A Game-y New Year's Eve

Oh, it is New Year's Eve and we are totally set for the night...

The Unnamed Ones decided they wanted to be here versus at the beach with the Long Departed Ex-Spouse and their Happy Family so we're celebrating in style.

We'll sit around the table and have fondue- steak, shrimp and chicken with chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. There will be french bread and good conversation followed by a surprise evening of entertainment.

The boardgames cart at the mall was having a sell-out which means this household will be playing a host of new games. You'd think we'd all be over this phase of our lives but the trick is to find games that pique our interests as we all grow and evolve. The absolute and total key though is to play games that are a bit out of the norm. There is no Monopoly for this crew, no sirree, Bob!

The lineup for the evening: 7 Deadly Sins, Dirty Minds, Things- Humor in a Box, Visual Eyes, the Wizard card game and, if all else fails, Pass the Pigs.

I'm thinking this could be a great start to what has got to be a better year!


Saying Goodbye to Cookie

I went to see Cookie one last time tonight. The family had visitation at the funeral home, which in this case meant a viewing of the body as well as expressing condolences to the family.

When I am dead- note to family- no viewing. What are you thinking people? I'm dead. It's not like I'm going to suddenly sit up and talk or anything! Furthermore, I don't want a bunch of people standing around saying things like "Doesn't she look good?" or "She just doesn't quite look like herself, does she?"

Well, duh! I'm dead. There is no more looking like myself or looking "good." What is that?!

But I digress.

I was visiting Cookie- but from the other side. She is now "over there" while I am still here, visiting the family I had until now, only seen in pictures pinned to the wall in her nursing home room.

I knew them all instantly and the weird thing was they didn't know me. I was their mother's friend, the one whose name Cookie couldn't remember, the one who listened to her fears and feelings, the one who held her hand when no one else was around.

In a way, it was like walking into a home movie and sharing a secret joke with Cookie.

Her daughter knew me by name, held my hand and said she knew how much I'd meant to her mother. She said everyone at the nursing home had been so good to her mom. I wondered which nursing home she thought her mother was in because it sure wasn't the one I know!

Her son said Cookie died very peacefully. He said he and his sister were sitting in her hospital room with her when he noticed her heart rate slipping lower and lower, only to rally a bit before sinking again. "I kissed her forehead and I said 'Mama, I know you're tired. It's alright to go now.'"

A few moments later, Cookie let go.

I looked around the room at all the familiar faces, feeling as if I knew them so well and yet not at all. No one was crying. After all, Cookie was 93. She'd lived a long, long life and she was much loved.

I walked over to the casket and looked down at my dear friend one last time...until I heard the echo of my Unnamed Ones saying "You know they fill their mouths with foam and sew them shut. There's makeup on their faces and hands. Sometimes they even dye their hair."

Cookie's cheeks were just a bit too full, her bruised hands a bit too thick with pancake foundation. The tie we had here in this dimension broke free in that moment and I had to let go of my earthly image of Cookie. She has gone- maybe back to where she came from, in one form or another. Perhaps her energy lingers in some way near those of us who loved her. I just don't know.

But wherever she is, I hope she gets to say hello to Dad. I took him to meet her one time and she liked him just swell- which was perfect, considering their specialness in my world.

I hope whatever continues on after we lose our bodies meets up with whatever's become of him and they swirl like invisible autumn leaves around me as I make my way on down the path without them.


Damn it! Cookie died.


Christmas Slugfest Hobbles Inspiration...

Well, we made it. Christmas came and went without any major explosions, omissions or crisis. Considering this zoo- that's an accomplishment!

Sister Flea is in town. She got in Christmas afternoon and we've been in a flurry of "finding our passion" and "feeling at one with the universal plan."

This means we watched "The Secret," followed by 4 chick flick movies- including "Invincible" - even if it is kind of a sport movie...about a guy from the hood makes the Eagles football team, wins the girl and the respect of South Philly, which ain't no easy feat I can tell you!

In other words- we are having a Slugfest...We wrap ourselves in afghans, crank up the gas logs, make tea and lie around doing nothing. We are Slugs- hence the name, Slugfest.

We did cruise the Dollar Store where we bought 2 yellow posterboards and 2 booklights. The posterboard is to hold our goals, hopes and dreams in the form of an Inspiration Board, while the booklights are for me.

We have yet to cut out one hope, dream or aspiration from a magazine- but we are one with our own laziness and know we are but gathering strength...and eating everything baked in this house within the past week.

The Win a Batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies Contest goodies are all packed up for their respective recipients and will go out in the mail tomorrow- that was my one nod to accomplishment and responsibility today.

Tomorrow the oldest dog, Woodah, goes back to the vet- yet again. This time it is bad. She will have a toe amputated because the vet thinks it's cancer. The thought of losing her overwhelms me. The thought of one more goodbye is too much...and I am dancing on the rim of self-pity.

I must remember our many blessings, visualize Woodah well and fiesty and stay strong. But some days are tougher than others.

Tomorrow it will be 3 months since Dad died.


And The Winner Is...

In the Grand Cookie Giveaway- I couldn't just draw one name, so I drew three. The winners are:

Sue S.
Michelle DeP.
Rita B.

I'll be getting those cookies out ASAP! And Rita, I need your snail address.

I want to thank all the people who were kind enough to write in and say such nice things! If I survive this cookie give-away there will be more!

It has been a zoo here. You know me- Short Attention Span Theater. I couldn't just do the last minute baking. Not me. I had last minute shopping to do as well and I haven't wrapped a damned thing...other than what I paid the fundraisers at Borders who wrapped a few gifts for a donation.

Then I got sidetracked by a new dance- tap and clogging- website I found. In particular, this guy caught my attention. So I'm in the kitchen trying to learn the step he's showing online, baking cookies, pound cake and cheese straws and playing Taboo and Pinochle with the Unnamed Ones.

It is just total bedlam.

And in the midst of things, I thought the front yard needed a Burning Bush. So I streaked outside to wrap the tiny Dogwood tree in what I thought were purple, red and pink lights...but alas, they were all pink!

The Unnamed Ones arrived home to tell me they thought the lights made the Burning Bush look like Maggie the Crazed Schnauzer. The Eldest even took a picture with my new cell phone to show me and I had to agree- my salute to the Old Testament looks rather like a pink neon dog. If I knew how to send the picture to the 'puter, I'd show you. The Eldest is working on it as we speak.

I can't believe tomorrow's Christmas Eve. It seems surreal. The weather is too warm. I don't know what's not right about it but I don't "feel" Christmassy.

Last night I couldn't sleep. I found myself thinking about Cookie in the nursing home...so I did what I do almost every day- I checked the obituaries. She wasn't there. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, I for some reason at 3 a.m, checked my voicemail.

One of my friends at Cookie's nursing home had called. "Just wondered where you were. I didn't see you this week. Maybe we can have lunch. Oh, and on a down note, Cookie had a stroke. They sent her out yesterday. I don't know anything else."

Sent her out means she went to the hospital. I won't be able to find out much from the weekend staff at the nursing home and the hospitals won't even admit she's a patient because as much as I love Cookie, I'm not family.

But on Wednesday when I stopped by to drop off presents from the cloggers to the residents, Cookie took my hand, smiled at me and said, "You know..." There was a long pause as she tried for the words and couldn't find them. Then, "I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you."

I held onto her. "I love you too, Cookie. I'll be back."

I figure she had her stroke later that afternoon or the next day. I play her words over and over in my head wondering if I'll ever see her again, wondering if she really knows I love her.

I should've gone to all the hospitals looking. I should've gone to the nursing home and asked questions but I didn't. I know they wouldn't know the answers...unless Cookie was dead. I think this is why I don't go. I don't want to lose one other person I love. Not now. Not today.

Stupid, huh?


How to Email Me in One Easy Lesson

There's a link at the bottom of each post...but it's tiny. It looks like a little envelope. Click on that and it'll bring my email address up...or, if you are ocularly challenged and still in denial about it:


Okay, I stand MEGA-corrected. My buddy Roch101, who knows WAY more about these things than ole technologically challenged me, pointed out that envelope icon only lets me send the blog entry to another friend. Well, hell!

So...just email me at the above address and I'll let you know if I ever wise up and figure out how to email myself!! It's like freakin' calling yourself- I never remember my own number cause I don't call me!

Hey, but if you go look at my profile, it shows an email address for me! Dawg! See, I'm a'learnin'!

Yes, I'll Send You Cookies Contest

Okay, you know I am technologically challenged and while I live with the teenaged Unnamed Ones, it has thus far, benefited me little. I'm saying this because I want to send you goodies, cookies or pound cake or an assortment and can't figure out how to do it!

I wanted to have a contest. You know, send in your name and a randomizer picks your name and I mail out goodies to the winner. Well, I can't find a "randomizer" program and even if I could, who knows if I could use it?!

Then I thought, well, I'll just have them send me a 25 word "Why I Want Them Damned Cookies Anyway!" essay...but that wouldn't work. I'd love every entry. I'd be biased.

So here it is- if you want to throw your hat in the Nancy Will Send You Cookies or Unnamed Goodies like lemon pound cake or an assortment of whatever I bake this morning- click on the email box at the end of this post, send me your name and, if you want, your email address and I'll print out every name. Then I'll throw all the names in my velvet hat and let one of the Unnamed Ones draw the lucky winner out of a hat. If the Unnamed Ones are in one of their rare accommodating moods, I'll even film the event and post it. Then I'll email the winner and ask for your address and send it to you!

Hell, I might even autograph a book and throw that in too!

