WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

I’ll bet you came here thinking we were going to talk about the fact that well after two months, much of Kanawha Valley in West Virginia (think Charleston, the capital) still doesn’t have potable water…..or that the Handicapped Olympics are getting no air time at all, when these people are more of an inspiration than our able athletes….or the war in the Ukraine….or immigration reform…..or the Affordable Care Act…..that damned Malaysian plane….

Nope, none of these. We’re here because of the very worst season of The Bachelor EVER and the worst Bachelor ….heck….perhaps the worst example of a man in the history of time. 

Juan Pablo was a douche from the very first night…..paraphrased, his comment to Chris Harrison at the end of the Parade of the Desperate that first night was something like, “I’m bound to find somebody here.”

It’s always amazes me that rejected women walk out of the first rose ceremony in tears wailing, “Why me?” “Wasn’t I good enough for him?” Holy freaking cow. These are smart, funny, educated, socially adept (an assumption) professional (for the most part) women who freak out because someone who was in the same room with them for a couple of hours and may have spent five minutes talking to them didn’t ask them to stay. Shouldn’t their attitude be, “Good thing I dodged that bullet.”

From the beginning he started manipulating these women. It was all about Juan Pablo and nothing about the women. When they tried to talk about themselves or ask him serious questions, he always got back to his narcissistic self. 

A friend asked me why I watched this train wreck. I think it was because Juan Pablo was a card-carrying poster child for a potential abuser.  These women were so blinded by his abs and accent they didn’t pick up on the obvious signs. Or did they want to? How many times did we hear, “I’m tired of being alone.” “I want to find my true love.” “I’m ready to start a family.” “I want more than my career.” They came to the show wanting Juan Pablo, even though they knew nothing about him.

If a woman started to tear up, his instant response was to smooth her hair back and repeatedly say (while staring into their eyes),” Don’t cry….don’t cry….don’t cry,” until they stopped. Real men understand that sometimes a girl may have to cry…especially in a super-charged-highly-emotional-constant scrutiny-situation such as one where the cameras are rolling twenty four hours a day for a couple of months. It didn’t matter why they were crying, he didn’t care. He didn’t want to put up with emotions. Or them paying attention to their own needs.

When Claire showed up unannounced the night of their first one-on-one date and they ended up having sex in the ocean (what was she thinking) he was a more-than-willing participant. But he was back the next day to tell her how inappropriate her actions were and what a bad example she was for his daughter. Really? Did his dick just fall into her vagina? What kind of real man blames his actions on the woman? 

And here’s where the manipulation really began. If she was such a bad example for his daughter, why did he give her the next rose? Why did he continue to give her roses until the final rose ceremony? The final insult was when she asked him why he was such a willing participant. His answer brought one of the first gasps of many gasps this season. “I thought you wanted to thank me for having a good time on our date.” Really? Gratitude Sex? 

Another danger sign was that his family lived with him during the first part of the show. Not just his daughter, his mother, brothers, sisters, cousins, and a few of his favorite friends. He was obviously not his daughter’s caregiver. She was there for window dressing. Yes, he loves her. Yes, she loves him. But at his age, should he need to bounce everything off a family member? And did he ever talk to these people about there own lives? Where was her mother? And does he have to live with momma in his 30’s? Does he have a real job? He made it sound like he worked for the Miami soccer team, but there was no explanation about what he did. Man, talk about red flags…..yet none of these women noticed.

My next gasp came after he talked to his brother about Sharleen (opera singer). “She’s so cosmopolitan. And smart. And talented. She’s seen the world. She may be the one.”  But when Sharlene left the show, it was his first “whatever” moment. “Oh, well, I’ve got more women.”

From the beginning, Sharlene wasn’t like the others. She was the smart one. She went into the adventure with an open mind…but she didn’t check her brain at the limousine door. She questioned from the start whether he was a good decision for her. She wanted this to be the right decision for her. Sharlene almost walked away a couple of times because she wasn’t interested. But because she wasn’t interested, Juan Pablo was more interested in her. He wanted what he couldn’t have. So he poured on the charm. And the one-on-one dates. And the personal time. And finally won her over. But she still had that niggling feeling that things weren’t right…in spite of the fact that there was a major-league physical attraction….and ultimately that feeling (known as common sense) won and she knew it was time to leave. Even at the After-The-Rose show months later, it was obvious she still had affection for him. Made the comment she’d spent more than a few sleepless nights since leaving. But it was the right decision. No doubt. She put herself and what was best for her above what was fun and exciting for the moment. In the end, she was/is too cosmopolitan and smart for Juan Pablo. I wish she’d been the next Bachelorette. It would have made for an interesting season.

