On Her 21st Birthday. A Birthday Toast (and Roast) for Victoria Sherwood

whilwind victoria When I think of my daughter, I think of her passion, her zest for life, of her sheer indomitable will, and her huge loving heart.  All of these qualities are wrapped up in a girl so beautiful, so rare and precious, that I am confused as to how I could possibly be her mother.  However, the hospital has assured me there is no possible way she could have been switched at birth, so I accept that I am.

One of Victoria’s first real words was ‘more’.  At the time she had been pointing at her Aunt Jeannie’s applesauce cake.  I understand now that this word was actually a description of how she would live her life; wanting more, doing more, feeling more and giving more of herself than I could have ever dreamed.

Today Victoria turned twenty one years old.  It’s made me reflective, and though my heart is full, it is also heavy, because I cannot fathom how her childhood disappeared down the path of time so quickly.  One minute I was thinking Kindergarten?  That’s so far away!  speech victoriaThe next minute I was watching her deliver a speech at graduation to an audience of thousands.

She continues to stun me with her drive, ambition, and work ethic.  Currently she is taking summer classes at the University, interning at a law office, and working two jobs.  And she seems to do it effortlessly.  You amaze me my beautiful daughter.  I am blessed each time you call me Mom.

Victoria wide eyes

That said, I’m afraid it’s time for a mini-roast.   The following are some little known facts about the wonderful woman who is my daughter.

Forgive me, Victoria,  for unveiling some of your quirky wonderfulness.

 

 

 

Her unbridled passion to try all things, has not always met success.

Me:  VICTORIA!

Victoria: What’d I do now?

Me:  Do you know what happened to the beef in my leftover take out?

Victoria:  Mom!  I’m a vegetarian!

Me:  And how’s that working out for you?  I thought vegetarianism kind of involves abstaining from meat.

Victoria:  Thanks Mom!  Thanks for making me feel like a failure! I’m going to go smother myself with a pillow!

 

While she is a wonderful orator, at times, communicating the basics tends to elude her. 

Me:  VICTORIA!

Victoria:  God mom!  What?

Me:  Did you use the last tampon and forget to tell me?

Victoria:  I don’t know.  (Yes, but I’m not going to admit it.)

Me:  There are no tampons.

Victoria:  Jeez Mom! (Can’t you see I’m busy texting half the galaxy?)

Me:  How would you like it if you had to drive to the drugstore with toilet paper crammed between your legs?

Victoria:  T.M.I. Mom!  Do I really have to know you’ve got toilet paper crammed up there?

 

When she returns my car after borrowing it, I will find a bazillion Starbucks cups.

Me:  Sweetie?  Are all these cups yours?

Victoria:  Um, one of them might be my friend, Tuscany’s. Why?

Me:  Remember how you were worried about having Parkinson’s because sometimes your hands shake?

Victoria:  Yes. Oh my God!  Do you think I should worry?

Me:  I think you should stop drinking so much caffeine.

Victoria:  Are you crazy?  How am I supposed to stay awake?  I can’t live without coffee…my life would fall apart without coffee!

Me:  I think I need to schedule an intervention.

Victoria:  Cripes Mom!  It’s just coffee!

 

She can be a bit dramatic.

Victoria:  Mom!  I need you to look at something.

Me:  What?

Victoria:  We have to go into the bathroom.

Me:  Why?

Victoria:  It’s on my hip.  I need you to look at my hip.

Me:  Okay.

Victoria:  Do you see that?  (pointing to faint red spot)  What do you think it is?  It’s cancer isn’t it?

Me:  I think it’s a faint red spot.  I think you’re over reacting.

Victoria:  What?  You don’t think it’s serious?

Me:  No.

Victoria:  Fine!  But if I have some weird disease you’re going to feel really bad if my hip falls off!

 

She will always cheer me up when I’m down.

Victoria:  Mom?  Are you okay?

Me:  Just having a down day.

Victoria:  Why?  You have a beautiful and amazingly talented daughter who loves you.  You should be on top of the world

Me:  What the heck was I thinking?  (It’s true, I am so blessed!)  Happy Dance!

She takes the most epic selfies ever!

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I love you sweetie!  Enjoy your birthday and be safe and responsible.

Love,

Mom

Surviving the Empty Nest

empty nest 2The absence of your child is not easy…or for that matter…your mongoose

Ken has a daughter.  Her name is Alayna.  She is clever, beautiful, and smart.  She wears her hair in a pixie cut and has large hazel eyes that mostly glow green and tilt up at the outer corners.  She’s always reminded me of a mischievous fairy.  She has an infectious smile, and a loving heart.

Not too long ago, she sent me a picture of a baby mongoose.  She had found the little guy in a parking lot, obviously abandoned by its mother.  She decided to adopt the rodent like creature.

 

mai tai gus

I was horrified.  Mongooses eat chickens!  If you’ve read my earlier blog, ‘Meet the Chickens,’ you know the story of how I had to nurse one of my pet chickens back from the brink of death.  This is because a mongoose decided to have my chicken for lunch.

I loathed mongooses.  They were mean, vicious and ugly to boot. I do, however, believe that mongooses have every right to live in peace…just as all of God’s creatures do…except for maybe mosquitoes…and pedophiles.

I replied to her text, telling her she was brave to adopt what I considered to be a savage beast. (What I really meant was, “ARE YOU NUTS?????)

Later that day, she asked if I were going to the store, and if I was, would I check to see if they carried chicken necks.  She said she was trying to find something that the mongoose would eat.   This time I vocalized my thoughts.  “ARE YOU NUTS?”  I cried.  “You want me to participate in the training of your pet to massacre innocent chickens???  Aren’t you starting him off a little young to be a murdering fiend?”

“Whoops,” she said, with a nervous giggle.  “I should have known better than to ask you to get chicken necks after what happened to Chloe. It’s just that little Gus isn’t eating, and according to the internet, they like chicken.”

“You named your mongoose, Gus?”  I asked.

“Do you like it?”

“It’s fine.  I’ve just never heard of anyone naming a mongoose before.”

We met for pizza and beer at the local pub the next day.  Alayna had a sarong tied into a sling and wore it across her chest.  We’d ordered our beer and I was just taking a first sip when she pointed to her sarong and smiled slyly.  “Would you like to meet Gus?”  She inquired.

I choked on my beer and spluttered as beer bubbles spewed from my nose.  “You brought Gus with you?” I gasped.

“Uh huh…want to see?”

She looked so excited that I could hardly say no.  After mopping the beer off my face, I nodded, and she opened the sarong so that I could see Gus.

Unfortunately, the woman who sat next to us at the bar also saw Gus.  Her eyes were wide with horror, and I feared she’d report us.  I was sure bringing a mongoose into the restaurant was a health code violation.  I wondered if we could claim it was a service mongoose… like those people with service dogs.  Hey!  Maybe we should get Gus one of those little vests with the service animal emblem embroidered on it!

Fortunately, after turning very pale, the woman simply paid her tab and left.

In the meantime, I had gotten my first look at Gus. It’s always been my belief that God made babies cute so as to win our hearts and insure we’d take care of them.  Gus was living proof of my belief.  He was adorable, with a capital A.

gus in a sock After I met Gus, Alayna kept me updated on his progress, sending pictures along with the messages.  Gus was eating regularly.  Isn’t Gus cute in a sock?  Gus is sleeping on my shoulder! Guess what?  Gus prefers turkey baby food to chicken!  Awww!   Gus just pooped!  It’s so cute!

