Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Finding Our Way

A tiny crescent moon smiled at me last night, but there's something ugly in the air these days. Some of my dearest friends are struggling.

One, a woman who has maintained an upbeat attitude despite long-term serious illness, hit the wall yesterday. She's tired and sad and scared. All the light has gone out of her bright sides.

Another, a talented screenwriter with endless enthusiasm for working and reworking his scripts, can't find the way into any of his stories right now. He doesn't know what to do with himself, and I suspect he's afraid that whatever "it" is, it has abandoned him. (It hasn't, of course, but every writer knows that fear.)

Facing the dark side of the economy, a third struggles to carry the weight of every member of the band of creative (read half-crazy) folks he leads at work.

I believe in these people the way I believe in sunshine and sea breezes. I love each of them as family. There's essentially nothing any of us can do except be present for one another, but that's the deal with true friends. We show up. We hold vigil. We lead each other home.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Anyone who reads here much knows that I've been lonely lately. Might sound strange after being divorced for nearly 16 years, but I've begun to notice—and not in a good way—that I live alone. Of course, I've actually only lived alone since Katie went off to college, but that's been nearly four years now. And although he never lived here, I was dating Pink Boots Guy some of that time.

Whatever. I want to be in love and want to share my life with a man who loves me.

Enter Pink Boots Guy, who's been emailing again lately, carefully leaving a trail that would lead me back to him if I picked up even the first crumb. Even one.

I do not pick up that crumb. It's not a road I want to go down.

My mom loves Pink Boots Guy and can't understand why I won't cooperate. I explain over and over, but it's not what she wants to hear, so she doesn't. Yesterday, she found out about the recent flurry of email and nearly begged me to pick up the damn crumb. I explained—for the thousandth time—why I won't do that, and—for the thousandth time—she told me I'm wrong. "I don't want you to be alone," she said.

It's what she always says. And yeah, I'm not too crazy about that part, either. As always when this comes up, I reflect on my reasons and wonder deeply whether they're realistic or neurotic. As always, I realize they're both. As always, I fret. My folks think I should be with him. My sister and brother-in-law think I should be with him. Why don't I?

Last night, I picked up The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. You know the day's lesson was exactly what I needed to hear, don't you?

"...there are many feelings peculiar to human beings that prevent us from shedding what has ceased to work, including fear, pride, nostalgia, a comfort in the familiar, a want to please those we love. Often we give up our right to renewal to accommodate the anxiety of those around us."

Got it. I can't go back to a relationship that made me feel like I was suffocating just to make my mom feel better. Glad that's settled.

For now.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lessons from Strangers

Over the past few days, I've been feeling ignored and overlooked by my family. Unappreciated at the best...slightly abused at the worst.

Right now I'm at a coffee shop trying to work, but the conversation at the next table is all too familiar. A middle aged man and woman are discussing in minute detail all the gifts and time and love being given to one of the woman's siblings while she, who has "truly earned" those things through her devotion, is overlooked by her parents. Check that. Not overlooked. Instead, counted upon for extra effort when it comes time to help others and then not rewarded. She actually got out a calculator to compute the dollar value of the time her mother devoted to making bedding for the nursery of the child (or maybe it's a grandchild) her sister is expecting.

Not a pretty picture.

Not hers, of course--my own. This stranger is reflecting to me the ugliness of my own attitude. Mind you, I don't get out calculators or say such things aloud. Not often, anyway and never in public. Instead, it's the constant sound track inside my head. Why don't they.... Why do they.... Why....

In the midst of this great adventure I'm on, I'm not truly appreciating and enjoying the ride. Any time I'm not working, I'm stewing in my own juices, feeling bad about other people's actions and choices. In this stranger's complaints, I hear the acid eating away at my own soul.

Time to get over my bad self, to let go of expectations of others and live happily with what is.

But first, I need to go get a gallon of milk and take it to my folks. The weather's too bad for them to be on the roads.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Drum Roll, Please

Finally!!!! I can tell you more about the-project-for-which-I-have-such-hope.

I'm working with a production company to develop an unscripted series for television (read: reality tv). The production company has done a lot of tv work, but the show most people would recognize is Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel.

We're now working on a pitch to take to the networks, and you guys can help. I need to find interesting families where several generations live in one house, anywhere in the country. The bigger and more colorful, the better. Diversity is good. Strong personalities are good. Challenging living situations are good.

