Wednesday, February 28, 2007

No one here gets out alive

I have had members of my family as houseguests now for almost a solid week. Hence the lack of posts.

I love my family, but there's a reason we leave home when we grow up. Preservation of sanity.

My sister's mother-in-law died suddenly last week and the funeral was yesterday. She lived near us, so my sister and her family and my mom and brother have been staying with me.

Funerals are so odd, really. If you think about it. There is a person's shell in a box. The person is not there. I know where she is - it's a lot better place than here. Still, we gathered around an open casket at the cemetery, music played, a preacher pointed out that she was in a much better place than here, people cried, and then we went and ate.

I want to be cremated. Preferably after I die.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dream a little dream of me

I had a dream about a million years ago that stays in mind as fresh as if it happened last night.

Some of you I've told about it before, some I haven't; for whatever reason it's demanding to be written today.

I woke up into the dream looking down at dry, dusty ground. I had thick, long, straight, dark brown hair parted down the middle and was wearing a sleeveless, baby blue cotton shirt that buttoned down the front. My capri pants were made out of a dark blue, denim-like material. The clothing looked like something worn in the early 1960's. My skin was white with a slight olive tint.

When I looked up, everything seemed bathed in a dingy yellow hue. It was early afternoon and the sun pricked my skin with heat. To my right there was a lone tree standing on the edge of a parched stretch of tall grass that led to a thin forest of similar looking dried-out trees. On my left was the house I shared with two sisters and their children. It sat at the edge of a city filled with winding narrow alleyways and tall red brick buildings.

I knew the city was on the coast of Africa and was at war with the French. All of the men were gone. The only males left were those too old or too young to fight. This left the women in the precarious position of having to provide food for themselves and their families.

Most of the women resorted to prostitution, servicing the soldiers as they came to town on leave. The lucky ones would find a regular "boyfriend" who would leave enough money to provide for them while they were away. The others relied on theft, which had become a very serious problem. So serious that an edict had been passed that anyone caught stealing or trying to forge paperwork or checks would be shot on site. Rewards were given for anyone who turned someone in suspected of the crime.

I was a Catholic nun, a missionary, in my early 30's. The sisters I lived with were native to the region and they were my friends, although I didn't trust one of them. She was heavy set and loud and brash. Because she had only given birth to two children, both of the same father - a wealthy soldier she'd deliberately chosen because of his financial prospects - she considered herself superior to her wafer thin sister. In her eyes, her sister was weak and stupid because she mated for love and had five children by different fathers. Even so, she loved her sister.

She was nice to my face, but I knew she didn't like me because she thought I was after her man. Funny, that bit of suspicion, and groundless. But people will believe what they believe.

The thin sister loved me unabashedly and considered me a sister as well. As I stood looking across the land that day, she came to me crying with her youngest baby perched on a hip. He was hungry and her milk had dried up because we didn't have enough food. She was terrified her baby would die.

We went into the house to find the heavy sister to see what we could come up with between the three of us. She was worried too, and for once didn't argue. Her soldier had left his checkbook in case of an emergency, but the checks weren't signed. Because I was the only educated one and less likely to draw suspicion, it was agreed that I would take the pocketbook to the bank, forge his signature, and return with supplies. I was scared, but I thought I could pull it off.

Shaking with nerves, I stepped out of the house and ran into the neighbors from next door, dropping the pocketbook, scattering its contents. They eyed me suspiciously as I raced to pick up the papers, certain they would turn me in for a reward. The skinny sister came out and started a fuss to distract them, so I was able to escape.

I made my way toward the bank, down winding alleys deep into the city. I turned a corner and there was a half-wall in front of three bank teller windows that were protected by double thick, bulletproof glass. The half-wall ended with an entrance open to the alley. Behind the teller windows were bank tellers and behind the bank tellers were tall, burly guards armed with machine guns.

I rounded the entrance in the half-wall and went to the far window since the other two were occupied. I told the teller I was going to make a withdrawal. When he turned to get the proper forms, I suddenly realized I didn't know how to sign Fat Sister's boyfriend's check.

Sweat broke out on my upper lip as I leafed back through the checkbook to see if there was anything with his signature on it. The teller was stalled, chatting with one of the guards. I wondered what it would be like to die from machine gun fire. Flipping pages as fast as I could, I almost cried when I found his signature. It would be easy to forge. I carefully signed the check, made it out for what the sister told me was the available balance, and slid the check under the window to the teller who had just returned. It was almost over.

I heard shouts behind me. I turned to see a group of what looked like young teenage boys with handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths, waving machine guns. The two people next to me had already ducked behind the half-wall when I felt the wind of the first bullet pass my cheek. The boys were trying to shoot out the windows, and the guards behind the glass were helping them by returning their fire.

