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.