Here's what I'm posting on Craig's List:

Multi-generational Families for TV Show

We are developing an unscripted tv show and need families where several generations live in one house, anywhere in the U.S.

If you have a big, colorful family—grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, kids and pets coming out your ears—write and tell us why you should be featured on the show.

Please feel free to post, forward, or copy this anywhere you think might help. Interested people can respond to: onerooftv@gmail.com.

And...guys? Thanks for all your encouragement and support. We've got a long way to go before this is a reality (!), but the long way I've traveled to get here would have been a much, much tougher road without you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Wait Is Over

The waiting ended. Not with a bang but a whimper, really.

The Man emailed yesterday. They want to take a slightly different tact, but they want to move forward.

I should be jubilant.

I'm not.

I am grateful for the opportunity. I am excited about trying something new. I am anxious to get started on whatever comes next.

Mostly, I am tired. I've got to meet a lot of other deadlines before even starting this next phase. Time to suck it up and put my fingers on the keys. If you haven't heard from me in a week, send food and water. Maybe a margarita.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Eyes of the Beholder

This weekend, I met one of the former husbands of a much-married friend. The stories of this marriage and its demise have intrigued me throughout our friendship, and I've always wished I could be a mouse in a corner somewhere to see him. Friday night, I was.


The idea that this gorgeous, talented, wise woman ever pined over that man is beyond ridiculous. Beyond. RIDICULOUS. Granted, she says he hasn't aged well, but....

After we were safely away from the crowd, I said to my friend: "You cried over losing him? That man cheated on you? He should have been on his knees to Jesus every night, giving thanks you let him touch your panties in a drawer!

"Oh, Jerri," she sighed. "I quit wearing panties a long time ago."

See what I mean? On his knees to Jesus.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baby Steps

Baby steps always sound like such a good idea. Crescent Dragonwagon talks about "radical incrementalism," which also sounds terrific. And it is, when the motion is forward. The thing is, sometimes the motion is going the wrong way but you don't notice it, one tiny step at a time.

My internet's been hinky for the last several months. Many months, come to think of it. It runs slowly all the time and flakes out entirely from time to time. I reset the modem, reset the router, reboot the computer, wait it out. I've called Comcast customer service several times and gotten nowhere, so I learned to live with it.

Until Thursday. That's when it died and wouldn't come back no matter what I did. I had to pay Sprint 49 cents a minute to call Canada for interviews instead of 1.5 cents a minute to Skype. That motivated me big time. Two 30-mile trips to the Apple store later, I was sure the problem was in the cable modem. More Comcast customer service BS and then a service person arrived this morning to rescue me.

Turned out my modem finally hit EOL (end of life), which precipitated the total demise. But the age-old hinkiness was from a messed-up wiring configuration from when the lines were installed almost four years ago.

One tiny step at a time, the service slipped from semi-reasonable to unworkable and I went along for the ride. This isn't the only time I've done that, but it's sure got me thinking. Only a baby step, but....

Wait. That's how I got in this mess in the first place. Hmmmm.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Love Is Where You Find It

After a long, frustrating day yesterday, I stopped at a local restaurant to treat myself to dinner out. Not surprisingly, I was seated in the bar at a high top. No telling whether hostesses think I'll be more comfortable sitting there alone or whether they don't want to waste a big table or booth on one person, but it happens a lot. I never mind, and last night it turned out to be a blessing.

At the high top next to me, closer to the kitchen, sat a silver-haired man with a salt-and-pepper gray haired woman. They had three trays of appetizers on their table, but neither of them ever took a bite. Instead, a series of servers stopped by the table, helped themselves to the food and chatted with the couple. They discussed one young woman's upcoming hair appointment and whether she should cut off her beyond-waist-length ponytail. They commiserated with one young man about his car problems. Another young man stopped to ask what they thought of the new girl he's dating.

Tattooed and pierced, cheerleader-types, and faux-hawked young toughs paraded by, pausing as long as they could without ignoring their customers. A cook came from the kitchen to lounge and chat. A young man came by in street clothes before his shift started. The older gentleman leaped to his feet, held out one hand to shake and grasped the young man's shoulders with the other. The young man returned the embrace with enthusiasm.

Finally, I asked my server about the couple. "Oh, they're just the nicest people in the world," she said. Turns out this couple has been coming to the same restaurant every Sunday and every Thursday night as long as this young woman has worked there--four years. She doesn't know when it started. Every employee in the place loves them. These grandparent-ish folks make toys for the staff's children at Christmas, know details of their lives and provide counsel when needed.

