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Skirting the Issue #109

January 8, 2013
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Ten weeks since my last post? For reals? Amazing how life jumps up and bites you in the butt, while a tornado whips those calendar pages into a frenzy.

Been uber busy. Life on a Texas ranch, crazy red-neck relatives with four names (endearing as they were!), blind dates with large animal vets, and all that squire dancing and frog giggin’ just weren’t for yours truly. While it was good fun to try on a completely different life for a minute, I realized with stunning clarity one evening that this was not to be. Walking into the TV room and seeing a dozen pairs of glazed-over eyes staring raptly at one episode of Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty after another, I knew it was time to end this Hee Haw experiment and hoist myself back over the border to civilization.

I moved to a sprawling metropolitan area that is arguably one of the most beautifully designed cities in the nation and am coming round to some degree of normalcy. In the span of eight short weeks, my dance card holds Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams, and Willie Nelson. Oh yeah, that’s more better! Acquired a job working for yet another female dentist, and yes, they are ALL nuts, but in slightly different ways, which really keeps a girl on her toes. Think I’ll be dusting off the resume again soon, though. My boss is Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”, except in scrubs. I guess I should have been suspicious when all my interviews were conducted in an empty office over a weekend, thus preventing me from observing the sad, dead, joyless eyes of my soon-to-be coworkers. This is a place where fun and exuberance come to die, a place where paranoia slow dances with dread. I guarantee you a giggle has never crossed the threshold of this dental practice. My folly for choosing employment based solely on not having to get on a freeway, when most folks I know have to commute 45 minutes to an hour one way.

The upside is that I live in a beautiful green belt on a lake, very tranquil and zen-like, completely opposite of the hell I was enduring one year ago. I go out of my way to create serenity and avoid cacophony and turmoil.  My goal is quality of life, safety, and NEVER, EVER again encountering a monster in my closet.

One of my amazing girlfriends put the past two years of my life in perspective. “Very few of us get a do-over at age 60; this is a gift, relish it; gobble it up with a Texas-sized tablespoon.” Wise words that I fully intend to embrace.

A newish friend took me to two events with folks from their very social neighborhood shortly after I moved here. Both occasions went quite well. The third invitation with this group was for a Christmas party. Initial nervousness over, I was quite looking forward to it. Thirty pounds lost and rocking a knit black mini-skirt, I was having a blast. Time came to bid adieu. Now this particular skirt had given me some trepidation earlier, as it seemed quite loose and wiggly-jiggly. As we were bidding these good folks Happy Holidays and goodnight, I suddenly felt a disconcerting blast of arctic air. Wine-infused and full of holiday cheer, I looked down to see my adorable little size 8 skirt puddled at my feet.  Thank you Lord for opaque black tights and a tunic top! With all the dignity I could muster in front of these virtual strangers, I bent down and resettled said enemy skirt around my waist. In the dead silence that followed my wardrobe malfunction, a sparkly twenty-something proclaimed, “Damn, that’s the most fun we’ve had all night. You rock girl!”

My renegade skirt and I will see you again shortly!

Holy Cows #108

October 29, 2012
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Day Two of BRAND NEW LIFE, first scene that greets my bleary eyes out of my bedroom window. Stumbled into the kitchen in frantic search for java, which will reassure me that what I just beheld was part of a demonic nightmare. Horns four feet across? For Reals?

Bed head askew and both eyes tightly shut against the physic assault of the long horns seemingly grazing in the front yard, I blindly feel for coffee mugs and realized there are 15 bodies seated around the table, one of whom is Father Ray, the family priest. 7AM and they are engaged in earnest conversation about yours truly. Good to know that they are taking such an interest in my recent marriage fiasco and working on constructing my brilliant new future. As I tentatively sip the scalding coffee and scan the table, I wonder again about all my second cousins and their bizarre system of naming babies. There were, in no particular order, Laredo Porter Wagoner T————–, known to all as Big Red. Then there’s Austin Johnny Cash T—————, fondly called Cap Tee. Next comes Beaumont George Jones T———-, nicknamed Gator. Then, Laramie Loretta Lynn T————–, called by all Maria.

Aunt Aggie,” (note Aunt is universally pronounced Aint in this neck of the woods), “If you wanted to call Laramie Maria, why didn’t you just name her that, instead of wasting three unused names on her?”

