“TEXAS TOAST” PROLOGUE

stylish angel

Image courtesy of kimbiggio.com

Belton Texas 1958

The little girl’s grey eyes drifted off to the group of Brownies and troop leaders gathered around the cookout area half a football field away. No one so much as glanced in her direction. She knew if she wanted to make her move, she had to seize this moment. With heart racing, she quietly slipped into the aqua blue water and made a bee line for the massive ladder that lead to the hugest slide she had ever seen. Up and up, and still further up she climbed. If this went wrong she was in seriously deep doo doo, as her mom had warned her repeatedly earlier in the day not to venture to this part of the pool, but who could resist this? She paused for a brief moment while she gingerly parked her butt at the top of the scalding metal slide, savoring the delicious whoosh and thrill she knew she would feel on the wild ride down. She sighed as she realized she would have to admit this to Father at confession Friday, but some things are simply worth the price. She inhaled deeply as she pushed away from the sides of the slide and swooped down. My God, this was so worth it!

The adrenaline rush she felt as she hit the water was immediately followed by a sense of something very wrong. Where was the bottom of the pool? She began to sputter and choke in a blind panic as she realized she couldn’t gain the purchase necessary to propel herself back up to the surface of the water. Arms now flailing frantically in an attempt to grab hold of anything that would save her from this awful mess, the little girl realized her mistake and knew she was drowning.

As darkness began to swallow her, she suddenly felt herself being half lifted, half drug to the surface of the water by her armpits, where she was deposited against the rough concrete edge, which she clung to as if her life depended on it. Coughing, gagging, rivers of snot and water gushing from her nose as she gulped for precious air, she swooped her sodden hair from her face and glanced cautiously around to see who had rescued her, fearing it would be her mother, and knowing that a whipping with a belt would inevitably follow.

Instead there was a lady in a swimsuit, tall, quite pretty, with reddish brown hair and the kindest eyes she had ever gazed into. She didn’t know this lady, had never seen her before, in fact. The stranger said nothing, just continued to stare into the little girl’s eyes in the oddest way. The child realized that what she was seeing was utter, total, all-encompassing love. She once again reached up to swipe hair out of her eyes and when she looked, the stranger was gone, nowhere to be seen. The child quickly glanced all around to no avail; she hadn’t even had the chance to thank the lady for saving her life. Where could she have gotten to so quickly? She leapt up from the edge of the pool and began to dart in and out of any place the lady could have gone, restrooms, the concession stands and cabanas, but the little girl was utterly and completely alone. As she scurried past the giant slide that had almost been her downfall, she realized where she had made her mistake. The slide’s ladder started in three feet of water, but the bottom of the slide culminated in the pool’s deepest end.

She hurried over to the Brownie troop where her mom was busy grilling hotdogs for the other girls. She had to enlist her mom’s help in finding the nice lady.

“Katy Shaughnessy, whatever would cause you to make up such a tale as that? Our troop has rented out the pool and grounds for the entire afternoon. It’s closed to the public, and none of us have seen this mystery lady you’re describing. I think what happened is you disobeyed me and went where I told you not to and now you’re making up fibs to get out of a spanking. Well, you better think again, sister.”

Katy sighed deeply; this was what always happened with her mom. She was always accused of making up tales or exaggerating, no matter what. As she bit into the hotdog her mom had handed her, she realized she would never forget the expression on the woman’s face and that she would never stop searching until she saw that look in someone’s eyes again.

This is the prologue from the first novel in a series called Freeze Frame. The series follows the hopefully  hilarious adventures of a group of models in the 1970’s era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, who go on to form their own modeling agency called Freeze Frame. It follows their misadventures and romances throughout New York and Europe and exposes why no one in their right mind would want their daughters in the fashion biz.

RETIREMENT REDUX

It’s deja vu all over again!! If your first retirement turns out to be just a dress rehearsal…try it again, hopefully this time with a more permanent result.

In April I received news from my beloved Social Security Administration that I could collect survivor’s benefits from my deceased husband and actually make more income than I was making at a full-time job I didn’t love. For the first time in my life I not only wanted to kiss a civil servant, but possibly even birth his babies! Angels sang and the seas parted. I spied my opportunity to write to my heart’s content, unplug my alarm clock, and head for the beach as often as desired. For the first and only time since my husband’s suicide in 2005, there would finally be a by-product with a happy ending. One that didn’t involve shock, devastation, financial mayhem and debt.