Apparently, these folks don't have kids of their own, so they found some young people to love at a neighborhood restaurant. It's as good a place as any, I guess.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blessings, Natasha

Natasha Richardson's death feels personal somehow. I do not know her, of course. I don't even know anyone who knows her. But she came into my home roughly 10 million times via The Parent Trap, one of Katie's all time favorite movies. We saw it at the theater and then over and over on cable. Katie can't pass it on the cable guide. For her, it's like a bell for Pavlov's dogs: she sees the words and clicks.

Natasha's death also reminds me how incredibly blessed I am. When I was her age--45--I hit my head with such force it could easily have killed me. On a beautiful spring afternoon, I was rushing to mow the lawn even though the grass was too wet. On a hill, my feet flew from beneath me and life dropped into slo-mo.

The lawn mower flew up and away from me, the blades whirling as it fell within 6 inches of my legs. I fell flat and the back of my head hit the ground with stunning force. A split second after that blow, my brain sloshed forward and hit the front of my skull so hard I saw cartoon stars.

I had no idea our brains could move within our skulls like that. Even today, almost 10 years later, I remember the eerie, fuzzy, recognition that such a thing really should not happen.

My whole body shut down for what felt like ages but could have been seconds or hours for all I know. When I finally gathered enough strength, I crawled around the house to a point where my neighbor angel could hear me yelling through her sewing room windows. She came down, helped me into my house and kept an eye on me. By morning, I was fine.

Natasha hit her head and died. There is no explanation for her fate. Or mine.

Blessings to the family and friends of Natasha Richardson. Go with God, my dear.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Monday night's middle-of-the-night hours felt like bonus time, so rather than work on paying jobs, I put the time to use on an adjunct to the-project-for-which-I-STILL-have-such-hope. When daylight broke, I sent off a bright and breezy note to The Man, asking whether he'd like to see the new material.

Now, considering that I haven't heard a single word from The Man for more than two weeks and that it's been five weeks since we last met, I felt pretty brave. Also, pretty vulnerable.

When a response arrived from him an hour later, I couldn't open the message for several minutes. Instead, I stared at his name in my inbox and tried to gather mental strength to accept bad news.

The news was not bad. It was not good, either. In fact, it wasn't even news, just more of the "I'm very busy but I like this and want to work on it as soon as I can." Trying to be realistic and objective, I'm actually happy with that response. It would be easy to tell me to go away, that he isn't interested or can't take time to deal with this. A few keystrokes and I'm out of his hair forever. Instead, he keeps the door open and I keep knocking and flying paper airplanes in over the transom from time to time.

Made it through the day just fine yesterday, but about 6:30pm, I felt my brain shut down. My eyes were open and I was functioning, but I could literally feel my brain powering down non-essential activity to conserve energy. It was weird: I didn't feel sleepy at all, just like everything dropped into slow-mo. We were gathering at Mom and Dad's for corned beef and cabbage when it happened, and my sister told me my eye lids suddenly fell half way. Hard as I tried, I couldn't get them fully open.

The human body is an ongoing miracle, and I've got to be kinder to mine. Gonna need plenty of energy when The Man finally says Yes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sleepless in Independence

I didn't sleep last night.

Not 'I didn't sleep well.' I did not freaking close my eyes all night long.

First, I hit a groove with a writing project about 11:30 and worked on that til 1:30am. Then, when I tried to go to bed, my brain would not turn off. It bubbled like a putrid a stew of fear and worry and fretting. By 2:30, I gave up and went back to work. Before I knew it, it was 5:00 am and too late to try to sleep--a new day is upon me.

Saturday night I dreamed I'd borrowed a UPS truck and hit a car with it. I drove off without reporting the accident or calling for help. For hours on Sunday morning, I couldn't shake a strange sense of unease and serious disappointment with myself.

On the way home from my brother's house Sunday night, I brushed my hair off my neck and felt one of those damn whiskers I write too much about. Feeling around, it seemed to me I had practically a full beard. Seriously, I grabbed a sandwich from a drive-through on the way home because I didn't want to go in anywhere with all that hair on my face.

Monday morning I brought out my strongest glasses, my five times magnifying mirror, and my super-duper tweezers. Couldn't find a thing in the bathroom mirror. Brought my gear out to the sunroom windows and found two barely-there dark hairs. Two!

Perhaps...just maybe...I could be over-reacting to things a bit.

Maybe some sleep would help.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

La la la de de da

As I think of this, I hear Billy Joel singing quietly...

