On to 2015!

We've chosen to spend a quiet New Year's Eve at home this year, probably only the second or third time for me since 1989. I have to admit, it's nice and it allows me a little time to reflect on 2014 and how I want to do some things differently. Something tells me 2015 is going to be very different than any year so far.

Thank you for continuing to read my posts, and may your year ahead be absolutely grand!


Christmas Polar Bear Cake

In my web searches this holiday season, I found a cake that's similar to this and thought, "Hey, I can make that!" Inside, though, I was afraid it might turn out like those awful Pinterest "Nailed it!" fails that people post in Facebook. I thought I'd give it a try anyway and this is the outcome. I opted for snowflakes instead of polka dots and a round shape instead of square. It was a lot easier than I anticipated. Although I'd never worked with fondant before, I'm really pleased with the outcome! So much, in fact, I'm going to make more cakes in 2015. Watch out, friends and family, when your birthday comes around!

Guess I should add that the cake itself is a gingerbread cake with seedless strawberry jam between the layers.


We'll Phone You

I love how my worst nightmares about the holiday season aren't coming true this year. Since about 2002 the prospect of gift and feast buying has sent me into a cold sweat, but things are, as they say, looking up and I'm ready for the hoopla that is Christmas. The house is festive with decorations, the pantry is full with the ingredients for various holiday treats, gifts are beginning to appear beneath the tree, and we're looking forward to the arrival of our two daughters from NYC and Memphis, respectively. The only unhappy thing is that our son, Nathan, can't join us this year. As a chef at Chicago's Fairmont Hotel, he's sort of up to his neck in preparing meals for other people (we have yet to receive the benefit of his culinary expertise).

Dare I say it? Things are great and there's a certain vibe in the air that this is just the beginning of even better things to come. Does this mean we passed the audition?


Cottage Cats

Lowrider & Mozie
We have two cats here at Bookends Cottage. Lowrider has been with us since 2007 when she was given to us by a neighbor at St. Michael's and Mozie, a kitten we adopted during the summer of 2012. Actually, Lowrider adopted Mozie after he was orphaned at the wee age of about five weeks. She was a good stepmother for a long time, but now she can't stand him and I think she regrets having taken him in. I took over the job of taming him, which took about two weeks of constant coaxing with food and the blinky eye cat thing, and now he's the most affectionate cat I've ever had the pleasure to know. At least with our family. As soon as anyone else appears, he's out the cat flap. Both of our cats are what I call "indoor-outdoor" cats as both of them were born feral.

"It's 5 o'clock. Feed me."
One of Lowrider's quirks is that she wants to be outside most of the time, regardless of the weather. She comes in only at dinner time after sitting on the little table outside the large kitchen window, staring in as if to say, "It's 5 o'clock. Feed me." Daylight savings time doesn't seem to faze her; she always there at five, sharp. She even prefers to sleep outside, even on the coldest nights, but I have no idea where. I always leave one of the garage doors cracked so that she can get in out of the cold, and she knows where the cat flap is and how to use it. Still, she stays outside unless it's raining, when she comes in, begrudgingly, to sleep on the counter in the master bathroom. Silly cat. There is soft, cozy furniture in our house. Before Mozie joined our family, Lowrider slept on the bed with us nearly every night during the cold months. Why his appearance should change this I don't know, because he doesn't sleep with us.

Mozie sleeps in the house most of the day, moving from the window seat in our bedroom to the leather chair beside the piano and then to the antique chair in the living room. After dinner, he begins his sprint in and out the cat flap, sometimes using it as often as every five or ten minutes. In, out, in out... I can't image what hell life would be if I hadn't installed that lifesaver. He finally settles in the antique chair about 2am when Nigel can be relieved from his duties as Cat Flap Sentry. Having decided he's too grown up for his crate, Nigel now sleeps in the maroon wing back.

Feel free to add your own caption
And lest you think these pictures are evidence that I'm a cruel cat mom because I kept the cats outside in the cold, they wanted to be there. I let them in a number of times, but they always wanted back out. And they do have a cat flap, after all. Silly cats.



This year we're giving ourselves a two-week break between the cooking and washing up of Thanksgiving and the decorating for Christmas. We usually like to do this the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but after everything that's happened since October, we just haven't had it in us to care. But the spirit of the season is beginning to tickle our toes and we've agreed to just do it.

Of course, what with summer stuff brought in out of the weather and two girls moving out-of-state leaving 30-gallon trash bags, cardboard boxes, and plastic bins of clothes, shoes, purses, and bottles of half-used product with us, getting to the Christmas boxes is going to be a major project. This means that, although I'll be hauling the boxes in (and out) on Saturday, I'll also be freezing my tush off blazing a trail to just get to them (which also means tearing down empty boxes and going through everything to sort the usual "keep, donate, or trash" specifications. It also will require me to lower the attic ladder and haul crap up there. This will be both exhausting and dangerous because I'm an old lady and cannot be trusted not to fall and break a hip.

See the boxes against the wall, beneath the dart boards? Those are the Christmas boxes. Once upon a time the garage was orderly and uncluttered, but now we can't even park one of the cars in it. All this must be changed this week, not only so we can get to the boxes, but also so that the cars can be pulled in before the snow season hits. Many trips to the city recycling dumpsters and thrift shops will be made this week.


The reward is the weekend of January 16-18 when we'll be staying at Tenkiller Ferry Lake, about 150 miles from here, in a lovely three-bedroom house that a friend has generously offered to us. Just Lynette, Nigel and me, no internet, no phones, just three days of R&R. All I'm taking in the way of "work" is my guitar and my journal in case a song comes to me. The anticipation of this mini-vacation / honeymoon sustains us and provides the incentive we need to get through the holidays. We haven't been able to afford going away alone with each other—even for an over-nighter—since 2001. I even had to text Lynette to find out when that was. That's how long it's been.

