Archive for the ‘AS MY WORLD TURNS’ Category

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O.K., so good news for everyone who has had to listen to me WHINE ABOUT MY CAR for the past few months: IT’S FIXED! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

For those of you new to the blog, it all started when some stupid UNINSURED drunk ran off the road in the middle of the day … (with a B.A.L. FOUR TIMES the legal limit. .. hell – LO? How was this fool even driving!?) … and crashed directly into my beautiful little just-detailed Mustang convertible that was parked in my front yard … minding its own DAMN bidness … and (oh wait…there’s more!) SHOVED MY CAR THROUGH THE FRONT WALL OF MY HOUSE totaling the car and separating the front and side wall of the house… Yeah. Real nice.

Long story short: because I’d gotten an exceptional deal on the pony car, I could not afford another like it. The insurance company gave me a little settlement and for MONTHS I searched for another convertible, even though it couldn’t be a Mustang (my signature car). Dear daughter found me a great deal on Craig’s list for a low-mileage Sebring in my color (black like the ‘stang) and though it had some little things to fix up it was basically a good, low mileage convertible, which was what I wanted.

All was well until ANOTHER idiot (what am I; a magnet?!) tried to get into my car… again while it was parked RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE… by ripping the back window loose. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; as the cops told me there had been LOTS of auto break-ins on my street and the next one.  A friend nodded knowingly and said I should have just not locked the car because then they’d have opened the door, seen nothing inside worth stealing, and gone on to the next house.

Which brings me to an aside: why in God’s name are these thieves so stupid that they steal in the poorest neighborhoods? Does that make any sense? I mean, we’re just as poor as THEY are; what do they think they’re going to get? Why don’t they visit the neighborhoods of the infamous 1% and steal from THEM! They’ve got great stuff, and it’s probably insured! (Another friend theorizes that the thieves don’t have cars and are stealing within walking distance of their homes. Now there’s a cheery thought.)

But I digress…

So I got the Sebring convertible and they got nothing when they ripped the rear window loose and my troubles were starting all over again because now I have not only a house that leaks but a wet car as well.

Oooooooh crap-o-la.

My bro loaned me a car cover, which helped when the car was parked, but hey, this IS Florida and it WAS our monsoon season, so obviously I was having to drive through a lot of rain and couldn’t very well do that with the car cover in place. So the inside of the car got wet and apparently screwed up the stereo box thing under the seat which then began draining the battery yada yada yada… thaaaaat’s right, me with no music. I was not a happy driver.

I talked to my old pal Gary Miller … Sarasota’s best body man  (CAR bodies, you perverts) … because he had come through for me on MANY smashed cars in the past AND on this car when I needed my power windows fixed (a mistake I doubt he’ll ever make again, what a job THAT was!) but this time Gary begged off. He explained that even though he is a GREAT body guy he does not do this kind of repair.

I always try to get three estimates but this time I had to settle for two:

The first was from a guy who I think is a good mechanic but I ended up not trusting the shop because his office manager must work on commission: She seemed totally focused on upselling “big jobs,” as I witnessed when I went to pick my car up and was ignored for 15 minutes while she did a telephone hard-sell on some poor customer and then…every time a worker came into the office afterward … would interrupt our conversation to trumpet to them “Hey, I sold that big job!” That … combined with the fact that the shop owner had quoted me $45. for the estimate and she tried to hit me up for $208.00 … did not inspire confidence. Buh-bye. (And yes, I spoke to the owner and he stuck to the $45. quoted.)

The second bid never materialized after I stopped at a shop where one of the nice, polite workers looked at the car, made a couple guesses of what the boss would suggest, took my name, phone number, info (including the fact that I needed an estimate to turn in within three days) and I never heard from them.

Then, I heard an ad on WSRQ radio 106.9 FM (which I now listen to FAITHFULLY since my friend Susan Nilon bought it and has been making all kinds of cool additions and changes) and knew that the announcer… named “Doc” … HAD to be talking to me when he asked A) – if the rain was like a sprinkler in my convertible and B) if I wanted a Doc Discount on the repair.

