Does it look like I'm working?

Procrastination Central Posted by Picasa

The Office Posted by Picasa

The true me...a little angelic, a lot more devilish!

Of course, this is how I really feel! Posted by Picasa

Maggie Honors Procrastination Day...

Maggie Likes Procrastinating Posted by Picasa

That Time Of Year...at least in my office!

Ho Ho Ho! Posted by Picasa

It's That Time....

Well, Turkey Day's a done deal and it's That Time Of Year again...

Time to drag down half of the attic and make the house into a winter wonderland, all while Ho-ho-ho-ing happily around the house.

You know how long that lasts, right?

Until I go outside, duct-tape yet another ailing reindeer into position, plug it in and find that it's suffered a stroke and only half it's dang lights work! Until I attempt neuro-surgery on the piece of wasted metal and realize that while I know how to check the fuses and bulbs, some unknown, mystery condition has afflicted my flock and it has nothing to do with anything the lighting sages have written in Chinese on the back of the box!

Ho-ho-ho my ass!

So I start working inside...
Where the same virus has infected the remaining fifty thousand lights. Where boxes, bubble wrap and tiny bits of long ago decorations litter every available surface like confetti and I can't find the one danged cookie jar I really wanted to put in the kitchen because we've moved and replaced the heating and air system, so everything's upside down...

On the upside, I did find the miniature cheesecake pans.

But then I remember,

I don't really like cheesecake. I just make it because I liked the picture on the cover of the 1998 December Bon Appetit...and who knows where the hell that is!

And then the biggest boy get sick. 102.3 degree fever sick.

There goes my workforce.

And there is nothing more pitiful than an adolescent boy with a fever and a cold.

Three days later, when he is lying in the same clothes in the same small room, playing video games, I realize there is nothing more stinky than adolescent boy who hasn't had a shower in 4 days, unless it's his small, enclosed room.

And if left unattended, Christmas decorations multiply.

So I decide to take the biggest boxes of artificial trees, animals, and decorations outside where they belong. We have lots of trees in the new front yard, so I'm envisioning a winter wonderland of half-lit, stroke victim animals...but I'm optimistic...at least they'll be outside, providing entertainment for the neighbors...

So, I put on my overalls, fling open the front door and...

it's raining!

And I do not mean drizzling!

So, I shove the boxes back inside and use them to barricade myself inside the house because I know and you should know by now that I am only using the Christmas decorations as a way to procrastinate against having to face down the story I've been trying (and need I add, failing) to write for six months about this group of women who drink one too many margaritas and solve mysteries...

Of course, I can't settle down to write in a cluttered environment, so I at least get my office into some semblance of ho-ho-ho-dom. (See the pictures)

And then I hear the dulcid tones of my oldest...

"Hey Mom, how come the hot water won't shut off? I turned it as hard as I can but it won't stop...Come look! Man, that's wierd, huh?"

Yeah, that's one word for it.

So, like, Ho Ho Ho, Y'all!


True Friends Bare It All

I am so sweating this new effort of mine! I am so...pregnant with it!!! That's how books come to me...I start accumulating thoughts, then they grow inside my unconscious until at last, I'm thinking consciously...little snippets of ideas and pieces of characters...but I can't write until I hear their voices.

Sounds psychotic, doesn't it?

Well, this...thing...I'm working on now is about to drive me crazy...that is, if you accept the premise that I'm not nuts now! (Which if you ask my kids is an even up bet!) Anyway, I want to tell the story of this character and she just won't speak to me yet!!!

It is sooo frustrating when you want to write a book and she is refusing to tell the damned story!!!

Anyway...I tried again this week...for the 5th time. I wrote the first 20 pages AGAIN and took it to my friend, Marti, who reads every rough draft and puts her two cents worth in.

She read it while she was getting her nails done. Should that tell me something?

Anyway...she meets me at Starbucks and she says "It's nice, Nance. It's good."

She delivers this with all the enthusiasm of a warm fart.

It is the kiss of death.

"Nice," she says...."Good."

Finally she says...."It's just not there yet. I don't know your main character."

Well, her and me both!!!! I say, "Look, I've had it with that Molly! She just won't come out and tell me a thing about herself....She's just been dumped by her husband, furthermore, he's running off to California and not paying her any child support and her lawyer says he hates it for her but it'll be months before he can get the courts to catch up with him and well, that's all he can do."

"And what, Molly just accepts that?" Marti says. "I don't like women who just lie down and take it. That's not like one of your characters."

"No," I say. "That's just the problem. See, she's been home for 15 years, sweating the small stuff and "taking it" without getting mad. She does the same thing, over and over in life, and each time she expects the results to be different, but how can they be when she just does the same old thing. She doesn't feel she deserves any better because she blames herself for not seeing the divorce coming and ruining her kids' lives."

Marti yawns and who could blame her?

"But she won't let her kids grow up and she's so busy trying to fix everything for everyone else, she forgets that this ain't no dress rehearsal and her life is passing her by. So when the lawyer says he can't wave his magic wand and make the world just and right, Molly gets mad...and then she gets a life. She decides she has to recreate herself into someone who goes out and gets what she needs."

Marti's staring at me. "I thought you didn't know her?" she says. "Sounds like all you have to do is piss her off and you'll have a book."

Well, damn. Why didn't I think of that?

Well, I guess I did.

And then we walk out to go home and Marti starts off toward her truck, stops, and walks back over to my truck and opens the passenger side door. I figure she's got another pearl of wisdom to drop on me and I'm right, only it's not about writing.

She looks back over her shoulder at the kids sitting outside Starbucks smoking, then looks back at me. "They're going to think I'm nuts," she says, "but oh, hell!" AND SHE STARTS UNBUTTONING HER SHIRT!

"Look at this bra," she says. "I mean, I'm wearing a black bra with a white shirt but who cares? This is the most comfortable bra in the world!"

Marti is looking like one of those undercover, caught-on-video-surveillance, sex-for-hire tapes you see on TV shows like COPS...Her shirt's unbuttoned and there she is in her 38D black lace bra, doing a commercial for Victoria's Secret!

"They're 40% off," she says, like the general public will excuse her for this because it was on sale and who wouldn't strip to show off a deal like this?!

"You have just got to go get one!!" she says.

Do I say, "Marti, those kids can't see you but the rest of the shopping center can so button your shirt?"

I do not! Instead I say, "That lacy and good support, too?"

"Oh, yeah, the best! See? They're called Sexy something or others. They're in a bin."

She steps back and appraises my chest. "36B, right?"

I nod wondering if it's somehow printed on my forehead or if she's just that good at sizing up her friends. I mean, judging my cup size when I'm in a camisole and buttoned up cardigan is no small feat.

"They've got plenty of those," she says. "There was only one 38D in the whole store, but you won't have any trouble!"

Now she's taking my small breasts and turning them into a retail bonanza!

I look at Marti, half-undressed in front of God and everybody, just so she can clue me in on a deal, and think, this is a true friend. In fact, this is true friendship. I'd always heard true friends bared all, I just never really understood the depth of that statement before today.

On the other hand, maybe I did, unconsciously, because I was the one who gave her the sign that read "A friend will bail you out when you're arrested, but a true friend will sit next to you in the jail cell, laughing and saying "Damn that was fun!"

That's me and Marti.


Excuses Satisfy Only Those Who Make Them...and other vagaries of catching up

Okay, so I haven't been writing. And yes, I know, excuses only satisfy those who make them...but I'll just tell you anyway...I was on my way to write you, when I moved. And yes, it was only 4 houses down from the old house, but all my STUFF came with me, even the kids and the dogs!

These things take time! And then there was the urge to nest.
Heaven help us, I am after all, human and a woman. We nest when we move. We like things in their new places and everything cozy and well...I was getting settled.

And then everything in the new house broke...including the potty! And something's dripping under the house and there's mold (don't worry too much, it's white.) And everybody's got an opinion about what to do...and they want you to pay them before they tell you how to fix it...But they're not going to come and fix it TODAY..no, you have to get on the schedule for that! (Of course the schedule varies between When Hell Freezes Over and The Twelveth of Never.)

And then I remembered the next book is due in like 2 weeks or a month (I'm not going to look at the contract and find out I only have two weeks! I'm just trying to recall without having to unpack the entire house to find the piece of paper...I'm writing like it's due in two weeks. And I'm just a little over halfway through...Can you say...PANIC?)


Then I turned 5-0, 50.

Surprisingly, this does not bother me.

But there were celebrations and coconut cake and key lime pie to eat...so I didn't write here.

Not enough of the excusing yet?

Okay, the nursing home folks have been busy. Cookie lost a pair of her white shoes, and even though I told her she was wearing them, she couldn't quite get the concept...so I had to convince her that I was on the case and was sure they'd turn up when she went to bed...because then they'll be back in the closet.

