America, family, kids, Life in General, parenting, RV life, trailers

Log Jamming for Idiots

 

It’s a lovely day in Santa Cruz and my husband, daughter, her boyfriend John, and I decide to take Thor from the RV to the ‘dog beach’ where he can run around, trouble is, it’s high tide, which we don’t yet know means we may also get to rescue dogs, people, and ourselves if we’re not careful. Mama Ocean looks hungry today. When we arrive there is maybe fifteen feet of sand exposed where at low tide there is a hundred. The surf is filled with logs, some as small as firewood and some as large as a phone pole and several times the girth. Every time the waves wash in and out, these projectiles are tossed back and forth as lightly as ping pong balls in a blender, but with less stability or direction. The beach here is wrapped with cliffs, and only a concrete stairwell gives us access to the small cove. The surf, the concave cliffs faces, and the shifting tide all conspire to make predicting the strength or direction of these weapons impossible. Caution!

We take off our shoes, our jackets, the dog leash, and put them up on the steps, a couple of dry steps up. The first larger wave washes up hurling projectiles that would make log-jammers nervous, so we stay to one side and have to dodge the water soaked clubs that are bobbing like bomb-shaped apples during a halloween hurricane in a barrel.

They have something here called rogue waves, and thats’s the perfect word. Like some Navy Seal gone psycho with all the fire power but none of the discipline, they come from unexpected directions, are far more lethal than their uniform counterparts, they are bigger, higher, and strike when your back is turned. I’ve heard of them and been warned before, but I’ve never seen one.

But now I meet one up close and personal. All of sudden, I’m hit by a thigh high wall of surf from one side and turn to see that the few feet of sand we had taken refuge on has disappeared. My daughter has lifted our chow, soaking wet, up out of the surf to protect him from the logs, some of which weigh several hundred pounds water-soaked, that are tumbling around in a frenzy of constantly changing directions.

Now thigh deep in water but several yards from the cliff face, I see a huge log, fifteen feet long and at least three feet in diameter rolling back toward me as the water recedes. My brain goes to automatic and I get ready, the water recedes to my knees, my calves, and then my ankles as the steam roller spins crazily toward me, I get ready, then jump it when it flies past, gratefully under me. I struggle back toward the steps dodging smaller flotsam, but take a couple of good shin hits.

As I’m helping my daughter with the dog, I hear my husband and John both shouting. Then I see John running toward the surf. The rogue wave was so high, that it hit over the concrete steps and washed all of our stuff out to sea. Including my husband’s jacket which had his wallet in one pocket and his keys in the other. John snabs three shoes from the ocean’s maw, two of which are are my expensive new hiking boots, which he throws to me, and then he turns back to search for more, as does my husband.

Meanwhile, back on semi-dry land. My daughter and I tie the dog up higher on the steps and run back to help. But this is dangerous. Every time a wave, though thankfully no more rogue waves, washes up, it catapults its’ projectiles in unpredictable directions. John take a hard hit on his thigh, we’re still searching.

Now, new people start arriving, the tide is going out but we’re still having some high waves and precarious conditions. My daughter and I start warning people. The first lady down has two small yappy-type dogs. She ignores us, lets them go, and within seconds they are running for their lives back up onto the steps. She wisely takes them somewhere less like a battlefield to romp.

Then comes the family with five kids. My daughter tells them what’s happening, points out the concussion possibilities and they nod and move a little ways away.

The tide continues to recede with the occasional high wave, and now, soaking wet, I’m walking the shore trying to see if anything will wash up within a few hundred feet of where we are. Mind you, all of this beach is surrounded by cliffs, there are very few ways out, and no high ground if you are caught in the wrong place.

Looking over, I see a man take off his hat, quickly kick off his shoes and start for the water. I’m about to say that he should not leave his stuff there because it will be washed away when I see the intensity on his face. Following his gaze, I realize that one of the kids has gone under and his dad is trying to find him in the churning surf.

I turn and start running too, but before we get there, the dad locates the kid underwater and drags him up by the back of his shirt. We help him struggle out of the sucking surf, where his mother tries to calm the boy as he hacks up saline solution. The kid, maybe ten, is moaning, “I’m never…” pukes up a portion of sea, “going in the ocean…” hack, hack, sob, “again!” He looks accusingly out at the lovely sea as though she did it on purpose, perhaps she did. It’s not nice to ignore mother nature.

I smile at the mom and mouth, “At least not until tomorrow.” And she represses a laugh and nods, doing a great job of staying calm and reassuring.

