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ON GIRDLES AND GARTER BELTS…..

Wearing this confining body contraption since my surgery on April 22, I’m constantly reminded of life during junior high, high school, and even college.

Since at that point in time women couldn’t wear pants of any kind, hosiery (as it was called then) was mandatory, and not without problems. They came in “short,” “medium,” and “long,” and depending on the brand, that varied. They came shaped like the perfect leg, and if yours weren’t perfect, the fit might not be right. Too short, and they wouldn’t connect to the garter belt. Too long, and the top of the hose had to be doubled at the top, risking a run in the lighter-woven part and guaranteeing bunching at the ankles. Having a “run” in stockings was embarrassing. But we didn’t carry spares with us, so that shame had to be endured an we could only hope the run didn’t grow, and grow, and grow. Panty hose didn’t show up until the mid-70’s when “EGGs” came out, along with their sales girls wearing short shorts and driving cars with the “EGGs” symbol on the sides. Until then, getting dressed was a chore.

The hose were thigh-high, and not the “stay-up” sexy kind. Wearing them required one of two contraptions: a girdle with hooks to hold up the hose at the bottom, or a garter belt. And when we first started wearing them, they had seams up the back that were almost impossible to get on and keep straight.

Let’s talk about these methods of frustrating torture:

The girdle: White only. And they were open at the bottom giving the appearance of an upside-down “C.” No hooks at that underneath-strategic area to hold it in place. The prehistoric girdle wasn’t like the ones now. Moving, turning, maneuvering to get out from under school desk chairs could throw them off, the hose along with them. Between every class, there was a trip to the girls’ restroom to re-position and hope it would stay in place for another class period. I mean, after all, we had to maneuver ourselves into the next school desk chair in just a few minutes.

And talk about uncomfortable. They were itchy, clumsy, and still required wearing underwear, which made it worse.

Of course we had that wonderful alternative, the garter belt. Again, white only.

Now this wasn’t the sexy garter belt Victoria’s Secret has to offer. No way. This thing connected in the back with a couple of snaps or eyelet connections. And the long elastic straps that extended from the garter belt had these hooks at the end we attached to our hose. Front and back, hoping to get both legs on straight enough that they didn’t put creases at the ankle, because one those wrinkles were in place, there was no getting them to go straight again. If the fit wasn’t perfect, the hose would groove into the thighs at the top, an could crease under the clothes. If we wore a straight skirt when that happened, that groove would show through.

And this very unsexy garter belt didn’t come with instructions. Wear it over the underwear? Under the underwear? Both had plus’s and minus’s, but none were fun, and God help you if one of the elastic straps broke at the hose-connector-thingy and either the front or back side of one leg’s hose started creeping down.

Guys had it so easy. Have someone peg their jeans, and they were good to go.

There was also that “other” belt girls had to wear once a month along with the girdle or garter belt. It held that pad that was long enough to reach both the front and back of our waist, but was (with any luck at all) held in place by even more sliding hook connector thingies. Now, we’ve got your girdle/garter belt and yet another belt slipping and sliding and being maneuvered between classes.

Our mothers told us how lucky we were because in “their day,” they had to use strips of old sheeting. We didn’t care. We were in our own type of hell, and were always sure the guys could tell we were at “that time of month.”

Gym class was especially fun because we only had scant minutes to change out of our dresses or skirts & blouses into the lovely, blue, snapped-closed, Bermuda short length, short sleeved gym suits. Very few looked good in them, and when boys had to enter the “girls’ gym,” we were sufficiently embarrassed. Except in summer, guys didn’t see our knees.

Whenever I think of the girls’ gym locker room, I always think of Nell Sale. Nell was a CHS Mountain Lion cheerleader, and perhaps the tiniest person in the history of time. Cheerleading uniforms back in the day were wool drop-pleated skirts, a white princess-collared shirt, and wool letter sweater. I’m sure Nell’s weighed at least twice as much as she did…..yet she always wore a girdle. For some reason, my eyes went to her every time we were in the locker room, because if anyone ever didn’t need a girdle, it was Nell Sale, and I always wondered why she wore one.

For gym, we disconnected our hose from their clasps and shoved them down into our gym socks. Then, we pushed the garter belt/girdle into our underwear, because we only had scant minutes at the end of gym class to get redressed, re-connect the individual legs of hosiery to their slide-and-connect-keep-them-up-and-straight-if-you’re-lucky torture devices.

Of course, in that time we also had to re-apply our make-up, tease and re-coif our hair so we were back to looking beautiful by the time the line formed to be ready for the bell that would send us into the outside world of 2500 schoolmates.

And though it has nothing to do with the contraption I have to wear every day for 3 months, or the girdles, garter belts, an “other” belts we were subjected to, you wouldn’t believe the bras we had to wear. Again, white only. They made our boobs as pointed as a Wagnerian opera singer. Being over-endowed in those days was more than embarrassing. I never knew if guys were dating me because they liked me or because of how much my cone-shaped pointed boobs stuck out. (In ’88, I had them reduced from their 44DD to a civilized 36C. Happiest surgery ever, but I still have grooves in my shoulders from the straps of, as the guys called them, our “over-shoulder-boulder-holders.)

The girls today have it easy. Bras are built into tops of garments, so strapless outfits don’t require yet another bra. Hose? If they wear them at all, they’re well-fitting, non-twist-around pantie hose with no significant show-through-the-skirt features. They can wear jeans, where in my time, there were no jeans for women. We had to buy boy’s jeans, put them on, get in the bathtub of hot water, and shrink them to almost our size. Most of us couldn’t get the waist right, but at least we had jeans. And of course, blouses were tucked in. There were no tee shirts in those days, except the white ones guys wore with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeves.

Sweat pants and shorts are perfectly acceptable attire for class now..we were stuck with dresses, skirts and blouses.

We had our own fashion statements, though. Bass Weejuns were the shoe of choice, and we all wore them, along with scarab bracelets, circle pins at the neck, raccoon collared tan wool coats, and madras skirts or dresses worn with white shirts was the cool dress of the day. Skirts had to be at a length where the knee wouldn’t show if we crossed our legs.

We wore curlers to bed at night and sometimes slept with soup cans replacing the curlers if we wanted our hair to be smoother. We dried our hair by brushing it upside down over the heat grates in the floor or with lovely portable hair driers with elastic-bound hoods that fit over our heads and were so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves think.

Coloring our hair was out of the question. There were no dyes then, certainly not in boxes available in any store. And in the summer, we used peroxide to turn our head blonder, or if our hair was dark, we hoped to add lighter highlights. Unfortunately, for those of us with dark hair, we ended up with orange tints instead. Bleach-blond hair was the sign of a hussy (that’s slut for the uninformed).

We dressed up for parties, wanted to look as perfect as possible for school, dressed up to go downtown to shop, or to pick up friends at the airport or train station, and wouldn’t think of flying without being well-dressed, fixing our hair, and applying make-up.

It was a different time. Yes, we wore mid-century torture devices with a smile on our face and a song in our heart. We knew how to pose for pictures — there was a proper way to place the feet, and we crossed our ankles at a slight angle rather than crossing our legs. Our hands were primly poised on our laps or at our sides. Our boyfriends came to parties dressed in suits. They opened doors for us, expected to pay the checks when we went out on dates, and called our parents “ma-am” and “Mr.” We only bought presents for our boyfriends on their birthday or at Christmas, and then, it was usually Old Spice cologne or a monogrammed shirt if we really liked them. We never, never, never called boys. That was unseemly. “Courting” was done in the living room. They never saw our bedrooms. Our dates kissed us good-night at the door after dates, usually with the porch light on and the parents looking out the windows. We went to drive-in movies or to special places to “park” and “make out,” but never went “too far.” Most of us were virgins on the day we walked down the aisle in that white dress, (or at least that’s the story we told) and though there were divorces later – much later, I have friends who married in ’64, ’65, or after they graduated from college in ’68, and are still together. Still to the high school love of their life. Or the guy they knew in high school but started dating later.

My high school love was a secret, forbidden one, and I’m pretty sure the reason I haven’t been able to find anyone who lasted more than 15 years is because there’s still a huge part of my heart that never got over him. But our parents would have killed us….or disowned us….so, it couldn’t happen.

Growing up in the 60’s wasn’t easy, but it was pretty carefree. Though some of us had things going on behind closed doors at home we couldn’t talk about, because in those days we “didn’t air our dirty laundry in public,” and were concerned about “what the neighbors would think,” we still could live a laughter-filled life outside our homes. If the principal found a 6-pack of beer in a guy’s locker (a girl would never do such a thing), he could be suspended or kicked out of school. Guys played football on the capitol lawn, and the girls sat around watching and cheering them on. A trip to The Sweet Shop for a burger and vanilla Coke was all we needed for entertainment, and Flossie always remembered our usual order. We walked to visit girlfriends, listened to records, had sleepovers where we painted each others’ nails and “secretly” told a couple of guys so they’d crash the party. We hid behind closed doors, sat in a circle, and whispered as we read “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” or “Candy” while gasping and giggling at the forbidden sexual content — some things we’d never heard of and certainly wouldn’t talk about if we did. Our moms baked us cookies, made pizzas or sandwiches and brought us Cokes. At parties, we played Post Office and Spin The Bottle.

I wish the kids today had been raised in such a naive and carefree time. They become sexually active much younger, and sex takes over the relationship; it replaces friendships and getting together with others. Girls chase guys to the point that the guys have no idea how to pursue. And why should they? Sex isn’t a sacred thing anymore, just part of an evening out. Drinking and drugs are commonplace — not something forbidden and thrilling. There’s so little “all-girl” or “all-guy” time. They drive everywhere with music blasting, so communication isn’t what it used to be. Instead of the after-school phone calls to friends, today they’re constantly on their cell phones texting back and forth. I think it was better in our day.

Personally, I think they’re missing out. Their childhood ends too soon. Their world is a dangerous place where the news is filled with war and random shootings complete with teen-age and college-age suicides. There are few television shows that don’t include someone being blown away. In our ay, a degree guaranteed a job. Now, it’s just a piece of paper with no guarantees and little hope attached. They graduate and end up tending bar or taking jobs as bank tellers hoping it leads to something.