Dorothy didn't like her roommate because of her skin color...so we had a little chat about the true meaning of Christianity (Hey, I was a minister's daughter...Sure, I cut Sunday school as often as possible and had to have a tutor for communion, but I can talk the talk when I need to! And hating someone for their skin color is just plain wrong!) So, that took up a little time.

And then Mary got confused because she thought the pimento cheese sandwhich the aide brought her was a shit sandwhich and this made her come out into the hallway and threaten to fart on someone's face if they didn't do something about it...And I was the someone elected to either fix the situation or face Mary's personal Firing Squad...

So, it's been a little hectic around here.

Did I mention the children? Yep, I need to spend time with them before they leave for college.

And in answer to the question...Will there be another Sierra book? I wish I could say yes, but I don't know. Maybe it'll help if I post the first chapter of the next book when and if someone wants to publish it!

So....that's where I've been and I promise to do better about this blogging stuff.

In the meantime, or in addition to reading my stuff...go check out Jennifer Crusie's website and blog....She's my personal idol as an author and writing coach. And, I hear she's a pretty good kid to boot.


Opportunity Is Not A Lengthy Visitor!

I've been in Deadline Hell again. 3 chapters, about 60 pages and a synopsis of the next Stella book. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad just by itself, but it fell on the heel of the revisions of Lethally Blonde which is due out in November. I only had 2 weeks to come up with Stella's next adventure. So once again I'm brain dead.

Going to my day job at the nursing home was right up my alley today. I didn't have any words left and they didn't care. In the nursing home a hug is enough. In fact, a hug is a lot better than a bunch of empty words that they either can't hear, don't understand or don't believe. When your brain is not working at full capacity, hugs are the one true language.

Sometimes, when words just don't get it, a look is enough too.

My friend, Big Dawg, in Hot 'Lanta has a great look. Like I said in an earlier blog, he's a big guy, tall and imposing. He once was a manager or a bouncer or both in a strip club up north. He can talk loud and fast. He can give you a raft of shit without turning a hair. When I met him, I thought he was the most obnoxious guy in the universe. So, of course I told him this. I mean, the guy was a drug counselor and one night when we were out with him, he got drunk and loud and began giving his card out to people HE considered to be worse off than he was! "Here's my card. When you're ready to do something about your problem, call me."

Oh. My. God!

Of course, I was the one who got the "It Ain't Easy Bein' Sleezy" T-shirt from the concession stand before we left, but I digress!

Anyway...you'd think I would've hated the guy...but I just couldn't. In fact, he just melted my heart, over and over again. Maybe it was because we are both smartasses. Maybe because beneath the smartass exterior is this huge, vulnerable heart waiting to be discovered. And maybe it was Big Dawg's eyes.

Everything about Big Dawg said "Stay away from me!" except his eyes. Big Dawg could be cussing me out and all I could see was the way his eyes said, "Don't listen to what I'm saying. I really, really like you."

It's sort of like the way he farts on his wife because he loves her, only less so. Big Dawg, for all his bravado, is just a big old teddy bear. Unless he wears sunglasses 24/7, the Smart Ones will never buy his act. They'll hear the roar and want to hug him. Thank God his wife is one of the Smart Ones. Big Dawg's heart needed a safe home.

The little ladies in the nursing home would see right through my Big Dawg. He'd look at them and they'd melt. And, I don't know for sure, but I'd like to think he'd melt too.

There're lots of Big Dawgs out there. There are millions of little old ladies stuck in nursing homes, missing their babies, and feeling lonely, too.

As Patti LaBelle once said on Oprah, "Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor!"

When opportunity knocks...be one of the Smart Ones.


Thank God for Oprah...I think...

I have discovered, thanks to Oprah's continuing mission to bring much needed education to the unenlightened woman, that I have a defect. My arms, at least the portions from my shoulders to my elbows, are too short.

Hideous, no?

I mean, how can I go on? I have to revamp my entire way of looking at my body to accomodate this latest piece of information.

You see, Oprah was doing this show on how to buy a properly fitted bra. Quite necessary information, I thought, so I tuned in. Thank God I did! I arrived just as the expert said, "When you turn sideways and look at your profile in the mirror, you want your breasts to be located halfway between your shoulders and your elbows."

Ben was also watching. I have no idea why...maybe he thought they were going to show naked breasts. After all, he is 14. Maybe he thought he would need this information someday, so he could judge the women in his future by this standard. Or...and I really think this is a stretch...he was trying to be more female-sensitive in an effort to be non-gender biased. Yeah, right. Anyway, I digress...

Disregarding my son's presence, I walked straight over to the mirror and turned sideways. It was a huge relief...there they were, right on target.

Of course, merely fitting in has never been enough for me...Oh, no...I had to beg the question...

Later, when Ben was long gone and I was getting changed, I took off my bra and turned sideways again.

That's when I came to the horrible realization that my arms are too short.


There's nothing wrong with The Girls.

I mean, I'm not a large breasted woman. We're talking a B cup. And the "perky" part, that's still there. But it seems as if the bottom's falling out!

No, that is completely unacceptable. That leaves me with only one true option...

I've gone through life with short arms and never been aware of this...this...glitch in my anatomical system.

Oh well, I suppose I'll learn to live with it.

After all, things could be worse...I mean, it's not as if my breasts are sagging or anything!


This is a little lesson about what happens when you send boys in to do a Mom's job! Posted by Hello

This is our new home. This is what I saw when I went to take pictures. Posted by Hello

When we went to see the house I handed the boys my camera. I said, "Be sure and get a picture of every room, so we'll know the layout..." Posted by Hello

This is a picture of the Master Bedroom Posted by Hello

Did I not say "Take a good picture of the layout?" Posted by Hello

As Long As We're Sharing Family Photos...Here Are My Newest Children!

Stella Get Your Man came out in January Posted by Hello

Sophie's Last Stand Came Out May 1 Posted by Hello

Stella, Get Your Gun! Came out in Oct. 04Posted by Hello


In The Interest Of Continuous Quality Improvement...

Look over there on the right side....Look at the Links section. See that Nancy Bartholomew's Website link? Adam, the oldest, had to help me do that. But see the link below it? The Please Take My Poll link? I did that one all by myself! I made up the survey. I hooked the code into my template and voila! It's amazing what you can teach old people these days!

So, now....Would you please go take the polls?

For my next feat of amazing technological wonder...perhaps I will post a picture...or maybe I'll just clean and pack the basement....Hey, I know, I'll take a picture of the Laundry Room Before and After I clean and pack them...It's called multi-tasking!

Heck, I got so carried away, I did two polls! Then I drove out to the country and picked 20lbs of strawberries...forget the dadblamed basement!


Deadly Threat to Humanity Eliminated...

I couldn't sleep. I rolled over, snuggled against Maggie, the Schnauzer, and tried to got back to sleep.

In my quasi-dream I smelled something...something familiar....Something...

Oh, God! The dog farted, right in my face!


Ever wonder why dogs farts don't make a sound? I mean, you hardly ever hear a dog fart. You smell them, sure, but there's hardly ever a sound. There's just no early warning system.

We don't know what amounts of dog gas escape unnoticed and unheard.

I picked Ben up from school one day and he said, "Mom, I learned something today...Finally. People fart all the time. Gas is always escaping their bodies, even if they don't know it...it just leaks out!"

Dogs, too. Silent but deadly. Church house creepers. It's like carbon monoxide, only smellier most of the time.

I could've died in my sleep this morning...It was that powerful!

How many people wake up dead and all because they slept with deadly fart dogs?

I'm thinking of inventing a dog gasometer...I may expand it to humans, but I think this would basically be pointless...Humans are proud of their farts, at least most of the male ones are...Bet Big Dawg, Hairless Go-rilla is...He's just like that...But I digress. My Ex was. Of course there were the times when he'd say..."What? I didn't do that! I was asleep! I didn't know!" Puh-leeze! A fart that deadly? You knew!

Anyway, I'll patent the Dawg Gas Alert.

I could win the Pulitzer...okay, the Nobel Peace Prize...for service to humanity. No more puzzled coroners wondering what killed the sweet old lady with the ancient chihuahua.

Yep...Dog farts. Think about it. A public menace or doggie revenge? You be the judge.


Why My Children Will Need Therapy More Than Higher Education...

To further chronicle my growing list of reasons my children will need therapy...

Ben's first, since kindergarten that is, girlfriend broke up with him a week ago today.

I found out on Monday...despite asking about it and her!

He's on the phone, but he's not talking to Her, so I ask if she's back in town. (He told me she was away for the weekend at a Girl Scout camp.) He nods yes. I ask if everything's all right with them. He cups his hand over the phone and says they broke up last Thursday but he's talking to Brad right now and anyway, he's fine.