It will be a down and dirty, 48 hour contest starting RIGHT NOW!!! You have until 10:30 a.m e.s.t to get your entry sent to my mailbox. Only one entry per contestant!

Let's see...disclaimers. All good contests have disclaimers. Here are mine:

Don't blame me if you get addicted, fat or have an allergic reaction. They're just cookies. Deal.

Don't get your panties in a wad if some of the cookies break or crumble...It's only the postal system. Deal.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Merry Christmas!



Mrs. Smith's Secret Weapon

When I was a kid my best friend, Betsy, lived two doors over in a huge, fieldstone house. She had six brothers and sisters. Her father was my doctor and her mother was the office nurse. Their house was always full- of sound, energy, laughing, crying and loving.

They scared the living shit out of me.

I was a shy little mouse, plopped in amongst a jungle full of flying monkeys. In their world, everything seemed so easy. They were physical- comfortable in their bodies, at home in their skins and yet, like every family, dysfunctional. But this didn't seem to bother them. They went right on laughing and playing and duking it out without seeming to care what the rest of the world thought or felt about them.

They could fly and I was stuck on the ground- afraid to try.

My friend, Betsy, took me under her wing and in my own way, I took her under mine. We stuck, thicker than blood, throughout our lives...Although I must say, she has been the better friend- always there, always kind, always patient. While I wander off for months, sometimes years at a time, lost in the swirl of my own life, Betsy is always there.

It has always amazed me that she has no concept of how truly wonderful she is. She has become, in so many ways, her mother.

When I was timid and scared to death to join in the mix of their family, Mrs. Smith seemed to intuit this. She never pushed, just folded me into her clan the same way she folded chocolate chips into the cookies she baked and had ready for us kids every afternoon.

I soaked it all up, treasured every moment and swore that one day when I had children of my own I would bake cookies for them every afternoon...until one day I became as good a mom to my kids as Mrs. Smith was to hers.

As soon as they were old enough to eat solid food, I began to bake. I have movies of the Unnamed Ones on kitchen chairs, wearing oversized white aprons and wielding long-handled wooden spoons coated with cookie dough. I wrote my first book in the kitchen, surrounded by children waiting for the next batch of chocolate chip cookies to pop out of my oven. I became The Cookie Mom. Somewhere along the way, I forgot to worry about doing it the right way. I was too busy doing to worry about being.

My Unnamed Ones have grown beyond my cookies. They are eating "healthy" food, or going out to eat or forgetting to eat. They are poised on the edge of the nest, tasting the feel of the wind beneath their wings. They have no time for moms and chocolate chip cookies.

This has not stopped me from baking them. I have new "children" who wait eagerly by the front door twice a week. I am their mom, their little girl, their best friend, their wife or their girlfriend...I am whomever they need at the moment, even if they can't remember my name. They do remember the important stuff- I am The One With the Cookies and when we are together munching, the problems of the day don't seem as monumental. Getting old alone in a nursing home is forgotten for a brief second and we are all family.

Love, like Mrs. Smith's chocolate chip cookies, must be contagious.


Chicken Wire Light Balls Attack Elderly Women, Film at 11

We have a neighborhood here in Greensboro that has developed a Christmas light tradition to end all neighborhood traditions...Okay, well, maybe not to end all but at least to give all other neighborhoods a run for their money. Being a southern city, we're not going to forget where we came from. Any good tradition must include at least one southern necessity...Like Sunday Supper always includes Sweet Tea-the Sunset Hills Light Ball Display brings new sophistication to Chicken Wire.

Now, I'm not saying the South has cornered the market on chicken wire, I'm just saying we've elevated it to an art form. We form the chicken wire into large balls, cover them with Christmas lights and then hang them from high atop our trees. I tried to take pictures, so you'd have a feel for it, but I am a lousy photographer and didn't at all do Sunset Hills justice. But when you turn into the neighborhood, this is a tiny bit what it looks like:

And from the end of Ridgeway Drive, as far as the eye can see, huge colored balls hang suspended in midair to form a wonderland that is not to be believed.

So me and Mertis got the bright idea to make light balls last year. We got a bit carried away with it all and made a few too many but it worked out as I gave them away as gifts. I used child labor and called it a Family Christmas Activity, but they weren't fooled:

This was further proved this year when I attempted to get the Unnamed Ones to use the Youngest Unnamed One's Potato Rocket Launcher to shoot the ropes high up into our trees in the front yard and then attach the balls. As you may recall, it resulted in a fist fight and an impressive indoor display of profanity.

Which left the true work, as always, to the womenfolk. The boys are gone for the weekend and I am determined to hang those damned balls. So I called Old Mertis over to fling the double tennis ball dog toy, attached to twine, up as high as she could...hopefully landing over a branch somewhere higher than six feet off the ground.

Mertis must've played slow pitch in a former life 'cause the woman flung those dog balls way up high in the trees.

After an hour or so of trying to sort out extention cords and triple taps and assorted electrical and logistical issues, I began to understand how it was my boys came to blows.

I also impressed Mertis with my vocabulary of four letter words.

You see, while the Greensboro News and Record did indeed print a detailed article on the manufacture of said balls, they neglected to tell me how they got their balls so high up there, and further, how they attached all those extension cords and still had power left to run their indoor lights!

But just as good triumphs over evil, estrogen trumps balls any day of the week and we hung 'em high by dark-thirty...just in time to ride over to Sunset Hills and admire the real display.

I invited Mertis to indulge in a liquid refreshment when we returned back to my neck of the woods, but it was not enough to keep the inevitable Karma from catching up with us once again. You see, when we were able to string up the lights as the Unnamed Teenagers had failed to do, we crowed about it. We danced around the front yard talking about how women can do anything and even high-fiving each other.

So...like all who climb up above their raisin's, we were due for a fall.

As I poured the two glasses of wine, Mertis reached out for her's and stopped, her arm half-lifted, a pained expression on her face.

"What's wrong, Mert?" I asked.

"I think I tore somethin'," she winced. "I can't lift my arm any higher than this."

There was no liquid powerful enough to diminish Mertis's pain and return her to her former self. I am afraid we stared down the barrel of our own mortality this evening.

Mertis and I are...dare I say it?


And even our balls are looking puny:

Oh well, maybe we can pay them young'uns to shoot up the rest of the display and then drive Mert over to the Urgent Care for a cortisone shot or something!


Christmas Decorating Amidst Fisticuffs and Attack Dogs

Well, I am pleased to report some progress has been made around here in preparation for Christmas...

The tree is finally up and decorated. It's got to be one of our finest, even if the K-Mart star weighs the top down a tad. When the Eldest Unnamed One was 2, he decided nothing would do but that star and it's been tradition ever since.

Even the outdoors is perking up a bit. With a little help, I got the icicle lights up and yes, I do know they're not perfectly aligned with the roof! There are limits to what dangers I will risk on a too short ladder to put up lights. The sagging roofline is the price I pay for continued good health and unbroken bones.

It is not our usual wild and crazy, trailer park display...but then Christmas ain't here yet either. I have hope.

The Unnamed Ones were put in charge of stringing up chicken wire and light-wrapped balls into the trees in the front yard. This involved a potato rocket launcher, a whittled down nerf football, some twine and thus far, only one fist fight...and that took place inside, so at least I don't have to explain their violent tendencies to the neighbors.

Of course, there are no light balls showing in the above photograph either. That's because the twine broke stranding the nerf rocket atop a tall branch, resulting in aforementioned fisticuffs and trees without balls...but not without testosterone.

Anyway, you'll be pleased to hear my little angel, Maggie (a.k.a Maggot, BooBoo Kitty and Foostible, depending on our moods and hers) has calmed down considerably since last night's shower mania. She only attacked it 3 times today and is now snoring on my sofa.

I've been studying her today, with an eye toward Pimping My Dog for Christmas. With ears like her's I'm thinking surely I could turn them into twin trees, or angel wings.

Maybe I'll just stick to decorating inanimate objects.

More news tomorrow...after I bake yet another round of almond thumbprint cookies. If I'd just quit eating them, I'd actually have some to give away! I'm thinking my friend, Billy the Blogging Poet might like a few.


Dirty Little Secrets, Part 2. The Dog vs The Shower

We must talk. I have yet another dirty little secret to reveal...

My dogs are crazy. I offer as proof the following video in which Maggie the Schnauzer attempts to protect me from the shower by attacking it visciously. It is not enough that she bite the door, she must enter the shower itself and wait, sometimes barking shrilly, until the fateful drip of water invades her space. At that point, she attacks. If the water stops, she freezes until it starts up again.

If I wake up late, this guard dog activity really puts a kink in my schedule. In fact, should I allow myself to be "captured" by the evil shower, Maggie will sit outside the door and whine pathetically until I once again reveal myself as "all right."

And I haven't even gotten to the rest of the dogs yet. Genuine basketcases.

But I say, judge the insanity for yourself-


Christmas Panic and Live Nativity "Scenes"

I was talking to a friend of mine today, a fellow mom, who's feeling just a bit frantic and frazzled by this entire holiday season. "Your expectations are just so high," she says. I nod sympathetically. "And it can never be as good as you think it ought to be. I'm trying to work and shop and still have time to make happy holiday memories and all I want to do is run away!"

Oh, I am so on board this particular train!

She keeps on, talking about how her childhood Christmases weren't wonderful and she wants them to be that way for her kids.

I'm still nodding, but now I'm thinking of the Unnamed Ones and what complete and total little shits they've been lately, as if they've forgotten that Santa doesn't just pop down the chimney when you act like assholes.