The family gathers their stuff and leaves the beach. I high five the dad, “Good job!” He smiles at me as though it’s all in any father-with-five-boys’-day-job, and he’s probably right.

Though we search for another hour, we never find the jacket, keys, wallet, or leash, but we all have shoes!

So we head out, every step a salty, slurpy squish, to start calling credit card companies and making appointments at the DMV.

John’s right thigh is twice the size of his left, we all have bruises on our calves and shins and feet, but I always say it’s a good day when nobody dies.

And ah, how beautiful the sunlight on the water.

Gotta go. I have some keys to make at ACE hardware.

I expect I’ll be there a lot.

Be careful out there.

 

Shari, March 30th, 2017

 

authors, family, Life in General, parenting

Why I Need to Get My Head Examined

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the cliffs of insanity, or just a bad headache

You might think it’s because I hang off the edge of cliffs, and that’s probably a good enough reason. But then there’s this. Three days ago, I get a call from my sister that my mom has fallen, smashed her head and has no memory of how it happened or what’s going on. Because she’s a Shattuck woman, she insists to her friend who found her wandering around outside that she doesn’t need to go to the hospital. Her friend texts a picture of the open gash in mom’s head to my brother, an ex-paramedic, and he texts back, “CALL 911”

I feel horrible that I’m not there. Normally, I’m the go-to choice for trips to the ER. Next thing I know, I’m getting calls left and right, she’s in the trauma unit, she doesn’t recognize my brother or sister, who are there with her by now. She’s disoriented, can’t remember her birthday and has no recall of the last few days. They’ve done a brain scan (meaning she had her head examined!) and it looks okay, no internal bleeding. It’s late in the afternoon and I’m up in Santa Cruz, so since she has family with her, I tell them all I’ll head down to LA the next morning early. I feel so guilty that I’m not there I go ahead and pack a bag so I can leave super early. I’m not feeling great myself, so I go to bed early.

Within a few hours I wake up with a fully loaded Ram pickup truck parked on my head. I mean I have a headache like I didn’t know you could survive, like I’m not sure I can stay conscious if it’s going to hurt this badly. Like second only to childbirth but with no breaks between contractions painful. I can’t take light or sound, any movement makes me want to scream but at the same time I wouldn’t dream of making a sound, it hurts even to breathe. All I can do through the night is cradle my head in the dark. I take as many ibuprofen as is legal, maybe more, and try to meditate the crushing pain away. That requires focusing on my breathing, which hurts, so…that’s not helping.

By morning the headache has lessened a half a degree, but I cannot get out of bed. I’m the worst daughter in the world. I should be in LA taking over my mother’s care. My cell phone is buzzing and ringing with news about my mom, questions about when I’m coming, etc, and every time I look at it the light pierces my brain. Still, I force myself to find out what’s happening from my siblings and let them know I’ll leave in a few hours if I feel better. Doctors call, and squinting and grimacing, I answer their barked questions about my mom’s medical history. Why are they all so loud?

Then the phone keeps ringing and the screen says it’s my mom, but when I pick up and whisper hello (all I can endure) there is no answer. After four or five times, we have this exchange.

“Mom? Mom? Are you there?”

“Oh, hello.” She speaks as though she’s surprised I called.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Well,” she say indignantly, “I’m in the hospital and I have no idea how I got here. No one has even called me except my friend Sharon.”

“Mom, Shawna and Dwayne were with you all day yesterday.” (my siblings)

“Oh.”

“Shawna is on her way there now.”

“Oh.”

“And I’m going to try to drive down later today.”

“Oh. Well all I know is I woke up and nobody is here.”

“Shawna will be there soon.”

And I knocked out a tooth,” she says accusingly, as though I snuck up behind her and yanked it out with a rusty nutcracker.

This simple exchange feels like grenades going off in my head. My whole body feels like it’s been hit by a truck, but I still kind of want to slap her. How many years have I spent taking her to hospitals and doctors appointments, making sure she’s okay, but the one time I missed a turn…

“I love you mom, I’ll talk to you later.”

Her response was a tortured sigh and her saying she had to go now. A nurse or doctor came in I’m assuming.

