Hot Off the Press!

My guest column has been published in The Portland Daily Sun! Feel free to click here to go check it out.

or here: Motherhood and the Evils of Alcohol

or click down there on that picture of me and my Grinch lips.

or click the spot …. just kidding!

I’m so thankful to my friend and fellow writer, Natalie Ladd. That’s her column hosting my words today. A big thanks to my friends and family who are sharing the article like crazy!!

The Boozy Floozy – A Memoir Essay

Her nickname was Bunny but, she was neither soft nor fuzzy. In fact, she was missing any of the traits one might associate with a meek woodland creature. Unless, of course, bunnies smoked Marlboro reds and drank like fish. In which case, then her nickname was spot-on. If bunnies screamed hateful things at little girls and attempted to beat teenage boys with two-by-fours, then sure…she was a bunny.

I privately named her Boozy Floozy or simply, “her.” Sometimes, I even referred to her as “It.” As in, Here It comes, better disappear before It attacks.

Bunny was really only called Bunny during the moments when Happy Hour was still happy, that fleeting bit of time when she and my father neared the end of their first drink and their faces bloomed with smiles, their eyes brightened and everyone became funny. Even Bunny. But happy hour could turn ugly fast.

She hated me. She told me so once with her hand wrapped around my neck while she pressed me against the wall. Bunny leaned in so close that our noses nearly touched. Her mouth was surrounded in tiny creases and fine blonde hairs. The mole above her lip moved as she breathed booze-scented hate into my face through gritted teeth. She was baiting me. Waiting for me to push back, talk back or cry. I refused to give her what she wanted. I was smarter than her. Mostly because I wasn’t drunk.

Bunny wore shiny polyester shirts and colored her short shagged hair an unnatural shade of dark brown that faded into a brassy dull yellow. She spoke with cigarettes dangling from her lip, squinting through the ribbon of white smoke that moved past her eyes. The effect of that habit, paired with her use of profanity and clipped movements, gave Bunny a masculine air.

My hatred for her was just as big, but I was smarter than she was. I was quiet about my revenge. Once, I stood at the refrigerator lazily searching the contents for food a kid might like to eat. How long did it usually take her to get annoyed by this act? When she jumped up from her chair and began to lunge across the kitchen, I held out a jar of her pickled eggs.

“Want an egg?” I asked, “I’m not sure I’d like them.”

She eyed me suspiciously then pulled on a dry smile. “Haven’t you ever had a pickled egg?”

“No. My mother doesn’t make them.”

She turned her back to me and placed the jar on the counter, and I enjoyed watching her reach in and pluck a slippery egg from the juice. I watched her raise the egg to her mouth as she turned to face me again. She took a hearty bite, removing the top half of the egg and while she chewed, I watched her mole move up and down.

“So, what are they pickled in?” I asked.

“Vinegar and garlic,” she answered as she swallowed, “You have to let them sit for a month. I just opened this jar.”

“I like vinegar.”

“Are you going to eat one or not?” she was becoming impatient with my indecision.

“No, thank you.”

There was no way I was going to eat one of those eggs after I peed in the jar.

Bunny had a violent streak. She once locked my brother out of the house when he didn’t come home by 11:00 and, when he went into the barn to sleep in his car, Bunny attacked him in the dark with a 2×4, aiming for his head. Bunny was dangerous and mean and anything might have set her off.

One day I locked her in the pantry after she ranted about something like, I’d let the cat inside or I’d dipped a celery stalk in the mayonnaise after refusing to eat the liver and onions she cooked for dinner. She mostly ranted because my presence infuriated her. She ranted because it was nearing the hour that she’d pour herself the day’s first drink. She ranted because I was my father’s daughter.

I don’t remember now what it was that she drank, I just know that her violence gave birth to my own. Her hate fed my hate. I feared her and I wanted her dead. Or I wanted to die.

