Thursday, December 27, 2012

Toomptigoobah

Sounds like one of those terrible doll-comes-alive horror films - like Goonies or Chuckie, right?

I spelled it phonetically because I don't know the actual Swedish word, but I think it is supposed to mean Santa. My mother-in-law was huge into the holidays, and had dozens of little Santa figures all over her house. Some were little handicrafts made out of felt or cardboard, but some were Anna Lee collectibles. I'll just come right out and say it: these Santa figures are one part whimsy...and one part frightening. 

When my mother-in-law died, Mr Doll's sister kept them all, and I was surprised at how nostalgic he was over these dolls. His sister asked me what I thought Mr Doll might like for Christmas one year, and I came out and just asked for some of the family toompties. She gave him three out of over a dozen from his mom's collection:

Although he looks like a monk,
this is one of several bobble-heads.
His brothers live at our house.

I have no idea what that is supposed
to be in his pot, but I like to think it's
hot cocoa and marshmallows. Right?!


My, what big eyes you have!

One part Santa, one part Rudolph.

I am not entirely sure what is going on with
this Santa - is that hair or snow?!

The Santa in the foreground with the
hand-painted face is an Anna Lee collectible.

This fellow is Mr Doll's favorite.


Santa and his...pickaxe?!

If 'Doc' from The Seven Dwarfs was an elf.
Every year the kids and I look for a new Santa to buy for our collection. Mr Doll prefers the 'artsier' figures over Anna Lee, but I couldn't find felted or unusual ones in any catalogs this year. I found a small Santa at Macy's to add to our current collection:


Toomptigoobahs meet
The Charlie Brown Christmas 
In the meantime, guess what I got from our family Secret Santa gift exchange this year?! 

Babydoll and Big Daddy Santa 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Creeky


I was feeling pretty punky and overwhelmed earlier today, for a host of reasons: 
  1. Mr Doll is out of town and I miss him terribly. 
  2. December just came and snuck up on me. Ordinarily I'd be long done with cards and shopping...and we haven't even taken our holiday photo yet.
  3. I'm crazy tired, all the time.
  4. I don't feel like exercising - but not exercising makes me feel worse.
I decided to make an appointment for the chiropractor today. It's been months since I visited, and I wasn't going for one particular ailment other than the fact that my whole back and neck hurt. Ordinarily, I have good mobility. Typically my back will crack if I rotate my shoulders in one direction, and my hips the other. No longer. If I bend over, I can hear popping sounds around my mid-back. My guess it's just air, like when I crack my knuckles (I know...so ladylike) - but I'm currently obsessed that it's arthritis.

Dr. John tells me that it's the combination of too much time sitting quietly at the computer (I'm looking at you, NaNoWriMo) and suddenly stopping exercise for almost month (I'm looking at you, flu and broken contact lens). 

I chatted online recently with a Twitter friend who also works at a gym and is a fitness nut, like me. She tells me to run 5 days in a row and build my mileage back up, so that in 10 days I can run 8 miles. Of course, there's also the issue of that pesky half marathon coming up in mid-January. All I know is that I need to get busy.

So I got up and got out. I ran 2.25 miles. I went out for a run today even though I didn't feel running. I felt like a marionette, and couldn't find any rhythm - but I kept telling myself that I knew it was going to be hard after not running for almost a month. 

And then treated myself to a manicure. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aftermath

Dude. I am totally wrecked after 30 days and nights of literary abandon.

First, there were the half-dozen nights that I stayed up until 2am. Gentle reader, I have no bounce when it comes to such recklessness anymore; especially since I drive Girl Doll in the morning carpool at 6:25am. Ugh.

Two weeks into NaNoWriMo my right contact lens broke in half. Thankfully, it was not in my eye - but still. I can't see as well in my glasses, so it feels like I've never really woken up. 

Partially because I hate running in my glasses and partially because any extra time was spent writing - I worked out only once in three weeks. *Dramatic pause* I can practically see my muscles atrophy. 

And then, there's the matter of an irregular schedule leads to irregular bowels. Oh HELL YES...I just went there.

Some of my regular readers may recall my regularity in all matters pertaining to my poo. I poo first thing in the morning, every morning. Totally fine if I'm at home, but I have a shy bowel if I am traveling with running friends for an out-of-town race. Of course, http://getyougogirl.com/ has revolutionized any potty sharing I do. 

Internet, I cannot recommend a product more. I love You GO Girl!

Three days ago, I was so constipated that I was cross-eyed. I gave myself a wicked regiment of fiber laxatives and managed to coax things along - but not after suffering for a full day. 

The things I will do for literary reward. Le sigh.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Afterglow

You'd think after writing 50,000+ words in 30 days, I'd have more to say - but I don't. Well...not much, anyway.

Since I didn't have any formal writing experience - or even a thread of a story line, I chose to write about my life for the NaNoWriMo. Although I was shooting for an adolescent-to-adult's journey through recovery, I seemed to favor writing primarily about my childhood. It was a wonderfully hard and cathartic experience.