But my own little parcel of hell doesn’t lessen, it gets worse. I spend the whole day in bed, and then spend yet another night begging for sleep and relief. My body is exhausted, I’m nauseous and sweating. My brother, the ex-paramedic, is texting me that I might have a blood clot and I need to go to the hospital, which isn’t alarming in any way. Just what a gal wants to hear when her forehead is being used as a dance floor for a thousand super-sized river dancers wearing golf cleats. I don’t want to go anywhere, do anything, speak, think, or move thank you very much.

But hubby sets up an appointment at Urgent care and off we go, me carting my pillow to block out the horrific lights and sounds of sleepy Scotts Valley. The doctor decrees that I probably don’t have a blood clot, which is somewhat comforting, though a more definitive choice of words would have been welcome, ‘probably‘ leaves the door open that maybe, I just might, possibly have one. That’s how I hear it in the five alarm fire that is my head anyway. He thinks I have a migraine type headache, but not a migraine because I’ve never had one, and he prescribes super mojo painkillers to ‘break’ the pain and sends me home.

I’m never leaving home without those pills again. You can have all the credit cards and fancy cars you want to show off with, I’ll take the pills, thank you. Within a few hours I was mostly headache free. Still limp and barely animated, but sweet relief is in sight.

So, I’m recuperating today. Keep thinking I can do my usual stuff only to wilt like arugula on a bbq within a minute or two. I’ll try to get to LA and mom tomorrow. I still feel badly I didn’t rush to her bedside, but driving requires the use of light and sight, two things I couldn’t pretend to face.

And my mom? She’s home at my sisters house, complaining that she’s bored. She’s back to normal,(translate as level-three hurricane force activity) and insists that we’re being ridiculous for wanting her to take it easy.

Yep, that’s me, the jokester with a first time migraine-slash-maybe, possible bloodclot who needs to get to LA to make sure that her 80 year old mother doesn’t slide down my sister’s stairway railing or drive to Santa Anita to wander around the cherry blossom festival.

She would do it too.

I might still have to get my head examined for clots or even just for hanging off of cliffs, but so far, I’m happy to be able to sit up and eat.

But I still feel guilty.

Lesson learned? Try not to pile shame on top of physical pain and keep your prescriptions within arm’s length.

But first, get a prescription.

Stay healthy.

Shari, March 15th, 2017

 

 

 

 

America, Life in General, RV life, trailers

The Courage of Kindness

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The longer I live, the more I realize that only two things really count, Kindness and Courage. Frame it anyway you want to, if you just make those two character traits something you give a fuck about, it will change the world around you.

Take today. We had to move our thirty-seven foot trailer across the RV park to a spot for long term use. While this isn’t storming the beach at Normandy, (deep respect for those who face real danger every day) it is still daunting when you’ve only had a chance or two to figure out how to turn a 90 degree corner while backing downhill into a space with giant redwood trees on both sides. Everyone has been very nice about our fledgling attempts, “You just need practice!” they say reassuringly. To which I reply, “But where can you practice?” Unless you have a grocery store parking lot to yourself for a few days, the only ‘practice’ you are going to get is doing. Oh, did I mention it was raining and hailing? Just a little plus.

My husband and I are pretty good at taking on challenges. We adjust, we study, we learn, we are generally not afraid of much in the realm of trying new things. On the flip side, we try to be helpful whenever we can, and both of us have taken on mentoring younger people in our respective fields and we’ve been able to pass on some amount of confidence to others, generally we try to be helpful, we make it a goal to be part of the solution and not the problem, we act brave even when we are afraid, and we try to work from a genuine place of eagerness to be of service. I have no fear of not having done enough, for us or for others. Yet there is this one overwhelming fear I have yet to conquer.

I’m terrified that we will crush someone else’s dream.

It’s not us I’m concerned about. We’ll be fine. We’ve had plenty and we’ve had less, and we’ve been happy with both. We’ve worked through messy family situations, divorces, our own insecurities, (that last one’s ongoing of course.) but, just like the time we rented a 50 foot twin engine boat and went cruising around the coast of Washington and Canada without a single day’s working knowledge of boat operation, I was afraid that we would make a mistake that would cost some innocent bystander their life’s savings. Every time we had to park (sorry, dock) that massive, multi-ton twin-screw ship, I couldn’t help but worry that one mistake could literally sink some really nice people’s retirement dream.

I would see them, these gracious retirees relaxing on the back decks of their lovely boats with names like ‘The Serenity’ or ‘Seafoam Two’. A glass of wine in one hand, they would watch us with growing concern as we clumsily made our way through the port slips. By the time we were finally at our slip, about six to eight of them would have surrendered their cocktail time and come to stand by, ready, holding ropes, shouting advice to my dry mouthed husband as he tried to back into the space. Yep, back in.