Andi was the next smart one (and gave me another ‘gasp’ moment). After the fantasy suite and extended private time without cameras, she realized he had no interests but himself. Her night-long attempts to have intelligent conversations about her own life, what he envisioned for the future, or anything more serious than, “So, enough about you, what do you think about me?” she walked. But not before trying to have yet another talk with him on her way out. His response to, “you weren’t at all interested in talking about my life or having a serious conversation,” garnered his retort of “why didn’t you say something?” (Duh, what do you think she was trying to do all night? Oh, wait. You weren’t listening.) 

By this point in the soap opera of the year I expected that kind of superficial attitude. What brought the newest gasp was him telling her, “You barely made it here.” In other words, she was lucky he invited her to stay long enough to have sex with him. Damn. Does this guy get chapped lips from kissing the mirror in the morning?

Here’s another case of a woman who was used to thinking for herself. Who opened her eyes and recognized danger signals. And ran like the wind. As she walked away, he muttered into the camera something like, “What was I thinking? Why would I want to argue with an attorney?” All Juan Pablo all the time.

The biggest wake-up call for the last women should have been the visit to Juan Pablo’s family. “Is he ready to settle down?” one of them asked JP’s mother. To which she tentatively responded, “Maybe.” Multiple family members commented to both Claire & Nikki that JP tended to had a temper. I got the feeling they meant “uncontrollable” temper or it wouldn’t have been important enough to mention. One asked Nikki what she would do when (not if)  he got cold feet and walked away. Giggling girls both answered these warnings that these were the kind of things couples must be work out. Really?

Let’s see, what do we have so far? Women can’t show emotion. Nothing is ever his fault — it’s theirs. His opinion counts; hers doesn’t. He treats all women the same — shows the same affection — uses the same lines and lies on ech of them. He saw himself as lucky when anyone who spoke up to him or voiced her own opinion left. His family felt it was necessary to warn women about his lack of interest in committing and that he possesses an out-of-ordinary temper. Hmmmmm.

Then the Rose Ceremony. Normally, the Bachelor begins the conversation. He talks about each woman’s journey with him, why he was attracted to her, and why he ultimately made the decision to end the relationship or stay with her. But not this one. The Stockholm Syndrome participants were the only ones to speak…..”I can’t imagine my life without you.” “You’re everything I’ve ever wanted.” To which, Douche Bag of the Year responded to Claire’s heart-felt dialogue with, “Sorry, I’m sending you home.”  After spending the night with her. Obviously having had sex with her (again) and spending the day, evening, and night before telling her how much he looked forward to their life together. Not this guy. He told her he wasn’t interested in her with absolutely NO emotion. Thank goodness she, again for the first time in Bachelor history, gave him hell on the way out the door. 

Juan Pablo’s predictable response, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t pick her.”

When Nikki showed up, just like Claire, she went into a speech about how much she loved him and couldn’t wait to spend her life with him. And, as with Claire, he watched her as she spilled her heart without showing any interest. I mean, it wasn’t his turn to talk, was it. Even after him telling Nikki, “I have a ring in my pocket, but I’m not going to use it.  But I really, really like you. So. Want to go on a date?” She took a moment to think about it, but accepted. I would so have been out the door.

And here’s a side-bar question. If he knew he wasn’t going to propose to either woman, why did he meet with Neil Lane and pick out a ring that cost probably $500o – $10,000 (because you’ve never seen a small ring on a Bachelor program’s chosen woman, have you). I’ll tell you. Because it was free. And now, it’s his. If he ever does decide to give a woman a ring, he won’t have to buy one. 

Jump forward to the Women Tell All program. The women had received an epiphany. They’d seen the show. All of it. They’d seen his manipulation. How he was really treating each of them, and that he was treating them all the same. It was only a game to him. He wasn’t looking for a wife or life partner. He was looking for someone to date. Someone he could continue to control. And repeatedly we heard, “He wasn’t who we thought he was.” Translation: “He wasn’t who I wanted him to be.” Because they all saw what they wanted to see.

Then, the After the Rose ceremony. During the interview with Nikki & JP, Chis asked Nikki if Juan Pablo loved her. She didn’t know. It didn’t matter. He was paying attention to her. He was taking her out. He was showing affection in public. She wasn’t alone anymore. Kind of.

