Last day of NaBloPoMo

Last day of NaBloPoMo



Thirty days ago I was in a Las Vegas hotel room. It was nearing midnight. I had a fever. Somehow all those elements came together and created a temporary insanity that made me decide to participate in National Blog Posting Month, affectionately known as NaBloPoMo.

When the fever broke and I found myself back home I had a few days of cursing my impulsive side. Thankfully I’m also a bit obsessive-compulsive. These elements worked together to guilt me into following through with my pledge of 30 posts in 30 days.

There were no repercussions if I failed.

Here I am 30 days later. A little bit of carpal tunnel, a dirtier house, a job search that has yet to commence, Halloween pumpkins still on display, but whatever. I have 30 blog posts in a row to brag about to ….. um … the homeless guy in front of the supermarket? 

Will I get a prize? A T-shirt? Maybe a nice badge to display on my site? Who knows. 

Here’s my take away on the experience:

Discipline: I wrote every day. 

Achievement: I set a goal and reached it.

Insight: Big decisions that impact your future should not be made in Las Vegas. 

Community: While I connected with a few new writers and found some useful groups, NaBloPoMo wasn’t the experience I thought it would be. Mea culpa? Possibly. I’m not sure I worked the community to full advantage. I found that writing every day got in the way of involvement. So many blogs, so little time to read them. 

In the end, I’m somehow a little bit better, a little more enriched for having taken this challenge. That’s worth more than a hotel room in Vegas.

Final edition

Last night the husband and I joined a small group of writers, editors and photographers for a round of drinks at our local watering hole. After hoisting our mugs and toasting our friendship and better days ahead, we downed a bitter swig of reality.

On Dec. 1 our 106-year old enterprise will cease to exist. We couldn’t call it a death. More like pulling the plug on a ventilator. Still.

Moments earlier we had toured the shell of a once-bustling building. What was once filled with busy workers doing their part to get a paper on the street every day is now populated only with empty desks and packed boxes.

Husband and I have a lot of memories embedded in this place. It was our home away from home, our life.  It was that way for all who worked there. We were an extended family and this felt like a funeral for a dear friend.

As we  drank and ate and talked, we wondered what to do with the rest of our lives, since most present were headed for the unemployment line. We talked about how to update our analog careers to a digital world. Most of us are middle age and this is all we’ve done. Time to reinvent ourselves. We all knew it was coming, but it is quite another thing to stand at the edge of the grave as the casket is being lowered.

Anyone interested in what’s going on in the news industry can read more here:

Keyboard confessional

I was raised in Religion X.

My whole family, both sides, belong to Religion X.

It is expected that you marry someone who is also a member of Religion X.

Religion X dictates everything: where to worhsip, where to send your kids to school, and how you are to conduct your life down to the most intimate details. These intimate details are dictated by old men in robes sequestered in ornate buildings far away from the unwashed masses. 

Some in the family go so far as to screen caterers and other service people to make sure they are of the proper religious leaning. I mean, you couldn’t trust someone outside of X to prepare and present your food, right?

Call me a wild child. I don’t even ask my dry cleaner where he worships. I take those kinds of risks with my clothing.

As soon as I was old enough, I jumped the fence and left the flock.
Truthfully, I never really was in the fold. Call me a junior wolf in sheep’s clothing. I went along with the herd. Inside, I was asking questions and doubting what I was hearing. Twenty five years later, there are those still waiting at the gate to let me back in.

They send out messages periodically, veiled attempts to lure me. There is an Armageddon theme in all these trinkets and baubles.

I say any group that thinks they are the most worthy, that those who aren’t with them are automatically against them and somehow destined for hell, damnation, or at least inferior catering services, is not a group to which I want to belong.

As a child, I wondered about all the people in Religion Y or Religion Z. They seemed fine to me. They didn’t look like doomed people. And what about all those people on the other side of the world who have no religion? Well, I was told, if it seems like life is rough for them, we know why don’t we?
But it just didn’t seem right somehow. How could all those people be wrong? Who decided that our thinking is the only correct interpretation? Maybe we are wrong and they are right. Where would that leave us?

The adults would tell me I should feel bad for the Ys and Zs and the no religions. They said that until they found the way, they would not be saved.

Being the bad girl I was, I rejected this. I went on a quest and visited houses of worship all over the alphabet, even a cultish kind of place. Mostly people were the same. I even learned a lot of people don’t like Religion X. 

Lately, I’ve kind of invented my own religion. It suits me fine. I won’t be shoving it down your throat anytime soon. Make that ever.