When we spoke, we discussed Gus’s care, and she fretted like any mother would over her baby.  She cared for Gus continually.  Wherever she went, she wore the sarong carrying Gus. As have many new parents with a baby, Alayna discovered that babies immediately take over and rule your world.  What’s more, she appeared to love every minute of it.

Despite myself, and my loathing of most mongooses, I began to look forward to seeing and hearing about Alayna’s pet.  When my phone rang a week after meeting Gus; I saw it was Alayna and answered with a smile.

“How’s Gus?” I asked, without bothering to say hello.

“Gus is dead!” She choked.

“Whaaat?”

“I can’t stop crying!” she wailed.

“But I thought he was doing so well!”  I cried back in shock.

“I know.  He was eating, and pooping and peeing…I don’t know what happened.  I woke up, checked on him…and…and… he’s dead!”

“Are you sure he’s dead?”  I asked, not wanting to believe it.

“Pretty sure….he’s stiff as a board and he won’t open his eyes.”

“Yup…he sounds pretty dead.”  (This was probably not the most sensitive thing to say at the time…it just sort of popped out.)

Alayna started sobbing fresh tears.  She cried for days.  Even after she put Gus to rest, Alayna still grieved.  It’s been weeks and just yesterday she asked “What if I accidentally smothered him in the sarong.”

“Um,” I replied, “I think you would have noticed.  When I can’t breathe I wiggle.  I’m sure you would have felt him wiggling.”

“Yeah, he would have wiggled,” she agreed, sounding anything but sure.

I couldn’t believe that after all this time she was still not only thinking of Gus, but blaming herself for his demise.

I realized then, that Alayna had become a mother.  She had totally immersed herself in loving and caring for another creature.  This creature had been essentially helpless and dependent upon her for her needs.  She was experiencing the grief of losing her child.

I too had been experiencing grief concerning my children.

babiesHere’s a picture of them when they were babies!

My fourteen year-old son had left me to stay with his father for the summer.  This was the first time he would be absent from my home for any great length of time.  My daughter had left the nest three years earlier, to attend the University of Hawaii.  For the first time ever, I was childless for a good length of time.

I must confess, I had been looking forward to what seemed to me to be months of uninterrupted writing.  I imagined bliss-filled days of productivity, writing thousands of words of witty dialogue and suspense filled scenes with no interruption.

The sad truth is that I sit down to my computer, think of the fact that I won’t be interrupted by ‘Mom!  Mom!  Mommie!  Mom!  Momma!’ and burst into tears.  As a matter of fact, I just finished a bout of weeping a few minutes ago.

My son, Nicholas, is like an affectionate puppy; always underfoot, always hungry, and always ready to play.  His absence is like a deafening roar in my ears.

I know that he is safe and is being well taken care of.  My ex-husband is a really good guy. His girlfriend is beautiful, sweet and nurturing and a great cook. (And I’m not saying that because they might read this. They really are nice people!)   Why am I so emotional about this whole thing?  It doesn’t make sense and it’s annoying!

So, I looked up Empty Nest Syndrome on Wikipedia.  I read what they had to say, and burst into tears again. Someone gets me! I mean, really gets me! The symptoms they described fit me exactly!  At least I’m not going crazy, right?

Largely, according to my new best friend, Wikipedia, I have lost an important element in my life by which I define myself; a mother.  Caring for my child took up a good portion of my time.  Presently, I feel abandoned, even rejected, and useless.  (Can Wikipedia tell like it is, or what?)

Upon reflection, I realized that Alayna was experiencing much the same thing.  In the short time she’d had Gus; she’d structured her life around him.  Taking him everywhere with her and setting his needs first.  She too was feeling useless and abandoned.

So, what is one to do when they are experiencing the sadness, anxiety, and grief created by the absence of a child?

Wikipedia suggests keeping in contact with the child to help alleviate symptoms.  Alayna, of course, can’t do this. I’ve tried it. However, it takes two to tango.  Apparently, limitless internet, and an in-ground pool trump chatting with Mom.

Nicholas and I texted a bit today, which helped, but when I told him I loved and missed him, he replied, “I love you too, Mom.”

I smiled upon seeing the text…then I was like…Wait… what????  You don’t miss me?   Why don’t you miss me?  Did I fail you somehow? Did I not pay enough attention to you?  Did I not hug you enough?  (By the way, guilt over not having done enough for the child while he was present in the home is also a symptom of Empty Nest Syndrome.

I’m sure, as the days roll by, I will adjust to this new situation.  He’ll be back before I know it, and I’ll soon long for the interruption-less days when he was gone.  In the meantime, I will continue to try to write witty dialogue, and enjoy being able to dance in my underwear, in any room in the house, without permanently damaging my son’s eyes…as soon as I feel like dancing again. Sigh.

Alayna won’t be reunited with her child.  I cannot imagine what that would feel like.  She was visiting one day when I flicked on the television to a scene of a mother packing away her child’s belongings, and carrying them in boxes to the basement.

“What a horrible thing,” I said.  “All that was that child’s life is in those boxes.”

Alayna nodded.  “I felt like that when I had to pack up Gus’s baby food and other stuff.  It was the saddest day of my life.  I mean, I know if I went up to a grieving mother and said, “Hey, I know who you feel… my baby mongoose died, I’d probably get smacked.  I wasn’t really a mother, but…”

“Yes you were,” I interrupted her.  “You bonded, cared for and nurtured that mongoose.  Gus was your baby.  Don’t trivialize what was real and profound to you!  You have every right to take the time to grieve.”

She nodded, but remained silent.  I felt acutely, the sadness in her eyes.  They echoed the empty, hollow spot in my heart, created by my missing son.  At least I had the comfort of knowing Nicholas would return to my empty nest.

Alayna and I are coping, each in our own way, with our sadness.  I try to stay busy, and hum a lot, trying to drone out that deafening quiet that I thought I wanted so much.

Alayna, who admits she’ll never quite see a mongoose the same way she did before adopting one, has taken to feeding the ones who live outside her house.

A and MI think despite our sadness, we are both very lucky. We have had the pleasure of loving unconditionally and both have felt that love returned. Being a mother is an honor and a gift! (No matter how much it hurts at times.) After all, there’s nothing quite like a child nestled in your arms, or a mongoose curled up on your shoulder!

How about you?  If any of you have any tips on coping with, or your own stories about an empty nest, Alayna and I would love to hear them!

This post is dedicated to the loving memory of Gus…he was a great little guy.

Surviving the Sweat

Sweat Lodge

For the past year, I have watched my life partner, Ken, go off each Sunday to sweat his little tukus off in a strange little hut. He would look forward to his Sunday ritual with anticipation.

When he would come back from the day long trek and ceremony, he was usually in a much more peaceful space than when he’d left. (His skin would be a curious hue of red, which lasted anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, but he was peaceful nonetheless.)

I didn’t know much about sweat lodges. I did know that a guy in Sedona, Arizona, named James Ray, held one and people had died. It was all over the news in 2009. If people died while in sweat lodges; what in the heck was my sweetie thinking?   It was worrisome.

I began to wonder what, exactly, he experienced on those Sundays. They were long, lazy Sundays for me. I would spend them…well…being lazy. Occasionally, Ken’s friends would ask me when I was coming to sweat with him. I would reply, all puffy with my self-righteousness, that my Sunday ritual of being a lazy slob was just as important and mind altering to me, as his mysterious trek to the sweat lodge.

