Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Reruns: Mom -- Faith, Sapphires, and White Light: Part Four

(original post date: May 25, 2011)

A NOTE BEFORE READING: This is the fourth and final installment of an essay that begins here.


Within a year of that fabulous long week on the hill in Truro, I gave my parents a stack of paperbacks. They were new copies of books that I had read recently and that I loved for one reason or another. My giving them the books was my way of sharing with them who I was and who I was becoming.

The stack of books included a copy of Shirley MacLaine’s Out on a Limb. Significantly, this was the only piece of nonfiction in the group, and I realized my parents might have some difficulty believing MacLaine's experiences and appreciating the beliefs that had developed as a result. I knew it would be more comfortable for them to absorb the spiritual messages of the novels in the stack. Still, it was a good book to give my parents. Maybe it would help them understand my mindset.

And, more than anything, I wanted my mother to read what amounted to about two pages somewhere in the middle of the book. The couple of pages were about Peter Sellers, about an anecdote he had shared with MacLaine.

Just prior to making Being There, Sellers had a heart attack, and it was serious. He had recounted to MacLaine his emergency room experience, his soul leaving his body and floating above it. While disconnected from his earthbound self, Sellers saw that which they call the “white light,” and it beckoned. But, he didn’t answer its call. He knew he had other things to do within the body on the table. And so he returned.


My parents were visiting me in New York, and my mother and I were sitting in my apartment chatting. I asked if she had enjoyed the stack of books I had given them. She said they had. I asked if she had read the Shirley MacLaine book. She said yes.

I then took the opportunity. “What did you think about that Peter Sellers anecdote? His experience in the Emergency Room?”

My mother’s eyes lit up. An energy enveloped her. She had permission. Permission to tell me about her own experiences – floating above her body, seeing the white light. Returning.

She’d been there. She’d done that. And for years, probably, she assumed it was all an hallucination. An experience that could not be shared, an experience whose other-worldliness would never be understood or validated.


Several years later, I was visiting my parents in Virginia. It was during my unhappy marriage years. I left the unhappiness in L.A., and took a flight back east sans mate. Mom and I were up late one night, sitting in the kitchen. The soft light bounced off my ring’s sapphires and diamonds as we sipped our martinis, smoked cigarettes, and so engaged in a bonding experience that is unique to WASPs.

She told me that night about the graduation ceremony in early June, 1969. The dutiful faculty wife, she was in attendance, sitting quietly among the well-wishers. At some point during the ceremony, a man behind her (a graduate’s father) had a heart attack, “made a noise,” and died on the spot. The noise, it turned out, was the “death rattle.”

A week later, the Accident occurred, and my mother was in the Intensive Care Unit. She had tubes up her nose, tubes down her throat, and tubes in places where there hadn’t been holes two days before. She was outside of her body, floating above it. She had seen the white light.

Then, she heard a noise, and she recognized it from the week before. It was the “death rattle.” But this time it was her own. Hearing it forced her to make a decision.

Something told her to cough. But, with all those tubes in there, she couldn’t. So, she began to pull them out, one after another. Furiously pulling tubes, furiously coughing.

Witnessing this, a young nurse turned to the Head Nurse on duty. “Mrs. Gates is pulling out her tubes!” the young nurse said.

“Oh, just let her,” the Head Nurse replied.

The Head Nurse was Mary Lou – a friend of the family. Her response to Mom’s actions reflected the resignation of a professional who could do no more. A medical professional who was disgusted by the inevitability she was witnessing.

"Oh, just let her,” Mary Lou had said.

So Mom pulled out those tubes. And she coughed. And she coughed. And she coughed. And whatever was blocking her future from her past was released suddenly. In a few short moments, she went from dying to living.


“Wow,” I said to Mom, having heard for the first time about the man at the graduation ceremony. “Do you realize how connected you are to that man who died?”

“Hmmm?” she said.

“He died so that you could live,” I said.

“Oh,” Mom replied, with her graceful innocence. “I guess I never thought about it that way.”


It would probably be pushing it to ask my mother why she chose to return to her body – why she chose to live. I’m just not sure she could answer that. But, maybe I’ve never asked because I don’t want to hear the answer. As long as her answer is a mystery, I can supplant it with my own:

Mom had to come back for me. How could she not? Could I even have reached eighteen without her? And, who would have been there to hand me a ring that was far more sophisticated than I? Who would have dared to give that ring to me? Who would have thought to tell me, through that gift, that I was worthy of its brilliance, that I might someday rise to its level of class and elegance?


Over the years, I’ve looked at my hand – the hand with the ring on it, and I’ve watched it become my mother’s hand. I am more than a decade older than she was when the Accident changed her life. I am older than she was when she passed along the ring to me.

I have no daughter with whom to continue the tradition, but that’s okay. I don’t think I want to give away this ring just yet. As long as it’s on my finger, I still have more reasons to become worthy of it.

More years to gather sophistication.

More years to acquire class.

More years to become the person Mom envisioned when no one else – not even I – could.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Reruns: Mom - Faith, Sapphires, and White Light

A NOTE BEFORE READING: This is the third of a four-part piece. To begin at the beginning, go here.

Cape Cod is a wondrous place, and there is a hill on the dunes in Truro where I became friends with Mom. Her parents once owned a house on that hill, and so we would travel there from Virginia for two blissful weeks every June. But that was during my childhood, and it is not the time I am alluding to now.

By my early twenties, the house we once had free access to was no longer in the family. My grandmother died while my mother was in the hospital, that summer of ’69. A few years later, before he died, my grandfather offered the house – at an incredibly reasonable price – to my mother and her two brothers. No takers. Thus went the house.

But it wouldn’t be long before my parents would miss the hill on the dunes in Truro – where everything is peaceful, where nothing goes wrong. So, they pooled their resources with another couple and rented a familiar house for two weeks. It was the summer of ’81, and I easily found two friends who would go in with me on a car rental so that we could drive up from New York to the Cape for a long weekend.

I was settling into adulthood then. I had been out of college for two years, and I was relatively happy with my life as a waitress-by-day/writer-by-night. I was emerging from the sad/angry person whose face had appeared on my original college ID. Mom and I enjoyed each other’s company.

The following summer, my parents and their friends, the Putnams, returned to the Cape. And so I, with a different duo of friends, returned as well. Another easy-going long weekend, another weekend of bonding with Mom.

