Trying to sell a house was like trying to get pregnant.

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We left NYC in 2008 and moved to 5 acres atop a mountain in rural Oregon on the cusp of wine country.  It was a delightful move…in the beginning.  As my friend Judy Jensen said, “Well, I guess that was some sort of itch you had to scratch.”  We renovated and made it our dream home. Everyone marveled at our spectacular abode.  We became part of a community, started a theater company, joined the local Rotary Chapter, volunteered on various boards, learned about trees and forestry and all sorts of wonderful things. It was a great life.  However, we found we are really city folk.  It took a 20 minutes drive by car to do anything – and that began to feel onerous.  On top of that commute to do ANYTHING, being responsible for 5 acres of land at 1500′ had become too big a chore for me.  We yearned for walking conveniences and missed being able to taste the variety of life without a 90 minute drive.  Small town living is great for a while, eventually that urban tug becomes powerful. We decided after 10 years on the mountain to move to Portland’s Eastside. We and our professional thought the Newberg house would sell right away and boom – we would move on to the next chapter of our lives.

We spent a year with two mortgages.  We were encouraged to purchase a new home quickly as we were about to be homeless.  Our professional insisted our house was going to sell immediately. We needed to move NOW.  In fact, our Newberg home may sell before it hits the open market it was so hot. In fact, everyone LOVES the Newberg home sooo much it could go for even more $$ than listed.

So, with the Newberg home not yet sold, we purchased a new home in Portland.  Yep, we took on two mortgages with open eyes.  We take full responsibility for the decision (we had done our due diligence) but, we were convinced it was gonna sell fast.  Then, a long six months later, with no sale in sight and winter at 1500′ looming on the horizon, we were getting anxious.  We had a LOT of money on the line.  Our professional was still saying it would sell but now noted that “rural property takes longer to sell” and “yeah, you should lower the price, but the value is still there” and “the right buyer is out there” and “we need to wait till Spring,  That’s when homes usually sell. Oh, it will sell in the spring” and “you just have to be patient”.  Urgency had evaporated and the professional had sort of lost interest in us. We never got another sit down meeting. I was a raving lunatic with worry. Oh, did I mention that my 55 y.o. brother moved in with us two weeks after purchasing the Portland home? No added stress there.

We had serious interest and some great offers along the way.  Great offers that just didn’t come through in the end.  “Can you guarantee the view?”  “Do you have high speed internet up here?”  ‘We decided it’s too modern.” At this point we had dropped the price $85K.  Long story short, 15 months after the original “for sale” date and a new professional, the home sold for a song.

Trying to sell the house felt like wanting a divorce.  You know it is time to move on but you can’t quite let one another go.  You and the house want to part but you just can’t say goodbye.  No, you have to stay together…”until the kids are ok with it” or “the right buyer comes to the door”.  You think, “Ugh, I don’t want to do this anymore, and look, 10 years was a good run. I feel proud of us! We are soooo over, so let’s say goodbye already.”

Finally the Newberg home was sold and what a relief!! It was fantastic.  We couldn’t stop grinning or feeling thankful and blessed.  We now had one home, our Portland home, where we had been living for over a year!  We felt free and felt like we had actually moved from Newberg. We no longer worried about the rug being pulled from under us.  We were now truly part of the new community…24 people came to our Christmas Eve party in an unfinished kitchen in 2018 – all neighbors!

In looking  back on this experience I have come to the conclusion that selling a home that won’t sell is really more akin to trying to get pregnant.  With every showing you are wildly excited and hopeful and sure “this is it!”  It’s the early few weeks, that early window of not knowing but hoping you are pregnant!  Just like when you have an offer on the house and think it’s sold! Then the sale falls through you are deeply depressed, experiencing severe self blame – and simply feel gutted.  You are not pregnant after all (your period came).  After a time of mourning having had that joy snatched from you, you steel yourself and rally for another go at it.  You get out there and mow the lawn, dust cobwebs away, clean and fluff with the hopes a new buyer will appear and fall in love.  Just as you move toward having sex again with the hopes of a pregnancy. And so it goes, a cycle of hope and joy followed by loss and despair — over and over again. Every time a deal falls through (we had three) or a showing doesn’t lead to a sale it is an utter and complete defeat –every time.  Every time you muster hope again.

We sold that house. We finally got pregnant!  No more disappointment.  We arrived!!!  Within 10 days of the sale, we started renovations.  Seismic upgrades, adding an income producing apartment in the basement and updating the 1911 kitchen. The exercise of renovating really is like being pregnant.  You are soooo excited about your condition.  We are in renovations!  (We are pregnant!) 

Our contractor even compared the renovation to pregnancy.  You are so excited about the new arrival.  Then you reach the half-way mark. For a real pregnancy at 4.5 months you feel it, for a reno it’s at the 2.5 months mark.  It’s about then you start to feel tired and bloated and exhausted.  Or tired of the dirt and dust and noise and stress.  You are ready to feel like you again. You want it over with. You are tired of waiting.  You wait 15 months for a house sale only to wait five more months for a renovation.  You wait years to be pregnant only to wait 9 months more for the baby to arrive. And, even though you know the timeline, you know when it will end….or when the baby is due.  It starts to feel mythical, it feels far far away.   But you keep going with dreams of the new arrival!  Look the cabinets are in!  (The baby is kicking!!) It will be life changing.

So we waited a little longer and anticipated the arrival. Looked toward a relaxed and settled time.  Knowing the renovations will have been laid down for a nap.  You can marvel everyday at its functionality and beauty and learn and grow together.  So, soon, this this little chapter in this thing life will be completed.  About 19 months total.  We will have learned emotional, spiritual and practical lessons.  It is a good journey and we are happy to be on it and I say this…

We are never, ever, ever selling this house.

Abandoned: A short story of fiction

“If I’m lying may God strike my three kids dead, right now.”  Now I always hated when she said that cuz I just knew I was at risk of actually becoming a charcoal briquette.  And, if I had become one, my mother would have just doused me in lighter fluid and used me to grill hamburgers.  See, I happen to know that my mother is the Devil incarnate.  And there is no one and no thing that can make be believe otherwise.

People say them young girls who throw their newborns in dumpsters, or leave ’em in hot cars, or drown ’em in bathtubs, are the Devil.  Well, no, they are not. They’re just crazy and they snuff out a life quickly.  They don’t torture their babies.  It’s the mothers who starve their babies.  It’s the ones who keep ’em chained up without daylight. It’s the ones who let their babies get older and then convince them babies they are evil – those are the real Devils.