I moved in with my father in November, 1981, just hours after I’d run away and hid in a drainage pipe than ran under the Northway. As the day grew cooler and the late-autumn sun grew faint, I was forced out of hiding. I sat in the same room with my mother and father, a rare occurrence, and informed my mother that I hated her. An hour later I was in the passenger seat of my father’s State Police car with all of my worldly belongings. I chose him in the hope of finding a place where I fit or to recapture that beautiful solitary innocence that I had enjoyed on our farm. It didn’t take long to realize that Bunny had stolen all hope.

Now, Bunny stalked into the pantry with her cigarette dangling from her lips and began shuffling the mushy canned vegetables that she’d force me to eat at dinner. Suddenly, the thought of her taking pleasure in making me eat something that was purposely inedible, enraged me. Her back was turned when I shut the door and turned the lock. Nearly in unison, the lock moved into place with a loud click and Bunny quickly turned. Through the glass and a veil of smoke, she glared at me with narrowed eyes. “You’d better open that fucking door,” she spat.

My response was stony silence. Now that I’d turned that lock, I was forced to commit to my bad choice. She’d kill me if I let her out.

The cigarette was back between the fingers of her right hand and she used it to punctuate the jabbing motions she made while she growled, “Open…the…fucking…door.” Her eyes fixed on mine like an animal assessing its prey. Her upper lip began to quiver, causing the ugly mole that lived there to dance. I knew that I risked her punching through the glass to get out. She was crazy enough to throw her fist through a window in order to get me and it was a chance I was willing take for the sake of my own hatred. Knowing my chances for survival were better if she couldn’t see me, I slowly backed out of the kitchen. I returned her fury-filled stare with my own wordless challenge. If she escaped before my father returned home, she would do something to harm me. Suddenly, I realized my gamble was foolish since sometimes, my father didn’t come home at all.

The heel of my right foot met the threshold of the kitchen doorway and slowly, I closed the door on her rage-filled stare. I’d vowed I wouldn’t show fear in her presence but, when the silence was broken by the sharp click of another door closing, I jumped. Her spell was broken. I whirled and ran through the woodshed into the yard. Without slowing, I ran into the tall grass of the field and didn’t look back. I didn’t want to know if she was watching me. For hours I wandered the woods behind my father’s new house, waiting for the sun to dip low enough in the sky to tell me that he might be home.

It seemed running had become my most effective method of escape. I ran, hoping to block it all out and outrun Bunny. I was still holding out hope for a magical doorway to appear and some beautiful, loving creature to invite me to the other side. On the day that I locked that evil woman in the pantry, my innocence was waning. In less than one year my life had irrevocably changed. I’d come to understand that the people who were my parents were not the people I thought they were.

If you could have peered into the house on Coon Hill Road, you might have seen her sitting alone. A girl with long brown hair, too thin and serious and always holding a book in her lap. She had lived most of her short life that way, trying to feed her insatiable curiosity with words. The things she knew weren’t taught to her by her family, but by the characters in the books she read. She was surviving. If she thought too hard about the number of years she had to endure before she’d be able to leave, she cried. She didn’t know where she would go.

Just Answer My BLEEPIN’ question!

I might be back, but I’m still reeling. The 10 days that I spent at my graduate school residency were filled with readings, critiques, faculty presentations, graduate presentations and emotion.

How odd it was, at my age, to become awash with nerves as I approached the Bowdoin College campus. Years peeled away with each step that brought me closer to the doors of the building where I would check in. By the time my right hand wrapped around the wooden handle and I pulled the heavy glass door open, I was feeling all of the emotion that typically accompanied the first day at a new school. I haven’t felt that unease for more years than I care to discuss.

Will they be nice? Will they like me? Will I make friends? Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing?

I was handed a meal card and a key to the dorm where I would be sleeping. The dorm was still deserted. I was early.

But was I? Was I early or had I begun this endeavor 18 years too late? Those were the questions I posed to an overly friendly squirrel who sat on the steps with me outside of Thorne Hall. His silence reminded me of a therapist I once saw. She had a maddening habit of blankly staring at me when I posed questions like, “Should I marry Steve?” or, “Is it weird that my future mother-in-law still makes her 26 year old son’s bed?” or, “Why would he propose to me at Disney World…right after we rode the Tower of Terror? That’s just not at all how I envisioned it would happen.” The therapist never responded. She simply sat in her chair, nibbling on the end of her retractable pencil and allowed my questions to linger in the space between us.

