Category Archives: Fun Stuff

It’s My Turn!

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I’ve been working on a new novel, The Tunnel, that I hope will be finalized and ready for publication within the next few weeks. But as most writers know, it’s often advantageous to step away from the book after it’s been sent off for editing and review, to refrain from tweaking and rewriting. (It’s also fun to play around with images for the book’s cover, hence the photo above, a shot of Coos Bay, OR.) So, in the spirit of respite from Cassandra Benniver and Fenrick Banta and their ensuing complications, I’ve been working on another story. Or, I should more truthfully say, a story has been working on me.

While in the throes of writing, it’s not unusual for a character to whisper in my ear. It’s also not unusual for a character to wake me from a sound sleep, shouting for me to, “Get up and write my story!” Such is the case of George Fairweather, a character who has become a frequent companion over the past few months.

In order to placate my own sense of wasting-away-with-nothing-to-do while I wait for reviews, and to silence this character’s pleas of, “It’s my turn!” I have decided to open the door of my comfy cave and introduce you to George Fairweather.

As of this morning, this story has no title. I don’t know if this is a short story, a novella, a full-blown novel, or just a ramble inside my head. In any case, I intend to release snippets of George’s story over the coming weeks.

Prologue

Her name was Martha. Martha’s name was Martha only because her grandmother’s name was Martha. There was no standing beside the bassinet, her parents lovingly looking for clues as to the name of their sweetest darling daughter. There was no debate, no decision, really. No, it was decided that Martha’s name would be Martha long before her conception, long before her parents’ marriage, in fact, long before Howard had ever laid eyes on Rita.

Howard’s mother’s name was Martha, the perfect name, the most lovely of names, and Howard had decided that should God ever bless him with a baby girl, he would name her after his mother. So Martha was Martha, although she never felt her name fit her exactly. Long, flexible limbs and an agile personality were not the traits of a stodgy, old fashioned name like Martha in Martha’s mind. But there was no going back, no do-overs, no change-ups. Her name was Martha and that was that.

Until Martha became George, that is.

Out of respect, she’d waited for the death of both of her parents before deciding to legally change her name. And while she was at it, and just for kicks more than anything else, or so she told herself in unguarded moments, Martha Wilson became George Fairweather, for if Martha was anything at all she was the utter definition of a fair weather friend.

George Fairweather was born on August 28 at four fifteen in the afternoon. Or so says the blue clerk’s stamp beside the judge’s signature at the bottom of the document making it so. The original petition and the final order are forever married in a blue folder kept in the top right hand sock drawer of George’s bureau. Even now, after so many years, it’s still wedged in among wool knee highs and dress silks, white tubes and gray athletics, socks for any occasion George likes to think, although most are brand new and just for show. Just like the rows of dark suits and starched white shirts that crowd her closet. And the brown and black leather shoes lined up like soldiers ready for battle. Someday, they whisper. Someday, we’ll march out the door and down the street. Someday. (The socks know better, however. Never, they whisper back. And the suits agree.) But George was born long before the ink dried on vellum, long before the years of waiting finally came to a close, even before Howard and Rita made the exciting announcement to family and friends that they were, happily, having a baby girl. The spark of George existed. The how and when of it seemed inconsequential. The embodiment of George Fairweather was an undeniable fact and one that Martha relished.

“What if I’d been born in a small town?” George often asked herself, usually on Sunday afternoons as she sat on her patio and watched the seagulls fly in circles above the ocean. “What if everyone knew me, knew my parents, knew my likes and dislikes? What if I’d had to start over from scratch and everyone knew every detail of my business? Hell, oh hell, oh hell!” she lamented often. Although she’d never had to start over or hide from her neighbors or be afraid she’d run into someone who knew Martha or her mother or father. Her neighbors came and went with regularity, always a new face, a new name to remember. But George never remembered the face or the name. On the rare occasions that she met someone in the hallway, opening or closing a door, George merely sighed and hurried out, down the hallway, down the stairs, out the door, and gone. She scattered her visits to lunch counters and diners all around town, making a game of finding new and exciting places to eat where she didn’t recognize a single face. If a waitress fixed her with an eye of recognition, she was out the door like a shot, settling into the back booth of a new burger place a block or two or three away where she was sure that no one knew her name.