After our second such foray, once we had thanked everyone profusely, offered bottles of wine as consolatory thank yous, and gone back inside I turned to Joseph and said, “That was distinctly not fun! This is supposed to be fun, I’m on vacation!” So we found a captain who teaches boating, and Joseph took a half-day lesson. After that we could dock without having to face the blank horror of encroaching doom on the faces of Memaw and Papa.

Then we decided to anchor off an island, which means drop an anchor and run a line to a tie-off on the shore, like, say a tree. What we didn’t know is that the ropes they had given us with the rental boat did not float like they are supposed to do. They sank. So while we were jockeying around in the bay, the ropes got twisted tightly around the propeller. Now we are in near freezing water off the coast of Alaska, but God bless my hubby, he strips down, puts a kitchen knife in his teeth and dives in. Okay, first he hid the boat engine keys just for his own piece of mind because if I had started the engine, he would have been sliced to pieces. So there he is struggling under the boat, coming up for gasps of air and clearly not having an easy time of it. I see the lady in the only other boat, which was anchored about thirty yards away, very quietly get into her dingy, and row over. When she was close, she just sat there and waited. Ready to help if Joseph got in any trouble.

So kind, and we have tried to do the same in return every chance that comes before us. Sometimes all we do is stand by, ready to help if needed, sometimes we chip in and help tow the line, figuratively or literally.

And here’s the deal, we’ve learned one, very important thing.

Ask for help when you need it.

You won’t always get it, but on this trip, it’s been fairly remarkable how great people are. People with lifetimes of experience and knowledge that you don’t have and are willing to share it.

Take Jay. He’s the manager/owner at the RV camp where we are now huddled down for three months. The other night, someone who was supposed to arrive had a breakdown on the freeway off ramp. They called to let Jay know that they would be arriving late, that they had a tow coming for their truck but they would have to leave the trailer by the highway until the pickup was fixed. So Jay got his ass out of bed at 4 a.m. took his truck, picked up their trailer, and had it in place by the time the unlucky campers finally got their repairs done.

During the recent flooding here in Santa Cruz, Joseph and I went to the fire department, Sheriff’s office, and two churches trying to find somewhere to volunteer and help out with anything from sand bagging to bringing food to evacuation centers. The response at each place was the same, they were guarded, then surprised, and finally grateful, but they had it pretty well covered, being used to this sort of weather every seven or eight years. So we left our number and went to breakfast.

It was weird not be able to help out. That’s just something we do, it doesn’t require thought or decision for us, we are part of a whole, a community, and while we are in it, we will try to make it a better place. Some people think you need a church, or an organization of some kind to work through, and, while group assistance is great for big disasters you can help others with any small thing that comes your way. It isn’t religious, it isn’t noble, it does not require godly approval, it’s just human.

So when we knew that our inexperience with camper relocation could damage some very old trees not to mention someone else’s mansion on wheels, we turned to Jay. He’s kind of a scary dude. Six-five, I’d say, white hair and perfect goatee, looks a lot like the quiet yet dangerous member of a biker gang. But we bucked up our courage and asked. He quietly got up from his desk, put on his coat, climbed into the driver’s seat of our pickup, and whipped that massive hunk of metal, wood, furniture, everything including the kitchen sink, into it’s exact position. One of his workers stood by as pilot and the job was done in five minutes, to within an inch of where he wanted to put it. Even the squirrels were impressed, but they chittered insults and mockery at us. I’m pretty sure that’s what they were doing, anyway, they were definitely hurling something, possibly redwood cones.

Best of all, Joseph and I watched what Jay did, and though we might not be able to do it now, we at least have some idea of the geometry of it. We learned.

That was kind. That was brave. Jay is one of many who are really good at something we are not, and was willing to share his experience and expertise even with the risk involved in handling someone else’s property. That is both kind and courageous.

What a difference it made, to us, to the people around us, and hopefully to Jay. We were sincerely awed by his ability, and he was no doubt relieved to end the day without bodily injury or a lawsuit.

Are you brave? Help someone else.

Are you afraid? Ask for help.

Are you afraid and there is no one to help?

Act brave, it might just get you through it.

Even if the squirrels do laugh at you.

 

With deep gratitude.

 

Shari, March 6th, 2017

 

 

Acting & Experiences, America, Life in General, RV life, trailers

Surviving a Virtual Sh*t Storm

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Fill those glasses, trouble’s a’ brewing!