I am so very proud that I made a goal and worked towards it for 30 days.  It was like a mental marathon, and there were a handful of nights that I wrote until 2am. I almost blew it right at the end, however. The whole month I had a small thought in the back of my mind about how to verify my novel on the NaNoWriMo website, but I was too obsessed with keeping up my daily word count to give it much thought.

Yesterday was the final day of the challenge and I was about 1,200 words and an hour and ten minutes away from the 30 day/50,000 word finish line...when I had nothing else left to say. 

Grasping straws, I began to write about the fierce competitor in me. This  somehow prompted me to begin describing the over-the-top themed birthday parties we've hosted for our children. From that thread of thought, I was off and happily hammering out words...when I suddenly I noticed the time: 11:58pm. My word count was just over 50,000. 

After I entered my final tally of 50,017 onto the dashboard of the NaNoWriMo, I quickly checked to see how my online friends had done. They are all several hours ahead on the East Coast, so the contest was already officially over for them. On my friend IfByYes's profile, instead of a blue banner where her word count had formerly been, was a bright purple banner that read: "Winner!

I frantically noticed that although I'd completed the goal of 50,000+ words, my word count remained and my banner stayed blue. All month long, I had simply updated my word total on the dashboard of the site. This was when that nagging thought I'd had all month came to the forefront of my mind: I had 90 seconds to figure out how to verify my actual number count on the website.  Hosted by a bunch of book nerds - you'd think the website would be crazy-streamlined, but it is not very intuitive. 

I clicked on a scroll down menu, and found the motherland: the 'verify novel' button.  A tiny pop-up window appeared in the center of the screen; apparently I was supposed 'just' cut-and-paste an entire 50,000 word document - into a screen the size of a playing card. As I frantically highlighted 81 pages, I noticed the time stamp in the lower right hand corner change from 11:58 to 11:59. With less about 30 seconds to spare, I copied and pasted my novel into their word counter. WINNER! 

To quote Bill Murray's Carl Spackler from Caddyshack, where he has a kid pinned up against a wall, pressing pitchfork tines on his throat: 

"So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."


Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 29

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


I applied for a job at a metaphysical bookshop on Saturday afternoons. It was a short shift – only four hours in the afternoon, but it was nice to have some extra money. I was hired due to my extensive experience on enlightenment: I had recently finished an autobiography about Shirley McClain and her spiritual journey. 

One of the biggest sellers at the bookstore was crystals. Known for their healing properties, crystals are the transmitters of the metaphysical world - or so I was told. One afternoon, a woman came into the store frantic. She was flushed and told the owner that she needed something to ground her. Ten minutes and $60 later, she left happy and 'grounded' with a quartz crystal pendant around her neck.

I was responsible for answering the phone, and right next to it was a handwritten placard: I’m sorry. Serena is busy giving a reading right now. May I take a message? My boss was paranoid about taking any phone calls as they came in, so she insisted that I take messages for her. She’d call them back at her leisure, all breathy and reassuring. Sometimes I’d eavesdrop on her readings and roll my eyes. She was such a fraud. 

As far as I was concerned, it seemed like bad karma to knowingly take advantage of people like that. I worked there for about five months before I couldn't stand it anymore. My final day there I worked the shop alone and not one person came in – so I slept on the floor behind the counter until it was time to go home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 28


For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go! 


Every Friday night, my friends and I went to the Rollercade. It was the place to be seen. We skated and socialized to our favorite music. We wore our tightest jeans, tons of eye shadow and our hair was perfectly feathered. We ate food from the snack bar and played video games. 

We’d work up the courage to knock on the DJ’s booth and make a request for our favorite song. There were songs for ‘girls only skate’, couples-only songs (where we looked bored - but secretly hope to get asked to skate) and contests for the fastest skater. 

The people who used rental skates were losers. All of the girls had the boots of their skates decorated with logos of our favorite bands: Van Halen, Scorpions, Aerosmith, Motley Cruё, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard.

If I ever missed out of town or was grounded on a Friday night, I was disconsolate. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 27


For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go! 


Serena and I often played in the eucalyptus grove behind the apartments, sweeping the dirt and arranging some small toys around a little clearing. 

One afternoon, we brought out some matches and lit a tiny fire with some twigs right there in the dirt. After that, I was obsessed with fire. 

I always had a packet of matches with me so if it looked like something needed to be burned, I was ready. 







Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 26


For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go! 


My mom ran a childcare program at our grade school called MOMMA, although neither of us can remember what the acronym stood for. The program was child care for low income families and single parents.

It was a wonderful program. There were all kinds of fun and educational things to do: crafts such as macrame, finger painting, knitting, beading, and coloring. There were toys, dress-ups, board games, and a snack time. My mom even offered a cooking class - which was my favorite, because we got to eat whatever we made. One time, she brought in a curling iron to curl all the girls’ hair. I had never had my hair curled before. I looked so different that I cried when I saw my hair in the mirror. 

Because my mom ran the program, I was a bit of a show off. I've heard children like me described as ‘petulant’ - but as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a fancier word for brat

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 25

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go! 

Update: I have 5 days left of the challenge and just reached a little under 42,000 words. I am so blown away that I have that much to say about anything. I want to thank my husband for being so wonderfully supportive - and providing many ideas for my story. Almost...done!  


