Archive for March, 2006
It’s spring… hurrah! I put the top down on my convertible yesterday and Zipped through Columbus without a worry in the world. This being Ohio, it rained all day today, but who cares? Those random warm days are like playing hooky from school. It’s the rush I imagine amphetamines providing. When they come in March, it’s a promise that it will be time to plant the flowers soon, and the yard will cease looking like an abandoned property after a hurricane.
I’ve spent part of the last two days sitting in class for my day job. You know it’s going to be boring when they make it MANDATORY training, and it was. As intolerable as this training is when you love your job, it’s that much worse when you’re burned out, tired and sick to death of it. 18 months and I will be free, perhaps so free I’ll be living in a box, but even that will be preferable to the soul sucking work I’m doing now.
The chair I use at my computer is a sturdy old uncomfortable antique. No matter how many pillows you stack on it, or in which position you sit, more than an hour in this instrument of torture makes your back ache and both feet go to sleep.
The books that I edit are submitted to our publishing company by e-mail. While I am in part old school, I like to curl up in my rocking chair (diet Pepsi and ash tray at hand) when I’m reading; there is also the miserable desk chair. If I were to read a 400 page submission from that chair it would either take me a year to edit the book, or my removal from the desk would have to be by wheelchair. So I print them off and put them in a file folder. I carry these folders around with me everywhere. If I’m not the one driving, I’m reading (red pen at the ready behind my ear). If I’m waiting anywhere, I’m reading.
Recently, I was stuck in a hospital waiting room while Bean had surgery. I had positioned myself in an out of the way chair behind the volunteer workers, a file folder with unread pages on my lap, a pile of annotated pages stacking up on the chair beside me. It was 5:00 in the morning, early even by a hospital’s standards, so I shared the room only with the two elderly volunteers at the information desk and one other woman, reading a book about Eleanor Roosevelt.
The waiting room was so quiet that the soft sound of squelching rubber soles on tile followed by a thump caused me to look up for the source. The lady had ice blue eyes sparkling out of a wrinkly face as pale as rice paper, under an unruly corona of curly white hair. Dressed in the geriatric version of jeans and a t-shirt, she wore khaki’s with a white oxford cloth shirt under a practical blue and white windbreaker. It was the pristine white Nikes making the squelching sound, the thump a mahogany cane with an intricately carved buckeye tree decorating its staff. I smiled at her. She smiled back, and started toward me, stopping where the tile floor became carpet to get her bearings.
As she made her slow, plodding way toward me, I could hear the labored breathing of an asthmatic, a malady she had apparently learned to cope with over her many years since its effects didn’t show in her bright eyes or determination to get across the waiting room. I moved my edited pages to make room for her to sit, shoving them into my briefcase in time to see her back up to the chair and drop, carefully avoiding bending her knees.
“You a teacher?” She asked while pointing absently with an arthritis twisted finger toward the file folder on my lap.
“No, I’m an editor for a small publishing company.”
The lady stared silently at me long enough that I was starting to believe she hadn’t heard me, and then she snorted.
“There are writers in Ohio?”
“There are writers everywhere.” I was fighting to keep the defensiveness out of my voice when she started to laugh and patted my knee.
“I’m kidding you girl, I’m not so far gone I don’t know about writers. I taught journalism at Ohio State for thirty years; believe me, I KNOW about Ohio writers.”
The tense moment broken, we exchanged names, (hers was Marabelle Feineman), and information on our purpose for being at the hospital, the weather, and the great season OSU basketball was having. At one point, she caught sight of the other occupant in the room, the lady reading the book about Eleanor Roosevelt, and tapped her cane on the chair beside the unsuspecting woman.
“That’s not the best book written about old Eleanor, you know? I promised myself I wouldn’t inflict my book taste on anyone, and look at me bothering a complete stranger, but you’re wasting your time on that dried up old lesbian. You want to read a book? Read Pompeii. Great story! It’ll stir up your wonder lust, get your blood flowing!”
The Eleanor loving reader hastily gathered up her belongings muttering something about getting coffee and beat tracks out of the waiting room, an event Mrs. Feineman found vastly amusing. We talked about dogs and husbands, jobs and kids. She explained her daughter was a judge in New York, her son-in-law a photographer for National Geographic. She said her son died in 1988, and I saw the pain still lingering behind her sparkling eyes.