(Me, growing into the ring.)

A few summers later, Mom and Dad once again made rental plans with the Putnams. Same hill on the dunes, different house. And this time, I was less concerned about who would go with me. I just knew I needed to go. And I planned to be there for a full ten days.

The latter weekend of my stay coincided with the arrival of Martha and her then-husband who drove up from Northern Virginia. (They would be staying the second week.) That latter weekend also featured a visit from our Uncle Gil, Mom’s younger brother. Based in Boston, it was easy for Gil to drive up for an overnight.

The night of Gil’s stay, the Putnams retired to their room after dinner, leaving us, the extended family, sitting around the table. For reasons I cannot recall, the conversation turned to the Accident, and we shared our memories.

Gil talked about receiving a phone call from Virginia. I don’t know if he said who delivered it, but the message was this: “Prepare for your sister’s death.”

He was 39 at the time of the phone call, and he told us that after receiving it, he just went outside and started running around the periphery of his family’s house in Lyme, Connecticut. He just ran around the periphery, frantically singing Beatles songs, he said.

I forget what stories my father and my sister shared that night. I probably had heard them before. I suppose, therefore, they had lost interest to me. I do remember, though, turning around the conversation at one point.

“Mom,” I said. “We always talk about what we were going through while you were in Intensive Care. What were you going through?”

Although I asked the question, I cannot recall the answer she gave that night. And that’s probably because the answer wasn’t complete. But the complete answer did come eventually. It came in pieces, over the next several years.

to be continued (and concluded) on Monday, July 29th.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Calling In Sick...

Be back soon...  with fresh Thursday posts and visits/comments to others.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Reruns: Mom - Faith, Sapphires, and White Light: Part Two

(original post-date: May 11, 2011)

A NOTE BEFORE READING: This is the second of a four-part piece, divided so as to keep each entry short. To begin at the beginning, go here

Perhaps the emotional plate was just too full then. After all, ours was quickly becoming the House of Hormones. Though still in her early forties, Mom was beginning to go through the early stages of menopause. Martha was well on her way to adolescence, and I was just beginning to flirt with its whiplash.

So while Mom confronted hot flashes and other assorted symptoms over the ensuing years, my sister and I confronted our own burgeoning beings. Not surprisingly, our confrontations were as different as the two of us. Martha’s response to the simmering crockpot of adolescence brought to mind Sarah Bernhardt – weepy drama played to the hilt. My response was more in synch with the times – denim-clad rebellion in search of mind-altering drugs.

When Martha turned eighteen, Mom gave her the emerald and diamond ring. And, I’ll admit, there was nothing at all about the gesture that seemed inappropriate. There was something about Martha that already seemed middle-aged at that point, and for that reason, she always struck me as a bit of an anachronism. A cocktail ring – so clearly representative of another era – fit well on her hand. It also would fit well on the campus of the Southern women’s college that she would attend (not coincidentally, the very college where our father taught).

My turning eighteen was another matter altogether. I would not be celebrating the big milestone with my family in Virginia. Rather, I’d be five weeks into my college adventure – in Morningside Heights, just south of Harlem. And while sending the ring via UPS or something of that ilk was certainly an option, Mom decided instead to give it to me early. With no fanfare, she presented it to me in New York, the late August night before our harried day of getting me into my freshman dorm at Barnard.

I remember the look on her face when she handed me the box with the ring in it. The look was hesitant. Tentative. It was a look that said, “If you lose this, or if you sell this for drugs, I will never forgive you.”

I took in that look, and I responded with what had become my trademark, my weapon, and my armor: merciless sarcasm. “Thanks, Mom!” I said, smiling. “And I love it that the blue of the sapphires goes with my jeans!”

She didn’t have a comeback, but she also didn’t need one. She was clearly the stronger party in that scene. By entrusting me with that ring, she had demonstrated that, between us, she could be even more of a risk-taker than I.

I immediately slipped the ring onto my finger. And since that day, I have worn it always.

At the time, my rationale for wearing it was this: if I wait until I have an occasion to wear a sapphire and diamond ring, I will never get to wear this ring. Complementary reasoning went as follows: if this ring is not on my finger, I cannot honestly say that I know where it is.

And so I justified wearing the ring.

But, God, it must have looked awfully silly on me those first several years.

I still have the first college ID that I was issued (the picture probably was taken a day or two after I slipped that ring on my finger). I have kept the ID because I always want to remember the person in the picture. My facial expression then revealed a curious combination of anger and sadness. To go with it, I had short, androgynous hair, no make-up, and the hints of a tee shirt that made no statement whatsoever. Oh, and there were the zits, too. Not a happy camper.

I was an unlikely candidate for a sapphire and diamond ring, and in retrospect, it is no wonder I was never mugged for that particular piece of jewelry. Probably, any mugger who saw the ring then looked at the rest of me and thought, “Nah, those stones can’t be real.”

Yet, I continued to wear it. Ultimately, I grew into it.

And during that decade of shedding anger and sadness, and replacing them with grace and enthusiasm, something else happened: I became friends with my mother.

to be continued on Monday, July 22nd.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Introvert's Conundrum

For the longest time, I wasn’t sure where I fell on the extrovert/introvert scale.  In fact, I once took the Myers Briggs test and landed pretty much on the fence in the E/I section, so even that attempt to figure it out didn’t help.  I can’t recall the exact questions on that test, but I can tell you this:  I have good social skills; I am (I believe) an entertaining and thoughtful conversationalist; and I like people.  I also can tell you this:  I enjoy my own company and don’t need constant socializing. 

Fortunately, I have a friend who is an expert in communications and conflict resolution, so her knowledge of personality types goes way beyond the Myers Briggs testing language.  Several years ago, when I shared my E/I dilemma with her, she responded with a question.  “Where do you get your energy?” she asked.  “From being alone or from being with other people?”

“Oh my God!” I replied quickly (no thought required), “From being alone!”

And thus, I was deemed an introvert.

And that totally works for me.

In fact, once I’d learned the formula, I also came to acknowledge that when I make social plans, I need to remember what could drain my energy.  I need to space apart my social plans and avoid over-committing.  If I line up too many get-togethers, I will rebel.  I will end up cancelling some of them and/or I will be cranky company at a time when I’d be better off alone.

I’m glad I know this about myself.  I’m glad I’m not socializing for socializing’s sake, thinking that if I don’t, there’s something wrong with me.