Well, now think about it. In the bible, it was the Devil that was always torturing somebody to death.  Teasing ’em, making promises he wadn’t never gonna keep.  Torturing people so bad.  Look at ole poor Job.  (Well now shoot, that is a poor example ’cause that was God’s doing.)  But that ole Devil just tortured ’em and tortured ’em till they doubted everything.  Doubted their faith in the Lord and themselves. Toying with ’em until they broke.  Anyway, the Devil’s who we’re talking about and besides, my Mama looked like Satan.

My Mama had horns and a tail.  Mama has a scar that runs down the middle of her forehead that looks like somebody put a hatchet in her forehead, which is exactly what happened.  Mama got into a bar fight with this big woman one time, and the woman grabbed a hatchet off of some man’s tool-belt and buried it in the middle of Mama’s forehead.  There it stuck.  Mama didn’t fall over dead or nothing, she stood there with that hatchet sticking out of her forehead and blood running down her face and said, “That’s it.  Enough is enough.”  Then she pulled that hatchet from her forehead and cut that big woman’s head clean off.  Mama got 54 stitches and spent about a week in jail.  She got off on a self-defense plea.  Now, she already had this Eddie Munster widow’s peak in the middle of her head and now she has a scar running from her hair part down the middle of that ole widow’s peak.  Surely does.  Just like that poor ole ugly boy from that old series on TV.  And, if that ain’t bad enough, she wears her hair so that it stands up like horns on either side of that scarred widow’s peak.  I swear, it’s just like a pair of horns setting there.  Same hairdo for as long as I can remember.

My earliest memories of her are in a hospital.  Oh, she loves, do you hear me, LOVES to have surgery.  She cannot get enough of it.  Yet, for all the surgeries she has had to have lumps, moles and growths and whatnot removed from inside and outside of her body, she flat out refuses to let the doctors remove a small pointy tail that grows at the base of her spine. If it were me, it would drive me plum crazy to have that thing growing on me.  It’s ain’t that big.  No more than 4 inches or so.  But dang, that thing is pointy.  I mean her skirts rise up in the back! It has got to poke her when she sits in a chair.  And when she wears slacks they are all lumpy in the back.  But there is stays. I think she’s proud of it.

Daddy nor any one of her other six husbands ever seemed to mind it either. Except when the two of ’em got to the very end of everything and the fights would get big and real bad, and then Daddy or one of them other husbands would yell something like, “And another thing, I never could stand that ole tail of yours either!  That damn thing is evil looking!”  And she would say, “You must have me confused with someone who gives a flying shit.  Don’t let the front door hit you in your ass on your way out!” And every time it would.  The door, I mean.  It didn’t matter where we lived, or who was leaving her, they got whacked in the backside by the front door slammin’ em so hard it’d set em sailing for a good ten feet or more.  I never could understand why nobody ever took the backdoor. I have always wondered if it would have made a difference.

Mama can out-drink any man.  ANY MAN.  Mama is stronger than most men too. She threw Daddy Elroy acrost a living room once. He flew clean over the sofa and hit the staircase. He broke three spindles and three ribs he hit it so hard.  That man was airborne! Now, Mama is about 5′ 2″ and weighs less than a roach fart and Daddy Cyril was 6′ 4″ (well, he was before the accident. Now he is short in one leg and in height and limps pretty good. But that’s for another time) and Mama lifted him over her head and danced a few steps before throwing him out of a third story window.

Mama dances men to the ground.  She’s a fiery dancer too.  I seen her dance with a man in a bar one night when we was out jukin’, and she danced him so hot and long that he fell to the ground.  He was on the ground on his back, still trying to dance, but more like wiggling like an eel.  Well, during the last bit of the song, Mama danced a few steps until she stood over him spread eagle like her hips wagging from side to side and then she stood still and she peed on him.  Peed on him! Then she laughed and sauntered back to the bar and sat back there finishing her beer like it was nothing out of the ordinary.  I suspect she was not wearing panties that evening.

Now, when I tell most people about my Mama, they think:  she is so different and wild and fun and all.  It must be so cool to have her as your Mama and whatnot.  To be perfectly honest, it’s not.  I find her embarrassing and scary and down right unfriendly.  Besides, she put me through a wall once cuz I was late getting home.  This one time, I got in trouble at school and she showed up in my defense to the Assistant Principal’s office.  There she sat in a chair opposite his desk in the man’s own office and he asked her if she knew what I had done, and she barked at him.  I don’t mean it figuratively, I mean she actually barked at the man.  I was getting expelled for fighting.  Yeah, I had issues.  Mama got me readmitted with that barking and I never had trouble at school again.  So, there is that.

I am not an only child.  There are four of us kids.  We never talk about the fourth child. Don’t know if it’s a brother or sister.  Don’t know if it’s alive or dead.  Mama won’t say anything other than there was a fourth baby at some point.  And, she always says “my three kids”, so I wonder if it’s even true.  We all got different daddies.  We all look different.  We all got different dispositions.  I’m blonde, one brother is a brunette and one is a redhead.  Them two boys, the brunette and redhead, she gave the same name to.  The same exact name.  Middle name and all.  They are both named Plywood.  It makes me glad I was born a girl. We call the brunette, the one that trains guard dogs with shock collars, Woody. The redhead, poor thing, got the whole dang name – Plywood.  No nickname of any kind – not even a Buddy, or a Skippy or a Tex – he’s just called Plywood.  I call him Ply or Pliant just to make it sting a little less.  Use to, you could watch him splinter a little bit every time somebody said his name.

Now Woody, the brunette one, was always the Devil’s own.  He was the apple of Mama’s eye from the git go.  He was a Devil wannabe, but, he never had no tail so, pffft.  But, you know, for all their love of each other, they fought like they was married.  They fought so hard at times, I swear.  Why he broke her nose at least twice (I suspect she let him win).  He loves nothing more than having a dog in one hand and a electrical device in the other.  Electricity is is an excellent tool in the obedience training of dogs. Mama loves her Woody.  Forgive him anything.  Still, he didn’t stick around very long.  He left home and ran off as soon as he was tall enough to reach the pedals in the family car he stole out of our yard. He lives in Germany now, where he trains German Shepherds for some skinheads who moved to the Muter-land.  I never could picture a redneck in Germany, but there he is.  He’s got a couple of kids.  Never married.  Beat both of them girls he got pregnant.  He’ll get drunk every now and then and call Mama and tell her he loves her and misses her.  She’ll send him plane fare to come home.  He stays with Mama or at a girlfriend’s trailer. But, after a while, they all start to fighting and he leaves and goes on back to Germany.  He’ll get drunk after he’s back there a while and call Mama and tell her he hates her and wishes her dead and she still pays for the call.  I just would have to draw the line.  I mean, long distance abuse?