“Once I followed a young man all around the mall.” Mrs. Feineman whispered in the quiet room. “I knew it wasn’t Teddy, but I just wanted to drink him in, his walk was the same, the way his hair fell over his collar…” she fumbled in her pocket for an inhaler as her voice trailed off, no longer strong enough to fight the asthma and the sadness.
I felt goose bumps rising on my arms, seeing the intensity of her loss still like a living thing clinging to her frail body. Before I could comment, or express my sympathy, a nurse stepped through the double doors across the hall and called her name. Mrs. Feineman’s husband was out of surgery and ready for a visit. She returned the inhaler to her pocket and when she looked back at me, the feisty 81 year old woman was back.
“You have a card for this publishing business of yours? I have a reading group, I’ll tell ‘em something about it if you want.” She painstakingly raised herself to her feet and adjusted her windbreaker before gathering up her cane.
I asked her how many she had in her group as I dug my business cards out of my purse and then gaped in surprise when she said 35 regular members…
“…ranging in age from 45 to 81, can you guess who the old coot is?” Mrs. Feineman winked at me, tucked my stock of cards into her pocket and started her painful journey across the waiting room. When she reached the desk she turned and looked back at me.
“Will you have one of your writers put this in a story?” She asked.
“No, I’ll write it myself.” I answered, smiling at her.
She laughed that shallow, dry chuckle of someone who can never get enough air into their lungs. “I didn’t think you were just an editor young lady, they never have time to talk to old women.”
I have no doubt that Mrs. Feineman’s reading group will each receive a copy of my business card, as well as her bridge club, ladies auxiliary and alumni members. I’ve never missed an opportunity to talk instead of read, but if not for my crappy desk chair which forces me to carry my work everywhere, who would ever have asked me about our business?
From time to time I convince myself that I’m far too sophisticated and worldly to continue living in this small town in Ohio. My wisdom and sense of style is lost on these bumpkins.
Then I’ll hear something about rednecks from comedien Jeff Foxworthy, who I not only find funny, but more often than not suspect of stealing material by eavesdropping on my life. Now he’s really gone and done it…. “You might live in Ohio if….
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy on Ohio: You may be from Ohio (pronouncedah-hi-uh) if:
> a. You think all Pro football teams are supposed to wear orange! Except us stylish, sophisticated ones, we think all pro teams wear yellow…go Steelers!
b. You know all the 4 seasons: winter, still winter, almost winter and construction.
c. You live less than 30 miles from some college or university.
d. You know what a buckeye really is, and have a recipe for candy ones. It just isn’t Christmas without ’em!
e. “Toward the lake” means “north” and “toward the river” means south.”
f. You know if other Ohioans are from southern or northern Ohioas soonas they open their mouths.
g. You can spell words like Cuyahoga, Olentangy, Bellefontaine,Tuscarawas, Wapakoneta and you know which letter is doubled in Cincinnati.
h. “Vacation” means spending a day at Cedar Point in the summer and deerhunting in the fall.
i. You measure distance in minutes. Hey! How else do you account for delays by deer?
j. Your school classes were canceled because of cold.
k. Your school classes were canceled because of heat.
l. You’ve had to switch from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day.
m. You know what should be knee-high by the Fourth of July.
n. You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. Example:”Where’s my coat at?”
o. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
p. You think of the major four food groups as beef, pork, beer, and Jell-O salad with marshmallows.
q. You carry jumper cables in your car. Doesn’t everyone?
r. You know what ‘pop’ is.
s. You design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
t. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
u. You think sexy lingerie is tube socks and a flannel nightgown.
v. The local paper covers national and international headlines on one page but requires 6 pages for sports. We insure our kids get their 15 minutes of fame early.
w. If you actually get these jokes — then forward ’em to your OHIO friends.
I’m not particularly technologically inclined, but I’m also not a complete dummy. At least I didn’t used to think so. I have been unable to post to this blog for over a week. My password wouldn’t work. I couldn’t retrieve my password because I insisted on using the wrong e-mail address… that’s what I get for having two. What a dork I am.