Pieces of brick and chipped glass rained over my head. I don't know what happened to the other two people, but I duck-walked in my crouched position toward the entrance to the alley. I'd finally made it and stood up to run, when I felt a hand slip around me from behind, covering my mouth. A gun was pressed to my temple. I turned terrified eyes on the one holding me and saw ferocious, terrified eyes looking back. He couldn't have been more than fourteen years old.

For the second time that day I wondered what a bullet would feel like as it entered my body.

I could hear screams and gunfire, I could smell gun powder, dust, and sweat. But time stood still as I pleaded a silent plea while this young boy decided if my life would end or not. There was no one else in the world at that moment but the two of us.

He pushed the hadgun into the side of my forehead until it started to bleed, then dropped his hand away and stepped back.

I ran.

I ran for the docks. I didn't know where else to go. It seemed like the entire city was running and screaming with me as we made our way to the port. Only I didn't have money for passage on any of the boats. People were scurrying all around me, buying their tickets to get out, but I just sat down on a bench and watched.

Any sense of urgency drained away as I realized my situation. The city was being overrun. I couldn't go back to the sisters; they were dead for all I knew. And I didn't have anything but the clothes on my back.

Not only that, but I was 31 years old and I had never been in love. I would never have children. My life was over and I had given everything up for a God who abandoned me in a desolate country. I became overwhelmed with grief for the life I would never have. I had nothing.

Tied to the docks were ships of all sizes, tossed by growing waves. I watched as one ship in particular was tossed higher and harder against the pier. It rammed the pier over and over until finally it was dashed against the surface. It began to sink and some of the passengers had been thrown out onto the crushed pier, buried under broken wood planks and debris.

I ran with some other people to see if we could help rescue any of the injured. A voice called out from under a pile of rubble. I frantically tossed away pieces of wood to get to the person underneath. Then I saw him. He was a French soldier and he was hurt, but he would live. He blinked up at me and I knew what it was like to be in love.

God had not abandoned me; He just had plans I didn't know about until I got to the end of what I thought He wanted for me.

Then I woke up. The dream was over, but it was so vivid and real I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I had to do a little research to find out if any of it could be true.

It turns out there is a city on the coast of West Africa called Benin. Catholic missionaries settled there in the late 1800's and Catholicism is the main religion. They won their independence from France between 1962 and 1964 and the city is widely known for its winding alleys.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Demolition and construction

I have spent the last several days involved in a myriad of futile efforts. Nothing like time wasted on trying to explain yourself - though it never gets through, being obsessed about food you can't eat, and wondering which way to go at the crossroads of a career path.

I had a great day last week with Momma T, I enjoyed dinner Friday night with friends - though the crap leading up to and following it has left me with a sour taste in my mouth for all human relations. I got to play cards and dominoes at my mom's house over the weekend, and I'm now reading Stephen King's "On Writing," which I love.

The weekend and Weight Watchers does not mix; let's just say I fell WAY off the wagon.

And last but not least, I saw "The Bridge to Terebithia." It was not what I expected. It was marketed as a fantasy adventure for kids, which it wasn't at all; I guess people who had read the book knew what to expect. I spent most of the movie waiting for the kids to pass over into a mythical land and the adventure to start, but that never happened. What did happen was a pretty neat story about escaping through imagination.

Remember the days when you were a kid with nothing to do for the whole afternoon but play with your friend or friends in the woods, the backyard, or your bedroom? Immersed in imaginary scenarios with a million possibilities, everybody played a part. It was fun and engaging, and felt like good work. When the sun finally went down, or your friends had to go home, it would be like waking up from a dream.

"The Bridge to Terebithia" reminded me of that.

It also made me realize I've been so self absorbed that I haven't taken the time to really talk with Joseph, my 9 year-old, for a long while. He had read the book and was very excited to see the movie. Afterwards, when we were walking back to the car, I began telling him about the days when I played imaginary games, and he slowly started to open up and share with me some of the things he likes to imagine. I expect my kids to be little adults, but he is a still a child, and I haven't been paying attention to his world.

I want to start paying attention. It's a much more interesting world than the one I occupy. And much more relevant.

Maybe we can build a bridge together.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Food talk

Okay. So I started Weight Watchers yesterday. It was a bit surreal and weird, but there are some positive things that have already begun from this journey into the unknown.

First of all, I cooked tonight. Not pre-fab, frozen, throw it in the oven for 35 minutes, convenience cooking. I actually chopped an onion, diced some zucchini, sauteed it up in a pan, and properly browned some mighty fine tasting lean pork chops. It was not horrible.

Second of all, I'm becoming aware of the insane amount of food I eat every day. Especially the bad stuff. I know, I know, my cake scarfing escapades were obvious journeys to the dark side of the moon; but I never even thought about the mindless dips into the chip bags, nut cans, and nibbling off the kids plates that goes on all day long.

Now I have to think about points. I'm only allowed a certain number of points each day, and each food, beverage, and condiment is given a certain point value.