I think a little about what a shit I've been, only I'm flawless, so this doesn't take too long...

This is when I hear my friend say, "And then the kids are out for winter break after next Wednesday and Christmas Eve is Sunday and we have to..."

Well, I stop listening after she says the kids get out of school next Wednesday afternoon.

How has this happened? Why didn't I get the memo?! You mean to tell me I only have like 10 days til Christmas?

This cannot be true! I haven't done half the baking, let alone shopping, wrapping and mailing!

But I am a friend to the end.

"You know those organized women who shop the sales in January and are finished with their Christmas buying by February?" I say. My friend nods. "Well I feel sorry for them," I say. "They're missing out on all the fun! What is Christmas without a last minute rush? How do you enjoy it if you've bought all your presents almost a year in advance? That's not buying something personal with a great deal of thought and effort put into it! That's just saying, hey crockpots were on sale so here you go!"

My friend nods. "I never thought about it like that!"

She feels much better while I, on the other hand, am now completely panicked.

Later in the day I run into another friend who reads me her laundry list of To Dos Before Christmas.

"If I could just get the dog pee out of the carpets before Christmas Eve, I'd be ready to party!"she says. "Is that too much to ask? I mean, all right, so I was out of town for a few days and the bunnies and cats were kind of on their own, but is it too much to think Happy Steamer can do 5 rooms and a hallway for $99 and get cat, dog and bunny pee out?" She shakes her head. "I never open those Value Saver envelopes that come in the mail but I just might this week. There's always a Happy Steamer coupon in there. People say they just say it's $99 so they can get in the door, but as long as I at least have a starting point, I can bargain from there, can't I?"

What can I say? I tell her yes, this is exactly what she should do and of course Happy Steamer can get lizard, cat, dog and bunny pee out of a housefull of carpet AND move all the furniture and it won't cost very much at all and it is perfectly reasonable to expect this from a carpet cleaner.

The woman needs some hope to hang onto until Santa arrives with the Dog, Cat, Bunny and Lizard Catcher on Christmas morning.

In the process of telling me how overcommitted she's been, she starts to tell me about running the live nativity scene at church last week.

The little kids from her Sunday school class wanted to participate, she was short on adult volunteers, so she thought, why not?

Little Elbert gets tapped to be a shepherd, which is not at all what he wanted. He wanted to be one of the Wise Men and to make matters worse, the Billy goats couldn't make it for the show so Elbert has no flock to keep watch over because someone made the goats' owner an offer he couldn't refuse, and at the last minute he sold them. So, Elbert's bored and looking for anything to occupy his interests when he overhears Rebecca, one of the Wise "Men" muttering to her friend, "20 more minutes of this torture and we're out of here!"

Elbert appoints himself town crier and bellows, "Twenty more minutes of torture," to the crowd of reverent onlookers gathered around the nativity...He then proceeds to do a countdown every few minutes of how many more seconds they must endure of "Torture!" before his shift is over.

The next day two 9 year olds are the Wise Guys. It's a slow period on Saturday afternoon, with most of the spectators prefering the evening hours for the candlelight viewing. My friend is short a Joseph, so she's playing the role when one of the Wise Men walks over to the manger, picks up the baby Jesus doll and says, "You know, just cause she got pregnant it doesn't mean the guy's got to marry her. I mean, how does he even know who the father really is?"

My friend, "Joseph" is trying not to wet her pants laughing as they continue on with their speculations about Jesus's lineage when "Tortured" Rebecca, this time playing Mary, decides enough is enough. She snatches the baby Jesus back from the Wise Guy and scowls at the other participants. "You know," she tells them, "this is my baby doll so I can take the baby Jesus and go home any time I want to!"

"Those are the kind of Christmas memories I like to look back on," my friend says.

The holidays snap back into focus again as I'm thinking, "Yeah, me too!"

So let the chocolate chips fall where they may. Let the cats pee, the shoppers fight, the house stay dirty and the relatives continue to feel better about themselves by picking out all your flaws and inadequacies...remember- It's our baby Jesus and we can go home any time we want to!


Peeking Through A Hole In Heaven's Fence

In my dream Dad says he likes Heaven because he gets to be himself. Really himself. He finds it exciting. His eyes light up and I know he's just fascinated by the entire process. But he has come back because he felt his presence was needed.

He says it's not like he can see what we’re doing all the time. Heaven is not filled with dead relatives, all with their eyes glued to a live video cam of their left-behind family members. There's no wooden fence in Heaven where you can peep through a hole to see all the activity below.

In last night's dream, Heaven is not omnipresent nor omnicient. Dad just felt needed and so he arrived.

This is sooo Dad. Always looking after everyone else. I reckon old habits die hard.

He’s also come to straighten out one of Mom’s bills. Something to do with a changed account number, he says. He apparently is the only one who knows he changed the account number, thus he had to come back and tie up this one loose end.

We are in a store when he tells me this, on their busiest sale day of the year. “You’ll never get any help with this today,” I tell him. But being Dad, he of course does.

In my dream Mom and Sister Flea are setting a table for lunch with Dad’s brother and his wife. The doorbell rings and there is a sudden flurry of activity as they rush to finish their last second tweaks and greet their company. “See,” Dad says. “It’s been good for her. She never would’ve done this for herself before.” True that, I think.

I know somehow, he has also come to see about me, because things are so bad, because my life feels like a shit storm of bad events and missing him. “Really, how did you know I needed you?” I ask him.

“I just knew.”

That's how it is in Heaven, I suppose. You are more yourself and you just know when someone down below needs you.


I Was the Victim of a Teenaged Robot...Or How I Learned to Hate GPS

We are trying to get into the Christmas Spirit. We are looking at the season through rose colored glasses...

Which helps.

But then we went a little too far. We decided to go Christmas shopping in Myrtle Beach. That was overkill. We wore ourselves out shopping and eating, eating and shopping. We bought one Christmas present and a soft pretzel.

Navigating through Myrtle Beach can be a little confusing. It's easy to get turned around. Somehow on the way into town we veered off onto the wrong 501, thus making the trip a bit longer than we'd estimated.

The Unnamed Ones relished this opportunity to point out our mistakes. They then pulled out a cell phone and hooked up to a new GPS feature that would map our route home. They were so full of themselves! All the way home a disembodied female voice said things like "Prepare to turn left onto route 52 in .6 miles."

It was creepy having another adult female's voice come from the backseat, telling us how to drive and where to turn. The Unnamed Ones worshipped this voice, instantly following its advice when they barely listen to their own mother!

Along the trip home, we did see many sites we might've overlooked had we not ventured along with GPS Woman.

Then this...

and this:

but also this:

But mainly we saw this:

For hour after hour after hour! The 3 hr and 15 minute trip lasted over 5 hours!

A fact we will not let the Younger Unnamed Ones forget anytime soon!


People Are Different

It's nursing home day. I'm a consulting psychotherapist two days a week in three different homes, two of which are appalling in terms of the care they provide. In fact, I can't call what they do there "care." But most of you already know this about me and nursing homes.

One of my very favorite little old ladies is Cookie. She has Alzheimers. Throughout this blog I have ranted and raved about what is happening to her, marveled at her strength, enjoyed her humor and wisdom.

Two weeks ago my company said I had to quit seeing her because Medicaid didn't like it if I'd been seeing someone for a long time and they weren't getting better. I ranted about this, too. I said how can you judge "better" when Alzheimers is slowly erasing every memory and thought you have ever had?

I discharged her but I haven't stopped seeing her.

But it's been a week and Cookie is rapidly going downhill. I think this is not just her Alzheimer's. I think she is having ministrokes. I think ignorance and neglect are also contributing factors...but it doesn't change.

I walked into her room and she looked up at me, recognition slowly dawning.

"Can I have some water?" she asks.

I pour some from a pink pitcher on her nightstand into a small plastic cup. It is cold and a few ice chips float in the few inches I've poured.

Cookie takes the cup from me like she's been in the desert for days, gulps, chokes and coughs. Her cough sounds deep and raspy. She's sick.

She stares at the cup, studies it carefully with a puzzled expression. "It's," she says and pauses. "It's water!"

I nod and smile. "Nice, cold water," I say.

"I forgot water!" she says when she's finally able to speak. She seems astounded by this. She finishes what I've given her and drinks two more small cups before stopping. "I'd better not have too much."

She reaches out, takes my hand and pulls it into her lap. She brings my hand to her lips and kisses my hand.

"People are different," she says.

I get it. Earlier I'd seen two aides in getting her dressed for the day, dressed I might add in dirty clothes. The aides were playing with Cookie's favorite Christmas musical bears and music boxes. They seemed to be talking nicely to her, so I'd passed on by. But now, when I see her she seems clearly disturbed and keeps looking around over her shoulder, inspecting her music boxes.

"I went..." she says, looking toward the door. Cookie sometimes sits by the front door. Wanda, the receptionist, says she is waiting for me.

"I know," I tell Cookie. "I haven't seen you in a week."

Cookie smiles. "I felt like my life was leaving," she says.

I'm puzzled. I think she doesn't feel well, maybe thinks she's dying. I ask her because her right hand is swollen, but she shakes her head no.

"I thought I lost my friend," she says a few moments later. "I thought I lost my life."

And I realize she means me.

"People are different," she says looking toward the doorway again. "They are all different."

I hug her. I say, "I am your friend, Cookie and I am never going to leave you."

She smiles at me, grips my fingers and says, "I won't leave you either."

Somehow I think she knows this is a promise she can't keep but then I remember what Dad said before he died, "I will always be with you."