My darling, beloved redheaded brother Plywood, however…now that boy.  Well, I would take a bullet for that boy.  I love him so well.  He is so gentle and sweet and well meaning and slow moving.  He’d do anything for ya.  He’s off looking though.  Not like Mama is off looking.  He has a really big head. A really big head on a skinny neck.  Like one of them bobble-heads.  On top of that big head is all this fire red hair.  And the ears – well, a mouse could a been his daddy they are so big and stick out so danged far.  He’s even got a fine fuzz growing all over em.  You can even see the veins in his ears, if the light’s real good. And Pliant is one teeny, teeny, teeny person.  I mean teeny smaller than Mama even.  When I fold his clothes, after a washing, I feel like I am folding doll clothes.  He is just so danged slight.  Thin and child like.  Delicate is how you would describe him.  He chain smokes. Which is odd to watch since he is so childly looking.  But then, he was always that way.

When he was born, his head was so big, Mama says he “ruint” her.  After him, C-sections only.  He has big ole brown eyes that roll around in his head so slow when he is looking for the right word.  He’s always been slow of movement.  Even as a baby, he never crawled fast, took his time getting anywhere, oft times, he’d stop and take a while to sit and stare at things before he’d start crawling again.  Was never in a hurry.

Mama would put him in the front yard in a playpen and neighbors would walk by and stop to comment on how big his head was.  And he would look at them, his big eyes rolling slow in his head and then, as if to prove them right, he would tilt his head and it would loll to one side for a second before he flopped over from the weight of it.  I’d usually go outside and right him again.  Often times, people would stop to stare at his beautiful red hair. I have never seen a color like it.  Not in a bottle not on a person’s head.  Beautiful color.  When he was a child, Mama was so jealous of his red hair, she tried to snatch him bald-headed.  Every time he did something wrong, she’d yank a handful of hair out.  But, it always grew back thicker and more lustrous.  And no matter how old he got, it never changed color.  His hair had its own strength.

He made his own way and stayed close to home.  Of us four, he was only one that never moved away (well we don’t know where No. 4 is) he was home bound. About the time Pliant was suppose to reach his puberty – nothing happened.  He became a young man sorta…he was missing some changes.  His voice dropped.  He always had a rich resonating voice. But his body.  It stayed delicate and slight.  That’s about the time Mama started calling him a “freak” or a “fruit” .  “You’re a big fruit.  You know that, right?” She said that to him everyday all day.  “You’re a queer.  Why you gotta have such a big head? Why you gotta wear your hair that way?”

Well by God, with the constant name calling and torture she was dishing out to him, she had crossed a line for me.  I fought tooth and nail to protect my Plywood.  Every time she called him fruit or freak or queer, I’d tell him, “Don’t listen to her.  BUT, if you do feel that way, ain’t nothing wrong with it.  And, just cuz she says it don’t make it so. You are not a freak.  You have a big head to show off your beautiful hair!  That’s all.”  Finally, Mama and I had a big fight over Plywood.  I was 16 years old and afraid she would kill me in my sleep for talking sass. But I couldn’t stand her beating up on poor Plywood.  She and I fought and I dislocated her collar bone (she did not let me win, I was stronger than her) and then I walked out that front door. But, I waited till I was way past the front door before I turned and yelled back at her,  “You’ll be sorry you ever called him names.  You’ll go to your grave sorry.  I’ll make you sorry!  You hear me, you old bitch?  You hear me? And I hate that tail of yours!”  Then I ran and ran until I got to a friends house a few miles away.  There I stayed for months, all secret like.  Eventually, I was able to leave my home town for good.  I swore I’d never go back.  I didn’t want to be like that.

Well, you can’t stay mad forever.  I found a way in life.  I made something of myself.  Improved myself.  I moved 1500 miles away and made sure I stayed there.  I stayed close with Plywood by phone.  I went home to visit him now and again.  Ply eventually grew into his head.  Well, he stopped falling over from it anyway.  Mama and I eventually found a way to get along.  When you know you are leaving, you can stand anything for a day or tow.

Plywood found his place in the world.  He came out and it was wonderful.  Just wonderful!  He had a sense of belonging and was part of a community where he thrived.  Boy, did that ever piss Mama off.  She made sure he could never keep a relationship going for too long.  She would step in and, oh she would squawk and complain.  And, if he didn’t react the way she wanted, she would just end herself up in the hospital and he would have to go and care for her morning and night.  And there went Plywood’s love interest.  They would become disheartened due to Mama taking all his attention and move on.  Soon after, Mama would be discharged and go about her business.  Her work at destroying being done.

The last time she was in the hospital Plywood called me long distance and asked me to come home, which he had never done.  “Mama’s had a stroke.”, he said.  “How do you know?” “She’s talking Chinese.” he said.  “What the hell? You don’t know that, let the doctor’s determine if she had a stroke.”  “I am the one who told them!” He took a deep breathe and exhaled a wheezy sigh, “Listen to me, I need you to come and help me with her.”  “NO!” , I said.  He persisted until I said I would come home for three weeks and no more. “Not a day more! Do you hear me? Not a day more.”  I had learned to limit the demands my family made on me.  I had set boundaries.  I was in control of myself now. Well, don’t you know before I even got there, she recovered just fine.  Plywood was so happy. Still lost me the cost of a plane ticket. Hell, I wasn’t going there now that she was ambulatory and such.

At this point, Plywood had a job he liked.  The folks there liked him.  Finally, he fit.  He fit! He was so popular, he was Godparent to the babies of some single girls at his work.  He bought them babies all sorts of gifts.  Doted on them babies.  Spoilt em.  He came into his own.  He liked to entertain people by dressing up like Jackie Kennedy sometimes. He looked great too.  When he dressed like a woman, he was all sassy and the center of attention.  Sorta like a watered down version of Mama. But, he was loved.  Even Mama’s stroke and hospital stays couldn’t touch what he had found.

I went home last month to visit Plywood.  Mama had just moved out of his house.  She had disrupted his life when she left her sixth husband and moved in with him.  She had been living in his house rent free for a year and now she had a new toothless boyfriend.  When I arrived I went to Plywood’s and we cleaned up and decorated a bit and sat and smoked and drank powdered International Coffee.  He said, “Mama has changed.”  I said, I didn’t believe and would have to see for myself to believe it.  He said. She had lost her physical power.  No more man tossing.  “She can still drink them blind though.  She seems tired and her horns droop some now. But, don’t get me wrong. There is still a fire burning inside of her.  Burning, you hear me?”

There is a lit cigarette in Plywood’s right hand, just about all the time.  If not there, hanging from his lips.  He drinks his international coffee with pride.  Makes him feel elegant and refined.  We sat in silence as only loved ones can.  We smoked and drank the coffee as the sun sank low and the humidity surrounded the outside of the house.  Eventually he told me the story of how he through Mama out.