I’d like to go back to that gentle time. When movies had plots and acting instead of sex and explosions. When vacations meant no contact with home until we returned. When meeting friends at a bar meant laughter and talking, not everyone paying more attention to their phones than their companions. When we looked forward to receiving and reading a hand-written letter from a friend who took time out from their day to “spend some time” with us. Of “Thank You” notes and cards for no reason. Of summers spent lying in fields of clover looking up at the sky and picking out animals and Volkswagons and faces in the clouds and making daisy chains from the clover. Of hours searching for 4-leaf clovers instead of playing sometimes violent video games. Days at Rock Lake, lying out, going down the slide and dancing in the bandstand. It was OK to go with parents, because we’d meet up with our friends when we got there.

Weekend days and early evenings were spent standing around our cars at Shoney’s or KFC in Kanawha City drinking Pink Lemonade and talking.

Somehow, I think this generation, and probably those who will follow it, are being cheated.

So I’ll spend time in the past, hope to find friends who also appreciate that gentle time while existing in a time when everyone is expected to be a Type A personality.

And you, my friend. Take time to watch an old movie. Walk to the store or to the fast food place to get an iced tea. Call a friend on the phone and actually talk instead of sending a text. Write a letter. Lay out in the yard and read a book. Look for pictures in the clouds. Make a wish on a star. And take time to breathe.

Until next time, know you’re important — to me, and so many others. Be good to yourself.

WHAT A DAY

I woke up Sunday morning super excited. After taking my first cold shower of the day (the air conditioning in the house has been out for a week, and acknowledge that I have become a full-fledged California resident — 78 is too cold and 80 is too hot, hit the computer to check e-mails and hit Facebook before writing a prepared, light-hearted blog.

My last AChiO Pledge Class at San Diego State was graduating, and I couldn’t wait to see their pictures in caps and gowns.

And the “Bay to Breakers” race was scheduled San Francisco. There’s nothing like it in the world. Everyone races in costume (except those who wear no costume at all — though nudity was outlawed this year, no one stops it. Hey, it’s San Franciso.) By the time I logged on to Facebook, there were already pictures of teams from all four of my sororities dressed as Smurfs, in “All-American” red/white/and blue mismatched outfits, tutus topping striped leggings, and everything in between.

It’s more interesting because not all the people who “race” actually pay admission and sign up to run — they just jump into the race course whenever/wherever they choose. That’s where the nudity/semi-nudity/lack of costumes find their way among the Santa’s tied together in tandem and other outfits no one would wear outside a Bay to Breakers (B2B) race. It’s a celebration of Bay Area life at it’s best, and I miss it. Trying to get a team together for next year — maybe other house moms –we could dress as Donna Reed in white gloves and pearls, or fuzzy robes with cigarettes hanging out of our mouths and bottles of wine. But doubt if that will happen. People my age tend to be pretty old. Most don’t get me. No surprise there.

Then, the news from Oklahoma started hitting the Facebook posts, changing the day. My first instinct was to divert back to the Oklahoma tradition of turning the TV (in my case, computer) to Gary England’s Channel 9 OKC streaming feed, complete with storm chasers on the ground and helicopter pilots risking their lives in the air. And, as if I still lived there, was glued to it all day, sending texts to friends as the tornadoes ripped through or near their home areas. There was a post from Kimi Winkler, one of Abbi’s old cheerleading team members who lives in New York City. She, too, was glued to Gary England’s streaming videos.

If I had been in OKC, at my 1911 NW 33rd Street home just south of Penn Square Mall, I would be watching the weather channel in the family room we called “The Lodge;” it had a great fireplace, and the back wall was almost all glass, looking out over our 16′ x 32′ pool, deck with hot tub, and my beautiful 20’stand of 50 year old trees. I would be worrying whether I’d be lucky yet again and not have any trees uprooted, whether the neighbor’s tree would fall onto the deck outside my bedroom again or crash through the roof this time, how much debris would be in the pool — and if I could add enough chlorine to keep the water from turning to a green pond of algae sludge or have to drain, scrub it down, and start all over with fresh water.

Like all Oklahomans, the safest closet had already been cleared out in case I needed to revert to the closest thing to safety my house afforded. The safest is usually a bathroom — get down into the tub under a mattress…but both our bathrooms were on outside walls. The closet between the living room and lodge was my safest option. And not very safe at that because the house had a crawl space and the whole house could have been picked up or leveled.

I would be thinking back to the house we almost bought that backed up to Westmoore High School. I chose against it because the fence backed up to the school’s parking lot and my concern of liability if the kids decided to jump the fence to swim. And that was a no-brainer. That entire neighborhood, plus the house we would have purchased, was wiped out in not one, but two tornadoes a year apart.

And flashing back to the days when our shop, Greeks Bearing Gifts, was in the University Center at University of Central Oklahoma and we’d all head down to the basement to hunker down until the storm passed by/over the building. Jarrett Jobe, who was head of Greek Life, would be on a central computer watching the streaming weather and keeping us apprised of the storm’s location and velocity. We would all be worried about homes, friends’ homes, businesses, Abbi’s gym that was little more than a corrugated metal shell, if our cars would still be in the parking lot when we went outside, and if we would get home that night. As I sent out texts/FB posts to friends (ex “kids) in the area, I found that some who lived nearby had already gone to the basement of the UC for shelter.

When I turned on the Channel 2 CBS news at 6:30 pm here in Los Angeles, they mentioned the Oklahoma tornadoes as if they were mere hiccups. I sent them a website e-mail telling them to watch their sister station in OKC and keep up.

This storm was all over the place. First news was from Edmond; just north of Oklahoma City where UCO, Abbi’s cheerleading/dance gym where she both coached and was a member of 3 squads, and most of our friends lived. Then, another storm started up east of OKC on the I-40 — threatening Shawnee, the mall, the casino, and two recreation areas. The casino was evacuated, the shoppers were diverted to the shelter within the mall, and the twisters barely missed both. The Shawnee Reservoir and Lake Thunderbird weren’t as lucky. An entire trailer park was leveled. Why anyone would chose to live in a mobile home in Oklahoma is beside me. The helicopter crew watched as water was literally sucked out of the Reservoir. A housing development on the banks of Lake Thunderbird was wiped out — and in true tornado behavior, three houses in the middle of the development were untouched while everything around them was flattened. At one point in time, there were 6 circles overlapping on the video — 6 storms that could merge into one superstorm. I watched as two tornadoes merged with a “halo” around the top meaning it could become even larger. Where the tornadoes touched down, brown debree clouds whipped up forming clouds at their bases. We wouldn’t know what was in them until later — just trees? Crops? Homes? Livestock? That would have to wait.

The news came out that at least one life had been lost in the trailer park. From past experience, news about missing people wouldn’t be forthcoming for days.

The messages I sent out were answered over the hours — a pix on Facebook from one of my sorority nieces showed the tornado parallel to their car on I-40. There’s nothing you can do in that case except keep driving — you never know what it’s going to do — stay the course, turn onto the freeway and hurl you in circles then tossing you to the ground….you just keep on moving.

Others showed hail in sizes ranging from golf ball to baseball and sometimes larger. One newscaster claimed, “Just another softball-sized hail storm.” Only in Oklahoma.

Stories of near-misses — “It came within a mile of the house.” “We got home. We’re safe.” “My plane landed just in time.” “We had roof damage, but were OK.” “We’re in the shelter. The kids and dogs are all in my lap.” “The house is gone.”

Back to the news, I-35 and I-40 were hit hard. Cars that parked under bridges for safety were slurped out and tossed around. One tractor trailer truck was picked up off a highway bridge and pitched to the road below – smashed like a plywood toy. Another had been turned over and was perched precariously over the railing.

Tornadoes are so common, we often take them for granted. We’re outside taking pictures as the ground-touching tails travel straight towards us. Jokes hit the internet about grabbing a lawn chair and a beer to hit the lawn and watch. But there’s nothing funny about these things. They’re unpredictable.

Then, the word came that a storm was headed for Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma. The newscaster admonished “Don’t look for it. It’s wrapped in rain.”

The next from Prague and Meeker – east and south of the University. This day was never going to end. Again, a storm wrapped in rain that would be undetectable if someone was looking for the normal signs: Rain, hail, eerie silence, and the sound of an oncoming train.

At the end of the day, most of my friends were OK. A couple of houses sustained major damage. One family came out of their closet to find it was the only thing left standing. But no one was hurt. That’s what really matters.

Of course, that’s not the end. There was still the threat of more tornadoes during the night, when there’s no defense. And today will bring more tornado watches and warnings. These are never one-day events.

But Okies are a resilient lot. They know spring is coming, and with it tornado season. They know spring will be followed by a drought-ridden summer and winter will bring blinding blizzards and ice storms that will knock out power lines and send trees dropping through roofs. There’s always fall — time to breathe and watch football.

And, as the old song says, they’ll “pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again.”

In times like this, no one cares whether you’re Republican or Democrat, whether you’re white, red, black, yellow, or green. Everyone comes together to make sure their neighbors have a place to stay, enough food to eat, a shoulder to cry on, clothes when necessary, and they’ll work together to rebuild.

Then, they’ll hit the back deck, grab a beer, grill a steak and live their lives until the next scare. They know it’s coming, but there’s no sense to worry about it until it happens.

Abbi and I spent 18 years in Oklahoma. It was an adventure. It still amazes both of us that most people never think of leaving. She had many friends who had never been out of the state. Most of them went to OU, OSU, or UCO. They go to Eufaula or Grand Lake for vacations, get jobs in Oklahoma and stay to raise their families…”Sooner born, Sooner bred, and when they die, they’re Sooner dead.” And they’ll always persevere. It’s who they are. It’s in their genes. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, until the next time, I’ll probably be switching “weather TV” off and on my computer until Gary England is no longer talking about tornado watches, warnings, and imminent danger, and go on living my life — knowing that an earthquake could come at any minute, but hey..I’ve been through tornadoes in Oklahoma and Nebraska, blizzards and ice storms in West Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska and Oklahoma, a tsunami, hurricane, and the only tornado to ever hit Hawaii (it came through Koli Koli Pass, just like the Japanese planes on December 7 — and a mile from our house), and earthquakes in California. No, I haven’t been in a big one yet, and hope I never am, but if it happens, that 18 years in Oklahoma will kick in. And I’ll be OK.

Take care of yourself. Every day of life is precious. Stuff is just stuff. Treasure your family and friends. Tell someone you love them today, and every day. And live life to its fullest.

See you soon.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?????

Most of you know my feeling about malls. I’m a real believer in supporting local business, and secondarily, buying pre-owned stuff….no sense killing more than one tree if you don’t have to.