To be honest about the whole thing, I was quite simply terrified of participating in a sweat lodge. This is because the one thing I did know about the sweat lodge, was that it involved being enclosed in a tight, dark space for lengthy periods of time, with at least 8 people. I am extremely claustrophobic. (Also, did I mention people had died in one?)

Yet, because this ritual was important to Ken, and he is important to me, I decided to finally commit myself to accompanying him on one of his Sunday journeys. After committing, I was instantly horrified at what I’d done. The thought of attending the lodge filled me with an incomprehensible sense of doom. Deep down I was sure I wouldn’t survive it.

When Sunday rolled around, I woke to find I had started my period. It was the first and only time in my life that I was happy to have the wicked cramps that accompanied my monthly. You see, apparently, menstruating women are not allowed in the lodge. I am not quite sure why this is, but it worked for me!

The next Sunday came all too soon.

That morning, as I started to get ready for my trip, Ken began to instruct me on certain aspects of what I’d be experience.  I listened grumpily.

First, I needed loose clothing that would cover my arms and legs, lest I get burned. Huh??? No jewelry, because the metal becomes very hot and will burn, as well. At this news, a tickle of panic rumbled in my stomach. Just exactly how hot was it going to get in that small, dark, cramped space???? I flatly denied having any clothes suitable for the outing with the silly idea that Ken would leave me at home.  Instead, he quickly exposed my lie, by finding something from my closet for me to wear.

He also packed a sweat rag and a towel for me, and recommended a change of clothes, as we’d be showering off at the end of the whole thing. I vaguely wondered if I’d survive long enough to make it to the shower part.   I grumbled the whole time we prepared and was being deliberately difficult, but Ken remained kind and patient. I felt like a toddler being dragged patiently and quietly across the floor to the pediatricians office. I’m sure Ken viewed me much the same way.

Somehow, Ken eventually managed to get me in the car. I grumpily demanded a stop at Starbucks when I knew we didn’t have the time. He complied with just a tad bit of irritation this time. Once I had my coffee in hand, I calmed somewhat. At least this was something that was comforting and familiar. Ken seemed to sense this and breathed a sigh of relief.   I, however, wasn’t done throwing tantrums. When I discovered we’d be picking up two of Ken’s sweat buddies, I threw a fit and, when finished, burst into tears.

“Why am I doing this?” I cried.

“Why are you crying?” he asked.

“No! Why am I intruding on your sweat lodge. You already have sweat-buddies! You don’t need me!”

“Oh, you’re feeling like a fourth wheel?”

“Yes.”

“We don’t have to drive up with them. It’s just usually what I do. It’s a long ride and it’s more pleasant when you have company. Of course I have you today…I’ll call and tell them we’re driving separately.”

I nodded. Then felt like a putz. (After all that is exactly what I was being.)

He had his cellphone to his ear, and I suddenly said, “No, don’t.”

He sighed deeply, disconnected, and we continued to drive in silence.

When we arrived at the carpool meeting spot, I put on my sunglasses to cover my tear-bleary, frightened eyes. I was greeted by Ken’s friends with hugs and “Oh! We’re so glad you could make it!” type exclamations. I cringed inside.   That’s exactly what the church goer’s at my mother’s church would say if I happened to show up. This was one of the things I dreaded most about going to church. They said they were happy to see me, but there eyes said things like: “Pagan! Just look at the length of that skirt! Land’s sake! She’s just as wild and slutty as ever. It’s a wonder she doesn’t burst into flame upon entering our sacred and holy home!”

However, Ken’s friends, Sarah and Darren, seemed genuine. They almost seemed a little shy. I had met them both before, socially and briefly, which meant that I didn’t know them at all. Sitting in the back seat of the car with Ken, and listening to their banter had me smiling and relaxing just a bit more. They didn’t seemed the least bit worried about the “sweat” ahead of us which eased my mind a bit more.

When we arrived at our destination, I met more of the people I would be sweating with, and received more of the platitudes I’d heard before. “So nice that you could join us. So happy you finally came.”  There were eleven people assembled to sweat that day.

Ken led me around the back of the house to the sweat lodge, giving me an impromptu tour. The sight of the sweat lodge brought a fresh surge of panic. It was so…well, so tiny.  How in the heck were eleven people going to fit in that thing?  The fire in front of the lodge had the panic transforming itself into terror. It was so freaking hot I was already sweating while standing 30 feet from fire pit!262003_10150211654330811_507895810_7742390_4378561

Every one mingled and wandered off to change. I put on the loose pants and the t-shirt Ken had recommended, and joined the rest in front of the lodge. The head guy, Mark, who ran the lodge came to me and asked if I’d done this before. I said, “Heck no.”

He smiled and said, “Well the lodge is about prayer, so remember, if it starts to get tough in there, pray.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d been praying all morning and it hadn’t done an iota of good. (I was still going to sweat, wasn’t I?) Mark smiled, and said I’d be fine. I tried to smile back but it came out more like a grimace.

Mark began the lodge with prayer and then, one by one, we were all “saged”. (Saging is kind of like taking a bath with the sweet smoke from a burning sage bundle.)            The lodge, is a small, round dome that only stands about three feet tall…so you have to crouch down, crawl, and sit cross legged, once you get in it. Crawling into the lodge symbolized re-entering the womb…a symbolism that became quite apt as time went on with my sweat. I ended up sitting in the middle of the back of the lodge, farthest from the door. I had a sinking suspicion this was probably not the best spot for a newbie.

After everyone was assembled in the lodge Mark began the ritual, and rocks were put in the center, one by one. I immediately began sweating profusely. I looked around and noticed that no one else seemed to be sweating. Was I supposed to be sweating like this already? Was this normal? I was pretty sure I was doing something wrong. I was dripping and no one else seemed to be even mildly uncomfortable. The blond girl by the door looked pristine and unperturbed. I was pretty sure I should be sitting by the door. It was probably much cooler over there.  I started to deeply resent the blond chick. She had my spot!

I wondered if they stuck me as deep into the lodge as they could to keep me from running out during the middle of the ceremony. From what Ken said, this was a definite no-no and would disturb everyone else’s “sweat”.   I sat quietly and started to count the drops of sweat dripping off my nose, hoping no one would notice that I was a premature sweater.

Mark finally closed the door to the lodge, making it pitch black. I sighed in relief, happy that no one could see how miserably I was failing at the sweating thing.

sweat lodge rocks They’d brought in 17 rocks, all glowing red with heat. I knew this, because I’d counted the rocks… the big rocks…the seventeen big, hot rocks. Earlier, Ken had told me they used twleve rocks. I was positive they had brought in too many rocks. Why didn’t anyone else notice there were too many rocks in here? Jeeze.

With the door closed I began to sweat even more.   I wondered how much fluid my body could lose before I dried up completely and ignited like a dry twig from the heat. Had that every happened before? I hadn’t even thought to ask.

Mark poured water on the rocks. The temperature in the lodge went up from about 150 degrees to 250 degrees. Breathing became difficult. The air was so hot and heavy that it felt as though my lungs couldn’t extract the oxygen from it. I concentrated on breathing deeply, pulling air in and out of my lungs.

Mark began beating a drum and singing. Everyone else in the lodge started singing with him. How could they sing? I wondered. There wasn’t enough air to breathe much less move my vocal cords. The singing thing disturbed my concentration on the breathing thing. It was annoying.   I struggled to breathe, in and out, in and out. I felt like I was baking, sweat ran down my face, down my back, down my butt crack. I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to cry. So I did. This too, interfered with my breathing.

