Category Archives: Writing

How to Find a Good Husband, Even if You Don’t Want One.

For most of my life, I had no desire to marry. From what I saw, marriage didn’t have much to offer a woman except a life of drudgery, more submission that compromise, and no time of her own until the kids were grown and gone and the husband still employed or dead.

Sounds a bit harsh, I know, but having grown up as the youngest in my family, I had already lived with too many bosses, and I could see no reason to commit myself to another.

If you’re a reader of this blog, however, you know I changed my mind when I was 41 and found myself becoming engaged to marry in a circumstance more fitting for a creepy thriller than real life. There was no bent knee, no diamond ring, no roses, not even dinner. If you don’t know the details and want to know more, scroll down to the title with the word “stalker” in it.

The idea for this post came early this a.m. By the time I rose at 6:30 a.m., my hunk of burning love (HOBL)

My HOBL working his magic in the kitchen.

My HOBL working his magic in the kitchen.

had already cut back the limbs of the floribunda rose bush that had sprawled across the side courtyard toward the door to the house, picked our first tomatoes, lopped of the top of a bush that had been tall as a small tree, and fed the three dogs and the cat. Amazing, right?

But he wasn’t always like this.

When I was in my thirties, a friend of mine, who was ready to meet the father of her future children and thought I should be, too, despite my protests, told me to stop being picky. “Find a good guy,” she said. “One that’s trainable.”

By this point, she had started applying her hiring skills to her love life. For her, finding a husband had become a priority project.

“If he has a shirt you hate, throw it out. Bad haircut? Take him to a different hair cutter. You can change the small things. But you’ve got to find a great guy.”

At the time, I truly felt I would never have any need for this information, but the fact that she had set herself such guidelines amazed me. Where was the romance?

Then came the moment I learned my HOBL wanted to marry me, and in a flash, my friend’s advice returned to me, and I knew that I had found a man that I could marry without being shackled to domesticity or his every whim and whom I could train.

Right away I threw out his red, white and blue, paisley shirt and urged him to stop smashing the hair on the top of his head flat.

Other than that, my training of him didn’t seem to take. I taught him how to cook a variety of seafood, to make salad dressings and mashed potatoes, which he loved, but he’d forget how and couldn’t be bothered to read a cookbook. I showed him how to separate clothes for the wash, but our underwear ended up smoky blue or pink. I reminded him that a closed door to my writing shed office meant I was working and not to disturb me, but he did anyway, with our three dogs at his heels.

Then this year, everything changed. Some evenings I came in from my shed to find him cutting up vegetables to roast with a pan of fish filets nearby, ready to be broiled. He started separating the wash and using the wrinkle-free setting. He saw what needed to be done in the yard and did it! Without nagging or to-do notes from me.

No long ago, I called my friend, now a happily married mother of two teenage girls, and said, “You didn’t tell me the training would take 18 years.” She laughed.

I bragged to everyone about my husband and even advised my niece to find a good guy who was trainable, and, after running my mouth, something came to me that probably everyone else already knew but hadn’t mentioned. My HOBL had trained me.

I had added color to my black-and-white wardrobe and cut my hair. I no longer freaked when dishes from late night snacks set in the sink unwashed overnight. He taught me not to act rashly or over-react, that perfection is more of a nasty compulsion than a virtue and that lies, such as “No, those jeans don’t make your butt look big,” from him or “No, you aren’t going bald,” from me can be a small gestures of love.

Update: Interested in winning one of three, free paperback copies of my novel, Cooley & Rose? Or other new novels? Go to Goodreads.com, and participate in its First Books giveaway. The promotion for Cooley & Rose will run through Sept. 15, 2013.

The Unknown Cousins Tour: Great While It Lasted!

Ten months ago, after visiting his hometown of Winston-Salem, my father told me about his cousin’s daughter who was near my age and, like me, was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic in her forties. In hindsight, I guess the important detail was that we shared an odd medical history. At the time, however, I was shocked and

Sunset at Holden Beach

Sunset at Holden Beach

thrilled to find out I had a female cousin my age. It had always seemed that men had overrun the Perrel side of my family. But I was wrong.

Becky and I met on Facebook. When I studied her picture, I saw we had we had the same full face, the same small teeth which a friend once described as “a row of pearls;” and chestnut-colored hair. (Yes, that’s my original color.)