 

We’re into our second month of traveling trailer life, and for us newbies, it’s been a challenge, to say the least. Joseph and I are veterans at handling household emergencies ranging from forest fires and mud slides to living without heat or water for months at a time post those natural disasters. Standing outside in the back yard slinging buckets of warm water from the hot tub over ourselves to wet, lather, and rinse is doable, but I can’t say I felt particularly glamorous. At least we didn’t have neighbors to shock, but I think the forest service helicopter pilots got an eyeful once or twice. (I noticed they came back around a couple of times.) None-the-less, this living in a 36 ft trailer that rocks every time Joseph rolls over in bed and I wake up sure that it’s ‘the big one’ is all new to us. Sitting up fast in limited space can be hazardous to your skull shape as well.

Of course, like the champ he is, hubby has been learning and handling things as we go while I adjust to cooking in ten square feet, only getting a hot shower at some campgrounds that offer them, and condensation that drips down the walls so moistly (is that a word?) that I can’t leave so much as a throw pillow up against the bedhead lest our trailer becomes a mushroom farm. Fungus and furnaces aside, I’m pretty damn proud of us. Most people we told about our adventure had one of two reactions. Awe and jealousy, “I’ve always wanted to do that! “ or “How exciting!”Or the opposing counsel of, “Your marriage will never survive it.”

We call that second group amateurs. Living in a tiny trailer surrounded by giant redwoods or with the ocean lulling you to sleep at night is not what we consider hardship. Sure, every few days one or the other of us gets uptight and cranky from lack of privacy, but we know that routine from traveling together for months at a time. A half day on our own and we’re excited to share with the other what we discovered while we were apart. We both know the warning signs well enough to burrow in silently with a book or head for the hills when a question like “Where is that property we’re going to see?” is answered with a snappy, “I don’t know. I didn’t memorise the address.”

Red flags like oh, say, me condemning the peanut butter to an eternity in hell because it had the unmitigated gall to fall out of the cabinet when I opened it, or my Shakespearian actor husband muttering his replies inaudibly as he walks away, means it’s time for a solo walk or maybe just a trip to the grocery store and a leisurely perusal of the gourmet aisle.

Drinking helps. So does marijuana. Fortunately, (or you can add a ‘un’ before that word, your choice) we don’t do those things until the evenings when work is done and we have nowhere to drive and no heavy machinery to operate. So if anxiety strikes around noon, other options must be explored if we expect to have our usual evening of sex and laughter.

Okay, we play a lot of scrabble too.

So far we have replaced the tow hitch twice, extended our sewage pipe, which is no easy feat when you don’t want leaks, and washed dishes with cold water until we could figure out how to work the water heater. (turns out it’s a simple switch in the bathroom) I continually hit the button that extends and retracts the bedroom slide-out thinking it’s a light switch causing the walls to start contracting like a scene from a bad horror movie. I did this so often that Joseph finally hung a picture over it.

Then we go to look at a property where a house burnt down. There is a viewing deck which I immediately see is rotted through. Joseph is about 20 yards away checking out the well.

I call out, “Don’t step on this deck, it’s rotted through!”

He responds with an “Okay!”

I start off up the hill to look at another pad and I hear him say, “Oh, there’s the electrical box.”

Thirty second later I hear a strangled, but manly, scream. My husband is a big, barrel chested Polish man so he does not scream like a girl. My brain immediately has an image of him standing in a puddle with 20K volts rushing through his system and I take off at a run through the trees screaming, (like a girl) “What? What happened.”

All I get in reply is groaning and other various expressions of pain. I come out of the trees to see him on the edge of the deck clutching his knee rocking in pain, behind him, there is a big hole.

Now I’m screwed, there’s no cell phone reception up here, my husband is almost close to twice my size, and there is nothing I can do to help a broken leg.

Do you have any idea how hard it was not to say. “I just told you not to step on that!” I really think I deserve kudos.

Not to worry, my bull of a hubby gasps out, “ACL” meaning that his knee bent backwards again, tearing the tendons. He is such a badass that within seconds he is sitting up, telling me he wants to finish walking the property when the pain subsides enough.

What are you going to do with that kind of courage? I found him a stick, and between that and a little bit of help from me, we hobbled around the acreage. Then went to lunch where we got ice for his knee and two large beers to wash down 4 ibuprofen for his pain. He stayed up all night unable to sleep and took himself to Kaiser the next day alone while I had to drive to LA to spend an absolutely enchanting day at the LA courthouse dealing with some legal crap that should have been settled 14 years ago. On the plus side, I get to visit our daughter, which I try to do for at least a couple days every week.

