that picture, because obviously, the other family was made of renigades, too.  I don’t know where my mother was during that picture-taking session, but if she was there, her arms were crossed and there was a glare on her face that would have melted concrete. 

I’m not sure what they even saw in each other. They certainly had nothing in common. Mom would step away from me if we were walking down the street and I spoke to a black schoolmate. She only wanted me to have Baptist friends — Southern Baptist friends. When “Rabbit” Clower pierced my ears before I went on stage to perform in an opera at church, my mother blew up. “Only niggers and cleaning women have their ears pierced.”

I am my father’s child. I had friends of different ethnic groups most of my life.  My old Charleston High friends have been talking about how much diversity there was in our school, and that we didn’t even notice at the time. So, I raised Abbi the way my dad raised me. Believing that all people were to be accepted and respected until they gave her a reason not to.

So as far as TV is concerned, as much as I love Castle and NCIS (if for no other reason that to watch Mark Harmon), I’d give them up in a minute to see The Carol Burnette Show, Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, Our Show of Shows, Peter Gunn, The Lone Ranger (where the good guy always won but you never saw the blood). The variety and sitcoms taught us to laugh at ourselves and that it was OK for everyone in the family to like the same show.  We spent our evenings together and never made plans around what night a given show was on. The drama shows had a lesson hidden in the script. And it never occurred to any of us that Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke was a hooker. 

But again, that’s just me. I’m sure there other answers out there, but our TV habits have to play a part, even if it’s a small one. 

For now, I’m going to go finish off a John Connolly book and have warm cornbread made by the time Peggy gets home. And you? Stay safe out there. Live your life to the fullest. And smile at someone you don’t know.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

WHERE WERE YOU?????

I’ve had way too many of them.

Where were you when your father died?     

In bed. My mother woke me up at the usual time, sat on the foot of the bed, said “Your daddy died at 2 o’clock this morning.” Stood up, left the room and went to the kitchen to join my Aunt Pink making food for the throngs that would be visiting us.  I did what my dad would have wanted. I got dressed and went to school. He valued education more than anything.  A friend asked me how dad was; I told her, and she ratted me out to the principal — who suspended me for three days for disrespecting him. I tried to explain that this is how I showed my respect, but she wouldn’t listen. I spent the next three days sitting on my porch while my mom “held court.”

My girlfriend, Diana Ferguson, rescued me. She rallied our friends together, and we all spent the nights at her house until his funeral. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

Where were you when Kennedy died?

Sixth period chorus at Charleston High School. Miss Eldridge kept the class going. As soon as the bell rang, a bunch of us went across the street to The Coffee Shop and just talked. We didn’t want to be alone. Same think with RFK and Martin Luther King.

Our parents didn’t understand the effect it had on us. We were “just kids.” At that time, we couldn’t drive until we were 18, couldn’t vote until 21. What did we know? We knew we had each other. Together, we could talk it out and mourn.

Where were you when David Kennedy died?

David was Abbi’s best friend, big brother, and the son I never had. Abbi had moved home while waiting to move into a new apartment, came into my bedroom at sometime after midnight, and said, “David’s been shot.” I asked if he was OK. She told me, “Mom, he was shot in the head. He’s dead.” We rushed to the hospital. There was already a crowd in the ER. His mom, Cheryl, was outside his room. David looked like he was sleeping. His pregnant wife was downstairs — they were trying to keep her from going into labor.

In that emergency room were about 30+ kids. Catholics, Jews, Muslims, whites, blacks, Hispanics, it looked like a junior version of the United Nations.  The emergency room doctor walked up to Cheryl and told her that the ER was for family members only. Her answer was, “This IS his family.”

He died saving his wife, sister, her husband, and their three kids from two kids who broke open the door of his sister’s apartment with guns wanting jewelry and drugs. David, an All-State wrestler who just graduated from a junior college with a full-ride scholarship threw a double-leg take down on the assaulter, giving his family time to get out of the house. We buried him on the day he would have started his junior year in college, wrestling for Central Oklahoma. Abbi would have started her sophomore year that day.  I still think of him and miss him almost every day.

Where were you during the Oklahoma City bombing?

In my office at 63rd and Broadway Extension. My secretary was sitting at her desk, I, as usual was sitting at a random desk because Lana always joked that I never went into my office.  We were about 57 blocks from the Federal Building.