He stood up to her and her boyfriend one night and said he wanted a life.  A full life with a future.  A bright future.  He told her to move out and get her own place. Well, two nights later, while he was out getting milk, she moved out and took every stick of his furniture she could move in 45 minutes.  She took the entire kitchen set, the living room set and she even took the bedroom curtains, which she coveted.  She didn’t get the bed, so at least he had something to sleep on that night. Together him and I got him all set up again.

He insisted that we go over to her place for a visit.  I agreed and I marveled at the fact that her and Plywood acted like it never happened. Like she never stole all his stuff.  They sat like it never happened! Like it isn’t HIS furniture she is sitting on in her kitchen.  Him and me sat on the floor as a silent protest.  Mama just acted like sitting on the floor was something everybody did and never paid us no mind.

Although, he has found happiness, I see that Plywood walks slower than ever now.  In fact, Plywood walks so goddamn slow, it hurts my feelings.  He shuffles like an old man.  It drives me out of my ever loving skull.  Walking down the street with him is like eating shit with a needle.  Tedious.  When we are walking down the street together, he’s carrying a hairbrush in one hand and a pack of Salem in the other.  He looks just like a sullen teenage girl from the wrong side of the tracks.  Which he is not, he is a 30 year old slow-walking man.  I try to humor him to get him moving a bit, but then can’t stand it so I poke him to speed it up a bit.  Finally, I stop humoring him and start to push him.  I say, “Hey you are not a teenage girl, you’re a 75 lb man!  Let’s act like it!” “Yeah?”, he says, “This grown man has to shop in the boys section of the department store for his clothes.”  After a while, I ask, “Are you happy?”  “Yes,” he says, “I am.”  I see that happiness and I see that he is getting along fine. I decide to let him live in his slow happiness and the mood to push him faster leaves me.

One evening during this visit we went out for drinks and boy did we get looped.  We got in the car to go home but at the last minute I decided we should stop at Mama’s house and give her a piece of my mind.  I wanted to tell her off for everything.  Everything.  I wanted to tell her how I hated the way she treated us all. I hated that she stole his furniture and his love life.  I hated her spitefulness. I hated she lived off him rent free for a year.  I was glad to be living far away and gone of her but I still needed my say. I could brew on her like nobody else.  I was finally gonna say what was always on my mind. I parked the car and we walked up and I was ready this time. As we came to the front door of the house she opened it and shouted hellos through her tears.  She said she cried cuz she was that happy to see us. A mother can always get to ya.  Always.

We came in and sat down.  She had me off guard, but then I had a beer and I found my courage.  I saw my entry to getting everything off my chest.  I opened my mouth but, just then, my mother stood up.  “Wait, before you say anything. I have something to tell you both.  I have something I ain’t never told nobody.  You hear me? Nobody.” She took a breath, “Your brother is a hermfodite.”

I could not form words. My brain was disconnected from my mouth.  If I had had teeth to fall out of my head, there on the floor they would have lay.  After a while my brain kicked in, “What did you say?”  “You heard me. Your brother is a hermfodite. He can never have children or a relationship with anybody cuz he’s a hermfodite.” I was still drunk sorta but I knew what I heard.  I looked at her with narrowed eyes and said, “Do you mean her-ma-phro-dite? He has the organs and features of both sexes? Is that what you are saying?”  “You know, I try and tell you something important and you wanna correct the way I talk.  Well, that is what I just said, iddin it – a hermfodite.”

About then I hear sniffling coming from a drunken Plywood, who was sitting next to me. I looked over at him and he was crying and nodding his head in agreement. “What are you crying for?” I asked.  “Because, it’s true.”, he said. “Have you two lost your damned minds?”, I screamed.  Plywood protested:  “No, it’s true.  It’s true, I had an operation and everything.”, Plywood sobbed.  “What operation?  For what? What the hell are you talking about?  Did you convince him of this shit?” I was still in my drunken disbelief.

I got up in disgust to get water in the kitchen.  Mama took my seat next to Plywood and put her arm around him.  I walked back into the living room and looked at them both, sitting there sobbing and crying and hugging.  I looked at them both and felt like I was with aliens from outer-space.  “Ok, when was this so called operation and what did it do?”, I asked.  My Mama took a deep breath then looked at me sternly through tear stained cheeks, “When your brother was two years old we tried to make him into a man.”, she explained. He interjected, “When I was born I had three urinary tracks and the doctors made them all into one.  But it never came out right, which is why I pee sitting down.” he said softly with downcast eyes. “I am not a real man, cuz I pee like a girl.”, he whispered.  My head was fuzzy so I decided to get a beer to replace the water.  I went back into the kitchen and cracked open a Falstaff.  I stood for a minute, drank it all in one gulp then stormed into the living room with new found energy.

“OK, now look you two.  This is fucking bullshit!  I have been around his entire life and there was never a urinary tract operation.  You were born who you are.  You are not a hermaphrodite.  You are Pliant.  That’s it, all this is bullshit! There was no operation”, I scream.  “Yes, there was!”, he screamed back at me.  “I kept it from you to protect him.”, Mama says.  “Ya’ll are crazier than, Woody. You know that.  Crazier….look, you are just a gay man.  That’s it!”, I sputtered.  I was losing wind.  All the oxygen had been sucked out of the room.  I caught my breath and realized my Mama was still muttering about the baby operation that turned urinary tracts into penises.  I took several deep breaths then delivered a magnificent belch from the beer I had swallowed in one gulp.  I looked at Mama with every ounce of seriousness I could muster, which caused her to go quiet.  I turned my gaze to Plywood.  “Now listen to me.  You were never a hermaphrodite.  You are a gay man.  Period.  Don’t let her get into your head.”

Everything went quiet.  It was so still in that room.  The horns were staring at me. Then I heard her say, “I swear before God, it’s true.  If I am lyin’, may God strike my three kids dead right now.” I looked at her with a cocked eyebrow and said, “That’s it.  Enough is enough!”  I grabbed Plywood by the hand and lifted him off the sofa.  He was airborne.  I flew his 77 pounds  out to the car where I opened the door and planted him in the passenger seat.  I turned the engine over and slammed into reverse so hard rocks shot upward like a fountain.  I drove around looking for another bar the only sound was his muffled sniffling.

I found Pirates Alley open and went inside and sat down.  We ordered vodka tonics.  He continued to sniffle into a bar napkin.  I downed my drink and ordered another.  “Look, you were not born a hermaphrodite.  You hear me?”  I ordered another drink and downed it.  “This is typical Mama bullshit.”, I said as I slammed the empty glass down. “It is true.  I was born with three urinary tracks.”  “Oh, for God’s sake, even if that were true, which it is not!, It doesn’t make you a hermaphrodite! It makes you a baby with three urinary tracts.”  “But, Sissy, I tell you it is true.  I did have that operation.  I can never father children.  No one will ever love me and I pee funny.”    “You pee funny because you have pulled your dick back for drag outfits for so long, it just hides now.  That’s why.”  I kept going, “If you pulled me back all the time, I’d stay hidden too.  Now, it just hangs back I guess.  I don’t know why you pee funny but it doesn’t make you a hermaphrodite!”  We went back and forth like that for a while.  I slowly realized , she had his soul.  She had eaten the life out of him.  She had mentally beat him until he shuffled with her every step of the way.  She had beat him.