My calendar now looks like this:

                                MONDAY

MONDAY

             TUESDAY

TUESDAY

                WEDNESDAY

WEDNESDAY

                THURSDAY

THURSDAY

                 FRIDAY

FRIDAY

                SATURDAY

SATURDAY

                 SUNDAY

SUNDAY

Ahh… it’s off to the hammock for a nap now, under the swaying palms and subtropical breeze. It’s been an exhausting week!

WHISPERS OF YOU

angelstarzOne year ago, amongst the embers of a dying relationship, I first began to hear you.

You began as intuition, inner nudges that were nonsensical at the time, but, mystical creature that I am, I listened and decided to fine tune that radio dial…the better to hear you.

“Leave  him, leave there. Too much is missing. You are compromising so many of your wishes and desires to fit into his life. Leave him. And while you’re leaving him…leave big; come closer to me. Let go of your safety net. Leave it all…your job, your home, your friends, your only child. Come closer to me and I will be your home.”

So, defying all common sense and logic (a skill I excel at), I channeled my inner 1960’s hippie, sold almost all my possessions and moved to an alien place where I had no job and knew no one. Prior to this relocation I knew I was a pretty tough cookie, but that single action took a breathtaking and daring leap of faith that had my heart pounding and me doubting my sanity. Because, while I heard your beckoning, I did not yet know you or how I would recognize you when I stumbled upon you.

Upon arrival I realized it would be up to me to tune in closely and listen more intently in order to find this mysterious whisperer in this foreign place. This led to all those hilarious but utterly pointless encounters with Senior Senile Senor dating. I persevered because the clarity of my vision of you was more clearly drawn with every flip of the calendar page.

I could feel the strength of your character, the extreme goodness and kindness of your soul. Trust, truth, and gentleness emanated like a beacon from all around you. I reveled in anticipation of the towering strength I felt from you and your ability to walk through your own personal hell and ultimately emerge, smiling and intact, at the far end of that tunnel. Yet, where were you? Who were you? Impatient, I kept demanding a sign from my deceased mom, fearful of just narrowly missing you.

The night you opened the door to your house to welcome me and my friends in, the sense of recognition was palpable and overwhelming. I was home. Oh, and that sign I asked for from my mom? How about having the same name and initials as my dad?

One of Cupid’s wee ironies was having us almost side by side at the same event for seven long months, both completely oblivious to one another.

I’ll never know for certain if my finding you was the result of whispers from a loving and benevolent Universe or because I spent so many hours visualizing exactly what I desired that caused you to materialize. I do know that for years I have chased after the feeling behind that mischievous grin that my parents always had in every single photo…a look of pure glee that they had defied the odds and found one another. They weren’t just fortunate to have found each other, they were also smart enough to understand and pay respect and homage to the amazing love they were gifted with.

Sooo, Mr. Adorable, I can’t wait to ride this wave with you, to see where it will lead. One thing that is certain…we will both honor the journey and laugh our butts off to the end of the highway.

The next time you hear that little voice inside your head urging you to do something totally outside your wheel house, give it a second listen. The Universe might just be trying to offer you a delicious gift.

Feature image courtesy of http://www.angelfire.com

 

THE CHRISTMAS TREE CONTEMPLATIONS

xmas treeOther than my son, my dog, and random pieces of furniture, there is not one single element of my life as it existed on January 1, 2014, that remains standing. I often wake up in the morning and look around in awe at how this sea change occurred and how I came to be in this wondrous new life I’ve fashioned.

Since I was twelve years old the ceremony of taking down the Christmas tree and “undecorating” the house has always held great meaning for me. It forces me to pause and think back over the past year and applaud my successes and mourn my failures, which are epic. I look at the blank slate of the year lying ahead, still unwritten, like a pristine notebook on the first day of school, with a slight shudder of excitement, anticipation, and dread. Who and/or what will still be populating my world one year hence?

What tiny voice whispered in my ear one dark and sleepless night in Cary NC and caused me to jettison a man I loved so deeply, our home, my job…and move to a land where I knew no one? What invisible hand gently pushed against my back and nudged me to this place, when I had the whole wide world to choose from?