From out of nowhere, it felt like a plane hit our building. We jumped up, went to the window, and saw nothing. She turned the radio to the news channel and heard that an “currently unknown event” had hit the Federal Building. Looking south, we saw nothing but smoke. Lana’s immediate thought was that it was a gas leak fire. I told her, no, that I’d been on too many military bases. That it was a bomb. A gas leak would have created flames. This “event” yielded only billowing deep grey smoke. 

My first thought was for America’s Kids…the daycare over the front door. They were clients of ours. One of their kids had peed on their sale’s rep’s lap just the day before. I knew in my heart that very few, if any of them would survive.

Everyone in town knew someone who was in the building. One of our referring CPA’s was  giving a talk next door in the Journal Record Building. She was slammed between two filing cabinets and badly injured. As a self-employed accountant, she had no insurance.  We got the word out to all the McBee offices and the reps, managers, and our national headquarters started sending in money. We almost covered her medical bills.

The stories started coming in. Sixty blocks north of us — about 120 blocks from the bombing, a friend of mine was blown off the toilet. The Daily Oklahoma’s (newspaper) office as well as The Journal Record (business newspaper) and several other office buildings wouldn’t be able to be saved.

A national reporter went on TV to say that a mid-western town like Oklahoma City couldn’t possibly be prepared for an event like this.  She was so wrong. As soon as the word got out, the National Guard showed up. The Red Cross came with tents and supplies. Every nurse and doctor in town headed either downtown or to their hospitals. The community brought  blankets, pillows, food, water; anything they thought might be needed — even dog food for the rescue dogs. The workers wanted for nothing….without being asked, surrounding towns sent in police, fire and rescue units. The stalwart “unprepared” Okies were up and running and rescue efforts were in effect within a couple of hours. Survivors were in hospitals before the smoke cleared. The apartment building across the street, as well as the YMCA were evacuated. Before the end of the day, trailers were set up downtown so banks, by federal law, could be open. And the support continued until every single support personnel was gone. You were wrong, Connie Chung. Okies take care of their own.

Where were you on 9/11?

At home, getting ready for work. Abbi called. Told me to turn on the TV. The first tower was already a cloud of smoke. Another plane showed up on the screen. Abbi said it must have gotten off course – I told her that it intentionally heading to the other tower. We were under assault. I was trying to stay calm as we watched the events from our respective homes.

Then, the plane went into the Pentagon. Abbi’s dad was an Air Force officer. He had retired, but was working for a government contractor in the same office, with the same desk and phone number he’d had before he retired. When they said it was Sector D, Abbi lost it.

She’d been estranged from her dad for several years. But in an instant, that all disappeared and she was a 20-year old  little girl worried about her dad. 

I spent hours trying to reach him, but of course all the phone lines were down. I found him late that afternoon. He had left the building about five minutes before the plane hit, heading for a meeting twenty minutes away.

I called my staff, told them the office was closed for the day, and to stay home. I spent the day trying to reach friends in New York who lived near the Trade Center and military friends we knew were stationed in the Pentagon.

What about when the first bombs hit Afghanistan?

Abbi and I were sitting on my bed playing Trivial Pursuit, there was a fire in the bedroom fireplace, and I was waiting for my date to show up. We were going to some comedy. The TV was on in the background, for no real reason. Then, the news came on and we saw the bombs flaring through the sky and explosions from the ground. We grabbed each other. She knew that some of her friends were going to be heading overseas. All I could think of was the ones I lost in Vietnam.

Dan showed up and expected to go to the movie. “The war’s started. Nothing we can do. Let’s go.” I stayed home with Abbi. He went to the movie.

 

There are too many days in our lives we’ll never forget. So many events that were out of our control, yet altered our lives in ways that will forever haunt our memories. And there’s no way I would ever trivilize those events — either the personal ones, or the ones that made a difference in our nation and way of life.

But there’s an event coming up that we can control. The first Tuesday in November. That, too, is an event that will change our country forever.

And whatever side you’re on, it’s your responsibility to get out and make a difference. One person can. Offer to carpool your neighbors to the polling place and go out for lunch afterwards. If you run an office, give your staff time to go vote, and let the hours be excused if they show up wearing an ‘I voted’ sticker. If you’re in college, get a bunch of your friends together and head to whatever sorority/fraternity house/church is designated for your area. The Jeapordy marathon can wait. It doesn’t matter HOW they vote as long as they DO. And each of us who plans to vote anyway has an obligation to take someone along with them.