"Tell him you'll call him right back," I say.

He rolls his eyes and says, "I gotta go, yeah. My mom. I'll call you right back."

I have on my very best, open and concerned Mom face. I sit on his bed, absolutely still, not saying anything else because, after all, I've just had a refresher course on Friday on "What to Say To A Dying Person," and have resolved to LISTEN and not jump in to MAKE IT ALL BETTER!

"Ben, why didn't you tell me?" I demand.

He has the courtesy NOT to roll his eyes. Instead he gives me that smug little smirk he's been perfecting and says, "I didn't tell you because I thought you'd over-react."


Get real! I've never OVER-reacted in my life!!!

I take to my bed. I spend a sleepless night, tossing and turning. My son LIED to me!! What's next, drugs? Alcohol? Will he turn to a life of crime? I envision myself...on my death bed, then dead and buried (it's not pretty). I just know Ben'll think, out of sight, out of mind, and go on as if nothing happened...THAT'S how little I mean to him! He couldn't come and talk to me! ALL boys talk to their mothers about GIRLS! How else will they know how to have a healthy relationship? OH MY GOD!!! WHERE DID I GO WRONG???!!!


I have made another $100 contribution to the Therapy/College Tuition fund.

The Shit In The Way Of Real Life

There is so much shit in the way of real life.

I go to the nursing home today and while Elsie is better, I think Laura is dying.

She's 81 and while her body's abandoned her, she's as sharp as a tack, mentally. However, for some reason I don't yet understand, she's had herself declared incompetent. I've been working with her for over a year now, trying to get her out of her room and involved with the "activities" around the home...only the activities are a joke and she and I both know it.

Alice, the second floor nurse, has been on medical leave for almost 6 weeks and I'm about to decide that if she doesn't come back soon, real soon, people are actually going to die...Laura being one of them.

Laura never married. She grew up on a farm and as soon as she graduated high school, she set out to see the world. She worked as an accountant for a large company, loved travel, and never found true love with anyone. The closest she came was an affair with a married man. She moved back to North Carolina and spent most of her life working for a large insurance company and living alone in her home. The stroke took her retirement, her body, her house and her freedom. Now she's paralyzed without the use of her left hand or legs.

I have tried to get a good roommate for her, but they persist in filling the room with comatose or demented patients who die or get shipped off to other homes. Laura and I want a feisty roommate. She wants company, someone to talk to. Is that so much to ask?

Today I come in and find her hooked up to an IV. I ask what's wrong and she's unresponsive for so long I get scared.

Finally she says, "Honey, I don't know. My stomach hurts."

I kneel by the bed and take her hand. "Did the doctor tell you what's going on or why you're hooked up to an IV?"

She shakes her head. "No, but he pushed on my stomach real hard and it hurt."

"But he didn't say what was wrong or what he's going to do about it?"


The doctor, according to nurse feedback, is an angry, tempermental asshole. I've never spoken to him, but today I decide to make an exception.

I walk down the hall, see him sitting at the nurses' station, and when he continues to ignore me, even though I am obviously standing by his side, I say "What's wrong with Laura?"

"Laura?" he says, looking blank.

I tell him her last name and he says, "Oh. I don't know. I'm sending her for a CT of her abdomen. Her gums are swollen and infected."

"So you think the infection could've entered her bloodstream?" I mean, you never know with these idiots, I'm not a doctor, but I'm not convinced he'd know either...so, I politely suggest.

"That's why I have her on antibiotics," the little smartass answers.

But apparently my suggestion makes him think I'm not stupid. We end up discussing a psychotic woman who thinks people are coming after her. It's an interesting case because it is so atypical and I've been saying something's medically wrong with her and today he finally saw that and has ordered a CT scan of her head. We talk and talk until he gets to the showing off part of the dog and pony show...

"I have connections at the mental health inpatient unit," he says. "I used to know the V.P of the unit. Refreshingly honest guy."

I smile. "Know him well, do you?" I say. Sometimes I can't help myself.

"Oh, yes. Great fellow!"

"I know him too," I purr. "I was married to him for 16 years."

His P.A chokes.

"Oh, ur, um...Sorry," he says.

"Oh, don't be. He's only my Ex. I'm fine with him."

"I've got an Ex," he offers. I'm thinking, I'll just bet you do!

We talk awhile longer and then I go back to Laura. I tell her what's going on and what's going to happen. I tell her the doctor will call her family, a sister-in-law, but that I will keep her informed and make sure that while they judge her to be incompetent, I know she's not.

"Thank you, honey," she says. "You have lovely eyes." (This from a woman who said at our first meeting, "I love your eyes, honey, but what the hell happened to your hair?"!)

Then I go down to the social work office. I tell the social worker I've finally braved the lion in his den and had a good professional conversation. I tell her about the Ex part, too. "Did he get your phone number?" she asks.

"No, you guys can reach me if Laura..."

"No, honey," she says, shaking her head slowly..."It won't be the same if we call you. That's what he does to all the pretty ones...He was hitting on you!"

I look at the other, newer, social worker and she nods in confirmation.

I'm there, worried about my patients and this joker's making time?!

Like a freaking fish needs a bicycle!

And I call myself a therapist?! Sheesh!


If I Only Had A Brain...

One day I will get my brain back. For now it is being held hostage by a 25 year old editor who insists that the six pages of revisions she is requesting on my manuscript are just little "tweaks" and will be soooo easy to fix!

No. Not if she is holding my brain hostage, it won't.

And don't think I believe for a second that she will give me my brain back on Wednesday when the corrected manuscript arrives in her office, blood, sweat and tear stained.

Nope. She'll just pass what's left of my sanity on to my other editor who will hold it hostage until I send her a synopsis and the first three chapters of the book that's due in September. I have two more weeks to do this!

In the meantime, I still have to clean out the basement, pack it up and put the house on the market...and work, and cook and blah, blah, blah!

But it would be so nice to have my brain back. Think of all I could do with it! I hear brains are right slippery little things...maybe I could use it to polish the kitchen floor...or grease my way out of the sticky situations I sometimes find myself in. Brains are useful.

Clearly I need mine back.

Just think how much better this blog would be if written by someone with a brain.

Wonder if my publisher would consider giving me a loaner brain? My car broke down Friday night and the dealership gave me a loaner vehicle. You think a brain is any less essential than a car?

Maybe old Hairless Go-rilla down in Hot Lanta'll lend me some of his gray matter...you know, just enough to get me through until I raise the ransom or finish the revisions...


Why Nothing Ever Gets Done Around Here!

I had the best of intentions this morning, really I did, but life just sort of took over.

I have some major revisions due in 10 days on a book that has just driven me crazy. So when I woke up this morning I told myself this would be the day to start working on it. I just want to get it over with so I can move on to the fun stuff.

But before I could do this I checked my email, and my website stats (my newest form of procrastination.) Then hopped in the shower. I got dressed and was about to move the laptop into the kitchen when Martha showed up with chicken biscuits which caused the dog to have hysterics and this woke up the boys.

For some unknown reason, this made me remember that I'm going to a big po-lice awards dinner with Martha and don't have a thing to wear. Ben wanders into the kitchen as I'm thinking all this and says he needs a ride to the school to play basketball, which is right on the way, sort of, to Marshalls where surely to goodness they have one damned black dress that will both fit and look well, frankly, amazing...so I leave the laptop on the bed and tell the dog I'll be "Right back," which we all know is a lie.

Why do I even tell the dog I'll be right back? She doesn't understand English but she sure as hell seems to know a lie when she hears one. She hops up on the back of the sofa, presses her nose to the bay window and cries. Tell me she doesn't know I'm lying!

Anyway...Ben's friends are late, but the church across the street is in the last throes of a garage sale. Now I need more crap in my house like I need hemoroids, but the car's hot and I'm thinking this is a good way to waste a few minutes until Ben's basketball buddies show up, so in we go.

And of course...it's all you can carry out in a bag or a box for a dollar because basically, it beats having to carry the stuff out to the dumpster if you can trick stupid latecomers into doing it for you. They're church people, not morons...although...well, that's another topic entirely.

By now I'm making a mental note to call my doc on Monday and schedule a time to get my ADD meds readjusted. Obviously they're not working...but then I see the two chandeliers on the table across the hall.

I'm trying to get my house back to "normal" so I can put it on the market and these little puppies are just what I need to replace the Chicken Feeder Chandelier (No, I'm not kidding) in the dining room. They look soooo NORMAL. And I don't have to stand there debating which one looks more normal, the polished brass or the burnished brass, because I can fit both of the suckers into one oversized box and only pay a dollar!

So, after I dump Ben back at the house because his friends are M.I.A, I proceed to Marshalls where I lose almost two hours but find two perfect, eat-your-heart-out, Jones New York, size 4 and size 6 dresses, both on sale for $25 a piece!!!