Martha’s life had been a piece of cake; George’s life was pie all the way.

Chapter 1

“So, let me get this straight,” the interviewer said again. That seemed to be her favorite phrase, let me get this straight, as though the words and thoughts expressed had somehow formed a crooked line that she couldn’t quite follow.

“Yes?” George said, waiting. “What is it you don’t quite understand?”

“You legally changed your name to George. From Martha to George, not with the Washingtons in mind, I suppose.”

George winced at the blonde giggle that followed.

“Not at all,” George replied.

“And you represent yourself in public as a woman.”

“I am a woman,” George confirmed.

“And you don’t consider yourself transgender. You don’t think of yourself as a man trapped in a woman’s body.” Another blonde giggle.

“No,” George replied with a sigh. Here we go again.

“Then why change your name? Why go to all the trouble and expense of petitioning the court to legally change your name? Why all the fuss and bother?”

George blinked. And blinked again. “I never thought of changing my name as fuss and bother. It was no trouble at all and the expense was actually quite minimal. Four hundred dollars, actually. I don’t consider that an exorbitant expense to legally change one’s name.”

“But why bother?” the interviewer asked. “If there is no medical or psychological reason to change your name, why not just remain Martha? Why did you feel the need to become George Fairweather?”

“Because that’s who I am,” George said. “I am George Fairweather. For as long as I can remember, from the point just prior to my conception and for eons before, I have known myself to be George Fairweather.”

“But how can you know that? How can you possibly know that you are who you think you are? Or better yet…”

That thought, whatever it was, ended mid-sentence.

The interviewer’s blank stare startled George.

“Are you okay?” she asked. Looking around, George waved to the director, to the camera man, to the people standing just off camera for help. “I believe she needs assistance,” George said quietly.

George had seen this reaction before, this catatonic stare, the dead eyes of people thrust into a moment of realization. Not quite an epiphany, not quite an awakening, more like a blunt whack on the head, when understanding descended there seemed to be a short in the circuitry, a moment of paralysis, and an irrevocable shift in perception.

“Oh,” the interviewer mumbled. “I think I understand.”

George stood up and removed the microphone from the neck of her sweater, looping the wire around her fingers before handing it to the set coordinator who’d come onstage.

“She’ll be fine,” George said to no one in particular. “A cup of tea and she’ll be good as new.”

George blanched at her own lie, fumbled with her purse, and moved through the burgeoning crowd to the exit at the back of the studio.

“Thank you,” George whispered to the man at the door, a young boy manning the exit, maintaining security during the interview. “I’ve had a lovely time.”

 

The interview would never make it to the six o’clock news. Or the eleven o’clock news for which it was intended. “It was a stretch anyway,” the news director decided. “So a woman changed her name? What’s the big deal?” which was precisely what George was thinking when she’d been contacted. “What’s the big deal?” she’d asked. “Women have been named traditional men’s names forever. Michael, David, Riley, Morgan, and I’m sure there’s a George in there somewhere. Yes, women use masculine pen names, alter egos, camouflage. And yes, this is different. I don’t have an agenda. There’s no rhyme or reason other than that I know for a fact that I am George, George Fairweather to be exact.”

Perhaps it was the knowing part that had intrigued the reporter. Perhaps it was the lurking hidden story that had seemed strange and unusual. For George, there was no part of her story that was strange or unusual or campy or funny or outside the realm of normal. George felt blessed to have been born with such a strong understanding of who she was. She’d never had a moment of floundering uncertainty about her identity, her name, her place in the world. Only respect for her parents had kept her from becoming George Fairweather much earlier in her life. Her parents, her rigidly religious, non-spiritual, closed-minded parents would have been appalled to hear that sweet little Martha longed to be called George. It would have broken their hearts and that is one thing George would not consider. For all their right-minded, wrong-headed intentions, George loved her parents deeply and unashamedly. She would no more inflict on them her own beliefs than burn their house to the ground. George was patient and kind and considerate of her parents, of everyone in general, and so she had waited until she felt the freedom from their watchful eyes.