I learned that she, too, loved to read good books, both fiction and non-fiction; had developed into a foodie who hoarded bottles of capers; and had traveled a lot. I saw the big difference between us last winter when one photo after another on FB showed her with her HOBL, both bundled like the Michelin man with mounds of snow everywhere. Ugh, I thought. How can that be? I spent three winters in Columbus, Ohio, and, when I returned to Virginia Beach, I prayed I’d never see snow again. But my cousin, although she kept houses in North Carolina, had made New Hampshire her home!

She also told me that I had a slew of cousins, most of them female, so a few weeks ago, my HOBL and I set out to meet them.

Our first stop was to meet Becky in Holden Beach, an outer banks island eight-miles long just north of the South Carolina line. It’s a lovely, slow-paced place that reminded me of Virginia Beach before it became an overgrown city.

There, I again noticed her teeth, the similar shape of her face, and then I saw we were the same height and wore the same shade of orange polish on our toenails. The first hour there, I suffered a small case of first-

View from the intercoastal waterway to Holden Beach

View from the intercoastal waterway to Holden Beach

date jitters that started to dissipate as we lunched al fresco by the inter-coastal waterway and vanished completely by mid-afternoon as we noodled in a pool and gabbed, taking time every once in a while to float in comfortable silence.

I won’t tell you about every second of our two-days there, although it was Becky who took us to Mary’s Gone Wild, but so many occasions pointed out how simpatico we were. At a Celtic store in nearby Southport, we learned that each us had been thinking of buying a ukulele. So we did. Orange ones. Not because we wanted them to match but because we both love that color.

From Holden Beach, we went to Winston-Salem, where I’d often gone as a child to visit my grandmother’s family. The night we arrived, we dined with Becky’s mother, Billie Jane, a kissing cousin to my father. Newly turned 85, she’s a beautiful and gracious woman, a former yogini, with a soft voice and a great sense of humor. She flattered me greatly by saying that once she started reading my novel, Cooley & Rose, she couldn’t stop to fix her 5 o’clock supper. She had to keep reading.

By then, I’d already developed a sore throat, and by the morning, the day of a birthday lunch for all of the cousins born in June, my voice was fading. Becky, her husband who had returned the previous night from Singapore, and my HOBL went without me. While they were gone, I napped, then met her neighbor who commented on much Becky and I looked a like.

When the three returned four hours later, my husband said, “I wished you’d met these people 20 years ago. They are so much fun.” In particular, he named three of my senior cousins who came and went in a big Cadillac and made him laugh the whole time in between.

But, thanks to Becky, I didn’t miss everything. She took individual videos of all but one of my cousins, saying “hello,” and more, and watching and listening to Kent, Kay, Mickey, Gail, Helen and so many more made me both teary and happy and wanting to return soon.

Saturday morning I woke unable to speak, my neck swollen, and knew I needed to head home to my bed and, most likely a doctor, even though my cousins had organized an early birthday party for her mother the next day that would include other cousins and their families. Cousins I’d been following on Facebook. Lucky for me, the wife of one stopped by Becky’s house the day we arrived, so I was able to meet Karin, but I had so looked forward to getting to know Jan, Pat and Tim.

In a bare whisper, I asked Becky if maybe my HOBL and I could stop by and see Tim, who lived nearby, on the way out of town. She located him at his 92-year-old father’s, and led us to him.

Meeting Becky was big deal for me, because I’d never known extended family members with whom I could talk books or politics or food or health or nail polish. Then, at the next stop, two other big things happened.

First, Tim, who looks nothing like me, told of how my maternal great-grandmother, who had lived next door to his father and was not related to him, would sit on her porch on warm summer nights with the neighborhood kids gathered around her and tell stories. Since I’d only met her one or twice as a small child before she died, that information thrilled me since my life has been about stories and the cause-and-effect of actions.

He also told me that soon he was going once gain teach classes based on Julie Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, a book I’d read years ago, and that he also biked, had studied Tai Chi and did yoga. I couldn’t speak, so Tim had had no idea, until he saw me smiling and nodding, that all of those had been important to my life, too. He mentioned that the next day, he was headed with his wife and either a mandolin or guitar to Ireland, a country that I fell in love with many years ago.