Uncle Lenny was not actually a relative, but an honorary title given to one of my mom’s closest friends. When I was too young to understand about such things as homosexuality, I was insanely jealous of his relationship with my mom. What I hadn't realized is that he was one of the few people who she could count on. He was good to us - better than most of our real family was. 

Once our car broke down in the middle of nowhere on the way back from visiting relatives. She had it towed to a mechanic who spent the better part of two days working on the car while we stayed at a hotel overnight. By the time the car was drivable, the cost in repairs was three times what my mom could afford. 

She ended up signing the title over to the mechanic and they called it a wash for what was owed, and my mom sat down and cried. We had no money and no car - and were stranded about 7 hours from home. She called the only person that she could think of to help: Uncle Lenny. He drove 4 hours to come and get us, and another 7 hours to take us back home.

Lenny lived in San Francisco, and had a gorgeous southern drawl – although I forget where he was from originally. I adored him because he frequently cussed. He always treated me like an adult and never talked down to me - but I was afraid when we visited his house. My memories of his neighborhood were that it was grey and nondescript - so if I was walking around, I might easily get lost. The inside of his home was beautiful with fancy rugs and leather chairs and exotic tapestries.

Lenny took to calling me The Starving Virgin, because I was always hungry and, well…the other part is obvious.  All kinds of hilarity would ensue every time he addressed me as such. He contracted HIV/AIDS when it was an epidemic in the 80’s. It was before there were medicines to help those afflicted avoid many of the fatal illnesses common to the disease. Lenny was a very large man, both in height as well as girth, and the disease ate him alive. It was a terrible way to die. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 24


For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


Both Lottie and Penny bred horses. During the year that I was riding for them, two of their mares were due shortly. I was excited to see the new babies. 

The Arabian mare had her foal first – a pretty black colt. He was very sweet. Penny’s pony delivered three weeks later and the size differential between the two foals was crazy; Penny’s newest addition was a precious little filly that was so tiny, she could run under the lowest rail of the ring. She would run full speed around the ring with her little tail high in the air, whinnying and darting back and forth under the fence. She was a hard act to follow, and soon Lottie’s colt was forgotten. 

One day, I was mucking his corral while he quietly watched me. He had been weaned a few weeks before and seemed lonely. I felt bad for him. On an impulse, I kind of pranced toward forward, angling my shoulder toward him as I approached.  

He responded to my play posture immediately, rearing up and jumping towards me. I was surprised, and also afraid that he’d actually hurt me, so I put up my hands and gestured to him to calm down. He quieted right away, but it made me realize how play is a universal language. This was one of those moments in my life that I always wished I could watch an instant-replay of.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 23


For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


The entrepreneur in me saw dollar signs. If one rabbit sold for $40 and I had a boy and girl rabbit, I could make a mint! Wasn't there an expression about ‘breeding like a rabbit’? I had visions of breeding and selling beautiful purebred Netherland Dwarf bunnies.

The back yard was separated into to two parts; a brick patio and then a fenced off grassy area behind the house. Ann helped me build several rabbit runs out of chicken wire. One of my friends gave me her enormous white  rabbit named Boo. Boo Bunny was almost 15 lbs., and she had a large cowl under her chin. I adored her.

I bought one more rabbit from a pet store that was a Rex. He had with a gorgeous, dense velveteen coat and weird curly little whiskers. Naturally, I named him Rex. Then I sat back to watch nature take its course.

Nothing happened. I saw lots of rabbit sex with virtually no results. The rabbit runs weren't very well-built and the bunnies were constantly getting out. Solar Snow managed to get inside the crawl space under the house, and I was convinced that she’d buried a litter in there. I spent several claustrophobic hours crawling under the house, but found no signs of a litter. Someone told me that if rabbits feel threatened, they were known to eat their young. 

****

I couldn't believe my eyes. My synapses were firing and misfiring, and I kept trying to figure out how Boo had gotten pregnant. My gaze settled on Bun and I slowly realized that my little man had made his move on Big Momma.  It certainly didn't matter to him that she was a different breed or that she had at least 8 pounds on him; Bun went right ahead and rocked Boo’s world.

Day 23

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


The big thing in school was to write notes. We wrote notes in class, and then handed them to our friends during the passing period between classes. As part of our courtship, Joe and I began exchanging notes. We asked each other benign questions about favorite candy bars and music, and whether we had pets or siblings.  

One day Joe wrote me a note and told me he thought he was going crazy. I was completely dumbstruck; I was too young to know how to respond or what to do. I wrote him a light hearted note in reply about how we were probably all a little crazy and that I knew how he felt. A week later I broke up with him.

In high school, Joe found acting. We took theater arts classes all through high school together and remained friends. I thought he was still cute; he kind of reminded me of Jackson Browne, and he was always nothing but sweet to me. We even joked about the two weeks that we ‘went together' in junior high school.

He was an amazing actor. I still remember the one-act play he performed our senior year of high school. He was the only person cast in it, and the premise was based on an actor’s worst nightmare; ‘coming to’ on stage and not knowing his lines or why the audience was there. He was amazingly gifted. I watched him back stage while her performed, and I noticed he was perspiring. It got me thinking about the note he’d written to me almost four years earlier, and I wondered how he was doing. He seemed happy. He had an enormous talent for acting and also had a girlfriend. 

