Image courtesy of Mother-Daughter Press and Gay Bumgardner Images.
This is the story of a raccoon, rash, and reclamation. Two nights ago, we heard scurrying and squeaking and deduced a raccoon had made our attic its winter vacation home. We decided to venture up and set a trap. So, we filled the humane cage with obstacles and marshmallows--according the the experts, these adorable, rabies-laden creatures love a challenge and spongy, sugar snacks. When I climbed the rickety ladder and emerged into the dark and drafty space, I discovered the entire room was blanketed in ivy. It looked like a C.S. Lewis novel come to life. I wanted to run to the center, throw myself in the plush greenery, and roll around until a unicorn galloped up and carried me into a magical kingdom where I would reign eternal as Queen. Then, I realized it wasn't ivy at all, but poison oak. I started itching immediately. I backed down the ladder and called Frank who then called Horse. Horse is Frank's "neck-down-man," which means he hires him for jobs that require no activity from the tonsils up. Horse's tale is one of pride, a pistol, and prison, but that's a whole different blog. Long story short, I decided we might as well clean out the attic while we were at it. Here is a list of the mysterious items I found lurking amidst the toxicodendron diversilobum:Three vaccuum cleaners--we have all hard wood floors. A set of electric crackling logs--we don't have a wood fireplace.
A box of tarnished silver--I must have deemed it valuable enough to keep, but not enough to polish.An entire box of casserole dishes--I only make three casseroles. Follow this link to my fave.
Three boxes of files with labels such as: Bank Statements 2002 and Hot Fall Looks 2005.Some piece of furniture still in the original packing.Several items that Frank snuck in and hid including a UK corn hole set, drums, and steer horns.And, the beloved chocolate fountain that I last saw five years ago after a Christmas party. Today, I have reclaimed the ability to supply the masses with flowing chocolate goodness. It is a grand Friday, indeed. Huzzah!
Each year I am faced with a dilemma. Do I tell Frank exactly what to get me for Christmas and surrender the fun element of surprise OR do I let him shop on his own and end up with the craziest crap you’ve ever seen, which I then have to pretend to love. This year I let him go rogue…not a good decision. I received a purple furry sweatshirt that I’m fairly certain was stolen from one of the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba; two scented-candles in pumpkin and mulled spice (I've smelled all the cinnamon and nutmeg I can stomach this season); earrings which cause me an allergic reaction; a pair of gloves two sizes too big…and so on. But because I am the queen of faking a giftgasm, I squealed and gasped and acted thrilled. Until…I didn’t. Then, I put it all in a neat pile and asked if he’d kept the receipts.
Here is where you can start to think that I’m an ungrateful bitch. But it gets worse. Later, at our family’s celebration, I opened a gorgeous monogrammed jacket…with the wrong initials. On the way home in the car, I lost it and went on the most un-Christmas like rant ever. It went something like…“Do you know how many hours I spend cooking and shopping and online researching and running my ass off to make sure everyone else’s holidays are frickin’ perfect? And, I get nothing from you people. At least, nothing good.”
Then, I remembered my commitment to the first principle of the Blisskrieg. Believe Bounty. I allowed myself another half hour of sulking…alright, it was more like a full hour…and then went about being the most grateful girl on the planet.
Of course, I could have just acknowledged how lucky I was to be alive, healthy, homed, and loved on Christmas, which I realize is more than enough to send me to my knees with "Hallelujah!" on my lips. But according to Robert Emmons in his book Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, the real key to gratitude is specificity. He states that being specific “helps us avoid gratitude fatigue. The more discrete the elements, the less we will cease to recognize them or take any one of them for granted.” You should make what you are thankful for as specific as possible. So instead of just thinking, “I’m grateful that I have food,” you should get detailed and think, “I am thankful that these beets are not only tasty, but have restorative properties that will repair my liver.”
Using this lesson, here are a few things I am thankful for today (in no certain order):
1) Angus the Cat's 4am purring which lulls me back to sleep from a nightmare when nothing else will.