I am a goddess...a shopping wizard...a minor deity.

I come home and waste another thirty minutes trying to get two teenaged boys who are playing video games to tell me which dress looks best to them before I realize they aren't even paying attention and even if they were, what do they know?!

Which is when I remember I was supposed to be doing my revisions.

Which is when Ben's friends re-surface and it feels like my day is starting all over again because I'm back in the car, driving him to the school basketball courts.

I dump him off and say I'll be back in an hour and a half, race home and find Adam waiting for me. "Can I take those pictures of you now?"

"What pictures?"

"The ones I told you I wanted to take last night...It's for your Mother's Day present!"

Oh, yeah, right...like I'd deprive myself of a homemade Mother's Day Present? Only I'm guessing he's updating my website, so this time I'm gonna look decent...which takes another thirty minutes because it involves restoration and reclamation of makeup and hair that never had a fighting chance with me this morning anyway.

And somehow Adam and I end up in the backyard. I'm holding a Glock 9mm airsoft gun which looks and feels almost real. I'm darting around the corner of the basement door in 4" heels and jeans, shooting at the dryer that I forgot to sell in a garage sale because it's now an imaginary bad guy.

Which further de-volves into us setting up targets with old Starbucks cups on top of the rabbit cage and shooting without aiming as fast as we can until I remember I have to pick up Ben.

In the meantime, the laptop overheats and shuts down about 3 times and I lose the two revisions I've made on page 2 and have to start over...and I'm only on page 2 and now it's 5 o'clock!

Martha calls. She's working Duty Captain and wants to know when we're eating supper and what we're having.

Yeah, I'd like to know that very same thing, only I tell her I'm going to work until 7 and worry about supper then.

She hangs up and the phone rings again and it's Grandma Alice. I sent her Mother's Day Flowers and we haven't caught up in almost a year.

Catching up takes an hour but I don't mind because I love her.

I sent my mother flowers too, so she calls next.

This takes 10 more minutes because she has to give me her new phone number because she forgot to tell me she moved...and that she and dad have a bazillion new medical issues...and she gives me a phone number with one too many numbers. When I point this out, it confuses her and this takes longer but I clean out the old mail in my email box while we're talking, just so I accomplish one damn thing today.

I get back to the revisions and I'm on page 5 when Adam materializes beside me. "Can JP come over and shoot in the backyard?"

Easy. Sure.

I keep working only somehow it turns into 8pm and Martha doesn't want to be a pest but should she eat with us or one of her other friends? She tells me Vickie is having a quiet weekend up at the lake, writing, and for a brief moment I fantasize about running away to a local motel, or Panama City, Florida.

I tell her we'll have dinner soon, then I call Adam and ask him to light the grill.

"I'm worn out, Mother," he says. "How about we order pizza?"

Worn out? He's worn out?! What the hell has he done all day?

But I'm too worn out to argue. We order pizza. Martha comes and Adam informs me that every carton of lemonade, milk and orange juice in the refrigerator is expired.

I go to the damned grocery store at 9:30. I have coupons so it takes longer but no one I know is there. I enjoy the solitude and see one of my books for sale in their book rack. It is the first time I've seen one of my books in a grocery store and I would call and tell someone, but I realize I've forgotten to bring my phone. I take a moment to spread all my books into the available slots at the top of the rack labled "Best Sellers." I am enjoying myself immensely.

I come home and have to clean out the refrigerator of expired things before I can put the new ones in. This reminds me that I have to get the kitchen ready for the painters who are coming on Tuesday to make the kitchen look "neutral." So I clean out under the sink and pack another couple of boxes.

Adam calls me in to look at the new animated flash opening for my website and I suddenly see my profile...my breast sagging, thigh bulging profile. He says no, he will not shoot it all over again. No, he won't "Fix" it. He appeals to his younger brother who is lying across Adam's bed, an M-16 in hand, playing video games. "Does she look fat?" he asks.

Oh yeah, like Ben will agree with me on that one and get immeadiately kicked out of Adam's room!

"You look great, Mom," he parrots.

It's 11:30. I have no brain left, so I decide to write a new post here. Somehow it becomes 1a.m. It's as late as it was last night when I finished posting my blog. I am sensing a pattern here.

I suppose it could be worse...I am reading the headlines scrolling across the top of my screen. I could be the man who carved the runaway bride on a piece of toast; or the mother who ran into her son with her car as she was picking him up after his stay in the hospital; or the mother of the boy who listed his brother for sale on ebay. Yes, it could be a lot worse I'm sure...


Cookie...A Rant

On her good days, Cookie is up when I arrive, sitting in her wheelchair and smiling. "I have so many blessings," she says. She gestures to the wall across from the foot of her bed, plastered with photographs of her children and grandchildren. "Whenever I feel lonely, I look at that wall, and then I don't feel so bad. I am so blessed."

I look at the pictures with her and listen as she tells the stories. "That's Mike. He plays soccer in California. He's getting married in December to the loveliest girl." She rolls slowly to the next photograph. Her son smiles out at us from maybe twenty years ago. His hand rests on the shoulder of a beautiful, clear-eyed, girl. They are in love and happy; frozen forever in that one perfect moment.

"That's Bill and Virginia," Cookie recites. "She died. I don't know what it was. She was so sick. That girl didn't want to die. I never saw anybody fight so hard. She rolled from one end of the bed to the other. The pain was so awful. It broke my heart. I don't think Bill ever recovered. You know he never married." I listen to the familiar litany, feeling the comfort she gets from repeating the same words over and over.

Cookie rolls her chair slowly to the far end of the wall and points to an old black and white 8x10 photograph of a young woman on roller skates. Behind her, row after row of desks fill a huge room. Men and women seated behind the desks seem not to notice the pretty girl in white shorts and a fitted, white blouse.

"That's me," Cookie says. She is so proud. "I worked there for 10 years. I went in with my girlfriend but I wasn't looking for work. She was the one applying for a job but the man doing the hiring looked right past her and said 'Can you skate?' I said yes and the next thing I knew, I was working there!"

Cookie can't remember five minutes ago, but she remembers every detail of her family's lives. Sometimes her nurse hands her a cup with her pills in it and a glass of water and Cookie forgets what to do with the pretty colored dots in the tiny paper cup. She pours juice on her cereal and drinks the milk, but she remembers that I bring her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

"I've been waiting for you," she says. "It's so nice of you to drop by."

Cookie knows she can't remember. Sometimes she smiles, lifts a hand and says, "I don't know if Mary's coming for lunch or not. I call her and she tells me, but, oh well, I just don't know! I tell her, well, if you're coming I'll see you and if you don't, I won't!" She chuckles and says "That's just how it is!"

But some days I find Cookie in her room looking mildly annoyed. "I was upset about something and now I'm upset because I can't remember what it was!" I shake my head. "I hate when that happens!" I say. We look at the picture wall and munch cookies and eventually her confused feeling goes away.

We started her on a medicine designed to help her remember and for awhile I thought it was helping.

A week ago, as I was leaving, I hugged her neck goodbye. "See you next week," I said. Cookie leaned back in her chair and stared up into my face.

"I love you," she said. "I really do."

I hugged her a little tighter, felt the frail bird-like bones, smelled the sweet talc old lady scent and said, "Oh, Cookie, I love you too!" Because I do love her, because how could I not love Cookie?

This week I missed her on Tuesday. She was upstairs in the hair salon. But on Thursday I baked cookies and saved my visit with her for last. I walked up and saw a new expression on Cookie's face, a look I couldn't identify. Her pale pink complexion was mottled with red bumps. When I leaned down to smile at her I saw her red-rimmed eyes and was surprised to see tears spilling onto her wrinkled cheeks.

"Honey, what's wrong?" I kept my voice soft and low as I knelt down in front of her to take both of her hands in mine.

Cookie looked into my face but it felt as if she wasn't even seeing me.

"I need to go to the bathroom," she began in a slow, halting voice. She seemed to focus harder on my face, wrestling with what she needed to say or confess and perhaps feeling it was safe to tell me because she knew somewhere in her forgotten memory that I was familiar.

"I need to go to the bathroom," she said softly, "and I don't know who I am."

I felt my heart break. I squeezed her hand gently, looked into her eyes and said, "Oh, sweetheart! You are Cookie, Elizabeth Robbins, and we will get you to the bathroom right now."

When I knew she'd heard me, I walked to the nurses' station and found her nurse,Tammy.

"I've never seen Cookie like this," I said after she'd called an aide to help.

Tammy shrugged, her attention already back on the cart before her. "Oh well, she gets like that a lot."

I stood there looking at Tammy, willing her to come back, to pay attention, to remember who I was, who her patient was, what her responsibility was, to know how awful it is to feel lost and alone and uncared for...But Tammy was gone, moving on to the next patient and leaving me to stand there staring after her.