That goes for dating and relationships, too.  There really is nothing worse than “feeling that you must.”

…A dear friend came over recently, and we noshed on the types of Trader Joe’s foods you only buy if someone will share them with you.  As we caught up, she shared with me the story of several of her friends whom she’d grouped together as “Bad Boyfriend Recidivists.”  When she’d told me about their current situations, I was struck by how absurdly they were involved in their respective dating/relationship games.  They were actively participating in some shit that was riddled (I mean, riddled!) with red flags.


I can’t answer that for the women in question, but the conversation led me to share two thoughts with my friend.

First, I’m glad I was once married.  Sure, it didn’t take, but it happened, so I have that behind me, and maybe that history prevents some desperation I might otherwise feel. 

Second, I’m glad I am okay being alone.

I then shared with my friend a line from the poet May Sarton.  I should tell you that I only know of this line because I heard it on NPR.  (I’ve never really taken to poetry, and I’d not previously heard of May Sarton.) 

Regardless, the line is this:  “Loneliness is the poverty of the self; solitude is the richness of self.”

(At least, that’s the wording I found just now through a quick Google search.)

So, I guess I’ve got a rich self.  Because for all the time I spend alone, I do not feel lonely.

Still, though, there’s the conundrum.  While I am quite comfortable being alone, I know that the company of another introvert would give me a joy I can’t get on my own.

I have to remind myself of the good times I’ve had sharing occasional space with a man who appreciates his own solitude.  A man who craves quiet but also has good social skills.  Who is an entertaining and thoughtful conversationalist.  Who likes people.

… Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to read like a profile on match dot com, but if you know of anyone in the L.A. area… 

Never mind.  He probably would rather be alone.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday Reruns: Mom: Faith, Sapphires, and White Light: Part One

original post-date:  May 4, 2011

A NOTE BEFORE READING: Today’s post and the three Monday rerun posts that will follow it come from a memoir project: five Catalysts and five Constants. The project’s essays are all quite a bit longer than my usual posts, so I am going to share this one in four installments.

On the occasion of her eighteenth birthday, my mother received a cocktail ring from her Aunt Catherine. Catherine, who never married, bought the ring in France in the 1920’s. It has a classic deco design – diamonds and sapphires glistening subtly in a platinum setting. It must have looked quite beautiful on my mother’s young hand. It must have looked quite appropriate, too. The year was 1945, the locale was New England, and young women my Mom’s age had occasions to wear cocktail rings. They even had cocktail dresses.

I don’t think, though, that Mom was wearing either a cocktail ring or a cocktail dress the night she met Dad. I’ve gathered it was a much more casual event, a get-together thrown in the Manhattan living room of some of their mutual friends. But regardless of costuming, they did meet, and in April of 1950, they got married. By the end of that decade, they had two daughters. My sister, Martha, was born in early 1956. I was born twenty months later.

It must have been shortly after my birth that our mother made a decision about the future. Inspired, no doubt, by Catherine’s generous gift – and reflecting her own appreciation for the gesture – Mom decided that my sister and I would each receive a cocktail ring on the occasions of our eighteenth birthdays. Martha would get the emerald and diamond ring that Mom had inherited from “Aunt Edina” – her father’s former nanny. And I, who had been named after Aunt Catherine, would get the beautiful deco piece. My mother would thereby begin a tradition.

In the late 1950’s, a sense of tradition probably had its place. And Mom had no reason to believe that her plan wasn’t sensible. She could not have anticipated the decade ahead. She could not have anticipated the dramatic cultural transformations that, among other things, would lead to women burning their bras when they might otherwise be shopping for cocktail dresses.

Maybe no one could have anticipated the Sixties. But there they were: the civil rights movement, the assassinations, the war and the protests against it, flower power, Woodstock. Events in the country seemed to unfold at a pace that was at once necessary and out of control. Those events changed our nation’s context completely.

And at the end of that decade, a much more personal event changed our family’s context. Also completely.

My parents went to a cocktail party at the Country Club, and their close circle of friends decided on an after-party. A late-night meal at the restaurant owned by one of the couples in the group. It was Friday the 13th. June, 1969. The restaurant was probably no more than a ten-minute drive from the Country Club.

My parents were not even halfway to the restaurant when a Cadillac sedan slammed into the passenger side of their tiny English Ford. My Dad, who was driving, got off lucky. Despite the car’s being forced a good fifty feet off its course, he suffered only a few broken ribs. Mom, though, was in bad shape. The paramedics had to cut off the door to extract her from the car. They also had to cut the beautiful cocktail dress she bought in Paris two years earlier.

I was eleven years old that summer; my sister was thirteen. We received the news when the Cooleys (our parents’ closest friends) showed up where we had been babysitting. After telling us the abridged version of the event (which was all anyone knew at the time), the Cooleys took us home to pack some things. Then we went to their house, which was less than a quarter-mile from our own.

That first weekend was strange – so many people coming by with food. An odd energy. It seemed serious, but not too serious, all at once. Although we were told initially that Mom had a broken arm, it became apparent soon that there was more to the story. But it was only when she was “out of the woods” that we learned how dire her condition had been.

Dad was home by the middle of the following week, and so Martha and I went home, too. But Mom would be in the hospital for most of the summer, as her ultimately extensive list of injuries included a broken pelvis, which would take a few months to heal.

I can’t remember if I ever truly felt the pain and fear that an eleven year old might be expected to experience during that summer. I knew, in a way, that I had almost lost my mother. But, I also knew that I hadn’t lost my mother. And so the “almost” was intangible somehow.

I also wasn’t one then to reveal any deep digging into personal emotions. Sure, I would cry openly for hours over a good, sentimental movie or television program, but when it came to family stuff, I was famous for my stoicism. Maybe I did appear stoic. Maybe I had to – if only for the sake of marking my own territory in a land where my older sister’s dynamics absorbed just about all the energy in a given space.

In any event, after the Accident, and after Mom came home finally, my alleged stoicism regarding the event didn’t exactly stand out in the crowd. The whole family seemed somewhat resigned. And rather than celebrate Mom’s having lived, we just tried to pick up where we had left off.

But, we each carried the Accident within us. For years, it would be a burden that we would never forget, and one that we would never explore fully.

to be continued on Monday, July 15th

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Noise Will Be Noise

Although I was raised in a distinctly rural part of Virginia, I have spent all of my adult years in urban hubs.  First, New York.  Now, Los Angeles. 