I asked him if he’d like to start exchanging notes again, and he said that would be nice. We wrote a few notes but I never worked up the courage to ask him how things were really going, or if he was still feeling the same way.
The last time I saw Joe was a couple of years after we had graduated from high school.  We chatted briefly right before he went inside the Bank of America with a group of protesters. I actually thought what he was doing was kind of stupid. I couldn't understand what would compel someone to take a risk of getting arrested like that – but I kept my opinions to myself. 

Shortly afterward, I ran across a small obituary of his death. An acquaintance told me he had shot himself in his apartment. I was devastated to learn about his death. Although there is likely nothing I could have done personally to change things for him, I still felt terrible. I wish I had alerted an adult or just told him how much I cared about him. He was always nice to me even though I was such a terrible flake in junior high. Depression is stupid.   

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 22

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!

The theater teacher was a man named Tallant Jones. Everyone was convinced that he legally changed his first name but he insisted it was his given name. He was a total tool. Mr. Jones was a very odd man, and despite being married to a woman, had always struck me as someone who, to quote a line from Good Will Hunting - liked to ‘put from the rough.'

About 20 years after I graduated, I ran into Mr. Jones at the movie rental store. I casually shadowed him to be certain it was actually him. Heaven forbid that I would actually say hello. 

I quietly waited behind him in line and then after he walked away, I boldly asked the clerk what he just rented. I half-expected the clerk to get all, “THAT INFORMATION IS CONFIDENTIAL” on me - but he was totally game, especially after I explained that he was my high school drama teacher. 

I confided, “I mostly wanted to see if he just rented porn.” He hadn't and it wasn't. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 21

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


We were required to watch a video that was appropriate for each gender, so girls and boys were separated during the movie. We were also required to have a parent or guardian sign a permission slip granting us the approval to view a movie about reproduction. 

For whatever reason, my mom took exception to the form. She had no issue about me watching the movie - but was enraged about the permission slip. It was too much ‘big brother’ for her, and she felt that the school district should show the movie without requiring signatures - so she refused to sign my form on principal.

This meant that when it came time to watch the movie, I had to leave the room. My teacher made me sit in the small teachers’ lounge in-between the two classrooms and quietly read until the movie was finished. I can tell you that as awkward as it would have been to sit with thirty girls and learn about menstruation, it was ten times more so NOT getting to sit with them. Everyone thought I was some kind of freak. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 20


For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


This was about the time that my mom told me the facts of life. Less birds-and-bees and more clinical, my mom was not the kind of person to give made-up names for body parts – no wee wees or ta-ta's for her. She explained the fundamentals of how a man got a woman pregnant.

Shortly after, my mom introduced me to a co-worker that was 8 months pregnant. Her huge belly was obscene and I was horrified to be seen with her: EVERYONE knew that she got that way from having a penis inside her vagina. I tried to pretend that I was on my own at the grocery store, lingering over items and letting the two of them move ahead of me. The weird thing was that even though everyone knew how my mom’s co-worker had gotten that way, obviously – no one seemed to really mind. 


Day 19

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


Common sense should have told me to stop before I lost another pet, but the next day we resumed our game. I brought out the only other pet I had left, Rat-Oh. Rat-Oh was my first real pet I owned. He had the sweetest nature even if his balls were totally gross.

At some point in our game I got distracted and before I realized it, I’d done it again. Rat-Oh was gone. My friends helped me scour the courtyard to no avail. This time I decided against saying anything to my mom. Several hours later, I came across several women standing near the manager’s office who were obviously agitated. One of the gardeners was standing next to an overturned trashcan. I asked him what was going on and the gardener told me that he had trapped a rat.

The gardener had really trapped a wild rat?! I told him that I didn't believe him, so he lifted the edge of the trashcan so I could get a little peek.  I was surprised that the rat he’d found was my own. I cried, “Rat-Oh!” and scooped him up. The adults were shocked as I walked away with a large rat perched on my shoulder. After that, my friends and I decided it would be better to stop playing Pet Show.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 18

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


There was a girl named Serena that lived in the same complex as us, but a few units over. Her mom was also a single parent. Serena’s house was fun because she would make us sugar and butter sandwiches. 

She also had a new baby sister. One of our favorite games involved playing with her sister's tiny socks; when a pair was folded together, the ends looked just like bunny ears. We played for hours, pretending the socks were baby bunnies. 

Her mom started dating a guy that Serena didn't like. We had gotten a hold of a Playgirl magazine and decided to send him a message - so we taped a photo of man with an enormous penis to the seat of his motorcycle. 

I’m not sure what exactly what our message was supposed to mean, but Serena’s mom's boyfriend didn't seem to like it. He tore it off his bike and rode away – and we high-fived.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 17

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


Another thing I remember is that we always rode bikes, walked or took the bus places. We were never chaperoned or driven anywhere. One of my friends named Beth had a pony that she boarded about 5 miles away. We'd pack lunch, and ride our bikes out to the stables and spent the whole day on horseback until it was time to ride our bikes home. 