2) The musky odor that Frank gives off after a hard day’s work—If you bottled it, the scent would be called “Proud Provider”
3) The satisfaction that comes with writing the last sentence of a chapter.
4) How Doc Grizzly and Rufus greet me with unbridled excitement and pure love even when I've only been gone five minutes.
5) The Village Inn’s $2.65 cheeseburger with all the fixins.
6) The primordial squawk of the heron that heralds the beginning of each day on the lake.
7) That first sip of hot coffee in the morning and cold bourbon in the evening.
In University of Southern California study, they found that instead of naming five different things you were thankful for, it was more rewarding to name five separate details about one thing.
We’ll try this on the gloves that were two sizes too big.
1) I am lucky enough to have all ten fingers and therefore fill out a pair of gloves.
2) They were proof that Frank does listen to me sometimes--I did say I needed black gloves.
3) We live in a society with the technology to invent handwear touchscreen compatible.
4) This week, it's been too warm for gloves anyway.
5) The store where he purchased them has a very liberal holiday return policy.
There is a word in the German vocabulary that pretty much sums up my every-other-day state-of-mind for the last fifteen years. It is Weltschmerz, which translates as that melancholy feeling that overcomes you when you realize that your life and the world will never be what you'd like it or expected it to be. It was once described as the inherent sadness of mortality.
Recently, with all of the disturbing trends in police behavior, political confusion, renewed racial tensions, environmental destruction, holiday pressures, and overall disgruntlement by the majority with the state of the world, Weltschmerz is easy to adopt.
Personally, I I am constantly fighting it off. Don’t get me wrong. I know that I have a good life, in many ways a grand life. Parts of it have been so surprising and amazing they have exceeded expectation. Other areas, people, and experiences have not. I grapple with the overwhelming feeling that I have not lived up to my potential. In my early twenties, I was certain that I would move to New York and become a soap opera villainess. I did move to New York and nail an audition with the short lived serial “The City,” but fame and fortune did not find me. Then I wrote and produced a film that I was just sure would hit it big. And it might have…if we hadn’t lost our funding halfway through the final edit…but that’s a different story. Then, as I moved into my late thirties…early forties, I was certain I would become a best-selling author. I haven’t given up on that dream, but it seems more distant than it did ten years ago. I thought I’d stay svelte and fit with little to no effort, but apparently my ass didn’t get the memo. I was sure there were certain people who would never let me down.
I’ve had fleeting moments of overwhelming happiness and genuine success, but I’m seeking perpetual peace and impenetrable joy. I’m on a search for the kind of happy that comes from deep inside and cannot be swayed by outside circumstances.
So, have decided to launch a Blisskrieg…a full-on assault against unhappiness.
I have come up with an five-step game plan in the form of a handy acronym to help me achieve this BLISS.
Ignore the Imp
I’ll explain each principle as I attempt to master them. Today, I rest, in preparation. Tomorrow, I’ll begin my battle against the blues by learning to Believe Bounty.
Last night at the Nomadic Ink Holiday Party, I won the 53-Word story contest. The theme was loosely Christmas. It was voted on by my peers. I got a prize, and not a tacky leg lamp either. Still, to most this would be a minor victory…a very minor victory. But after a week that seemed to last seventeen days instead of seven and was filled by disappointment, loss, political unrest, serious stress, and a headache that would not go away, this little win felt like a Pulitzer Prize. Here is my 53-Word story, entitled "Leftovers."
Alice slathered a thick layer of gelatinous, red spread on the turkey sandwich she was meticulously making for her husband. He’d complained the meat was dry.
She firmly believed cranberry sauce was the most underrated of all holiday fare. Its tart and tangy flavor could completely mask the acrid taste of rat poison.
If you would like to read more 53-Word stories or submit your own, head over to their official site 53wordstory.com. December’s theme is “Flying.”
They say the two best days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. Yesterday, we sold our small boat, The Muse, but the happiness hasn’t quite set in yet.