I used to love to shop. Would get off work, change clothes, hit the mall for food-court Chinese and shop till the place closed down. Always found something cute for work, and never left the house without something cute on casual nights. Back in Charleston, WV were I kinda grew up, I caught slack because when I bought an outfit, it was always paired with matching shoes, purse and gloves. Yes, gloves. I got called prim and proper more than once.

Then life got complicated. Married, baby, stuff….you know. it happens.

But I’ve lost some weight and wanted clothes that fit. I need some tops that aren’t tee shirts, and wanted new capris. So, yesterday I decided to go shopping (something I now hate to do, primarily because I go during day hours instead of waiting till all the under-10-year old set is at home.)

My first thought was to hit up my consignment shops. My favorite is Haute Seconds on Wilshire between Brentwood and Santa Monica — they have great designer stuff and several production companies use them after films wraps. I scored Abbi the $3000 Loubitons Cameron Diaz wore in “Bad Teacher” there. And a couple equally good shops are within a couple miles. It seemed like a good idea until I reminded myself that it takes a dedicated day to find clothes for myself in consignment shops because I’m not a size 4. Never have been, never will be, and I would probably end up buying shoes for Abbi or a Fendi, Louis or Gucci purse instead of my intended purchases…and I’d still have to make another shoing trip for the stuff I needed in the first place. Problem Number Two is that I’m in Fullerton. Haute Seconds is anywhere from 40 minutes to 3 hours away — one way — and that would only be my first stop. To add to the frustration, there’s always construction on the 405. Logic dictated that drastic measures were in order, so in a moment of utter weakness, I went to the mall.

What I didn’t take into consideration was that Saturday, May 4, 2013, was “early shopping” day for Mothers Day, or maybe just the day that very large families decided taking their pre-pubescent crew to a crowded mall was more fun than a trip to the beach in 90 degree weather or Magic Mountain, Disney Land, or Knott’s Berry Farm where kids are both entertained and appreciated.

Not only was the place packed, it was packed with entire families, and evidently most families have 4+ children…..all running rapant, all in charge of their own little individual gift bags, and all ready for a) food, b) a bathroom break, or c) a nap. Mostly, they decided I was a target catch in their track meets, or something to use as blocking dummy. Not one parent intervened. I just wanted a peaceful day of putting together a spring/summer wardrobe that didn’t consist of jean capris and university/sports/hot spot tee shirts. Those of you who went to Myrtle Beach with me know I can’t resist a fun tee shirt. My all-time favorite is AJ’s in Destin, Florida. Down the sleeves are “Suck the Heads,” and b) “Eat the Tails.” The other favorite in Destin is Busters, an off-the-beaten path burger joint, and I can’t resist buying Cara Roy tee shirts that are copies of Seaside’s Spring and Fall wine festival posters.

But back to the mall, along with those tiny bundles of energy were at least one, usually two, and in some cases generations of adults…all in states of a) hunger, b) need of a bathroom break, c) in need of a good hockey game or a nap, and d) in serious need of a valium, xanax, or at least a beer. Mostly, they were in need of a couple hours with no kids. I’ve never understood why one parent couldn’t stay at home with the kids while the other one shopped. Men hate shopping anyway. Why should they be subjected.

Put those two classes of people together in a scenario that had been out of my frame of reference for over 6 years, and there I was…a) wanting to go up to some parents and say those words I used to utter on a regular basis before Abbi was born, “If you can’t control that thing, leave it at home,” b) still in re-coup mode from surgery when I really shouldn’t have been stressing myself out, c) in my usually-impatient state, and d) resolute to not leave until my mission was accomplished. I mean after all, I’d given up Haute Seconds (and probably a new purse) for this.

What (the f—) was I thinking?

Maybe I wasn’t. Maybe there are still some meds or toxins hiding deep within my body that made me less than lucid for just a nano-second. Maybe I forgot the frustration of going into a mall where I didn’t know the locations of the brands I like, the restroom, or my much-needed Coke for the first time. And on a Saturday. For whatever reason, there I was. There I would stay…..praying that I would find what I needed very quickly so I could get the hell out of there and finish the other things I’d planned for the day — filling the car’s tank and going grocery shopping for my 17 charges who go through snacks, Lucky Charms, apple juice, and toilet paper quicker than I can get them purchased and put away.

It seemed a logical move to go to Macy’s first. They carry both Ralph Lauren and Jones New York. Both brands have the butt to waist ratio.

I surveyed the first floor, which usually houses women’s clothes…..but after discovering only a warehouse full of cosmetics, perfume, shoes, jewelry, accessories, junior stuff and bathing suits, I headed upstairs, where I found nothing but “Women’s” clothes. A whole floor of “Women’s” (plus-size) clothes. Oh, and a sections of regular-sized suits and formal/cocktail wear. It made me wonder if that was the only assortment of regular clothes they carried.

There was no 3rd floor.

I headed back to First floor, asked about casual wear, and was directed to the basement. The basement? Really? But I was on a mission, so off to the basement I went. Mini-munchkins were still circle-eighting themselves around and between my legs or assaulting me with tiny gift bags. It amazed me that parents were letting their kids run wild. My assumption was they weren’t concerned about the kids being abducted — 20-minutes, and they’d be returned.

This made me long for the days when we dressed up to take a bus to downtown Charleston, wander through The Diamond, Stone & Thomas, Pecks, Frankenberger’s, and other stores where we could shop like ladies, pick clothes we liked with just enough staff to be helpful when needed but not obnoxious enough to want to establish long-term relationships, and could charge our purchases to our parents’ accounts before hitting The Diamond’s winding lunch bar, Valley Bell, or the Quarrier Diner for a hot dog with chili and slaw with a Coke in a coned cup (I’m thinking it was about 10 ounces, which was plenty).

But the good news was that the first thing I spotted in the basement was the Ralph Lauren department, where I picked out a couple pair of capris and some cute tops. The pants I chose were the size I thought I would wear, and they were a little loose, so I tried the next size down…and they fit. And the tops I’d always worn wear open with a cami underneath now closed all the way without leaving gaps between the buttons. It was then I realized that I’m only one size away from being where I was before my assault on December 7, 2007. It hit me that once the doctor gives me permission to exercise again, though I’ll have to take it easy for awhile, I’m scant months away from being back to my normal size. No, I’ll never be a size 4 — or even 6 for that matter. I don’t want to be. I enjoy being a real woman with a real body. I may get a mini-six-pack, and it’s great to feel my hip bones again, but I never want to be a “rail.” And I can get back down to my “fighting weight” well before the Writers’ Police Academy in September. That makes me really excited. Can’t wait to get my tee shirt with “WRITER” on the back. Even more excited to gain information that will make my mystery/thrillers more accurate and believable while meeting other authors from all over the country. They only accept 150 people, and I’m thrilled to be one of them.

But back to the mall. There wasn’t anything in the Jones New York section that tripped my trigger, and I was starting to feel a little light headed, so decided to take a break and hit the food court. Finding it was another matter, and brought up yet another of my pet peeves. Why don’t people understand that driving rules apply at malls. Drive/walk/push the damned 3-kid stroller down the same side of the walkway you’d normally drive on. We’re not in the freaking UK– not down the middle or and certainly not maneuvering the bus of a stroller with your stomach while holding a Coke in one hand and your cell phone in the other. And if the kid is screaming its head off, pick it up. Feed it. Change it. Take it home. Immediately. Not after you’ve finished trying on every bra in Victoria’s Secret while annoying the hell out of all the other customers.

And it was damned near impossible to find the food court, which was nowhere close to the picture on the huge map depicting where it should have been…..they should have made a note that there are TWO Macy’s stores — one for women’s crap, and one for men’s and house stuff. Telling me it was beside Macy’s wasn’t enough information.

Finally got there, ordered a taco salad without the shell and the obligatory Coke to get my body revving again, but it didn’t work. After eating, I still was light-headed and came home without filling the car or grocery shopping for my little piranhas. But that happened Sunday, so no gallows were erected and they’re still happy with food back in the cabinets.

And in spite of the angst, I learned a couple of lessons…..a) if possible, schedule time to get to the Santa Monica area where I can shop in the upscale designer consignment shops I love, and where the staffs know me, or b) hit the mall during school hours or after the dinner hour when stroller or over-active-cookie-propelled kids are behind the closed doors at home playing video games. And I came home with a killer new outfit that I can wear for business casual, another trip to the mall, or even a date if that strange event should ever come up.

Other good news is that my website is back. My year-long subscription had run out, and they hadn’t sent me an invoice so I had no way of knowing. I’ve written down the date for next year so I can be proactive. See, I’m becoming a responsible adult again. (At least in some areas, but don’t expect miracles. I still gotta be me.)

Until next time, take care of yourself, and know you’re important to me. I’ll be more proactive with the blog from now on; so much has happened in the last month, and we need to catch up.

Enjoy your day. Tell someone you love them. Complement a stranger. Hug someone. Laugh out loud. Live life as if this is the last day you have. And love yourself. See you soon.

MY YEAR WITHOUT FEAR……SO FAR

Things changed quickly almost immediately after my last overly-optimistic blog.

Once again, the settlement date got pushed back, but I decided to go ahead and start taking steps to get out into the world.  That, too, was a little overly-optimistic.  After five years of becoming a recluse, it wasn’t as easy as anticipated to walk out the door, sooooo…….

I signed up for the Writers’ Police Academy that’s put on by Sisters In Crime (SinC) in September. It’s an abbreviated police academy held at the Greensboro Police Academy and training facilities in North Carolina.  I’m really excited…..and it’s several months in advance so I have time to get my act together. There will be police car driving, breaking down doors, gun stuff, and a ton of forensics information to make the details of my writing more realistic and accurate. And I get a tee-shirt with “WRITER” on the back. What more could a girl want?

Step 2: While waiting to renew my drivers license at AAA, I struck up a conversation about traveling destinations with a gentleman that lasted about 45 minutes.  On the way out, I handed him my card. He didn’t call, but I hoped he wouldn’t.  The fact that I reached out and made myself vulnerable was the important part.  The truth is that after not having a date for five years, it would be kind of like a dog chasing a bus.  I’ve read that if you don’t find your husband in high school or college you’re probably never going to find him.  I should have paid more attention.

Step 3: In an especially optimistic moment, I signed up for the Our Time/Jewish Date website, thinking that maybe having a date or two would get me up and running…..but the next morning I was more lucid and cancelled the membership.  I’m not ready yet.

Step 4: Marketing my book hasn’t gone well — again, fear of being in public..I mean, once I get there, I’m fine. It’s getting there that’s wanky.  So, I did a trial sign-up with an author’s publicist. We’ll see how that goes. 