Beth was a great friend to have – despite the fact that my mom was having an affair with her dad. She lived in a house on the street behind ours, and she had tons of animals. There always seemed to be a constant litter of kittens at her house. Beth also had a dog named Hilda that, despite never having pups of her own, had a crazy maternal streak.  She would catch one of the kittens and carry it around gently in her mouth. Hilda would gently pin the kitten down and grooming it using her small front teeth, which we called her ‘flea teeth’ until the kitten managed to wiggle away from her. It would run off meowing with wet, cow-licked fur. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 16

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


None of my friends played sports – except maybe some of the more athletic boys in my grade. Regardless of what we were playing at school in PE, I would move to avoid contact with the ball. I never understood all the fuss over organized sports. I could never work up enough enthusiasm to chase a ball around. We had been playing baseball and I didn't know the rule of touching home plate when coming in for a home run, so I ran in that general area and then back behind the fence.

One of the boys ran around the fence and tagged me with the ball while he screamed in my face, “YOU DIDN'T TOUCH HOME PLATE!” Seriously? It was so stupid that I just shrugged. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 15

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


I spent a large amount of time unsupervised. Maybe it was more common at that time or that most of my friends also had lived with only one working parent – but it seemed natural to leave for school in the morning, and not come home until after dark. I don’t remember ever having or doing any homework.

I rode my bike around, often stopping at a local ethnic restaurant and begging for falafel ends. These were the ends of the pita bread that had been cut off, and they were ordinarily thrown away. I’d scour the free box for clothes and look for loose change around the post office. Any money I found would be spent at the Rexall Drug store on candy. Everyone knew me; I was like the poor version of the children’s story, Eloise.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 14

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


Another holiday tradition we had was that I’d open my stocking the night before Christmas, and then we’d sleep in and have a leisurely Christmas morning, eating breakfast as we opened presents. Later in the morning, we’d make phone calls to family and I spent time playing with new toys in my pajamas.  One year, my grandmother spent the holiday with us and excitedly woke everyone up before 7am to open gifts. We told her to go back to bed, but she sat at the table, pouting - ramrod straight and waiting for everyone to wake up. 

The holiday she joined us for Christmas was the same year she’d kicked my uncle out of her house. My mom’s brother is 10 years younger than she is, and he was 16-years old at the time. They barely knew each other – in fact, my mom didn't even know she was going to be an older sister until shortly before my uncle was born. I know, right? My mom totally got the shaft when it came to parents. Regardless of the hard life that my mom had growing up, she remains one of the most compassionate and generous people I know.

Shortly after my uncle moved in, my mom offered to let a family friend’s 11-year old son come live with us while his mom went of town for an undisclosed period of time. The details were sketchy at best, but we went from the two of us to 4 people in a one bedroom apartment. 

A make-shift bookshelf of 2x4’s and bricks separated the bedroom, with my uncle on one side and bunk beds for me and Merle (yes that really was his name) on the other. 

The first night at our house after he thought everyone had fallen asleep, I could hear him quietly crying. Merle stayed with us for almost 5 months before his mom returned to claim him. By the end of his stay, I couldn't stand Merle. I’m fairly sure I was a brat to live with, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 13

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


Our small apartment was crowded with friends, food and noise - and I would be lurking on the periphery with my tape recorder, trying to capture every moment. It was a particularly raucous celebration on the nights my mom would bring out her plastic flute, and a holiday sing-a-long would commence.

My mom has a terrific sense of humor. She had several posters and whatnot hanging around the house. My personal favorite was a worn photocopy of a phrase written in beautiful calligraphy, which read: Fuck Housework. 

She also had a framed advertisement, showing the former actor (but not-yet president) Ronald Reagan. He was pictured smoking and endorsing Chesterfield cigarettes. There was a quote, saying “ABC – Always Buy Chesterfields.”

However, it was the needlepoint over the couch that got the most response from visitors. It read, ‘If Jesus died for our sins, let’s not disappoint him by not committing any.‘  Even though it had been repeatedly explained to me, I never really understood the humor. We weren't religious, but I understood enough to know that it might be offensive to people that were. 

One of my mom’s friends was the pastor at a church. When my mom knew he was coming over, she’d take it off the wall and slide it behind the couch. One time he came by and she’d forgotten to take the needlepoint down. There was a tense moment when we all realized it was still hanging on the wall, but he just laughed. It was a huge relief. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 12

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


It was a fun time. There was always lots going on. I got small pox while we were living there and learned from the neighbor kids that Santa wasn't real - and also? Moms don’t poop babies out of their butt. 

I also fell asleep once in my mom’s closet after an argument and my mom couldn't find me anywhere. I’ll never forget her expression when I walked into the kitchen – she was sitting at the table with her head in her hands, ready to call the police.

One night, my mom had called me in for dinner but I wouldn't come. I kept yelling, “Five more minutes!” When it was too dark to play, I finally came home – only to find that all the food had been put away. Dinner time was over. 