This time, we’re in charge. Not another nation, not a disillusioned gunman, not a presidential decision. This time, the decision is ours. Ours alone. Because if we don’t, we’ve surrendered and have no right to complain about the outcome. Not even half of Americans vote. We can change that this year. Let’s take our country back and let Congress know we’re watching, paying attention, and are willing to do something about it. Your one vote will make a difference. Don’t waste it.

So, until tomorrow when we can all go back to bitching and moaning and showing the world what we’re having for lunch or putting up the daily pix of our kids, be safe out there. Start doing real homework and vote like your life depends on it. Because it does.

 

 

JOAN BAEZ GOT IT RIGHT

Almost every year in high school during All-State and All-County Chorus performances, we sang what no one told us was a Joan Baez song:       “No Man is an Isand.”

Here’s the first couple of stanzas:

“No man is an island.  No man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s grief is my own.

We need one another. So I will defend….each man as my brother, each man as my friend.”

I hear those who say they’re self-made — or their grandparents were self-made and they got the benefits of that wealth. And I see two completely different dynamics.

The Bush’s and Romney came from money. It’s in their blood. You don’t hear about them working their way through college or having to depend on scholarships and grants to get them through. You don’t hear how their  wives were the “hunter-gatherers” while they developed their political careers. OK, so Ann Romney ate off an ironing board when she was in college. Tell me one kid (before panini makers) that didn’t use an iron and ironing board to make a grilled cheese sandwich.

Clinton and Obama came from humble beginnings. They are the ones who really did pull themselves up by their bootstraps and made themselves successful against the odds. They speak unashamedly about the fact that they couldn’t have many of their accomplishments without the help of their wives. And how proud they are of those wives.         

And they got through college with the help of scholarships. And part-time jobs. And grants.

One side doesn’t believe anyone needs an island, the other understands that few of us make it without a community.

I can’t name one of my author friends, and I’ve got a bunch of them, who didn’t gain knowledge and contacts from classes,  referred to an agent or publisher by an already-published friend, who didn’t have a support system in the form of an organized group like California Writers, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America or a critique group that tore their work to shreads with all the love they could give. What if bookstores decided not to carry their works? Refused to let them have book signings? What if people didn’t post favorable reviews? Books don’t simply sit on shelves and sell themselves.

When I was district manager with McBee Systems, the other district managers were my support group. In the beginning, I sucked the life out of them for information on how to take the worst district in the nation and  make it successful. With their help, in two years my district was winning awards. And we all shared different twists on how to sell the products we had available to us — or how to bring in a national account — or sign a bank as a referral source –or the best approach to take at banking and CPA conventions — or what conventions other than those were worth the investment and which weren’t.

When we went on company-sponsored award trips, we sat around poker tables talking business and learning from each other while our VP of Sales took all our money.

Who, in college, didn’t participate in at least a couple of study groups? Or rely on that secret cabinet in the sorority or fraternity house for past tests and ideas for term papers?

I know of several cases where sorority sisters found each other jobs in their companies. Or when alumnae got recent grads interviews in companies that had previously shut the door on them.

Who hasn’t had to borrow a few bucks from time to time for a tank of gas or an important date? I’ve seen kids split the cost of textbooks.

What small business doesn’t rely on some form of assistance? Why do you think they join Chambers of Commerce? Networking groups? Philanthropic groups who hold social events? It’s not because they’ve got a ton of extra time and are looking for a way to spend it.

Abbi started her entertainment business in the big pond of Los Angeles. She belongs to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (at the cost of $500/year). She has taken classes from SCORE (a non-profit of retired business people who pass their knowledge and experience on to the next generation.) Her clients refer her to other people who can use her services. A friend helped build her website. Her dancers/models/hair & make-up artists/specialty groups refer their peers and warn her who not to hire– knowing the quality she is looking for. Venues have allowed her to put on shows to get her name out. Non-profit events have brought her girls in to perform and put her company’s name on their posters, websites, etc. She has a great banker who allowed her to “take an advance” on her car loan when a client didn’t pay early enough for her to pay her girls. I doubt if you’ll ever hear Abbi say she’s self-made. And truthfully, how many businesses can?

When visiting a mom-and-pop store the other day, the owner and I started talking about these issues while I was meandering through her shop. The owner made an interesting statement. She said she’s a Republican, but didn’t understand how they were sending out a message that “I’ve got mine. You’re on your own,” while the Democrats seem to convey a message that “we understand that to build this country, we have to build up the middle class, give the small businessman the tools to help them grow, and give those who are living in poverty a hand up; not a hand out.” I told her I used to be a Republican, too, and don’t know where we went wrong. She mentioned that they seemed to have lost their hearts — their souls — their empathy for those who have less than they do. Like it’s none of their concern that our veterans are coming home without the tools or the emotional stability to get a job and are both unemployed and homeless. That tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and are living on the street because they lost their houses to foreclosures. That it’s impossible to look for a job if you have children living on the street with you. Where do you leave the kids. What if they don’t  have clothes to wear to an interview or haven’t been able to shower for a week? How doe they enroll their children in school if they have no address? There are people who want to work…..but don’t have that option without some form of help.