Well, Daaaaaabbbiiiieee,” (thereby ignoring my middle name of Renee, which I’d gone by for 39 years and  turning my usually two-syllable first name of Debbi into approximately 8) “my mama Maria warn’t deadt yet, so we couldn’t use that. Warn’t of been right, what with her still being alive and all.” Conversations with my great Aint Aggie and her husband Frankie generally cause me more confusion than enlightenment, and this one was no different. She did enjoy relating how all her kids came to be named after Texas towns. Each of the ten times they discovered she was with child, they would throw a dart at a map of Texas and wherever it landed would become the future bambino’s new moniker, along with names of all their favorite country and western singers from the 1950′s and 60′s. While I will probably NEVER truly understand these Texican relatives, you can’t fault their creative, if cumbersome, naming system.

Hot Joe working its magic through my veins, and starting to join the world of the awake and functioning, I realized they were all in a deep conversation about finding me a “beau”! Several widowed or divorced ranchers on nearby farms were proffered, and eventually all discounted. “Well, it’s not going to be easy. She’s so darned tall, and headstrong, and she lived in New York City all those years. She’s not as young as she used to be, either.”

I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs, “Guys, I’m right here, 6 feet away…I can hear every word you’re saying!”  Curious and strangely fascinated, I decided to keep quiet and see where this might be headed. I also made up my mind in a split second that this itty bitty blog thing would stay my little secret from the kinfolk; why waste potentially delicious material that the good Lord had just gifted me with?!? If any of them got wind of the fact that I was writing about them, it would become a blog by committee; all ideas, phrasing, and story lines would have to be approved by the majority. All verbs and nouns chewed over as tantalizingly slowly as tender beef brisket.

Father Ray’s voice cut through the chatter. “What about Doc Speed; his wife up and made off with that vet tech, what, going on two years now? I’d say he’s probably about ripe for some home cooking and fed up with going home alone to that big ol ranch every night“. A chorus of approval rose from the table. Houston, we have a potential winner for the hand of our stubborn, oft-married, aging female cousin.

Turns out “Doc Speed” is the local large animal vet, whose given name is Lane Street. I’m not altogether sure about a man whose names consist of two map components, but I soon find myself being hurried up to my room to check my closet for one of my calico Laura Ingalls “squire” dancing frocks. Let me guess…soon, very soon, the ranch will put out an SOS to the good Doc Speed for a bovine housecall. If I find out that Dr. Street’s middle names are Marty Robbins or Buck Owens, I will know fer sure it’s a sign from God!! Welcome to the family Doc!

The Homecoming…Let There Be Squire Dancing #107

October 15, 2012
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What is it about air travel that is so exhausting? You spend most of the day sitting on your butt, so you think you’d be one big ball of fire upon arrival wherever, but alas no. This is why the first day of my brand new life was such a shock to my system.

Also, why do all flights seem to leave every airport at 5AM? Requiring, of course, your sleepy self to be there at 4:30. Just sets the tone for the remainder of the day. After a 4-hour flight, naturally, there is no such thing as a city anywhere near Nowhere Texas, so I had to catch a teensy weensy little piece of a plane into Austin, and then sit sandwiched in between waaaayyy too many eager relatives, all talking at once, in that inimitable Texas drawl, y’all, in a pick up truck, the entire three hours back to Nowhere.

For any of you uninitiated, let me assure you 225,000 acres of cattle ranch is GInormous. There are eight full-time ranch hands who live on and work this place, in addition to every family member who draws breath. There are cattle, longhorn steers, Barbado sheep, peacocks, and enough laying hens to produce eggs to feed all the menfolk, say about seven dozen eggs per day, and that’s not counting the four or five cakes they require for dessert every day. I don’t remember such a huge operation growing up, but that was 50 years ago, and this place has now become BIG BUSINESS. Just setting the scene, now back to my first day.

First stop on the way from the airport, a western store to procure a pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots. “Sugar britches, you sure don’t want to be stepping in any cow patties with them flimsy flip flops on, now do you? And we got to get you some proper cowgal jeans. What’s up with those damn bell bottomer thangs you got on dragging the ground? That some kinda high falutin New York fashion thang? Damn, child, where’s your common sense?” Oh yeah, first day going real well so far.