Now, that really gives me incentive!


Letter to Santa

As soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were washed, my mother used to start poking us to make out our letters to Santa, which actually were no more than small wish lists held to the fridge door with magnets. These were mostly silly, with things like "a Ferrari RX7" or "a house in England" scribbled along with "knee socks" and "a new coat". These days, we have Amazon wish lists, but I admit I miss reading the cute notes my own kids stuck to the fridge door when they were growing up. I've tried to bring this tradition back, but getting people to pick up a pen for any reason is pretty nearly impossible anymore.

This year, I'd decided that I really din't need or want anything, but now that it's Thanksgiving Eve (and regardless of yesterday's post) I'm beginning to feel the ever so tiny awakening of the holiday spirit. Here, then, is my Christmas wish list for 2014.

  1. Knee socks. Yes, I really, really need them. The crazier, the better.
  2. A new battery for my Toshiba laptop.
  3. A new laptop, for that matter!
  4. A big, cozy sweater. BIG. Actually, any man's sweater from Ross will do. Medium.
  5. Union Jack Hunter-Wellies. SERIOUSLY. Size US-7, please (need room for socks!).
  6. ANYthing Union Jack, actually.
  7. Cherry burst Les Paul and a Pignose.
  8. Pillar candles of any sort.
  9. Soaps of any kind. I especially like goat milk or linen/cotton. Nothing flowery.
  10. Teas, teas, teas! Loose or bags, I don't care.
  11. How about a 2014 Jeep Wrangler?
  12. A pair of basic Converse. Size 6.
  13. Any item on my Amazon Wish List.
  14. And yeah, that house, but now I want this one in Spain.


A Little Above the Madness

It's proving a bit difficult to get into the holiday spirit this year. What with the recent shit tsunami and my health's reactions to it, it's hard to remember all the things for which I should be thankful. I'm mostly thankful for bad things that didn't happen. We might have had one less plate on the table this year, possibly even two. Gratitude for the upcoming harvest feast, then, has been completely overshadowed by the fact that I'm just thankful no one's dead. It's no wonder Woody Allen movies hold a certain appeal just now. I totally get that pathos. If this sounds a bit obscure and disjointed, welcome to my "new normal". My perception of things around me has gotten as bad as my eyesight. Everything's a bit blurred and nebulous, kind of like looking through a glass shower door when the water's running down it.

Added to the obvious trauma was an unexpected onslaught of old issues and hurts from over a decade ago. When Nettl and I had our Holy Union ceremony in 2001, we were flung against the prejudices and judgments of religious family members who opposed our "lifestyle". Many of these people were pulled back into our life just a week after our actual wedding on October 24th, and they picked up right where they left off. This was cruel beyond belief and I don't mind saying so publicly. It has been a time of deep introspection and self-analysis and I've been able to keep a little above the madness by asking myself what I'm supposed to learn from it all, what lessons are in there, and  how can they bring me to a better understanding of not only myself, but also of the people I love. But continually pressing myself to take the higher road and to look beyond my own fears and frustrations so that I might respond through love and compassion has been much harder than coping with the actual situation. I've learned a lot, though, and I suppose that's something to be thankful for.

I've learned who I can rely on when things get tough, and who I cannot. I've learned that true friends are few and acquaintances are legion. (One friend, Jacey, although she's a brand new mother, came all the way up from Oklahoma City to bring us dinner one evening and let us dote on her baby, Archer, which was ever so healing.) These people, these examples of what friendship really is, are what I'm thankful for. I've learned that total strangers will step up and lend a hand more readily than will people who profess to be a friend, that Good Samaritans are just that. Kind and compassionate strangers, people who brought us meals, made unsolicited runs to the wine store, dropped by to see how we were doing, or left a voice mail just to say they were thinking of us. Most of them I'd never met, didn't even know their names, but they were there for us. They sustained us when we couldn't do it for ourselves. That's what I'm thankful for.

That, and the fact that nobody's dead.


It Doesn't Really Matter Anymore

"When it came time to do the occasional song of mine—although it was usually difficult to get to that point—Paul would always be really creative with what he'd contribute. For instance, that galloping piano part on While My Guitar Gently Weeps was Paul's and it's brilliant right through this day. And you just have to listen to that bass line in Something to know that, when he wanted to, Paul could give a lot. Look, the thing is, so much has been said about our disagreements. It's like, so much time has lapsed, it doesn't really matter anymore." George Harrison

I have a friend whom I wish felt this way. We're getting older now, and carrying a cross around gets heavier with each passing year. I tossed mine to the side of the road a long time ago. I wish she could, too.


WTF Unsettled

Until I feel less unsettled and a little more sure of WTF life is up to, I've decided to make this blog as uncomplicated as I can without it being completely boring to look at. I need an undemanding, uncluttered environment just now, and I found that I didn't want to blog due to the artistic demands of my last design. So this is what you get.

As you see, I've removed all posts pertaining to our recent tsunami here at the cottage. She was found. She left on her own. She's doing WTF she wants to do. That's the end of that, for now.