Here’s a little back story. One weekend, friends and I were taking in a band on Sunset Marina, the dock that regularly hosts the wildest parties on the water. I overindulged a bit in their hospitality and needed to escape the rowdy mob. So, I wandered the slips trying to find refuge when I saw a little boat that seemed to be abandoned. Upon closer inspection, I saw a “For Sale” sign, so I went up and found that the padlock on the front was broken. I slid open the door, sneaked to the bedroom, and pulled a Goldilocks. I slept like a baby angel until I was awakened by the desperate calls from my friends who’d decided to go home and realized I was missing. I said good-bye to my new boat friend and returned to my own marina.
The next morning I awoke in my own bed and realized that the little boat was the answer to my prayers. In 2012, I decided I wanted to take on the challenge of living on the lake for a full year, but there was no way our boat, Lakematized, could accommodate me, Frank, two dogs, and two cats. And, there was no way we could afford a houseboat large enough to do so. However, we could afford a small 1972 steel-hulled, Cumberland to house the cats, my office, and guests. My dream of lake life could become a reality.
We found out the owner was an elderly man who absolutely adored the lake and lived there until he passed. He had a cat. It was an omen. So, we bought the little boat that I hijacked that July night and named her The Muse. It soon became my haven. Upon stepping on board, I always felt engulfed by peace and safety. Whenever I couldn’t sleep, or was mad at Frank, or just feeling sad and angsty, I would go sit on that boat and let it rock the blues away. Whenever I had to stay here overnight all alone, I'd lock myself in and know that The Muse would protect me until morning.
Yesterday, with hardly any notice a man showed up to look at The Muse. He came back within three hours with cash and supplies so he could stay on it for the night. Selling a boat at this time of year is a huge blessing. I should be thrilled, but I’m so sad. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to say good-bye. I wanted to bask in the memories of all of the fabulous friends who made it their home for the weekend. I wanted to remember the "before and after" and take pride in all the work we'd done to her. I wanted to take one more nap on that little boat before letting her go.
Maybe I still can. After all, my relationship with The Muse started with trespassing. It should end that way too. The next time I know the new owner is out-of-town, I’m going to break back in, and give the little boat a proper thank you and farewell.
Much like in the prairie days when Ma and Pa went into to town to the Sundry Store to fetch dry goods and gingham, once a week I leave the lake and venture into the big city. Every Wednesday, I gather up all of the laundry and our cans, bottles, and plastics (Burgin doesn’t have a recycling center), pack up the old laptop and some fancy clothes, leash up the hounds, and haul it all into the metropolis of Lexington. Even on a good day it’s a bit of an ordeal that takes three trips with a garden cart. I should mention that the path from my house to my car requires crossing a concrete dock, then heading through the wooden walkway referred to as Spider Alley because of the surfeit of arachnids, then avoiding otter shit while navigating around the bait shop, over another wooden dock, then another concrete pier, across a rickety bridge, and up a ridiculously steep incline nicknamed Hell Hill. The trek is ¼ of a mile. I make it a minimum of four times a day to take the dogs to the shore.
This Wednesday was going to be just another journey into civilization until I noticed that one of my cats was having trouble breathing. Oscar Brown, who was usually Oscar Brown the Meanest Cat in Town, was listless and lethargic and wheezing and rattling. I gave him his favorite wet food. He refused to eat. He refused to move. His eyes were glossy. His little lungs were trying to suck in air. It looked painful. He was pitiful. He needed medical care.
I called my usual country veterinarian, but was informed he was out vaccinating pigs and wouldn’t be available until morning. I couldn’t wait until morning. I had a meeting I did not want to miss in Lexington at 7pm. And, I was not about to leave a distressed Oscar on his own. I called my Lexington vet. He could get me in at 4pm if I could get to town. It was 2:30, the drive was an hour, and I hadn’t even started to load the car.