Papa Bear has had a bad medical report. A good old fashioned F-. Genetics are a funny thing. I smoke, drink too much pepsi, live on pop tarts and I’m rarely sick. I get the occasional cold or a random headache if the weather is changing. Papa Bear exercises, watches what he eats and makes every attempt to get enough sleep. He’s not even fifty and has already had by-pass surgery. Now he needs veins in his legs and a hernia repaired as well as a stress test because his blood test looked “alarming”. Oh, did I mention he’s also a diabetic? It’s no wonder he has to add depression to his list of genetic dispositions. The Bean is recovering from her minor surgery splendidly, she can once again drive herself and get out and about a few hours a day. Soup checked in yesterday, my wonder boy has just one year of college left and is plotting what to do next to get his astronomical student loans paid off with a minimum of effort. He’s clever, he’ll figure it out. Princess completed her third semester of college by flunking algebra and messing up her whole schedule for the last semester of the year. She has a math block apparently. The Profs squared are planning a Disney Cruise for the summer, working at their t-shirt business and slaving away with their students. Grand girls Mom is still doing her own thing.
I work/volunteer for a small publishing company. I’m a writer. Seems like a marriage made in heaven doesn’t it? It would appear to make sense that a publisher who likes my reviews, newsletters, business letters and essays would also love my fiction. Maybe, maybe not. One of the things I like best about Tico Publishing is that we keep a list of all submissions right there on the web site so anyone can see them, and who’s working on them. My book used to be there, and today it’s not. Could be because my boss is preparing the rejection slip, could be working on a contract. Insecurity comes naturally to a writer. How could it not? Once you’ve poured your soul and dreams onto the paper, tweaked everything, shared it with your writing group… it’s breathing on it’s own. After writing a synopsis, cover letter, query letter and addressed the envelopes to mail the pulsing creature out… just as the mailman picks up the package and drops it into that bin that is briskly wisked off to a waiting truck eliminating all chance of snatching it back… you remember how much the manuscript sucks. It’s my first book, ridiculous to think it could be good enough to publish. But, like a lottery ticket, until the verdict comes in there are so many dreams… I wouldn’t want to be my editor in chief. He’s scheduled for a visit here in May, to check on the branch operations and discuss the future. How safe would you feel sitting down to dinner with the author whose book you’d just rejected? Ha Ha!
My research in pursuit of a redecorating scheme for our tired old den, has led me to the kinds of magazines I don’t normally bother with. You know the ones I mean, those glossy, ad filled tomes filled with rich people posing on their “settees”, in their designer decorated living rooms. I didn’t find anything I especially wanted to copy for my room, but by studying these pictures I did discover the truth of an age old cliché… Money really can’t buy happiness. These people look miserable! Posed under their million dollar chandeliers, their tennis court in the background, and yet, they frown woefully into the camera. Gathered around the grand piano in their room filled with immaculately maintained antique furniture, they frown for the photographer. I can help them. There is no need for them to be suffering under the burden of their bulging bank accounts. To all you sad, miserable rich people: free yourself, send your money to me.
My favorite fantasies, aside from whatever plot I’m concocting in whatever book I’m writing, are “What I’d Do With The Money”. Papa Bear and I are not lucky. Money spent on lottery tickets would be money thrown down the toilet. But every now and then, the old mega ball gets up there where it is no longer resistible even by the practical and mature, and we buy a ticket. Then we spend the next few days before the drawing talking about how we’re going to spend the money. Our plans always include paying off the bills of all our family and friends (as if that helps our chances of winning, our use of the money would be honorable). I always add tearing down the house of perpetual remodeling in favor of building something new and flanked by turrets. Papa Bear always adds a scholarship for all the clan descendants (he’s a nice man).
There is an entry in my baby book, in my sister-mom’s handwriting, that says “Kathy never sleeps.” The more things change, the more things stay the same. I won’t say I “suffer” from insomnia, until quite recently, I truly believed I just didn’t require as much sleep as everyone else. It didn’t seem to matter how many nights I spent reading under the glow of a single table lamp, or creeping around dusting and picking up in the silent house, I was as alert and well rested the next morning as everyone else. Here in my middle age, it’s different. Tonight for example, Princess is asleep on the couch behind me with the cat as usual, the dogs have gone to bed with Papa Bear and the only light in the house is the one from this computer. Not so different from the old days, the only significant change is me, I’m tired right to my bone marrow. I will be tired tomorrow and the day after that…
The Bean gets her surgery on Monday. A delicate subject, not suitable for public discussion, but, well, it’s me. Bean’s reconstruction of a body part that has chipped at her self-esteem for years is worthy of celebration and applause. I hope it is the magic she believes it will be.