To say that all of this hasn't taken its toll on me (it's taken its toll on all of us, especially Nettl, but this is my space where I get to talk about myself—no disrespect or minimizing intended) would be dishonest as well as out-and-out stupid. People know better. Given my health issues and my age, I would have to be made of stone for it not to flatten me, but I'm doing better than I might have predicted. I've discovered I have an iron will where survival and not falling prey to other people's bullshit is concerned. Throughout the ordeal I felt a little out of the loop, though. A step-parent is a step-parent, after all, but I think it was a good thing. If I'd been given the hundreds of well-wishes and comments that Nettl got in Facebook, I might have absorbed the whole mess a lot more and would be in bed right now nursing a thyroid burnout like never before. I also would not have been able to be strong for her when she needed me most, so I've decided that being overlooked was a good thing and exactly what had to be. No hard feelings where that's concerned, but I admit I'm experiencing a lot of resentment where the short-lived euphoria of our wedding week is concerned. That joy, simply put, was hijacked and held hostage. After waiting and working for 15 years to be granted the freedom to marry, having that joy so cruelly stolen from us is something that will take me a long time to forgive. If I speak too plainly, I'm sorry, but the truth needs to be said and after this post I won't mention any of it ever again.

There's also the Wicked Witch of the West issue that always arises when a crisis hits us. She peers into her magic ball and sends out her flying monkeys to kick me when I'm down. Every. Frickin'. Time. This blog ands the page I'd set up to find our missing daughter were crawled by her IP about every 30 seconds of every day. Site crawler extensions are easy to install via Firefox (which is the browser she uses) and she racked up literally hundreds of hits on my Statcounter reports. Pathetic, especially since she's been creepy-crawly me for 12 years now. What a waste of the short time she's been given on this planet. But you know, I quit being intimidated by her a long time ago. Bite my ass. I just installed a redirect script and until she learns how to change her IP, she can't get in here. And if she does learn how to do that, I'll just add that IP to the code. Hell, I can block the whole of Germany if I want to. Meantime, thanks for increasing my hit counts.

WTF ever.

Now, it's time for me to get back to what life was, although I know that's not realistic. But I can do my Alla Breve work, I can go back to writing my memoirs and I can get back to my album. I can stand with Nettl to make the upcoming holidays as happy as possible with or without a houseful of grown kids regardless of their reasons for not being here. We'll have three—my two sons and Nettl's eldest daughter. Her son will be busy at his job as a chef at Aria in the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. Don't ask me about the youngest daughter because I don't know. Hey, three out of five isn't bad!
UPDATE: Things got much better very quickly after receiving a phone call from our girl. This alone healed so many places in me and the anger and resentment are much diminished. In fact, I think they're morphing into a kind of "Glad that's over" exhalation.


Guitars, Biscuit Cans, and Champagne

Restringing my guitars has always been my least favorite thing about being a guitarist, especially when the guitar is a 12-string. It's not only time-consuming, it's stressful. It can even be dangerous. On my personal anxietyometer it scores even higher than opening a biscuit can or a bottle of champagne.

You know. Those biscuit cans by Pilsbury. The ones that require you to peel the paper label off and you never know when the cardboard can is going to pop open. Sometimes they do, if the pressure is higher than usual, and sometimes they don't and you have to press the edge of a spoon into the seam to force it open. Used to be, they never opened until you banged the can on the edge of the kitchen counter, but these days nothing's consistent.

Champagne bottles are the same. Most corks won't pop out until you twist the bottle a bit. (I learned the trick to perfect bottle openage from a pro years ago: tilt the bottle 45 degrees, cover the top with a cotton dish towel and twist the bottle, not the cork, slowly, and gently ease it out, allowing the pressure to escape a little at a time, thus, no spewing, no waste, no mess.) But sometimes, the cork will go flying the second you loosen the bale. I've seen this happen any number of times—the ceiling of our house on James Place probably still bears the mark of one cork and on another occasion I saw a friend receive a black eye from one. And on her birthday no less.

Life is dangerous, people. Shit happens.

Yesterday, I got a new set of Martin Silk & Steels for my Luna 12-string. It being my first time to restring this beauty, I had no idea what to expect. The scariest string is the 6th string—the octave G, which is actually just an E tuned up to either F, or, in my case, G. That's a lot of pressure to put on the most delicate string of the 12. I can't count how many times in the past, on other guitars, this string has snapped while I tuned it up. I used to buy an extra just in case, but this being a high-quality, custom instrument, I exercised a little faith. The only real mishap was when I removed the old 10th string (octave A) and the curly bit that came off of the tuner lunged into my thumb like a fish hook. No matter what I did, it wouldn't dislodge and my thumb is still bruised. After putting a Band-Aid on it, I got back to work and everything went really well.

My usual method of restringing a 12-string is to remove and replace one string at a time so as not to  release too much pressure on the neck; a 12-string bears up to 200 lbs. of tension and if a string snaps, it can do a lot of damage if it connects with a sensitive body an eye. I start with the bottom strings—the heavier ones, E, A and D of which there are two each, one high and one low—then go to the top E and B (also two each, but the same gauge), saving the Gs in the middle of the neck until last. I don't know if this is the right way or not, but it's always worked for me when the time came to confront that tiny little 6th string.

They all went on great and they all tuned up smoothly with little to no slipping beneath the pegs, but to be safe I decided to tune it to D and let it sit overnight before taking it on up to E. Because of the superior truss rod in the neck of this guitar and the fact that the strings I bought are light gauge, I don't foresee any problems. Luna makes excellent instruments. Pilsbury, as well as a couple of champagne labels, could take a few lessons.


The Secret to Great Writing

I'm fed up with all of the writing rules and tips people post all over Facebook, Twitter, and the web in general. It's art. It's craft. It's personal expression. It's called INDIVIDUALITY. When that 30-Something is me and has walked in my shoes (or even their own, for that matter) for six decades, maybe I'll listen. Until then, I'll write my way, according to my rules and my own internal prompts. The magic key is a myth, people. There is no secret formula, no rule or ritual that will make you a great writer. Quit allowing these would-be geniuses to make you feel like you're not "doing it right" and just frickin' write. That's the only advice you should listen to: "Just write."