I ran back and forth across the dock, cart bouncing behind, boob sweat pouring, leaping over duck dung and finally got the car packed up except for the beasts. I wrestled Oscar into his cat carrier and hooked up the dogs. When we got to the car, Doc Grizzly decided he wanted to ride in the front seat, which was where Oscar needed to be. I had to physically lift all eighty-five pounds and shove him in the back. This was not done without much cursing that echoed across the water. I grabbed the cat carrier. Simultaneously, Oscar urinated and defecated on himself. It was now 2:50pm. No time to go back. I dumped the carrier, snatched a Sponge Bob beach towel from the dirty laundry, wrapped Oscar in it, and put him on my lap. On the way out of Norman’s Camp, a giant S-10 pick-up nearly ran me off the road. I swerved into a ditch and out. The dogs fell in the floorboard. Oscar pissed again. This time all over me. Still, I drove and drove, through the Palisades—five miles of the most narrow and windy roadways always riddled with drivers who refuse to stay on their side and tractors that putt along at thirty miles an hour. As I went around a particularly sharp turn, an errant turd rolled out of the carrier and into the floorboard. Still, I drove and drove with a limp and stinking cat on my lap. I made it into town and pulled up to the vet’s office with no time to spare, which meant the dogs had to go in with me. We've established that Doc is eighty-five pounds. Rufus is one hundred and fifteen. So, that means I now must carry the cat and control two hundred pounds of canine.
I sat Oscar on the exam table. He immediately jumped up and began batting at a light cord. Somehow he was dry and all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was still soaked with urine and sweat and covered in orange fur clumps. The vet put the stethoscope to Oscar’s chest, which was no longer heaving.
“What do you hear? Is it bad?” I asked.
“I really can’t hear anything. He’s purring too loud. But he seems fine. Is he always this chill?”
Apparently, there were two possible explanations for Oscar’s miraculous recovery. Either the adrenalin and epinephrine from the ordeal acted as a natural steroid and cleared up his respiratory tract or it was kidney stones, which he passed when he pissed in my lap. As the smell wafted up from my dress, I demanded, “Euthanize him.” The vet refused, so I loaded cat and dogs back in the rank-smelling car and took them home where Oscar Brown resumed his reign as Meanest Cat in Town. Just another day in lake life.
I just wanted to give you a glimpse into my oh-so-so glamorous world.
Last night during the Emmys, long before the touching Robin Williams’ tribute, I started to cry. And not because I realized I now have Kathy Bates’ physique, but because I realized that it is getting less and less likely that I am going to make my dream of becoming a writer for Saturday Night Live come true.
Now, in my experience there are two different types of dreams. The kind you love to fantasize about on rainy days, but realize on some deep level, will never come true and wouldn’t make you happy if they did. For example, being able to fly. Seriously, you’d have to get all your clothes tailored and wings would be hell to keep clean and you’d either have to sleep on your stomach or alone since they’d take up most of the bed. Then, there are the dreams that, no matter how lofty, you know are...or were...achievable. The ones that you know you could have made come true if you’d just been in the right place at the right time, or worked a little harder, or made different life decisions. Those dreams--the ones you really, potentially could have made them come true, but didn't--are the ones that are hard to swallow—at least, without puking them back up.
In my mid-twenties, I was in New York City. I was meeting people. I was going places. My work was being produced at comedy joints like The Duplex. Then, I came back to Lexington to make a film. And, not just any film…the film that was going to propel me into the career I so desired. Then, the investor dropped out. So, I drained my bank accounts to pay off the cast and crew. The experience not only knocked all the wind out of my sails, but ripped them into rags. I gave up on myself. And, I gave up on my dream of becoming a successful NYC comedy writer. Worse, I stopped allowing myself to dream big altogether. For the last twenty years, I’ve kept my dreams small and manageable. And, I have suffered for it.
This leads me to one of the happiness habits from the Huffington Post article. It claimed that, as a rule, happy people are resilient people. Depressed people are those who give up on their dreams and succumb to failure.
Then during the acceptance speech for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, I had an epiphany. I could still accomplish that. I’m 46, not dead. I could still win an Emmy. Why the hell not? After all, I can still type. I wiped the tears from my eyes—which burned like hell, since I’d been drowning my sorrows in salted, buttered popcorn and still had residue on my fingers—and decided that I don’t want to be a Dream Quitter. I’d rather die trying to accomplish something amazing even if I don’t succeed, than to live without trying.