What I had intended to be a 15-minute visit turned into an hour or more. Tim and his sweet honey of a father, Bink, are professional musicians, and Becky plays the guitar, too, and sings, and, around the kitchen table the three of them played one song after another as I again teared up, moved because I belonged to this family.

Words of Cautions and Words of Thanks

First, a PSA

Last Friday I was handed a message to call someone named J—– W—–. Neither the name nor the phone number was familiar to me. My HOBL said it was a business call, but he could not remember the company’s name. I usually would toss such a message into the trash, but on that day, I was expecting information from a book distributor, so I called.

When the phone was answered, there was chaos on the other end – several voices talking, things being dropped. It sounded like a small group of young people sitting at a long table, eating lunch and shouting to each other. At least ten seconds passed before someone actually spoke to me, and , even then, I could not make out the words because of the noise in the background.

Then all went quiet, as though the group had been shushed or the speaker function had been disabled. On the line was a young man whose accent was one that we all recognize from call centers, but one I’d rather associate with champion spellers or good doctors rather than what I later concluded was a scam artist. I asked to speak J—– W——- and gave his the extension. The man asked me to hold, but he did not put the phone on hold or mute. There were none of the clicks associated with a call being transferred. Then the same young man said, “This is J—–W—–.”

Right off, he asked my name, and I told him. Then he wanted to know if I was at my computer.

“Excuse me, “ I said, “what company is this?” He gave me a high-tech sounding name, which I will not divulge here because there might be a legit company out in the world that shares the same one. Besides, I imagine this guy changes company names, his own name and phone numbers on a near daily basis.

Again, he asked if I was at my computer and told me to turn it on immediately. I did not do a thing. He told me my computer had a virus. When I asked how he knew that, he said information on his monitor told him, and he was going to help me fix the bug. Funny, nobody has ever called and offered such help before. Even before virus programs were developed, I would go into my registry and do the tedious work of cleaning it up.

“Whom do you work for?” I asked. (And, yes, I dangle my prepositions on a regular basis when I talk.) He named his company. “No,” I said, “Who pays your company to do this?” He would not say. Instead, he insisted that I start up my computer. “We detected the virus last week. We need to fix this.”

Throughout this conversation, I was sitting at my Mac, which is almost virus-proof. I had seen no evidence of any problems. “Which computer are you talking about?”

“It’s a Microsoft problem.”

“And you detected it last week?”

“Yes,” he said.

And that’s when I knew for sure I was being scammed, because my other computer, a PC laptop that seldom goes online, had been unplugged for more than two weeks.

“I can’t do this now, “ I said. “I’m waiting for a call. I’ll be back in touch next week.”

The guy on the other end did not thank me for my time or offer any pleasantry. Instead, he cut me off.

I went to the PC, plugged it in and powered it up. After checking my virus program for updates, of which there were none, I ran a full scan. All was fine.

Early in my marriage, my HOBL and I spent two years dealing with Identity Theft. This was just after President Clinton signed a bill making it a crime but before the law was enacted. The local police had no idea how to track such things. As a former reporter, however, I knew some handy investigative techniques and how to apply them online. Because of cross-referenced information gathered from banks and businesses that had been targeted, I was able to get the Secret Service involved.

So, Friday, even though J——– W——— gained nothing from me, or at least I have seen no evidence that he did, I filed an online complaint with the federal government, outlining our conversation, providing the telephone numbers and call times involved. Who knows if that’s enough for those investigators to do anything, but I do hope this post might help someone.

If you receive such a call, please take a name and number and the reason for the call from the “tech,” and then call your computer company, concierge service, and maker of your virus protection software to see if the call is legit. And if it isn’t, report it. The federal government has an online internet complaint page.

Now, Something Lighter

As a supportive gesture, a dear friend who is overworked and has no time to read, bought my novel, Cooley & Rose, in e-book form and sent it to his father.

“Why did you do that?” said his wife, who’d already read the novel in an early form and is the person who told me this story. She asked because her father-in-law is an 83-year-old retired CIA employee who reads thrillers, — not quirky, road stories about two flawed characters whose marriage is on the rocks. Although I was grateful and touched by the support from her husband, I was a bit sad that the book would probably go unread,

Almost three weeks passed. The wife called me to say her father-in-law not only read Cooley & Rose but loved it so much that he had been talking about it for two weeks.