I was too shocked to cry and was sent to bed without having anything to eat. I opened my window and pitifully called out, “I’m sooooo hungry! And she won’t give me anything to eeeeeat!” 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 11

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


I remember sitting on the floor of my mother-in-law’s kitchen that summer she died. I was sitting across from her daughter, my husband’s sister - who I’d known since she was 14-years old.  She was the one to find my mother-in-law, and her grief was palpable. We were looking over the teacup collection together – she’d chose one and then I’d choose one. The siblings were given the task of dividing up the estate into thirds. 

Nothing was written down in regard to who got what – in her letter to her children, she asked them to come together and in the spirit of family decide who got which pieces of furniture, paintings, heirlooms, etc.

It was an amazing time. It was one of the hardest experiences in my life and everything seemed significant, sharper and acute.

One of the pieces of furniture that we brought home was a small mirrored cabinet. It stands on delicate, curved legs and used to contain her figurines and collectibles. It has a key that opens the cabinet and it sticks a little when the door swings open. 

This is where I keep the teacups that my sister-in-law and I divided between us that day. Some of the cups are very ornate with gold details and others are more flowery and girly. We often have dinner parties and the teacups and saucers come out with dessert and coffee. 

I adore my collection, and often rotate the cups that are used so none feel left out. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 10

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


I met a few kids and one of our favorite games was called ‘pet show’.  The housing didn't allow cats or dogs, but smaller animals were okay. One of the girls had a couple of guinea pigs, I had a rat and a cockatiel and another girl had a hamster. We would judge the animals on appearance and whether or not they could do any tricks.

The game was played in the large courtyard that all of the units opened up to, like one large communal backyard. I decided to bring out Bird first. It never occurred to me that he could actually fly. He was standing on the grass with the other contestants when he startled - and in an instant he was gone. 

I remember watching him fly up and around the courtyard...and then he flew out of sight. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Devastated, I made the long walk of shame back home to tell my mom what had happened. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 9

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


I was crazy bad at math, so my mom hired a tutor to come to the house. I think he was a student at the university – his primary mode of transportation was bicycle. I was game for the first session or two, but after that I would ‘forget’ to be home at our designated torture, I mean…tutor session.  

He was relentless, however. I had been playing with a group of friends at the playground when he rode up, out of breath on his bike. He asked me if I’d forgotten that it was time for my tutoring. I was sheepish – it was so obvious that he’d busted me, “Oops! Yeah. I guess I forgot what day it was…”

He rolled his bike alongside us as we walked back to my apartment. I tried to walk as slowly as possible, and just hoped nobody saw us walking together. One of his pants legs were rolled up, so as not to get the hem of it caught in the bike chain and he carried some sort of satchel across his body. It was probably filled with math problems to torture me with. Since it had taken him awhile to track me down, by the time we finished the torture tutoring session it was dinner time.

To be polite, my mom asked him if he’d like to join us for dinner. He mentioned that he was a vegetarian so I thought I was off the hook when my mom told him we were having steak. To see him go at it, he didn't seem to mind eating the flesh of cows so much after all. Eventually, he stopped coming – mostly because I never showed up.  (Thank god.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 8

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!

The PE teacher called me out during attendance for wearing a dirty sweatshirt. She asked me, "Is that a favorite, honey? You won't let Mom wash it?" The sleeves of my sweatshirt were grey with dirt, but I looked at her like she was crazy. My sweatshirt was dirty because we didn't own a washer or dryer and I couldn't be bothered to wash it.  

I imagined the other kid’s moms standing in their big backyards and pinning the wet sheets to the clothesline - while my mom was likely asleep. The act of collecting enough coins, hauling all our clothes to the laundry mat and losing a whole afternoon at the Wash 'n Fun made the task seem insurmountable. The way I looked at it, I was lucky to wear clean underwear daily. A dirty sweatshirt was the least of my worries.

We were required to run the mile weekly. Generally I was in the middle of the pack of girls, but on one day something just clicked. Coming around the final lap, I had managed to stay with the lead runners. My legs burned and my lungs were on fire - but as I rounded the corner for the final 20 feet, it occurred to me that run would be my personal best. I was thinking that the PE teacher would see my time and realize that underneath my dirty clothes, I someone special. And that’s when I tripped.

I fell hard. I scraped my knees and the palms of my hands and managed to chip my front tooth – but the worst part was that I got one of my infamous bloody noses. There was so much blood that it was hard to tell where it was coming from. I had knocked the wind out of myself, which in itself was excruciating – but nothing was as bad as being the center of attention.  I just wanted to crawl away and hide. One of my friends was the nurse’s aide for that period and she ran behind the school nurse, pushing a wheelchair. The nurse wheeled me back to her office, while my friend Julie trotted alongside and held my hand.

After the nurse cleaned me up, she called my mom and told her what happened. My mom told her she’d be down to pick me up in within a half hour. I waited on one of the cots for my mom to come. When Julie came in to check on me, I tried to thank her for being so nice – but when I opened my mouth to say something, my voice caught and some weird noise came out instead. I started to cry. It was so awkward that she just quietly backed out of the room.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 7

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


We lived in a small college town, and my mom always had the best parties. She had a group of misfit friends: professors at the university, a pastor, lonely neighbors, co-workers, parents from her after school childcare. We didn't have much, but she opened her home to everyone. 