One of the obstacles is that my current “part-time” job is more work than any of my full-time house director jobs. The house needs a lot of maintenance, we’re planning on doing construction this summer, and I both grocery shop and cook for the girls twice a week.  But I’m using that as an excuse, and realize I’m allowing it to happen. When I went to Abbi’s to feed her cats last week, I took a very long side trip and went to sit by the ocean for awhile. Just long enough to have lunch, but it’s a start. Tomorrow, I’m going to see “42.” Sure, it’s only a movie….but it’s not in the house.

My biggest problem is no local friends to call and hang out. Go out to dinner. Hit a movie. Walk around a mall or spend a day at the beach like I used to do with my precious Laurel. I’d bask in the sun, and Laurel, the tiny sprite, would be in sweatshirt and jeans over her bathing suit, wrapped in a couple of blankets. But we always had a good time, followed by dinner and a cocktail before heading back to our respective sorority houses. I miss those days. We were never on the same campus again, and that’s a shame.

As soon as my blog is finished today, I’m calling West Virginia Vital Records to get a valid copy of my birth certificate. I need to get a passport under Hyman, but they will no longer accept my original birth certificate with the adorable footprints.  And while I’m sitting at the computer, I’ll rejoin Sisters In Crime, SoCal’s chapter of California Writers, at least the national Alpha Xi Delta alumna association, and Classmates.com.  (I’m also doing this to put off, once again, doing my expense report.  There may be something I hate worse than paperwork and math, but I’m not sure what it is.)

You know how much I’ve missed exercising, and in about 10 days, I’m going to do something pretty drastic in hopes it will help take the pressure off my back and legs.  I’ve always been a risk taker, which is strange since normal stuff seems to have me baffled now.

My life has rarely been either normal or boring. Sometimes, that would be nice.  But more often than not, it could be a country western song without the train, dog and rain. And that’s OK. I look at my friends whose lives haven’t changed much over the years, and in some ways wish my life had taken that turn…..but that wasn’t the deck the universe handed me. When I look back, several of the twists and turns were things over which I had no control.  Others were of my own making because I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around me.  I tend to be too trusting and believe the best in people – and it’s gotten me in trouble more than once.  That’s OK, too.

My life, with more twists and hair-pin turns than West Virginia roads has kept me on my toes and opened up adventures I never would have experienced otherwise.  There are so many things I want to do, and by sometime in May, I should be able to start doing them…..jump out of a perfectly good airplane, find a place to walk in a tank with sharks (the only one I’ve found so far is at Atlantis in the Bahamas), go on a singles’ cruise, mine for gems in North Carolina, spend time on east coast beaches, finish the thriller my agent wants redone, take Abbi and maybe a friend or her boyfriend to Hawaii to show her where she was born and swim with dolphins in the warm Hawaiian Pacific while we’re there.  That should take care of the next 12 months. We’ll see what happens after that.  I’d really, really, really love to find a way to get into the old City Hall  in New York City where the subway turns around, but there’s no longer a stop.  Hmmmmm. How could I pull that off………

At least on paper, I know how to get out of the house and start living. Now, I have to find a way to open the door and put the first foot outside. I promise that will happen, and you’ll be the first to know.

In the meantime, please take care of yourself. Leave the house and do something out of your comfort zone. Being comfortable can lead to being in a rut, and ruts become chasms.  Life should never be spent “content.”  It’s important to learn the difference between satisfied and content. I’m not in either state now, and once again, that’s a good thing. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be — right here, right now.

Remember, you’re never too old to wish upon a star. Dare to dream and live. Our job is to continue to embarrass our kids while we’re here and give them reasons to laugh once we’re gone. 

See you soon…….

A TIME OF RENEWAL — OR, CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last week’s ‘holiday’ season —

 

Pesach, the time when the Angel of Death passed over all the Jewish houses while wiping out the rest of the community.

Easter, the day Christians celebrate the Jesus rising from the dead.

 

Spring…..the time for new beginnings, budding flowers and trees, and the hope of things to come.

 

So here we are.  Besides having seders and Easter egg hunts, how are we renewing ourselves now?

I’ve never experienced so much hate flying through the air, and I grew up in West Virginia in the 50’s and 60’s when blacks were called the “N” word, and my high school didn’t have proms or parties because they might attend.

Half of our Congress is still hell-bent to derail anything that could help the country — jobs acts like we had “back then” — the WPA gave jobs to those who needed it while building and repairing the country’s infrastructure…would that be so bad? And voted down the Veterans Job Act that’s already funded — wouldn’t have cost us a cent…..and backs Big Oil that pollutes our water supply while refusing to support the conversion to clean energy (they seem to forget we only have so much air to breathe).

Our rivers and lakes are drying up. Marinas once filled with pleasure and live-aboard boats now are nothing but silt. My GPS tells me there’s a river beside the road I’m travelling, but there’s nothing but dry earth. The ice cap is melting – breaking off in chunks.  I just read that seven….SEVEN states in the Midwest are once again becoming a dust bowl. Ask anyone in Oklahoma. Yet, there’s no global warming? I know. It’s aliens swooping down at night and sucking up our water for their own planet. Right?

Our education system has slipped double digits down the list of those worldwide. Yet, our teachers are asked to take pay cuts. My daughter’s favorite teacher, and the school’s “teacher of the year” the previous year, had to quit teaching when he had his third child because he couldn’t afford to do what he loved. Even before that, he had to work at White Water in the summer to support his family.

And Facebook is filled with hate for our President and anything else that doesn’t fit into a personal agenda.  I got a post yesterday that someone “heard”  the crowd at the basketball arena where Obama was attending a playoff game “booed” him. I was watching. It sounded like cheering to me. When I commented that the cheering was also aired on CBS news, he said, “CBS lies.”

WHAT?

I don’t understand.

I did not vote for either Bush either time. But they were our sitting Presidents.  I couldn’t say the words, “President Bush,” out loud, and I may have posted some funny things, primarily because there was always good material, but I didn’t hate them. I didn’t bash them. I didn’t disrespect them.  I pride myself on being an Independent. I voted for Clinton both times and Obama both times…but I also voted for Reagan both times. He loved his country, believed in the welfare of all Her citizens (not just the wealthy), and wanted what was best for America. I’d probably vote for him again.

Is it because our President’s name is Barack Hussein Obama? Or is it because he’s, as they say in Hawaii, hapa-haoli? (half white) We’re all a little mixed up if you get right down to it. (And birthers, if you’d like to see my daughter’s birth certificate from Hawaii, it looks just like his….and I’m pretty sure I know where she was born.) If we have descendants from colonial days, there’s a real good chance we have more black blood in us than American Indian.

But, two times, the majority of the nation voted for him. Heck. Half the world voted for him last time. It was a massacre. Deal with it. He’s my President, your President, OUR President for another three years.  Would there be this much hate if Hillary had been elected? Or a white man? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

How can we blame the president for the horrible state things are in? He can only sign bills that show up on his desk. And he has to sign some bills into law that have clauses he disagrees with to accomplish something else. If you’re unhappy with the state of the nation, call your Congressman. Tell them you expect a full three months of work out of them. That’s what they’re scheduled to work this year. What business could run staying open three months a year?

It’s time to put our differences aside.

We need to get our people back to work — stop posting that some organization said America will never reach full employment under Obama. When was the last time America had full employment? I’m thinking it was back when everyone had to farm to survive. Don’t tell me it was during WWII – I’ve heard that too many times — I have a letter my Uncle John wrote to my mom while he was in the Navy telling her he was glad that she and my dad finally found jobs.

We need to make sure our veterans get the physical and mental medical,  immediate and ongoing care they need when they return from active duty, and that not one veteran is ever unemployed or homeless.  Did we learn nothing from Vietnam?

We need to rebuild our infrastructure. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. Our dams and levees are breaking under pressure.

We need programs for our youth so they have alternatives to the violence (and zombies) on TV and gangs. When I was growing up, mothers stayed home unless there was a family business, and then the kids showed up to work in the afternoon or the mom was home in time for their return from school. Now, the kids go home to an empty house. And they’re not practicing dancing to American Bandstand while holding onto a doorknob for a partner. They’re not out playing with their friends. They’re watching TV and playing video games. Alone.

We need to teach our youth self-respect and respect for others. I wonder how many of the children and teens who have murdered their classmates believed they were wanted, needed, loved, appreciated, and that they were valuable members of society. Or that their job was to leave the earth a better place than they found it.

We’ve got to get assault weapons off the street. The police are doing the best they can, but what stalwart American really needs to shoot and carve up a deer at the same time? Where’s the sport in that? I believe in the right to bear arms….but haven’t seen a well-ordered militia in quite awhile, and when there is one, it’s called a terrorist cell or we mow it down like the ones in Waco. And clips that hold 30- 100 rounds? Again, why do we need them? While the Shady Brook shooter was reloading, it’s reported that eleven kids were able to escape. Imagine if he’d had to reload every six shots. Or that his parent’s gun was locked up securely in the first place.

Any American who chooses to should be allowed guns to hunt (if it provides food), protect his/her family and property, and for sport. No foreign power in it’s right mind would put their feet on American soil because there are too many retired Marines and old ladies with arsenals.  They’d never make it through Oklahoma and Texas.

We need to teach our kids respect, morals, values, and to accept responsibilities for their own actions instead of bailing them out of every problem and encouraging their behavior by convincing themselves that it’s someone else’s fault. It’s the teacher’s fault if they get bad grades. If they slug someone, the other person must have thrown the first punch. If they get arrested, they were targeted because they were black/rich/in the wrong neighborhood/whatever. Parents call the university and get grades changes — so what if the kid forgot to go to class.The prof must not have been interesting.  Corporations have classes on how to deal with new graduates and their parents who call and fight their battles for them or ask for raises because their urchin is so valuable (I had one call me when I was employing sales reps to reprimand me for not letting his 22-year old Oklahoma State grad with way too much Delta Chi in him, go on spring break with his friends).

The world has gone nuts. Our tv shows are filled with serial killers, zombies and the walking dead. What happened to Peter Gunn, Mike Hammer, The Twilight Zone?  We know bad things happened, but we didn’t need to see pools of blood oozing from under bodies. Most of the shows now are unscripted, reality pieces of crap, because they’re cheaper to produce. Who needs a plot line or script when women who are seemingly wealthy and of class will tear each other’s extensions out with no provocation?