And the fun keeps on coming. While I’m still down south, Joseph calls to tell me that the RV park in the redwoods where we are staying is backing up with sewage. It’s raining and flooding there so we weren’t really surprised. He said it smelled so badly people started leaving.

Then we found out that the real problem was not the flooding, nor indeed the septic system at the park, oh no.

It was us.

Apparently, we confused a roll of regular toilet paper with the biodegradable stuff and it backed up at our connection. So Joseph goes out, in the raging rain, and clears our sewer hose by hand which, when I asked, he would only describe as ‘disgusting’ because he’s a gentleman and he doesn’t want me to know that it was really like that scene in Shawshank Redemption where the Tim Robbins is crawling through a half mile of unimaginable filth and stench puking as he goes. You’ve got to love a man who can act and direct the crap out of Hamlet and then direct the crap out of our trailer in a downpour.

So now we can officially add surviving a shit storm to our list. Literally.

It’s still pouring, I’m still in LA, and the trailer still smells pretty bad from what Joseph tells me. I just keep apologising that I’m not there to help.

On second thought, dealing with my husband, angry, rain and excrement soaked, in intense pain, unable to bend his knee, swearing and cursing and sweating and bleeding might be one more catastrophe than we bargained for.

Probably better that I wasn’t there now that I think of it.

I mean, how much time can you spend at the grocery store?

And after not a half day, but four or five, I really can’t wait to see him. He’s got a lingerie reward coming, after he showers of course.

Get out there and have an adventure!!

It’s worth it.

 

Shari, February 17, 2017

Acting & Experiences, creative inspiration, Entertainment, family, writers, writing

The Funny Scary Thing.

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My beast husband and I fooling around on a shoot for a movie poster idea.

Usually I try to include some helpful information in my blog, be it for acting, mothering, partnering or writing. Today I’m just going to tell a story, take from it what you will. It is, in a convoluted way, an explanation of how we function as storytellers.

I’m terrible with years, but it must have been around 1978. I was 17, my sisters were 14 and 8 when we took a family trip to Hawaii. My brother doesn’t figure into this because he always had his own room, sort of. With three younger sisters, very little is sacred, which explains the padlock on his bedroom door at home, but that’s another story.

So we’re in Maui, we’ve rented a condo facing the beach and coconut groves and my sisters and I are in one of the bedrooms, it’s one of those two queen bed affairs with the floor unit air conditioner under the window next to sliding glass doors. There’s a small patio outside the doors, and a table and chair next to the air conditioner.

Being teenagers, my sister and I quickly grow bored with the family hang out, so we find out that about a mile down the beach there is a twin-plex movie theatre. We check the movies and discover that “Junglebook 2” is playing. We decide that, as well as a little independence, this will be an evening well spent.

After the hour long application of makeup and hair fluffing, (because that’s important when you are going to a movie theatre to sit in the dark when there’s no one there you know) we head out, following the instructions from a local. It’s a lovely, late tropical afternoon and we are in silly, giggly high spirits, everywhere around us is beauty and we are grown up enough to go out un-chaperoned. Fourteen and seventeen, who needs pesky parents?

Just outside our condo, we walk through the coconut groves. The wind is playfully tossing the big wide leaves of the palm trees making a lovely, friendly whispering noise, like happy secrets being shared. Big silly crows caw at us from the fronds, comic and brazen, making us laugh. We reach the beach and turn left. The gentle roll of perfect waves with sunlight streaming through them comforts and serenades us as we walk down the beach. Confident, fearless and giddy with freedom, we reach the theatre and go to the ticket desk. Sadly, Jungle Book 2 is sold out and there is only one other choice.

Damian, Omen 2. Da da da dum.

Oh, what the heck, we came all this way and the option is to go back home and sit around reading or playing cards. So we buy the tickets and go into what will always remain to me, the scariest movie I have ever seen. If you know the Omen movies, then you know that there is always an animal portent of death. In the first movie it’s Dobermans, in the second it’s big black ravens. I spend most of the movie with my hands over my eyes as people die violent, creative deaths and there is no way to save them from the spawn of Satan. My sister doesn’t cover her eyes because her hands are too busy digging her fingernails into my arm. The movie thoroughly and officially freaks us out. When the lights come up, we’re shaky, but like, hey, it’s just a movie, right?