When Chris asked what their plans were, it was JP, not Nikki answered that they were “working things out.” Working things out, I’m betting, means Nikki quitting her job as a pediatric nurse and moving to Miami to conveniently fit into his life. But if you listened, except for the “I don’t know,” response, Nikki seldom spoke. Again, it was All Juan Pablo, All The Time. Caressing her arms, sliding his hand down her side (almost inappropriately), giving her obvious signs of affection meant for the camera more than her. Staring into her eyes. 

So why did I watch? Because I live with college girls. I see them be manipulated by good looking, smart, charming, charismatic, sometimes wealthy men every day. They fall for the charm, and will turn on their friends or their own goals and dreams for them. They’re just being used. And it breaks my heart. Since June of ’06, I’ve been through numerous abusive boyfriends, roommates’ abusive boyfriends (or fathers), mean-drunk dates who send girls home with bruises, a suicide watch because a pre-med student’s boyfriend had broken up with her, and a suicide attempt. Smart, independent young college women who pitch all common sense when it comes to a guy. 

With any luck at all, 26 of 27 women who were on the show now recognize the signs and will be smarter in their next relationships. With even better luck, the young women who are hooked on this program will use better judgment in their own dating relationships. With extraordinary luck, maybe even one man watched The Bachelor and recognized that he, too, is a douche and wakes up to treat women with more respect.

The reality is that most women on this show, especially those who were sent away the first night, ascribe to my mother’s school of dating philosophy, “Having any man is better than no man.”  My mother was lucky. The handsome, charming man she found, my dad, was hard-working, adored her, wanted the best for her, and was a good father to their children. What will most women with this philosophy, regardless of how educated/professional/smart/socially-adept they are end up with? Unfortunately, with this attitude, they’ll get the “any man” my mother talked about. “Any Man.”

Without meaning to, The Bachelor provided a great community service this season. They spotlighted what a total douche looks and acts like. Now there can be a dialogue. Now, someone can turn to her friend and compare that friend’s current boyfriend’s action to Juan Pablo — something she’ll understand. I hope it makes a difference.

 

*As an added benefit, my personal opinion is that along with looking for someone (or multiple women) to date, Juan Pablo was hoping to pick up some celebrity endorsement contracts because of his soccer and Bachelor connections. I’m betting that doesn’t happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’M OVER THE OLYMPICS

Though the only sports I follow on a regular basis are college football and OKC Thunder basketball, there’s something about the Olympic Games that has always captured my attention.

Like most, I find myself watching incredibly interesting and exciting events like the biathlon where people cross- country ski, stop, shoot guns, and do it again three more times. Or sit transfixed through heart-pounding curling events.

A year prior to opening ceremonies, there are competitions for places on the teams that will represent the U S of A and proudly wear the uniforms of the team. Making the team is such an honor. Just being able to represent one’s country and walk into that 40,000 person arena with lights flashing as a part of the national team is something to recant to children and grandchildren.

For months of advertisements and interviews with our Olympians, we’re told it’s “all about the sports…the athletics.” A time when people of all races, creeds and national origins put aside their differences to compete.  How all the snow boarders, or down-hill skiiers, or gymnasts compete together all year long and are friends outside of the competition arena. Sports brought them together. They train together. Nationalities mean nothing.

And then the games begin.

During the opening ceremonies, every time a country that split from Russia entered the arena, there were remarks about their relationship with Mother Russia, the hostilities, differences in political leanings, and how that could impact each team’s competition against her former home country. So much for bringing us together.

The first thing we hear after the games begin  is that a US athlete won the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics in the first-ever some-kind-of-snow-boarding event. Yeah, US! The next day when the medal count came up, it was broadcast loud and clear that Russia, the home country,  won not even one measly medal on the first day of competition. It’s no wonder the stands are empty…all the Russians are home hanging their heads in shame. How can Putin show his face? Show up for the events where his stars are competing? Of course, someone-with-a-microphone-in-a-warm-building-who-will-never-see-a-live-event announces that Putin only showed up for the team skating competition once it was established that Russia would win the gold.

My daughter, Abbi, trained with Shannon Miller. It was heady stuff for a kid to train beside, and be in pictures of state champions along with a National, World, and Olympic champion. But after Shannon’s first Olympics, I started to get ticked off.

Shannon, in her first year of eligibility to compete at the world level, took the silver on balance beam. Afterwards, some dip-stick reporter asked her how disappointed she was to only place second. Shannon, one of the most soft-spoken people ever, tried to explain to the person holding the microphone that she was honored to be a part of the team and to bring back the silver for them. The reporter turned back to the camera, shook her head, gave a “more later,” and signed off. Shannon went on to win more medals that year, but that stuck with me.