When Old Farts Marry

I've been married twice before. Once when I was 18 (which ended with my being widowed eight months later) and once when I was 23 (which ended in divorce after three and a half years). Since 1977 I've shied away from marriage; the cruel realities of it had visited themselves rather harshly on me far too early in life. When I met Lynette marriage just wasn't in the realm of possibility so I never even considered it. I never needed that "piece of paper" to strengthen my commitment to her and our blended family, or to ourselves as a couple and our life together. In 2001 we had a Holy Union ceremony and that was good enough for me. It had to be. Then, earlier this month, Marriage Equality was passed in our state and we decided to take the plunge. We already felt married, but making it legal would grant us all the privileges and protections other couples take for granted as their inherent rights. I know. I did too when I was younger. It wasn't until I realized I'd forfeit my equality that I appreciated all that was wasn't open to me anymore. So two weeks ago we began planning a wedding ceremony to be performed here at Bookends Cottage in the presence of our closest friends and family members.

I don't care what anyone tells you. To plan and prepare an in-home wedding and reception is hard work and it's expensive. Unless you're under 50 and can afford food caterers and a team of people to come in and clean, rearrange furniture, decorate, and then undo everything afterward, my advice is DON'T DO IT. If you can afford a catered affair at a restaurant, a hotel, or some other place, do that instead. But that wasn't practical in our situation. We simply couldn't afford it. Instead, I did all the cleaning, Lynette decorated and did most of the errand-running, and we had a friend who volunteered to help with the food, including the gorgeous cupcakes she and her daughter made. But there was furniture to move, clutter to remove (books, plants, dog toys, etc.), and the house to clean from top to bottom.

On Friday morning we went to the courthouse to get our marriage license and on the way up the sidewalk I tripped and fell flat on my face. I mean, on my actual face. I had scuff marks on my nose and chin, my hands were bloody and I wrenched my right shoulder, but I was damned lucky. Lying face-down on the sidewalk in shock, all I could think was, "Oh, man, I hope I didn't break a hip or something and we'll have to hold the wedding in the hospital..." Lynette helped me up and, fortunately, everything except my dignity seemed to be intact. Makeup covered the scuff marks, some bandage took care of my hands and, later, champagne took care of the rest and everyone had a wonderful time. Until the next morning when I could hardly move and I knew there was no way the house was going to get put back in order anytime soon. Then, while moving the TV into the bedroom and plugging it in, Lynette gave herself a mild concussion. What a pair! She was dizzy all day and I hurt all over. Still, we had a restful, enjoyable day napping, nibbling on leftover party food and drinking champagne. In fact, we spent the entire weekend in bed, but oh, how these things change when age sets in.

The house is somewhat normal now, but moving the furniture back, hauling boxes in and out of the garage, vacuuming, and putting all the gifts away is going to have to wait until my shoulder is better. Honeymoon? What's that? When old farts marry the closest we get to a honeymoon is rubbing Icy Hot on each other while cooing, "Don't worry, sweetheart. We need to conserve our strength for the cleanup."


It's All About.Me

Unlike almost everyone I know, it took me a while to warm up to most of the social networks I now use. Twitter especially made me scratch my head. I'm still not sure I get it, but I spend a little time there every day, although I feel sort of alone and isolated, like I'm standing on a mountain top shouting only to receive echos in return. This weekend, however, I discovered a new one that I'm really enjoying, although I don't really know why. There's no chat, no feeds and no status updates, no games, no photo albums and no 20 gazillion birthday greetings to read and respond to.

It's called About.Me and you can check it out by clicking the ME button over there on top of the left sidebar. I think what I like about it is that it's so uncomplicated. Big background photo, bio, links, and linked screen captures of all the other MEs who like your page and whose pages you like for whatever reason. I admit I kind of wish it could be customized a little more, but they may get around to that in time. Its purpose? It's a place for people who don't want to be bothered with the labor, knowledge, and expense of either building their own site, or contracting a web developer.

We'll see what happens with About.Me. I like getting in on the ground floor of things like this if only to witness either their success or their demise. I remember BBS, Qlink, AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve and MySpace. I can't remember the names of all the SNs I've tried. Will About,Me make it? I don't know. These days, people look for the next Facebook like people in the Seventies looked for the next Beatles. I don't think About.Me is it, but it seems to be gaining popularity very quickly.


Making the Cut

Sometimes, you just have to make a change. I've been a particular person—perhaps I should say I've been in a particular phase—for the past five years or so, one during which I saw my 50s sliding away, taking middle age with them and forcing me to look my senior years in the face without flinching. This isn't easy for some people. It wasn't terrible for me, but I did have a hard time adjusting to no longer being attractive in a younger woman sort of way. I'm quick to add, however, that when the five year phase began I was seriously ill and my creativity had been dried up for well on 15 years. Hanging onto my youth was all I had left. Fortunately, over time, a combination of writing and taking the right meds fixed me up, an improved physical and mental state that really took hold just the past year.

With that emergence from my dark period came a new sense of self-esteem and turning 63 last month was a breeze. A celebration. Still, I needed a physical change to commemorate that emergence. Being "attractive in a younger woman sort of way" gave way to simply wanting my physical appearance to match the changes I've come through, the strides I've made, and my newly discovered sense of self. So today I had my waist-length hair cut off.

Hairstylists love to see people like me walk in their doors. They live to cut off long hair. Today, as I sat in the chair the stylist at the next station said to my stylist, "You got the fun cut today!" She then apologized to her client, saying she didn't mean her cut and style wasn't fun.

Life is changing all of a sudden and I find myself standing on the brink of an exciting new future. Don't let anyone tell you getting older sucks. Even with health issues it's what we make of it.