I’m tired of being “unfriended” on Facebook and I’m tired of “unfriending” people I care about because of conflicting views and the abusive, snarky comments that go with them.  It’s more fun to go to a bar, have a drink, and hold an intelligent conversation about differences of opinion. There’s good food, good booze, and everyone comes out with something to think about.  In the end, we all want the same thing, but have different ideas of how to get there.

Where do we go from here? Hell if I know. But what I can do is stop responding when someone puts up a post that is unfounded, partisan, or cruel. By not responding, at least I’m not adding fuel to the fire.  I can’t promise I won’t post ironic or funny things, and I’m going to try to stay out of the political arena completely — but not those about our environment or educational system. I’m going to spend less time on Facebook and more time living my life. I’ve lost too many friends to not know that life is precious — every second of it. Every second I spend doing one thing is a second I can’t spend investing in something else. I will use my time more wisely.  I will let everyone I know understand that they are appreciated. And those I love will know it. “My” girls will be told on a regular basis how amazing they are, and that they can change their worlds. Of my first 22 seniors, there are half a dozen attorneys, two who just finished medical residence programs, one who has a Masters and now an MD in Public Health, two Naval officers, some teachers, an MBA, a small-business owner, a model, and a nanny. I couldn’t be more proud.

What can you do? Walk up to someone wearing a military hat and thank him for his service. Don’t just leave a tip, write a note thanking a waitress for good service. Tell someone you like their hair, or dress, or smile. Tell someone you love them. Hug someone. Buy a meal for a homeless person. Let someone know you believe in them. Pay the toll for the person behind you. Show up for beach clean-up day. Live life like it’s the only one you have…..because…..it is.

So, for now, be careful out there. You’re important to me.

 

 

CONFESSION……

As you know, my life rarely goes as planned. In ways, this is exciting. In others, it’s a pain in the ass. We are currently in “pain in the ass.”

The newest is related to one of my last posts. I had just talked to my attorney, faxed the settlement papers for my 5-year, 2-month old case regarding my assault on December 7, 2007.  He had told me to cancel all doctors’ appointments after that date, that I would have to pay for my prescriptions and any medical care, and that my permanent disability checks would no longer show up bi-weekly.  As has happened so many times in the last five years, it seems I “misunderstood” this information and he “never would have told me these things,” along with the fact that I would have my checks by February 3, or they would be liable for interest and penalties.  I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person who processes and retains information, but had gotten to the point of writing down all information from our phone conversations. Even with the written back-up, he insisted I had “misunderstood.”

The reality is that I a) cancelled all my doctors’ appointments, including one that would have finally replaced the tooth that was destroyed in the assault, and which Medicare won’t cover, b) assumed checks has ceased, and c) expected to pay for my prescriptions after the January 3 date.  I was counting the days until February 3, when I could finally go on with my life without ever having to talk to attorneys or workers’ comp representatives again, and I could move out of California if I should so choose.

Silly me.

On January 20 I went to pick up my prescriptions to find there was no charge. They were covered.  I freaked out and called Abbi (still use her address as my permanent address because I never know where I’m going to be), and she was still getting the permanent disability checks.  Then, I called my attorney’s office.  Of course, he was off at a 4-day seminar. His assistant looked into my file to find that no “order” ha been filed and that no settlement existed.  And realized that if I hadn’t gone to pick up my prescriptions, I would have been calling my attorney on February 3 to find out where my checks were, only to find that they hadn’t checked up on my case since sending it to opposing counsel.

My attorney finally got back to me 7 days later. He had expected opposing counsel to sign the papers, get a judge to sign off on the agreement, and file the order.  Do his job for him.  That hadn’t happened, but again, he had no clue. After making a couple of phone calls he discovered the other attorney didn’t get around to signing the agreement until after I called to check on the case. The other guy finally signed the papers on January 21. More “fiddle-farting” ensued, and the case was finally taken to the judge and assigned an order on February 5. Now, my checks should be here by March 5. In that time, I could have gone to my pain management doctor and gotten the tooth replaced. Now, it won’t happen.

After that final conversation, my head went directly up my butt without passing Go or collecting $200.  As a matter of fact, I found that somewhere along the line I had lost a $10,000 voucher to purchase new computer equipment and pay for classes, and the $5000 we had asked for to replace the tooth Medicare wouldn’t cover.

With no one locally to talk to, meet for a drink, kick me in the rear (thus, removing my head from its new position), I sank into a very deep hole. And have been there ever since. Once again, I was alone and impotent.

Moving around over the last 6 years, my Bay area friends have slipped from ‘friend’ to ‘acquaintenance’ to ‘I used to know her’ status. And they’re too far away to meet for drinks anyway. The other friends who could have supported me were in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City/Houston, and Oklahoma City. Abbi’s boyfriend has moved here from Australia, her LA Dollhouse is doing really well, and she’s started another business.  I understand why Abbi can’t drop everything and be here in 45 minutes (to two hours, depending on traffic). Meanwhile, I have to be cheery, supportive and mommy-esque for my new 17 girls…..which does help when it’s happening.

So…..the nights of sleep I was finally getting stopped, and I’d reverted to lying on the couch all day watching NCIS or Criminal Minds marathons — neither uplifting.

Last week I got mad at myself and while out running errands, purchased a pair of walking shoes. My old ones were about 7 and 6 years old, respectively, and had worn out their usefulness. I also decided I was tired of being afraid of everything and decided to paint my living room, which was the most disguesting, depressive shade of dark grey/blue paint I’ve ever seen. I made myself get up on a ladder and do the painting myself — fighting my fear of falling and re-injuring my neck or back.  Two walls down, several to go. It’s a lot slower going…used to be able to paint a couple of rooms by myself in a day, and this time it took almost two days to paint two walls. I’ll start again after this ptome is finished. I’m also planning a couple of vacations. I’ve offered to send Abbi and Brett away for her birthday in March, but haven’t heard back from her. If she doesn’t give me a destination pretty quickly, I’ll spend the money on myself. This morning, I put on my big-girl panties and new walking shoes and trodded the .02 miles up and .02 miles back to get iced tea at the closest fast food place.  Yesterday, I went through a stack of papers and addressed some long-ignored issues. It’s a start.

My biggest problem is that I’m freaking lonely. I almost went to the California Writers’ Conference in San Diego this weekend, but didn’t think I was ready for four days of human contact with (mostly) people I don’t know. However, next week I’ll go online and join Southern California Writers, and maybe Sisters in Crime. I’ll rejoin my sorority’s national alumnae association and look for a local chapter. I’ve got to make myself leave the house and take steps to restart my life, no matter how painful.  Thoughts for how to begin the rewrite of the thriller an agent is interested in are floating through my mine, and I need to reread the original to remind myself of back-story. He’s one of the best agents in the country, and the fact that he was so interested in my project the first time, he took his time to send me a lengthy hand-written letter telling me what he liked, how strong my writing was, and what I could do to improve it. Then, he put it in his business envelope and added a real stamp. Agents don’t do that anymore — it’s 2″ rejection form slips of paper in self-addressed envelopes or e-mails.  The bottom line is that I’m not sure whether I’m afraid of failure or success. Guess it’s time to find out.

So, now I need to climb the ladder again and get some more wall-space painted and furniture back in place so my newest “home” starts to form. I still haven’t unpacked the suitcase from my “world tour,” and my bathing suit is in there. The ocean is calling.

The newest version of my check should be here by March 5. I’m not holding my breath or counting down days anymore. It will arrive when it arrives. And I’ll be glad to get it. And I’ll be pissed at the things that should have been in it that my attorney gave away. But it will be over. Before that date, I plan on taking steps to begin the transition into my new life, wherever that leads.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear the phone ring, so call if you get the chance.  If you’re close, I’d love to meet you for a drink and some laughter. And if you don’t watch out, once again you’ll be in jeapordy of having me show up on your doorstep. What I would have given to be in Myrtle Beach yesterday for the snow — to play on the beach and make sand angels with snow falling. Catch snow flakes on my tongue. Hell. I even want to learn to cry again. Maybe if laughing finds its way into my life, crying will follow.

So as usual, you’re going on an adventure with me. Wish you were here. I could use company with people who care.

I know — I promised an update on Sophie and a blog on Pie Night. They’re coming. I need to get my blog back up and running, too. But felt this should come first.

Until next time, please take care of yourself.  Far away or close, you’re important to me.

I HATE WET CHEESE

It  was time to make food for the girls, and for some reason broccoli-cheese soup sounded good. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my favorite cookbook in my unpacking (still doing so), and had to rely in AllRecipes.com. Scrolled through about a dozen recipes and found the one that was closest to mine, went shopping, and started cooking.

One of the things I’m enjoying about this gig is getting to cook a couple of times a week, and this day was no exception. My body and heart hit the kitchen and started throwing things together; the girls got excited when the smells started to waft upstairs and started to pour into the kitchen to see what was going on. All of them were excited about my decision to make soup.

I thought back to friends of mine back in Oklahoma City who own a beautiful home on Wysteria Drive (yup, Wysteria Drive) in Gallardia. Dorothy doesn’t cook, and the kitchen was only added to the house for resale value. There’s never anything in the freezer or refrigerator, and the oven has never been used. They eat at the country club every single night. Over the years, I’ve thought about how sad it is that Dorothy has never experiened the joy of feeling the wooshy dough of a homemade bread between her fingers or the satisfaction of beating the hell out of it and calling it “kneading,” or experiencing the smells of food filling the house and bringing bodies into the kitchen to check out her creations. I’ve always felt that the kitchen of a home is the real living room. No matter how formal the party, people seem to end up congregating in the kitchen and snapping up samples as they’re being completed. And my mind went back to the years when Abbi’s friends (sometimes up to 30 at a time) spent weekends at the house “helping” me cook and bake. There are still kids who would walk into my home and ask me to fix them a baked potato with cheese and bacon. I miss those days, and having this small house of 17 brings that back in a small way.  These aren’t “my” kids, but they’re kids, and I’m able to create a home away from home for them.

Back to the kitchen and the broccoli-cheese soup.

The roux was made, the ingredients were doing their thing, and the experimental tasting began.  The broth, onions I’d sweated, half & half and the required pound of cheese were melted together and I took my first sample. And immediately grabbed a Coke to get the taste and feel out of my mouth. There may be nothing worse than relatively cold, wet, melting cheese. Even the texture was repulsive. At that moment, I remembered why I never order broccoli-cheese soup, even though it always sounds really good.

I’m funny about food. I’m big on using all the senses, but texture is at the top of the list of priorities. And appearance.