Note: Math and self control are required.

Those who know me well can stop laughing and shaking your heads now.

What I want to know is this... If 1/2 of a cup of wine is worth 2 points, and I'm only allowed 22 points a day, how long can I last without eating solid food?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It's not the fear of flying, but the fear of plummeting from the sky

I'm going to start Weight Watchers today. I want to lose 20 pounds by the end of May 'cause I'm going to Idaho and California and I want to look okay in a swimsuit.

I've already started exercising again and it feels good, but the weight is not budging. Gee, I wonder if my recent close encounters with cake have anything to do with that?

The skinny jean is back and I, for one, believe the women of the world need to rise up with one voice and just say no. The only people that look good in a skinny jean are no-hipped, prepubescent, vegetarian teenage girls.

When will they resurrect the mu-mu? Now there's a style we can all embrace.

I'm going to Idaho at the end of May for one of my best friend's daughter's wedding. From there, I'm flying to San Diego to spend some time with Zach, my Marine son.

That gives me three months to not only lose the last of my baby fat (no matter that my baby is now almost 7 year's old), but to overcome my insane fear of flying.

Fat chance.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Things ain't what they used ta be

I just wasted three and a half hours watching the Grammy Awards.

Ridiculous. Waste. Of. Time.

The only good parts were Carrie Underwood singing San Antonio Rose, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and that guy that sings that song "You're Beautiful." Oh, and I liked Corinne Bailey Rae.

The week looms ahead...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The evening that ended on a sour note

I had a very nice dinner last night with the coolest couple I know.

We ate sushi, had great conversation, and enjoyed a drink afterwards at Jillian's, where I was so intent on them not paying for my glass of wine - after all they had paid for dinner - that I promptly requested separate tabs.

What an idiot. I should have bought their drinks!

I am the queen of hindsight is 20/20. The ruling, reigning, never learning, forever blonde, queen.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I've decided there is no feeling better in the world than finishing a writing project on time.

Although finishing my short story felt pretty excellent.

And there's something about getting that last piece of pie when it's still really fresh...

Getting caught in the rain on a hot day is a pretty cool feeling...

Okay. Maybe there are better feelings in the world, or feelings at least as good, but finishing a writing project on time is definitely up there.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


As a correction to my previous post, technically, the next edition of the Liberty County Outlook is the March issue.

Things are going well. I've started exercising again, this time bringing the kids with me, and Momma T and Cameron have joined the fun.

How is it that I can gain 10 pounds in one month, but it takes 6 months to lose it?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Where the rubber meets the road

My first piece of fiction ever to be published is coming out in the February issue of Liberty County Outlook - Woo-Hoo!!!

Actually, it's only the second piece of fiction I've ever finished, but who's counting, right?

I am SO excited. It's kind of like pulling your pants down in the middle of a crowded room, though. Talk about exposure.

The story is mildly controversial, and I sent it off without giving it a good proofing, but my editor is fantastic - I trust her one hundred percent.

First short story down, ten blockbuster novels to go.

Or, there's always Walmart.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Taxes suck

Well, our 2006 tax return is complete.

The only thing I have to show for working 40 to 50 hours a week last year, being away from my kids, and working Christmas and New Year's Day, is a higher tax bracket and a lower refund. In fact, if it weren't for some fancy footwork and deductions we didn't know we could take, we'd be sending Uncle Sam some extra green this year.

It does not pay to make money. At least not the kind of money I make.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The effects of sugar on the human brain

I just finished assaulting the remains of a chocolate cake with full fat cream cheese icing. Just me, the cake, and a fork.

It's okay, I washed it down with a Diet Coke.

So now I thought it would be fun to record my random thoughts as they occur after a sugar overload such as this.

1. Why don't I have any music on? (Pause while I find music.)

Note: At this point I switched to Yahoo to start my Launchcast radio; when I got to Yahoo, I decided to check my email - none, so sad - then I went back to the Yahoo homepage and read that today was Groundhog Day. Well, I had to find out if the groundhog saw his shadow, so I clicked on the article and learned that Groundhog Day actually originated with German folklore. It turns out that the Germans believed if any hibernating animal saw its shadow on February 2nd, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, there would be six more weeks of winter; if no shadow was seen, Spring would come early. Hey, I'm a Christian! Why haven't I ever heard of Candlemas? Anyway, Punxatawny Phil, evidently the official groundhog of North America, did not see his shadow, so it's an early Spring for us this year. Good. Well, the article was over and I had a nagging feeling I'd forgotten something. Why was I on this page? I remembered checking my email... Hmmmm? What was I supposed to be doing? Then I remembered my blog - that's it - I was supposed to be finding music. It took me a minute to remember how to launch my Launchcast radio, then I returned to my post.

2. I'm sleepy. I think I'll take a nap.