I saw Mama once more before I had to leave, but didn’t talk about “the operation” anymore.  On my last morning in town, Plywood was with me as I drove to the airport.  Plywood said he was better because of my visit.  He said he was feeling strong again.  I nodded in agreement.  “I felt so alone when she had her stroke.  Here she was talking Chinese in the hospital and you living 1500 miles away and every time I ask you to come back home you would just say you would never come back here until the end of her days.  I ain’t got you and I never know where Woody is until he calls collect from somewhere.  I mean, she is there in the hospital talking Chinese and I am all alone with her. I am all alone with that crazy bitch talking Chinese.  And, I am thinking I will be alone with her for the rest of my life.  Forever.  No rest.  You said you would only come for three weeks at the end.  But you came.  You came and now, now that you know everything, I know you will move back home and help me.”  My brain froze.

I pulled the car over on the interstate and cut the engine off.  Cars sped past us in whooshes.  I turned to him. “Pliant, my love.  Listen to me, there was never an operation.  You were never a hermaphrodite.  Taking care of her is making you crazy. You have NO help.  You ARE alone. She is no company for you.” I wanted a cigarette. “As long as that woman breathes air I will not live in this town.  As long as there is life in her body, I will not move back here. So you really, really ARE alone with her Pliant.” I considered things for a moment.  I took a breath before I made my pitch, “But listen to me, you don’t have to be!  Don’t stay here.  Come with me.  Get on the plane with me.  Leave here and come live with me.  Say you will right now. We can buy what you need when we get to my house. Leave her. You have happiness keep it!”

He looked at me with complete devastation.  My heart broke.  Now, he was staring out the window.  Whoosh.  Whoosh.  Whoosh. “How am I gonna live anywhere else?  I am a freak.”  “You are not a freak! Look, it’s easy, you just come with me.  You move and you adapt to your new place…Pliant, if you stay here…as long as you live here, you will be taking care of her.  She will suck the life out of you and put lies in your head.  She will kill you.  And if I lived here I couldn’t bear to watch her do that to you.  I would have to get in the middle of you two.  I would want to protect you.  I would go crazy. I’d try and help you. And I DON’T WANT TO! I CHOSE NOT TO.  I won’t care for her. I won’t do it.  She never cared for us.  She never cared for you. She uses you. Come with me.”

“I can’t leave her.” he said as he stared out the window. I could see him splintering.  I could see parts of him breaking off.  And then like that, his head lolled to one side and rested on the window. After a long while, he turned and stared at me.  His huge brown eyes showing the betrayal.  I had killed his hope of company.  Whoosh.  Whoosh.  I did nothing for what felt like a long time. Whoosh. Whoosh.  We said nothing.  Whoosh.  Whoosh.  There was nothing to be said.

Finally I started the car and I drove the rest of the way to the airport in silence.  At the curb I got out and retrieved my bags.  We hugged and kissed and cried our goodbyes.  We said how fun it had been.  What a good visit we had.  I disappeared into the airport. I didn’t turn to wave goodbye. I couldn’t I was consumed with guilt. I don’t know if he waved or if he fell over from the weight of his head.

On the plane at 35,000 feet the anger welled up in me and I silently screamed curses at Mama again and again for being the Devil.  I cursed her for torturing us.  I cursed Plywood for believing her.  I cursed her for calling him a freak and I cursed him for being a freak.  I cursed him for being devoted to her.  I cursed myself for not being.  I cursed myself for being a monster.  Yeah, I had moved 1500 miles away but I wasn’t fooling anyone.  I was in hell.  The Devil put me in hell.  I was burning. She had won.  I didn’t escape.  No matter where I was in this world.  No matter where I went I belonged to them. And, I would be burning in hell for all eternity for abandoning him.


I smoked on and off for 20+ years.  I should look a lot worse from all those years of smoking.  I mean, smoking ages you.  And, smoking was for me, a marker of major life shifts or events. My relationship with smoking  began early and although I tried to manage it, c’mon, you can’t manage addiction.  Ah, the love/hate relationship with  smoking.  It is love when you are in middle of the act and hate when you are not, because you know what you are doing is horrible.

I started smoking when I was 13.  My best friend and confidant, Rex Brewer, and I smoked. I learned to drive his VW beetle while smoking. God, I felt sophisticated and mature.  All the adults smoked.  We were cool. I learned to drive a manual with a cigarette between index and middle fingers of my right hand, my palm on the stick-shift. I loved it.

First time I quit, I was about 17.  I was married at the time,  (more on that another time) and my husband said it was the thing to do, so we did.  Like that, I was an actual non-smoker for a while.  But then I left him.  We were divorced and I was 18 and at sea.  I hadn’t even matured emotionally yer I was divorced and thankfully in college.  I had friends who saw me through it but I spent a majority of my time smoking, hanging with a friend/lover, who was also a smoker, while flunking math and French.

By the time I was 24 years old I had been smoking on and off for ten years.  My abusive relationship going strong. Still loving it but not quitting it. In youth, you feel like you are in on a secret.  Look at photos or advertisements from a bygone eras.  All those serious artists who were smokers, Dashel Hammet, Humphrey Bogart in Hollywood 1940-1970s who didn’t smoke?  Mad Men made me want a cigarette and a drink.  Among my favorite photos is one of Babe Paley in a shift dress, hair coiffed and a cigarette in her slender hand.  You look at that photo and you think “cool elegance”.  She is so elegant.  You never think “My God, she must stink to high holy heaven from smoking so much!”  You think, “I want to project that confidence.”

When I was 24 I had a boyfriend who was a waiter/writer. One night at the end of his shift at the restaurant where he worked, he crawled into bed with me and when I smelled his hair, I nearly vomited.  Although he didn’t smoke, restaurants allowed patrons to do so. It was a great pleasure to smoke before and after a meal with drinks. I addressed my initial gag reflex by swallowing hard, turned my head away and thought, “Jesus Christ, is this what I smell like? I am quitting smoking.”  I was so repulsed by the odor, I quit the next day.  I didn’t smoke for 13 years.

Now, didn’t smoke is an exaggeration as I was sometimes a “social smoker.”  You know, like a social drinker. I was not REALLY a smoker, because I occasionally bummed a cigarette or two from smoking friends late at night when frequenting dive bars of the East Village.  Late nights are the worst for your steely determination, that’s when defenses go down, and skewed logic kicks in:  “It’s a bummed cigarette, it’s not mine! So, I am not a “real” smoker.  Hell, my hair and clothes already hold the stench of this bar and smoke and beer.  Why not.”