Well hell to the YEAH on both counts!

So I went to Callender Auto Tops & Upholstery on 2nd Street in Sarasota (off Lime) and met the owner, George Callender. He’s a heck of a nice guy, a lifelong Sarasota resident, and I believe said his shop has been there 30 years? Wow. O.k., so this is still a small town; you can’t have a good family name AND three-decades of business here if you don’t do good work. I liked him and his crew immediately. George explained exactly what he would do, why he would use the parts he would use, and how much it would cost. Everything was written down and he even jumped through some hoops with me so I could get the money to do the repair. Like I said; a heck of a nice guy.

Of course, the downside of this is that the shop is so good they are constantly slammed and it was going to be a while before he could get my car in for the work to be done. The office manager promised to call me if there were any cancellations (well of COURSE there weren’t!) and finally the big day came. Today.

My sister Laurie followed me much earlier in the a.m. than I’m accustomed to being up. We took the car in and, with the same trepidation one feels leaving a child at school the first day, left it there. Except in this case, I did resist the urge to call every hour or so to see how it was going.

The day dragged by soooooooooo slowwwwwwwly… Finally, it was time. A kind neighbor drove me to the shop through the rush hour traffic (the tourists are back, aren’t they…) and there in front of the shop was my sweet little car with NO MORE BOO-BOOS! I was so excited I started walking around it looking at it, wringing my hands in excitement and smiling, and caught the eye of another woman doing exactly the same thing with HER car…we both broke into big grins and let out a whoop of joy that our BABIES were all better, smiling at each other and yelling stuff like “I KNOW!”  

So 24 hours from now if you see a crazy lady with reddish brown hair driving around Sarasota in a black convertible with the top down, that would probably be me. If she’s accompanied by an elderly Bearded Collie, a toothless Maltese/ Chihuahua mix, and a Pit/Boxer that thinks it’ a Yorkie … and all four are howling at the full moon… that’s definitely us.

Ahhhhhh, life is good again.

Thank you, George!