And while the NYC neighborhoods I once lived in are now well out of my price range, my experience – at the time – was of being on the cusp of wealth and danger.

When my ex and I lived in Park Slope, Ben (the alias I have assigned to the ex) described our block as “Park Slop.”  It was most definitely on the cusp.  Make a left when emerging from the building and you’d soon be walking by the types of brownstones you might purchase if you were to win the lottery.  Make a right when emerging from the building and you’re doing another form of gambling altogether…

The same is true of my current hood.  In fact, it’s exactly the same.  If I hang a left, I will soon be walking in an area that is graced by multimillion-dollar homes.  If I hang a right, I will walk into an area from which I sometimes hear gunfire.

But gunfire isn’t the primary noise this time of year (or any time of year, actually).  This time of year, the 4th of July noisemakers (firecrackers, M-80s, etc.) are prevalent, and I’ve never understood why they are so enticing.  I don’t “get” creating unnecessarily disturbing noise.  Fireworks displays are one thing, but noise for the sake of noise?  What’s the draw?

Once, when Ben and I were returning from dinner at a nice restaurant closer to Park Slope’s brownstones, we saw a dog lying in front of our apartment building.  It was around the 4th of July, and the noise-making had been happening for more than a week.  As we approached, we learned that the dog had leapt from an apartment window because it was stunned by the sound of a noise-maker. 

So, what did the idiot kids do to get that dog on its feet? 

They launched another noise-maker.

Jesus!  Do these people not have brains?  Or hearts?

Despite the cruel logic, the plan worked.  Another noise-maker got the dog on its feet.  And bless that beast’s heart for returning home to a place where the humans responsible for its well-being were in fact irresponsible in a really big way.

  On an unrelated occasion (except for the time of year), I traveled with one of my dearest college friends down to Wilmington, Delaware, where we would enjoy the 4th of July holiday with her parents and her myriad siblings (my friend is the oldest of 11).  My friend and I took the bus down from NYC.  Her husband would be joining us the next day. 

After he’d arrived, the three of us and maybe two of my friend’s sisters headed out into the woods that were near their parents’ house.  The agenda was noise-making, and they’d brought along the “tools.”  I had no interest in creating the noise.  I simply came along for the ride.

I have no idea what my friend, her sisters, and her husband were hurling into the dark, but after one of those noise-makers was flung, one of those sisters heard a crackling noise.  Fortunately, they moved onto that discovery quickly, and within 30 seconds, they were jumping up and down on the forest fire they had almost started.


It would have really sucked to have been hauled into the police station for that potential carnage, but I gotta say, if that had happened, my desire for freedom and my absolute innocence would have trumped any loyalty to my friends. 

Sure, they could have booked them – my friend, a magazine editor; her husband, a doctor. 

But me?  The waitress in the mix? 

“Sorry officer,” I would have said.  “I had nothing to do with starting that fire.  I came along as a guest.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Reruns: Too Old to Move

(original post-date: April 27, 2011)

I cannot imagine leaving Los Angeles.

And not because I love it, which I do.

It’s just that, the older you get, the more difficult it is to make friends.

Remember how easy it was back in childhood? All you needed was a common age, and the deal was sealed.

Are you six? Me too! Let’s go play!

Can you imagine doing that at an adult age?

Hi! Are you fifty-three? Me too! Let’s have lunch!

Ain’t gonna happen.

When my then-husband and I moved to L.A., back in May 1990, it never occurred to me that I was leaving behind some well-established friendships and that I would have to start all over again. Sure, I had a few people out here who I knew, and among them were two I knew quite well, but… that’s barely a starter set.

Looking back at several of my early L.A. friends – people I thought I’d be close to for a long time – I realize that I was going through a process, and I would have to get to the end of that process before I would find the folks who were likely to last.

I remember a co-worker at my first staff job out here. We’ll call her Sheila. I’d been at the nonprofit organization for about a year before she got a position there. Our then-friendship is such ancient history at this point that I cannot explain the “attraction,” but I do remember always feeling as if she and I were both Hayley Mills, playing some equally misbehaving girls in a prep school movie…

I grew out of Sheila before I left the place where we both worked, and a few years later, I was at another nonprofit.

There, I became friends with two women, both of whom were a bit younger than I. We’ll call them Dee and Dora. I bonded with both of them, and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Again, I felt I had embarked on some friendships that would last. But they didn’t pan out as I had expected, and in retrospect, my memory of the times I spent with each or both of them centered around a certain amount of righteousness. A desire to be correct.


With Sheila, I was reliving my adolescence.

With Dee and Dora, I was reliving my twenties.

I was 32 when I arrived in Los Angeles, and I was too new to that decade to know what it meant.

Where friendships were concerned, I had to back up.

I had to start over.

I had to relive a few stages of interactive behavior before I would find the comfort of my present. I had to work through a new growth so that I could reach the moment when I began to know who I was and how I needed to be treated.

That moment began in my mid-40s.

In terms of friendships, I’ve been in the comfort zone ever since.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Curious Strength of ALTOIDS

When I returned to blogging about a month ago, I mentioned that 2012 was a rough year.  There were, in fact, five distinct chapters of “roughness,” and they were spread apart just enough to never give me a good break.  The final chapter occurred on November 21st, when my friend, Sue, died.  As with my cat, Vesta, who died in early September, Sue had enjoyed a long life.  Also as with Vesta, I could not have predicted Sue’s death three months’ prior to its occurrence.  Both the friend and the cat went downhill fast.  And for both of them, that was probably a blessing.

I am about to share with you a tribute that I wrote a day or two after Sue's death.  The timing is appropriate, as yesterday would have been her 86th birthday.

While the tribute covers some things, what it doesn’t tell you is this:  it was in Sue’s home that I witnessed dementia.  Her husband, Mort, who died on September 11, 2008 (the same year my dad died), suffered from dementia for probably 15 years.  He was on his last legs of lucidity when I met them 20 years ago, and when Sue and I began to work together, at their condo, he was well into the state of being that would continue to belie his once-200+ IQ.  Nevertheless, Mort was always docile and kind. He also was often quite comical.  Sue was the more imposing individual in that couple, and it is no surprise that she waited until his birthday to die.
During the years of Mort's descent into dementia, the witnessing I experienced inspired my first novel, and because I was able to complete that novel, I knew I could write another.  So, I have reason to believe that if I had never met Sue, I might not be able to call myself a novelist.  For that reason and countless others, I will always be grateful for the fact that my path crossed with hers.