Do you know why you rarely see Jews on welfare? Because they still take care of each other. The community meet’s the communities needs. And it doesn’t have to be public. The Rabbi has a “discretionary” fund that he can disburse as he pleases — if someone needs to make a mortgage payment, or needs food. If he doesn’t have enough in the fund, he makes a couple of phone calls, and without divulging the name of the person in need, someone in the congregation will ante up the funds.

A lady in my Oklahoma City congregation at Emanuel Synagogue had her house disappear from around her in a tornado. She opened the closet door to find nothing. Nothing. No building, no stick of furniture, absolutely nothing. She called the Rabbi, and by the end of the day she had a place to stay. Within 24 hours, she had a new wardrobe. 

That’s what communities — islands — are for.

I’ve been around for awhile. Eisenhower is the first president I remember. In studying what most of the Republican presidents stood for when they were in office, I don’t understand how Eisenhower, Lincoln, or Reagan could be members of the Republican party at this point in time.

The other side talks about bringing God back into the picture, but refuses to help the poor, or the sick, or the elderly. They want to take away the rights women have worked so hard to attain. They want to block the votes of anyone who doesn’t plan to vote their way. The Bible admonishes us to help the poor, the widow, and the sick. Remember all those WWJD plastic bracelets everyone used to wear? I’m pretty sure He/She/They wouldn’t be thrilled at the things that are going on in His/Her/Their name now.

Here’s the dichotomy I see now.  Not just on this subject, but many others. I have a friend who is a stalwart Republican. I was asking her, as a social worker, about today’s welfare system — because I wanted real answers. We segued into insurance, and how Abbi can’t find decent insurance that meets her needs since she’s an individual, and that the good insurance is available only to those who work for companies that offer it.

She told me that insurance was originally designed to help people keep from losing things — cars, houses, etc. I told her that Abbi doesn’t own her house, and though her car is paid for, it’s 6 years old. She said that eventually, Abbi would have a lot of things, and insurance would help keep her from losing them. But all her insurance is getting her now is in debt. And she’ll have to pay her way out of it.

 Here’s the kicker. My friend’s husband is on disability. And she works for the County, so has county benefits. They  get a free ride and don’t understand that they’re beneficiaries of the systems they want to vote to have taken away. (Brain pinging around in skull.)

I hope we can get back the America our grandparents fought for (except for that thing where women should be barefoot and pregnant). An America that doesn’t owe another cent to any other country (legalizing marijuana could fix that in a couple of weeks). Where a woman in the same job as a male counterpart should get the same pay, benefits, and promotional abilities. An America with an education system that is once again considered the best in the world. With roads and bridges that are well-built, stable, and safe. With enough police and firemen to protect us when we need it. With good, affordable insurance available to every American. With a military designed to fight for what is right for America and that stays out of the business of countries who don’t invite us in. With a Congress that votes for those things that will make America the country it should be and not put petty agendas at a higher priority than the needs of Her people.

I won’t be voting for a straight ticket of any kind this year. Never have, never will. I’ve done my homework on the candidates available to do the jobs in the district where I’m registered to vote and nationally. I’m voting my conscience, not what my parents taught me to vote, not what my state votes, not what a social standing dictates.

I’ve been very wealthy, and I’ve been poor. When I’ve had money, I’ve helped in any way I could. When I haven’t, I’ve still tried to help in non-monetary ways. As most of you know, at this point in time I’m lucky to have some very special friends who are making my “world tour” possible. A friend in California called today to say he’d referred me to an urgent job opening. I’m damned happy to be part of an island.

So, from my precious Peggy’s couch in Littleton, Colorado, I hope I’ve given you something to think about, and regardless of what you choose, I’ll respect your decision. But either way the election goes, because I WILL be voting, I’ll have earned the ability to say, “I told you so,” which ever way it goes. To the 70% or so who choose not to show up at a polling place and push a couple of buttons, keep your mouth shut. You have no right to criticize.

Until tomorrow, be safe out there — and do something unexpected for someone else.  See how good it feels. And think about what America would be like if we all did just one thing for one person every day.