I turned and walked the short distance back to Cookie's room. The aide was helping Cookie into the restroom, gently reassuring her as the pair moved slowly forward.

"I brought you a cookie," I said, realizing even as I said the words that Cookie wouldn't see me, or hear the words or even understand them. "I'll just leave it on your bedside table," I added, as my voice trailed off into an ineffectual whisper.

I left the building, heading for lunch between my two nursing homes. Inside my chest I felt sobs crashing against my ribs, looking for a way out and finally subsiding as I sat across from my friends, listening to their stories. They know by now not to ask when I say it is a bad day at the home. Instead they talk over my mood, waiting until I catch up and join them, not taking my mood personally. I still have another home to visit. I can't go there. I can't stay in Cookie's room. I can't make her better today. Somewhere I know I can't make her better ever and yet, I will continue to try because I can't not try.

I leave my buddies and drive across town, thinking about running away, remembering I have two boys I love too much to leave and knowing that even if I did run away to Panama City to become a waitress in a Waffle House, I would still manage to drag every sad story out of every lost cause customer because I just can't help myself.

I pull up in front of the second nursing home and sit in my car staring up at the low-slung brick building. I reach for the phone to call my best friend and remember that she is in Florida taking care of her daughter in law who has had a double mastectomy. I miss her.

Finally, I take a deep breath and leave the car. I am thinking of who I need to see and what they are needing when I open the door and step inside the building, blinking to adjust my eyes from bright sunlight to low interior fluorescent lighting.

"Hey, Baby! Come here you good looking woman!"

Wayland, blue ball cap perched on top of his head, wheelchair rolling up in front of me.

I smile. Wayland thinks I'm his girlfriend.

"Hey, baby, what''re you doin'?" I say, flirting with him.

"Just waiting on you baby! Doggone, you look fine!" He says...And then farts, long, slow, juicy and continuously...All the while telling me how good I look and asking when we're going to go riding in his Cadillac convertible.

Wendell is shameless and I love him for it.

I try not to inhale, try not to laugh and say, "Oh baby, that sounds good to me! I've gotta go put this bag down first. I'll be back around in a little bit!"

I pat his shoulder and walk off down the hallway before I gasp for air. I walk into the social work office, sling my backpack down into a chair and pull out my clipboard.

This afternoon I will be Wendell's girlfriend, Miss Annie's little girl, Walter's wife and Elsie's defender. I will listen to an overworked activity director bitch, fight with a surly CNA that I suspect is mean to her patients and tell another nurse that what she did that morning mattered in the life of a little old man who'd lost the will to live. I will cajole, hug, sing, cry and tease. I will be their defender when they are unable to speak for themselves. I will sit, silently bearing witness as my patients recount the days of their lives, fitting them into some semblance of order before they leave. I will be the one to hold the stories, to remember and honor the wisdom that has gone before. I will laugh and cry and have my heart broken over and over again. I will wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about them like I worry about my boys. I will be there when their children no longer visit. I will be the one to see how much they miss their babies and I will go home and treasure mine.

And when my heart is breaking, I will take a deep breath and realize that all wonderful gifts come at a price.

But I don't think I will ever stop fighting or being angry...at a culture that doesn't value its elderly, at the children who forget their parents, at the profit-driven companies who don't pay a living wage to their staffs, who look the other way when patients are abused or say "Oh, well, that's just how it is!"


Aliens Suck Writer's Brain...Film At Eleven!

Okay, now this really has to stop.

This procrastination thing has gone too far!

Writers drag their feet, sure. I know I'm not unusual in that I would think of almost anything to pull myself away from what I know I must do...What I feel called to do...What I know I really WANT to do...WRITE, DAMN IT!!

But I am sinking to new lows.

It wasn't so bad, really, when I bought a new house as a way of procrastinating. In fact that was a good idea. It meant selling the one I live in now and in order to sell it I have to clean it up and out. This is equivalent to moving a mountain with a teaspoon. (Read my blog about the basement!)

Cleaning out the house and packing is great for procrastinating! I am into it full speed. I barely have time to write and when I do...Oh my God! It's fabulous.

Okay. Maybe not fabulous but sometimes it's not bad.

So the packing and cleaning thing isn't exactly working as a procrastination device because eventually it becomes so odious that I return to the computer in order to procrastinate against doing any more cleaning and packing! I pull up the blank page and just sit there...Waiting for inspiration and happy not to be fighting giant dust bunnies.

Out of desperation, I upgraded my Earthlink account. Low and behold, they've given me a procrastination TOOL! Is that, like, thoughtful or what?! They must know I'm a writer!

Headlines now run continuously across the top of my screen! I could hide them, but why? I might miss something!

The headlines are better than any plot I could think up on my own! Things like: Kids Suck Eggs Through Eye of Needle or Man Nails Self In Head With Nail Gun-Wife Not Surprised He Didn't Notice.

Yesterday's headline was the very best. It completely took me away from my writing and I didn't even need to read the article to know all about it and be absolutely pissed!

Zoo Vet Reverses Bush Dog Vasectomy.

You know, I thought, I knew that man was stupid...But getting the Zoo Vets to reverse his poor dog's vasectomy?! Now that's a new low, even for a Republican! What a waste of public funds! What a mis-use of his authority and office! What, was Condoleza not watching him that day?

I told Martha about it and she was just dumbstruck. I was gearing up to organize a demand for an investigation.

Which meant, of course, that I had to actually READ the article.

The zoo vets reversed the vasetomy on an Australian Bush Dog and not on George W's silly mutt! (Don't ask me why they tinkered with a bush dog's winkie, it would take too long to explain. )

I suppose it probably means I'll have to tell Martha it wasn't Bush's dog. She'll be so disappointed!

But I'll make up some reasons why the headlines mislead me, you know, so it makes a better story...So she doesn't realize what an IDIOT I've been!

Yeah, I'll make up some fabulous extra details because, after all, I am a fiction writer!


Back to the blank page again...

Until the next headline...

Oh, look! There goes a good one!

CDC Injects Diabetics With Lizard Saliva!


Wonder what did it do to the test subjects? Are they green now? Thick skinned? Cold Blooded? Hmmm....wait, I'd better check this one out before I get too involved with my writing...inquiring minds might need to know about this!


What Goes Around Just Came Back Around...But It's All Wrong!!! They Have the Wrong Guy!!! Hey, What'd I Do?!

Okay, about this giving birth thing. It seemed like such a good idea at the time...But then real life intervened and now I'm wondering...What in the Hell was I thinking?!

Forget the issue of the sperm donor, whether it was Love or just Time to Breed that influenced my decision to marry this person and bear his children....(Oh, please, when these kids need something or have done something whose children do you think they are? His? I think not! They're mine! So the ridiculous idea that I "bore" anyone's child is just beyond me! But I digress...) Anyway, forget the sperm donor and why I decided to have children. I did. And once conception took place, it's a whole new ballgame. First of all, the kid has to be born...Either that or your guts get stretched by a group of cells that progressively multiply into a person who just grows and grows and grows. Better to dynamite the little sucker out of there before he grows beyond the size of a Thanksgiving Turkey and makes the movie, Alien, seem more autobiography than sci-fi.

Okay, so they're born. You survive toddlerhood. You re-learn Second Grade Math and realize, probably for the first time since birth, that you are really, really stupid. That's bad, but that's not what does you in.

They become teenagers.

Yeah, like the one your parents used to warn you about by saying, "I hope you have a kid just like yourself one day. Then you'll see what hell you've put us through!"

At the time you didn't believe you'd ever see anything eye to eye with your parents. You figured you'd certainly NEVER parent like them, so what was the big deal? If you had a kid like yourself, you'd understand him or her and be a much better parent than your stupid parents ever thought about being!

Damn. That pride goeth before a fall thing just up and kicked my ass.

You see, the first kid was nothing like me. And the second one showed no signs of my former rebellious behavior. He hates conflict. He does whatever he can to stay on my good side. He does really well in school. He's quiet...too quiet...

The sneaky little bastard!

It's late, but I see the signs now and I'm on to him!

He's got a girlfriend. She appears to be a sweet thing, but hell, I appeared to be a sweet thing, too. He talks to her for hours and hours at a time. He won't talk to us, his family, but HER, well, apparently he'll tell her any damned thing. I've heard him. "She's making me clean up my room...Yeah...I know. I know!" Sure I'm making him clean up his room. It's a freaking health hazard! It's littered with fast food wrappers, tiny bits of paper, dirty socks and clothes...And the further kiss of death and sign that my parents' wish is coming true....His room is just like my room was when I was his age... Before I discovered cleanliness is next to avoiding a diphtheria epidemic.