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In a certain unspecified year when my daughter Karen was five (almost six) years old (and a Pisces through and through), I sent out a gorgeous Christmas card featuring deep blue watercolor art of The Madonna and Child. It was really exceptionally beautiful and poignant, and at this wrap-up of what I will refer to as “a significant year,” the holidays were especially moving for me.
Karen has always been well-recognized in this family as what our Dutch Nana called “an old soul” (meaning she’d been through several incarnations and each time came back into the world wise beyond her years and ready to grow even more from there).
Example: Nana and Grandpa Johnny took care of Karen for me most weekdays when she was four years old and I was in college. Their house was right near the campus, there was no one I would trust more to care for her, and I would come there every day for a free lunch, a visit with the Grands, and some time with Karen. Karen was crazy about her great-grandparents and enjoyed working in Grandpa’s garden with him or helping Nana with her legendary baking, so everyone was happy.
One rainy day when I returned for lunch, Nana took me aside and told me this teary-eyed story: When I’d driven off that morning in my old clunky car, my little honey girl had stood at their living room picture window and watched with a very solemn expression on her face… something she didn’t normally do. Grandpa asked her if something was wrong and she said, “I wish the rain would stop.” Assuming that she was anticipating a boring day spent inside, Grandpa assured her, “Well we can have fun inside, honey, and the garden needs the rain.” She turned to him and said (at FOUR mind you) “But the roads are all wet and Mommy’s tires are bald.”
HOW she had picked up on that I do not know, but this was just the beginning of our awareness that this kid was an empathetic little SPONGE and we had to be very careful what was discussed around her; she not only picked up on everything but very much took it to heart, even when it was a worry far beyond her tender years.
So back to the Christmas card.
We were SO BROKE that year, but boy did we luck out: I opened a checking account at a new bank and lo and behold won a gift certificate to go holiday shopping at a local drug store that had a great assortment of present-y-type items! YAY! It wasn’t a big amount, but enough that with a little careful shopping I could manage token gifts for those near and dear, some prize goodies for Karen, and a box of Christmas cards. (I had been feeling so badly about not sending out cards that year, and now I could; it was like a present to myself!) After much debate I laid eyes on a box that just struck me immediately, so the beautiful blue Madonna cards rode in the cart next to the new drawing pad and Karen-coveted giant box of sharp, still-individually-paper-wrapped new crayons that every kid craved at Christmas back then.
That night, Karen and I sat at the kitchen table in our little apartment (in what is now a chic part of downtown but definitely wasn’t back then) and savored wrapping the presents in the colorful comic sections of the paper that I’d had my Mom and Nana saving for me since Halloween. (Yes, we WERE ahead of our time in the recycling movement …) (Oh all right: we were just too broke to buy wrapping paper!) We were listening to Christmas music and having a wonderful time when we turned to the Christmas cards. Karen picked one up, scooted up on what was for her a very tall kitchen chair, and studied it intently. After setting it down and picking it up a few times between stuffing the cards in envelopes for me (her job), she asked, “Mommy, may I have this one?”
My immediate thought was “No, honey, we don’t really have enough as it is!” But when I saw the look on her little face I just couldn’t refuse. She took the card into the bedroom and put it on her little desk, prominently displayed. I thought no more about it.
On Christmas morning, before we headed over to Mom and Pop’s house, I gave Karen her presents. We sat in front of the roaring space heater (it was really cold that year!) and she opened each one so carefully, as if she needed to save the silly comics paper. Given her responses, no one would have guessed how meager the gifts really were: Everything warranted a lot of mugging …wide eyes or a wide open “surprised” mouth or jumping up and down … she has always been a gracious recipient no matter what’s put in front of her (still is), but when she got to the new box of crayons (which I had anticipated to be the highlight of her Christmas as she was a coloring fiend) she frowned and cried in dismay, “Oh no!”
“What?” I laughed. “What do you mean, ‘Oh no?’ I thought that was what you wanted!”
“I did…” she fumbled, then heaved a heavy sigh and in a resigned voice said “Here” as she handed me a large manila envelope.
Confused, I took the crayon-decorated envelope and opened it. It didn’t take even a second for me to recognize her child’s drawing of the blue Madonna Christmas card… in green. “Oh honey!” I enthused, “is this for ME?”
Nodding she said in a somewhat annoyed voice, “Yes, but I didn’t have any more blue!”
Ah. That explained the odd reaction to the new box of crayons: just in time to be too late. I gave her a huge hug and assured her I loved my present very much, noted that now we had it in two colors, etc., and made it a point to carefully put it back in the envelope and bring it along to show to everyone at my parents’ home that day.
Of course everyone did the appropriate oooohing and aaaahing, but I got a bit of a surprise when I got Nana and Grandpa aside and they each swore that neither of them had helped her with this project. What? So she really HAD done this by herself? I mean, she always spent a lot of time coloring while I was studying, and we brought her drawing paper along to Nana and Grandpa’s every day as well as to my Mom’s when she visited there. But Mom, Pop, and my brother and sister all swore that none of them had helped her either.
I was more than a little shocked.
So that in itself is an astonishingly cool memory for my daughter and me to share, but it gets even better (if you can believe that):
21 years later (sorry hon but there’s no way to fudge these things!) I was taking care of my daughter’s daughter, Nicole. My first granddaughter was very much her own little person, but with the same sweet nature as her Mom. An early September baby (Virgo? REALLY?!?), she had just turned six that Christmas when I showed her the old “blue Madonna” Christmas card and the rendition drawn all those years ago by her mom. By now the original blue card had discolored, curled up edges, and the green on the copy had faded, but the ink drawing was still crisp.
“I want to do one too!” she shouted.
And I thought, “Oh wow; HOW COOL!”
So of course I turned her loose to do her version of the blue Madonna, and that year I gave homemade Christmas cards with the original art and the mother-and-daughter (or in my case daughter and granddaughter) copies as the cover, and people just loved it even without knowing the whole story.
Next year saw the birth of my second granddaughter, Kylie (a little Sagittarius through and through, like me!) born just a week before Christmas. Just after Ky’s sixth birthday I brought out what I now thought of as “The Madonna Project” and showed it to Ky, told her that mommy and Sissy had done the drawings, and asked if she’d like to do one too. She was all enthused (as six-year-olds tend to be without even realizing the significance of such moments) and did her own individualistic rendition.
The three copies had such differences and such similarities …”just like my girls!” I thought … and of course that was that year’s Christmas card.
Pretty cool, huh? But as the late Billy Mays used to shout on those infomercials, “But wait: there’s more!”
Five years ago my eldest granddaughter, Nicole, had a son, David James (oh yes: definitely a Scorpio!), making me a great-grandmother. He is SUCH a delight and treasure that I immediately forgave their turning me into an old lady. He’s the first boy in our string of babies and very, very different. Except…
Sometimes David gets the same look on his face that I used to see on his grandma’s face when she was his age and worried about her Mommy driving on bald tires. Ever since he was a baby, even people outside the family have referred to him as a “Little Man” because… frankly … he just never seemed as “baby” as most babies usually do. He’s always had this serious, thoughtful bent that belies his young age.
What will his Madonna look like? Will he even want to do one? I can’t wait for next year to find out, and I hope I’m here long enough to see this Blue Madonna card turned into an entire book-history of family Christmases. I think I will title it, “The Madonna and My Children.”
Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Am I the only person who’s ever longed to live in a mansion?