Anyway, here’s the piece I wrote after she passed:

Remembering Sue
I met Sue in 1993, when she and Mort were assigned to “trail” the Development Department at MALDEF (and where I was that department’s writer).  

But it wasn’t until 2000 – and the two years we spent working together on her earring book – that I really got to know her. 

Over the course of those two years, we bonded over common idiosyncrasies.  We also came to learn about – and respect (and sometimes challenge) – those idiosyncrasies that we didn’t share.  When the book project was complete, Sue’s 3-hour/week administrative assistant was about to go off and have a baby, so Sue offered me the gig.

“I know this is below your pay grade,” Sue admitted.  “But make me an offer.”

I thought about it for a few minutes, and I also thought about all those times I had sat at her computer, drafting book copy, my peripheral vision taking stock of the empty laundry room just across the hall.
I could be doing my laundry right now, I would think, during those book-writing years.
So I made Sue an offer: I pitched a dollar-per-hour amount and I would bring my laundry.
For 10 years, I was Sue’s Gal Friday.
And for the first many of those years, I came on Thursday.
Then, we switched it to Wednesday.
I guess we were working our way to the beginning of the week.
(Something that will never happen.)
Still, though, as we worked our way to the beginning of the week, we also worked our way later into the day.  Time was, I’d arrive at one and leave at four.  Years later, I was arriving around three and staying for dinner.
It was the team-building.  The martinis.  The tuna melts.
For both Sue and me, that was the best part of our weekly confab.  Yes, sure, we’d go through the tasks at hand, taking care of bills, culling storage areas for donations to Out of the Closet, filing all the related paperwork…  But:  it was the off-the-clock team-building that made our weekly meetings so wonderful.
Most often, the tasks that preceded team-building took place at Sue’s desk, where her computer was “mission control” (and where she was always the pilot).  But sometimes, we’d venture into other rooms, where drawers and cabinets awaited us.
One afternoon, she wanted to go through/clean out/organize several drawers in her bedroom, so we grabbed our coffees and headed back to the world where a lot of knitting got done.
... I won’t say that Sue was a pack-rat because that implies saving a lot of things unnecessarily.  And while I’ll admit that she did that in some cases, she also was very good about getting rid of things (as per my earlier reference to Out of the Closet donations).  For the most part, the stuff in Sue’s bedroom drawers was less about being a pack-rat than it was about being a collector and creator.
Sue’s creativity within the world of craft was revealed when you opened one of those drawers.  There were the drawers full of yarn (organized by color, of course).  There were the drawers filled with knitting needles, thimbles, and potential adornments.
We were in one of those latter drawers on the afternoon I am remembering, and we came across a lot of Altoid tins.  I opened them one at a time…
Needles.  Okay, can’t have too many of those!  Sharpee in hand, I labeled the tin accordingly.
The next one:  Tortoise-shell buttons.  Hmm, interesting that one should want to keep the tortoise-shell buttons completely separate from the other buttons, but people are entitled to their “systems.”  Labeled accordingly.
Next Altoid tin:  Safety pins.  Those also come in handy.  Particularly if you know where they are.  Label on tin.  Moving on...
Snaps.  Okay… snaps?  Are you going to need all these snaps, Sue?  I tended to doubt that this tin would ever be missed, but just in case, I grabbed the Sharpee and wrote “SNAPS” just above the almighty word ALTOIDS.
Then, I opened the next tin, and when Sue and I saw what it contained, our shared laughter was spontaneous and absolutely uproarious.
The tin contained actual Altoids.
Having no idea how long they’d been sitting in there, we each bravely took one.
And we sat for a few seconds, assessing the flavor.
… for however long they’d been around, those mints were still curiously strong.
Not unlike Sue herself.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Reruns: It's All In the Reading

(original post date:  April 20, 2011)

Several years ago, I entered a small jewelry store in my neighborhood. The establishment harked back to another time and was probably passed on from one generation to the next. I had gone there to see if the proprietor might be able to repair an antique travel alarm clock that I had purchased at a flea market. The clock had worked quite well for a while, but then it decided to rebel.

While the store owner examined the timepiece, my eyes scanned her small shop, and one of the first things I noticed was a sign: Watch Batteries Repaired While You Wait.

I guess I’m verb-oriented, because my interpretation of that sign was this: If I wanted to, I could watch the proprietor repair batteries while I waited!

(Can you imagine a more entertaining afternoon?)

Interpretation is so subjective.

I have another story on this score, and this one comes from my years in New York. I had been browsing at the Coliseum bookstore, which used to be among the retail features of Columbus Circle. It was probably November or so, because I had stocking stuffers in mind. I quickly noticed a title that would have been appropriate for any member of my family. The title implied a deep devotion (if not outright addiction) to cats.

As I studied the cover illustration, however, I felt confused. There was an elderly person lying in what appeared to be a hospital bed, and surrounding that bed were several people. Those in plain clothes were undoubtedly family.

There also was a nurse and a priest.

But where was the cat?

I looked at how the bedsheets and blanket were arranged over the person lying there. I looked for a lump, figuring the cat must be under the covers.

Then, I returned to the title of the book, and I realized it was Catholics.

(Which explains the priest, of course.)

… There also was a time in between those two incidents – after New York and before I moved to my current neighborhood. I was married to a man whom I’ve previously mentioned in this blog, and since I called him Ben in an earlier essay, we’ll just stick with that…

Anyway, Ben loved to visit a part of California that is about four hours north of Los Angeles, just at the foot of Mount Whitney. There are rock formations there that are awesome, and the landscape is generally, well… what can I say, the dude’s a photographer, and there was no end to the possibilities. So we made the trip together a few times. He’d spend the weekend shooting pictures, and I’d sit by the pool, reading and taking in the remarkable air. Then, we’d meet for dinner and enjoy the quiet, rustic atmosphere of this extremely small town in the middle of nothing but almighty geography.

Once, while doing the drive (which would often begin at the end of a work-week and end close to midnight), we found ourselves behind a particular car, and because we were on a two-lane highway at that point, we remained behind that car for more than a few miles.

And this placement led to some improvisation.

For, you see, the license plate that we were trailing said this: OH BOB

I think Ben started the spontaneous game…

In the tone of a woman who is beyond impressed with a certain individual’s manhood, he exclaimed, “Ohhh Bob!”