Lentil soup is out of the question. Green and wet aren’t going to happen. Can’t eat tomato soup — red should stay solid. Tomatoes should be sliced or at least there should be visible chunks in pasta sauce or vegetable soup, but totally liquid red — can’t get past it. And mushroom soup? That yucky brown color coupled with squishy diced mushrooms pretty much puts my appetite into a tail spin.

I’m a taco fan because you’ve got your crunchy, cheesy and veggie food groups with a touch of heat from the sauce. Now, that’s real food. I’m big on the crunchy food group. I like my veggies sauteed or grilled with a little bite to them, and my pasta al dente. A little “under the tooth.”

Both Mexican and Italian lasagnas work, as well as most other Mexican and Italian dishes, even without the crunchy food group, because the squishy food group is good, too. You’ve got your meat, textured tomatoes in the sauce, beans (Mex) or veggies  (Italian), either pasta noodles or tortillas for added texture, and lots of gooey, hot, bubbly cheese — sometimes, even crunch around the sides and brown and crispy on the top if it’s been put under a broiler for a few minutes. There’s nothing like the crunchy cheese around a good grilled cheese sandwich. But wet cheese? Yuk. Double Yuk. Bad dream Yuk.

I love a good Italian Sausage soup. Lots of veggies, some carbs, I use soy protein crumbles instead of meat (higher in protein, low in fat, and tastes the same as meat when cooked in a sauce) and plenty of spinach to add color, flavor and iron for the girls who don’t know how to take care of themselves in the food category.

I’m lucky at this house. No gluten-free/lactose-intolerant, semi-Kosher, walnut/avocado/blueberry allergies, vegetarians and vegans. OK, I’ve got one Pescatarian (but she’s recently converted, so I don’t think it will last long.) These are “throw food at us and we’re good to go,” girls. I’m free to create as I choose. And since the last house director put out chips and dip for dinner, they’re thrilled to have anything that resembles real food.

And chili….what more could a girl ask for? Lots of chunky tomato base, kidney/chili/black beans, some corn, lots of spices and crunchy corn bread filled with corn and jalapenos. Good stuff.

And back to cheese. I love it cooked, on sandwiches, in fondues, in casseroles where it’s cooked and has a texture to it, but that one taste of not-yet hot, wet, slimy soup is more than I could take.

SO, I did what any self-respecting texture/taste/sight eater would do — added another two pounds of cheese and some potato flakes to add body to the wet mass that refused to thicken. With a can of High-Octane Coke to buffer the taste, I sampled it a couple more time — but never without the back-up to erase the taste/texture.

The girls are still eating it (I make enough for them to eat for a couple of days and take to work with them), and telling me how great it is, but I can’t get through that first repulsive taste to scoop it out of the pan, nuke it and eat it.

But the upside is that my 17 new charges are happy to have homemade food, one of their vegetarian boyfriends comes over from time to time when he knows I’ve made chili or something else with the soy based protein,they take pictures of my food to send to friends in the other sororities on campus, and I get my fix on cooking, baking, spoiling, and being more a “mom” than I could be in houses with chefs who viewed even my pie nights as an intrusion on their territory.

On this Sunday morning, my baby girls are eating lunch from a fully-stockied kitchen along with their broccoli-cheese soup and are happy as little clams.

Me? I’m headed to Del Taco for a couple of tacos and a High-Octane Coke.

More this week — an update on Sophie and one on me.

Until then, be careful out there. You’re important to me.

 

 

IT’S OVER ……. IT BEGINS

Most of you know what’s been going on in my life, but for those who don’t, here’s the Revised Standard Version.

On December 7, 2007, I was slugged by a collegiate rugby player who didn’t like the idea that I wanted his mean, drunk ass out of my first sorority house at 1:30 in the morning. That moment changed my life.

I had been training for a marathon, and could no longer walk a block. My mind was foggy. I became emotionally bankrupt. Over the last five years, I’ve been held prisoner by a workers compensation system that’s about as functional as our Congress.

It was impossible to take a job out of California or even leave for an extended period of time because there might be a hearing and I’d have to be in northern California on a moment’s notice. On my “world tour,” I couldn’t go farther than Oklahoma because we were expecting a settlement by the end of August and I might have to get back.

During that five years I didn’t receive one day of physical therapy, but I couldn’t get my own medical treatment because they could say it countermanded their treatment, and I’ve been terrified to exercise for fear of reinjuring already demolished areas of my body. That’s enough. You get the idea. Pete Thatcher tells me I’m on a pity party, but that’s not the case. Given the choice of confronting that entitled punk to keep him from throwing my girls around like ragdolls or hiding in my apartment, I would make the same choice. And as far as pity party, I think I’ve handled this situation and everything it’s thrown at me about as well as anyone else could.

But that was then, and this is now.

1/3/13 Was NOT an unlucky day for me.

My attorney called on December 23 to tell me we had a settlement offer. About three years ago, I came up with a number, and their initial offer was higher. Not a hell-of-a-lot higher, but enough that rather than go to a hearing on February 12, and hope for a settlement then. If that didn’t happen, we would have had to set a court date and this thing would have gone on even longer. I agreed to the initial offer. Period. End of story.

He was leaving for the holidays and would be back the 2nd, but would keep checking his e-mails and work with opposing counsel to get the thing finalized by the end of the year.  That came and went, and I heard nothing.  On January 2, I e-mailed him and asked if we had heard anything; found that he hadn’t, and figured they were just playing us to see how low we’d go. Called Abbi and told her I was ready to go to the hearing, and call their bluff, but……

Yesterday at 8:30am, earlier than Jeff is usually in the office, he called to say he had settlement papers in his hand. Long story short (I know, too late),

Five years

Seven Days

Seventeen Hours

and Two Minutes after Ross Kilroy slugged me, I faxed my signed and witnessed paperwork back to Jeff. It is over.

I guess the process from here is that my attorney adds his signature, sends the paperwork to their attorney, then the papers go somewhere back east, and if there are no glitches (it is the government, after all, and if NASCAR didn’t get enough money, I may have to pony up something), a check will come from somewhere else.  They have 30 days to get that check to me. So, by February 5th, if I don’t have two checks in my hand (one for settlement, one for future medical), they owe me another 10%.

It was what happened after that fax left that hit me. What now? I’ve waited five long years for this moment. What now? My mind went blank.

I went to see “Jack Reacher,” based on One Shot by Lee Child (and if you haven’t discovered Lee Child yet, you need to quickly). Ate popcorn. Let my mind go blank. When the movie was over, I went back to the car, put the top down, and called Laurel.

Laurel and I met at a house directors’ meeting in Seattle about six months after my assault. She was taking a house at USC, and so was I. Within a couple of months, we were on the same campus and getting together whenever possible. It was like we’d known each other forever. Of everyone I know, she’s been with me throughout the whole process. It was Laurel who allowed me to live in her lovely condo in Vegas from March through May.

She picked up the phone, I said, “It’s over,” and started crying. In the last two years, I had cried exactly two times: when Hollywood died, and when Baby Kitty died. I’ve worked so hard at keeping it together and staying strong, that I’ve lost the ability to feel, and yesterday, for a brief few minutes it came back. It’s a start. Not that I’m going to go out looking for reasons to cry, but it felt good to know it could happen again.

Over the years, I’ve become a recluse. Two summers ago I tried to have my “coming out” party with the CHS Beach Babes, but that didn’t turn out well. First, I signed up because I wanted to get to know Lynn Crislip better (a newly-found sorority sister), and see both Lynn Tincher and Margi Moses, who had attended the first get-together. What I got was a house full of women I didn’t know.

I’m not the same person who left Charleston, WV in ’69. I’ve lived all over the world, experienced different cultures and have a different perspective that those who have been married to the same man since right after high school graduation or who have stayed in Charleston or moved to South Carolina and live close enough  that they socialize on a regular basis. Until Facebook, I hadn’t talked to anyone from CHS since I skipped town. Forty years. I was kicked off the island and not invited back. And that’s OK. But the trip didn’t accomplish the anticipated goal, which was to get me out of the house and — well — get a life.

My NorCal friends are now more like acquaintances — I mean, it’s been four years since I’ve been to a Sisters in Crime meeting or hung out at Book Passage. And I haven’t lived anywhere long enough since then to get close to anyone. Not like before — I used to always have a bunch of friends I could call to meet for drinks, or go to a movie or just hang out. I need that again.

And writing. I haven’t written anything new for at least a year. My hands hit the keyboard, and my mind works for awhile, but a couple of chapters later, I’m blank. I can see who the characters are, know where the scenes are supposed to go, and even see the ending. But I can’t get there. Have three projects and God only knows how many short stories started, but…….

Adventure? I was the gutsy gal who, at 20, threw everything she owned into a Fiat 850 Spyder with $300 in her checking account and started over in Columbus, Ohio. Who swam out into the ocean until she couldn’t see land and let the waves pull her back in. My one attempt at getting that back was zip lining at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, which should have been thrilling. It’s the longest, steepest zip line in the country – 2/3 of a mile, and you get up to 60 mph flying on a piece of wire.  I didn’t feel a thing. Again, no affect. God, I want to feel again.

Dating? If you read my book, you’ll understand why that hasn’t happened. First of all, I haven’t met anyone interesting, and second, my one attempt was so hysterical that when Peggy read it she laughed so loud it woke me up. I used to be a really interesting person. Now, I have to find that person again. The one whose emphasis isn’t on survival or fighting with a system that makes no sense. I want to meet my Sigma Nu.

And here we are ….. 5:15pm on January 4. This has taken all day to write.

Woke up this morning, made a couple of phone calls, laid back down with Sophie, and didn’t get out of bed (or, mattress & sleeping bag…but that’s about to change) until after 3pm.

It feels like the weight of the world is off my shoulders, even though the settlement monies aren’t here yet. I can breathe.

I’m so happy in my mini-house-mom job in Fullerton. Granted, it’s part-time. But the board is supportive, the girls are thrilled to have someone who cares that their needs are met, and things are slowly getting done. I won’t be leaving, assuming they want me to stay, for a very long time. They understand that I write. They have no problem with me being gone a couple of days for a book signing….or to just get away…and I may do just that. I feel the ocean calling for me and it might be a good idea to spend a couple of days at the beach.

The rest? Laurel suggested taking some time to decompress. And take baby steps. That makes sense. Wouldn’t know how to jump into a new life anyway.

Know I want to go mining for gems in North Carolina. Know I want to take a “world tour” where there are no restrictions, and may take some time this summer to do just that. There’s a lot of world I haven’t seen yet, and I hear Delta’s ready when I am.