Watching downhill skiing a couple of days ago, there was a woman who won the event in the last Olympics and came back to take gold one more time before retiring. She placed third. When she realized there was no more gold in her future, she bent over, turned away from the cameras, covered her face, shuddered, and wept — her body heaving under the pain. The commentators, of course, played it for all it was worth. What a horrible failure. Only the bronze.

Our women’s curling team choked in their match against Switzerland. The talking heads gave tortured reports through the whole seven whatever-they’re-calleds about Switzerland being off their game, and how the US should be walking away with the win, and how each of the people-getting-down-on-one-knee-and-sliding-the-round-thing was losing points for their team. Showed a close up of one of them apologizing to another team member for missing their mark. We lost 9-4. Yes, WE. As a country.  Good Grief.

The heir-apparent to Apollo Ono in speed skating only placed fourth in his first event on the ice. How sad. And it’s the best of his four events. He’s already been counted out. May as well back out of the rest of the competition, take the long plane ride home and hope no one recognizes him.

Sisters win Gold/Silver in a down-hill event…but the third sister finished out of the medal count. Isn’t it a shame?

But then, there’s Julia Mancuso. She was slated to take Gold in the Down-Hill Combined, but won the Bronze. She was so excited. It was her fourth Olympic medal. She didn’t care what color it was. She was on the podium. She jumped up and down when she saw her time, and then her score. She was more elated, more animated, more thrilled than the women who took the gold and silver. In her heart and mind, she had won. She had a medal. For herself, for her team, and for her country. Isn’t that what the Olympics are supposed to be about?

Of the thousands upon thousands of kids who spend untold hours practicing/working out/being on special diets/being injured and having surgeries/entering competition after competition, only a handful ever get to wear the Olympic uniform. Of all the little girls who dream about competing as an individual ice skater, only two or three from each country are chosen. That’s it. And of all the ice skaters from all the countries that compete, only about 12 make it into the finals, and only three receive medals.

None of our cross-country skiers, male or female, has ever won an Olympic medal. And yet they compete. Of all our Olympians, only a few can come back with medals, and at best, only a third can possibly come home with gold.

Yet, for about 18 days, all we hear is medal count. Surprise wins. Embarrassing losses. Great victories. Missed opportunities. What happened to the Olympics being an event that’s supposed to bring the world together? If that’s true, why do we need medal counts anyway?

Because the reality is that some of these athletes were plucked from their mother’s arms as young as three or four years old to train and live with strangers. Some would never see their parents again. But the parents are rewarded with large apartments or houses or financial compensation. These athletes receive huge bonuses for each medal won. They’re rewarded with the best living conditions their country can afford. They’re celebrities who are national heroes. God help them if they lose to some Italian or American who had to pay most of their own way. It hasn’t been that long since American athletes were not allowed to accept endorsements or make commercials to pay for their training. So God help the competitor whose country has supported him all his life if he can’t beat a kid who had to pay his own way.

But there are others. Those who can’t make the team in their own country and compete under another flag because that country or tiny island is a parent’s country of origin. They know they have no chance of winning. Or standing on a podium. For them, it’s about competing as an Olympian. Skating on Olympic ice. Tumbling on Olympic mats. They compete, knowing they may not even make the final event. For them, it really is all about the sport. Just going to the Big Dance is all that matters. And hopefully, performing to the best of their abilities.

I guess it’s all for the best in the end, but I’m kind of over it. I love a good competition. Hell, I’ll take you on in scrabble or gin any time you’re ready.

And Abbi? She quit gymnastics at Level 7 as a state champion. Replaced it with cheerleading, diving, power tumbling and ice skating, and settled in on competitive cheer and pom (dance). She was selected as an All American several times and won a number of National Championships — including Collegiate National Dance Team, Collegiate National Small Co-ed Cheer, and Collegiate Academic National Champion. As a collegian, she was on scholarship that wasn’t great, but it paid for her books. She went on to coach at the collegiate level. During high school and college, she coached up and coming munchkins and taught them to win and lose with class and grace. Now, she owns her own businesses — LA Dollhouse that represents dancers, models and specialty acts, and Dollhouse Productions that produces shows. Athletics and competition set her up for life.  Taught her to set goals, reach them, and set new goals. It taught her how to lose, pick herself up and try again. And how to win gracefully. It taught her that success doesn’t come overnight, and that chasing a dream means not going out as often as others and that sometimes she needs to shop at Target instead of Bloomingdales. Designer purses and shoes are purchased at a consignment shop that gets stuff from movie and tv show sets.  But that’s OK. She’s making her mark in the entertainment business in the big pond of LA. She’s doing what she loves to do and demanding that life pay her to do it. And she’s willing to put in the work and pay her dues to make that happen.