My mom would prepare elaborate dinners parties that would last late into the night. My favorite parties were the annual Christmas Eve party she threw. The day before Christmas, trees were discounted to almost nothing. My mom would bring home a tree shortly before the party, and guests would bring an ornament to trim the tree. 

One year a few weeks before the party, my mom made dough to make our own ornaments. We rolled out the dough and used cookie cutters to make holiday shapes. One of my favorite ornaments was an angel that my mom made. She had painstakingly rolled out small, oblong beads that she formed from the dough and then pressed each one onto the wings to make individual feathers. It was beautiful.

After that, it was on; we found that making our own ornaments instead of using a cookie cutter was more creative and looked better. I made a  Christmas tree that was decorated with the most elaborate miniature ornaments. It’s a wonder they didn't burn off when it was baked in the oven.

I decided to try rolling out letters. I was going to make an ornament that said Merry Xmas - but it really bothered my mom on the principal of defiling the English language. She took exception with businesses that changed letters in words for their own evil purposes, such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts. 

So we ended up compromising, and I decided to roll out a phrase instead. I tried to roll out letters to form the phrase, HO HO HO - but it was too long and wouldn't stick together right.  So I shortened it to two letters: H, O.

My mom was in fits over it, but never let on what was so humorous about an ornament that spelled ‘Ho’. I felt very clever about the whole thing. I can’t remember if we baked them in the oven first or before when they were still soft – but I painted it orange, just to be contrary. To this day, it’s one of my mom’s most prized ornaments.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 6

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


There was an afternoon where I was having a disagreement in the playground with one of the other girls. I came home to complain about it to my mom (“I’m going to tell my mom on you!”), but my mom wasn't interested in resolving my sandbox problems. She absentmindedly told me to dump sand on the girl’s head.

It was all the confidence I needed. I stomped back out and shoveled sand as fast as I could into a bucket, the girl taunting me all the while, “What are you going to do now, huh? Huh?”  

She was shocked when I poured the entire bucket over her head. There was sand everywhere – in her hair, down her shirt, in her mouth and eyes. This time, she was the one to run home and cry to her mom. 

When she came back, she had a cup of water that she threw at me, literally; but instead of holding onto the cup and letting the water splash me, she'd let go and clocked me in the forehead with it.

Christine and I kept her cup and spent the rest of our playground time making an elaborate drink of nasty berries, sand and water. We were convinced we could get her to drink it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day 5

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


When my mom moved back to her hometown, she rented a little room on the same property owned by her friends. I loved it there. It was a little bohemian enclave. They had fruit trees and it was there that I learned to love loquats, which are a little fruit similar in flavor to a peach. There was more seed than there was fruit, but that didn't keep me from repeatedly eating so many that I made myself sick. 

Pat went to high school with my mom, and he and his wife, Jenny lived in the main house. I remember Jen was particularly excited because she had just bought a blender. She couldn't seem to stop talking about it, and offered to make us all kinds of delicious beverages and smoothies. 

I decided the only way she’d stop driving us all crazy over the fucking blender was to steal the blade out of it. I buried it in the garden underneath the steps of our bungalow.   

It turned out I was wrong; stealing the only part that made the blender operable only made Jen talk about the blender more. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 4

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


While I waited at the counter of the veterinarian’s office for our older dog’s medicine, I quietly cried. I had taken her in because she has been coughing. 
And while I worried that she might have pneumonia, I was completely unprepared for our vet to call me into the back office. 

Her expression was very serious and our dog is kind of sketchy - so I expected a lecture about how they couldn't x-ray her lungs because she wouldn't let them. And by the way… it’s going to cost an additional $400 to put her under general anesthesia to get the images of our dog’s lungs.

It wasn't any of those things. Our dog has tumors in her left lung; two large one’s for sure, plus a couple of questionable areas that are likely tumors as well. She has The Cancer.

Grief is a strange phenomenon. My daughter once said that if she is crying about something and is sad, it makes her think of all the things that make her sad, too. Maybe because she’s my daughter and I think she is brilliant – but out of the mouths of babes, right? I find this observation very poignant and very true. So I got to thinking about what makes me sad: the disappointments in my life, the struggles that I've had with addiction/alcoholism, the frustrations of being a parent and the major life upheavals. 

I heard a man remark about a 13-year old boy that he went through rehab for addiction with, who had one of the craziest lives he’d ever heard about. The 13-year old told him that “everyone has a story. The thing is not to fall in love with it.” I heard that line over 10 years ago and it has stayed with me. It’s one of those ideas that get me where I live: Everyone has hard times. This is where resilience and the ability to let the past go come in.

I've told the women I help with addiction and my own children that our experiences are like currency. They are what make us appreciate the goodness in our lives - and hopefully the hardships we endure can be a way to be of service to others. It runs along the lines of ‘better to comfort than be comforted’.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 3

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


My junior year, I had another English teacher named Rick Mokler. He turned out to be my one of my favorite teachers in high school.  He was my English teacher for next two years - and during one semester I had him for two different classes. I adored him. One time he assigned a writing project where we all were to describe the same, common place thing: a high school locker. It was a lesson in details. “Write your piece until each word is perfect.”