I replied, using the clenched-teeth delivery of a wife who has once again found a non-dishwasher safe utensil in that very appliance. “Oh Bob.”

Ben took his turn, imitating a woman who was probably waving flirtatiously from across the room, “Oh, Bo-obb!

My next entry was scolding, the type of admonition one might use when embarrassed by the inappropriateness of her partner: “Oh, BOB!

Ben was still in another world. Possibly post-coital. His character sounded quite breathless and was undoubtedly reaching for a cigarette when she sighed, “Oh… Bob…”

When I responded, I sounded more like some 1950’s housewife who’s standing at the bottom of a suburban staircase, her arms folded at her chest. “Oh Bo-obb,” my character chanted, not at all pleased.

I don’t know how many more rounds we went, but it was good to get these feelings out of our systems.

It also was good to reach the changing lane so that we could move on to the next improvisation.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How I Lost a Pound-and-a-Half in Just One Short Year

So I have these bathroom scales, but… being the nonconformist that I am, I don’t keep them in the bathroom.  I keep them in my bedroom.

And a few weeks ago, I walked into said room and saw that little miss Vanna – that young, incorrigible feline whipper-snapper I introduced you to a few weeks ago – was lazing on said scales. 

And she was lazing in such a way that I could read her weight:  7.5 pounds.

Whaddaya know, I thought.  The scales still work!

Fact of the matter is, it had been a long, long time since I had lazed on those scales.

Fact of the matter is, the most interaction I’d had with the scales in (many) recent months was to dust off the top of them.

So…  the other day, I decided to face the music. 

Once I’d arisen and I’d emptied my bladder of those pounds and pounds that it had accumulated overnight, I stood on the scales.

And, frankly, I was a bit shocked that the number was not about ten pounds higher.

I then pulled out my 2012 day-runner, where I knew I’d recorded my weight when I’d last known it.

I had to go all the way back to June.

A full year.

And, whaddaya know?  I’d lost a pound and a half!

My secret?

Oh no, honey, I’m not telling you that!  What?  Give away that kind of valuable information?  And for free?

Oh no, honey, if you want to know how I lost a pound-and-a-half in just one short year, you are going to have to subscribe to my Seriously Gradual Weight Loss Program manifesto.

In it, you will find some hints, such as: 
     *get over it and live;
     *eat whatever;
     *drink, too, if you like;
     *just don't stuff yourself!
As helpful as those points might be, the truth is that I would like to lose about two Vanna’s.  Which is not to say that I want to get rid of this cat, adopt another just like her, and get rid of that one as well.  But, yeah, the 15 pounds that two of her represent is what’s between me and some nice clothes that still hang in my closet.

If I can pull that off, I’ll share more hints.

But, you know what I learned – years ago, when I lost about 50 pounds on Weight Watchers?  Losing weight is actually very easy.  If you want to lose weight, all you have to do is pay attention to what you’re eating.  It’s just that simple.

I’ve not done much paying attention over the past year, but – given that I haven’t, I’m pretty jazzed by the loss!

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Time with the Fishers

(original post-date: April 13, 2011)

I was late to the Netflix party.

One explanation, I suppose, is that I don’t feel compelled to rent movies that often. Also, I guess I wanted to support those stores that exist in real space and time and actually employ people who live in my ‘hood.

Less than a year ago, though, I decided to sign on and start designing my own queue, and maybe it was an incident a few months before that that helped incite the change… A friend and then-neighbor had raved about The Hangover. She’d seen it three times, in fact, and she told me she “pissed her pants” laughing. So, one afternoon, when a good pants-pissing comedy seemed in order, I rented the film.

And I watched it.

And I barely cracked a smile.

(Not my genre, I guess.)

The next day, I had to return it. And even though it was raining (which, in L.A., is often the top news story), I braved the inclement weather to return the stupid movie to the rental place. I also braved the rental place’s horrible parking lot, which was cleverly designed to facilitate fender benders.

By the time I got home (safely), I resented my otherwise dear neighbor-friend who had made the recommendation. It even occurred to my facetious mind that I should have asked her to return the stupid movie.

… When I received my first Netflix disc (which would have been a movie, though I don’t remember which one), my innate sense of rebellion came to the fore. I looked at the red envelope, and I thought, “I don’t have to watch this. You can’t make me watch this.”

Bizarre, I’ll admit.

After all, I was the one who had ordered it, for God’s sake.

But I hate being told what to do (even by me).

Or maybe I just hate being told when to do.

… After a few months on Netflix, and on the recommendation of a friend, I ordered Season One, Disc One of Six Feet Under. I found the first few episodes intriguing (if for no other reason than the eye candy of Peter Krause).

I also had lined up the series' subsequent discs on my queue, though they were separated by various other titles.

… Within a few weeks, when I was well into the second season of Six Feet Under, I realized that I could no longer take the interruptions from competing stories. I grabbed my mouse and made the big leap: Top of the Queue. Yup, the whole series. One disc after the other until the very end.

And having just completed the series the other night, I am here to say that Netflix rocks.

I cannot imagine having spent five years watching Six Feet Under. No more than I could imagine spending five years reading a great novel.

And Six Feet Under has all the trappings of a great novel: well-developed characters with distinct voices; interwoven plotlines that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each of those characters; a balance of suspense, drama, and humor; and the interplay of day-to-day living with other-worldly occurrences.

Combine that with the trappings of a wonderful movie – talented actors; flawless direction; strong atmospheric details – and the ride goes to a new level of involvement.

A brilliant television series watched in as few sittings as possible is like a book-on-tape with moving pictures.

… When I lived in New York, a roommate once said to me, “I always know when you’re about to finish reading a novel, because you close your door.”

True. Because: if it’s the kind of novel I love, I usually cry at the end. (In fact, if I come to the end of a novel and I don’t cry, I feel a little short-changed.)

The other night, watching the final episode of Six Feet Under gave me all the emotional joy of a novel’s end. There remained conflict in the first half or so of the two-hour episode, but it worked its way beautifully to closure and resolution.

I had to hit the Pause button several times to wipe the salt stains off my glasses. And the next day, when I remembered specific scenes in the series finale, my eyes got wet again. The Fisher family had been a part of my life for several engaging weeks.