And that, my friend, is what athletics are supposed to be about. Not being shunned by one’s country if they come back without a medal, like some are forced to do. Not being told, like the German women’s ice hockey team, that if they don’t come back with a medal they’ll lose their funding. Not “how did it make you feel to lose?” when they win a silver or bronze medal. It’s about preparation for life. And about learning to give your all, knowing it might not pan out. It’s about the roller-coaster ride.

Now, if we could just get the commentators for the Olympics to understand that.

Until next time, take care of yourself. There are people who love you….you just may not know who they are.

VACATION? WHAT’S THAT?

Yesterday began my first official week of vacation since starting with Sig Kap at Cal State-Fullerton a year ago November. Yes, I’ve had 2 weeks in Myrtle Beach, but those weren’t “vacation.” They were “we-need-your-apartment-so-you-have-to-leave-but-we’re-not-going-to-pay-you-while-you’re-gone-and-aren’t-even going-to-pay-your-hotel-bill-but-have-a-nice-time” times off.

So, Wednesday, in preparation for my big, exciting week, I not only went grocery shopping for enough toilet paper, paper towels, salsa, tortillas, cheese, sandwich meat,snacks, and anything else they might run out of while I’m gone, and fixed their dinner, I packed…and toted bags to the car…and packed…and toted bags to the car.

Abbi’s in Australia visiting Brett, who is working with the Australian Embassy in kabul, Afghanistan to raise enough money to come back to the US and try once again to get a Visa so he can stay here. I’m vacationing in her apartment. Trust me, that’s not like hopping on a plane and going to Myrtle Beach. Staying 40 minutes to 3 hours away (depending on traffic) is so much more trouble. There’s the bag with my mega-powerful smoothie maker for my protein shakes, protein powders, Chia seeds, and almonds. Thrown into this bag are my gluten-free Uber bars. And two books by Juliet Blackwell…my favorite “cozy” writer…witchy, romantic, funny, well-written, I-can’t-put-them-down-once-I’ve-cracked-the-cover, mysteries. And Stephen King’s “On Writing.” And all the things I don’t want the housing board president to see if she decides to do the same thing most people do when they’re visiting someone else’s home — snoop. Though my life is pretty much an open book, there are pages that have been removed and are only available to a select few. And yes, the president of our corporation board…who is deathly allergic to cats…is staying in my apartment while I’m away. I sent her a note this morning telling her I’m worried about her and asking if this would be a good time to buy stock in Benedryl.

Of course, there’s another bag with clothes — though heaven only knows what I’ll need this week. It’s a lot colder in West Hollywood than in Fullertan. Inland is always about 10 degrees higher. The bathing suit is included, though I know this week is only going to be in the 60’s an 70’s. In Myrtle Beach, I’d catch hell from my friends for going into the water and swimming…but the water’s only a couple of degrees off the air temp there, and is freaking freezing in California waters, regardless of what time of the year it is. Even with that, I plan on hitting the beach a couple of times to walk in the water and find restaurants with scallops. I can’t have a meal on the water without scallops. And a mojito. Definitely a mojito.

There’s another bag with throw-away-all-in-one litter boxes, because Abbi is owned by two cats, NYLA and Mox. Mox is a bit of a whore and wants to be held all the time, but NYLA hates almost everyone…but especially me, because I bring outside cats into her life, an that is totally unacceptable. She hates Abbi’s boyfriend, Brett, so much that she ran away from him, threw herself into a wall and broke her jaw. Yup. That much. She stays under the bed, coming out only occasionally to hiss at me. I put a litter box, food, and water in Abbi’s bedroom so NYLA won’t have to starve or poop on the rug while I’m here.

Which brings me to Sophie, who is “vacationing” with me this week. Her much-anticipated week off began Thursday morning with a trip to the vet. She’s had one before, because when she wandered onto Mini-Ha-Ha Ranch in NE Oklahoma City, she’d already been declawed and spayed. That didn’t make the experience any better for her.

She has now been put on a diet. Evidently, 16 pounds is too much for a 3-year old kitty-person to weigh. But after her “field training” of being homeless, it could be that she doesn’t want to pass up any available food or water in case it should go away. Either way, lugging her around in a carrier isn’t the easiest thing to do, so a diet it is.