Don't Lift the Lid

At some point over the summer I came to the conclusion that blogging about my personal writing process wasn't really all that interesting to people. I don't mean the cool things about writing—the source of inspiration, the origin of characters, et cetera—I mean the nuts and bolts of my current project. This would be entirely different if I were a famous author like, say Rowling or Gaiman, but let's face it. Until one reaches that level of popularity in this celebrity driven world, nobody really cares. One still has to prove one's writing as interesting enough to attract the curiosity of readers who ask, "What made her write that?" and "I want to do that. What's her secret?" I have a long way to go.

Every writer I know wants to be taken seriously, to be fascinating and to draw readers to their blog. We write to be understood, after all, and it's completely natural that we should want our blog to be the vestibule to our house of creativity. The problem is, I can sometimes get so focused on decorating my front steps that I neglect my parlor. Pretty welcome mat, dark and untidy  living room.

Many years ago, in 1971, when I was a professional Hollywood musician performing in concerts and television, I came up with a great idea for an album. It was a new idea at the time, one that Linda Rondstadt's people came up with a few years later: an album made up entirely of covers from the late Fifties and early Sixties. There was nothing like that out there yet; people were still creating new stuff and no one was looking backward at any kind of glory days. There were no glory days, they were still being made. I went to my manager and began to tell him about it.

"I've had a a great idea! I want to make an album of nothing but old songs from—"
"Don't tell me about it, just do it."
"Show me."

At the time, this came across as rude non-interest (maybe it was), and it shook me up a bit. Being of a sensitive, self-conscious disposition in those early years, I took it to mean that it was a bad idea, so I dropped it. Enter Rondstadt with Tracks Of My Tears (1975), That'll Be The Day (1976), Ooh, Baby Baby and Just One Look (1978), and string of other Oldies. I missed out on a great opportunity because what I really wanted was his validation for my idea and his praise for having come up with it in the first place. Instant gratification. Instead, I should have given him a proposal complete with budget, desired musicians and suggested cover art. But it was a different world back then. The record industry wasn't yet the corporate monster it is now. We had managers, not lawyers and accountants. And I was just a baby with no one to teach me the ropes.

I've since learned that people don't care about your ideas, really. I mean, friends may show a lukewarm tolerance for how much you go on about your book and other writers my seem interested, but until you have something to show, meh. They don't care that you've come up with the most romantic hero ever dreamed, or the most fascinating detective with the most absurd quirks. They want you to show them, not tell them. If the "show, don't tell" rule is true in the actual writing, it's certainly true in all other aspects of the craft.

But there's something in it for us, too. Our ideas, schemes, and the intricacies of creation are energy that's swirling around inside us. If we dissipate that energy—like lifting the lid on a pot of steaming rice—the real substance lessens. It loses something. that steam needs to be kept contained if we want to come up with a really tasty dish. In western paganism this is known as "building the magik" and that conical hat image is merely a symbol of how energy is built and stored and then, when it's reached its maximum power, is finally directed up the cone to a pressurized release through a tiny little hole, into the universe. That's much more powerful than being bareheaded and blasting off willy-nilly at the very first sign of steam. We must resist the need for a little appreciation if we want the applause of many. As I've said for many years, "I'm not settling for Hamburger Helper when I know there's a prime rib waiting."

So, unless I have something important to report to you about my latest book project, I won't be lifting the lid for anyone. No news is good news.

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak


Let Freedom Ring

After 14 years of shacking up, Nettl and I are finally getting married.

When I first came out in 1976 I never even considered marriage as an option. It was so far out there (and I was still such a hippie), I never considered marriage to anyone, female or male. But at the end of the millennium I started reconsidering things. Marriage? Yes, I was ready for that whole pipe and slippers thing... well, not the pipe, you understand. But even the idea of marriage wasn't open to me. Never had been, never would be. It wasn't a deal, I just accepted it like I accept that I'll never be able to publicly smoke a hookah in Cairo. It didn't bother me, it's just the way it was. That changed, however as the 2000's progressed and now, guess what? Marriage equality has been passed in Oklahoma.

What? Me surprised? Hell, yeah!

We had a holy union ceremony at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Tulsa on May 25, 2001, officiated by an ordained minister and everything. Family, friends, flowers, cake, attendants, the whole deal. Problem was, the papers couldn't be filed because for some reason we were not as equal as other natural-born citizens. Funny. I'd been equal all my life, but that equality was suddenly revoked when I fell in love with the wrong person. We got over it. We paid our taxes and paid into the system, we raised our young and we buried our elderly, but we were never entitled to the rights and privileges other Americans received. We simply weren't "created equal" anymore. But all that changed today. We are at last honest-to-goodness Americans, by golly. For me, it's mostly about taking care of that 14 year-old paperwork; I couldn't feel any more married than I already do.

Do you see that little bulge in my cheek? That's my tongue.

Anyway, the point of this is to announce that we will be heading to the courthouse on October 24th, after which we will come back to Bookends Cottage for one hell of a reception! If you're not on Facebook (where we created an event page) and would like to attend, email me via my Contact page and I'll send you the particulars.

If your marriage suffers on October 24th I'm truly sorry, but really, we have nothing to do with it. If we had that much power don't you think we would have used it by now?

The Season Falling Around Me

Every Fall, I wish I had a shredder-bagger like my dad's. Next weekend begins the usual between the heat of summer and the cold of winter manual labor that has become a ritual at Bookends Cottage. We have 9 old trees that drop their leaves every year, one of them an oak that is nearly 100 years old. It is the greatest offender in autumn, but you know I love it and the shade and contemplation it lends me in the warmer months. Still, being a California native I'm not all that work brittle where raking leaves is concerned. Well, I should say my back doesn't appreciate the job.

