MY YEAR WITHOUT FEAR — PROGRESS REPORT

It’s been 6.5 months of ups, downs, steps forward, steps backward, and lying face down on the couch.

After posting my intentions for this year, I signed up on “Our Time” and “J-Date.” The next morning, I called and cancelled. If my head wasn’t on straight, it probably wasn’t a good time to bring someone else into the mix. The guy on the phone wished me luck in finding love. I have trouble finding my way from Fullerton to Abbis without GPS.

So, let me bring you up to date…..

Decided in March to take the drastic step of having surgery to take pressure off my back so I could start exercising again, hopefully get my energy back, and be able to sleep through the night.

Was headed to a pre-op appointment when the my car’s alternator shut down without notice. AAA saved my butt and towed me to the nearest Chrysler dealership where the estimate to fix my baby grew from a quote of $625 to a final bill of $1250. Do NOT use Orange Coast Jeep-Chrysler.

While it was healing, I did what any self-respecting, bull-headed, independent woman would do. I went out and bought a car….another Chrysler Sebring convertible, because as we all know, life is too short to drive a hard top. This is my (our) 6th Chrysler convertible — between us, Abbi & I had 3 LeBarons, I bought my first Sebring convertible in ’99 and it went 178,000 miles before my banker and friend, the lovely Kim King at 1st State Bank of Noble, told me there was no way she was going to let me drive cross-country to take my first house-mom gig in Berkeley in a car with almost 200,000 miles on it. So, I traded it for the second one. I think the first one would still be on the road if I’d kept it. Number Two had a mere 110,000 miles on it when it started to go south. Anyway, though it was an irrational decision, it’s worked out.

The original plan was to sell it, but have no idea whether the title is in Oklahoma or California. Cali won’t give me a title until they’re sure it isn’t in Oklahoma, so I’m having to work long-distance with the Oklahoma DMV (shoot me now). But since Abbi’s boyfriend Brett came back from Australia in late May for his SECOND attempt to get a work Visa LEGALLY, they now have two cars. Once we get the title, they can decide what they want to do with it.

Surgery was April 22. Abbi came to stay with me for a couple of days, but I kicked her out on the third because we were starting to make each other nuts. And healing has taken longer than anticipated, though I’m told I’m progressing better than some 30 year olds.

One of my biggest problems is that I have become a recluse. Those of you who knew me “then,” know that’s never been my style. I’m the one who never met a stranger. But how to change, that’s the question. The dating site thing freaked me out. And more than a date, I need girlfriends. People more up close and personal than Facebook friends, even though many of them have become very important to me.

It was on a day when I was pondering how to get back into the game when a Facebook friend, one of many authors I’d never met in person who a is professor at University of the Pacific in Stockton, put up a post about their 1st Annual Writing Conference. I, as Abbi once said, “pulled my balls out of my purse” and signed up.

The morning I was to leave, everything seemed to go wrong. It was one of those days when if I’d had a goldfish, it would have died. I called Abbi and told her I thought the universe was telling me not to go. She gave me a lecture, and before I could change my mind, I left…..had planned on leaving at 10:00 a.m., and because of all the Catch 22’s I was running into, finally hit the road at 3:00 pm for a 7 hour drive. By the way, the new Sebring convertible made it the whole trip on one tank of gas. In your face, “economy-efficient” cars. Every single one of my Chrysler babies that hold five people comfortably and has a trunk big enough to carry a jet ski has given me 33 miles per gallon.

I had a ball, met a lot of fun people, learned a lot, laughed a lot, got inspired, and I began to wish I lived in Davis or Stockton since the area seems to have become a haven for writers. They invited me to put my books out for sale along those of the authors who were leading seminars, and I sold out. But coming home, the high didn’t last long and I settled back into my blue funk of not leaving the house. It was then I realized that in my first 6 months at Sig Kap, I hadn’t taken one day off and decided that might be contributing to my blue funk. There’s no way that practice can continue.

Having said that, Mystery Writers’ Workshop is being held at my home base, Book Passage in Corte Madera from the 25th – 27th….and I’ve been arguing with myself about going. I’d love to go back and see those who were with me at the beginning of my writing adventure. But, it’s 5 years later and we’ve all grown in different directions. After going back and forth for about two weeks and checking on conferences down this way, I decided not to go. If I did, I’d be more homesick for The Bay, and that’s not my home. At least for now, it’s my past. Instead, I’ll start going to both Orange County Sisters in Crime and Southern California Writers Association meetings in August, attend the SCWA Conference in September, and sign up for Bouchercon, which is a national mystery writers’ conference, but is being held on my end of the world. This way, I can establish myself in the LA area, get to know writers down here, hopefully put together a critique group, and still be able to visit with my mystery writer friends (and meet more of them) at Bouchercon. I’ve joined national SinC and my Alpha Xi Delta alumna associations and will now join the local associations.