Just answer my fucking question, lady.

She didn’t need to answer me. I knew the answers to my questions. I knew I was asking because all of it was wrong. For me, it was wrong. I knew it was a terrible idea to marry him. I knew that he would invite his mother into our relationship far more than I would ever be comfortable with. I knew so much, but chose to ignore that silent therapist and marry him anyway. I ignored my intuition and I suffered for that mistake.

Now, at 40 years old, I found myself sitting on the steps outside of a college dining hall and demanding answers from a common grey squirrel.

Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing? Am I allowed to call myself a writer?

The squirrel stared at me and nibbled a morsel he found in the grass. He allowed my question to linger in the space between us.

Just answer my fucking question, squirrel!

He didn’t need to answer me. I knew the truth. I knew that I was asking because what I was about to do – attend my first MFA residency – was right.

I sat on those steps and pondered the path that I’ve been resisting for the better part of my life. The squirrel dropped his morsel and, without hesitation, he ran to catch it again. For some reason, that squirrel jumped onto a wall then leapt onto the grass and approached his prize after making a wide arc across the sidewalk. He didn’t follow the easiest, most obvious route.

Thank you, squirrel.

I stood up, brushed the debris from the back of my skirt and introduced myself to the other writers who had just finished checking in.

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I’d like to take a moment to thank Diana of BettyShmetty fame, the always encouraging Eden of Evergreen Eden , Amber, that talented writer from http://www.thedailydoty.com/, Mary Lauren from My 3 Little Birds –  she makes it all look so easy, doesn’t she? She even navigated No. 7 without suffering any nasty bites. Mollie from  OK in UK…I love when a person shares my dry sense of humor, so much so that sometimes we can’t tell when the other is kidding..or not. Mollie truly is awesome. Katie, that talented and insightful writer from Chicken Noodle Gravy. Katie gets me…on so many levels. We share a deep dislike for mean girls and women who seem unable to stop acting like mobs of 13 year old mean girls. Patty from Another cookie, please. Patty who I’ve known for so long – our friendship actually began before the blogs! She’s been my biggest fan, provides continuous encouragement and support and she’s one hell of a writer. Stop selling yourself short. Finally, I’d like to say thank you to Ada from Of Woods and Words . I stumbled upon Of Woods and Words last fall and immediately became a fan.

Thank you, friends! Thank you for babysitting No. 7 while I was off getting edumacated.

Please take a moment to vote for No. 7. Just one click does the trick!

Vote for me @ Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

 

Punching Out the Donuts (Guest Post featuring Of Woods and Words.”

As a college undergrad, I had a tendency to freak out about my chosen major (English) and the career path I’d have to negotiate after graduation. Turns out, my freak outs were totally justified; I graduated in spring 2007, right as the great recession began settling heavily on the world’s shoulders.

To alleviate my growing panic about “the real world,” I’d often call upon my professors during office hours to “talk it out.”  Since they’d all chosen to stay in the (what I consider) insular world of academia with their own English majors, their insight was rather limited. Still,  a couple of them said something to me during those talks about how I could make a living with my writing that I’ve never heard before or after.

“You’ve just got to keep punching out the donuts,” they said.

Maybe I misheard them.

Writing was supposed to be angst-y, inspired, imaginative, fulfilling. It wasn’t supposed to be a repetitive task like punching out donuts.  The whole reason I’d chosen to study English and focus on my writing was because I loved discovering stories, finding new angles, and gaining a deeper understanding of the world around me and my interactions with it. In short, I wanted to be a writer because it was the most exciting thing I could think of to do with my life that I was actually qualified for and capable of.  (After brief consideration, I decided to leave Mt. Everest for other braver souls to summit.)