I blame my (on-hold) real estate career. That’s right, like everyone else in this state I have a real estate license, have pretty much forever, though I don’t take it terribly seriously. I stay up on real estate just because I truly LOVE IT on a personal level and always have; it’s why I got my license in the first place. While I don’t care to do battle with the hair-sprayed, manicured, Mercedes-driving, top-producers whose assistants do all the work while they take all the glory, I DO care to stay knowledgeable so that when someone comes to me to buy or sell I know what I’m doing. I only work on a few deals a year for friends or referral clients, so all the more reason to do my best. “Quality over quantity,” and that goes both ways of course. But I digress…


Anyway, you just can’t keep showing those waterfront places all day and going home to your little writer’s hovel every night without it at least crossing your mind that it would be sooooo cool to live in any one of those beauties, even for just a little while. When I’m really working real estate I actually have dreams … like in the night when I’m asleep and all the REM stuff is going on… about living in the places I show. The dreams are so real that when I’m waking up in the morning and trying to get my bearings, at first I think I’ve sleep-walked into the mansion’s shed during the night… and then of course I realize that I’m in my for-real house. (Sigh)


Though I haven’t been active in real estate since the housing market tanked I’m still licensed, so I still get the daily dozens of emails from upscale Realtors desperate to sell these places. The subject line is always something like “Waterfront bargain reduced another $1,000,000.00!” or something like that, and I can never resist looking at the beautiful slide shows and drooling on my keyboard. It almost makes me wish my evil twin… the money monger who takes over when the market is good… would get off her ass and do something.


Meanwhile The Real Me Twin … the writer… vents about it here or in other thinly veiled accounts about poor single women who long for the good life, usually as one of my warm up exercises for whatever I’m really writing. No one ever sees that stuff, and they aren’t intended to: If I just sit down and do a little stream of consciousness typing, eventually it turns into whatever I’m really supposed to be working on. But recently a strange thing happened: the twins collided on the page.