My exit from NC was the second time I have cast aside a wonderful love in order to follow my inner whisperer. Both times caused so much pain and heartbreak, and months of acid tears I thought would erode me. I have decided that personal sorrow and universal sorrow are made of the same stuff, and in their essential nature are the doorways to compassion.

Is the constant change and transience of human life essential to bringing about spiritual growth and insight? I view all events, both good and bad, as a treasure chest for the evolution of soul. Every occurrence and person crossing my path has meaning and is a result and consequence of previous choices and actions. If we are able to see our challenges as opportunities for constructive change, then hopefully our growth will be rapid. I have finally learned to stop attempting to control every element of my life and relinquish attachment to people and places, and realize there is a purposeful evolution to our lives.

Despite occasional exhaustion brought on by this voluminous life I signed up for, I wake up every morning fueled by the knowledge that my life is NOT a random walk, and that when I make my final bow and exit stage left I will look back proudly, grinning and clutching my PHD in LIFE.

Right now, with all the ornaments carefully packed away, and my sadly denuded Xmas tree in its final resting place, I plan on a long nap in the hammock. Because, unlike those years leading up to my husband’s suicide, when I could smell and sense the predatory nature of the wolf on the other side of my door, today I can’t wait to throw open that door and embrace whatever lovely gift the Universe has waiting for me on the other side.

Wishing you all the enchantment life can hold in 2015. Thanks for loyally following my foolishness.

Brace yourselves…Gracie has another blind date Saturday. One day…one of these fellas WON’T be appalling and won’t I be in for a surprise?!?

Feature image courtesy of brentwood.thefuntimesguide.com

 

For Lou and Sully #73

One of the blogs I follow is Pissy Kittys Litter Box. Right off the bat, you gotta admire a gal who’s got the cojones to name her blog THAT. I came across her months ago when she posted about the phrase “Up shit creek without a paddle blues”. My Mama used to say that to me over and over, “Listen Sister, if you don’t stop _____ (insert mischief of your own design here), you’ll soon be singing the ‘I’m Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle Blues.” Until I read Lou’s blog, I had never heard anyone else utter those words, so I felt an instant connection. Lou writes with a pure passion and honesty like no other. She can slice her soul open for all to see, and then plunge right in and perform an emotional autopsy on the remains.

So, when I read about her beloved dog Sully having cancer and facing what would be his last summer with her, I was incredibly sad. But yesterday her news was even worse; Sully is not responding to his Prednisone and will have to take his final bow in this world Saturday, in order to stop his suffering. I’m posting links to both her moving tribute to her amazing Sully, and also to yesterday’s post. I defy you to read and not join in her weeping. http://pissykittyslitterbox.com/2011/08/20/sullys-last-summer/http://pissykittyslitterbox.com/2011/08/31/waking-up-the-ghost-limb-and-putting-sully-to-sleep/

I’ve discovered the amazing heart and soul that makes up our blogging community and I would like to encourage all of you to read Lou’s posts about Sully and send her your thoughts, prayers,  inspiration, and encouragement. For you non-bloggers, there is a comment section at the bottom of her blog where you can write to her. I imagine the devastation she will be experiencing this weekend will be profound, and that any tiny bit we can do to help her through will be deeply appreciated.

It’s hard to believe that a total stranger and her dog can have such a profound effect. I just keep thinking about my adored Baxter “Booger”, who we’ve only had for one year. How attached I am already, despite his repeated criminal activities and stints in jail. And his big sister Reggae “Pooter”, already slowing down at age nine, and all the years of history we’ve had together. The thought of losing either one of my babies has tears streaming down my face.

So, let’s all join forces and send Lou, her husband, and their beloved Sully our very best. And perhaps take a moment to hug our own four-legged beasties just a little tighter and longer today.

GPS for the Soul #60

Something oddly familiar happened at the library the other day. I was looking through a selection of books by Debbie Macomber, who writes women’s fiction as cozy and comforting as your favorite Polartec robe on a snowy January day, when I spied two books that were clearly misfiled. Both were by psychic Sylvia Browne. I pulled them out and opened one at random and began to read.