At the vet, she got her shots and we had a chip put in so if she ever has the experience of being lost again, there’s a way for us to find each other.

She did not embrace the experience.

Once we got home, she burrowed under a stack of blankets (her favorite thing to do) after hissing and growling at me. For the next six hours, every time I touched her or reached in to pet her, I was greeted with more growling. Kind of a “What the F..k were you thinking?” kind of growl/hiss/grrroan.

This morning she was still hiding. Ran to Target to pick up some necessities for the week….and let me tell you, the Target in West Hollywood is so, so much better than anything Orange County has to offer. I’d forgotten what Real Targets were. It was so exciting, I ended up paying for parking — had wandered around for almost two hours, and only the first hour is free.

While touching/feeling my way through Target, where people spoke a language I very seldom hear…think they call it English…Sophie’s vet returned my call. It seems my kitty may still be stressed out over the hour car ride, trip to the vet, shots/implant of Kitty-GPS system, additional trip to Abbi’s, being in a strange house, and those two other balls of fur that are totally unauthorized in a Sophie Zone. Oh, the vet said, she may still be mad at me. Yup. I figured that one out already.Back at the house, she’s hiding behind an ottoman and still growling at me. Hope she gets over it before we leave next Thursday morning…..

Which brings me back to this coveted week of vacation.

My employment contract allows two weeks off in the summer, a week at Thanksgiving, and a week at Christmas during the fall semester, and a week at Spring Break. And that was such an interesting concept.

One of the un-benefits of being a house director is that time off is contingent on work being completed at the house. That was my Catch-22 for the summer’s two weeks. We had construction planned. First, I was waiting for approval to get construction done. Then, busied myself finding contractors and getting quotes, which was more difficult because it seems no one wants to work in Fullerton. We had to wait for the bids to be perused, a contractor picked, and a bid to be approved, which started the wait for that contractor to find time to do our work. Long story short — I know, too late –the construction continued after school started and went almost until recruitment started. I stole away for a weekend to go to the Mystery Writers’ Conference at Book Passage in Corte Madera, but couldn’t take time off on either side of it to catch up with friends….

Thanksgiving vacation was another WTF. My contract also says I have to delete the door codes on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day, and put them back in on Sunday at 8am. So, my “week” would have only been Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which would have been my normal time off anyway. But wait! The board decided to leave the house open for the entire break, totally negating my ability to leave.

I spent Thanksgiving Day at Abbi’s with Brittney (ballerina in the Degree and BCBG commercials), Dakota (Gypsy Rose), Michael Pena (who is in Russia choreographing the opening ceremony for the Olympics), and Christian, the costumer for Gypsy Rose. This was the first year Abbi prepared the holiday meal. I brought cheese and spinach enchiladas, because even though Abbi would fix traditional Thanksgiving food for her friends, she hates the stuff. Enchiladas are her Thanksgiving Food of choice. Oh, and I brought the Pumpkin and Pecan Pies. A mommy’s job is never done.

Christmas, I was given a week off, but the anticipation of that vacation time was erased when I realized they were only closing the house for a week — the same week I was supposed to be on vacation. If I had left, there was no way we could clean the house, do the maintenance, “close down” the house and re-open it for spring semester. My Christmas week off was spent working about 70 hours. After which I finally crashed, exhausted, and was sick for a week. And became a total bitch by the time the girls returned.

It was shortly after that I decided to, as Abbi would say, pull my balls out of my purse. I insisted on compensatory time off….vacation time…and told them I was going to be gone this week while Abbi is in another hemisphere, that I will Absolutely, Positively be away for Spring Break…and that they’ll need to delete and put in new codes because I’ll be leaving before the house closes and coming back after it opens. And in June, I’ll be taking a week to go back to Charleston, WV for my high-school reunion. Even with those weeks, I’m still two weeks behind in contracted time off. Probably won’t see it, but at least am setting a precedent for next year if we reach a decision that I’ll be coming back next year. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Times off won’t come unless I make them. And I will from now on. Sometimes I forget it’s just a J.O.B.

Which brings us to this week….my vacation week….