When you love someone, they live in your heart forever. You don't stop loving them because they are gone- you just add missing them to your list of feelings about that special person.

So, Cookie is right...she will never leave me.


How to Spin a Story Out of Your Everyday Life...Or How to Spin Gold Out of Memes

Okay, I've been doing a bit of reading on this blog tagging stuff and I think Liz Strauss has a way cool idea about how to deal with tags or memes. She decided to write her five things as a story, a Once Upon a Time of Her...and it just sings with energy.

It makes the reader hungry to know more about the writer and her story and isn't that our job as writers? Now, I am by no means a professional blogger. In fact, I am mainly clueless, but this will help me approach my novel and short story writing.

And you can bet I'll go back and read every other tidbit Liz has to offer, too.

It makes me wonder how my 6 Weird Things About Me would've gone in story form. Maybe something like this...

Once upon a time a little girl refused to take her nap. Instead she slipped out of her bed on her grandmother's sleeping porch and spied on her older, way cooler cousin. There the older girl sat, directly across the room from the little girl's hiding spot. She was tying the white laces of her bright red sneakers. The little girl watched closely, memorizing her cousin's every move. And that is how she learned to tie her shoes...backward.

Later, in college, this ability to learn backwards came in handy. All of her friends already knew how to shuffle a deck of cards, but our heroine was too shy and too ashamed to admit there was something she didn't know how to do. So she watched very carefully, taking small sips of her beer as she studied her roommates card game. And this is how she learned to shuffle cards backward.

It was, of course, all her mother's fault.

She carefully trained the little girl not to "get above her raisin's"...the family background, that is, not the dried fruit...So the little girl learned not to brag about her accomplishments. Because she was raised in the late 60s and early 70s the little girl learned not to have an "ego" as it results in "bad karma." So, in a vain attempt to pass these slightly skewed values on to her children, the little girl never bragged about beating her two hooligan teenagers at cards...

However today when the Eldest Unnamed One was a bit churlish, the Little Girl did find a Planned Parenthood sticker that advocated the use of "protection" and, while the poor child was otherwise occupied on the phone, managed to affix it to the hood of his sweatshirt. I suppose that means I got him coming and going...

Anyway, it was her mother's fault again when the little girl ran away to live in the land of her mother's kinfolk and thus became a transplanted, yellow dog, redneck. Because the girl also inherited a lack of coordination from somebody, she could never dance...but how she longed to!

One day, because her husband-at-the-time was driving her crazy, the little girl decided to take a risk. She would try to learn to dance. Because her husband was an infamous miser, the little girl took the cheapest dance lessons she could find...Clogging at the Rec Center.

Fortunately they had a class for the spastically challenged and the instructor was patient. Eventually the little girl learned to dance like the wind...although she did at times lose her balance, or dance in the opposite direction of the rest of the team...but that was only to keep herself humble. If she'd really busted loose and put the other ladies to shame, her karma would have been ruined.

Because she was also a non-believer in things like hand cream only belonging on hands...the little girl used body scrub on her face every morning in the shower. Perhaps this is why the Handsome Prince turned out to be a toad afterall...but I digress.

The little girl grew up to be a spastic, divorced mother of two hooligan teenagers but she never lost that shy streak. To this day she refuses to answer the phone...unless the caller I.D says North Carolina State Lottery Commission or Publishers Clearinghouse Winners Hotline...and even then she tries to get one of the boys to screen the call for her.

After all, it could always be a wrong number.

Yeah, Liz, I think you're on to something here! Good idea!


6 Weird Things About Me

O.M.G! I've been tagged!

The MOST fabulous Teena actually tagged me- the woman voted least likely to know 6 normal things about herself. Thank goodness she asked me a question I could answer! And thank goodness she knows just how to dynamite a gal off her pity pot!

6 Weird Things About Me:

1. I shuffle cards and tie my shoes backward- the exact reverse from the way every other person in the world does it.

2. I think I have every scrap of paper or picture my boys have ever brought home from school upstairs in my attic.

3. If I'm beating my kids at cards, I try not to crow- it'll spoil my Karma!

4. I use body scrub on my face every morning.

5. I'm a Southern Yankee transplant and I clog. I'm sorry, but that's just damned weird!

6. I will do anything, absolutely anything, not to call someone on the phone...Oh hell, I won't even answer it if I can help it! I'm just a phone phobe...unless I know you really, really well- then I'll talk your ears off!

The rules: List six weird things about you. Then choose six people to tag and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says “you are tagged” in their comments!

I'm tagging:

1. Crushing Krisis

2. Andrea

3. Billy

4. Kim

5. Goldie

6. Candy

Blah Humbug!

Perhaps my expectations are too high.

It is December and Christmas is coming. I am the Queen of Holidays. People drive past my house on the Tacky Tour, just waiting to see what crazy concoction I'll come up with next. One year it was lit up pink flamingos. Another time we crisscrossed the yard with so many different strands of lights it looked like a runway...leading a drunk to veer off the road and trench the lawn, perhaps under the delusion that we were an all-night convenience store.

Last year we made giant balls of chicken wire wrapped in lights and spent hours crafting ingenious ways to launch them high into the trees. It was our first Christmas in this house and we were all the way live.

Perhaps that is why the neighbors immediately listed their house for sale. When it didn't move they renovated it and the day after Thanksgiving, they put it up again. I bet they are dreading Christmas next door to the Griswalds.

But I have not put so much as one light up outside and very few inside. As soon as I get myself psyched to go to it, something happens and the wind just leaves my sails. And when I get down, it's not pretty.

I miss my Dad something awful, especially when things are bad. It's a chicken and egg kind of thing- which came first, feeling awful or missing Dad?


The Devil Witch Hits the Big 18!

Oh, it has been a big day in the neighborhood! In addition to a lovely trip up to Boone and Blowing Rock for a spate of Christmas shopping, the Eldest Unnamed One's Significant Other turned 18.

This was cause for great celebrating...

Although there were hurt feelings when some didn't get any cake...

they did manage to receive special dispensation from the princess herself, a little consolation prize to hopefully lessen the pain of denial...

We made the Devil Witch, as we affectionately call her, wear the Birthday Tiara, which drew mixed reactions from the other birthday revelers:

Still, I would have to say the evening overall was a success...even if one of us secretly wished he'd thought to wear the tiara on his birthday...


Scatterbrained and Shortminded.

I don't think Marti and I could ever talk in a straight line about one subject start to finish. Today it was like...

"You didn't say much about the Flea's visit over Thanksgiving. How was it?"

We are standing in Marshalls, quasi-shopping but more doing the human equivalent of cows grazing. (It was our reward for diligently trying to do my private practice billing for 4 hours.)

We happily wandered from one rich patch of designer "clover" to another more sparse sample, picking up things, putting them down and talking.

"It was," I start to say but can't finish because a woman in skintight white capri pants with palm trees embroidered all over them has just crossed my line of vision. "Oh dear God!" I say and grip Marti's arm. She looks up in time to catch the woman's ass leaving the store, her buns trapped tighter than Houdini in chains.

"Quick," I say. "Let's issue a fashion citation." (Yeah, like I'm dressed any better! But it was a small-minded day.)

"What would you say on the ticket?" Marti wants to know.

I think a second. "Crimes against nature and failure to yield to good taste."

But now I've found the dead Christmas jelly beans, leftover, I swear, from last year and I'm showing them to Marti as she's checking out but it's taking too long and I wander off to inspect the nearest corner full of merchandise...Men's gifts. An older guy trails along behind me, hacking like he's dying and definitely contagious, so I'm walking faster to get out of germ range when I see the ultimate Lazy Man's gift...A snowball maker.

How freakin' lazy are you if you've gotta come outside to whip some snowball ass with your guy friends, all of whom are in their late 20's to early 30's and missing rugby, and you're carrying a light blue, plastic device that looks like two ice cream scoops held together like salad tongs?

So, I point this out not only to Marti, but to the clerk ringing her up and anyone else in the general vicinity...just not to the consumptive guy, who may have dropped dead behind me anyway because I no longer hear him.

Which, for some reason reminds me I need gas.

Which leads me back to The Flea and how she was coughing and crying on Monday night, missing Dad.

But by now we're at the gas station and even though I'm about to cry, I pull up to the pump and prepare to get out and begin the process. This is when I look out my side window and see a scruffy guy in a skull cap making wild jerking motions with his hand like he's well, spanking the monkey...only with such energy and force he's probably beating it to death.

I point this out to Marti...in the middle of the tearful tale of my sister, and we both lose our shit laughing...which I do not think was what made him peel off out of the parking lot.

So I put the top down before I get out to pump gas because I don't want to stop talking to Marti about our futures as self-actualized women.

She, in turn, starts off on how her husband's probably trapped in St. Louis by the snow storms and might not make it home for the weekend and how really, we should go somewhere in January for a weekend retreat to plan the next 20 years of our lives so we'll be "The Women We Are And Not The Bitches We've Become."

Which brings us to the plot of my next book, which will have about five plots going on all at once...but of course now I can't remember them and they were freaking brilliant because Marti's so good at helping me sort through stuff like that.

We can't stick with this too long as we've just realized it's 3:30 and we haven't had lunch. So I drive off in the opposite direction of the Thai restaurant, give up and drive us back to the house where we make Thai Lo Mein...only there are no LoMein noodles, which were just going to be fat spaghetti noodles anyway, and we wind up with Spicy Thai Peanut Rotelli.

Which gave us enough energy to move the furniture in the den around...just so we could get a vision of what it would look like.