I think I started to hallucinate. I saw the twins I’d lost years ago in my minds eye and the sorrow felt overwhelming. Throughout the entire sweat, I could not shake the twin’s images. They were in there with me and wanted me to know it…wanted to tell me something. I struggled to breathe, struggled to not cry, and suddenly knew unequivocally that I had to run from that place. I knew I wouldn’t survive. Just as I decided to make a run for it Mark stopped drumming and threw open the door. A breeze swept in and cooled the air slightly. I stared out at the trees, longing to be out among them instead of in the lodge. Once again sorrow overwhelmed me and I fought the tears again.

Water was passed around. I realized I had to pee. Badly. I knew we had three more rounds of dark, scary heat ahead of us, and was afraid to drink the water lest I couldn’t hold my urine. When the drinking horn came to me I gulped the water down anyway. It seemed like the smart thing to do since I was sure I’d already sweated all the moisture out of my body and would need more. Besides, if I was sweating all the moisture out of my body, the water hardly had time to be processed into pee. Right?   Wrong. By round three I was delirious with the need to tinkle and was wondering what would kill me first; not being able to pee, or not being able to breathe.

During Round three, two of the regular’s left the lodge. I wanted to bail so badly and envied them. I just couldn’t make myself do it though. I was determined to make it though my first sweat or die. I was pretty sure the later was the more likely alternative. When the door was closed on the fourth round I slumped in a literal puddle of misery. I kept my face close to the floor where the air was cooler. (Something like 390 degrees instead of 400.) This was the hottest of the rounds, with Mark increasing the heat constantly by pouring water on the rocks. I withered and squirmed with my nose to the ground. The heat was unbearable. I wanted to rip my clothes off, as they seemed to superheat from the moisture caught in the cloth, and burned against my skin.

I started to mewl piteously and continued to cry, as in my minds eye, I continued to see my lost babies.   I was getting ready to run out the door, when Mark suddenly threw it open. “I need to get out of here! I need to get out of here!” I cried. One of the regulars said, “It’s okay, we’re all leaving now.”

The leaving of the lodge seemed to take forever, as each person crawled out on hands and knees.

When I left the lodge, I stood and stumbled around in the sunlight amazed at the freshness of the air that I couldn’t get enough of. It seemed that the air in the lodge had made my lungs defective and no matter how hard I gasped I couldn’t get enough in. Plus, I was so hot, so incredibly hot!

I lay flat on the ground and sucked in air and tried to feel cool again. I closed my eyes, and had just started to feel only a few levels away from okay, when Ken shook me and told me to sit up. I realized everyone was in a circle around me and we were to share the smoking of the ceremonial pipe.

I also realized that everything I looked at was blurry. I blinked. My eyeballs felt weird. I blinked again. Holy shit! My contact lenses had fused to my eyes! No one had warned me not to wear contacts! I stuck a finger in my eye and pushed at my contact, hoping to move it. It budged a little. I did the same with the other eye. It took a few more attempts, but finally it moved.

We each took the pipe, and took a puff. When it came to me I took my puff and inhaled…whoops! I started choking and gasping for clean air.   I didn’t realize you weren’t supposed to inhale. Ken thumped me on the back a few times. At least the choking fit made my eyes water, which lubricated my fried contact lenses.

After a few more prayers I was told it was time to shower. I asked where the shower was, and was pointed to the back of the house. Turns out the shower was a hose suspended from a tree, and all the women got naked in front of one another to take a turn under the nozzle. I really didn’t want to see these strangers naked…sometimes, some things, are better left to the imagination. Yet, their easy going attitude made me more at ease, and pretty soon we were all cavorting around the shower like happy, little naked water nymphs. It was then that I realized that I was really, really, happy.

After dressing, we returned to where the men were already sitting in a circle on the ground, eating fresh fruit. Papaya, mango, oranges, lilikoi, and watermelon…they all tasted like heaven. I realized I felt high…a lot like the time I’d been given morphine when I’d had appendicitis. No wonder Ken liked to sweat so much! Coming out of it was like being given really good drugs! And it was legal!

Eventually, we made the drive back home.  I was exhausted and slept most of the way.

During the days that followed, my mind returned repeatedly to my sweat lodge experience.

The sweat for me was intense, and very hard to get through. I am told that everyone is affected by it in a different way, depending upon what issues they are carrying. I discovered through that sweat, that I was carrying a huge amount of grief, over the twins I had lost 6 months into the pregnancy, 15 years previously. They had lived for only an hour after their birth. While in the dark heat of the lodge, they had come to me, brought my tears, and demanded I deal with them and my feelings.

After much soul searching, and tearful discussions with Ken over the next few weeks, I finally discovered, that I felt a tremendous amount of guilt, in addition to the grief. One particular evening, weeks after the sweat, Ken asked if I’d ever asked the twins how they felt about their deaths. I hadn’t. So I went off by myself and sat silently until I found their voices. I asked what I’d never dared to ask before… Did they suffer? Did they blame me?

Their answer wasn’t in words. It was an overwhelming blanket of love that slowly wrapped itself around my heart and soul. I realized then, that in all the 15 years since their deaths, that they had only wanted me to know that they had loved me. They had never wanted me to feel the sorrow I’d tortured myself with since their deaths. They wanted what I had wanted for them….a happy life, full of love.

twin hearts

Allowing myself to let go of the guilt, the grief, and feel only pure love from those two small beings, is perhaps one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself.

Because of my sweat lodge experience, I am a freer person than I once was. Words cannot express the value that came from that one experience for me. Will I go again? I don’t know…maybe next year…maybe next month…when I feel I am strong enough, to face yet another damaged part of myself, that I am sure I have buried deep in my heart.  I have learned that the sweat lodge isn’t about how well you sweat, or how high it makes you feel. It’s about healing on a very deep and personal level. And yeah…I’ll probably have to do it again.

P.S. With some effort I was able to remove the contacts with no permanent damage to my eyeballs.

The Evil One (Meet the Kitties – Part 2)

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I love this cat and I fear him.  He’s insanely smart, and maybe…just maybe…Lucifer disguised as a cat..

Shortly after the arrival of the Momma cat and her kittens (See Meet the Kitties – Part One), Momma disappeared.  Shortly after that, another cat showed up.  He’s a large orange and white tabby, and he immediately started caring for the kittens.  He’d wash their little faces and he protected them from other cats who tried to take over their territory.  I love him for that and call him Big Daddy.

Yes, I love him, but I’m pretty sure that Big Daddy is evil incarnate.  He’s probably Satan himself, cleverly disguised as a soft cuddly ball of fur.  His favorite pastime is torturing me.  The following is an accounting of two incidents which support my theory.

One night, I sat outside on my back lanai, drinking my customary glass of wine, while reading a book.  I was engrossed in this book.  I wasn’t aware that Big Daddy had joined me until I felt something hit my foot.  I looked down and saw a mouse.  It was frozen in fear, sitting on the tips of my toes. Its long whiskers trembled and the mouse’s shiny eyes stared at Big Daddy with terror.

The cat stared at me calmly, as though waiting for my reaction.  I am not faint of heart, and I generally am not afraid of small creatures, but the sudden shock of seeing the mouse there, cowering against my toes…well… I shrieked.  My shriek seemed to awaken the shocked mouse which then ran up my leg and into my shorts where it clamped onto my thigh with its teeth.