George’s lawyer, a thoughtful and competent man in his sixties, filed two petitions following the death of George’s parents by misadventure. [Her father had never been a great driver but over the years, his reflexes had diminished to the point where George refused to ride with him even on short trips to the local grocery.]

“There’s no real need to wait,” Mr. Cumberson had explained to George. “The coroner’s preliminary report is in. Your father simply ran off the road albeit at a very unfortunate turn. At this point, we can begin the probate of your parents’ estate and file for your name change simultaneously, get all of the paperwork out of the way at once.”

Both would be simple processes with all the records in order. As sole beneficiary, everything in her parents’ estate came to George who promptly sold the house, the cars, the jewelry, the furniture, and donated everything else to charity. George discarded everything that held an attachment to Martha right down to the tiny baby socks her mother had knitted so long ago. The only item George kept was a quilt made by her great grandmother. This she spread on her own bed each night, sleeping under the comfort of her own personal piece of history.

(to be continued)

Letting Go

 

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Thanks to alifesimplified for this image and inspiration. 

Tis the season for watching leaves turn red and gold, to watch them fall, to rake them up, and let them go.

It’s time to let go of all things that are no longer useful or fully present in our lives, to shake things up and out, to open the windows and sweep clean all the dust and cobwebs that have gathered in the nooks and crannies of our lives.

Pastels are out the window as green turns to brown and gray and shades of black. A feeling of deep and dark descends as opposed to light and airy. That is not to say that we should not be looking for light or stepping away from it but the light I seek is doused with gold and dazzled in a shimmer of sparkly red.

Fall is my favorite time of year. Instead of a good spring cleaning, I prefer an autumn sweep and a shedding of all the trappings of summer. Days are cool, nights are frosty and a warm wool sweater or a fuzzy blanket is a girl’s best friend.

Autumn is a time of letting go so here I stand with empty hands and open arms.

The End is Coming!

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It’s been awhile since I wrote a post for Cavedweller. I’ve been huddled in my comfy cave writing, musing, settling in. I’m in a new cave now and loving it. [A quick note: Whoever said it doesn’t rain in Southern California is wrong! It rains. And rains. And rains, but boy do we need it!]

So, I decided to stick my head out to take the measure of this past year and all I can say is, “Yikes!”

The end is coming!

Well, it’s true! The end is coming: the end of the week, the end of December, the end of 2016, the end of a cycle of weird and strange happenings that, I believe, have left a lot of people a little jumpy and on edge. (If Facebook is any indication, 2016 has been one hell of a roller coaster ride for people all over the world.) Between Brexit in the UK and the elections here in the US, the political world feels more than a little topsy-turvy. I believe that regardless of which side of the aisle–or the pond–you’re on, this has been a political year like no other. But we’re not here to talk politics, are we? Nope. We’re here to talk about the end!

Saying Goodbye…

I offer a thank you and a prayer for the many wonderful, talented people we lost this year. My son lost a young cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend in a tragic car accident in Georgia; my daughter-in-law lost her mother in Alabama; I lost friends in my old hometown, unseen for years but never forgotten. And we lost people who felt like friends and loved ones, people who touched our lives with wit, music, and humor: Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Morley Safer, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, George Michael, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. I’m sure there are other losses, some very personal, whom we will remember forever. Life touches life as soul touches soul and we are blessed in that connection.

So, what does “the end” really mean?

As the year draws to a close, I’ve experienced my own sense of unease, of flux and fluctuation, of old issues coming back to haunt me. A friend pointed out that besides Mercury being in retrograde (okay…), 2016 is a year of closure. So I investigated.