Back at the ranch, I’m surprised to see about forty vehicles around the main house. Oh God, it’s a Welcome Home party, complete with 107 pounds of smoked beef and pork and all the fixins. Did these people not  know I just lost three sizes? Did I mention this supper takes place at 4PM, as in the afternoon? “Well, usually we sit down to supper at 5:30 on the dot, but we got big plans for you tonight, young un.” OH NO! After ingesting approximately eight pounds of cloven hoof and numerous slices of pie (strangely, there is a huge similarity between these Texas relatives and Jewish mothers. “Eat already; show me you love me and then eat even more!”), I learned we were off to a rodeo. That’s right, with a belly stuffed full, it was now time to go sit amongst the tantalizing aroma of cow and horse poop. YIPPEE!

Turns out, the rodeo was just a ruse to introduce me to some rodeo roper’s widowed dad. Things are NOT looking good at this point. He’s about 90 years old and has his britches hitched up to the armpits of his plaid western shirt, but he was kind enough to remove the piece of hay he was chewing on to his pocket upon our introduction. True sign of a Southern gentleman. After me yawning and apologizing profusely about 1200 times, my uncle announced at 10:30 that the real fun was yet to come. “Squire dancing”, that’s right, darlin. We’re goin squire dancing right now!” You truly have not lived until your jet lagged, exhausted self, stuffed full of BBQ and cow poopy aromatherapy, is subjected to being twirled around at high speed on a slippery dance floor in an 88 degree barn, while having Dough SEE Dough shouted in your disbelieving ears. On the trip back to the ranch, in another overstuffed Ford F150, I felt the sting of impending tears as I contemplated a future with no subscriptions to “Vogue” or “In Style”, and frocks like this one, by that famous fashion designer Laura Ingalls, hanging in my closet. 

Yep, good times on my first day “Home”. That was a walk in the corral compared to what was to follow.

Stay tuned, pardners!

The Disappearance of Weighty Katie #106

September 26, 2012
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Kiss my grits 30 lbs! Not sure where they disappeared to, but I celebrate bidding them adieu.

I was always scrawny as a stick until my mom became terminally ill in 2009. Getting up at 3AM to get to my office to work four hours, grabbing a breakfast sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit to wolf down on the hour and a half drive to her hospital to be there for doctor rounds, swallowing whatever garbage the hospital cafeteria offered up (why aren’t these institutions paragons of whole and healthy food?), and coming home so beat that wise food choices weren’t even an option…guaranteed recipe for disaster. Bring on the bacon nachos and devil dogs, with wine chasers please. Then one day I woke up, looked in the mirror and stared into the unfamiliar face of Weighty Katie.

Weight Watchers started me on the road to recovery, but they pushed too many packaged, processed products for my liking, so I ditched them and went it alone.
Walking four miles a day, usually on the beach, hitting the gym four times a week for weight training, yoga twice a week, and a bit of Zumba for good measure; these were my tickets out of Tubbyville. I stopped eating anything that was prepackaged or processed. If it comes in a box or plastic, it does not enter my mouth. I have become an organic whole foods advocate, and boy, have the results been worth it. Every week I walk into my huge closet and pull out beautiful dresses, blouses, or jeans I couldn’t even zip up two years ago. And they fit, easily ! Free shopping and a brand new wardrobe. Bye bye three sizes! You are gone for good unless I have another terminally ill loved one.

For anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight, where exactly does it go? Did I lose part of an upper arm somewhere on Interstate 95? Did a chunk of thigh leap off into the sand one day while I was walking on the beach? Where does this mess disappear to? Is there a special resting place for discarded bodily molecules, and if so, do they all need therapy due to their perpetual state of rejection? Deep thoughts to ponder.

I will be disappearing in another way as well, at least temporarily.  I have decided to move back to Nowhere Texas to live near family. Things always come full circle. Who would have thunk it? I will be safe there, amidst my gun-totin, ammunition-laden, militia-joining, highly protective male relatives. They just love to shoot weasels and other vermin.

I will be busier than a one-legged dog with fleas for the forseeable future. Locating a new casa in the beautiful Texas hill country, finding the perfect job, and reconnecting with my past life are going to be consuming my universe. I will be absent from this blog for a bit of time, though I will be keeping up with all of yours; I will need the giggles.