But in the middle of it, we got bored and she remembered the dogs hadn't been out since 9 a.m. and went home. Which meant we had pieces of leather recliners in two rooms and the horrible evidence of my failure as a cleaning woman all over the floor from the spots under the sofa and the chairs.

As she left, the boys came in arguing at the top of their lungs about whether China was truly communist and whether the person who owns the factory and doesn't pay his workers the same wage he earns is greedy or merely the smart guy who started it.

They continue to yell at the top of their lungs while they carry furniture for me and I start thinking maybe it was more peaceful to struggle on my own in silence than to referee a blood match between brothers.

Which leads me to wonder if we really will get the live tree this year and if so, how we'll all get our schedules into one accommodating evening. And how will we have harmony when the boys are fighting about world domination and the Flea and I are not in the mood for Christmas anyway. It's starting to stink like disaster.

And I have no idea why this makes me want to bake lemon pound cake, but it does, so I start to, only then the door opens and Mertis is there, needing help with her new laptop.

You know, some people actually think I've got A.D.D!

I prefer to think of it as multi-tasking.


Heads of Technology

The Eldest Unnamed One and I have a new hobby. It's called "Fix Mertis's Computer."

We play it for hours. We have become obsessed by it. Worst of all, I turned him onto it and now he's a little junkie.

See, it's like this. Mertis, despite having once been appointed Head of Technology at the P.D, knows nothing about computers or technology. Hell, Mertis hasn't found anything new of value since Disco came onto the scene.

Don't get me wrong, Mertis is a wonderful, down-to-earth woman, but let's face it, she don't know shit about no computers. And she likes Enya.

I would personally rather open a vein than listen to Enya. Her music sounds like like whales dying or having sex (depends on whether it's a "happy" song or not) so I think Mertis having an affinity for this music is probably why she can't handle technology. Listening to Enya has addlepated that part of Mertis's brain.

Anyway, Mertis's Toshiba Satellite P25S52..whatever, died and Mertis, in a fit of Mertis mania, ordered a Dell. It's like the second time the thing's crashed, but still, before it's even diagnosed, she orders a Dell! Of course, I agree with her, the Toshiba is shit. We both had the same computer and I ordered my Dell last year and will never again even touch a Toshiba anything ...except of course, for Mertis's dead Toshiba.

I just had to say..."Let me look at it."

The thing turns on. The Windows screen comes up and then...it just won't finish loading, or if it does, it won't run, or if it tries to run it moves slower than molasses.

It's a machine. I can't let a machine defeat me! So I turn on my Dell, look up what's wrong with the Toshiba and proceed to delve deeper and deeper into the underbelly of computer repair for dummies.

I get the thing to boot to the command prompt. This gives me a surge of confidence. I just don't know what booting to the command prompt will do for me since I don't know any commands to prompt.

So I research some more. I get a list of commands. I don't know what they mean either, but I feel I'm on the track of something.

Suddenly, two days have gone by. The immaculate at Thanksgiving house is now totaled and the Unnamed Others are demanding I either feed them or go to the grocery store.

I tell them, "Wait a minute."

I type, "cd c:\windows\system32"

When it then goes to Windows\System32, I am freaking amazed.

Two days later, I still don't know what that means but I think if I can just get some of the start up programs to not start up or the drivers to register or salute or tell me they need to roll over, I'll be a genius and the computer will work again.

Mertis says "It has a 3 year warranty at Best Buy. Just let me take it in. The boys are starting to look pale and weak."

I look up from her laptop, bleary-eyed, and say, "You can't take it now! I've almost got it!" I look back down at the black screen, type "devmgmr_show_details=1" and wait for a response.

I realize Mertis is still standing there, waiting for a response from me, so I say, "I'll cook dinner in just a minute."

A day later, the Eldest Unnamed One has learned how to cook and how to defrost things in the freezer until they resemble ingredients for meals. The Unnamed Ones are fed and out of guilt, because she has brought this plague upon our house, Mertis has done the dishes.

Then the Eldest makes the fatal flaw. "Let me see that," he says, like he's the King of Technology and a miracle healer to boot (no pun intended.)

It has been two days now. The Eldest is now here with me, doing his homework with one hand and re-booting the Mertis Toshiba with the other. I say, "Hon, it's after 11. You've gotta go to bed."

He looks up at me with bloodshot eyes and a maniacal grin. "Wait a minute," he says. "I just gotta try this one last thing."


The Flea Sees All, Knows All...

My sister Flea called last night. In honor of her second month without Dad, she now has a really bad case of bronchitis. "It's the second month in a row," she wailed. "What is this?"

She doesn't wait for an answer. She knows. "It's grief," she says, coughing.

She wants me to believe Dad is all around me/us. "I talk to him all the time," she says. "If I don't, then I'll think he's really gone and I can't do that!" As further proof, she offers me the story of Dad's sister, Ann.

"I sent them a CD of the funeral. So Ann goes to play it but her CD player's broken. There's no way for her to hear it but she doesn't want to be rude and not thank Mom for sending it. So she's sitting in the kitchen with Peter (her husband) writing Mom a note about how she can't listen to it yet, but she will when she and Peter hear this sound coming from the living room."

I know what is coming but I don't really believe it until she says it.

"It's the funeral CD. She left it in the CD player because it wouldn't turn on and it wouldn't open to let her get it back out. It's playing the funeral service. Can you believe it!" Flea hacks away, caught between her desire to keep telling the story and her need to breathe.

"They listened to the whole thing and then guess what?"


"They can't get it out of the CD player because it's broken. So there it is. It won't turn on and it won't let go! Now, tell me that wasn't Dad at work!"


"Okay," I say grudgingly. "I get that he is all around. I just want to know why I haven't heard from him. Personally. Right here where I can see him or at least dream him."

"You gotta tell him you really need him to show up," she says. Like she's got a hotline to heaven and knows for a fact what's what in the Great Hereafter.

"I told him," I said. "Over and over again."

She doesn't even hesitate with her diagnosis. "Well, he's new up there, you know. And he's been sick. He's gotta build up his power. He can't just flit around from one of us to the other. He's got to build up his strength."

"So what am I, last on the totem pole?" I demand.

The Flea sighs and coughs at length. "I'm telling you," she says. "He's right there. Are you still taking sleeping pills?"

"I'm down to half a pill, if that,"I tell her.

"Well, are you dreaming?"

Like I'm doing something wrong and it's preventing Dad from showing up. How did it get to be my fault he's not haunting me?!

"Yes, I'm dreaming."

"Do you remember them?"

Oh, for Pete's sake! "Kind of. Enough to know Dad's not in them!"

She tells me there's this great psychic on Lifetime who knows all about these things and if I'd watch her, I'd understand all of this better. Apparently, she's seen a documentary on this person and as the psychic espouses the Flea's point of view. This makes the Lisa person one to watch.

I want to believe this, really I do. I want her to be right about this. I want to think Dad is right over my shoulder...most of the time...

I stand in the dark sunroom listening to the Flea, giving her short, one word answers because I am trying not to cry. Outside the white flower garden is still blooming on this late fall night.

Does Dad see the roses? Has he smelled the sweet scent of the phlox?

Does he know how much I miss him?


Chocolate and Visions

Okay, this is bad. You know the chocolate assortments I bought as "office" gifts yesterday?

I'm eating them. I'm eating them and trying to decorate the tree in my tiny office.

It is turning out to be harder than I expected- the tree decorating, not the eating chocolate- that part's going along just fine.

This room where I spend hours and hours, couldn't be more than 10 x 12 feet. I had it decorated with angels, primitive and gothic, traditional and funky but at some point over the summer I packed them all up and threw them into the attic. My rational at the time was that summer had arrived and so it was time to lighten up. I replaced the angels with blue and white stuff- quilts, pictures, anything light, lacy and blue or white made the cut.

But I don't even like blue.

The bad thing about being in the shrink business is that you over-analyze everything and have a hard time pulling the wool over your own eyes. I packed up the angels because I was mad at God for not helping Dad.

Angels have always been a special thing between Dad and me. I saw an angel when I was five and Dad was the only one who believed me. He gave me a pin one time that looked exactly like the angel I'd described to him. He always listened when weird and unexplainable events happened to me and he never tried to tell me that I was nuts.

Like the time my friend, Tom, committed suicide-by-biker.

Tom was a privileged white kid and an alcoholic. When I met him he was a counselor in a drug treatment program and I was an intern. The most noticeable thing about Tom was he was short. Like 5'2" short. A miniature man, trapped in a small body. But this didn't seem to slow him down.

With his help I learned to paint and rebuild cars, work with drug addicted kids and develop a love for Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

A few years after our failed relationship, he called one night to tell me what a fine counselor I was and how he knew I was going to make it. He said he wanted me to know how much he cared about me and would always value our time together. He thanked me for being in his life.

I didn't have any idea he was trying to say goodbye.

A few weeks later, Dad called to say Tom had been airlifted to a hospital in Lancaster. He'd been beaten and left for dead by a group of bikers. Apparently he'd gone into the roughest bar in Chester County with the sole intention of drinking himself into a near stupor and picking a fight he would never win.

Dad said, "If you want to see him, you'd better hurry. He's in a coma."

I was a kid. I didn't get it. People emerged from comas and were fine, weren't they?

But something in Dad's voice made me rush, stopping only to buy red Gerber daisies because I knew bright colors stimulated patients in light comas.

I rushed up into the intensive care waiting room, full of hope and the expectation that Tom would be good as new soon. I'm sure this shone out from every pore of my young, idealistic body because when his mother saw me and the red flowers she said, "Tom's brain dead. We're only waiting on the organ transplant team to arrive before we cut off his life support."