So we leave the theatre. Moving from the brightness and colors and crowds of the lobby into a dark, deserted and overcast night on the beach. No sunlight sparkles on aqua blue water, it is silver black and menacing. The clouds hang low and ominous as though supported by the thick, humid air. Clutching each other and alert for otherworldly evil, we start along the sand, each roll of waves grasping toward us like dark fingers that break and crash with malevolent intent. Breathing shallowly, hunched together, on full alert, we make it to the coconut grove.

We move through the terrifying swooshing sounds of the threatening fronds shaking and hissing threateningly above us. Suddenly, a crow cries out and we scream, breaking into a run, covering our heads before our eyes are plucked out by the heinous messengers of darkness.

Finally, the glow of light from the condo windows, our parents, safety. We rush in and tell them how afraid we were. Being the concerned, loving parents they are, they laugh at us.

Once we settle down, everyone goes to bed. We all change into nightgowns. I remember my sister had a long nightgown, white cotton and full, I had a short one. My two little sisters are in the bed closest to the sliding doors and I am in the one near the bathroom. We have left the sliding glass door open, our parents are nearby, so we don’t need to board up the windows and put out crosses, a gentle breeze filters through into the room. The screen door is locked and the white sheer curtains are drawn.

Much later I am wakened by the need to use the restroom. I check the semi-darkness carefully for demons, I’m far from sure it’s safe, but I decide to risk it.

I get up and scuttle the few feet to the bathroom, turning on the light as I close the door.

Now, what I don’t know is that when I turn on the bathroom light, it wakes my sister and the wind has stilled so the room is stuffy and over-warm. While I’m in the bathroom, she gets up out of the bed, half-sleepwalks to the chair next to the air conditioner and turns it on. She’s enjoying the cold air on her face, so she leans her head against the wall and falls asleep in the chair.

Very cautiously, I open the bathroom door and peer out. The room looks clear of hell’s minions, I do not notice my sister in the dimness, where she sleeps motionless in her white nightgown by the sheer curtains of the same color. I start back for my bed, tiptoeing to keep from waking the three headed dogs, and I’m halfway there when my movement wakes my sister.

Three things happened at once: a sudden, strong wind blows, sending the white sheer curtains streaming inward toward me which wakes my sister, who stands up and walks toward me.

From being sure the room is still and unoccupied by anything other than my sisters in the next bed, what I now see is a ghostly figure in white gliding toward me out of the billowing curtains, hands at its sides, zombie-like, bearing down, directly toward me. An electric shock of horror freezes my bones, and I leap for the bed, exclaiming “Oh my God,” except that my petrifying fear renders me incapable of pronunciation, so it comes out more like a throaty, quavering, “Oh ma ga!” I dive under the covers, heart beating and blood pounding, unable to speak, scream, or hear. I yank the thin cotton sheet over my head, because, as we all know, thin cotton will protect you from the devil.

Within seconds, the room is flooded with light and my mother is standing in the doorway, my father’s 6’4” frame behind her. “What is going on?” she cries, concerned. In the light, I sit up to see my sister standing looking groggy in the middle of the room and I know I’ve been snatched from the gates of Biblical mythology come to suck the life blood from my soul.

It takes a minute to explain and figure it out, then being the loving, protective family they are, they have a good long laugh at my expense.

They still laugh at me today, and this story of my cowardice is now one of my daughter’s favorites. Especially the “Oh mah Ga,” part, which makes them howl with laughter at my ridiculousness. I guess it’s genetic.

But let me tell you something. I learned a little something about what the power of suggestion will do to you that day.

And I still don’t like scary movies. I can make them, but I don’t like to watch them.

Whatever you feel and experience, it goes through your imagination and experience filters. Be careful what you let in, lest it fester until you make a complete fool of yourself.

And that applies to so many things.

Did I mention that I’ve learned to love crows?

Shari, August 20th, 2015

Life in General

The Sexual Orientation of Story Lines.

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It’s been ten years since I sold my first book to Simon and Schuster. “Loaded” was the first book I tried to publish, and I know now that it was no small feat to get that done. There wasn’t the self-publishing craze that there is now. You couldn’t whip up a few hundred mediocre pages, peruse the stock photo sites for a cover, and throw it up on Amazon to see if it would stick like spaghetti on the ceiling. In fact, they didn’t have Amazon. Ack! Egads! Life in a vacuum! Cats and dogs living together! How did we exist in such chaos? 