I know one thing. I’ve set a goal for something I want to do on my one-year anniversary next January 3. I’ve only shared that with Laurel; Abbi knows about it, but not a goal date.

But today starts my Year Without Fear. Steps I take may seem miniscule to you, but they’ll be monumental to me. And I’m inviting you to join me on this new leg of my life. During that year, my goal is to step out of my (dis)comfort zones and take some chances. Turn my life into an adventure again. Make Abbi as proud of me as I am of her. And make up for lost time.

So, don’t be surprised if I call you someday and say, “Why don’t we_____________?”

Blogs will be more frequent, because I’m including you in my life. Wherever it leads. And I hope you’ll laugh, cry, and maybe even gasp with me along the way.

Today’s first step was putting my life …. and my heart ….out there for the world to see. That in itself is a risk, but that’s part of the gameplan. So we’ll see what tomorrow brings.  Heck, I may even get my hair cut.

Until next time, take care of yourself. Love freely. Call a friend and appreciate you have someone who wants to walk around a mall or share a drink with you. Walk up to a veteran and thank them for their service. Volunteer with an organization that needs you. Mentor a kid. Dance like no one is watching. And be careful out there. I need you. And maybe, just a little bit, you’ll need me.

 

 

 

ON SOUNDS, AMY (THE SIG KAP GHOST) AND CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

It took awhile, but I realized there was a sound in my apartment that I left out in my last post.  When someone flushes the toilet upstairs, it sounds like there’s a waterfall in my living room closet. It’s so loud, it drowns out conversations and the tv. But that’s OK. I really love waterfalls. And I shouldn’t be watching tv anyway……

And Amy has allowed me into her life. Or, she’s having fun with mine. Maybe both.

At first, I didn’t realize it was Amy…thought someone was in the kitchen in the middle of the night rattling pots and pans. I got up, went to the kitchen, and no one was there…..then, I heard high heels clacking on the tile floor above me and figured someone moved faster than this old fart who had to put on clothes to leave the apartment. But the second, third and fourth time, it became obvious she was laughing at me.

And then there’s the thermostat. Ours don’t have locked covers, so the girls are always changing them. If they get a little chilly, they turn the thermostat up to what I call “Desert Summer,” and the three vents in my tiny apartment turn it into a sauna.

Those of you who know me are laughing, because you know I prefer fresh air even when it’s 104 degrees in Oklahoma or -20 degrees in, well, Oklahoma. I always have a window cracked, and usually keep the vents closed or covered so at least my bedroom has natural air.

(I’m not sure how Abbi and I got in the same family. I like fresh air, and would rather put a dozen blankets on top of me — or in the days of my no-heater-waterbed, a dozen under and over me — to stay warm and cozy. She blasts the heater and sleeps under a single duvet-covered featherbed.)

Anyway, in the middle of the night I realize I’m sweating and know in my heart of hearts that one of my Baby Girls’ body temps has dipped below 70 degrees, and she’s decided to blast the heat on the first floor and into my apartment. So, over and over again I get up in the middle of the night, put on a xxxl shirt that goes down to my knees, and head for the thermostat outside the 2-girl room……only to find that every single time, the temperature is 68 degrees and the heat is not on. Nice, Amy. Got me again….about four times so far.  I have the contractors coming out next week to put a locking cover on both the up and downstairs thermostats so first of all, the girls will have to leave the thermostat alone, and second, so I can laugh at Amy in the middle of the night. 

Most sorority houses are haunted. Some of the girls think it’s creepy until I explain to them that this is a sister who loved living in the house so much she doesn’t ever want to leave. Then, a light goes on in their eyes and they get it. Think it’s kind of cool. I’m trying to decide who I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night after I’m gone. I’d prefer to be a playful ghost, but haunting Ross Kilroy and driving girls out of his apartment in the middle of the night sounds like a good way to continue my community service. I’ll probably end up somewhere fun instead.

And now, for Christmas memories. These are in no particular order, but you know how my mind jump-shifts.

My dad was a special delivery postman. Our Christmas’ started at about 5am, because dad had to go to the airport to meet the first plane of the day, pick up the special delivery packages and deliver them. Yup. Just any old special delivery package got hand delivered on Christmas day. We’d open our presents, dad would go to work, and we’d go back to bed. Those mornings seemed especially magical because the only lights on anywhere were on the Christmas tree. The rest of the world was still asleep, and our little family was all that existed.

Years later when Bill and I were in Hawaii, my brother would call me from West Virginia when they got up. Of course, it was the middle of the night on Apoepoe Street in Pacific Palisades, but we knew we’d pick up the phone and hear, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Crithmas.” (My brother, Bill lisps.) I guess he was getting back at me for spoiling my beautiful niece, Michelle — maybe it was the 4-foot frog he had to lug around for her —

Growing up “Fidler” meant Thanksgivings at my Aunt Jane & Uncle John’s in Summersville and Christmas-afternoon dinners after dad got off work at Uncle Frank and Aunt Leo’s on Lee Street in Charleston. We’d all dress up, head down town with mom’s world-renowned fruit cake (because it had been basted and injected with the Apple Jack Brandy mom had someone else at the Board of Education where she worked go to the State Store because she wouldn’t be seen with liquor.) Uncle Frank always sat at the head of the table, and Hank sat at the other end. Hank always claimed the drumstick, and no one else dared touch them until he got his first. And we’d dig for the wishbone to hang over a kitchen spigot to dry out.

After dinner, Aunt Leo always wanted to get aound the piano and sing — and her high notes on “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” a mandatory staple, could shatter windows for blocks.  Mary Edith (Deeda), Hank and I would head to the attic that was Hank’s room and hide. Talk forever. We’d walk around the neighborhood checking our friends’ Christmas trees and Channukah bushes, and try to avoid the inevitable. When Deeda was old enough to drive, we’d head to Shoney’s or KFC in Kanawha City to meet up with friends who were also avoiding family get-togethers, but it never failed. No matter how long stayed away, we’d always return to hear Aunt Leo’s abrasive voice exclaim, “We’ve been waiting for you.” Then, on cue, mom would sit down at the piano and the singing would ensue. If you could call it that.

The last Christmas dad was with us, he gave me a bracelet made of nickels that I’d seen at a shop one of his fellow postmen owned. I’d asked for it then, and he’d turned me down. Told me later than it had been sold. Opening that box was so thrilling.

Uncle Frank had a video camera then, and that last Christmas is memorialized.

Some of my favorite memories are around singing — a trio with Mary Ellen Wellman & Prissy Lore to “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” at the Charleston High School’s Christmas chorus concert, and being chosen as the soloist for the Concord College Winter Ball to perform with the Concord Commanders (big-band type group) , with  “Christmas Song.” Every time I hear “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, it brings a smile to my heart and the words come flying out of my mouth — in the middle of the supermarket, at The Grove yesterday, it doesn’t matter. That song will forever be a part of me.  Even after soloing with symphonies, performing in operas, and singing at clubs, those memories of my musical history are the fondest.

Abbi’s first Christmas in Hawaii was predictable.  She couldn’t understand why the sand on the beach was different from the watered-down sand in the bucket that held the Christmas tree, because by the time the trees got to Honolulu from Oregon they were already on their way to death’s door. That made for some interesting interactions. And of course, we had a new kitten who was learning to climb, and we’d discover little eyes peering at us from the middle of the tree.

Abbi had gifts from all over the place — my four best friends had 11 boys between them. Abbi was their little girl. She had enough lace and ruffles that we didn’t buy clothes for her until we got to the mainland three years later. But like any one-year old, she could have cared less about the toys and clothes and turned the boxes into places of magic.

She was about 3 years old when she announced to Bill and Me that, “These didn’t come from Santa, did they? You guys bought this stuff.” She never believed, and was freaked out by the first jolly old elf she encountered to the point that her pix is over Bill’s shoulder with Santa trying to get her to accept the gift we’d wrapped for her to receive at the Officer’s Club Christmas Party.   We told her not to ruin it for the rest of the kids.

Once I left Bill, things changed. There were years when he had custody of her for the holidays, and I spent those days eating grilled cheese sandwiches, watching football, and beginning work on taxes.

Then, she started in gymastics, and we’d always have a meet the next day. Once she abandoned that sport and went into competitive cheerleading, we’d leave the night of the 25th or morning of the 26th for Dallas and a week-long  NCA/NDA National Cheerleading Championships with her All-Star gym. She’d compete with a dance squad, cheer squad (or two), a Captain’s dance, and a couple of solos. First, there were the preliminaries, then the finals.  All she’d do for a week was change clothes. After awhile we decided there was no reason to put up a tree that would have be taken down the minute we returned, so we put up a wooden reindeer and 4′ tall Santa & Mrs. Clause to surround with presents. Her competitive squads were her extended family, and our times with them were special.

Now, she’s all grown up. We try to do something special each year– our first in California we rented a house on Newport Beach. The second, we spent aboard The Queen Mary. After that, she’d come to my place or I’d go to hers to cook. Abbi isn’t into turkey, but she endures it for Christmas. As long as I bake her banana nut bread and pumpkin pie.

This year is different on so many levels.  No matter how tough things got, we always had a special Christmas with special gifts. This year, after no paycheck for 8 months and the expenses of the 8-month world tour, we’ve decided to forego presents until after I receive my settlement that should come sometime between next week and mid-January.  We’re operating under the premise that Santa is in a coma or was shot down by an NRA spokesman. It’s also different because her boyfriend has moved here from Australia. Brett is a rare gem. Abbi is heading into a new life. And that’s exciting.

Within a few weeks, I’ll finally have my life back in my own hands. That brings a whole new set of issues, because I haven’t been in control of my own fate for over 5 years, and I’m not sure what to do. In a way, it scares me.

I want to travel. Go mining for gems in North Carolina. Swim with dolphins. Visit Gibralter (I know. Not on the top of many go-to lists.) Go on a cruise, or several. I’m at home on the ocean.  And there are three writing projects fighting for attention in my brain. We’ll see which one or two jump to the forefront. I have a couple of friends who write two books a year — while one is being edited, the other is being written. I’m hoping my mind will work well enough to do that, because I’m in love with all three of the projects.

I’m looking forward to having my head on straight enough to start marketing Diary of a Sorority House Mom. My head has been so into survival for the last year that I haven’t even sent the press release to my sorority’s quarterly magazine. It’s time.