For in the words of Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Recently, my Muse has been on a black-out moonshine drunk, but none the less, I was determined to write a blog today. So, I turned to Holiday Insights, which lists all the bizarre holidays on the calendar, in hopes of finding inspiration. Come to find out, August is “Admit Your Happy” Month. I can’t. For most of this summer, I have struggled with a case of the blues. Not the deep clinical depression that requires immediate medical attention and plagued me throughout my twenties and early thirties, but a low-grade gloom that I just can’t kick. The kind that doesn’t completely paralyze you, but slows you down so much that you can’t get anything worthwhile accomplished. It zaps your creativity and energy, lowers your willpower, steals your inspiration, and makes you vulnerable to that voice that declares, “You’re not good enough. You’re not talented enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re just not enough to deserve happiness.”
Of course, I’m pretty damn good at fleeting pleasure. But usually it’s the kind of pleasure that is followed by overindulgence, guilt, and often a hangover. However, I’ve never come close to mastering the art of being consistently happy...and it's about damn time I did. I want talking the kind of self-sustaining happiness that comes from an internal sense of peace, well-being, and belonging. The kind of happiness that allows you to navigate through the world with confidence and joy and trust. The kind of happiness that breeds spontaneity and success and smiling at strangers. Experts say it’s a choice, a commitment, a habit. So I’ve decided that, at forty-six, it’s time to take this happiness horse by the reins and commit to learning how to be happy on a daily basis. But, where to start? The Huffington Post, of course. I found an article, The Habits of Supremely Happy People, on the topic and I’m going to make it my mission to try and adopt each of these habits over the next few weeks and share the results with you. What’s the worst that could happen?
I think every author dreams that one day their novel will be made into a film. To learn my dream cast for The Miracle of Myrtle: Saint Gone Wild and get a full menu and soundtrack for your next "Myrtle" book club follow this link to the Dae&Writes Blog.
As a bonus, I shared my recipe for Purgatory Eggs...so good they'll make you slap your mama, then pray about it.
So I wasn’t actually kidnapped by a tribe of Turtle People, but Frank and I have been on an equally exciting and sometimes harrowing adventure. As many of you know, in 2012 I went even more insane than my usual brand of crazy and quit my groovy job at skirt! Magazine, sold most of my shit, and moved onto a pair of houseboats called “Lakematized” and “The Muse.” I fully intended to write a book about the experience called Bourbonista on a Boat: From Glamour Girl to Off-the-Grid. However, a couple of glitches occurred. I envisioned a kind of Eat, Pray, Love journey of self discovery and enlightenment. My experience ended up being more of the Drink, Curse, and Fuck variety, which isn’t nearly as marketable…especially when I’d have to leave most of the best stories out since they involved other residents of the marina. If I told it like it was I’d be chased off this dock with torches in a scene reminiscent of the one with outraged villagers pursuing the monster in Frankenstein. But even though I didn’t get a book out of it, I got something else—a new way of life. Once you go lake, everything else feels fake. So, last year Frank and I bought a piece of waterfront property with the intention of building a floating house. Then about a month ago, a friend sent us a link to a place that was everything we wanted. So, I single-mindedly went about liquidating what we could and getting a loan for the rest. We made an offer, they accepted, and we pontooned down to Gwinn Island to haul our home back. It took six and half hours of playing Huck Finn and drifting down the lake, but we made it here on Tuesday. I spent the rest of last week clearing out the boats, which are now up for sale…come on you know you want…no you NEED a houseboat. The bar is fully stocked. Frank has a Tupperware of soup beans in the freezer. A cat has already coughed up a hairball. The dogs have turned over the trash. Baby Duck and Turtle Turtle have found their way here for breakfast. Frank has made a fool of himself doing the drunken robot (yes, I’m referring to the eighties dance). I’ve made my famous deviled eggs. We’ve made love. And, I have written this blog from my brand new office, which means we are officially moved in to Lakematized II. Let the shenanigans begin!
Moving...Herrington Lake style. Two pontoons pushed, while I sipped a cocktail and watched for logs and such.