Yesterday was Day One. Drive from Fullerton to LA. Cat To Hospital. Home. Sick Cat. Face down in couch. Total exhaustion. But almost immediately after arriving at Abbi’s, the rain began. And continued into the night. Sigh……

Day Two: Woke up to sickly cat, trip to Target, writing my “I’ve-put-this-off-way-too-long” blog, and that brings us to 2:00 pm. (Sophie just peaked her head out from behind ottoman and is deciding whether to allow me back into her life. More later.) When I finish proofing and push “publish,” I’ll put a zip drive into the side of my computer and start converting what’s written of my thriller, chapter by chapter onto it. I’ll write a chapter timeline and include what characters are in each (Sophie is eating). That should bring me to about 5:00. At that time, I will grab the Juliet Blackwell book that’s been waiting for me, and submerge myself into a hot bath of water filled with lavender-scented Epsom Salts. I’ll drain water as it cools and add more hot water to replace it. That ritual will continue until a) my body resembles a raisin, b) I wake up and realize that once again, I’ve nodded off in the tub or c) I finish the book.

At all my other sorority hosues, 3:00 p.m. every day was designated bath/reading/me time. But this bathroom doesn’t have a window. What it does have is the loudest “fart” fan ever. I like to read by natural light…that’s impossible, the the fan sound isn’t conducive to relaxation. Worse than that, this house has only one hot water heater for 18 females. I never know when there will be enough hot water for a whole bath. So, no afternoon soaks at the Sig Kap house. But Abbi’s apartment has this wonderful, deep tub with lots and lots of hot water. And a window. And no fan.

There are no plans past the moment I emerge from the tub, except that I must watch the Opening Ceremonies tonight to see Michael’s handiwork. He’s been in Russia most of the time for the last six months. He’s such a good guy, and I’m so happy that his talent is being recognized. Abbi’s life is full of brilliantly-talented people…many of whom would have never met if it weren’t for the Abbi connection. (Sophie back at the bowl eating again…hope she doesn’t throw up.)

Regardless of what happens, this week will be spent writing, resting, reading, walking on the beach, eating scallops (plus gluten-free food and drinking healthy protein shakes from stuff I picked up today), taking hot baths, and writing, resting, reading….rinse and repeat. Maybe I’ll get together with a couple of people who live on this end of the world. Or not.

A trip away would have been fun, but I need this week to recharge. And write…every day….without being interrupted….without having to take a day off to grocery shop and cook. A whole week for me. And my sickly cat (exploring to see if she’ll fit behind the television console and settling in behind draperies). But for now, think I’ll change directions and take that hot bath. I deserve it.

More later….but for now, take care of yourselves. I’ve missed you.

MY NEWEST “CATCH 22”

In my life, they seem to keep cropping up.

For those of you who remember, I bought a 2010 Chrysler Sebring Convertible in March, and planned to sell the older version, the 2005. This is my 6th Chrysler Convertible — 2 white & one green (Abbi’s) Le Barons, and 3 Sebrings for me — purple, white, and now silver.

Here’s where the kicker comes in. I need a title to sell the ’05 in order to sell it. No title exists.

I bought the car in Oklahoma the week before I moved to California, because my bank president/owner and friend, Supreme Ruler of the Universe Kim King wouldn’t let me drive a car with 200,000 miles on it (the purple one) across the desert and made me buy a new car. I learned a long time ago to do whatever Kim tells me to do. Anyone who can pull off being the first female bank owner in Oklahoma deserve all the respect I can give her.

Have no idea seven years later whether I received the Okie title at my Berkeley address, or if the new owners of my house got it and never shipped it to me. Either way, I don’t remember ever having an Oklahoma title in my possession. In my mind, I could have written that off thinking that Oklahoma was a hold state and would have kept the title until I finished paying off the mighty First State Bank of Noble (Oklahoma).

California tells me I have to get the Oklahoma title before they can issue a Cali title. Here’s where the Catch 22 rears its ugly head. Oklahoma doesn’t have my title. They cancelled it in ’06 when I registered it in California, and their records show that they transferred the title to California. California has no record of receiving it.

Oklahoma can’t issue me a title because theirs was cancelled. California can’t issue me a title because they have no record of receiving one. Neither can issue a duplicate title of something that doesn’t exist. (Picture Ann screaming.)

So, what am I supposed to do with a 2005 Chrysler Sebring convertible without a title? Obviously, I can’t sell it. I could always keep it until it chokes, but that could be in another 200,000 miles. These puppies tend to last forever. And then, what do I do with the 2010 I just bought? I paid cash for it and would end up taking a loss. So, Abbi and I have three cars. I can’t even transfer the car to Abbi’s name without a title.

And why would we need three cars? In the LA area, parking one car is a challenge. Now, please understand that this is nothing compared to getting a parking permit in San Francisco — that requires large blood donations, bank account withdrawals, and inching up lists that stretch from the surf to a Kansas City bar-b-que joint.