The smile on my face never faltered. I pushed the daisies into her arms and smiled. "I know," I said softly. "These are for you."

I remember making it as far as my father's house and him meeting me at the bottom of the basement garage steps before I completely lost it, falling into his arms and crying "Why? Why did this happen?"

I was inconsolable.

Dad stayed with me until I was at last calm enough to lie down upstairs in my old room. But I couldn't sleep. Instead I continued to sob, heartbroken at the tragedy of Tom's broken life.

I was crying like this when Tom suddenly appeared next to me, sitting on the bed wearing what appeared to be soft pink long-johns.

"What are you doing here?" I asked. "You're supposed to be dead!"

Tom smiled and shook his head softly. "I can't go with you like this," he said. "You're grieving too much. Don't you see? I'm not hurting anymore. Didn't you hear what I was trying to tell you a few weeks ago? I can't live with my alcoholism. It's too much. I don't belong here. And now, I don't hurt anymore."

I stared at him, not believing for a second that it wasn't a dream and telling him so.

"You don't believe me?" he said. "In a few seconds your sister is going to come in and take one of your albums out of that milk crate. When you wake up, it'll be in her room and she won't even see me sitting beside you. Now go on, act like you're sleeping. Here she comes!"

Sure enough, Becky came tiptoeing softly into the room, slipped one of my favorite albums from its place in the milk crate and left...All while Tom jumped up and down, hollering her name.

She never saw him.

Later I told this to my father and asked, "Do you think that was a dream, or did I really see him?"

Dad rubbed his chin, considering. "I think you saw Tom," he said finally. "I think you're one of those people who isn't afraid to see things they don't understand. Now I would be too afraid. That's probably why I don't see angels or dead people."

He made my experience seem so completely rational and once it was, I could accept the comfort and solace Tom's visit brought me.

Which is why I am pissed off now.

Doesn't Dad know I need him? Why hasn't he come to see me? Why don't I feel his presence?

I decorated my entire office in angels again over the weekend. I put pictures of Dad up on the wall above the mantle. I trimmed the tree in angel lights and proceeded to decorate it just as I always have, in gold and white ornaments, with angel lights. I had almost finished when I realized I just didn't feel it. This year, gold and white and traditional weren't doing it for me.

That's when I began pulling the carefully arranged, delicate ornaments off the tree, packing them back into their crate without even looking at the rest of them. In their place I began to hang funky, colorful Santa and creature ornaments- ignoring completely the beige and white simple angel decor.

I'm sorry, but fuck angels. What have they done for me lately? Did they save my dad? No. Did they help him come visit me in dreams? No. Do I feel him all around me as I've felt others in the past? Hell no. So why hang the little pissants on the tree? Why honor them when I think they're big, fat manipulative liars?

I know. That's completely immature. It's not the angels' fault...Or is it? Couldn't they have been more present? Couldn't they recharge Dad's batteries enough to send him on a l.o.a from heaven long enough to say, "Kid, I'm fine"?

Becky says he's all over the place with her. She talks to him constantly because she says the alternative, not believing and not talking, realizing he's just flat gone, would be too much for her. "I couldn't take that!" she says.

I lean on the chest freezer in the sunroom, the only place in the house where my cell phone can receive a signal, and listen to her certainty. She is dog sick with bronchitis which she seems to have caught on both month anniversaries of Dad's death and still she is gung-ho Dad's still with us.

While I, on the other hand, hang ornaments on the tree only to take them down again and start over. Bah-humbug!

Where the hell is he when I need him?


Two Months Today...

Sometimes you've just got to wander...

My friend, Ellen, and I set off this morning for the outer reaches of Siler City. We were off to see the Fruitcake Lady at Southern Supreme. That's where Ellen goes every year to buy fruitcake...and loads of other yummy goodies.

And she gets lost every year, which drives her nuts because she goes EVERY year and grew up nearby, so she figures it shouldn't be that hard...

We made it as far as the landmark with the insurance company and somehow, the right road just wasn't there.

Maybe it was because we were talking about our sons and how on earth we were going to let go of them next year when they leave for college. And what we would do without those boys to mother.

I offered to share my youngest with her but it's not quite the same as having your own, right there, on site so to speak.

When the railroad signal arms fell down over the tracks and we realized the road on the other side wasn't a road, well...we decided to take a possible shortcut.

But we were talking about finding inner happiness, which really did have something to do with the Fruitcake Lady because she started baking fruitcakes in her garage (which isn't where I keep my oven, but then, who am I to judge?) She loved making fruitcakes and people loved eating them, so by doing what made her happy, she became successful.

This took us through a small town so tiny it only had a building that used to be a store/post office and on into outer Bear Creek where a red tin-roofed building seemed to appear out of nowhere in a field.

"Oh good," Ellen said. "No tour buses. Usually there's tour buses and the place is packed. I only see one church bus."

Which meant the line for the restrooms was only 4 deep with little blue-haired ladies moving v-e-r-y slowly. We scandalized them by using the Men's room. "It's really not like most men's room's," Ellen explained to the ladies still waiting as she emerged. "It's clean and doesn't smell too bad at all."

I don't know if this swayed them. We were already moving on to the Tasting Room.

And I would tell you all about it except that Southern Supreme was by no means the highlight of our day.

See, Ellen and I were both born on August 8th. We share the same first name, even though she goes by her middle name, and we share the same skewed view of the world as well as an inability to have one conversation at a time.

We always have two or three stories going at a clip and happily skip from one to the other just as we rove from one spot to the other. So it made sense to turn out of the parking lot in the opposite direction from where we'd arrived.

"You're not in a hurry, are you?" she asked.

Which is how we came to wander every back road Ellen could find on our way from Caswell county to Guilford county. Along the way, Ellen opened a treasure chest full of memories, characters and stories as she seems to know something about every old house out in the country.

We ate lunch at a great diner called Brownie Lus (I think) where the artificial Christmas tree was already up and trimmed with white hand-crocheted ornaments. The regulars all got kidded by the waitresses and we got called "Hon." The barbecue sandwich was terrific even if the man sitting behind me did seem to have T.B or some other consumptive ailment that caused him to hack and gasp for air every few minutes.

But of course by then we were talking about hypercritical parents who ride their almost-perfect children and other parents who seem to forget they even have children and what we'll do for Christmas and how Thanksgiving went without Dad.

We were back in the little red truck and headed back out onto the open road by 12:30. I know this because I looked at the clock and suddenly realized, Dad died exactly two months ago that very minute.

I started to say this to Ellen but didn't. I mean, what do you say? "My dad died this very minute two months ago?" Well, yes, probably I should have, but then what do you say? I didn't even know exactly what I thought or how I felt about it. So I let it stay with me for a little while, sitting between us like a quiet visitor.

We drove through the warm autumn day with Ellen telling one character's story after another. There was Junior Jones, (or some name like that with two J's) who made his fortune first in a rock band and then by digging a big hole which he filled with water, added a water slide at one end and called Lake Juno. It made possible the wild hacienda-styled ranch house he erected in memory of his beloved Mexico and the winters he spent basking in that country's warmth.

Ellen told about an old woman who lived in the lonely wooden house we passed near a crossroads in the middle of a nowhere cornfield. According to local lore, this old lady would stand at her bedroom window late at night and stare out at the nearby cemetery. If she saw a light, she watched, waiting until it came to rest on a family's plot. She said the light was foretelling the death of someone.

Of course, Ellen and I had to wonder if the old lady saw the light land on her own family's plot, and if so, did she have time to tell anyone or did she just wake up dead?

Ellen's stories washed over me, coloring the already beautiful afternoon with the warmth and affection she has for the place and people of her old hometown. Somehow the pang of acknowledgment of Dad's death eased as Ellen told her stories. They were like a salve and I didn't figure out why until this very moment.

Ellen was remembering...those who went before and those who were still living but who had rich and colorful pasts...She was not forgetting and in not forgetting she was unconsciously pointing out the truth of memory.

Marking the passage of time after someone dies doesn't diminish or add to their importance or worth in our lives. The people we love will always linger in our hearts.


Writer's Clog - Flushing Ideas Onto Paper

It's time to start thinking about the next book. Actually, it's past time...and I have zilch, zero, zip, nada in my brain. I mean, sure, I have little germs of ideas and snatches of settings or characters, but no bones to hang it on. It makes me long for the old days when the boys were young and they'd say..."Tell us a story!"

I'd say, "What do you want to be in this story?"

They'd rattle off about two dozen odd events, characters or monsters and I'd be off an running. We had an ongoing story that was so popular the cousins still ask for the next chapter whenever they visit. It was a long adventure story chronicling the misadventures of a poor, Irish lad who must leave his widowed mother and family behind to seek his fortune. The Potato Famine has killed their father and left them without any hope of survival unless Tom Henry Liam O' Shaunnesy can find a job and send money back to Ireland.

This is how he becomes the cabin boy on a pirate ship and eventually, over time, the ship's captain.

Of course, I can't remember every detail and I never wrote the tales down, so that's one book lost to follow-up. Besides, once I've told a tale, there's no point in telling it again. I'd only bore myself.

So I rattle around the house knowing that somewhere there is a small town on a lake, with a diner, and a woman about my age facing down the back 40 of her life and realizing the nest is empty and it's time for re-invention. I know there is an old Victorian house in need of repair, an old lady who says, "Life ain't hard, honey. You make it hard!" I think she is in the early stages of Alzheimers. I know there's a diner in the tiny downtown area. I know the town has somehow been overlooked in the recent rush for land development on anything near water. It was once a resort area but that was in the 40s. I think there is a man in this town who might be perfect for the main character, if indeed romance is what she's wanting. Course, she can't have that until she untangles some of her own knots.