According to the Astrology Club,

2016 is a 9 Universal Year (if you take the year and reduce it down to a single digit as such: 2+0+1+6=9). NINE is a finishing number, and represents the end of a cycle. It also is the number of the humanitarian. That means 2016 is a year of completion, rest and forgiveness. Phew! Everything in numerology goes in a 9 year cycle, so we’ve come full circle since the last 9 year, 2004. The Number 9 is about endings. But with endings come new beginnings. 2016 is a very karmic year. It is a time that we will receive the karma from the good or the bad we have done. You get a chance to end something this year once and for all. Something in your life will come to an end. Now this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Endings can be good.

I think this means that all of those feelings (and dreams) we’ve been having about past loves, past lives, past successes and mistakes are simply offering us closure.

And now for the good news:

From a numerological standpoint, 2017, when you add them up: 2 + 0 + 1 + 7 = 10 and that is distilled down to: 1 + 0 = 1

So, in 2017 we’re in a 1 year!

 ONE is a number of beginning. 2017 bids us all to start something brand new, something that expresses our uniqueness, that uses our leadership abilities, that opens us to new perspectives. 2017 as a One year is a time to think and act independently. It’s also a year to put our leadership abilities and unique talents to use in the greater world, to practice cooperating without losing individuality.

The number 1 is the maestro, the director of activities and events. 1 is a number about beginnings and new initiatives of all kinds. At best, 1 symbolizes leadership and can get a lot done. At worst, number 1 energy of itself can be aggressive, cruel and even violent due to its pointed, narrow focus and approach. Understanding these basic vibration can help to manifest the positive attributes and recognize and overcome the negative.

So, maybe we’ll all get a chance to begin again. (Although we all know that “one is the loneliest number…”)

The coming year will be one of change and challenge. Personally, I still haven’t decided whether I’ll just barricade my cave entrance with rocks and come out again in four years or plant myself on the front porch with my journal and a camera and watch the changes sweep in. Right now, up feels like down and down feels like up and I’m not sure where this crazy world is taking me. Then again, maybe that’s because it’s raining in SoCal, it’s the last Friday of December 2016, and the winds of change are upon us. But that’s a good thing!

I wish you the best in the New Year. May the spirit of love, light, peace, and happiness hold you in its arms.

Sat Nam

Namaste

 

 

Stepping Off the Path–and Getting Lost in the Weeds

 

From Pinterest: Mystic path. Sendero místico.  by Zú Sánchez. on Flickr

From Pinterest: Mystic path. Sendero místico. by Zú Sánchez. on Flickr

 

For the past four years, I’ve worked diligently to establish my sense of myself as a writer. Following my own plan and routine, I’ve spent pretty much every waking moment writing or thinking or talking or dreaming about writing. I’ve given myself short breaks, a day or two here and there, but for the most part even during those hours and days of respite, the stories continued to flow through my mind, the voices muted to a whisper but always in the background, patiently waiting.

For the last few months, I feel as though I’ve stepped off my life’s path and have been stumbling around in the weeds that grow beside it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve come to realize that the more I ramble about, the more I learn to identify and admire the weeds, the more comfortable I feel meandering away from my path and that is a scary thought.

I had great expectations for the New Year. I decided that 2014 was going to be positive, “The Year of I Want To,” twelve months of doing exactly and only those things that I want to do rather than doing the things I feel like I have to do. Into my routine, I’d insinuate a disciplined hour of journaling every morning (rather than scribbling down my thoughts about the day in a few hurried minutes at night right before bed); I’d burn incense and meditate each and every morning without fail; I’d stretch back into my yoga practice; I’d still get up early but I’d set a more realistic schedule for myself, beginning my work day later (9-ish) and end it earlier (6-ish) so that I could bring walks and fun and balance back into my life. (In retrospect, I’m convinced that the sound I heard outside my window as I sat at my desk and planned my year was not the wind at all but was, in fact, the Universe laughing hysterically.)

January rolled around and my life took a sharp turn. My routines were interrupted, my days were spent focused on everything but writing, everything that had to be done or needed to be done rather than what I wanted to do. I convinced myself that once the work was done, once the house was painted, the garage was emptied and organized, the shed was cleaned out, the yard was fertilized and weeded and pruned, the car was replaced, our money issues were resolved, and my life was turned on its head, I’d get back to writing, that I’d get my plan back in action and the writing would commence in earnest. (Or I’d just abandon all hope and get a real job.)