I stood and howled, but the mouse held on.  I shook my leg.  The mouse held on.  I began to wave my arms, while jumping from foot to foot; trying to dislodge the mouse. Anyone seeing me would have thought I was doing a strange version of the hokey-pokey. During this entire time I was screaming at the top of my lungs.  (Mouse teeth hurt!).

Big Daddy watched me in fascination, and I swear his eyes were smiling.  I’d like to think he was smiling at my antics, but it wasn’t that kind of smile. It was the kind of smile you see on the face of a villain before the villain does something spectacularly evil…or in this case…after.  Finally, the mouse was dislodged and plopped out of my shorts and onto the ground.  It took off at the speed of light with Big Daddy right behind it.  They disappeared around a corner and into the night.

I sighed with relief and pulled up my shorts.  There on my thigh, mouth teeth impressions were etched into my skin, bleeding little spots of blood. Great, I thought, just great, it’s probably going to become infected and I’ll probably die a slow and terrible death.  I went into the house for antiseptic and saw that Ken was sitting at a nearby table.

“Did you hear me yelling?”  I asked.

He pulled his eyes from his computer and looked at me.  “Yes.”

“And you didn’t think that  maybe you should come and see what I was yelling about?”

“No.”

“What if a murderer or rapist were attacking me?”

“Was a murder or a rapist attacking you?”

“No, but I was being attacked by a mouse with really sharp teeth.  And what’s more, Big Daddy seemed to enjoy it!”

“How much wine have you had?”

I threw up my hands and went to find the antiseptic.

After cleaning my wound, I went back to the lanai, my book and another glass of wine.  After being munched by a mouse, and given I’d probably die soon from mouse germs, I felt I deserved it.  Not five minutes later, I felt another plop on my foot.  I looked down in time to see the mouse dive beneath the arch of my foot, cowering once again.  Big Daddy settled in to watch the show.

Instead of shrieking and dancing, I slowly lifted my foot.  The mouse streaked away, but Big Daddy pounced and snared it with his mouth and marched back to where I sat.  He dropped the mouse on my feet again!  This time the little rodent ran around my feet repeatedly, looking, I suppose, for another hiding place.

Apparently, it thought my shorts were still the best option and raced, once again, up my leg.  I stood quickly, kicking my leg forward before it could latch on.  I watched in horror as the mouse sailed through the air, hit the far wall and bounced off. It landed on the floor with a squeak.  Big Daddy followed the mouse’s flight with amused eyes.  He then stood slowly, stretched, and went to the stunned rodent.  He picked it up again and brought it to me, dropping it on my foot.

The mouse lay there, its whiskers twitching, eyes closed.

As I contemplated the mouse, I tried to give Big Daddy the benefit of the doubt. Was he really trying to torment me?  What if  he was presenting the mouse as a gift, for all the fish I’d fed him over the months.  Maybe, Big Daddy was waiting for me to eat the mouse!

I decided to find out.

“Oh, you brought me a present!  Does my kitty want me to eat the mouse?”  I leaned over and picked up the stunned rodent by the tail.  It hung there, looking utterly defeated.  ( Note:  I wasn’t really going to eat the mouse, I was pretending for Big Daddy.)

I quickly found out that Big Daddy, in fact, did not want me to eat the mouse.  With lightning speed he struck out with claws extended and whipped the mouse away from me, taking a good part of the flesh on my fingers with it.

I shrieked and looked at my fingers which were already dripping with blood, and then back at Big Daddy.  It was as though he waited for me to look at him, for the minute I did, he decapitated the poor creature in front of me and ate the body in one crunch.  He then picked up the mouse head and dropped it on my feet.

“That’s it!”  I yelled at Big Daddy.  “You are a mean, mean kitty!  I hope you enjoyed all those treats I gave you because you’re never getting another one.  This fish store is closed!”

I went inside and this time Ken looked up from his computer before I said anything.  He looked at my bloodied hand, which was still dripping.  He brought his eyes back to my face.

“Let me guess, the mouse again?”

“No, it was Big Daddy.  He didn’t want me to eat the mouse.”

“You were going to eat the mouse?”

“I thought it was a present.”

“Sweetie, I worry about you.”

“I know,” I said, and went off to tend my wounds.

Over the course of months, it became apparent that Big Daddy enjoyed torturing me.  The next story, I think, illustrates this.

There was a little green and yellow bird who befriended me, quite unexpectedly, while I fed the chickens.  It would wait for me to spread their seed, and then would swoop down and land on my tennis shoe. (I know right?  Why do small creatures keep landing on my feet?)  Morning after morning this sweet little bird would perch on my shoe and sing to me.

I came to look forward to the little songstress.  I named her Sunshine.  Sunshine’s complete trust humbled me and made me feel even a little special.  I mean how many people can say that they had a bird friend who serenaded them each morning…from their foot, no less?

On one such morning, after the bird lit on my foot, I was distracted by some of the chicken’s antics and watched them, laughing out loud, while Jane tried to sexually molest Chloe.  (Turns out the chicken sisters have lesbian tendencies, which I learned is not uncommon if there isn’t a rooster around.)  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blur of movement.  When I turned, Big Daddy stood at my feet with my little feathered friend in his mouth.

Horrified doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.  Without thinking, I grabbed Big Daddy and held him upside down, and thumped his back.  He still held on to the bird.

“You can’t eat Sunshine!” I yelled.  “Sunshine’s my friend!

I thumped him again and again until the bird plopped to the ground.  It wobbled around a bit with dazed eyes, and then, happily, flew away.  Still holding Big Daddy, I did a little happy dance.

I set Big Daddy down and he gave me a cold, disgusted look.  Then he turned, sticking his tail in the air, and stalked away.  Unbelievably, Sunshine returned, looking a little frazzled, but sang a little song, anyway.  While Sunshine sang, I was extra vigilant in watching for the possible return of Big Daddy.

The next morning, before I’d even had a cup of coffee, I heard Big Daddy at the front door.  He was making a strange noise…kind of like a feral whine in the back of his throat.  I opened the door and looked down at Big Daddy.  He calmly set a dead Sunshine at my feet and stalked off.

I fell to my knees, arms outstretched toward the departing cat.  “Why?” I called out to him.  “Why did you do it?”  Big Daddy ignored me.

Ken found me weeping, clutching the dead bird to my chest.

“Sweetie, are you okay?  What’s the matter?”

“Big Daddy murdered Sunshine!”

Ken noted the bird.  “Isn’t that what cats generally do?  Kill birds?”

I shook my head.  “Sunshine wasn’t just any bird, she was my friend!  She sang to me!”

“Oh Sweetie, is that the bird that sits on your foot every morning?”

I nodded.

“Well that sucks.  I’d hug you but you’re clutching a dead bird.”

“I wouldn’t let him eat Sunshine yesterday.  So he killed her and deliberately brought her to me. He’s evil and mean!  He could have just killed her and ate her.  Then I’d never known what became of her…He wanted me to know he killed Sunshine!”

“So, why do you keep feeding Big Daddy?”

“Because he watches over the kittens.”

Ken rolled his eyes. “I’m surprised he hasn’t eaten them, as well.”

To this day, Big Daddy, still tortures me.  Just yesterday, I was gifted with two yellow and green birds, and a large rat.  Each “present” was placed precisely under my chair on the lanai. Although I try to believe otherwise, I can’t help believing that the prolific number of yellow and green birds he brings me is some warped way of reminding me of Sunshine.  I mean, he never brings me a pigeon, and they’re the stupidest birds on the planet!  Even my cat, Mikey, who I am sure needs glasses, catches pigeons!  Why doesn’t Big Daddy bring me a pigeon instead of birds that look like Sunshine?