I toy with the idea that the main character's father is dying and wants to return "home" to this small town. I think it could be a book about letting go and starting over. But all I hear in my head is my agent's voice asking, "Where's the conflict?" Where is that something special that gets it all moving?

I think I have the fire laid...I just need a match to set it all off...

Anybody out there got a light?

Argh! The writer's "life!" You spent most of your time creatively constipated, waiting for the writerly Milk of Magnesia to take effect!

When I wrote my first book I had no idea I was supposed to have thought it all through. I had a main character, a love interest, a dead body and a hairless chihuahua. I got out a sheet of notebook paper and wrote down 23 bad things that could happen to an exotic dancer and her chihuahua- one per line. I saved the last 3 lines to wrap it all up into a credible mystery plot.

Now how or why I thought this would work is the real mystery, but hey, it did. But with each book, they raise the bar...as well they should, given that inauspicious beginning! Now I feel like I'm hogtied with "Shoulds" and "Musts."

It's like the scene in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" where Robert Redford is trying to get hired to guard an old man and I think a payroll as they make their way from Point A to the bank. The old man has Redford shoot at a target but won't let him add any of his customary flourish as he does so. Finally Redford's character says, "Can I move?" When the old man nods yes, Redford shoots the fool out of the target because he is finally free to move.

Well, I can't move. Not yet.

I would put a suggestion box here...but I'm technologically challenged. Any and all ideas, wishes and thoughts will be greatly appreciated!


Christmas Chaos...It's Baaack!

It's that time of year...Down with the fall crap and up with Christmas. These are the before pictures. My office and den "before" I began dragging box after box after box down from the attic- before the transformation that should both exhaust and hopefully exhilarate us into the spirit of the holidays.

It looked pretty bare around lunchtime.

A few hours later, however, we had mass chaos. The place looks like a tornado hit it!

Through all of this, the big yellow lump on my office carpet remains in place, sleeping off a day of barking at the neighbors' dogs (Think that's why they're moving?) while Maggie the Schnauzer follows me from picture to picture, hoping for a yummie handout.

And speaking of yummy handouts:

When the going gets tough around here, the tough make a lemon glaze poundcake. One must keep up one's strength during these decorating marathons.

This year I am embracing my inner glutton.


Mornings- Then and Now

Oh, there was lots of sleeping in going on this morning! Apparently lots of picture taking, too...

Damned childrens!

Payback's a bitch, gentlemen!

Anyway...The Flea and the Black Angel got off all right, headed back to New Bern. I loaded them down with leftovers. Now all I need to do is invite the entire Russian Army and I will be able to get rid of the rest.

My grandfather used to say, "Remember my son, when counting your cash, that one day of turkey brings six days of hash!"

For years I thought this was meant as a good thing. I loved Dad's turkey hash. Only recently did I find out other people did not share this viewpoint and would be sick of hash by the second day! Oh well.

Dad's hash wasn't probably "real" hash by definition, but it is good...Chop up the leftover turkey, throw in the leftover stuffing and gravy, heat it all up and serve with cranberry sauce. There's just nothing quite like it...or maybe it was the fact that Dad would dance around the kitchen, his right hand up, index finger pointing skyward as he jitterbugged and sang "Big Daddy to the Rescue" off-key.

It reminded me of all the breakfasts he made every morning of our childhood...scrambled eggs with a glop of condensed mushroom soup and shredded cheddar cheese, bacon and raisin toast...He always sang big band tunes and shuffled between the refridgerator and the stove with a modified, slow jitterbugging step.

How could anyone keep a rotten morning mood in the face of that show?

He'd serve us breakfast while Rocky and Bullwinkle raced around on the T.V, never breaking stride, always humming....and...now that I think about it...always farting. Ever so often he'd cut one, then act like he had no idea where the sound came from! We'd all giggle while he pretended not to know what we were laughing at.

Funny the things you remember when you sit down at the keyboard and let your fingers do the talking...

What a dad! Jitterbugging, singing and farting...what more could a little kid ask for on a school morning?


It Was The Best Of Times...

It was a lovely Thanksgiving. The Flea and I made it through with a minimum of tears. Too much food was consumed, good friends sat around talking, laughing and teaching us a new game- Pass the Pigs. We taught them Apples to Apples.

We found the lid to the applesauce jar and cleaned up...

And then...we were over it!

And that is the way it was...Thanksgiving 2006.


Thanksgiving Intentions

Dad Thanksgiving 04 The Black Angel, Dad, and my Sister Flea

Don't we always have good intentions?

I intended to be well-rested this Thanksgiving...but due to my Children Who Must Not Be Named and a crisis of faith with their father...I went to bed at 3 a.m. But damn, it was worth it! The Unnamed Others are male and as such, rarely emote.

Whatever is going on inside those brains and hearts remains unspoken...Until something provokes them to the point of exploding and then I hear it all. They are angry at their father for basically not listening to them, treating them like second class citizens instead of family members and trying to control them.

Welcome to my ex-world, but I do not say this.

Instead we talk for hours about how they intend to handle things. The Eldest says he gave his dad a book to read that explains his philosophy. The Tao Te Ching. He talks about how you do not preach your philosophy, you instead live if. If others are interested, they will follow. It is about letting go of trying to control others and centering your own reality, he says.

I say, "We create our own realities," and the Eldest says, "How do you know that?"

Like he is the first person in the universe to discover these facts and is shocked that an old fart like his mother could know of such amazing things! I say, "Your grandfather taught me this."

"I knew it! I knew it was familiar! It's grandaddy!"

We talk on into the night about his grandfather and what he has learned from him. About love. About the importance of family. And finally about his father and how my eldest intends to have lunch with him and present him with ways to see the problem between them as a shared responsibility and not the fault of the child. He says to lose his cool and be angry is non-productive. He had done this part already and it is time to move forward, he says.

I am blown away. I am amazed that a child with such wisdom came from me.

It is one of those rare talks you have with your children in which you know you will always remember this particular moment and that your child will remember it also. In that way, you always live on, in them.

Of course, this is not our first momentous talk. I remember another one, shortly after I separated from their father. Somehow we got down to the brass tacks of the birds and the bees and how human beings procreate.

To this day, my youngest remembers that talk. "Oh, my God! That's how my bed got broken? My aunt and uncle were doing "it" in my bed? Oh, gross! Throw it out!"

This comes after the eldest has said he already knows all about sex. "You put your penis up the girl's butt," he says confidently.

Not without lube and permission, I think, and struggle to keep a straight face.

The youngest says, "You mean you had sex with dad after you had us?" He is completely shocked. "I thought the man did it to the girl and then he died!"

The Eldest looks at his brother with great disdain. "Stupid, that's spiders not people! Besides, if Dad died after he got Mom pregnant, how would you be here?"

"Oh," the Youngest Unnamed One says.

These are talks we will always remember. They are pivot points in our path and will always be regarded as sign posts and mile markers along life's journey.

Today I am bleary-eyed and stupid. I try to clean the house, do the laundry and prepare for Thanksgiving at our house...but it is a fragmented preparation. I do one thing here, another over there, forget I was doing one thing and start another.

I am not having fun. If I were having fun there would be laughing. I would be having a glass of wine and talking with someone. The time would fly by.

Which is when I remember that someone would have been my father and this is my first holiday without him.

Tomorrow my Sister Flea comes in with the Black Angel. I am terribly afraid we will look into each others eyes and see the same thing...the grief and recognition that this is our first Thanksgiving without The Wisest Man in the Universe.

I am afraid we will dissolve like sugar into boiling water and become one big puddle of grief. I am afraid I will cry and cry and not be able to pull it off for the kids and our friends.

But I also know I am my father's daughter. If I have one-tenth of his courage and wisdom, I'll make it. We'll all make it.


Why Medicaid and Ex-Husbands Can't Get No Respect

My corporate clinical supervisor-ette (not the head honcho of clinical supervision, sounds half my age) called today to say I had to discharge Cookie from treatment. "She's not capable of benefiting from psychotherapy."


I suppose working on decreasing her agitation, increasing her ability to remember even simple things, lessening her grief, her anxiety, her depression and her pain about losing every memory and feeling she's ever had in her 93 year old life is not beneficial.

Apparently not to Medicaid.

See, they want to know Cookie's progressing with her therapy. They want her to get better. Just holding her ground, or losing her mind slower don't count for shit.

And if Medicaid ain't happy, ain't nobody at Corporate gonna pay me either. I can see her all I want, I just won't get paid for it. Well, of course that's exactly what I'm going to do...Which may be why things like bills pile up around my place...but I can live with myself, so I suppose it's an even-up swap.

In fact, living with yourself has been a big topic of discussion around here lately.

The Eldest Unnamed One has decided there are two types of people in the world, In-ies and Out-ies. The Innies live their life from the inside out- they don't look for their self-esteem and self-worth to come from material things or money. The Outies are all about status and prestige. They think money will fill them up, but they have to get that from their insides.

"I figure I can't make anybody else happy until I make myself happy. If I'm doing something I feel passionate about, I'm happy." He draws a round splotch and a squiggly line on the paper at the kitchen table where we sit. "This is me, happy. This is energy. When I am happy, I am energized." He draws a second splotch. "This over here is matter. Energy attracts matter. So if I'm energized and happy, the rest will take care of itself."

Pretty freakin' wise for an 18 year old, eh?