Now, four years out of college and still working away at making my living as a freelance writer, I’m starting to get what they were trying to say about those donuts. I think they were saying (metaphorically of course . . . they were English professors) that writing is a job.  A really freakin’ awesome job if you ask me, but a job all the same.  One you’ve got to stick with, through the good, the bad, and the nonexistent feedback, to succeed at . On Twitter the other day, I spotted a tweet that summed up the donut philosophy perfectly: “Note to my 15-year-old self: don’t become a writer. It can get boring sometimes.”

There are many mornings when I rise early to get my required writing done before heading off to the 40h/w job.  There are plenty of mornings when I’d rather catch a few more winks of sleep or spend that precious alone time at the desk sipping my black tea while reading through other bloggers’ recent posts.  But my words must come out. Articles, commentaries, and blog posts all have to get written. There are deadlines and payment involved, not to mention, important “platform building” for if I ever (oh please, please, please) get a book contract.

“Dogged” and “panic-stricken” often describe my writing lifestyle better than “exciting” or “glamorous.”

I’m totally punching out donuts these days. And those donuts aren’t always especially inspired, imaginative, or fulfilling. But you know what? Sometimes they’re down right delicious.

Ada blogs at Of Woods and Words about writing and rural living.

Don’t fear: Ms. Narragansett No. 7 herself will return TOMORROW!

Slumps and Old Stuff

Maybe I’m totally over thinking things but I think that when I slid my manuscripts into that manila envelope a few weeks ago, a bit of my inspiration slid inside and took a ride courtesy of a good ol’ United States Postal Service truck. I’m riding a nasty slump. In my defense, the past two weeks have been just slightly busy with pediatrician appointments and preschool functions. My duties as a mommy officially got in the way of my duty to write, and read the pile of books that are on the required reading list.

What to do?

Well…I’m going to ride it out. I’m going to move through this next week and try not worry about it. I’m going to get up tomorrow morning, drive the kids to school,  maybe clean a toilet or two and attempt to bang out some words. I’m not going to worry about whether they suck or not. This week, I’m going to spend 20-25 hours writing and get myself back into the groove.

On Thursday I’m heading to the Brimfield Antiques Show. Without children. For nearly three days.

I have a feeling I’ll be coming back slightly refreshed and with a few new treasures. If I’m really lucky I’ll have a story or two in my back pocket. Seriously, if you collect antiques, you know that there is no better place to have a run-in with crazy than an antique show.

Photo Courtesy Country Living

In case you haven’t heard about it before, Brimfield is a fantastic antique show in Massachusetts. I haven’t been able to get there for about five years and I am beginning to count the hours. My budget for the show took a hit thanks to the deposit we placed on grad school, so I’ll be limited in my purchases this year. No matter, I’m just thrilled to go and soak it all in.

Wish me luck…on the slump thing and the treasures!

Thank You Blogger Friends (What I write on NyQuil & Wine)

For shits and giggles I Googled my blog yesterday and came upon a random review by some random jackass. Apparently, I suck because I use Blogger which sucks because it is connected to Google which sucks because…well, to be honest I zoned out a bit on her rant because it sucked. Note to self: eDee2.0 abhors anything associated with Google but who really gives a shit?

This won’t win me any fans, but don’t even get me started on the cut-throats over at Top Mommy Blogs. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get in the way of the ladies hell bent on delivering a daily recipes along with a review of the latest and greatest in baby leashes on their quest to reach the coveted No. 1! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some awesome and funny fellow bloggers there. Kitten at Mumsyhood and who doesn’t love Jill at Yeah. Good Times.

I’ve never been entirely sure why I joined Top Mommy Blogs in the first place. Sure, I blog about my family but I’m more about the writing part as opposed to mommy blogging. I’m thinking it’s time to say goodbye to Top Mommy Blogs and worry fine tuning my writing instead of trying to win a popularity contest. I already competed in high school. No offense to my fellow blogging friends who participate, I just don’t think that some of my posts really fit that audience. I’m trolling for the right networking site for Narragansett No. 7.

So where does one go to network your blog when you are a mommy who happens to write? For starters, I’d recommend For The Love of Blogs. There are a whole bunch of different blogging niches there and one is dedicated to writers!