In my mind, I see this detour as a strange little road trip. I see myself bumping along my path, eyes forward, scanning the horizon for dips and turns, hills and valleys. I swerve to miss a pothole now and then but for the most part I am right on track, aiming for the sweet spot right in the center where the going is easy. Then, out of the blue, a storm kicks up and my little patch of paved road turns to dirt and mud. Lightning strikes up ahead and I find my path is blocked by downed trees and blown debris. But hey, there’s a rest stop right there so I pull off my path and take a breather. Before I know it, the rain’s gone, the sun’s shining, and it’s time to get back on the road. But while I’ve been sitting in the parking lot waiting for the storm to pass, eating Cheetos and watching the road wash away, nagging little thoughts have crept into my mind and they’re not just about the long and winding road ahead but about the vehicle I’m in. When was the last time I changed the oil? When was the last time I bought new tires? Checked the blinkers or the brake lights? When was the last time I looked down at the gas gauge or the odometer reading? And–oh, look! Is that a dandelion? I love dandelions! There’s another one over there! No, that’s a daisy. I love daisies! (Sigh.)

The weeds have grown tall around me. (They’re green and have the sweetest little white and yellow flowers.) I should get a blanket and sit down right here and read for a while, I think. Reading is a good thing, an old passion that makes me happy. But it feels like there’s something I’m missing, something I should be doing. I’ve stepped off my path and gotten lost in the weeds but I can hear a rumble off in the distance. Maybe it’s my path calling me back. Or maybe it’s the Universe laughing hysterically.

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Jingles, Tingles, and Shingles: It’s That Time of Year Again

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It’s a dark and dreary night. The sky is black with rain clouds and the wind is whipping the branches outside my window into a frenzy of tap, tap, tapping. But that can’t be right! It’s 7:27 in the morning, ten days before Christmas and all should be shiny and bright! If I look out my window to the right, I can see the neighbors-across-the-street’s tree blinking through their front bay window. If I look to the left, I can see a blow-up Santa surrounded by colorful lights being batted around by the wind. So, all is shiny and bright through the storm. Well, shiny, anyway, and slick with rain.

Christmas in Florida is just not the same as Christmas in Maryland or Ohio or New Mexico. There’s no snow (I miss snow!) or sparkling ice or icicles (I miss icicles!). The temperature dipped down into the low seventies this past week (brrr) but besides the pine cone wreath on the front door and the neighbors’ lights reflecting off the rain puddles in the street, nothing feels Christmasy this year.

I’m tempted to buy a can or two of snow and frost the windows just for fun. Or paint my front door bright red. Or dress my dogs in ugly Santa sweaters or hats with jingle bells. (That might work for Sophie but the other two would put up a fight, I’m sure. They’re pretty sensitive when it comes to their dignity.) 

Shopping doesn’t put me in the Christmas mood either. The stores are crowded and the pickings are slim when it comes to buying woolly sweaters and socks, gloves, and mittens, and sheep skin coats and hats. Most stores simply don’t carry them, which is sensible I suppose since the big sellers seem to be Hawaiian shirts with Santa under palm trees on them and red and green beach umbrellas. This is a tourist town, I keep reminding myself, filled with people desperate to get away from the wintery things I miss.  Maybe next year is my mantra now. Maybe next year I will roll in snow and freeze my butt off. Maybe next year I’ll return to one of my old haunts and get snowed in. Maybe next year!

This year, I will listen for the jingle of sleigh bells on the radio; I will wait for the tingles that come with watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the hundredth time; I will be thankful for the correct diagnosis of shingles, take my medications, and think of my red itchy patches of skin as organic holiday decorations; and I will think of Tiny Tim and his message of hope:

God bless us, every one!

 

 

 

Black Friday (and Shopping on Thanksgiving Day!): What’s the Point?