Survival skills


Scene I 

Interior of suburban home where a stressed-out mother is opening bills and attempting to balance the family budget. Mom opens the monthly cell phone bill.  There is a loud scream, followed by the pounding of footsteps down a hall leading to a teenage girl’s bedroom.

MomZombie: You exceeded your minutes last month, to the tune of $500. Unless you can cough up the overage fees, we’ll have to confiscate your phone for one month.

Girl from the West: But mom! This is totally not fair. People keep calling me!

MomZombie: You don’t have to take the calls ….  

The argument abruptly ends, as the teen girl realizes she is out of options. Her bank account is empty, the funds withdrawn earlier this year to cover the last big overage. She hangs her head in defeat and hands over the device. It is as if she has reached into her chest and yanked out her own  beating heart. For the next few days the teen is a husk of her former self.

Scene II:

Pre-dawn inside same suburban home. A coffee maker gurgles in the kitchen, spitting liquid energy into a glass pot as a tired and impatient mom prepares breakfast and steels herself for an hour’s drive in the dark. Wondering why teen daughter isn’t awake, mom darts down the hall and throws open the bedroom door, flips on the light switch. 

MomZombie (shouts to the form under the heap of quilts): “Get up! You’ve overslept by 30 minutes!”

Girl from the West: But mom! You took my phone away. It’s my alarm clock. How am I supposed to get up?

Mom points to the clunky rectangular object perched near the teen’s headboard.  It has a curious arrangement of illuminated numbers, letters, buttons and a dial. In some museums, such objects are labeled as ALARM CLOCK/RADIOS.

Girl from the West: But mom! You know I don’t know how that thing works.

Scene III:

Entrance of suburban mall on a weekend afternoon. Mom is surrounded by two teens about to embark on a sport known as shopping. Both teens want to separate from the chauffeur/wallet in order to gossip in privacy.  But there is a logistical issue.

Girl from the West:  How are we going to do this without phones? How will we find each other?

MomZombie: Here’s an idea. We agree to meet in an hour at the food court.

Girl from the West: But Mom! How am I supposed to know what time it is? You took my phone away. It has a clock on it.

Mom points to a unusual object encircling her wrist. At the center of the wristband is a round piece with numbers and lines. Apparently early humans used these tools to tell where the sun was in the sky. Mom urges the teens to search for similar objects, often found on walls.

Miraculously, the parties manage to navigate the large building and reunite at the appointed hour. Somehow, the world continues to rotate on its axis. Meanwhile, a small rectangular beating heart ticks quietly in a sock drawer in a suburban home.

Doll face

All I wanted was a doll that looked like me.

Which would be a doll that looked like this:

Being that it was the late 1960s, early 1970s, I guess that look just wasn’t in the catalog at the doll factory. The offerings back then were more along these lines:

My first real doll after I outgrew Raggedy Ann (bright red hair) was one that looked like this:

I didn’t like it for two reasons. One, baby dolls were boring. Two, it was black and I was not. I felt bad even as a child for not liking this doll. As if it were some test of character placed upon a preschooler. Yet, it was pointed out to me, how did the black girls feel playing with the white dolls?

Next, it was Dawn, the blonde, half-scale, hipper version of Barbie.  She didn’t look like me either. But she was the coveted doll at the time. Plus, she had friends with dark hair so that meant something. Not that I got the dark-haired ones.

Dawn and her pals dressed like Bond girls in go-go boots, strapless tops and swingy jackets. They were going places and meeting foxy guys in tight pants. Plus, I got into all kinds of trouble at my private school for bringing these dolls in one day. These embodiments of sin were held hostage in the principal’s office until school let out in June.

But it was all over when I saw a TV commerical for Crissy:

I begged, pleaded, cajoled and whined for a Crissy doll, whose auburn hair could be adjusted to long or short lengths with the turn of a hidden button.  She also had cute clothes and seemed so much like the little sister I didn’t have. But Crissy was too much of a phenomenon. She was always “out of stock” or “sold out” or “unavailable.” That’s the line I got for a good long while before someone in the family tried to appease me with this:

Again, does this doll look like me?

Eventuallly I learned to love Velvet, Crissy’s annoying cousin with blonde hair and purple eyes. Was no one listening to my wishes? Did no one notice that I was a dark-haired girl swimming in a sea of blue-eyed blondeness?

It wasn’t until much later that I embraced Barbie and her world.

Look: not a blonde in there. Finally I was able to desegregate my doll collection. It felt much better to have dolls that at least had my hair and eye color. It was another raw deal when I never grew a “Barbie” or “Dawn” body. But that’s a story for another day.

This is why it melts my heart to see my girl from the East choose this doll above all others in her collection.  