Everyday I’m hearing from more and more men who are taking time to sit down with Cooley & Rose.
I’ve also heard from several women who confessed that reading the novel has made them kinder to their spouses.

Isn’t that something? Cooley & Rose is spreading the love.cover final 3-2-13

Feel free to comment on this site about your experience with the story, or go to the online store from where you bought your book to comment and review.

By the way, the novel is available in a trade paperback from Amazon.com and as an e-book from online reader stores. You can read the first chapter for free.

When a Stalker Plays Matchmaker, There’s More Drama than Romance.

“Happy Anniversary to B. and me. May 12 is the only day of the year I will never work, as this was her request on our wedding day. She gets flowers from me on the 12th of every month, and has since we answered the easy questions together 23 years ago today.

“It’s been mostly fun.”

A long-time friend of mine, who, like me, married for the first and and only time in early mid-life, recently posted this on Facebook. Later in the day, his wife commented: “Awe!! So sweet! :>x. Time flies too quickly especially with my boyfriend for life.”Pleaasure House Point_2012 12 09_0026_edited-1

I tell you. Love doesn’t get any better than this. Or more romantic.

My anniversary is in less than two weeks. Because my Hunk of Burning Love (HOBL) and I changed our wedding date to accommodate out-of-town visitors, on more than one occasion we’ve missed our anniversary and celebrated it belatedly, only after being reminded by a friend or family member.

He stopped bringing me flowers after a sassy cat named Mr. Burt Reynolds joined our household and started disassembling the arrangements stalk by stalk, then petal by petal. Now we grow our own flowers for cutting – various types and colors of zinnias, which the cat hates. When the flowers are in bloom during late summer and early fall and I’m out and about, my HOBL cuts and arrange them in vases he sets in unexpected places.

When we announced 18 years ago that we were going to marry each other, one of my nosey brothers called my HOBL and asked who proposed to whom. When my HOBL’s answer didn’t satisfy him, he called others to get the scoop. He found the truth hard to believe.

The Big Moment did not involve a diamond ring gunked with creme brulee, a bottle of Dom, long-stemmed red roses or bended knee. Nothing about it was romantic or planned. But, drama? There was plenty. The catalyst for our spur-of-the-moment decision was someone whom I’d known as a teenager. A shy boy who rode the same school bus as I. As a man, he served as a naval officer and after that earned a Ph.D. and became a biogeneticist. J. was also an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic who stalked me off and on for more than 20 years.

A few weeks prior to the night that changed my life, J. had obtained my unlisted telephone number from an alumna of the school we had attended, a person who was unaware that his teenage crush had become an obsession. By this time, J. had been quiet for several years, living and working in the Midwest, creating corn hybrids, and, from what I’d been told by a family member, in love and hoping to be married. I was happy for him, even happier for myself, believing he was out of my life for good.

But the woman he loved did not want to marry him, and I can only guess that served as one of many factors that led him to call me near midnight in April 1994.

The moment I picked up the phone, I knew it was him. The moans and heaving breathing of an animal in pain, sounds I’d heard so many times before from. Sounds so pitiful that it pained me to know he suffered so. I did not hang up, because it was important for me to know his location and where his mind was. I will not go into all of the chilling details, but once he found his voice, he told me that he raised finches; that two beings lived in his body, one who could draw extremely well; that the Pope would be assassinated in the fall of that year; that I was destined to marry him, to have his child; and that the three of us would study sorcery and cure the ills of the world.

The next few days, as calls continued to come from the Midwest, I worked to erase any signs that I lived where I did, including trading in my car. I knew that before long he would show up, which he eventually did. Friends made daily calls to his office to track his movements, and I hid out in another city while a family of four settled temporarily into my home. These efforts to protect myself and mislead him, however, make up a later chapter in a long story that I have no plans to write.

Let me pause here and tell you, the only time I have written about this was a short note to a mutual friend, and writing this post is exhausting me. So many emotions are churning inside, including sadness that J., who died two years ago, had to live such a confused and difficult life.