MIA

Wow. What a crazy few days.

First, the job in Stillwater. Not gonna happen. I was getting ready to leave Oklahoma when the job showed up on www.sororitymom.com, and my heart fluttered. Stillwater. I love Stillwater. I could see myself living there. So, I waited a week for the interview, because they told me they were going to make a decision quickly, so I figured that if I was hired, I’d start to work the first of September (right after the holiday weekend). But, they decided to skip another week and have me come in for a week and Contestant #2 come in the week after that. That’s an extra month I hadn’t planned on, but for Oklahoma State, it would be worth it.

And I wrote about all that in my blog. About the proposition of living in Oklahoma, my questions about whether I’d stay once the settlement was over, my missing California; being the usual me — transparent. The reality is that I know myself well enough to admit that if I had taken the job, I would have stayed. I fall in love with girls and want to watch them grow, bring in a new generation, graduate, and follow them once they’re in the real world.

So, after waiting around for two weeks to move into the house, I got a call the day before I was supposed to show up and was told that the girls had been reading my blog and decided they didn’t want me to come in for the test run. Two weeks of my life wasted. Two weeks of wearing out my welcome with precious friends who had custody of me for way longer than they’d anticipated. Believe that things happen for a purpose, but swear I can’t figure out why I spent two weeks’ worth of money and risked harming relationships for nothing.

In retrospect, I had concerns during the interview. A house mom for a fraternity on campus would be “dropping in” from time to time, as would a teacher from Stillwater High. I felt like, after 15 years with one house manager, they would be “checking up on me.” I’ve been in some form of management since I was 21. Micro-managing doesn’t work for me. Also, they were looking at the change in house directors as a “change in direction,” and I’m not sure they knew that direction or what the changes might be. Once again, I could have been caught in the middle of mixed expectations.

Anyway, during that time I was also dealing with the worker’s comp settlement and when it would come down. We were supposed to have the determination from Medicare by the middle of August and 6-8 weeks after that, it should be over. Haven’t received it yet. Can’t procede until it comes.

 And the concerns about marketing Diary of a Sorority House Mom. I had a book signing set up in the University of Central Oklahoma for the 16th, but the manager — a friend of mine from when Abbi and I owned our shop — wasn’t able to order the book through the Barnes & Noble network. My publisher has no idea why. Also, I haven’t been associated with good writers’ groups for four years, and usually those connections would help me in spreading the word. So, I’m on my own and spend each day figuring out what to do next.

And of course, there are concerns about money, and how long what I’ve got will last. Or why my worker’s comp provider hasn’t sent the expense check I should have received the end of July?

So, my life has been a lot of worrying and wondering.

But this morning I woke up at Peggy’s in Denver. I’m safe here. So is Sophie. She’s wandering around the upstairs and has no time for me. I think she’s afraid I’m going to put her in the carrier again now that she’s found a real home. She has her very own windows where she can watch (as Peggy calls it) Kitty TV. She likes Peggy’s bedroom and has spent the morning exploring it. She has not, however, discovered that there are two other balls of fuzz under the same roof. We’ll see what happens when they cross her path — or she crosses theirs. Indiana Jones and Josie have lived with other cats, but we have no idea how the three will interact once their territorial eyes lock for the first time.

Worrying/wondering/on-going concerns have me exhausted.

Today has been declared a “no worry” zone. I’m drinking my early-morning Coke, had some toast as a nod to the first breakfast I’ve had in — can’t remember when. Today, I will clean out the refrigerator and freezer, go to the grocery store, scope out the neighborhood, and spend the day as a real human being with real errands and ignore all things worrysome. I may lay out on Peggy’s beautiful back-yard lawn. Or sit on her patio and read. Tonight, I will watch the mindless TV that is “Big Brother,” and switch to the DNC. Then, I’ll read myself to sleep….except I’m in the middle of a John Connolly book, and going to sleep after one of his reads could be problematic. Maybe I’ll take a different reading route.

Either way, until tomorrow, I’m a normal human being.

In the morning, the legal crap, workers’ comp case that’s been nagging at me for the last 4.5 years, worrying about medical care because they don’t want to assign me doctors since I don’t know how long I’ll be here, figuring out how to write the next book when all my research is in Abbi’s storage unit, and all the other things that race through my mind will still be there.

But for now, I’m headed to the refrigerator.

Until tomorrow, when the sun in Littleton, Colorado comes up and my real world returns, be safe out there…..and take a little time for yourself.