Back to the surgery, it worked. My back doesn’t hurt for the first time in 6 years. You have no idea what that means. I can do 40 minutes of aerobic exercise without keeling over, and just Friday got permission to go into the water again. This Friday I’m heading to Tucson for a Sig Kap house directors’ conference, and will take my bathing suit. Might be able to get in the pool, even if it’s paddle around after the meetings at night. It’s moments like this I truly miss my Oklahoma back yard with the pool where I swam laps every day. I’m at home in the water. Can’t really swim, because my neck still only moves 15% in each direction, but hopefully once the back and core are completely healed I can go to a chiropractor and get that fixed, too. I’m getting the physical “me” back an inch at a time.

The good news is that just getting the pressure off my back, I’ve lost about 11 pounds just moving around and walking again. The bad news is I’ve spent way too much on new clothes. The jeans/capris I wore before the assault now fit — tops, not so much. My arms do a great impersonation of low-hanging jell-o. Once I get them exercised down, the top will be a size smaller, too. Now that I’m feeling better physically, and the mind is catching up, I want to wear real clothes again. Ones that make me feel good.

For the shopping trips, I have a legitimate reason. This weekend at the house directors’ conference I need five outfits of real clothes — not jeans, capri’s and tee shirts: one for travelling on Friday, one for opening Mexican-themed party — “Festive Wear,” one for the seminars on Saturday, one “slightly dressier” for the awards banquet that night, and one for travel on Sunday. I’m used to packing for a weekend in my Louis Vuitton over-nighter — being an Air Force wife taught me to pack light an tight. This time, I’ll need a real suitcase along with (gasp) make-up and more than one pair of shoes.

Another interesting piece of news is that guys have been flirting with me lately, and I’ve been flirting back. It’s kinda fun, but also kinda like that dog chasing the bus joke. I’m winging it.

Ventured out of the house about a month ago for dinner at a neighborhood bar and got pulled into a corner-of-the-bar team for a trivia contest they hold on Friday nights. Found myself laughing and high-fiving and talking smack with three guys and having a ball. Went back last week, and none of them were there. I played for awhile, but couldn’t compete with teams of five and six people. I’m all about history, geography, and things of the past. Know that Oklahoma, California and Ohio are the three states who tie for the most Miss Americas with 8 each, that basket toss and helicopter are terms used in cheerleading, and Seward’s Folly was buying Alaska (and still question that decision) but don’t have a clue where “High School Musical” was set. Heck. I don’t even care.

So, am I still spending time face down in the couch? Sometimes. But instead of being one step forward, two steps back, I’m now at sometimes one step forward, one step back, and even more often find myself at one step forward and liking it.

Abbi asked me what I want to do for my birthday — it’s next weekend and I won’t be here, so we’ll be celebrating afterwards. I sent her an e-mail telling her I’d narrowed down my choices to: jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, spending a night on The Queen Mary and doing the psychic paranormal tour (did it before and it’s way cool), or going to San Diego to the Hotel Del Coronado for a weekend. It’s haunted, too, and is where “Some Like It Hot” was filmed. That should freak her out. Expect to hear counter proposals from her soon.

All in all, I’d say that things are getting better with each passing month. Not sure if my ultimate gutsy move will happen on New Year’s Day, but we’ll see. If Brett is willing to do it with me, Abbi can sit in the bar and wait for us.

So, for today, I’ll let you go. This week will be a zoo. Working on getting a new housekeeper for Sig Kap before the girls move back in on the 1st; have to get new batteries in the garage door openers, the maintenance guy is coming on Wednesday, I have to go into OC to pick up my charm bracelet that’s having yet another one added (running out of links), and should make a trip up to Abbi’s before leaving on Friday. Also need to get donations to the women’s shelter. Looks like there won’t be much time for the couch this week, and as that slut, Martha Stewart would say, “Its a good thing.” But along with all that, I’m vowing to myself to accept no excuses from myself, invest 40 minutes in exercise at least three times before I leave, and write for at least an hour each day..oh, and head into Anaheim to pick up prescriptions. I’ve always been happier when there was no extra time in my life, and it seems to be getting back on track.

I’ll keep you posted. Till we meet again, be good to yourself. Love, laugh, be nice to someone who looks sad, and find joy in little things. Life’s too short for a lot more things other than driving a hard top.