What do you think?  Is Big Daddy evil? Or is it just me, and my overactive imagination?  Does anyone else have a diabolical kitty?  If you do, I’d love to hear about it!

“Juxtaposition” Writer’s Digest Award Winner

sunglassesA car flew off the road above our house and landed in my garden.   It inspired the following story.  Writer’s Digest liked it.  I hope you do too!  (Author’s note: After posting this piece it was brought to my attention that I’d traumatized some of the readers who are used to my happy go lucky stories.  I apologize!  Also this story is fiction…except for the part about the car and the garden.  No one died…except for the poor plants.)

Juxtaposition

 

It’s not every day that a car falls from the sky and kills not only your favorite banana tree, but also a rather nice lawn table and several chairs.  I don’t mind so much about the table and chairs, but the banana tree?  Well it was precious to me.  The driver of the car was unharmed yet slightly hysterical, and from what I could gather, not worried one bit about murdering my tree.

The car still lay on my lawn and half in my garden, tires reaching toward the sky.  It reminded me a bit of a dead cockroach, gone belly up.  The glass from its windshield littered the grass shining like diamonds on brown straw.  Yes the grass was dead too.  Little rain and hot sunny days will do that you know.  It had only been through diligent watering and care that my garden was still living.  I wondered how they would extract the carcass of the car from my yard, and yes, pessimistically I wondered how many more of my babies would be murdered in the extraction process.

It’s like this.  I feel the life of my plants acutely.  They are living breathing entities that “talk” to me.  I know this sounds strange but it’s true and so there you have it.  I love touching their trembling leaves and thanking them for what they give me.  I have found that plants love to give, especially to the grateful ones who reap their fruit and let the plants know they are grateful.

My 9-year-old son seemed to realize this as well and I have on more than one occasion heard him speaking softly to the plants in my garden, caressing the leaves and vines as he walked through them.  I have seen him gently kiss my plants.  While this may seem odd to you, it seems heartwarming to me to know with an absolute certainty that my son was gifted with whatever vibrations that allow him to feel life beyond himself.  He is a gentle and kind soul and handsome beyond belief with his auburn hair that actually matches his auburn eyes.

Okay, so back to the cockroach, I mean car that landed in my yard.  It is a silver Lexus.  The woman driving the car was wearing a designer dress I am sure, probably tailored just for her. I am positive her shoes were of the Jimmy Choo variety.  I am afraid of this type of woman for in life I have found that those who have too much care too little for the things that sustain me in my life.

My first lesson in this type of perverse and profound selfishness came while I worked as a Patient Advocate in a very busy level III trauma emergency room.  An extremely elite and socially privileged couple had been in a horrendous accident.  The husband of said couple lay dying (or circling the drain as we hardened E.R. professionals called it) on a gurney covered in vinyl.  I had learned that we had vinyl-covered gurneys so that the stink of death could best be washed from them. Vinyl does not absorb the scent near so well as, oh say, the heavy twill that covers most mattresses, and it rarely soaks up water, urine or blood. This meant if another dead or dying somebody came in recently after a rinse off, we could stick the almost cadaver on it immediately without fear that he or she would complain of the smell.  I’m not sure that most mortally injured people would notice much less mind odors on their bed, but am grateful for the fact that due to our vinyl covered gurneys, I’ve never had to find out.

The wife of the unfortunate man on our gurney had suffered a laceration to her eyebrow and a chipped tooth when her head hit the steering wheel.  Given that she was the one steering, I had assumed that she would be worried about whether or not her husband would survive the night.  I was wrong.  She was worried about a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses that had been lost in the resounding crash that had accompanied her car smacking another car head on, on a four-lane highway. Why she was wearing a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses at 8:45 p.m. on a Saturday night was a mystery.  I am sad to say that it was her car that seemed to have lost its way, traveling into innocent incoming traffic.  The driver and the passengers of the other vehicle did not survive.  One of their grieving family members told me that they had been on their way to see the new Star Trek movie.  The father, his son, and his daughter…aged 42, 12 and 8 respectively did not get to hear Kirk ask Scottie to beam him up.  I am hoping they were beamed up somewhere nice nonetheless.

I bring the past into the present only because, as in that fateful crash years ago, the woman who was concerned about her Maui Jims more than her husband, more than the innocent family her car had slain, had something in common with the woman who’d flipped her car onto my lawn.  Apparently, Maui Jims have that effect on people, for on this day, when the tow truck came to retrieve the car that had fallen from the sky, Ms. Jimmy Choo shoes was on hand only because she had lost her Maui Jims.   She hoped to find them after the car was safely stowed on the big rig that had come to scoop it up.  I stood and watched the spectacle only to try and save any of my plants that the rig and its doings might endanger.  I was still marveling at Ms. Jimmy Choo Shoes lack of concern for my dead lawn furniture and my dead banana tree.  I decided she was a heartless, cold bitch.

The acrid scent of gasoline, motor oil and battery acid permeated the air as I stood watching the scene in front of me.  All three had seeped from the car onto my lawn and into my garden.  I realized then that any vigilance that I kept would be for not.  The chemicals the car had bled after its leap from the road above had contaminated the very soil that nourished the plants I sought to protect.  I felt a deep rage and fantasized that I would find Ms. Jimmy Choo shoe’s glasses and slowly crush them beneath my foot in front of her.

Instead I watched silently as the tow-truck driver connected the cable from the winch in his truck to the car.  I looked vacantly on as I heard the dying gasps of my plants in my mind.  Miss. Jimmy Choo shoes looked on expectantly, practically salivating at the thought of finding her Maui Jims.  I looked away from her and studied the clouds of vog in the Hawaiian sky, wondering at the selfishness of the material rich.

As the winch engaged the car began to lift to its nose, and debris…water bottles, a fashion magazine, an umbrella, spewed from the cars depths through the shattered windows on to the ground. I heard a moan emit from the car and was startled from my reverie.  It was the sound of my son in anguish.  Immediately after the moan I heard frantic thrashing sound and then a snap that reverberated to the depth of my soul.  The tow truck driver kept lifting the car unaware of what I’d heard and I screamed and ran toward the car, the cockroach, but it was too late.  My son was inside the hulk of twisted metal that had once been a Lexus and had been thrown from the back to the front when the car was lifted.

I was so riveted on my obsession, my plants, that I had not given a thought as to where an inquisitive 9 year old might be on this early Sunday morning.  What fun for a 9 year old to explore the car that had fallen from the sky.

An ambulance was called, and my son was lifted aboard, on a vinyl gurney.  I ducked into the ambulance bay behind the gurney and my son and I were whisked away amidst sirens and lights to the nearest hospital.

We live next to a highway, the same one that is a direct course to our local hospital.  Everyday I have heard the sirens of ambulances rushing by and each time the dogs nearby would howl.  I often have wondered if their howls were for the anguish of the person inside the ambulance, or merely because the siren made the dog’s ears hurt.  I am convinced now, that the dogs howl for the anguish of the person or people inside the ambulance because holding onto my gentle boys fingers and feeling no life, I howled in anguish with the dogs we passed.