Then...He tells me if I go to the 8th grade dance as a parent volunteer/chaperone, he won't go! He doesn't want me on the property! "It's embarrassing, Mom! It makes me look like a pansy!" His brother, 2 years older, says "Ben, you're 14. Mom gets to mortify you for a couple of more years until you learn how to work her so she doesn't do it to you. When you're 16 you get to drive, then you can get away from her!" I whap him upside the head and he laughs and I'm charmed... So yes, the 16 year old jerk has learned to play me...But his younger brother is not so sharp...Okay, so maybe he is as sharp as his brother because when he said he wouldn't go to the dance if I volunteered, I looked into his eyes and saw...Well, his eyes were bright with tears and he looked so absolutely pained that I suddenly felt how very hard, embarrassing and mortifying it must be to try and dance for the first time with your first girlfriend...And to have to do it with your mother watching your every move? Oh, I so felt it! Damn. I was siding with my son against my own self!

But I came back to my senses with the arrival of the next sign that my youngest son is turning into my worst personal, parental nightmare...

Not only does he think I'm stupid and to be avoided; not only does he give me the barest of details and none of the pertinent information in his life...Now, in his quest to apparently be the child my parents wished I would have...Ben has added another log to the fire of my eternal damnation...

He likes all the music I used to like! He's listening to Led Zepplin, the Allman Brothers, Cream, Pink Floyd...This is a disaster! Where did I go wrong? He's growing his hair...I led the boys in my high school in a sit-in because of the dress/hair length code...and now Ben's growing his!

I was the teenager from Hell and now, in my own house, despite my careful, not-like-my-own-mother parenting, I have bred my own little hellion! I am immeadiately going to enter into negotiations with a security firm. I need motion detectors, lights, infared cameras, bodyguards...I'm bugging the phone, the computer, the bathroom. I'm marking the liquor bottles, taking the important thingy off the carburator, getting a larger, smarter dog...a herding dog.

How on earth has this happened to me?

I know what's next...that's what the Hell part of all this is...You know what's coming for you because you once brought it down upon your own parents!

Yeah, but they deserved it, I say, but what did I do? What? I mean...It's not as if I act like my mother did or anything! I'm always there...volunteering at school, checking up on things, driving him to and from school and to his friends' houses, monitoring his whereabouts. I mean, it's not as if I'm "intrusive" or anything!

God, you'd think I wrote about him in my blog and published it or something!!!!


No, Thank You. I Really Prefer Not To Be Swept Off My Feet!

It was the way he moved that made me notice him...lean, muscular, panther-like agility, all packaged in faded jeans that hugged all the best places, leaving very little to my starved imagination. He walked toward me, across the ballfield, watching me, tasting me with his eyes.

This had been going on for almost an hour. From the moment he'd spotted me, he'd studied me with an honest hunger that declared his intent more than words ever could. And now he was striding across the field, coming for me. I knew he was coming for me.

My heart caught in my throat. My body ached with the possibility of his imagined caress. It had been so long. So very long.

Surely I was imagining things. He couldn't be coming for me...was he?

Oh, yes he was.

He walked right past the other moms, climbed the metal bleacher seats, taking them two at a time, until he was standing right in front of me, undeniably present...waiting.

He smelled like leather and sweat and hunger and I have never wanted anyone as much as I did in that one moment.

He held out his hand, more command than invitation.

I let him draw me to my feet, felt the world spin around me and knew with embarassing certainty that I was about to faint. It was desire, taking my breath; blood leaving my head to flood the swollen, aching parts of a body that knew all too well what this stranger offered.

My traitorous knees began to buckle. He moved, scooping me up in strong, sure arms, and smiled down at me.

"To hell with waiting," he said. "I'm taking you home, right now."

I struggle out of his arms to stand before him. "Oh, really, thanks so much for your kind offer but I don't really want to be swept off my feet. I prefer something a little less...well, shall we say, directive? I mean, I'm sort of an equal give and take kind of person, you know?"


She said what??? She doesn't want to be swept off her feet?! She doesn't want a handsome stranger to pick her out of a crowd and carry her off for what will surely be the thrill of a lifetime? She doesn't want romance and passion?

Hello?! Is there anybody out there who wants a sweet, bland love affair?

According to my informal, unscientific study, nine out of ten women want to be swept off their feet...(and I'm still not sure what the tenth one was really saying when I asked her!)

You know why?

Because there's hardly a one of us who doesn't long to be taken; swept off our feet, carried away and overwelmed by passion, emotion and the thrilling raw sensuality of a lover who knows and takes what he wants.

The takers, the tops, those lovers we all love to look down on publically seem to be the very ones we lust after privately. Why is that?

How can we survive like this?

I mean, here we are wanting to be equal partners, but we long to be taken past the point of no return in the steamy darkness of our bedrooms.


I had a lover like that. It was so smoking hot in bed I thought I would die from overindulgence...for about six months...then I was ready to kill him! He was so obnoxious, so overbearing, so freaking paternalistic!

I loved fighting with him. It was so raw; so in his face; so undeniably honest and without manipulation.

It was also so all-the-time constant!

I had to fire him. He just wore me out!

Still...if only behind closed doors, I long for that sweep you off your feet, take your breath, you can't stop this, kind of passion. Don't get me wrong, I like give and take. I like to play my own games successfully, but dazzle me with strength and confidence and I will follow you anywhere.

Which leads me to my next idea...

If the sweepers are so hard to find and in such demand...I'm thinking about switching over.

Those manly types love to have the tables turned on them. I mean, look at Halle Berry in Catwoman or Angelina Jolie in Tombraider. How hard can it be? I'll just throw on a pair of kakhi shorts, grab a sleeveless white T-shirt, lace up my construction worker boots and strap on a tool belt...better yet, I'll run down to North State Feed and Seed and pick up a bullwhip. I mean, how hard can it be, cracking that whip?

It sure didn't look hard when Halle did it!

I figure one day, years after I'm gone, they'll put up a monument...Something big, but tasteful. Something to remind us all that playing by the rules isn't all it's cracked up to be. The monument will mark the end of an era. Little girls will stand around it and gaze up at my Xena-esque bronze likeness and then turn to their mommies, puzzled.

"You mean women used to wait for men?" they'll cry. "How silly!"

Their mothers will smile ruefully. "Well, honey, that was a long, long time ago...We were still a little shy about tasting power, so we had no idea how intoxicating it could be."

The woman's husband slips his arm around her waist, lets his hand slip slowly lower to caress her before he playfully pinches the firm bottom. Their eyes meet; the promise of later clear in their exchange. The heat of impending passion makes the warm summer afternoon seem suddenly hot. There is no aphrodasiac like power.

In the background you can hear the sound of whips snapping sharply as a classful of Girl Scouts surround their leader, practicing for their next merit badge.

Nearby a few young boys lounge beneath a tree, watching the girls with unabashed interest.

"Why can't I find me a woman like that?" one asks.

Why indeed?


The Crush of Returning Spring...

Some nerve I have, feeling sorry for myself! Dragging around the house all night, painting the trim in my bedroom and crying like a baby. What a pitiful sight that must've been! It's that single mom thing rearing its ugly head again. It's hard. Sometimes it feels like I'm trying to paddle my canoe upstream and not only don't I have a paddle...there's a hole in the boat!

Dear me!

Clearly someone forgot to count her blessings!

No one's dead. No one's sick. No one's coming to take the house. The power's on. I have a book contract. I have happy boys. And I have amazing friends.

Have I forgotten already the way the day started?

It's Spring. I walked outside this morning and the tulips were just opening their petals, offering their sepials up to the warm sunlight. The rose bushes had thousands of buds on them. And, even better, my youngest son and I were on time to drop him off at school without getting stuck in the early morning, late drop-off, carpool line.

Love was in the air. My boy has his first, sweet girlfriend and I am soooo not allowed to talk about it, or watch too openly, or dare discuss how it feels or how it felt when I was just a young girl in love with my first boyfriend!

Spring is for love and crushes.

Everything is new and green and beginning all over again. Just like a new love, or the fresh kiss feel of a flirtation...

I love the excitement of discovery. I can't begin to write a new romance without falling slightly in love with someone. I am forced to wait until just the right one comes along to trigger my fantasies...

In Sophie's Last Stand, which comes out May 1, I saw my crush in a small deli in New Bern, NC. He was standing with a small boy. His hair was cut bottle-brush short, his eyes were an electric blue that sparkled as they met mine from across the room. He smiled and I melted right into him.

He sat in a booth across the room from me, but every time I looked up, there he was, smiling...his blue-gray eyes promising me a lifetime of fantasies.

My sister said, "He's staring at you!"

I knew it! And what did I do?

I ran right out of the deli! Just as I knew he was about to approach me, I ran!