My “cessation” lasted nearly 14 years.  It was 1994 when I divorced the MBA grad/writer-husband.  “Divorced” meant unstoppable emotions of  uncertainty and hurt.  All the stress lead to smoking overtime.  But the good news was, I had a strong support network of good friends.  Most of whom were smokers…four of us were known as the “drunk girls” (more on that later) as we would dance, smoke incessantly and do shots of tequila on Sunday afternoons at Dan Lynch on 14th Street.  Hey, don’t threaten me with a good time!

Denise and I were smokers.  Carol and I were smokers. Hell, she was such a scary smoker, she would remove the patch and light up, crush out the stub then put the patch back on and be ready for another cigarette in 15 minutes. One night after work at a bar Carol, had taken off her patch, was trying to light a cigarette not remembering she had one in the ashtray in front of her.  I had to point all of this out to her. She just slapped herself on the forehead.  Carol was NUTS (in the good way).  Remind me to tell you about her daughter and Maverick Records. She loved, loved, loved smoking.

Alison and I were smokers. She shared with me an article on “smoking porn”.  Guys who get off on watching videos of women inhale cigarette smoke in a very specific manner. She mastered the snap puff.  Alison so enjoyed smoking that our bad (we would learn later just how bad) running joke was:  even at the tender age of 5, one could always find a pack of cigarettes in Alison’s purse.  After steak dinners at Frank’s, she and I would have brandy and cigars.  Dipping our cigar tips in the the brandy before having a draw of smoke from its rolled drunken head.  Delicious.

One day, Alison announced she was quitting. Well, of course, that meant I would too.  And we did.  She took up Tai Chi to help her cravings. My friend Red Donna quit by walking around her kitchen island while flapping her arms.  I decided on hypnosis.  My French boyfriend was hypnotized over the phone by a guy in Alabama and it worked for him.  So, on said French boyfriend’s referral, I called Alabama man.

We had an initial phone interview wherein he gave instructions.  I must set aside an hour, have no interruptions and be lying down in a comfortable, dark place. I was hypnotized successfully.  This was such a shock!  I was hypnotized over the phone.  What did that say about me as a person?  No matter, It had worked!!  I had quit! It really, really worked….for exactly one year to the day.

I called Alabama man again and it worked again.  For a few weeks.  Cigarettes are a strong addiction.  They are deceptive and seductive. They are calming.  Cigarettes are evil.  As we all know, they can be fatally dangerous.  They kill you for God’s sake. I use to cough so hard in an attempt to get a clear my throat of crap I thought I’d “catch an aneurysm”. I had lost friends to cancer, yet it was impossible to stop.

While on holiday in Tuscany with friends, it turned out that the ever elegant and sublime, Hafeez and I were the smokers of our group.  Hafeez and I decided to judge which Italian cigarette was the absolute best.  We bought every brand of Italian cigarette at the tabac shop.  Once back at the villa, we lined them up on the grass under the stars.  Laid ourselves out on the grass on a perfect Italian night…then, as we counted shooting stars, we rated the quality of each brand.  Linda was the winner by unanimous vote.

At 43 my abusive love/hate relationship with smoking had been on and off for nearly 20 years.  It was the same year that Gerry, my love, my destiny, and future husband entered my life.  Smoking, was one of the many things we had in common.  We loved holding a drink (martini) in one hand and a cigarette in the other, spending hours at posh bars in midtown discussing the world, comedy, movies, acting, our growing love, listening to jazz quartets and laughing our heads off.  At the beginning of each day, we would vow to quit.  By evening we were at the Brooklyn neighborhood pub, bumming cigarettes and singing Karoke. Or at the “grotto” smoking with the girls.  Once while attending a wedding in London, we took so many cigarette breaks we were barely accounted for at the reception. Cigarettes were defining us.

Gerry and I were married in Italy in August.  On the fifth of August eighteen of us left our rented villa in San Stefano, with a 100 year storm looming, and set off for Certaldo, Italy.  There, our friends witnessed the magnificent, romantic, unforgettable wedding ceremony administered by a mayor straight out of central casting and a translator.  Back at the villa photos recorded the gloriously, beautifully, (secretly) decorated dining room, the incredible food (I can still taste the pasta) and happy celebrants seated all around.  People sang songs.  We danced to West Side Story (it was all Dorian could pull up on his new iPod).  We laughed.  I kissed the hands of the cooks.  I rubbed the chef’s calf inappropriately every time he came by the serve up more pasta…professing my love for his food.  The happiest of days!  It was glorious.  It was perfect.  It was a disaster.

In nearly every photo there is a smoldering cigarette either in my hand or dangling from my lips.  Back home in the states, I was distressed, angry, and desperate.  I could never erase the cigarettes from the photos.  I made up my mind to stop smoking….for good.  But how?  I had quit only to start again over and over.

Leafing through the back of a village voice one day, I saw an ad with a photo of a black man’s face, a “do rag” wrapped around his forehead, his index finger poised over his eye and a banner that screamed “I CAN MAKE YOU STOP SMOKING IN ONE HOUR.”  I immediately thought, “THIS is the guy!”  I called the number and spoke with Dr. X (his name still escapes me) who explained the fee was $500, cash only. He could guarantee that I would never smoke again.  “Really? ” I ask.  “Really.” he says.  We agreed on an appointment, he provided me with an address on the Westside in Harlem.

I arrived at a building at my appointed time. I am never on time, but I was this day.  It was a nondescript store front next to another nondescript store front.  I entered into a small brightly lit office where two straight back chairs were positioned against the wall opposite the door.  Another chair was next to the door and a single desk occupied most of a wall across the room with a closed door next to the desk.  At the desk, sat a thin, neat and kind, young black woman.  She wore a short puffed sleeved, white cotton, blouse, which made her look efficient and childlike at the same time.  She was so courteous and gracious.  She smiled broadly and gave me forms with instructions to complete them fully adding, “The Dr. will be out to see you shortly. ” “Do you like him”, I asked?   “Oh yes.  He’s very good at what he does. We have a high success rate.”  She went back to reading the book opened on her desk.

A young black man entered the room wearing a short sleeved white shirt and dark pants with a thin black tie. He exchanged pleasantries with the young woman.  They laughed softly and he sat down in one of the chairs across from me.  I thought, “Isn’t that the Farrakhan uniform he’s wearing?  Or is it Mormons?  It’s Mormons.  And Farrakhan people.  Oh my god, I am in Farrakhan territory. Oh, this is not good.  Am I at Farrakhan’s office?  Wait, is he alive?  Yes, he is.  Doesn’t he hate white people? I am not sure.  Oh this is not good. It’s fine…it’s fine” They both smiled at me.