No Shopping

I’ve never understood the need for Black Friday in our culture. Then again, I’ve never understood decorating a Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day. Sure, maybe it’s the best time to recruit willing hands, family hands to get all the holiday decorating done, but this mish-mashing of holidays just seems overwhelming to me.

Then throw Black Friday into the mix. Yikes! I can honestly say that I have never, ever shopped on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Then again, I‘ve never used shopping as a sport, as a way to relax, or as a pumper-upper of my own self-esteem. I shop only when I absolutely have to and then it’s with a list, a plan, and an internal stop-watch that I hear ticking in my head as I cruise the aisles. Get in and get out! That’s the way I shop.

I’m all for saving money. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am frugal (or more likely cheap!). I don’t mind spending money on my loved ones, but I refuse to overspend on designer label jeans or shoes. (I don’t care if they’re the only jeans my five year old granddaughter will wear, I’m not paying $90–even if they are on sale!) But designating one whole day–and now at least three days if you start counting Wednesday night and Thanksgiving Day–to shop is utterly ridiculous. We have turned our holidays into celebrations of consumer gluttony and our children into maniacal materialists. Frankly, I don’t like it one little bit and I refuse to participate.

I realize that I’m in the minority and that as long as there are people out there who will spend their time and money running and pushing and shoving to shop, retailers will invent new ways to spark the greed. I also realize that I can blithely say this as my living does not depend on retail customers who have an abundance of stores to choose from. I would like to reclaim at least one holiday, however, have one day on which we do nothing besides give thanks for what we already have.

So, I’ll say it today: Thank you to all of my loyal readers and followers for your kind support and comments. Thank you to every internet developer, programmer, and techie who makes it possible for me to write my blog, send email, and connect with the world outside my cave. Thank you to my friends who know that I love and care about them even while I’m working. And thank you to my family who supports me in everything I do and everything I write, no matter how strange it may seem. I am blessed to have a comfy cave, old broken-in comfortable clothes and shoes, plenty of healthy food, good, clean water, and enough love to last me ten lifetimes. I am blessed and I don’t need to go shopping to prove it.

Charley Brown Thanksgiving

Peace, Love and Fluffiness

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My mother was anorexic most of her life. I’m not sure when it started, but in the years before she passed away, she’d look in the mirror and instead of seeing a beautiful woman who had aged with grace, she’d see a fat little girl staring back. I thought anorexia was a plague of teen-aged girls but at 74, my mother was their queen. She was also diabetic which gave her an excuse to count her food: she could eat nine green grapes and eleven French fries at McDonald’s, her favorite, six of this and seven of that. My mother was also a counter–of things and people and ideas. She counted as she walked and talked and talked and talked.

My mother had an affinity for people and sheep. One year around Christmas time, she made stuffed lambs for all of her friends, 27 in all, I believe. She sewed and sewed the sweetest little woolly animals until she was sick of making them. She’d had arthritis, both ostheo and rheumatoid, since her late twenties so her hands were crippled, bent, and swollen. I cannot imagine the pain she suffered to make those little lambs, but I know that she was happy making them right up to the end when the pain in her bones became excruciating and she couldn’t feel her fingers. She never made another one but she poured love (and blood from her pricked fingers) into the ones she made.

My mother’s home was always full of warm and cozy things, sweet things, tiny little things, dolls and clowns and sheep. She had a magnet on her refrigerator, a reminder of her imagined plumpness. It was in the shape of a very woolly sheep and said, “Ewe’s not fat, ewe’s fluffy.”  And she was. My mother was fluffy, like a warm blanket or footy-pajamas right out of the dryer on a cold winter’s night.

So today, while my mother’s on my mind and I’m taking a writing break, I wish you peace, love and fluffiness.

I’m into week two of National Novel Writing Month: 50,000 words in 30 days. I’m about half way there and I’m being diligent. Good luck to all of my fellow NaNoWriMos! If you’re reading this, thanks for taking the time! Now, get back to work!

I’ll be back to normal soon, I hope. In about two shakes of a lamb’s tail.