But there were moments of happiness for me. Not long after J. found me that April and before I changed my telephone number for the umpteenth time, I came home from a graduate class, and on my answering machine were numerous messages from him – his voice and language growing angrier with each, all accusing me of being home and not picking up. And that’s exactly what I did with the other harrowing calls that followed. Lucky for me, in between these, a friend phoned and volunteered to keep me company.

And he was the one who answered the next ring. He told J. that I would be home from school soon, to call back in 20 minutes.

When J. did, I held the phone so my friend could hear, witness the insanity, but after a few moments, he pulled away, shaking his head, unable to listen any longer.

Then, J. said to me, “That guy there? The one who answered the phone? He’s in love with you.”

For the first time in days, I laughed. I looked at my friend who had plopped down on the couch as though he owned it. Looking into his eyes, I said, “You say the guy who answered the phone is in love with me?”

My friend grinned, pushed himself up and nodded.

I smiled. “You know what?” I said to J. “I’m in love with him, too.”

Eighteen years later, I still am.

Miscellany of Life – Lyme, Sleep, and Talk

IMG_0418A week ago I underwent more vibrational testing for my Lyme’s Disease and started a homeopathic treatment to kill off the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in my muscles, plus other stuff in my brain and CNS that you don’t want to read or hear about. All of this is progress, but by noon I am so weary that all I can do is sleep. So, please excuse the absence of my regular blogs. I’ve started three, have completed none.

Also, Cooley & Rose is available as an e-book and as a paperback. For the time being, the latter is only available through Amazon.com. I should be promoting this like crazy, but that, too, will have to wait.

Spring is here, and I am happy the pollen has come and gone with the heavy rain. Today, despite predictions otherwise, the sun came out. Soon there will be beach days ahead, I hope.

Happy May days to you all. Talk at ya soon.

Cheers,
Terry

Writing and Talking With a Lyme Brain is Hard Work. Ask Amy Tan & Rebecca Wells.

This week I’ve been spending my time making changes to the e-book version of Cooley & Rose and working on a format for a paperback version.images

While doing this, I struggled with my Lyme brain where years ago babesia bacteria took up residence, wreaking neurological havoc in so many ways, especially on my ability to recall words. This is a challenge for a writer. Amy Tan and Rebecca Wells have written about their experiences. When Wells created Ya-Ya in Bloom, the sequel to The Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, she had already developed advance neurological damage. 1103_rd_tick

My brain was already frazzled by the time I started working on the novel-version of Cooley and Rose. Still, I pushed on and finished that, then wrote The Wyatt Sisters Songs of Sorrow, a story that is even more complex than the one that I’m hawking these days.

People say, “Oh, everyone forget words now and then.” True, but I will give you two brief examples of what happens with a Lyme brain.

Yesterday I was telling my husband about my new cell phone and all the tricks it could do and how I carried the instruction book around to read whenever I had to wait somewhere, like the drive-thru at the bank or a doctor’s office. He cocked his head and squinted his eyes and said, “You have a clock that does all that?” Years ago, I would have accused him of losing his hearing, but now I know better. Even though my brain thinks one word, often another comes out. This happens everyday. Unless I can’t find any semblance to the word I want. Then I just shut up. And sometimes he’s grateful for that.

A couple of days ago I came across “squawling babies” in Cooley & Rose and decided to look up the word “squawling” but could not find it. Then my mind told me to look up “squalling,” hoping it had a secondary or tertiary definition that would fit my meaning. I had no luck there with that either. Then I started going through the alphabet, and when I came to “B”, I stopped. “Brawling babies,” I said and imagined two little diapered fatties, lying on their backs, flinging their arms and kicking their legs. I was wrong again, but the strain of thinking was exhausting me. And then the word came. “Bawling.” It was the right word although a bit bland. I had to jot it down, because my brain kept insisting on returning to “brawling.” DSCN0143

With this path of thought written down on paper, it came to me that somewhere in my mind, the words “squealing” and “bawling” had merged to become “squawling.” Now, after having taken care of my corrections, I wished I’d stayed with the original because even though it’s not a legit word, it seems more expressive than “bawling.”

What do you think?

A Father, a Daughter and a Fire: A Cautionary Tale about Voice.

DSCN0139I grew up in an age and family where children were meant to be seen, not heard. If either of my parents could have foreseen how my older brother and I would erupt with ideas and opinions as we neared adulthood, they probably would have been more lax about the policy. But they weren’t. And, boy, have they paid for it.