Luckily, the 2010 is snug as a bug in a rug in it’s very own garage space (thank you Sigma Kappa), and Abbi has a parking space at her condo. Leaving Bachelor or Bachelorette #3 without a space. So, she parks it on the street and has to move it every Monday for street cleaning (from the looks of it the last time I saw it, they should leave it, get the ticket, and take the wash). Brett is back in Australia working one more time (hopefully, 3rd time is a charm) to get into the good old U S of A legally, so it’s not being driven at all.

If I were in Oklahoma, I could petition the court to issue a title. Evidently, California doesn’t have such a provision…..at least according to the three DMV employees I’ve talked with this morning,

I’m lost. For once, I don’t have all the answers. Hell, I’m not even sure of the question anymore. But this is taking way more time than it deserves. I’ve been on the phone between DMV’s and AAA’s since 8:30, and it’s now 11am. I’m sitting around waiting for my name/number to come up on the California DMV’s call-back list hoping above hope that a DMV employee knows how to think out of the box. Reminds me of the joke the Air Force members used at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska. There was a huge missile in front of the main headquarters. They called it the Civil Service missile because it didn’t work and they couldn’t fire it. Which is how I feel about most DMV employees and why I go to AAA for my auto-related needs. But in this case, the AAA employees are as worthless as the ones at DMV.

Maybe the best solution would be to drive it into the ocean and file an insurance claim…..only kidding. The ocean has enough pollution. Orange is not a good color for me, I don’t like confined spaces, and not even this is worth a case of insurance fraud.

The phone finally rang…..but it was from West Virginia vital statistics. I need a copy of my birth certificate because no one accepts the ones we were issued with our cute little foot prints on them anymore and I can’t find my passport. They transposed numbers on my debit card and the beat goes on. Now, I’ll just have to wait until I hear from VitaCheck (which sounds more like a vitamin than a report-checking service) asking for more information to verify I’m me. Like knowing the minute I was born at MacMillian and my parents’ maiden & middle names aren’t enough. Anyway, that’s one hurdle that seems to be working itself out. For a mere $86.

And shortly after that, the DMV called. With a person who knows the law and has common sense. I’m pretty sure I’ll know her by the halo and wings when I go to the Fullerton office once I’ve jumped through their hoops. Evidently, all I have to do is get a pink “request for duplicate title” form, fill out sections 1 & 5, have my bank fill out section 2, saying they are the legal owner of the car (which they’re not anymore) and that they release the title to me (which they’ve already done), notarize it and send it back. Then, I take it to the lady with the halo and wings and they’ll order me a title. She suggested taking it to AAA because there are lines at the DMV, but I’m not ready to start all over again. Perhaps (and that’s a — Please, Universe, let he know what she’s doing), I’m actually going to have the title of the 2005 in my hands sometime before the end of the year. And a new passport. And I’ll be able to take a cruise, lounge on a private island with a foo-foo, umbrella’d drink in my hand, and get over the trauma I’ve been going through since March 13 when I bought the 2010 silver Sebring convertible…..

Oh, and for the first time in six Chrysler convertibles, I don’t like it….so it may get sold after all. Though the cabin is still large enough to accommodate 5 spring break’ers, the trunk sucks. That beautiful trunk that has always been large enough to live out of now is about 6″ worth of space because the trunk sleeps in it while it’s down. My sleeping bag is laid out under the top’s trunk carriage, and that leaves barely enough space for a beach chair (the one that fits in a long round sleeve) and a bag containing two beach towels, a book, and suntan spray (which I’m using for the first time ever because Abbi won’t let me go tanning anymore). Evidently, going to a tanning booth increases my getting skin cancer by 800%. Of course, the tanning place rebutted that when I cancelled my membership, but why take the chance?

So, that’s my life for the last few months and all of this morning. Today, I finish re-arranging and cleaning the kitchen after our termite tenting — pretty sure we were the residence for every termite in Fullerton –, working on my expense account, and eating healthy foods. No Coke today. Once more, trying to break that addiction. Coca Cola has owned me since I could stop at Bryant’s on the way home from school and charge a 5 cent bottle to my mom’s account on the way home. Abbi says I used up all my other vices in the 60’s and 70’s, and this is all I have left. And now, that’s gone. Where, oh where can I find some new vices. Is life really worth living without a few naughty areas of one’s life? I think not.

Until next time, take care of yourselves, come up with some new vices for me, and be nice to someone. You never know whose life you’ll change with a smile.

LATER!!!!

MY YEAR WITHOUT FEAR — PROGRESS REPORT

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

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

So, let me bring you up to date…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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