Today I have no son.  I have no banana trees.  I do have a ridiculous amount of money due to settlements made by Ms. Jimmy Choo shoes and the tow-truck company.  I can buy all the bananas I want, but I don’t.  All the bananas in the world cannot bring back my son, my sun.  I do have a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, which I saw and grabbed as they took my son onto the vinyl gurney. As I look through the lenses the sky seems bluer, the ocean greener.  I now know why the women I’ve met cherish their glasses.  The glasses do not turn things the color of rose, but they mask the colors of gray and black with more brilliant hues.  I am now the proud owner of a pair of Maui Jims, and I may never take them off.

Dreams, Vampires, and Toilet Plungers

bloody Brad

Dreams fascinate me.  I dream vividly and in color about all manner of things.  I also dream about the characters in my books.  In my dreams, sometimes I’m writing about the characters, sometimes I’m conversing with them, and sometimes they come to me in my sleep and ask me why I did this or that to their character.

In one particular dream, I had to sit and listen to one of Charlie’s suitors explain to me, in detail, why he thought he should have been the one to relieve Charlie of her virginity.  (He presented a good argument, but I held fast to my decision.)

At times my dreams are a mixture of my real life, interspersed with fantasy characters in my head.  This is the type of dream I had last night.  Before I tell you about  the dream, I need to give you a little background information.  So bear with me!

In real life, Ken and I own a home that we have converted into four separate apartments. I wear the hat of property manager for this building, and take care of the mundane things like keeping the apartments rented, drawing up the leases, landscaping, maintenance, and so forth.

Last night I dreamt that I’d rented one of the apartments to a vampire.  The vampire in my dream looked a lot like Brad Pitt.  (See Picture.)

The Dream

 “Psssst!”  The sound came from the shadows surrounding the entrance to the apartment building. 

                I stopped and peered into the darkness.  “Who’s there?”  I called.

                “It’s me, Sebastian.” 

                “Why are you hiding in the shadows?”  I inquired feeling annoyed.  I was on my way to unplug a tenant’s toilet and not in the best of moods.

                “I need your whelp.”

                I considered this.  “My whelp?  I don’t have any whelps.”

                “Not whelp! Whelp!  You know…assistance.”

                “Oh you mean help,” I clarified. I continued to try to ascertain Sebastian’s form in the inky darkness. “Okaaay…I’d be happy to help you, if I can, but I’m kind of confused about the whole hiding in the bushes thing.  It’s cold out here and you’re coming off as being a weirdo.”

                “Actuawwwy, I am a bit of a weirdo.”  Sebastian said from the bushes.

               “I sort of got that.  Are you going to come inside or are we going to have this discussion out here?”

                “You need to come cwoser.”

                I suddenly realized that Sebastian was speaking as though he had a lisp. “Why do you suddenly have a lisp?  You didn’t have a lisp the other day.”

                “It’s a pwobwem I have in c-wertain swituations.”  Sebastian informed me.

                One of the neighbors who lived upstairs approached the entrance to the building.  It was the school teacher and he was giving me a perplexed look.  I assumed he’d probably seen me talking to the bushes.

                “You okay?”  He called, pausing a few feet shy of the steps where I stood.  He seemed hesitant to come near me.  I really couldn’t blame him.  After all, he’d caught me talking to the bushes. 

                “Everything’s fine.  I’m just talking to Sebastian…he’s hiding in the bushes.”

                The school teacher looked at the bushes and stepped closer.  “I don’t see anyone.”

                Sebastian leapt from the bushes, pounced on the school teacher and dragged the startled man back into the bushes with him.  I heard a strangled squeak from the school teacher and then nothing but an odd sucking noise.  I wet my pants a little at that point. 

                Every instinct in my body told me to run, get to my house, and lock the door.  Another part of my psyche was screaming that I should help the school teacher in some way.  Yet another voice was saying he was a goner and to stop wasting precious time and energy even contemplating trying to be a heroine. 

                Before I could decide on a course of action, Sebastian once again emerged from the bushes.  His hair was mussed, with some leaves stuck in it here and there.  A red streak adorned his chin.  He gave me a nod and opened the entrance door for me.

                I glanced back at the bushes.  “What about the school teacher?”  I asked.

                “He said he wanted to take a nap.”  Sebastian told me without a second’s hesitation.

                I raised a skeptical eyebrow.  “He wants to nap in the cold…in the bushes?”

                “Hey, I’m not his mother.  If he wants to take a nap in the cold bushes; who am I to argue?”

                “The school teacher is dead.  Isn’t he?”  I gave Sebastian a little poke in the ribs with the toilet plunger I’d brought with me.

                Sebastian batted the toilet plunger away, and motioned with one hand for me to enter the building, while he held the door with the other.  “Most women would be terrified.   Most women would run while screaming their heads off about now.  Are you like, I don’t know…mentally challenged or something?”

                I walked through the entrance while I answered. “It depends on who you ask.  Actually, I don’t get any of those “I want to kill you vibes” from you.  I’m pretty good at picking up vibes. Plus, you were lisping,” I explained. “It’s hard to be afraid of someone who lisps.”

                Sebastian walked along beside me as we approached his apartment. 

                “I only lisp when my I’m hungry…that’s when my teeth elongate into fangs.  It’s embarrassing.  By the way, a few minutes ago you should have gotten those vibes.  I was trying to lure you closer so I could suck your blood.”

                “Really?”  I asked. 

                 He nodded.

               “Ewe! Yuck!”  I paused for a moment and gave him an appraising stare.  “You know, I wish you wouldn’t munch on your neighbors Sebastian. Now I have to find a new tenant for 2B.  Do you know what the rental market is like these days?”

                Sebastian shrugged.  “If you really wanted me to, I could bring him back, but then he’d be a new vampire, and they are a bit unmanageable at best.”  He looked at me through thick lashes and gave me a crooked smile.  He was almost charming, but the smear of blood across his chin sort of killed the image.

                “I think I’ll pass on the bringing him back thing.  I will, however, have to take the cost of the body  disposal out of your security deposit though. And, if you’re going to continue to live here, you have to promise not to eat me or the neighbors.  I like my tenants.”

                Sebastian sighed heavily…

At this point I surfaced from sleep, vaguely wondering what I was going to do with the school teacher’s body.  Ken had his arm wrapped around me and gave me a squeeze.

I patted his arm, my eyes still closed. “We need to get rid of the body,” I murmured groggily.

I felt Ken stiffen and then relax again.  “Who’d you kill off in your sleep this time?” He asked sleepily.

“Not me…the vampire did it.”

“Of course he did.”  Ken gave me another squeeze, and went back to sleep.

Now it’s your turn.  Have you had any memorable dreams lately?  Tell me about them!

Meet the Kitties!

big daddy

Meet the Kitties

 

Part One

 

 

Ken, when I met him, had a strong dislike of cats.  Because I am a cat lover, I found his attitude mystifying.  (I mean, what kind of human being can resist a soft and cuddly, purring bundle of fluff? Was there some flaw in his genetic makeup?  Was he dropped on his head as a baby? Had some random cat in his past eaten a beloved goldfish?)

I later found out the reason for Ken’s attitude toward felines.  At one time in the past, he had agreed to babysit his daughter’s cat, Rufus.  (Rufus was called Rufus, because he was born on a roof.) Rufus wasn’t happy at being left behind by his mistress.   Because she wasn’t there to receive his wrath, Rufus retaliated by striking out at Ken. Rufus left a kitty-bomb on Ken’s bed.  That particular evening, Ken came home exhausted, and without turning on the light, plopped face-down on his bed.  Poor Ken.