My lifeboat has finally reached that distant shore. I can’t wait to disembark and discover the exciting future that I know is waiting. A special thanks to Donna T. and all the wonderful workers at Caroline’s House who took me into their shelter and gave me courage and hope when I felt I had neither. Ladies, you were all right; fractured Cinderellas CAN be put back together again, just like Humpty Dumpty. God bless your generous hearts. Keep up your good work.

Now I’m off to return to my past and channel my inner Twiggy. Bring on those size 8′s!

Besties #105

September 3, 2012
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Well, the day has arrived. After nineteen months of living a nightmare, I have finally sailed my life raft to that distant shore. I’m stepping out of my tiny vessel on the shaky legs of a newborn colt. Looking back at the raging sea I have just crossed, it’s hard to believe I survived this journey.

None of my rescue and resurrection would have been possible without my amazing circle of long-time girlfriends who manned the oars.

For Marilyn, Dixie, Cathy, Tammy, Barbara, Elaine, Natalie, Tora, and Lou, hugs and gratitude for getting me to that police chief, into a women’s shelter, for propping me up financially, for keeping my pets with five minutes notice. For taking days off work to hold my hand and dry buckets of tears.  For holding back my hair while I puked up rivers of rage and regret. For graciously allowing me to be a never-ending houseguest while I tried to sort out the mess I’d gotten myself into. For driving me to my support group, attorney, and court when I was shaking too badly to get a key in the ignition. And a special thanks to the incredible network of fellow bloggers. Your words of cheer and encouragement got me out of bed on days when there was no other reason to.

Someday, in this lifetime or the next, I will pay this forward, because how can you truly thank someone for saving your life and allowing you to reclaim your soul?

Soon I come full circle when I board a plane back to my beginning. Nowhere Texas, here I come.

An Ex Con and the Uninvited Guest #105

July 30, 2012
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It’s  a wonderful world when you have an ex-husband keeping you in stitches while you are trying to divest yourself of your current one. Jack, my handsome Prince Charming, has been regaling me with all kinds of recollections of our hysterical eight years together. This one broke through the cobwebs of my memory when he reminded me of a mouse in the kitchen of our NYC penthouse.

Hoppin John and the Party Poopers” tells the story of how we found our little waterfront bungalow on Long Island in 1981, complete with all manner of critters inhabiting it. Months later, the ground had thawed and we were ready to have central heating and air installed. For technical reasons I can’t recall, the only viable way to do this was to have a giant tunnel dug under the house so that the duct work could be placed. No matter how hard he searched, our contractor couldn’t find anyone willing to crawl on his back in the August heat and dig out these trenches amongst the spiders and God knows what else living under there.

One day he triumphantly announced he had found a live and willing body who would do this for $500; that was the good news. The bad news was that the man had just gotten out of prison and desperately needed work, any work. We cautiously agreed and spent our nights praying we wouldn’t be found murdered in our beds. The project was moving along, when one early pitch-black Monday morning, the  alarm shrilled that it was time to get ourselves on the L.I.E. and back to our jobs in NYC. Half asleep, I stumbled out of bed and crossed the hardwood floors of our bedroom to fumble for the light switch. Suddenly I heard a scratching noise and something EXTREMELY heavy, furry, and with huge claws ambled over my right foot. When the lights came on we saw that a huge possum had gotten into the house and had come casually sauntering out of my closet at the same moment I crossed the floor.

This thing was gigantic, with curved talons and wicked teeth. It didn’t look like it was interested in making our acquaintance. Jack and I were screaming at the top of our lungs, and running to and fro trying to find anything with a long handle to banish him, while staying out of his way. “You have to do something. Get him out of here!” Poor Jack was as sleepy and freaked out as I was and kept shrugging his shoulders, saying “What should I do?” We certainly didn’t want to smash him to bits on our brand new hardwood floors, so shooing him out seemed the least homicidal option. Jack wasn’t moving with the gusto I thought the situation required, so, as he scooted the critter through the living room door into our screen porch, I slammed the door behind him and locked it.

Image courtesy of forums.penny-arcade.com

He pleaded for me to let him back into the house while he held Possum Boy at bay with a broom. “We could just leave him here and when we get back Thursday night he’ll probably to dead.”

Visions of the damage those claws and teeth could do to our newly stripped and repainted walls and windows and our beautiful porch furniture made this a bad option. “Jack, you are not getting back through this door until you get that thing out of our house!” The look on his face was priceless as he realized that, prior to battling the legendary traffic on the Long Island Expressway for the next three hours, he would first have to exile this creature to the back yard. I was bent over double laughing at the Jack/Possum ballet that played out before me, until finally, half an hour later, the deed was done.