I completed the paper work got up and handed it along with the $500 cash off to my young black friend.  She reviewed the work, tucked the cash into a drawer in the desk as the young man across the room beamed at me.  His teeth so white, so perfect I wanted to kiss him.  I sized up the space and decided yeah, this may not have been the best idea.  I just blew $500 I couldn’t spare.

I sat down. I combed my hair. I sized up the room.  I considered whether or not I could take the young woman in a struggle.  I could.  If I fled, how far would I get before…before what?  I don’t know? What am I doing in Harlem?  I am asking Farrakhan to make me stop smoking. Oh this is perfect.  Just perfect.  No, it’s fine.  Keep your wits about you.  Woman, you are a stupid ass.  What if I get in there and he tries to hypnotize me into doing something against my will?  Like what?  I don’t know…but this is not right. Yet, there was my young friend, seated at her desk, reading and emitting the calmest, sweetest vibe.  It put me at ease. But….  Well, if I die here, at least smoking won’t be an issue any longer.

At that moment the door next to the desk opened, for a second I can see a larger dimly lit room, annexed to the office.  Then when I looked up I thought, “That’s M C Hammer!  M.C. Hammer is getting hypnotized too?”  Well, I thought it was M C Hammer because of the monochrome over-sized pants and silky shirt.  I expected him to break into the crab-walk dance any moment. Alas, it wasn’t M C Hammer.

M C Hammer closed the door behind him and then picked up the clipboard, briefly reviewed my completed form, then looked up with a generous, knowing face and said, “Hello my Sister, I am Dr. X.  Welcome.” “Hello”, I said.  “So, you wish to rid yourself of this poison that is controlling your body. Your very life?”, he asked.  I just stared at him thinking, M C Hammer is going to hypnotize me? Then broke into too big of a smile and began my usual nervous run-on sentence , “Yes, I do. See I started when I was 13 and even though I don’t really smoke now… Well, I do, but it’s not that much. But, I want to quit like, all of it. Once and for all. And all I think…”  He cut me off when he took my hand in his and as my dance partner gently led me toward the door to the dimly lit room.  His touch was so reassuring and calming, I followed willingly. “Well then. Let’s begin.  Come into my hypnosis room.” In the back of my mind, I thought for a split second, I will be murdered or something… something.

He pushed the door open and I entered the most….the most…  It was like a black Elvis lived in the room.  The feature wall was smokey mirror panels.  There were 1970s style posters of Nubian goddesses casting a slow, knowing gaze though long eyelashes. Pink over-sized luscious lips, slipping into a Mona Lisa smile. Skinny black arms angled from a paisley patterned halter top, an impossible long hand on a hip.  No hurry in the posters – just Cool.  Cool.  Cool.  Two ceramic leopards stood sentry at either side of the doorway.  Feathers of dried grass rested in huge fake urns.  Two enormous La-Z-Boy loungers were against the wall to my left. A small table to one side of the lounger closest to the door held a glass of water.

“Do you need to use the facilities?” he asked. “Huh?” My brain wasn’t with me. I had so much to take in with this room I was standing in.  I couldn’t stop processing the vibe of the room and M C Hammer standing next to me.  “Uh, no thanks, I am fine.”  “You shall sit here, my Sister.”  My dance partner sweetly guides me to my La-Z-Boy.  It is HUGE!  I sit. “Now I want you to find a comfortable position and melt into the chair.  Let us begin to rid the process of ridding you of this poison.” I felt a pang of panic and immediately suppressed it.  Trust this.  Trust this – crazy, fucking, Elvis meets M C Hammer, experience. And, my GOD, this chair is FANTASTIC.

I nestled into the chair and readily relaxed.  Then he sat in the La-Z-Boy next to me.  For an instant I seized up, my shoulders in my ears.  He calmed me with his voice. He explained that he would be sitting next to me during the session.  His voice instructing me to trust the space.  Close my eyes.  Soon my shoulders fell away and I rolled into another world.  The hypnotized world where you are present but at the same time not present, where you hear a voice but remain asleep.  Where the voice guides you to calm pools and calm space. You rest at an in-between place. This relaxed state deepened.  Like having been administered liquid Valium, I felt so comfortable and happy I could have stayed in this space for the rest of time.

At this point I had been listening to his voice and been under for some time.  Then his voice said, “I am going to place my hands in front of your eyes.” Panic fluttered across my brain. “I want you to remain relaxed.  In a moment I will place my hands in front of your eyes and ask you to open your eyes.”  From the research I had done and from having been hypnotized in person twice before, opening your eyes in the middle of hypnosis is HIGHLY unusual.  The idea is to remain in the altered state, mentally available not concentrating on any activity that would take you outside the state. I felt suspicious but that feeling was in a deep crevasse far in the back of my head.  “Now, my hands are here in front of your eyes.  Open your eyes.”  I did.  “Now close them.”  I did.  “Now open them.” I see the palm of his hand and the soft lighting all around its edges. “Now closed them.” I do.

“Now, my Sister, I want to ask if I can touch your hand.” My left hand was on the arm rest of my chair my hand tilted up toward the ceiling my palm exposed.  He was next to me in his chair. I thought….”I knew it!  Here it comes…omg, what do I do?” He said, “May I touch your left hand?”  I said “yes.” He said, “I am now touching your hand.” I felt his thumb and index finger take that fleshy tender piece of meat between my thumb and index finger and just as a bit of panic set in to my mind, he squeezed that nerve center as hard as he bloody well could which froze my mind. He said. “Open your eyes.” I saw his hand and was in a panic but the pain in my hand was overwhelming. “REPEAT AFTER ME!” he demanded, his voice booming and filling the room. “I WILL NEVER SMOKE ANOTHER CIGARETTE AS LONG AS I LIVE.” I repeat, “I will never smoke another cigarette as long as I live.” “SAY IT AGAIN!”, he shouts like a preacher at Sunday sermon. “I WILL NEVER SMOKE ANOTHER CIGARETTE AS LONG AS I LIVE!”  “I will never smoke another cigarette as long as I live.” I say, consumed with fear and confusion.  “SAY IT AGAIN! I WILL NEVER SMOKE ANOTHER CIGARETTE AS LONG AS I LIVE!”, he shouts even louder, squeezing even harder causing more pain than I can stand. “I will never smoke another cigarette as long as I live.” I whimper.  “SAY IT AGAIN!”, he commands.  “I WILL NEVER SMOKE ANOTHER CIGARETTE AS LONG AS I LIVE!” “I will never smoke another cigarette as long as I live.”