And I’m looking forward to next Christmas. And the year between now and then. So many decisions to make. So much living to make up for. So many new discoveries. Who is Ann Hyman….and why is she on this planet?

The thing I’ve missed most over the last 8 months is being able to give back. I want so badly to contribute to Kristie Sullen’s “Save an Angel” foundation that rescues dogs, nurses them back to health and finds them furever homes, and Mary Arbuckle’s “Other Options” that helps AIDS patients and their families. I wasn’t able to adopt a family this year, and it breaks my heart. I’ll make it up to both of them. And I want to find a Veterans group to help. There’s got to be a way to find these men and women jobs and homes. I want to be a part of that.

And rejoining my writing groups — Sisters in Crime (SinC), Mystery Writers of America, So Cal Writers, as well as my Alpha Xi Delta alumna association. Time to leave the house and learn to connect with human beings again.

But for this year, Abbi & Brett will be coming to Fullerton for their first Christmas together and have a tradional dinner with mom. It brings back memories of all those years Bill and I opened our home to all the single Air Force officers and I’d make enough so each could take some leftovers home.

Even in bad/sad/lonely times, Christmas is special. It brings out the magic in life, and I’m all about magic. And happy endings. And even love at first sight…..maybe this year, that dream will come true, too. We’ll see.

And until next time, “May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas’s be white (but not the blizzardy, ice-storm kind)”. And stay safe out there. You’re important to me.

 

 

 

THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY OWN LIFE

I’ve talked about this before, but Abbi introduced me to a punk rock band, Kill the Complex, in the fall of 2006, and I am their oldest groupie.  Their lyricist, Dann, captured my heart when he wrote SOUNDTRACK. It haunts me. It fills my heart. It resonates in my soul.  For so many reasons.   Check out their website — order their CD’s — but look for their old Butane CD. If it’s not still available, e-mail them and ask where you can get it. I have the whole thing memorized and sing their songs at the most inappropriate times.

Today we’re going to talk about a different type of soundtrack — the soundtracks that I’ve lived in for the last 6 years.

College campuses are a different phenomenon. The sounds of frat parties, ambulances and police cars, every possible form of music, giggling, and travelling parties fill the air. And I’ve learned the only time I can sleep through the night — even every now and then — is when I’m surrounded by a cacophony.

My newest digs are in Fullerton, Calif. It’s a totally different type of campus. The houses are small — they hold 15 – 20 girls; usually the officers. And the houses aren’t close to each other. They’re flung all around the university in no rational pattern, and all in residential neighborhoods. I understand that the frats have a “row,” but it’s nothing like The Row at USC. Nothing compares to The Row at USC. Every sorority and fraternity on campus is on 28th Street. Enough said.

As a matter of fact, my current house is so far from campus that they have to drive to classes. Nothing is in walking distance, which is also different. Usually, there’s a coffee shop or something — but I have to scope out some other areas in hopes of finding a fast food restaurant or a 7-11 within walking distance so I can get my morning Coke. You know how important that is to me. Without a good, strong fountain Coke in the morning, my evil twin could come out. But don’t worry. My Coke and Butterfinger diet is not making a comeback.

The funny thing for me is the variety of noises that are new in my life, and where they come from — or the mystery of where they originate.

We’re in a residential neighborhood, and within a couple of houses behind us someone has a dog that is either barking really loud, whining, or crying. I want to find the house and slap the owners. It reminds me of Hawaii where people bought dogs just to bark. They’d chain them to a tree or post with just enough leeway to reach the front and back doors. One day a dog showed up at our gate. Tail wagging, tongue lapping, so excited he was about to pee. One ear up; one ear down — looked like an Aussie hat.

He’d literally broken a very large chain-link metal “leash” around his neck to escape. We took him in and named him Israel, because he was delivered out of bondage. Of course, he had to have a less serious name, too. It was “Hairy Puppins.”

He was so protective of Abbi — Guarded her baby crib and would only let Bill or me get near her. He also kept burglars companies while they stole all my jewelry and our money. Heck. He was probably licking their hands. Being a barking-back-yard-alarm-system guard dog was not his calling.

We had to leave him when we rotated out of Hawaii because we were going to be on the road for two months. But we found him a good home where he’ll never have a metal collar again.

This behind-my-house dog is sad. That makes me irate. His whining and crying make it difficult for me to sleep. Or be awake. You know me. Eventually a phone call or visit is imminent. I don’t put up with people abusing children or animals.

And of course, my house is haunted. Her name is Amy. She hangs out in the girl’s kitchen. Every now and then, I hear noises coming from that area when no one is around. Though she hasn’t introduced herself yet, I have high hopes. I still miss Katie Horn and wish she’s leave the AChiO house in San Diego and come live with me. She was the best ghost ever.

Every now and then, a buzzer-like sound comes out of God knows where. Sometimes it’s in multiples and others, it’s just once. I’ve tried tracking it down, but to no avail. It sounds just like the buzzers on TV game shows — eeeeeeee.  eeeeeeeee. (That’s e like in “every,” not a long e.) I’m going to find it. It reminds me of the beeper that used to go off in the hallway at my first house. Dana Samuel was so obsessed with it that she’d sit in the hallway waiting for it to go off. Eventually, I’d sit and join her. It took us a week to find that it was a fire alarm with a dying battery.

But that was a predictable “beep.” Not a non-descript “eeeeeee.” I must find it. I must.  The girls don’t have a clue either — but they say it’s been here for as long as they can remember. Heck, maybe it’s Amy. Just can’t figure out what she’s trying to say with it.

And there’s the washing machine. Every time someone is doing laundry, I hear and feel the vibration. This would make sense, except the washer and dryer are down the hall, past two bathrooms, a two-girl room and the president’s suite — then, past a fire door and out in the garage. No earthly reason why I should feel and hear it running.

Or the garage door opening and closing, which are even farther away. But I always know when someone is coming or going.

The one that spooks me is a door that slams in the middle of the night. It freaks me out, because none of the doors make this sound when they’re opened and closed during the day. This one wakes me up. It’s ominous. Not just a little scary, but thriller-horror-novel-turned-movie spooky. I expect someone to be standing in the doorway to my bedroom with a knife over his head. Yup, it wakes me up. Every time.

And there’s the sound I pray will be have wherever I live. The one that takes me back to my grandparents’ house in Tioga, West Virginia. The mournful sigh or wail, depending on the source, of a train whistle. I close my eyes and find myself in the front bedroom of the Fidler manse hearing the train as it carried lumber and coal from Tioga to the rest of the world. Or in the main cabin of the B & O train as Uncle Jim and Uncle Mutt (Ok, laugh. I also had an Aunt Leo, Aunt Pink, and Uncle Buck. It was rural West Virginia. At least I didn’t have a Bubba. Or a Billy Joe Bob Jack.) engineered the train and let me ride along. I’d be covered in coal dust when we returned, and it just didn’t matter. Sometimes, they’d even let me shovel the coal into the furnace. It made me feel like the most important kid on earth. At that moment, in Tioga, WV, I was. I was a Fidler, and only Fidler kids were allowed in the engine of the train.

Listening to that train whistle, I’d wondered what it would be like to be the big fish in a tiny pond instead of a miniscule fish in the overwhelming city of Charleston. After dad died, I’d wonder what it would be like to live with my grandparents or my Uncle Frank, Aunt Leo, and cousin Hank instead of my mother…….

And from heaven only knows where, there’s a megaphoned voice that chirps about 4 times a day — like the ones at the metro stations, only there’s no metro station. I’m assuming it comes from one of the schools that surround my neighborhood, but who knows. It may be coming from the shadows of my mind.

There are the normal sorority house sounds I love. The late-night-early-morning congregation around the dining room table right outside my apartment. Chipotle, conversations, and laughter. I love walking past a room where there is no light under the door but there’s one of those middle-of-the-night-pillow-talks they’ll never forget. Girls who might never have met if they hadn’t signed bid cards for the same sorority, who become best friends sharing secrets, dreams, and angst in the dark.

The frat boys still try to “get over” and charm me in hopes that it will garner special treatment in time. They don’t know I’ve heard it all before. They also don’t know that there isn’t anything new in the fraternity/sorority world. Guys still steal composites. Houses still pull pranks on each other. And frat boys still try to charm house moms. In the immortal words an experienced house director friend of mine, “I’ve trained enough twenty-year olds in my day.” Nothing new under the sun.

There’s the clamor of girls rehearsing dances for Greek Week or some other competition. All night. Or practicing rush songs and dances well into the night. I do love rush. God help me.

There are sounds from other houses that I miss.  I miss the Sigma Nu’s at USC lulling me to sleep at night with their parties. They never let me down, and I loved them for it. Even when their snakes got loose on the lawns and we had to help them find huge boa constrictors sunning themselves.

The one I miss the most is Natasha Cuk playing classical music in the middle of the night when the stress of finals got her to the point that she needed the release. I’d lie in bed, close my eyes, and take it in. Inhale it. Revel in it. Hope she’d play forever. Though there was no way she had time to take classes, her talents could have put her on any concert stage. She’s model gorgeous. And one of the sweetest girls I ever had the privilege of sharing a roof with. I’d give anything to hear her play again…..but she’s in med school at UCLA now, and almost a doctor. My girls grow up so fast.

My life doesn’t operate well to quiet. Oh, it’s nice for a minute — like the first night I stayed at Laurel’s in Las Vegas and discovered both total dark and total silence. But it’s pretty obvious something that quiet and dark will never be a part of the Soundtrack of My Own Life. Dann’s song applies much more aptly than Simon & Garfunkle’s, “The Sound of Silence.” And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not embracing retirement like many of my friends. Living with college girls is way more fun and interesting, and every day brings a new laugh and new adventure.

As you probably know, I’ve been emotionally bankrupt for quite some time now due to that damned law suit that won’t go away. To bring you up to date, all the data is in and we’ve filed our demand.  We’re waiting for a response from their counsel. It is in everyone’s best interest to end this thing and write my check before the end of the year. They haven’t been user-friendly with my case to date, but keep a good thought. There are mysteries that need to emerge from the recesses of my mind. Red herrings need to slap me in the face. Plots are longing to emerge. Characters are waiting to take on lives of their own. And I can’t wait to sit at a writing desk, computer before me, plants and birds out the window, a good cat fighting for keyboard time, and hours going by without realizing they’ve passed. There are three concepts nagging at me, and I can’t wait to see which one(s) jump off the page.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon. And until then, please be safe out there. Like the lovely Natasha and so many others, you’re precious to me. I’m lucky like that.