Turns out our ex-convict had not closed off an opening from the crawl space into the house. God knows, we could have had an entire Noah’s Ark in there with us before the weekend was finished, so I guess just one possum really wasn’t sooo bad.

My sweet friend Sheila Waters posts witty and amusing daily quotes on her Facebook page. Sheila is the possessor of the ghosts in “The Empty Swing” story I told you at Halloween. Today’s quote is unusually timely:

Don’t let negative and toxic people

rent space in your head.

Raise the rent and

kick them out.

Tune in next time for “The Disappearance of Weighty Katie”.

Feature photo from marriedandflirtingchat.com

Match.con #104

July 25, 2012
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I could only ruefully shake my head when I heard that the Aurora theatre shooter, James Holmes, was on Match.com. I’m sure it would have been Ted Bundy’s favorite trolling ground as well, had it existed in his time.  How many others are on that site right now, others who haven’t yet imploded on our 24/7 news feeds?

While I am sure there are a great number of folks who have found that special someone through internet dating, I would like to add a tiny whisper of caution; things aren’t always what they seem.  Before internet dating, there were personal ads. I know; I met my deceased husband through one he placed in New York Magazine in 1987. This was an upscale and quite respectable publication, but my friends were highly skeptical. “How do you know he won’t be some psycho or pervert, or serial killer? What if he kidnaps you and holds you captive, rapes you, and then murders you and your body is never found?”

I assured them I had some hard and fast and non-negotiable rules in place, and that I had no fear whatsoever. They were hard to convince. I met and dated many men, some wealthy, some famous, some just regular Joes. Nothing different from going on a blind date really, other than, in that case, they always had someone to vouch for them; they were who they said they were. Not always the case on Match.con.

My experiences with dating through personal ads came to a halt when I met the man I would be married to for eighteen years. I spent the first month cataloging all the things wrong with him and trying to fix him up with all my available acquaintances. He was just too tall, too skinny, too blond, too blue-eyed, too, too, too. But after that first month I began to see the potential in a steady mate who wanted the same three kids I wanted, STAT. Cape Cod cottage with a white picket fence and ivy twining through the brick, climbing roses, and paddling pools in the backyard. No pyrotechnics, but steady and seemingly decent. I figured after my eight years of story-book romance with Jack, no one else could ever measure up, so why not just accept his proposal and settle into a stable, predictable life? After all, I’d had my Prince Charming, and like all moronic princesses, I’d let him go, so really what more could I hope for at age thirty-five?

After nine months of dating, I met all thirty of Rob’s Scottish clan at Christmas and they had me at hello; they cinched the deal, and forced that gold band onto my finger. They were the family I’d always dreamt of, always yearned for throughout my dysfunctional Elvis Daddy childhood. They were a Norman Rockwell painting and I wanted to leap onto the canvas. I don’t hold the personal ads responsible for Rob’s subsequent mental breakdown and suicide; we had some thirteen good years together before his meltdown and inevitable demise.

After eighteen months of gloomy widowhood, my coworkers devised a plan to get me on Match.com or eHarmony, “Just to get you back in the human race again. Go out to dinner once a month, smile sometime, have some fun”. I acquiesced to get them off my back, and that is a decision I regret to this day, a decision I will probably bear the consequences of until the day I die, which could be sooner rather than later.

The men on these sites have license to say and pretend to be anyone they choose; truth and sincerity are not  prerequisites. Beware of oozing charm and love declared much too soon. Once they worm their way into your family and your pocketbook, you are doomed. If such a critter crosses your path and you just can’t resist, for God’s sake women, take him to a hotel, tie him to the bed for two years, screw him until near death, then shake hands and walk away. A couple of nice Hollywood air kisses are allowed upon parting. DO NOT MARRY THE BASTARD WHATEVER YOU DO!  Let this be a cautionary tale for women everywhere hoping to meet their Prince Charming online.

NEVER FORGET

You are not a fool for trusting someone who lied to you.

They are the fool for lying to someone who trusted them.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to get away with temporarily,

And the hardest thing to recover from permanently.

Please don’t let it change you.

There are already way too many of them

And far too few of you.

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