The other major chore on the agenda is cleaning out the garage so that no one has to scrape their car windows early in the morning. I don't know how it happens, but things grow out there. A bag of clothes becomes a dresser, a birthday gift bag becomes a stockpile of seasonal wrapping—you know how it is. And I never did find my winter clothes last autumn, which forced me to endure one of our coldest winters with just one sweater and no bulky socks. I'm not going through that this year; I'll find that bag or else. I'm older now and my body doesn't respond well to the cold.

That reminds me. I need to buy two electric blankets, one for me and one for Joel, whose body also reacts badly to waking up cold. I've been doing a bit of online window shopping and I think I can get a couple of reliable blankets (some that won't short out, thus causing a house fire in the middle of the night) for a little over $100. Yes, I comb through reviews!

With the signs of the season all around me, I look out the window at the crisp sky, the vivid colors, and the gently floating leaves and I sigh, "Ugh."


Paul Revere's Midnight Ride

If you grew up in the USA during the Sixties, it was impossible for you not to know of Paul Revere & The Raiders. From 1966 to about 1970 their hits were a constant on the Billboard Top 100, but most of us enjoyed our first exposure while watching Dick Clark's Where The Action Is in the afternoons after school. They were impossible to miss. It was more than their modified Revolutionary War era costumes (ooh, Mark Lindsay in those tights!), though. It was their showmanship, their humor, and certainly their music, but it also was their stage act, orchestrated by leader Paul Revere with his broad smile and slapstick antics. Yesterday, Paul Revere lost his battle with cancer at the age of 76, which is fitting since the band's image so doggedly adhered to the 1776 theme. This had to be Paul's last laugh, I suspect, and it makes me smile.

Make no mistake about it. Paul Revere formed a well-oiled, professional band and as members came and went all the way through today, he knew what made that band successful: rock-solid musicians, polished stage routines, all-out entertainment value, and a tried-and-true professionalism that's been lacking for decades. Paul was known as a warm, affable, generous, and kind man, but I suspect he also reigned supreme from behind his keyboards. He was a true leader and members who left did so usually due to artistic differences. That's okay. To be a Raider meant that Mr. Revere led the show. Please sign here.
"Generous to a fault with your family, your friends and your band, there seemed to be no limit to your kindness. When you turned your attention towards someone, you made that person feel special and in your spotlight. You had a pet name for each person, and you never hesitated to tell them how exceptional they were. You appreciated the talent, beauty, skills and uniqueness you found in others, and you were never shy about telling them so. All the more reason for people to feel wonderful in your presence." Paul Revere & The Raiders Official Website
Until the advent of heavier music by Jimi Hendrix and Cream in 1967, the Raiders were the only group to pull me away from my blind and blinkered worship of the Beatles. The songs on their albums were a diverse mix that covered everything from novelty rock to biker blues and although some songs could be a little kitschy, there were plenty of rockers to keep me listening for hours while I did my homework or sunbathed in the backyard.

It's a peculiar kind of grief we feel when someone like Paul Revere dies. In most cases we've never met them, much less known them personally, and in a lot of cases we haven't listened to their albums in ages, so why do we mourn? Truth is, their death presents us with a startling reminder that we too are mortal and that our time of departure is creeping ever closer. I won't go any deeper than that, however much I like to wax philosophical here, but I will conjecture that it is for our innocence that we grieve and when such a solid building brick like Paul Revere leaves, we recognize that our foundation of life as a human, and its false sense of security, is really only built on sand. Youth is done, middle-age is ending, and we have entered the final phase of this life.

Ride on, Paul Revere. We'll catch you on the flip side!

Paul Revere 1938-2014


Into October

Usually, I find September a month of release. Probably because it's my birth month, I think of it as a time of new beginnings and a renewed sense of possibilities—my own personal new year. I think I had exactly six hours of that exhilaration this year. Then the doo-doo started hitting the fan and made the past two weeks a constant exercise in determination. But all is not lost. Most of the fires were successfully put out and the restrictions and setbacks seem to have fallen by the wayside. Enter October.

Not only was yesterday what would have been the 88th birthday of my maestro, but we spent the evening at the Wings of Hope  "Metamorphosis" fashion show, where Nettl modeled a great outfit. She rocked it! For the first time, I saw her past experience as a tea room model back in the '80s come to life. The audience loved her! Wings of Hope is a family crisis center that provides safety, hope, and empowerment to victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. It also is where Nettl found a new and better job in August. Needless to say, we're both pleased and proud to be affiliated with them. (I include myself because they invited me to submit a website proposal; I'm now awaiting the outcome of that.)

Lynette rocks the leather!

What a great beginning to autumn! With a list full of projects that I'm enjoying and a head full of ideas for my current book, I'm looking forward to the season ahead. The darkening months are always creative for me and the idea of working while snuggled in sweaters and mukluks, the kettle always hot, excites me.

A New Direction, by Carol Francis


Beyond Walls

It always happens. Just when you finally get your writing mojo working, a wall suddenly juts up in your path. In my case it was my laptop's keyboard. Since last Friday it's been impossible to use. Dead, Jim. Ville told me to use the on-screen keyboard, which has been helpful, but it's gotten increasingly tedious and frustrating. Over the weekend I ordered a replacement keyboard, which should arrive sometime this week. In the meantime I can use Nettl's laptop during weekdays, which is a huge relief. Being back on a regular keyboard makes the on-screen version feel like chiseling words into stone.

I really missed writing over the weekend, usually my most productive days, so I'm planning to spend this afternoon in some quality Ass+Chair+Time mode. (Hat tip to Skinny Artist for that little turn of phrase.) Once I'm back on my own computer I'll have web work to get to; there are a couple of projects that wait, patiently, so until then I'm writing, Jack!

Here's a picture I took yesterday. After five years of failure, I've finally managed to create a tiny spot of my native California here in Oklahoma. It was a joy to see.