“Here’s a simple analogy. Think of our lifetimes on earth as a school year, and summer vacations as The Other Side. Isn’t it silly to imagine that after every summer vacation, we’d show up for a new school year a completely different person, having had none of the benefit of classes and experiences from the year before so that we’re just perpetually starting from scratch on our first day every fall? We’d never get out of kindergarten if that were true, nor would we recognize any of our friends and classmates or, for that matter, ourselves. What possible progress could our spirits make, and how could our souls contain so much cumulative knowledge, if that described God’s intention for us?”

“Instead, we’re the same unique spirits throughout eternity, advancing our way through this tough school on earth and the blissful, sacred education at Home. We repeat courses we find more difficult. We ourselves decide when we’re ready to tackle more advanced work on earth and when we’re ready to graduate and concentrate exclusively on our postgraduate studies on The Other Side. And never, ever, do we forfeit our history, our infinite wealth of experience, or the original identity that is our birthright.”

I checked out both books and devoured them over two days. There was little that was new to me, or surprising, but the material was a reminder of how long my soul has been shuttered and closed for business. I spent too many years in a marriage to a soulless spawn of Satan, who, in the end, became so  inhabited by demons and insanity and anti-depressants, that he did the only noble  thing he’d probably ever done in his miserable 58 years on earth; he swallowed a self-imploding bullet from a .22. In the dark years leading up to his foregone conclusion, and in the tsunami of shit that he left behind for me to deal with, I lost sight of myself, of my spirit. There were days so overflowing with the bitter bile of hatred for this monster, and the knowledge of the horror he’d left behind for his 12-year-old son and me to deal with, that I had no time, attention, or energy for contemplating anything more esoteric than what might be on our dinner plates and how many dollars were left in the bank until payday.

But now that I’m in a far more peaceful place, where all reminders and consequences of life with The Monster have been buried at sea, I can finally allow myself the luxury of giving my spirit a wee peak at the sun. I can remember who I used to be, and when I start to miss her, realize that’s she’s been right here beside me the entire time. I just forgot about her.

When I was six years old, my mother enrolled me in Catholic school, and it wasn’t long before I formed a very bad opinion of organized religion. There were many times when I felt wiser than some of the stupid, posturing adults surrounding me. The nuns tried very hard to beat Satan out of me when I started writing with my left hand. In addition to the beatings, which went on through second grade,  I was subjected to hours of proselytizing in the Mother Superior’s office about what a very bad child I was for writing this way. Well, I didn’t buy that crap then, and the older I got, the bigger a crock it all seemed. So, after trying on cloaks of being  Methodist and  Baptist, and finally, Unitarian, I ultimately just threw up my hands and cried ‘Uncle”. None of them felt right or true, so I decided I would form my own internal religion and follow it as my spiritual path.

This philosophy-forming started shortly after I married Jack, when we lived close to the grand, opulent NYC library on Fifth Avenue. Time after time, I would be randomly wandering through the stacks , when a certain book would seem to come flying off the shelves and land at my feet. Because it seemed I must, I would check it out and take it home to read. I was introduced to so many “New Age” concepts that I’d never been exposed to before. Karma, reincarnation, spirit guides. I embraced the idea that this earth is our hell, not some flaming charcoal pit located just south of our Jimmy Choos. It all rang true, and suddenly many things made sense. I touched on the ‘earth as school‘ concept in my “Is Scottie the Hottie a Karma Chameleon” post last month.

How many times have you been introduced to someone, only to have that electric shock of recognition, yet you have never met them before, not in this lifetime anyway? Ever found it odd when a new acquaintance seems to adore you at first meeting, like they’ve been hanging with you for lifetimes? What about that soul mate concept? I tinkle on that idea, but let’s take it one step further. Maybe you have that insanely strong urge to be with that person NOT because they’re your soul mate, but because the two of you have some pressingly important karma to work out this time around? Perhaps the two of you made a pact before sluicing down the old birth canal that you would hook up for a little remedial education?

This whole line of thinking gives me some hope that the 18 years with The Monster weren’t all for naught. Perhaps a karmic debt was being paid off, or maybe I just needed the lesson of knowing what it was like to rebuild an imploded life, one based on lies, criminality, and deceit?  So many possibilities to ponder, so little time!

I’m cutting myself off now; I’m trying to discipline myself to LESS than 1000 words in these verbose posts. I am discovering that the trickiest part of writing a novel isn’t the writing; it’s the editing!