At that time, several feral cats hung around our yard.  I wanted to pet them, and feed them, love them, and make them my very own.  This desire led to the following conversation after dinner one night.

Me:      “Oooh, Sweetie!  Look at the cute little kitty by the tree!  I bet she would love some of my leftover salmon.” (I can’t wait to make friends with the kitty!)

Ken:  “No, she won’t.”

Me:      “What do you mean she won’t?  Cats love fish.  Everyone knows that.”  (Please tell me I didn’t fall in love with a moron.)

Ken:  “I meant you won’t be giving her the salmon.”

Me:  “Why not?  She looks hungry.”  (Meanie.)

Ken:  “If we feed the cat, she will tell her homeless little friends, and then we’ll be overrun by poor little kitty-witties.”

Me:  (Kitty-witties?  Is he mocking me?)  “She wouldn’t tell her friends.  That would mean less salmon for her. Cats are smart like that.”  (Duh.)

Ken:  “You and I agreed we wouldn’t have pets.”

Me:  Narrowing my eyes at him.  “I don’t remember agreeing to that.  Was I under the influence of alcohol when I agreed to that?”

Ken:  Huge sigh.  “Just don’t feed the stray cat. Okay?”

Me:  Arms crossed over my chest.  “And if I do? What are you going to do?  Spank me? (Wait a minute…that could be fun.)

Ken: Wicked grin in place.  “That could be fun.”

Me:  Jumping up from my chair. “Let’s go practice!”  (Whoo hoo!)

Needless to say, I fed the cat.

The next evening, as we were lounging around the table, having just finished dinner, I glanced out the window.   The cat from the night before had returned.  As I watched, a kitten emerged from the long grass and bumbled over to the first cat.  Then a second kitten emerged, as well as a third.  My heart sang with happiness!  Kittens!  Yay!

Ken glanced out the window and did a double take.  His eyes focused on the kittens, and then on me.

Ken:  “Did you feed the cat last night?”

Me:  “Who me?”  (Ut-oh.)

Ken:  “You fed the cat.”

Me:  “I couldn’t help it. It’s so cute!   (Do I get another spanking?)

Ken:  “I thought we had an agreement.”

Me:  “If you’ll remember, I never actually said that I wouldn’t feed the cat.” (I distracted your horny-self instead.)

Ken:  “We’ll never get rid of them now.”

Me:  “I’m sorry.” (Yayyyyy!!!)

And that was how our yard and our carport became home to Sniffles (the momma), Susie, Mikey and Demon (the three kittens.)

 

Meet the Sisters Jane and Chloe (The chickens)

DSCN0164 (549x800)Meet the Sisters Jane and Chloe  (The chickens)

Quite a few of you have asked about the chickens in my pictures.  I thought I’d take a moment to tell you about them.

Jane and Chloe were born in the rafters of my carport.  How their mother, a wild chicken, I named Juliet, expected them to grow up in the rafters is beyond me.  One by one Jane and Chloe’s siblings started falling to their deaths.  I couldn’t believe that these were suicidal peeps, leaping to end their lives, and decided to intervene.

I became Jane and Chloe’s mama.  Juliet, who was being wooed by a wild rooster named Romeo, didn’t seem to mind.   She immediately started a new family with Romeo (also in the carport, but that’s another story.)

Jane is brown and skinny.  I think she’s skinny because she’s neurotic. She’s a nervous wreck ALL of the time. She doesn’t cluck like a chicken, she screams just like the hysterical female she is.  Her sole ambition in life has been to hatch an egg, and it’s becoming annoying.

Because I take her eggs from her, she is currently trying to hatch a golf ball.  She’s extremely protective of the golf-ball and attacks me whenever I’m near her.   I’m usually near her because I’m feeding her.  (Have I mentioned that chickens aren’t so smart all the time?)

Chloe, on the other hand, is white and plump.  She attacks Jane whenever Jane attacks me.  I think this is because I saved her from a mongoose who was enthusiastically snacking on her neck. Mongooses roam freely in Hawaii.  They look like rabid squirrels with diseased tails and sharp teeth.  (I know! Imagine an anorexic vampire-squirrel that can’t climb trees, right?)

Anyway, I nursed Chloe back to health, going so far as to keep her in a box by my bed at night.  I had to do this because chickens are angered by the color red. Jane, who we have already established is a bit stupid, was angered by the blood and scabs on Chloe’s neck would attack her.  Plus, I was WORRIED about her!  I  just couldn’t leave Chloe all alone when she was in pain.

Ken (my sweetie) was not happy about sharing our bedroom with a chicken.  It inhibited normal bedroom activities.  (Can I help it if I’m too self-conscious to get naked in front of a chicken?)  I think he was secretly worried that I had gone a little around the bend, and that’s okay.  I worry about that myself sometimes.

Since the mongoose attack, Chloe has been my shadow.  She follows me everywhere and likes to hop into my lap for a snooze now and then….especially lately, since her sister has been too preoccupied with that stupid golf ball to hang out with her.

Although they are very different in temperament, both Jane and Chloe have a huge place in my heart.  I’ll let you know if Jane manages to hatch the golf ball.

The First Blog! (And Naming the Third Charlie Meadow’s Adventure)

Yay!  I have a blog!

I’m dedicating this first blog to my readers.  I love you guys!  I love hearing from you!  Your notes, comments, reviews at Amazon, and emails are the fuel that fires me!  (Wow, that’s a lot of exclamation points.  But that’s just the way you make me feel….like a giant exclamation point doing a happy dance!)

Speaking of reviews at Amazon…if you enjoyed Virgin and Trinity, please feel free to post one!  Reviews at Amazon increase the book’s visibility.  Hopefully, with enough reviews, more people will see the books and enjoy them as well.  Then, ultimately, I’ll be able to quit my day job and write on a fulltime basis.  (I do like dreaming!)

Okay, shameless begging completed, I have some news.  I have the title for the third book in the Charlie Meadow’s Adventure series!

Last week, I was at this cute little bookstore named Kona Stories, for a night of Words and Wine.  Words and Wine is an author event where several authors give a little speech and read a bit from their books.  We also drink free wine, which is really nice (because I get really nervous at these things), and eat yummy pupus. ( Pupus is the Hawaiian name for finger foods and is pronounced poo-poos…sounds gross…I know right?)  A lot of people come to this event, either because they love books, or because they love wine, or like me, they love both.

Well, I was sitting at my little table, sipping my wine (and wondering just how much wine I could drink without being accused  a wine-hog), when a woman approached my table.  She picked up a copy of Trinity, gave it a look over and then asked, “Have you come up with the title of your third book?”

I sighed deeply with sadness, and answered honestly.  “I haven’t.  I have no clue what to name it.”  (I didn’t tell her that the prospect of settling on a title was terrifying to me.  When you announce a title, there’s no going back and changing it.  You’re stuck with it forever. )

The woman smiled at me.  “I have a suggestion,” she replied.

“I’d love to hear it,” I answered.

“Your first book is called Virgin.  Your second book is Trinity.  It only follows that your third book should be called……”

When she uttered the name, I heard angels sing.  Goosebumps covered my body from head to toe! Happiness filled my heart with joy!  It was as though the universe had sent this woman to me to utter one word!  (Seriously, it was kind of freaky, but in a good way.)  The word completely fit my plan for the new book!

And so, today, I announce that the third book in the Charlie Meadow’s series is to be called…(drum roll, please!) Resurrection!

Thank you, Lois, my angel from Kona Stories, for the suggestion!