It’s funny, too; generally when I’ve finished watching a disc, I return it immediately to its red envelope and place it in the outgoing mail. But, I let that last episode sit on the sideboard for a few days. I didn’t want to part with it. I didn’t want to face the fact that the journey had come to an end.

I have a feeling I’ll be making my way over to Amazon one of these days, and I’ll purchase the full series. I can envision it up there on the bookshelf, between and among some of those novels that I know I’ll read again.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Nonassertive Legacy

I used the phrasing on a neighbor-friend once, several years ago.  I asked him, “Do you wanna hand me that plate?”

My neighbor-friend was amused by my question. Rightfully, he threw it back at me.

“I don’t know,” he said.  “Do I?”

His flippancy helped me acknowledge the absurdity of my phrasing.  After all, it was a pretty simple situation.  I wanted him to hand me “that” plate.  Given that rather simple need, I could have said, “Please hand me that plate.” And, because handing someone a plate is so-not-a-big-deal, he no doubt would have obliged.  Why did I choose such a nonassertive approach?  Why did I choose the type of phrasing that practically makes it sound like I’m doing him a favor by predicting his next, most favored move?  

The next time I visited my folks in Virginia, I noticed how frequently the phrasing was used.  I was making a casserole one night, and my mother asked:  “Do you wanna put minced onions in that?”

An hour or so later, she asked, “Do you wanna hand me the kleenex?”

And so it went.  I didn’t track all the times that I used the phrase, but I’m sure I was as guilty as Mom of placing every request in that “it’s really your call” context.   Who the hell are we kidding?  She wanted minced onion in the casserole (hence, the question as to whether I’d like to include that ingredient.)  She needed a Kleenex (hence, her curiosity as to whether I was interested in handing the box to her.) 

What’s with this consistent offering of bogus empowerment?
After my father died, I traveled to Virginia for the celebration of his life.  Mom’s younger brother and his wife came down from Boston, and after the church service, we were heading out to various cars that would eventually take us back to Mom’s for more interacting.  My uncle and I were standing on opposite sides of a car, and he asked me, over the hood, “Do you wanna hand me that folder?”

That’s when it really hit me that this was a family trait, and specifically, my mother’s family.

Having not grown up in that pre-war New England household, I can’t possibly do an armchair analysis that explains the passive nature of their asking for help.  It seems, though, that there was a bit of shyness there.  Hesitance.  Or, maybe just a tendency to pass off responsibility?

Do you wanna offer some opinions? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Reruns: Moments of Sheer Flippancy

(original post date:  April 6, 2011)
It’s probably been close to four decades since I’ve sought out bubble gum, and I don’t even know if Bazooka Gum exists anymore. But, when I was a kid, it was a go-to purchase at those small, family-owned shops that existed in a simpler economy. For a penny, a kid could purchase a piece. (And after spending a nickel on a Coke, a penny was quite the extravagance.)

The two-layer unwrapping process led to the pink pillow of sugar (ostensibly divisible by two, but did anyone ever share a piece?). And inside the outer wrapper was the infamous Bazooka Joe comic, complete with a “fortune” that was written in extremely small print just below the final frame of the illustrated cartoon story.

Just as I’ve continued, in my adulthood, to pay attention to the brief and random forebodings that come at the end of a Chinese meal, I used to give my Bazooka Joe fortune a few moments of my time.

Back then and to this day, I never let the words guide my life (or play with my hopes and wishes), but I always respect them for their potential to make me think.

Sometimes a “fortune” provides a good impetus for reflection.

Sometimes a “fortune” provides wisdom that one cannot grasp when going through the day-to-day movements of life.

Other times, it is way beyond random.

There is a Bazooka Joe “fortune” that I will always remember.

It said: You will never become a giant shoelace.

It may be a reflection of my self-esteem back then, but becoming a giant shoelace was something I never worried about. I don’t know; call me confident. Maybe, too, because there were no role models…

So while I did not relate the fortune to my own personal fantasies, I nevertheless gleaned some wisdom from it. I learned that adults with jobs (e.g., the Bazooka Joe fortune-writer) can get bored in those jobs, and those moments of boredom can lead to flippancy.

…Once I entered my adulthood, I found employment in a variety of areas (none requiring the skills and strengths of a giant shoelace). And to this day, the longest job I’ve ever kept was at a burger-slinging joint in central Manhattan. My primary shift was the lunch rush, and I loved the work. It was no frills and totally aerobic. I took my earnings home with me everyday. My tips paid the rent and gave me enough left over for some kind of night-life. Better yet, there were no office politics.

We were a weird work family who got along well and probably would never have met had we not all landed at that particular joint. The waitresses – eight of us – found our gender balance in a variety of bartenders and an all-male kitchen staff. There often was a party atmosphere permeating the place. Flirtation and flippancy were the norm.

And every twelve weeks or so, our Mama Manager would let us girls know that, before we’d left for that day, we’d need to “do” ten menus.

“Do” ten menus. Here’s what that meant: the restaurant was part of a big citywide chain, and – wise to printing deals – had stocks and stocks of pre-printed menus. They saved money by ordering menus in mega-bulk, and they didn’t sweat price changes. Why? Because their menus didn’t even bother to list prices.

Accordingly, an untouched menu would include line items that looked something like this:

Cheddar Burger ______

So: it was the job of us waitri – on a regular basis – to sit around (before we’d left for the day) and replace dog-eared or out-priced menus with fresher, cleaner, up-to-date versions.

… And so we sat, that one afternoon, the eight of us gathered around two checkerboard squares. We’d begun sipping our complimentary bar beverages (the management was lax on that score), and we were in a fine mood. The cheddar burger had been raised to $3.50. The bacon-cheese was a whopping $3.95. We soon gathered a rhythm as we each filled out our requisite ten menus. And each of us, too, found blank spaces within those menus – spaces where we were expected to add listings for the dishes that hadn’t made the print-run.

There were Chicken Nuggets.

And I believe a Fried Shrimp dish was the other hand-written feature.

… As I sat there, enjoying my Bloody Mary, filling out prices and spaces, I also had a moment of silent camaraderie with the fortune-teller back at Bazooka.

Which is to say, even after I’d written in the Chicken Nuggets and the Fried Shrimp, there was still some empty space on the menu in front of me.

A canvas, if you will.

And so, I entered in a nonexistent menu item:

“Pheasant Under Glass w/FRIES…. $25.99”

For all my ensuing days there, I never heard word-one about that entry. And only once, while taking an order, I saw that a customer in my station had that menu.