California Poppy


On Turning 63 Today

I am a woman full grown,
self-realized, self-actualized;
I am a woman full blown.
Don't feel the need to fight my age,
hide my face,
or fear turning the page.
I refuse to play dumb,
no longer a girl,
I don't wish to be young.
I will not play coy,
hide my light,
or swallow my joy.
No longer sexual prey,
no longer the huntress,
I live in the day.
I have time on my hands,
raised my young, buried my old,
now I'm free of demands.
I have wrinkles and I have scars,
my feet are tired,
so I reach for the stars;
No longer living on hold,
this life is mine and I
no longer fear getting old.
I am a woman full blown.
self-realized, self-actualized;
I am a woman full grown.


If it Sounds Like Writing

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” - Elmore Leonard


Angels Unawares

Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition (my mom's idea, not my dad's), I believed in prayer, intercession, guardian angels, and Jesus holding my hand. I prayed more than most kids my age and had what's called God experiences through that period in all kids' lives when different centers in the brain open up and begin to gel. I had a healthy relationship with my heavenly father, I believe, because I had a healthy relationship with my earthly father. Throughout my life I've observed that this often holds true with others as well. These days, however, I'm not sure where I stand on the God issue. Actually, I believe that anyone who claims to be agnostic is honest not only with themselves but with others and that people who say they know without a doubt that there is or is not a God are conversely dishonest; none of us know what the hell's going on. That's one of the Big Deals about being human. I begrudge no one for believing what they wish, but at least claim to believe something because it lends comfort or meaning, not because of some circular logic: "I believe in the Bible because the Bible tells me it's the infallible Word of God."


I Need a Monday

It has been a weekend of constant distraction and I've not been able to write even one word. My plan was to write all weekend as I did last week, but it just wasn't in the cards. I guess I'll claim my weekend tomorrow. No business dealings, no Alla Breve emails, no business-related phone calls. I really don't want to lose the momentum I'd built up, although this weekend I watched it recede with an alarming velocity. Best to call it back before it's completely washed out to sea.

It wasn't only work that kept jumping my creativity queue, it was putting out fires, worry, and a crushing three-day toothache. Vanilla swabs, Ibuprofen, and caramel Bailey's in my morning coffee and bedtime hot milk took care of the toothache and the worry, but it didn't address the fires. And now I'm out of Bailey's with no date in sight that I can get more...


The Beast With (at least) Two Heads

Creativity is a funny thing, although I can only speak for myself. I have no idea if it's true for anyone else, but in my experience it's an entity of its own with many arms and legs and possibly more than two heads.

It breathes and then holds its breath. It plays leapfrog with me. It entices and then becomes aloof. Sometimes it recedes until it's all but invisible and then it rushes toward me in a tsunami crush. It shrinks when tickled and then is all over me when it's ignored. But mostly it's unpredictable in a way that has become predictable...


Whichever Comes First

Lord, have mercy. You just never know how much whining, bitching, inane, pointless drivel you can come up with until you start going through 12 years of blog posts one-by-one. What's worse is that you don't just come up with it. Nooo... That's not enough. You have to go and lay it out on the Web for the world to read until the end of time, or until Blogger folds and is no more, whichever comes first...


On the Writing of a Memoir

I'm writing A Polite Little Madness in a way that I've never written before and I find the change energizing. Besides the writing style, or "voice" (which I'll get to in a minute), I'm using an entirely different approach as well as a different discipline, for want of a better word. The reason for this is, well, there was no real conscious reason, the book created its own voice, structure, and technique. During the note-taking phase, I realized I was employing virtually nothing of my past writing tools. This was new territory and I have to tell you, I dug it. I'm still digging it.

9 Weeks

My hiatus from blogging didn't last as long as I thought it would. I thought I'd return in six months or a year, if I returned at all. But a lot happened in that short 9 weeks. I guess I simply was ready for something different, because all of the important changes took only about two weeks. Looking back, I'm amazed at how quickly and easily everything fell into place.

First of all, I had to get my health under control. I finally reached a point where I was sick to death of being sick and, well, waiting for death. I quit identifying with this disease and focusing on it so much. I left the different online groups that are dedicated to it and I quit thinking and talking about it so much. Instead, I focused on being creative via poetry, journaling, photography, and a new book.

What set this into motion was that I was rushed to the hospital with what Nettl and I thought was a stroke. Fortunately, it wasn't, but my blood pressure was dangerously high and erratic. Because I have no health insurance and cannot work out in the world, I qualified for a program through which all of my medical care, hospital costs, tests, etc., are now covered 100%. It required that I do the usual paperwork, but I soldiered on through and got it done. I was determined to change my life.

Then, a massage therapist offered to give me regular treatments in exchange for a website and ongoing maintenance. She specializes in treating chronic illness and the elderly and also does energy and chakra work as well as personal counseling. What we've accomplished together is nothing short of miraculous. I'm completely off the narcotic pain killers and now take only my thyroid med and one anti-inflammatory every day, which means my prescription bills have gone down to just $45 a month. But the main thing is that I'm pain-free. I don't even take Ibuprofen. I'm active, cheerful, and most importantly, I no longer feel ill. Of course, I've had to make some grownup lifestyle changes, mostly having to do with diet and pacing myself, physically, but it's well worth it. I'll never go back.

So I guess giving up blogging for a couple of months was a good idea. I'm now ready to get back into it. Facebook doesn't offer anything where real writing is concerned; outside of the Notes feature, there's nowhere for me to write like I've always done here.

I'm looking forward to posting my thoughts this autumn and winter.