Need I say more?

Death by housework

This morning I awoke with a jolt to find myself on the couch, still in my coat, with Girl from the East wrapped in my arms. She, too, was still in her jacket. Two hours earlier I had arrived home after a crosstown trek to Girl from the West’s school.
Instead of firing up the coffee pot and making breakfast, I just gave in to my exhaustion and flopped onto the couch, pulling an afghan over both of us. In the gauzy light of pre-dawn, we both slipped easily into a deep sleep.

Then, I awaken in my house-that-is-not-my-house, but more closely resembles a hovel. Translate that to my worst nightmare: trash heaped everywhere, moldy bathrooms, bugs scuttling about, leaks.

And in some oddly symbolic way, all the windows are deliberately blocked. One window is painted over. I recoil in horror, wondering how I’d overlooked this. Another window sash was raised and toys and clothes were stuffed between the panes. In a panic, I run from room to room, hysterically trying to fix whatever is wrong, like the angry fish in the cup yelling at The Cat in the Hat.

I hear the squeak of the deadbolt lock turning on our back door, which means the husband is home. In his hands is a big cardboard box. Symbolic of course, of a job layoff. He opens his hands and lets the box drop to the floor, blasting dust and debris in all directions.

Overcome with exhaustion and despair, I topple to the floor, sobbing as my throat swells shut. I attempt to speak, to say what is wrong, but can’t get out any sounds. 

Husband bends to grab his box and turns to head up a staircase right before me. A staircase I’d never noticed before. Right there the whole time. The door at the top opens and sunlight spills down the steps. I creep up a few risers to get a better view.

Above is a gleaming, beautiful kitchen with liquid-shiny tiles and clean counter tops. There is fresh fruit in bowls, vibrant plants, sparkling windows. This sliver of a view hints at the comfort and order that must make up the rest of the home.

But I cannot go any higher, I’m told by a figure who stands at the top of the stairs. Someday, when I’m ready to make some changes, I can live up there. Until then, I must stay where I’m at.

So, I’m thinking:

A: I need to get more sleep at night.

B: I need to drink less coffee.

C: I need to stop watching Swiffer commercials.

Art imitates life

It’s open mic night at the local coffee house.

The first to take the stage is a cute, perky young woman. She is infused with energy. There are quite a few people in the house and based on the waves, smiles and verbal exchanges, they are here for her.

She does not begin until everyone in the room is seated and quiet. She demands this.  Once she begins, two things are apparent: She manages her guitar well enough for a beginner. Her voice …. needs work.

She makes up for it by flashing a bright smile and interacting with the audience. We are forgiving because she is young and frankly, it takes guts to get up in front of people and sing music you have written yourself. 

When she is done with her set, the second musician climbs on stage. She is also cute, perky and full of enthusiasm. She handles her instrument well. But then she starts singing.

Her voice is strong and sure and perfectly pitched and projects around the room, enveloping us all in a warm, liquid embrace. There are no demands for our attention. Her music draw us in and hold us captive for the whole set.

Meanwhile, the first singer is at the back of the room working her well-oiled marketing machine: selling merchandise, promoting future shows and seeking donations for studio time. She doesn’t pay  attention to the woman strumming the guitar and filling the room with sweet sounds.

When singer No. 2 is done, she has an awkward moment involving a foot tangled in a stool, a music stand threatening to tumble and sheet music spilling over the stage in a waterfall of ink and paper. She shyly thanks the audience and takes a seat next to her boyfriend, who appears to be her only fan in attendance. They huddle together, alternately sipping coffee and reassembling her music binder.

This humble but beautifully gifted singer sits and listens as other performers share their brand of expression with the audience. She hasn’t brought T-shirts or flyers or a jar for tips. Singer No. 1 is still hustling her way around the room.

This little moment in time seems to sum everything up about life. There are two kinds of people.  The first has pure talent. The other has a vision fueled by determination. Who will succeed?   It’s anyone’s guess which, if any, of tonight’s performers will go on to future acclaim.  There are plenty of wildly talented folks out there doing something other than sharing their gifts. On the other hand, there is no shortage of marginally original millionaires out there benefitting from the right kind of promotion.

Vanilla 2008


You Had an Average Year

While you had some setbacks, your year also brought some good things.         

All in all, things mostly evened out. That’s just how life works.

Focus on what went well for you – and what you can improve.

A new year is a perfect reason to give yourself a fresh start!