I worked up some details in my mind. I wanted to include graffiti, but I also wanted it to seem accurate and not contrived. My favorite band was Van Halen - but in this case, for whatever reason, it just seemed inappropriate or unlikely, too obvious. I settled on ‘Jimi Lives’ as the graffiti on the inside of the locker door. Although I had an appreciation for Hendrix, it would have never been something I would have written. This somehow felt like a small sacrifice not to name my own favorite band, and that act made it more authentic. 

When all the assignments had been handed in and graded, Mr. Mokler chose his favorite to share with the class. And without saying it was my work, he read it aloud to everyone. There was a short pause and then one of the cool surfer guys said, “Someone in this class wrote that?” 

I was already crimson from the reading and when Mr. M announced it was my paper, the whole class turned to look at me.  I was embarrassed, and totally thrilled to be acknowledged as a writer. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 2

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


When I got to grade school, I was asked to write a story about spring. The Easter bunny seemed a likely subject, but most of my other classmates where already writing about him. So I penned the story of the little known Easter Worm. He wanted it more and worked harder than the bunny because of his disability – what with having no limbs and all. My carefully handwritten story had the honor of being stuck to the fridge with magnets for all to see - alongside my recipe for homemade pizza dough that included detailed directions to ‘pinch the crust as high as mountains’. My mom loved both these stories so much. Although I wrote them over 35 years ago, we were talking about them as recently as 2 months ago.

When I was older, I was prone to ear infections and missed a lot of school. During one of my prolonged absences, I decided to write a story and took a legal –sized pad of paper and pencil with me everywhere I went.  The story was about a runaway girl and her pony, and they are stranded in high tide against the bluffs of a beach. Riveting, right? I guess I have a story after all.

My best friend and I were totally horse crazy, and to that end I spent hours of time playing with model horses, playing ‘horse’ at school – which involved lots of galloping around and whinnying, and endless road trips imagining a wild, black stallion running alongside our car, trying to catch a glimpse of the small girl in the back seat. I had an ongoing dialogue in my head about the fantasy horses that I owned and the wacky situations we got ourselves in, while I drove our neighbors crazy as I played hand ball against the side of their apartment for hours: ka-chung, ka-chung, ka-chung.

I’ll end my qualification with two short anecdotes from high school. I’ll elaborate in greater detail later but when I was 16, I got sober. I had an English class where we were required to keep a journal. Our teacher would scan the journals, just to ensure we were actually writing and not just repeating a single word over and over: bewbs, bewbs, bewbs, bewbs.
 
Obviously, I love writing - so this was a fun, easy requirement. I also found that journaling was very cathartic and I wrote out my beginning experiences as a sober alcoholic. I took the teacher at his word, and also figured no one would be interested in what I wrote anyway. That is, until he returned disclosed that he’d read every word. I was more than a little sketched out – but also flattered…in a creepy way. He’d been touched by my experience and told me that he was rooting for my recovery.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 1

For each day of November, I am going to post an excerpt of the novel I'm working on for the next 30 days through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And, go!


I am participating in the National November Writers Month, and I have a goal to write just under 1,700 words daily. The word goal is to help me write my first novel and the guidelines are to write anything -even if I don’t have an outline or specific idea. Something good is supposed to come out of all this.

And the other thing? I’m not supposed to edit.  Forget the number count; not editing as I write will be the bigger act of discipline.

Several of the people that I know who are participating in NaNoWriMo, as it’s fondly referred to - have a seed of an idea for a book; a general outline or a theme. I got nothin’.

It made me want to qualify somehow – why would I do this? The answer is simple: I’m an only child and I grew up without a television.  So, if I have anything going for me - it’s scads of creativity, patience and determination. I like to spend a lot of time alone, and most importantly… I love to read.  My best friend was also an only child, although she had a TV. She also had a great number of things that I never had: a lava lamp, a four-bedroom house with spiraling staircase and a dachshund.

We spent an enormous amount of our time together reading.  Beginning with the horse books: Billy & Blaze in the various hardcover adventures… I especially loved CW Anderson’s illustrations, Misty of Chincoteague, The Black Stallion series. We loved comics: Richy Rich and Archie were favorites, but we also read Ranger Rick and Mad Magazine. Much of the Mad Magazine humor was lost on me – too many references to stuff I didn’t understand. We moved onto the pre-teen and teen stories: Nancy Drew (we didn’t ready Hardy Boys, however – we saved that strictly for the TV show we watched at my friend’s house, so we could fawn over Shawn Cassidy and Parker Stevenson), Paula Danziger and Judy Blume. We read all of the VC Andrew Flowers in the Attic series, which was just brilliant and pure trash.

If I really wanted to split hairs, I’d say that my mom is partly to blame for any qualifications that I may have to write a book.  She is the most well-read person I know, literally – she is reading constantly always. Her home is filled with books, and her Kindle discovery was like giving the gift of sight to the blind, or in this case – the gift of the bookless a book. She instilled the love of reading in me and it is a tradition that continues with her appreciative and adoring grandchildren. Every visit, she takes them to the local bookstore and they each get to pick two – just two! books. It’s a wonderful tradition and a whole lot like heaven for them.