Photo: "Gash" Copyright © SK Waller, 2014



So I must confess, I do miss blogging here. After what was about a two-month hiatus, I find that I can't help myself. But don't expect miracles, okay? I want to tell you (although this isn't why I broke down and decided to post a blog entry) that I'm busily writing my memoirs, A Polite Little Madness. In fact, I've been writing like a fiend and I'm actually enjoying it. No sludge, no drudge, just joyous spillage. Maybe it primed my blogging pump, I don't know, but it's nice to see you again. At least, I hope you're still there.


Letting Go

I'm letting go of this blog for a while because, due to my health, I must choose my projects wisely. I used to be a great multi-tasker, full of excitement and ideas, but these days I have limited energy to spend and there are other things that I would like to dedicate myself to before I shuffle off of this mortal coil. Not that I'm going anywhere any time soon, mind you, but you get my meaning. Presently, these important things include writing music and writing books, and I'm planning on recording an album within a year's time. The archives will remain open, although I have already closed the comments. Anyone who really cares to keep in touch can follow me on either Facebook or Twitter. That's about all I can muster just now, I'm afraid. I hope I'll be back, but after 12 years of it I'm tired. If anything really exciting happens, I'll come back and let you know. And don't forget that this blog is part of my main website, where I post news items on the home page.

Thanks for everything!


Did You Know...

Unless you're a good and intimate friend of mine you wouldn't know that my very first aspiration in life was to be a jockey. I loved horses and, growing up on a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley and having lots of girlfriends who rode both dressage and western, it wasn't at all unusual that I should lean in this direction. I was never attracted to the local rodeo scene, however, with its barrel racing and such. I wanted the silks...


On With the Show

The crap storm that is my health has made my practice and self-identification as a writer rather a thing of the past of late. Not only has it affected my books, it has also waylaid my intention to be a better blogger and post at least one entry each week. Too, having lost everything I'd written (five chapters) of Beyond The Bridge's Book Three, With A Song, I was knocked to my knees with the thought of having to start all over. Energy is still at a premium, but things appear to be looking up.

After a terrified run to the hospital emergency room last Saturday evening due to hypertension spikes that reached up to 173/98, I was given a series of tests, which all came back fine. But that's chronic autoimmune disease for you. I could have told the doctors my heart and brain were fine and saved myself the bill. But ER doctors know nothing about this disease...


Aging With Style

Not Gloria Steinem,
although she's
beautiful, too.
"Every place I go I tell my age because it's a form of coming out." Gloria Steinem, aged 80.

Saying 60 is the new 50 isn't accepting 60, it's saying younger is better. And lying about your age is a form of self-loathing. It's ageist and sexist, besides. I'm 62 and I can tell you that outside of my own health issues (which many women don't have), younger is not better, younger is just... younger. Growing old gracefully isn't about submitting to an accepted set of standards of what Madison Avenue purports an older woman should be, or by giving up who we are and who we want to become. We're evolving beyond that. It's about continuing the ride we began when we were young and just staring out...


Life On a Limb

Some days are just like this. You get used to it, but not really. Usually I'm wrong, but it doesn't matter because whether I'm wrong or right I still feel like this. I know that anyone living with chronic illness goes through their share of days when they feel like a burden. When a good, energetic phase passes and they're right back where they were before and, besides their own coming-to-terms, they sense the disappointment in their family and friends. That's when it becomes work again. For everybody. But mostly for the one who's ill.

People get tired of carrying the load and of not enjoying a normal life. They have to vent to someone and it's better if it's not you, right? Trouble is, that leads to paranoid imaginings. You begin to imagine your doctor is tired of hearing you whinge and that anyone who once wanted to help has begun to reject you...


This is a Good Day

On rainy days like today, when everything is tinted grey and the streets are wet and quiet, I like to remain as still as I can manage. A full week of physical labor leaves me feeling not only satisfied, but grateful. In the past week I've tended established flower beds, planted new ones, taken care of some much needed fix-its around the house, and I've even painted the front porch floor. Normally, these things would have taken me months.

The week's exertions have left me a little tired and a little sore, but no more than any woman my age should expect and, where fatigue is concerned, well, there just isn't any. I go to bed feeling that satisfying tiredness of jobs well done and goals accomplished.

Today is a good day to dedicate to music and to do some web design work. I hope your weekend is wonderful!


In My Garden a Flower Grows

I had every intention of writing a long blog entry about the phases of womanhood, but something has happened that keeps me from spending a lot of time online, especially on this blog, which may or may not be a good thing. My health had taken such a dangerous turn, I finally had to bite the bullet and make an appointment with my doctor, something I can no longer do unless I'm really just frightened for my life. The lack of healthcare insurance and no money leftover in the budget for such "frivolous" a thing as a doctor appointment are just too daunting. Just to talk to her costs me $150 and that doesn't include treatment, lab work, or prescriptions. If I go see her, my family doesn't eat for a week. Welcome to America.
But lest you think this is an entry of "unpatriotic" faultfinding and whining, I move onward...


The Passing of a Great Soul - Maya Angelou

"If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded."

There's not a thing I can say about Maya Angelou that won't be said many times over today so I will leave it at this and allow her words to speak for her, just as they always have.



"We move with eyes shut and ears stopped; we smash walls where doors are waiting to open to the touch; we grope for ladders, forgetting that we have wings." Henry Miller


Time to Take Stock

I have the kind of mind that falls naturally into the understanding and use of metaphor. Even in the most casual of conversations you'll hear me say, "It's like..." I love metaphor as long as it isn't trite or obvious, and my health's sudden nose dive brought up a comparison that I really loved. Let me see if I can explain it to you.

You know, of course, that writers like myself create fictional worlds and characters. Sometimes these are representations of what already exists within the writer. I say sometimes because some writers create the exact opposite. If this isn't true, and some nightmarish worlds and evil characters exist inside other writers, I really don't want to know...