What a scaredy cat! But hey, a great romance novel came out of that one!

I thought about that today. I thought about how few men have ever admitted to having a crush on me and how delicious it feels to learn that someone "likes you!" It is rare and sweet and utterly the stuff that fantasies are made of.

Take Miss Annie for example...

I walked into her room at the nursing home today, sat in the chair across from her rocker and admired the hundreds of cow figurines that cover every nook and cranny of that small, cinder-block room. She was wearing a pearl necklace, ornate with a huge pearl medallion that dangled against her thin chest. In fact, as I studied her, I realized Miss Annie was dressed up, as if going to church, but this was Tuesday and Bingo was long over.

"Oh, yes, I went to Bingo," she said. "My young man took me." Annie blushed and gave me a sly little grin. "Do you know him?"

I'm thinking, a new orderly? A male nurse? A volunteer?

But no, it's Otis, the man who lives in the room next to Annie. He's 82. She's 91. That makes him her "young man!" Annie has a suitor! They go to all the activities together, and this after she asked the social worker if Otis was "a little slow" because he didn't immeadiately comprehend Four Square Bingo!

"I've been to his room," she told me in a conspiratorial whisper.

Oh, dear God, too much information!!!

But no. "He's quite fastidious! Not a speck out of place. I do adore a clean man!"

Ah, and they are so hard to find, too!

I left Annie, daydreaming of love and wandered on to Walter.

He is dying of Huntington's Chorea. 50 but looking so much younger, the staff sits him up in the hallway because if left alone he tries to hurl himself from his wheelchair. It is all he can do...paralyzed, sentenced to watch his body seize up and abandon him, knowing that eventually he will go insane and shake uncontrollably...Walter's wife and 2 babies left him after he was diagnosed. He's watched his father and 2 brothers die.

He is mine and I am his.

He watches me as I walk down the hallway. His eyes glisten. His face is frozen in a perpetual goofy grin. He is patient with me, repeating over and over again the simple phrases that I work to understand. He sighs and tries again because, perhaps, I will understand, finally...just as I did that first day we met. He struggled, fighting to form the words yet again, sighing and trying until at last the lights came on and I looked at him, comprehending. "You miss your mother?"

"Yesh, mish mo-har!"

"I miss my mother."

The boy missed his mother. Such a simple and yet basic thing. I called her and she came that weekend to sit by his bedside.

Now Walter says the same thing every time he sees me and I no longer work to understand him. He looks at me, eyes bright, and says "I love you. I love you."

And I take his hand, touch his arm, and say "I love you, too."

How can I feel sorry for myself when a man like Walter loves me? When Spring is in the air and my boy has a date for the 8th grade dance? When Miss Annie grins and beats Crazy Pearl away from her table in the dining room saying, "I'm sorry, this seat is reserved...I have a young man coming."

What match are bills and pride when put up against the shining face of Springtime?

The baseboards are painted. The tears have dried. And tomorrow is a new day in Single Mom Land. We'll kick ass tomorrow!


Stop It Before It Breeds Again!!!

This winter, while I was busy writing two novels, working three jobs and raising two boys, my basement had sex. That is the only explanation for the population explosion below the decks of my 1750 sq. foot ranch house.

I came up for air around March 15th and ventured downstairs to clear a path through the laundry room. This led to a trip to my office...you know, that room where we're supposed to keep files, important papers, all the receipts needed to do the taxes! I couldn't get through the door! All winter long, whenever bills, papers, books arrived, I shoved them into the room...Okay, and if I must be completely honest...I flat threw the things in there, along with extra clothes, junk from my other office move, boxes of candles and junk Martha needed to clear out of her house before she put it on the market and stuff I bought at Goodwill that I just knew would sell like hotcakes on eBay. Of course, I'd have to take the pictures and write the descriptions before I posted the listings and with 2 books on the way, who could find the time to write a paragraph about a stupid pair of Lucky jeans?!

I am an optimist. I bought the myth of my generation...If you work hard, miracles can happen. Oh so NOT! I labored for days downstairs and guess what? It's actually much worse!!!

My friends have offered to help, but if I take them up on their kind offers they'll find out what a horrible person I really am! I mean, the health department might condemn my basement! My Ex might sue for custody. I might find a dead body and that would necessitate writing yet another book!

I was so sure that finishing this last book would return my life to "normal" but instead the little wheel inside my cage just keeps spinning faster and faster and the basement just keeps right on having sex!

The good news is...I cleaned out my bedroom closet and managed after 2 weeks to fill my car with Goodwill donations.

The bad news?

I threw everything that I couldn't quite throw out down the laundry chute and the hungry basement gobbled it up!



"The Call"

I am a writer. I can't tell you how long it took to finally say those words out loud, or to list my occupation of forms as "writer." It actually took my son to "out" me.

I had been writing away for about three years and had even had a short story published, but still I didn't consider myself a real writer. Real writers made a full-time living off of their work, dabblers like me were just rank amateurs. Now, this standard only applied to myself...anyone else who put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, I called them writers. The standard's just always been different for me...and don't make me wax neurotic by asking why...God, that's what therapy's for!

Anyway, I'd written a novel based on the published short story; a short story I might add that had placed first in the Sleuthfest Short Story contest and had been published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and had actually paid me $862, cash on the barrelhead. But I didn't have an agent or a publisher and the book was "making the rounds" looking for someone who would believe in it enough to actually agree to represent me and then try to sell the thing to a publisher. I was not having much success. My husband (at the time) was on my back to "get a real job" and I was fairly depressed about my chances of ever getting my toe in the door of the published world when Adam made his move.

He was in Ms. Thorne's second grade class and it was Meet The Teacher night. When I showed up we were instructed to look at the pictures and attached biographies our children had done of one of their parents. They were posted on the wall above our heads in a border that ringed the classroom.

Adam took my hand and began to lead me over to the middle section of the back wall. There, on manilla drawing paper, was a child's view of me...brown curly hair, a big smile and wild-looking dark eyes. Below the image was the story of my life as Adam saw it, neatly lettered in his childish scrawl..."My mother is a mystery writer."

I remember the lump in my throat, the tears burning my eyes, and the way he smiled up at me as I hugged him to me and said, "Oh, Adam, it's beautiful!"

He saw me the way I only dreamed of being. For him, it was a reality.

Months later, lying in my darkened bedroom, I actually went so far as to pray that my Sierra girl would live to see daylight on a printed page. I knew, good minister's daughter that I was, better than to pray for something so selfish and insignificant when people around the world were in pain and suffering, but nonetheless, I did.

I even promised to go to church again.

My husband told me I had "an obsession," and should get over it.

Two days later, the phone rang. A woman's voice asked for me and said, "I LOVE Sierra!" And just as I'd done when my first story got published, I thought, well, I can die now because surely this is the best life can ever get! However, unlike the first time, I did not go out and buy a new computer, 90 days same as cash...I knew better than to do that again! But I hung up the phone and screamed, danced, cried, said a big Thank You and in general, made a complete fool of myself. It was almost as good as giving birth, because in a way, I was giving birth...to my fictional daughter and her crazy, fictional world.

That Sunday I went to church.

Five months later, the book finally sold to St. Martin's Press.

And you know, ten books later, I still can't quit my day job, but it pays a good half the bills and I get to stay home more with the boys which was my goal in starting this career. I work like a dog to learn my craft, to become a better writer and with each book I think I get a little better. But it's night's like last night that remind me of the gift and the dream of this profession.

Last night the phone rang and it was V. (She's the one in the thongs, you remember her!) She said, "I hate to call you at home, but I've sort of got a problem..." I should mention here that in my day job I'm a psychotherapist, so calls like this are not at all unusual, however, this call wasn't one of those.

"Did M. tell you I've been writing a little bit and that I submitted a story?"

Yes, but she hadn't said anything about submitting. M. is not a writer. She would have no idea how much V trusted her just in telling her that she wrote, let alone that she'd submitted. I mean, when you submit a story, the risk is that you'll get rejected...and when a writer gets a story rejected it is like they have personally been rejected. It's a shame based business, that's why we're so secretive...at least, the writers I know are!

"Well, I just got a phone call and it was from the editor. She wants to see the rest of the book, only since I sent it in, I've been working on it (Something all writers do...we tinker endlessly...) and now I need to add 3 thousand words. I just called to see if you had any advice on how to do that."

She was glossing right over the biggest news, the most wonderful moment, in a writer's life...V had just received "The Call!" It was time for celebration!

"It's a romance, right?" I asked.


"Hell, add another sex scene! That's what we're all looking for anyway. Now forget that. It's time to celebrate!"

A short while later, the three of us gathered at my house to drink a glass of wine and celebrate yet another accomplishment. M. had just finished her first metalworking project, a glorious, copper fountain with a tin roof.