I was trying to get into the new screenplay/expose I’m doing (called “Retail,” hopefully coming soon to an e-book or theater near you), and I got this genius idea: What if I did a new reality T.V. show about poor people secretly squatting in multi-million-dollar mansions and seeing how long they could get away with it undetected and … once discovered … how long they could bluff their way through with the neighbors etc. to stay? There could be teams and whoever made it for the longest time would get a prize… which should probably be to be allowed to keep the house they’d successfully been living in, but I’m not sure how the network would feel about coughing up that much money.


Think about it. There’s already an opposite version in which millionaires (poor babies) try to survive in the world of the homeless. I’m sorry, but having been close-to-homeless on many occasions myself, I JUST don’t find that entertaining. (Does anyone?) But this! Don’t you think people would LOVE IT? I know I would. In fact, a stipulation of selling the idea to a network would have to be that I get to be one of the competitors. And I know JUST the place I’m going to settle into: Yup, the bargain basement one that’s been marked down another mil. No point in being greedy.


OOOOH! I know what I’m going to call it. Are you ready? (Wait for it….) Here it goes:




Huh? Do you love it? 

Who knows a smart executive producer that’s ready to back the next big reality show TV hit?


Call me. Wherever I’m living, I’ll have my cell with me.




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Disclaimer: Some of this is probably illegal so understand that I am NOT advocating  trying it, just looking into and thinking about the whole situation…


O.K., so food stamps are definitely a wonderful thing for those who truly need them and I am not by any means suggesting that the recipients look a government gift horse in the mouth. HOWEVER … it’s come to my attention that there are a couple of little kinks in the system, and rather than spend years trying to persuade government to straighten them out, savvy food stamp recipients are coming up with ingenious ways to cope.


First and foremost let’s note that while bread is certainly better than nothing (especially when you’re TRULY hungry), man does not live by bread alone. There are certain limitations on food stamps that seem to make sense (like you can’t buy alcohol or tobacco products with them), some that appear a little ill-advised (no deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper, or laundry goodies), and some that I’m not sure how to regard (no pet supplies or cleaning products). Non-food items must be purchased with cash, and if you bring them to the check out with your grocery purchases, the cashier will tell you your “food stamp total” followed by your “non-eligible items total” that you must pay in cash.


The few people I know who are on food stamps really appreciate receiving them, but they DO NEED some non-eligible items as well and truly don’t have the cash to cover them.


So… what to do, what to do…


“I’m not planning to be on food stamps for long,” says one acquaintance, “but if I show up for job interviews in dirty clothes, with B.O. and bad breath and dirty hair, it could be a lot longer than I’d like…”


Well YEAH, that makes sense…


A neighbor who is a fellow animal lover is trying to figure out how to supply her dog with nourishment, and before you suggest “Get rid of it” allow me to interject that for many people (including myself) getting rid of a pet is akin to getting rid of a child and simply not an option no matter what the circumstances.


“I get inexpensive cuts of meat that are on sale and feed her people food and vegetables,” she admits. “I know that’s not really a good answer, but it’s the only one I can come up with right now.”


And apparently she’s not alone: The local Meals on Wheels program has started working in cooperation with our county Humane Society and other area animal welfare groups to supply pet food as well as people food. Why? Because the delivery people have discovered that the humans they serve are sharing with their pets, thus defeating the goal of keeping needy people nourished. As one elderly woman who lives in a questionable neighborhood explained to the courier, “How am I supposed to enjoy a meal in front of a hungry dog that’s protected me and been my only family for the past eight years?”




Some recipients are learning how and where to use their food stamps as currency. (This is the part I think is illegal, but, sorry; I’ve always asserted that what’s “legal” isn’t always necessarily what’s “right.”) Anyway, a coworker I know was concerned that her car insurance was about to be cancelled… which would mean she could not (legally) drive to her part time jobs. She approached a relative who, though not in a position to lend her the money, did agree to give her the cash (which was her grocery money for the week) in exchange for groceries paid for with food stamps.