They did have something called the Palm Pilot, the first electronic book distributor, I believe. Loaded was in the top 50 for that when it came out. I guess it was a big deal, but I don’t really think anyone had any idea of how the ebook world would eat the hard cover book publishing industry, with ketchup and onions. Burp. Excuse me! 

On Christmas day I re-released Loaded as an ebook with a new look, and I’m curious to see how this big ol’ electronic publishing monster works out. It’s all new to me. 

It got me thinking about what’s gone down in ten years. My girls have grown up, one is in college, I re-married, and found joy in a relationship that is co-supportive instead of giving 85 percent of my energy to someone else, as far too many working moms do, my values have changed as a result, I want what I have now, not what other people think I should want, and my writing has matured considerably, how could it not?  

That said, I had to re-read and edit all four Callaway books, (yes, there’s a fourth, it will be released after I get the other three up and running!) and it was…interesting. 

Ultimately, I liked them, but I wouldn’t have written them now. Here’s the opening paragraph of Loaded—

I was staring down the vocal end of a forty-four magnum. Any second now, it would scream at me, shout, blow my fucking head off. I was scared, pinned down, trapped. In spite of being overcome with terror, I noticed how the night wind felt on my face; it made me feel alive and I wanted to stay that way.

Clearly, I was going for a big opening. I wanted the reader to see it, if you know what I mean, and then feel the moment as well from my character’s point of view. The Callaway novels are noted for their pace. I would literally read back what I had written, and if there wasn’t something exciting happening for more than say, two pages, I’d make sure it did. 

Loaded wasn’t the first book I wrote, mind you, just the first one I tried to get published. First I wrote two others, as exercises. Oh, I didn’t know they were exercises, I thought they would be brilliant best-sellers, but they are still somewhere in a closet. As my fabulous first editor Amy Pierpont once said, “I believe every book should be written, but I do not believe that every book should be published.”  That’s a philosophy that has vanished along with the independent bookstore, and I say a book is like a painting or a shirt. If you like it, buy it, who cares if anyone else thinks it’s good. I did, however, learn a lot from my ‘practice novels,’ and here’s what I can share about that with you. 

There are two basic types of books, in fiction, anyway. Feminine and Masculine. Now that doesn’t mean that the book is about men or women, the sex of the characters doesn’t matter, but a Feminine story is one that is character based, in which, we experience a character’s feelings and watch them work out relationships, or learn to love, or deal with old wounds, or find the healing power of family, or…well, you get the idea. A Masculine story is about a briefcase, everyone wants the briefcase, the briefcase will save the world, or make someone the richest SOB in history, everyone chases the briefcase, the briefcase falls into the wrong hands, we think we have the briefcase, but it’s the wrong briefcase! Things explode, cars are crashed, and then…okay, you get it. 

So, I wrote one book about people feeling and communing with nature and their inner selves, (Yawn for everyone but them). That was my Female novel. And then I wrote another book where everyone wants the precious object, which triggers a chain of events in which everyone chases, loses, and rescues the precious object. That was my Male novel, busy, and kind of heartless. (Lots happens, about which, we feel nothing in particular.)

I haven’t read either of them for years, but I’m pretty sure they’re both dead rotten. Not to say they didn’t have a couple of good ideas for characters in them or the occasional clever metaphor, but in my quest to produce a deserving, well-rounded book, I’m confident that I actually created something closer to ready fuel for a beach bonfire. (They were written on paper, remember that?) 

So I set out to write something that I would want to read. Something with big fat characters who have an emotional ‘arc,’ meaning they grow and change, and a twisted, skidding plot, with humor and action, a book that would be as much fun as a triple loop roller-coaster, with hooks at the end of every chapter and no waiting to get on it.

And now, reading it back, ten years later, I see that Loaded is what I would call a bi-sexual book. It has both Feminine and Masculine elements. Someone overcomes a personal obstacle, and a murdering SOB is brought down.

So…fun, and, I hope, a hell of a ride. 

Any way, Happy tenth, “Loaded.” Take a deep breath, close your eyes little book, make a wish, and blow out those candles.

I’m not sure, because if you tell, it won’t come true of course, but maybe, Loaded wished that a new generation of e-readers will choose to take a ride, strap themselves in and scream with their hands in the air. Provided they have a Kindle or Nook stand, of course, otherwise, they have to hold on. 

Happy reading. 

Shari December 27, 2012