It's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes.

For the last few months, Dad has been trying to get Mom to go to church.

That might not sound radical, but it is. Long before "spiritual but not religious" made its way onto match.com profiles, Mom and Dad lived a deep but quiet faith without Sunday morning services or Wednesday night prayer meetings. They've always been suspicious of people who declare themselves to be Christians but behave in very un Christ-like ways.

And now, Dad wants to go to church. Mom gave in last Sunday and they went together to the church that sponsors the program where we cook for the homeless. The people there welcomed them warmly, and Mom and Dad were both glad to have gone. This morning, Dad was feeling well enough to drive a load of blankets from the church to the shelter.

I asked Mom why she thought Dad wants to go to church now, after all these years.

"He thinks he's going to die," she said.

"Well, yes. But what does going to church have to do with that?" I asked.

"He doesn't want to be buried...."

"No, Mom. That's not it. He's doesn't care where he's buried, and he's at peace with God. Dad doesn't want to go for himself. He wants you to have a community after he's gone. He's making friends to carry on for him, to take care of you when he can't."


"Oh...oh.... He is, isn't he?"

Yes, he is.

It's sad and it's sweet, and incredibly complete, the love this man has for his wife. How many of us can say the same?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Goose Wars

Honk! Honk! Honk! Squeeeeeeeee. Crack!

Ahhhh. The sounds of spring here on the pond.

Spring is getting ready to sprung, and geese are looking for places to nest. My neighbors are determined it won't be in OUR back yard. Once again, their campaign includes flares and gunshots at dawn and intense lights in the night. My poor little doggie is a nervous wreck. If she hears a goose honk, she runs for the closet. She knows what's going to happen next.

When I moved here, we had 6 or 8 semi-permanent geese, one resident pin duck, a heron, and a muskrat to entertain us. A neighbor shot the muskrat under cover of darkness and the crazy campaign has driven off the heron and the pin duck. A few Canada geese are stubborn enough to keep trying to land, but that's a tough gig here on the pond.

Not long ago, a neighbor sent around a warning to every house: don't feed or encourage those dangerous wild animals. Now, I ask you--why buy a house on a pond if you don't want to be exposed to "wild animals"?

Strikes me that humans are the wildest animals of all. We create situations bound to distress us and then fight against the things we perceive as problems or threats.

If you don't like geese, don't buy a house on a pond surrounded by cornfields--whatever the geese or the cornfields may be in your life.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fear Factor

We're having one hell of a spring storm this morning: thunder, lightning, pouring rain--even a little hail now and then. My little dog Cassie is huddled in bed beside me, panting and shaking. Her heart is beating like a munchkin's jackhammer breaking up the Yellow Brick Road after Dorothy returned to Kansas.

For humans, the chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 280,000, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute (who knew?). For dogs, I'm guessing it's even less. And yet, she's miserable every time a storm blows up, which happens approximately every day and a half from March to October here in the mid-est of the MidWest.

How much of my own fear is just as pointless? Again, this is just a guess, but I'm thinking nearly all of it.

It's a good thing if fear keeps you out from under trees during a storm. Sure: Put down the aluminum bat. Set the golf umbrellas aside. Refuse to carry metal extension ladders upright across open spaces. But after you've covered common sense, there is exactly squat you can do. If a lightning bolt has your name on it, you're going to sizzle. Fretting just prolongs the pain.

I've been fretting a lot lately, but I'm going to try to stop. Check that. I'm going to stop. (Can you hear Yoda saying "Do or do not. There is no try." right now, or is it just me?)

The world is in a hell of a storm right now. We'd all be smart to put down any big metal objects we're carrying but after that, we might as well go out and dance in the rain. We may get fried, but it's better to go out having fun than huddled under a musty old towel in the back corner of a messy walk-in closet with a frightened little doggie who doesn't know better.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Time Passes By

Can we talk about how fast time passes?

Big Saturday night here. I'm sorting a box of filing I set aside for "later." In December 2006. "Later" took more than two years, but I remember putting the box aside as though it were last week. Last month, tops.

The tv is keeping me company as I sort. The movie "Click" is on, and get this—Henry Winkler is playing the grandfather. Fonzie is a grandpa! Last year (or something like that), Henry was the epitome of teenage cool. Now he's a gray-haired grandpa doing lame magic tricks for a pretend grandson.

Jeezus Squeeze Us. Fonzie as a grandpa.