Then his hand released mine.  “Close you eyes.” His voice once again gentle, his fingers and hand gone he releases me back into the place of hypnosis sleep.  I stay there for long minutes before he talks in a normal tone and brings me back to into the room.  He counts from 7 to 1 and tells me to open my eyes.  I do so and am present.  I reacquaint myself with my surroundings.  Colors are bright in spite of the darkness.  The softly lit Elvis Room and M C Hammer are there and my witnesses to the event, the Nubian princesses and their leopards, smile upon me.  I feel light and airy.

M C, my trusted dance partner motions for me to rise out of the chair.  I take his hand.  All sort of gushy feelings swirl around inside me.  He opens the door to the main office.  Bright light blinds me for an instant.  I get my footing and as I swing my purse over my shoulder, I hear him say, “You are now cured of that poison.  You will never smoke again. ”  “Thank you.” I say.  Feeling truly blessed.  I begin to leave the room, then turn back to him and ask, “Can you hypnotize me for weight loss?” “My Sister, why would you want to change anything, you have a beautiful body. Have a blessed day.”

I went home that night and retold my story to Gerry taking the fleshy part of his left hand at the tender spot between my fingers and squeezing with all I had as I retold my tale.  I watched his face contort into pain and shock and demanded he repeat after me, “I will never smoke another cigarette as long as I live.” “I will never smoke another cigarette as long as I live.” Say it again! Say it again! Say it again! All the while hitting that pressure point. I let go and look at him.  “Owwww.” he said

Neither of us have never smoked again.

Serenity, now!

We recently made some big changes in our lives.  Embarked on the next chapter as it were.  We have uprooted ourselves and our beloved dogs, Barbara and Eddie, from the only way of life they have known, to return to our comfort zone: an urban neighborhood.  Both Barbara and Eddie spent their entire lives on trails, breathing country air atop a mountain.  Now, they walk sidewalks smelling every leaf and investigating every tree.  It is sudden and it is an urban life for us all.  They seem fine as we are all together.  The biggest change:  every conceivable convenience is right before us.  It was the perfect choice.

10 years ago I could no longer cope with the rat-race existence of NYC.  I had already been there 24 years at that point. Had reached all I the goals I had set for myself. The commute from Brooklyn into midtown became longer and longer and more fraught with anxiety every day.  I was in a constant state of edginess. Occasionally, we would take our car, Dolores the Taurus, and make our way to Long Island’s wine country.  We would daydream of farm living and serenity.  Although we knew we could never afford the move, it was our personal dream….making the move to wine country.

Now, we all know there is no wine country in New Orleans, but I am from there, so I rallied for a move to that unique Southern city, full of food, old friends, luscious tropical foliage, oppressive weather, ancient architecture and dive bars…until Katrina hit. Gerry being from Portland rallied for the hipster locale.

I was dubious at best about Portland.  We had been here once before.  I took a look around and said, “It’s not even a city…it’s a town.”  We came to Portland again in July 2007 to celebrate his dad’s 95th birthday.  We decided while here to investigate wine country and booked a couple of evenings at the Black Walnut Inn in Dundee.  As the car climbed the long driveway to our destination, I had no idea, that in a moment, we would turn a corner and POW!  We would find ourselves transported to Tuscany.  It looked like the villa we stayed in when we were married.  I thought, “Done!”  I put the Brooklyn Row House up for sale on Craig’s List.  It sold for cash in a week.  We were in Wine Country three months later.

So, for 10 years we lived on 5 acres, atop a mountain, in a rural part of Oregon wine country.  It was a good life.  Hell, it was a great life.  We loved it.  We were in heaven.  Sometimes literally. And it was a life of adventures and travel. Deep friendships were formed. And there was so much learning!  We learned about trees, what made for a good forest, where truffles lived, which mushrooms were legendary, that coyotes eat cats and howl like hyenas, that dozens of hummingbirds can keep you company year round when they live in a honeysuckle bush next to the house.  I became proficient at gardening, graduated college (in spite of a spotty internet connection) and together we took on the elements every winter.

Once we were settled, G reunited with his grammar, high school and college mates who return to “Men’s Camp” every summer. The same summer camp he enjoyed as a boy! I formed a theater company where we put up some pretty fabulous shows on occasion. G was a great actor.  My insecurities always got the better of me as an actress. But, in spite of myself, my one-woman show became something I was so proud of. I performed stand-up on occasion, served in Rotary and on the boards of various organizations. We were living full lives. It was marvelous!  All this wondrous beauty with views of mountains and clean air and pure water bubbling up from a well and a sense of community.  How could it get any better?  Well, at times, I missed culture and convenience.  Anytime you needed something or went somewhere it was a minimum of 30 minutes travel.  Minimum.

After 8 or 9 years of living the good country life, I found when I looked out of our rows and rows of windows, I thought…I need to get the window cleaner out.  When I looked out at the horizon, I saw the mountain view  for a moment (half the time you couldn’t see the mountains due to the fog), and then I saw chores waiting for me.  More and more chores piling up.  There were chores for every season.  Chores for every moment.  Chores, tasks, to-dos. Chores and chores and more chores. That section of the forest needs thinning.  We need to limb and buck those trees we felled last spring.  Let’s get Chris and Raul out here to winterize.  Let’s get Christ and Raul out here to spring clean.  We need to build a burn pile and ask Brian to set it aflame! And, no matter how much money we poured into the property paying for help, not matter how much help we received from our generous, loving, knowledgeable, neighbors, there was always more to be done.  Always. It became exhausting.

It was our own fault.  We never invested in the proper equipment.  We didn’t seem to have the right skill set for forestry. G certainly didn’t have the interest in “working the land”.  Eventually,  it became too much even for optimistic me, not to mention, the expense. Then, in 2017, we got a bug in our ear from a neighbor in Portland (more on that in a later blog).  In April we began to entertain the idea of making a move.  Then we decided to investigate making the move.  By June, we decided to make the move.  By September we moved.

So here we are in an up-and-coming neighborhood in NE Portland. Yep, we traded in our modern, single level, open-floor-plan home with massive windows, for a classic craftsman complete with massive pocket doors (designed to cut-off access to other rooms) and stairs and stairs and stairs.  Stairs going everywhere.  Most people at this point in their lives, would be making the opposite choice.  Moving to a rural life of bliss. I have always heard a different beat from my drum.

This move has brought a level of happiness I have not felt in a while. And now, I am back to writing.  With less to do in the house and garden, with no theater company, no boards, no meetings and no property to tend to, I have the luxury of time.  I feel more energized than I have in ages.  My optimism is back.  I am back. I can think again.  There is inspiration instead of lists occupying my mind. I can walk to the store in an instant, so I have time. Time is so wonderful at this stage in my life. So, I have a need, and a want to share stories that come to mind.  My mind is afire with stories from my life thus far.  I want to share my stories, about absolutely EVERYTHING. Let’s begin.