In high school my brother and a friend put out a political newspaper printed in red ink that protested the Vietnam War. He hawked copies at his high school, and when the administration found that to be disruptive, he took his bundles to the street corner and handed copies to driver stopped by traffic. I can’t remember whether all of this came before or after the year he joined the debate team. He has always loved the art and power of persuasion. How he ended up being a real estate developer rather than a lawyer still puzzles me.

I, too, had my causes. Most had to due with women’s rights, and I still champion those, although I no longer discuss them with my mother whose views are conservative. She still refuses to acknowledge that I kept my own surname when I married 17 year ago. Last week I received a birthday card from her. The last name on the envelope was my husband’s.

Such protest by my mother or others by my father has not stopped me from expressing myself on the pages of magazines, short stories, novels, letters to the editor, feature articles, Facebook and this blog.

Once I wrote a story about a trip my brother, father and I took to Belize in the days before it became prettified enough by Francis Ford Coppola and others to appear on HGTV and the Travel channels. After the column appeared in a magazine, my father threatened to sue me. He said we were definitely not on the same trip. My brother agreed, but his version differed from my mine and my father’s, too.

So, understanding how opinions and point of views can create havoc and dissension in a family, I still can’t believe that my father took advice from me seriously when I was only eleven or so. Back then, even I knew my suggestion was a fantasy, a crazy one. The kind Beaver Cleaver might dream up. But, heck, if my father was willing to listen to me, I was glad to hog the spotlight and talk.

It was a sunny fall day. My brother was off who-knows-where, and my mother and her best friend were going shopping and to a matinee in downtown Norfolk. Before leaving, she instructed my father and me to rake up and burn the leaves four-inches deep on our three-quarter-acre yard. Just the idea of this chore sapped our energy.

I wanted to bike with friends, hang out at the neighbor’s house where the daughter and I would take our Barbie and Ken dolls and smash them together so they could make out. This was long before we found out that Ken was gay. Before we even knew that gay meant something other than happy.

My father, who often kept a bushel of iced Lynnhaven oysters on the flatbed of his pickup and a bottle of Seagram’s under the driver’s seat, wanted to visit his buddies. I don’t know what his exact plans were for that day, perhaps rockfishing, but he had no more desire to clean up the yard than I did. For the first time, I understood we were allies. And that was when I told him I had a plan. I did not think he would go for it. Afterall, he was the adult.

I suggested to him that we rake the leaves away from all the trunks of the trees, then set the yard on fire. He said it was a fine idea. I was thrilled, even though I had doubts that I kept to myself. Whatever happened, I imagined my mother would never ask us to rake again.

The job took longer than we thought, leaving us no time for our friends, and by the time my mother returned home late that afternoon, we were guarding our yard of smoldering ash, careful to make sure the house did not burn down.

It took my mother a few moments to take in what we had done, even longer to find her voice because she was so livid. Madder than when I forged her name perfectly on a failing arithmetic test in third grade or when, at age four, I stole a caramel out of the Braff candy barrel at Overton’s Supermarket.

She wanted to know what we’d been thinking in our addled brains. We told her.

Then she told us what was in her sensible one – that someone would have to clean the smoke film from the windows, the soot we tracked onto the floors of the house, the paws of our white toy poodles every time they came in from doing their business.

But that wasn’t all. Someone, meaning my father, would have to plow up the yard with his tractor, rake it smooth, sow new seed, and keep it watered with a web of hoses attached to sprinklers cross the yard until grass sprouted.

It was a long time before I saw my friends anywhere except in Sunday School. My mother kept me busy after school and on weekends, washing dogs, dusting, mopping and so on. A list too tedious for details.

The next November, what I had imagined would be the best possible outcome – that she would never ask my father or me to rake again – never entered her mind. I hauled one small pile of leaves after another to the fire.
* * * * * * *
My novel, Cooley & Rose, is now available as an e-book at Amazon Kindle Store, the ITunes Store, the Sony Reader Store, the Nook Store, Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Gardner’s, eSentral, eBook Pie, Scribd and Amazon.co.uk. NEW: A paperback version is available from Amazon. Please rate and review, good or bad, with the distributor and Goodreads.com. Thanks.cover final 3-2-13