I was surprised my year came out as average according to this non-scientific, all-fun survey. I guess when I weigh the good against the bad, it has truly come out even. Perhaps I focus too much on the negative?
Here’s an example to support the findings:
We had a meeting with our finance guy the other day and while the news about our investments wasn’t good, I mean this has been a horrible year for financials, it also wasn’t bad.
In other words, we didn’t throw a lot of money into our accounts this year. Normally that would be a bad strategy. It turns out it was the perfect move. Investing in our accounts this year would have been the same as throwing a bag of money off the side of a cliff.
So goes it with many other aspects of my life.
I lost a dear friend. But, I made new friends.
I’ve struggled with some personal issues, but I’ve gained peace and perspective on other things.
I’ve had some scares, some jolts to my psyche, but I’m trying to live in the moment and focus on now rather than the past or the unknown of tomorrow.
Sounds pretty average, doesn’t it?

Gutless goes for a cleanse



Are you on Facebook?
Do you Twitter?
I get asked this with more frequency.
Two words: Old boyfriends.
Two more words: Weirdo magnet.
I’ve signed on to many social networks, gotten so far as a preview page. And when I see all my stuff out there, like so many pairs of my big-girl panties blowing on the clothesline, I freak and shut the whole thing down.
I blog, true. But semi-anonymously.
But old boyfriends and weirdos scare me. Sometimes old boyfriends are the weirdos. Sometimes the weirdos are old and they want to be my boyfriend. Get the picture?

A million years ago I was a paid writer. I had a daily byline in the newspaper and a monthly column with my mug shot attached to it. While I enjoyed the opportunity to get my words out there to the world, there was the downside. There are the scary folks who come out of the woodwork. They call or show up. Sometimes they want your time or a favor. Sometimes they have inappropriate gifts. Sometimes they want a pair of your big-girl panties.
The fringe element made me want to go anonymous.
Maybe I don’t want to be found, to reconnect with certain people from my past. I’m sure there are privacy settings and all that, so this long-winded diatribe is probably a lame-o excuse. I realize I am a hypocrite. I spent about two hours on the Internet last night Googling the names of old boyfriends. I found nothing. Do they feel the same?
Somehow all this made me think of “Northern Exposure,” a show about Alaska that made me want to go to Alaska, before Sarah Palin ruined it for me.
There was an episode in which former debutante/current bush pilot Maggie follows a Native American ritual and cleanses her soul by writing letters to all her dead boyfriends so that she can move forward with her life.
I’ve often imagined how something like that would go:
Old Boyfriend No. 1: Former altar boy gone bad. What was your turning point? You were so chaste and hot and sweet as a young man. Last I heard you were working as a DJ in nightclubs and had quite the notched belt, if you know what I’m saying. I know you thought we’d get married someday but it just wasn’t in the cards. Especially considering your appetite for the buffet table.
Old Boyfriend No. 2: I blame my reclusive ways on you. We reconnected on the Internet a few years ago. I thought it was for the purpose of a platonic friendship. We vowed we would stay in touch this time. I guess I was wrong. After two years of what I thought was nice communcation, you pulled the plug when I told you I was adopting a child. I may as well have said I was pre-op transsexual. Can you say shallow?
Old Boyfriend No. 3: You died in a horrific airline disaster right here in our hometown. You were 24 years old, just married and had a baby on the way. I cried for you and your family for months. I wanted to come to your funeral but was too afraid. I still think of you and your little family that never was to be when I drive by the airport. Do you  miss life here on Earth or are you truly in a better place?
Old Boyfriends No. 4-7: Hi, it’s me, your good-luck charm. I say that because after me all of you went on to success and wealth. When we dated, you were poor. You scraped together change and singles to take me out to dive bars and drink pitchers of watered down pee water beer. You drove in your ghetto cruisers to pick me up. Don’t get me wrong, we had our fun. But it still kills me a little to hear years later that all of you are living the good life: huge McMansions in the tony suburbs, all the amenities, including the blonde beautiful wifeys who made beautiful babies for you. You all owe me a real dinner, in a restaurant with cloth napkins, you hear?
And finally, Old Boyfriend No. 8: Have you come out of the closet yet? If so, I hope you’re living on the East Coast and not the West Coast. I hope you have a nice life partner and live in a deliciously appointed loft in a gentrified district of a dynamic city. Seriously, no girl likes to hear the failure of a relationship is due to “I think I might be gay.” All I can think is: Was I the one to help you come to that realization? Ah, well, I forgive you. Times are different now.
As for the rest, yeah, I think we both knew the chemistry was off. Either you or I made a very bad judgment call. It’s best that we keep the distance and the mystery in “Whatever happened to?”
Now that I’ve cleansed my soul, maybe I can now move forward and put my face out there.