We set up the fountain, drank the wine, and toasted ourselves. We grinned and did little victorious, happy dances. It was in the joy of that moment that I realized what I should've been accepting all along. No one can "make" you an artist and no one can take it away. It doesn't matter how anyone sees or labels you. Becoming an artist is something that bubbles up, like M's fountain, from the very bottom of your soul. It can't be stopped or denied. The little voice just keeps coming up with words or images that find their way to paper or copper or canvas despite self doubts or the censorship of others.

As my grandmother would say, "She was born to it."


Thong, butt not forgotten....

I was at lunch today when the subject of thong underwear came up. Now, okay, this is probably the accepted undergarment of choice among women under 30, but somehow (although I haven't taken a survey), I'm pretty sure it's not terribly common among us hovering around the 50 year old mark. I don't know why not. It's perfect for us. I mean, our butts are sagging, our panties are always riding up our cracks because they can't find a way to cover that much territory, and we're constantly battling pantylines. We need thongs far more than some taut-assed, 22 year old!

Anyway...my one friend, let's call her V. for the sake of modesty and me not getting my ass kicked for telling you her inner secrets...anyway, V. gives my other friend a big conspiratorial grin and leans in to the table. "Guess what, M?" she says. "I've started wearing thongs!"

M. screws her face up into this little frown and looks confused. "Underwear?"

Well, duh! But M's blonde in every sense of the word AND a recovering debutante. Life has presented her with plenty of obstacles to overcome and I must say, she's done quite well overall, but the concept of one of us wearing some of those was just a bit much for her to handle.

"Well, of course!" V says.

"How'd you get used to that string running up your crack?" M. asks. "I tried, but I just couldn't get used to it! How long did it take you?"

V. gives me that, debutante! look and rolls her eyes. "About a day," she answers.

"Yeah, M," I chime in. "It's only about a day if you don't have one of them debutante super smooth asses!"

M does that little debutante sniff thing they all do and says, "Screw you!"

Which prompts V. to add, "I love 'em! You know why? It makes your pants feel like someone's stroking your ass! I can't remember the last time I felt that!"

We all laugh cause it's true, but don't feel too sorry for us...

I'm wearing thongs, too, and that makes me think of the other good thing about thongs...

"Hey, I like them because I can walk around thinking I'm half naked. You know, it's like your ass isn't wearing underwear, which it really isn't, so in a way you're naked."

We get out into the parking lot and as V walks away to her car, I lean over to M and say, "Hey, look, she's not wearing any underwear and her ass is getting stroked while she walks!"

M. can't help herself. She calls out, "Nancy says..."

I punch her, but V. has already guessed what we're saying. She stops dead, right in the center of the lot, bends over and shakes her tail at us. "Nope, see? Pantylines!"

Yep, we may be getting older, but we sure aren't getting any less wild.

I'm thinking of adding some of those temporary tattoos to the small of my back...hell, maybe even to my left cheek....See, while those 20 year olds only have asses the size of postcards, I've got a billboard to work with! Hey, maybe I could do like that man's doing with his forehead, auction off space on my posterior for advertising space....yeah, I know...who would see it? And once they had, who would remember what the ad was for?!


More than they'll ever know, and probably more than they should!

Okay, I'm new to this and I know I should spend time introducing myself and telling you about my wild life and the kids and why life is so insane all the time around here, but I just keep thinking about last weekend...

It was Dad's birthday and so the boys, Martha and I piled into the car and drove four hours to New Bern to celebrate it with him. He was turning 78 and he is our idol as well as our hero. But that's where the birthday problem comes in...What do you get a man who is so cool he needs and wants nothing?!

I thought the DVD of "What the Bleep Do We Know," but discarded that idea when I learned there was a woman channeling a spirit involved. Dad's a retired Episcopalian minister and while he's closer to being a Buddist, channeling somehow pisses him off. He thinks you need to listen to the voice coming from within you and not the ones allegedly transmitted through another person's voice, particularly if said person is making money off the deal, but I digress...

So, I settled, finally, last minute on another idea; a photo album made into a hardcover book from our annual pilgrimage to a hot dog stand outside of Beaufort...Deb's Dogs. My brother and his family come down every year from outside of Philly, link up with my sister and her kids, and my crew and we all go to eat the best hot dogs at the absolute funkiest roadside stand in the universe. Ok, maybe not the universe, but Deb's Dogs is housed in half an old gas station, and the other half is like a Moose Lodge or something, and there may even be a used appliance dealer somewhere within the confines of the building because there's always a bunch of used stoves or refridgerators or lawn furniture scattered about the place.

And it's always packed with vehicles and people waiting on dogs.

So, back to the story...He loved the album. His best times are when we're all clustered around, hanging with him and telling stories.

In our family the birthday person gets to choose their favorite food for the birthday dinner, as well as their favorite cake. His was carrot and dinner was steak. He's on a health kick and constantly shaking off one form of cancer or another, so red meat is a rarity.

And Martha burned it.

But Dad loves my friend and the steak was still tender, so all was forgiven.

We sat around the table, eating, laughing, and listening to Dad's stories about the old sailing days. If it weren't for calamity, my dad would've had no life at all. This one particular story involved a young woman named Lois, a 21 foot wooden sailboat, a ferocious lightning storm and the Savannah Yacht Club's annual regatta and race. Unfortunately, Dad's boat took a hit that burned out the entire engine and the jib halyard, leaving them with only the mainsail to make it in to the club docks. This was complicated by all the boats waiting to start the race, a crowded dock, no one knowing his boat was disabled and a gust of wind coming just as Lois was headed forward to drop the anchor. The boom jibed, wacked old Lois off the deck, and I guess that's how he ended up with my mother.

I mean, Lois was fine, she just didn't opt for Date # 2.

But that's not the good part of Dad's birthday.

Dad lives in a small, three-story condo overlooking the Neuse River. It is quiet and surrounded by marsh on one side, and woods and fields on the other. In the distance you can see the marina. So the boys and I take our schnauzer, Maggie, out for a last night pee, and the stars are just amazing. We all stand in the middle of the field, staring up at the constellations and trying to identify them, like Dad taught us, only we can't remember this one group.

Adam volunteers to run up and get Grandaddy and when he arrives, a meteor shower begins and we all see falling stars and I tell them about the time in my childhood when Dad woke us all up in the middle of the night to go outside and lie in the grass behind the garage so we could watch this wonderful shower of stars. I look at my boys and think maybe they will always remember this night, just this way, on Grandaddy's birthday, for the rest of their lives.

But noooo....this isn't even the best part!

Dad decides to show us the latest condo project, a series of porches that will be added to each end condo. (He's taking the condo presidency seriously and because he's our idol, we willingly follow him.) We troop across the field, through the breezeway and out onto the narrow strip of grass that divides the condo from the marsh. Just as we step out far enough to see, there is movement from the first floor left-hand side condo. The 8' blinds covering the window are jerked up and there, framed against the brightly lit backdrop of his living room, is a naked guy!

The man, a scrawny, young guy, just stands there for a moment, peering out at us, while everyone but apparently me, stares back, frozen, unable to look away. Finally, the guy jumps to the side, and we all race for the elevator, laughing hysterically. That's when I learn that I am the only one who, for some unknown reason, averted my eyes to be polite! (Me, freaking polite! Now there's a first!)

We race back to Dad's condo, where my sister has the last word. She listens to our tale, smiles wisely and looks at our father, whose first name is Richard. "Well, you know what he was trying to tell you, don't you?" she asks.

She doesn't even wait for him to figure it out.

"He was saying, 'Happy Birthday, Dick!'"

And no, that's not all....

Wednesday night, Dad calls. "George stopped me today," he says.
A little flicker of dread ignites somewhere in the pit of my stomach. "The naked guy?" I don't even know his name, but I'm just guessing here, since I don't know anyone we have in common named George.
"Yep," he says. "He's become concerned with the security around the condos. Says a black guy moved in with a white guy on the third floor and the guy has a tattoo." (Of course, Dad is colorblind, so telling me that George identified these guys by their race, only sets poor George up to fail in whatever he says to Dad after this...) "He said John saw another guy flipping up the doormats on the second floor because he just moved in and couldn't remember which condo he lived in. George says a police officer and his family are moving in next to us for awhile. Says the guy is 6'8", black, a former marine and George is just real glad because he thinks we have a ring of dope dealers renting a condo. George said he was in bed last Saturday night when he heard something outside his window. So he pulled up the blinds and there were these four black men, big guys."

I'm dying. "No, he didn't!"

"Yep," Dad continues. "Said by the time he changed out of his pajamas and got outside with the flashlight, they had made a clean getaway."

Deb's Dogs Posted by Hello

Maggie the Wonderdog! Posted by Hello

Dad in his element, feeding the grandkids! Posted by Hello