Necessity really is a mother, and the savvy working (or unemployed) poor are figuring out ways to make Food Stamps serve up more than meals. Now if they could just get the utility companies and gas stations on board with some kind of barter agreement …


A nice batch of cookies maybe…


And that’s the anything that’s happening today, Thanksgiving, in the land of plenty, my friends.

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I’ve been thinking about my 2009 New Years Resolutions since long before Halloween (spooky, isn’t it?)  probably just because this has been a less-than-great year and I’m kind of anxious to put it behind me and move on. 

Next year’s goals and promises are going to be a lot more about business and finance than in years past, just out of necessity. As they say “If you keep doin’ what you’ve been doin’ you’re gonna keep gettin’ what you’ve been gettin’,” to which I reply with a resounding “NO THANKS!”

So after having worked for The Company From Hell under Darth Manager for more than half of ’08, I am REALLY ready to move on from those Dullard’s (hee hee) and get back to doing something that requires a brain. And doesn’t make me grind my teeth in my sleep. Or double up on my blood pressure and ulcer and headache medications. (Did you know that some employees hate this company so much they actually have a whole web site where they compare which branch is worse and post stuff about the big shots? NEITHER DID I… but it’s really fun to read!) So the whole career scene is in for a major revamp.

As is the house. This is my 12th year here, and having come within a hair’s breadth of foreclosure in this past wonderful year, I now look at my little cottage with a whole new respect and appreciation. When I thought I was going to lose it I remembered how much I love it … something I’d lost sight of in a year when a stupid drunk came CRASHING INTO IT and left me with non-working windows and doors not to mention a gap between two exterior walls and somehow messing up the roof AND the wiring. (Dumb ass.) The restitution hearing looms ahead so maybe that would be a good time to make some of the changes I’ve been contemplating in the house.

Did I mention that this soused moron damaged my house by shoving my car into it and totaling it? Yes, my gorgeous Mustang convertible, gone. I could kill him for that alone! Anyway, “Decent Car” is also high on the 2009 priority list, especially since my car is pretty much my office.   

 As for the personal stuff… WOW. The personal rituals will remain the same but in a largely expanded version. See, every year for more years than I care to admit, I’ve stayed home on New Year’s Eve and conducted my own little ceremonies to sweep away the previous year’s bad personal Mojo and prepare to do better in the coming year. This is dealt with in several categories ranging from clothes to friendships. The clothes letting is hard but the ridding of toxic relationships is actually fairly easy: Because I have NO memory, all I have to do is go through my computer contact list and delete everyone I don’t want in my life in the coming year and just that easily, POOF! They’re gone. They no longer exist. I’m serious. For this reason, the elimination process is a very serious and solemn ceremony because once I delete them they are REALLY gone. And this year may be a record setter.

There’s nothing like bad times to show you who your real friends are… and I got an astoundingly good (if somewhat shocking) look at this over 2008, possibly the worst year I’ve ever lived through. It was really amazing. People I would have sworn would always have my back just completely TURNED THEIR BACKS on me, while other people whom I barely knew stepped up to such a degree I couldn’t help but wonder WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS? Two neighbors I’d only chatted with on a surface-y level treated me as if we were cherished, long lost relatives and came through for me in ways I couldn’t believe. Relatives I had thought cherished me as much as I did them just blew me off no matter how desperately I pleaded for their help… and then wanted to maintain the facade that everything was fine? People I thought of as acquaintances came through for me in ways I wouldn’t have asked of my dearest friends, and dear friends helped in any way they could (just as I would for them). It was a year of revelations.

So no wonder I’m eager to get to 2009 and my fresh start. I’ve learned more in the past year than any other decade, and I’m anxious to try living with this new insight and seeing where my life and career roll on these new knowledge wheels. I’m going to look at every day of this new year as being full of possibilities, and embrace each day as Anything Can Happen Day… because as I learned last year, it really can.

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