Mom and Dad invited me to go out to dinner with them tonight. (They're worried about how much time I've been working lately and used a dinner invitation to get me out of the house, bless 'em.) Anyway, we were talking about renewing license plates, and Dad said something about when he last renewed their plates.

"Dad," I said gently. "You didn't renew the plates this time. Remember, last week? I took the Jeep to be inspected and Mom went to license bureau."

Dad looked confused. Mom did, too.

"Jerri? Honey? That wasn't a week ago. It was a month ago."

For Dad, a year faded to let him still live in a time when he managed the details of their lives. I've lost a mere month.

Well...maybe more than a month. Last time I looked, Henry Winkler was wearing a black leather jacket. Now he's sporting orthopedic shoes.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Telling Stories

Came across youtube of Ira Glass talking about storytelling. All you writers out there, do yourself a favor: Watch all four segments. He's talking about broadcasting, but his ideas on story are simply brilliant. Last night I read every interview I could find with him and learned approximately 3000 useful things. Give or take....

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Monday Means Meatloaf

Monday was our day to cook for the homeless. I truly did not have time this week, but I put that problem aside and dragged myself (and my laptop) to the church. While the other volunteers had lunch and later when they took a break, I banged away on a magazine article due the next day.

It was so worth the effort.

Just hanging out with these people lifts my spirits. The joy they bring to their work is so pure and so real you could wash it with the other dishes. The loudest, most frequent sound is laughter.

Mom and I are the group's bookends: I am the youngest and Mom is the oldest. I try to do jobs that involve heavy lifting. So does Mom. She doesn't want anyone to think she can't pull her weight. Believe me: no one would. That woman is indefatigable. You want a five-pound meatloaf mixed? She's your girl. Got a washtub full of mashed potatoes that need stirred? Step aside. She's got it covered.

I love these people and I LOVE watching my mother work and laugh with them. Wearing a purple baseball cap, a green apron and a smile, she sparkles. I've rarely seen her so happy as she is when up to her elbows in a vat of hot, sticky potatoes she's making for total strangers.

Monday means meatloaf, and it is a good thing. Even when you're on deadline.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


An attorney, the most gracious man I've ever met, once said to me, "I'm not going to tell you what he's up to now. If I did, you'd have no choice but to pick up the nearest heavy object, go upstairs and beat that son-of-a-bitch to death."

He was speaking of my former husband.

I had dinner with Evan last night, and if what he told me is true, somebody better batten down the heavy objects, because the time has truly come.

Let me be clear: I am not threatening the man, not physically anyway. But if he tries again to hurt my son, I will hound him to the gates of Hell, if necessary. Hell hath no fury, people--not even a woman scorned--like a mother whose child is being cheated by a father who knows better.

Just saying...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Food with a Face

I like vegetables. I don't care much for meat. My family has always found this troublesome, if not downright dangerous. When they urge me to eat meat at a family dinner, I laugh and say, "No food with a face."

Now I'm beginning to think we all lost something important when our food stopped having a face. Not an animal's face, but the face, the image, of the farmer who raised it.

When we all knew where our food came from, we could pronounce all the ingredients. We didn't need a seal certifying milk as organic because we knew what the farmer fed his cows. The government didn't need to define "free range" in terms of how many inches wide the door to the chicken coop needed to be—their range was the yard.

Last summer Katie and I froze gallons of blackberries we picked with my mom. This morning I thawed some berries to put on the waffle I toasted for breakfast. (Yes, I made waffles this weekend, too.) Each bite had not only the flavor of real blackberries, but the memories of them. I tasted sunshine and laughter and dogs barking and cows mooing and bees buzzing. I tasted the sweetness of life.

Very few calories. Tons of nutrition. Food for body and soul.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Still waiting. Not patiently.

Yesterday I busied myself with baking, starting with blueberry muffins. By 9:00am, I arrived at Mom and Dad's, warm breakfast in hand. Then I trudged through the falling snow to the grocery store to gather 6 bags full of vegetables.

For the next three hours, I simmered and sauteed and roasted vegetables. I made dough for pizza crust and let it rise. Then I assembled a dozen individual pizzas with toppings like oven roasted eggplant, tomatoes and red peppers, caramelized onions, garlic infused spinach, artichoke hearts and mushrooms.

Later, I whipped up a double batch of corn waffles and a tasty black bean salsa. All of it went into the freezer for quick meals on busy days--some for Mom and some for me.

I'm still simmering, but at least the freezer's full.