His father begs to differ. He says the Eldest Unnamed One is irresponsible because he was 40 mins. late for curfew one time and 10 mins. late the next. "He doesn't want to spend time with us...We wanted him to bring his friends over for his birthday. When he did, they didn't want to sit in the hot tub with us and talk. That really hurt Plumpette's feelings." (Plumpette is Wife # 3) All they wanted to do was play video games! He showed us absolutely no respect."

Hmm. Doing what you want on your birthday is a sign of disrespect, eh?

Go figure. 18 year old boys preferring video games to a romp in the hot tub with a couple of 'rents. What's wrong with that boy?

I suppose Medicaid and my Ex have a lot in common. They're both Outies and they're both shooting themselves in the foot.


The Saga Finishes...Part 3

The night of the stake-out, I drive downtown and park across the street from the P.D. I've had the weekend to think the whole thing over and in that time I've managed to remember that I am somebody's mother and not just one somebody, two somebodies. I can't go off hurtling myself into dangerous positions and winding up dead just because I want to write mystery novels. That is totally too selfish.

But I really want to! So I make a bargain with myself. If there's trouble, I won't try to save the po-lice. I'll just call 9-1-1 on my cell phone and lock the car doors.

I decide the powers that bargain for the universe may not think this is enough of a promise for behaving in an irresponsible, un-momly way, so I promise to also throw in a home-cooked breakfast for my boys when I return home, even though I will have been up over 24 hours and will be incredibly tired. See? I will have suffered to have an evening's excitement.

The P.D complex looks like a huge tinted-glass and concrete structure with a set of building-wide concrete steps leading up to the front door. On all cop and court TV shows, as the D.A is leaving the courthouse, they are always descending an imposing set of marble or concrete steps. Well, this must be standard issue for all governmental buildings that house people likely to give live interviews because that is what this building looks like. There is even a statue at the bottom of the steps of a cop reaching out to aide a little boy.

In the dark, the entire picture is fairly imposing.

Imagine then what it looks like to stand at the top of those stairs and look out onto the wide boulevard that T-bones into the municipal plaza and see a lone, unmarked police sedan coming steadily toward me out of the darkness.

I have checked in with the Watch Operations officer, signed a form that gives the police basically carte blanche to throw me into the line of fire and not face any consequences, legally or financially and then been instructed to wait at the top of the steps until I see Detective Smith's car pull up out front.

It is a warm, May evening, but I shiver a little when I see his car. When he ignores the curb and pulls his vehicle up onto the sidewalk, I realize the powers of the universe know me better than I thought they did...They know I love men who ignore the rules.

He steps out of the car, rounds to open the passenger side door and I pray for one more favor from the universe. Please do not let me trip on these stupid steps and land on my ass at his feet. I am that kind of klutzy.

He barely says a word until we have driven off. His radio is squawking with communicator to cop traffic and we are heading into the urban (if you can call it that) warehouse district of town. Without a word he parks in a shadowy parking lot, pulling the car in to face out. I think this is so he can be ready to make a speedy get-away in case we need to chase the bad guys.

He rolls down our windows. "I like to hear what's going on out there," he explains. "I'm waiting on my partner."

Tonight he has questions of his own. How long have I been writing. Who is my publisher. Do I know Patricia Cornwell (They all ask me this, male, female, straight, gay, cute or ugly- they all want to know, do I know her. Down here on Planet Earth, we little authors do not get to dine in the rarefied air of the Best-seller but admitting this is always hard. It's probably the cop equivalent of saying to one of our small town cops, "So, do they let you use real bullets or are you still using the rubber ones?")

Apparently, my detective sees something because as I'm answering one of his questions, he interrupts. "Punch the button on that glove box, will ya?"

I do. The compartment falls open and a single beam of yellow light hits a large, black semiautomatic pistol. He reaches across the seat, brushing my knees with his arm as he moves, and I swear to God I will remember this the next time I am having sex alone.

He grabs the gun, jams it barrel down in between our two seats and says, "There's a guy walking toward us. See him?"

I look out, squinting into the shadows and only then do I see a figure making its way across the parking lot.

"Don't worry. If he gives us any trouble, I'll shoot him."

Oh, my hero! I can scarcely breathe I am so taken with this big, strong, hunk of burning love...who is also, I might add, married, so it's only a fantasy but still...

Can you say naive? Can you say gullible?

Would you have smelled this line 5000 miles away? I bet you would have. Not me. Not good old soccer mom, Nancy. I think, yes, he will shoot this guy if the stranger so much as approaches the car. What a man!

Hell no. Do you know how much paperwork he'd have to fill out, not just for discharging a firearm but for actually committing a homicide, which is what that would be if the guy was just strolling by and asked what time it was...

But I didn't realize any of this. I was sitting in a car with Sam Elliot's better-looking, lost brother and all I can think about is when was the last time I felt this excited about anything? And no, boys' soccer games do not count as adult excitement.

Well, the guy walks on past and my detective tells me the story of a woman he arrested whose name was, his hand to God, "Asdawnbreaks Sobeginstheday."

Yes, I swallow this too. Whole. Right along with the woman he arrested named, Lasagna. Urban myth, my ass! This, I think, is real life!

Has it really been that long since I got out into the real world or am I just brain dead?

My hunk of burning love's partner arrives and while he's cute and knowledgeable, he's no movie star cowboy. He pulls his car next to ours, front side in so he is face to face with Detective Smith and they agree upon their respective locations for the stake-out.

I learn we are staking out a drug house, looking for a homicide suspect. The killer crawled in through the tiny kitchen window of a little old lady's house in the subsidized housing development where she lives and snapped her neck like a twig for $2. A few days after my night with Detective Smith, we go to see the scene and my heart is broken by the unnecessary tragedy.

She has carefully saved the ribbons from every birthday and Mother's Day floral arrangement her adult children have ever sent her and they are tacked to her living room walls, along with pictures of those same children through the years. In the spotless kitchen a pristine white washcloth hangs over the dish drain.

"We found a coffee can in the back of her pantry full of cash," Detective Smith says. "The guy didn't even get that. All he got was $2."

He takes me into the victim's bedroom, shows me the blood on her mattress and on the floor beside her bed. He shows me the footprint of a brand new sneaker, revealed by Komassi blue powder and a Lumalite. This is why we are sitting in an unmarked car listening to the chatter of the surveillance officers...We are looking for a kid wearing brand new sneakers.

But I don't know the details when Detective Smith pulls onto a narrow side street and up onto the sidewalk beneath the low-hanging branches of a tree. It doesn't occur to me that this is a fairly conspicuous way to stake someone out...I mean, parked on the sidewalk? Unnoticed? I don't think so.

But at the time, I only chalk this up to Detective Smith's cavalier attitude.

We are talking in soft voices. He is explaining to me that we are "supervising" the stake-out from almost a mile away. As if he senses my disappointment, he suddenly stiffens again and whispers, "You've got one coming up on your right. If he tries anything, don't worry, just lean back against the seat and I'll shoot him!"

The guy blows right on past us without a word...which is difficult given the unmarked car takes up a good two-thirds of the sidewalk.

We sit and sit and sit, until finally the detective says, "How about some coffee?"

Finally, I think, some action.

We pull up to the convenience store. Detective Smith opens his door, turns to me and says, wait here. He leaves the motor running and heads inside, but with an apparent afterthought, he spins back and starts to say something.

"Hey, if anybody gives you a hard time," he starts...

"Don't worry," I say, patting the butt of the semiautomatic beside me, "I'll shoot 'em!"

I follow Detective Smith around for the next four months, attending workshops he teaches on sexually-related homicides of children in which he posts pictures of murder victims who look just like my boys...and I am sure he knows this and is testing me for a reaction. I never let him see me sweat.

When I have a psychotic patient who stalks me, I go to Detective Smith for advice. He raises an eyebrow. "Do you have an alarm system?" he asks. "Motion lights?" "Bushes?" He shakes his head slowly. "Get motion lights and have the bushes around the house cut down. I'll check his record." He raises his head and gives me the cowboy bedroom eyes. "I would never let my wife go off to see patients at night," he says.

In the midst of my fear, I feel like the proverbial Knight In Shining Armor has arrived.

I write my book and Detective Smith's image forms my hero. I give him Reba McEntyre as a vicarious fantasy reward for him, even though I'll never tell him this.

When "Your Cheatin' Heart" is published, the newspaper calls to interview him and blurbs his comments in the Sunday issue's review of the book.

I continue to sing his praises all over town, at every book club and rotary club meeting, at every signing, I talk about him without ever mentioning his name. But when I talk and other cops are present, they all know who I mean.

Because they are laughing.

"We call him Pretty Boy," they tell me later, when they know me well enough to clue me in...poor benighted fool that I am. "He's always acting like that! He was just putting on a show for you. We don't shoot people that give us trouble, you know that!"

My friend, Donna, pops what's left of my idealist balloon. "Oh, yeah," she says. "I know his Mama. She goes to my church. You know he sings in a Gospel quartet? That boy just loves his Mama!"

Sigh. He is not super-human after all.

A year later, after he has retired, I run into him in the grocery store. He is there with his wife and they look just like any other retired couple, strolling around, gathering cans and clipping coupons.

By now I know he's played me, played his role to the hilt and taken me for a ride with his macho-cop swagger, but still I get flustered and barely manage to stammer out "Hello."

Looking back on it now- after I've gotten my own life and no longer rely strictly on the fantasy version- I see he gave me every thing a good fiction writer needed- a hero, a plot line and the energy to create a two book series.

What more, indeed, could one, poor Soccer Mom/Mystery Writer ask for?

Patricia Cornwell, my ass!