(I felt a little anxious before he ordered.)

Fortunately, he went for the Cheddar cheeseburger.

(Perhaps he was on a budget.)

… I’m glad I never got into any trouble for my moment of flippancy. It would have sucked to have been fired from that place.

Sure, maybe I was a little bored at times, but I wasn’t ready to open the next chapter on my “career path.”

I mean, where would I have gone?

I didn’t have much of a plan, you see. I knew one thing and one thing only: I would never become a giant shoelace.

Thursday, June 6, 2013



Vesta.  Vesta-Pesta.  Vessy.  Peanut.  Lil Girl.  Honey Bear.  Vessy-Lou.  Little Bits.  Baby Face.  My Lou-Lou Girl.  Trotsky (a reference to her carriage). 

So many names. 
The cat who died in early September of 2012 inspired many names.
… My most tenured L.A. friend told me once about a class she had attended at a local college.  It might have been a Sociology class.  Or it might have been Anthropology.  In any event, the professor shared with his students that when something or someone is very important to us, we give it a lot of names. 
Then, perhaps because he’d scoped his class’s interests adequately, he shared an example:  pot, maryjane, weed, reefer, grass… 
You get my drift.
I’ve had cats all my adult life, and in some instances, at the end, I’ve had to be the “decider.”  In other instances, a cat died without my having to sign any papers.  Either way, it is difficult. 
Either way.
When Vesta began to go downhill last August, I wasn’t prepared.  It happened quickly.  Also, I’d been through quite a bit of exhausting “stuff,” so I didn’t trust my judgment as the decider.
I took her to the vet on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, thinking we’d need to put her down that day.  But before we had even opened the carrier, the vet asked me what was going on, and I burst into tears.  In response, the kind vet suggested we sit in the adjacent room and talk, leaving Vesta (inside the carrier) behind. 
Once we’d sat in the adjacent room, the vet asked about what I was witnessing at home.
In response to everything I told her, she said, “That’s an old cat.”
Later, the vet asked a final question:  “Do you want to do this today?”
“No,” I replied, very sure of my response.
So she sent us home, suggesting that we enjoy the long weekend and maybe come back the following week. 
And that’s what we did.  On the Wednesday after Labor Day, I watched as Vesta was “put to sleep.”
… So many names I’d given to that sweet girl, and I believed – throughout my years of knowing her and during those final days – that I would never meet as sweet a girl as Vesta…
And while I knew, too, that mourning takes the time it takes, I also had to think about my dear  Lotto, the (then ) 4-and-a-half year-old Maine Coon who was without a companion.  I had plans to go to the East Coast in early October.  Leaving Lotto alone didn’t feel like an option.
So, I had 2-3 weeks to adopt a new member of the family.  And, as I began to take the steps that would make that happen, I considered what I’d learned from all these years of being the person behind the cats.  First, it seems to work well when there is one from each gender, so a female cat was the thing to pursue.  Second, it doesn’t work well when both cats are old at the same time.  (It can get expensive.) 
So…  I would need to establish as great an age gap as possible.
And so...  because I didn’t want an older cat, I would need to get a kitten.
Kittens are cute, don’t get me wrong, but OMG, they also are wired for sound.  And I guess that one of the reasons I don’t fall for them is that they are all…  just… KITTENS.  I mean, you don’t really get to know their personalities until they get older, right?
Still, though, it would seem I needed a *kitten*.
Fast forward:  I’ve dropped by an adoption event and have met an almost six-month-old gal who is half Siamese/half Turkish Van.  I’ve not previously heard of the Van species, but what I read about them online sounds good.
The adoption agency sends me an application form that I am to complete.  As I proceed through its questions, I get increasingly rebellious.  (I’m not a fan of forms.  Hell, I don’t like structure of any kind!)
…Having established that I already have cat experience, the form asks:  What is your cat’s favorite toy?
“Whatever is within reach,” I type, flippantly.
Have you ever had any experience with … torn curtains, scratched furniture, excessive shedding…”
“Of course!” I type.
(Just give me the goddamn cat!)
What would you do if new boy/girlfriend were allergic?
“Boyfriend can get shots!” I reply, through my keyboard.
(Seriously, if these cat adoption folks really wanted to dig, they’d know!  They’d know that my longest relationships have been with cats.)
Then, the question that put me over the edge:  Is there any behavior that you would find unacceptable?
This being September of 2012, it was easy for me to answer.  I typed:  “Voting for Romney.”
Suffice it to say, I probably would not have scored in a Red State, but insofar as I live in California, that final flippant answer probably sealed the deal.
Suffice it to say, too, I didn’t let the adoption agency know that I would be out of town that first week of October.  But, the kitten became mine about ten days prior to that departure, and she remains mine today.  Vanna...
Don’t let the relative calm of this picture fool you…  And right, yeah, the name is kinda messed-up.  I mean, after saying goodbye to a two-syllable named cat whose name began with V and ended with A, I chose what?
Here’s the thing:  before she officially became mine, I thought about names.  And because she was half Turkish Van, the name “Vanna” occurred to me.  But then, I thought, Oh no.  Vanna White.  No, that is just so wrong!
A few days later, my friend Julie came to visit, and prior to her doing so, I told her, “You’re going to help me name my new cat!”
After Julie had been here for an hour or more, she suggested the name Vanna.  And it was only then that I remembered discounting it.  It also was then that I realized it fit this young kitten like nobody’s business.
Here’s the thing about Vanna.  She sells vowels.  All. Day. Long.
Seriously, I walk into the room she’s in, and this is what I hear:  A!  E!  O!
And… now that she’s a few months over one year old, I can tell you something else.  I don’t think this little kitty is terribly bright.  She’s done so many things (mildly destructive things) that point to a probable fact:  girlfriend’s curiosity is SO MUCH bigger than her brain.
But here’s the other thing about Vanna.  She is as sweet as the day is long.  She’s an angel (when she's not being a devil, that is).  She cuddles with me and smiles and views my lap as some kind of holy place.  She loves giving and getting love.  And:  she has absolutely become Lotto’s new girlfriend.
Already, I’ve called her by so many names.
She’s filled our hearts and changed our home.
Here are photos from the Two Cats on an Unmade Bed series…
Vanna.  She's a keeper.
But:  I'll also be keeping the wallpaper...