I like that For the Love of Blogs frowns on the “follow me and I’ll follow you” bullshit. I want people to follow me because they enjoy reading my words, not because they’re trying to collect a large number of followers. Mostly, I’ve found a really supportive community of people at FTLOB.

If you have a chance, go check out some of my favorites and friends. Take a minute to introduce yourself. This is a fantastic group of women, every one of them is both talented and supportive. They’ve taken the time to read my blog and comment with thought. So thank you, friends! I don’t always have the time to comment when I stop by and I hate writing something that sounds as if I haven’t taken the time to read your words or admire your beautiful photography, but I do.

Of Woods and Words – If I lived in Ada’s neck of the woods, I’d stalk her and make her be my friend. She is an incredible writer. A real writer. Maybe she doesn’t know, but some days she inspires me.

Mommy used to be so pretty…. Her blog’s name made me giggle one day. Then the banner on her blog made both me and my husband chuckle. Another talented writer who keeps me coming back with her humor and touching posts. Check out her recent post titled “and a naughty girl too…”

 

Rub Some Dirt On It I think she might just be my northern New England soul sister. It seems that her talent never ends…she’s obsessed with french fries and a blue barn door. She lives in the middle of nowhere, with lots of snow and dirt roads. I “get” her.

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Midnight Oil Momma. I really like how she writes, her twins share my birthday and she makes a killer meatloaf! I can’t wait to read more.

Another Cookie, Please! What can I say about Patty… I’ve known her for nearly 20 years but didn’t really get to “know” her until we started blogging this year. She’s been one of my biggest supporters, she’s boosted my self-esteem and encouraged me to chase a dream. She’s made me laugh for a long time and now she inspires me. Patty took time out of her busy life to write me a recommendation for graduate school without hesitation. Thank you, friend.  On a side note, she has also had the pleasure of waxing my nether-regions ..isn’t she lucky?

Tales of a Hockey Wife makes me laugh. Without fail, she provides me with at least one chuckle per post. Her hockey mask photos are genius. She is training to be a Zumba instructor and pole-fitness classes. She shares my love of singling out annoying people and writing funny blogs about them, only she’s smart and does it anonymously.

Tales of a Hockey Wife

Chicken Noodle Gravy I am completely addicted to the comfort of Chicken Noodle Gravy. Katie whips up some delicious posts. Her writing style is really engaging and keeps me going back for more. I’ll be honest, I just discovered Chicken Noodle Gravy about two weeks ago, but Katie is an instant favorite. She shares the dream to be published. I think she’s on her way.

My 3 Little Birds Yet another recent discovery and instant favorite! She is an aspiring writer too. Do you notice a theme here? I can’t get enough of My 3 Little Birds. We kind of stumbled upon one another over a shared blog title. “Crack is Whack!” What can I say, she had me at crack.

The Fancy Flea. Amazing photography of her beautiful country/life/random moments. She loves books. I love her.

The (Not Always) Happy Homemaker Diary. Missy has been a constant reader for a while. She never fails to comment and always manages to take the time to say hello via Twitter. I’m so bad at Twitter. I think Missy might be the only person who really talks to me there. We share many similarities and have both spent time lamenting over them. Sometimes it’s nice to know that you aren’t alone in the world.

Rancher Mom’s Realm makes me laugh a lot. It doesn’t matter if she’s commenting at my blog or if I’m reading hers. I giggle. She’s real. Her posts are genuine and I like when other women drop F-bombs as much as I do.

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OK in UK has the best sense of humor ever. I love Mollie. There, I said it. I think I’m weird until I go to her blog and then I realize that I’m not alone in the world. It’s the rest of the people who are weird and not funny. If you’re normal, Mollie will make you laugh. She will also entertain you with her talent for writing. Run..run to to her blog!

I didn’t forget anyone. I’m tired and I have a raging sinus infection so if I didn’t give you a shout out please don’t be angry with me. Take pity on me and my bum sinuses. I still love you. I do, really…I do. I’m simply jacked up on pinot grigio and NyQuil Sinus PM and should probably stop before this takes a turn toward freaky.