Things that frazzle the mind in my forties

**this post may contain strong language… no, this post will contain strong language. I plan to drop an “f-bomb” in the first paragraph. But I promise it will be lighthearted and humorous not vulgar and full of rage.

Sometimes I wonder if the process of losing your mother-fucking mind which seems to descend upon a person once your children enter their teens isn’t the cause of dementia. Will the brain fog that accompanies keeping life together as the offspring prepare to leave the nest clear as they depart? Or is it permanent?

I think when you reach the latter half of the forty-somethings, the time you might have spent on hobbies, movies or parties in your youth is replaced by the tedium of home ownership, career, family, parents and medical care (your own, your family, probably even friends). And maybe you just don’t have the patience you used to.

I am currently waiting for the remediation team. If you skip back to Tuesday’s blog, you’ll recall that my 50- or 60-year-old toilet exploded and damaged my dining room ceiling. The plumber came Tuesday and installed a new toilet, and the teenager gave me shit. Not only does she not like the new toilet (as the plumber warned me) but she also had beef with the plumber for taking her old toilet.

I asked the teenager, “what on earth would you do with an old broken toilet?”

And, of course, the teenager told me. She wanted to take the ancient pink ceramic toilet and use it as a planter in our front yard next to our pink rose bush.

“It would look so cool,” she said.

And it probably would. But I did not go to college and embark on all the adventures I have to place a broken toilet in my front yard.

The scheduler for the insurance adjuster called Wednesday morning, about 29 hours after the incident, and scheduled the adjuster for Wednesday June 1. I asked the teenager if she could handle letting him into the house. She agreed. The scheduler called again and moved it to Tuesday. Teenager agreed again. Scheduler called a third time to ask if we had had a remediation company come to check if we had any or were in danger of collecting any mold. I said no. She said to call one.

So Wednesday on my lunch break (my first day back after a month of medical leave), I emailed ServePro because I didn’t have the time or the quiet to talk on the phone. They called, and after about three difficult phone calls with them, (the person on the other end couldn’t hear me well. I was wearing a mask, using one AirPod and working in a noisy warehouse.) they said they would confirm an appointment for Thursday or Friday by the end of the day.

[note: this is a pause in the blog post as the remediation team arrived.]

The remediation scheduler called about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, which was about 60 hours after I turned the water off to the toilet and started mopping up the damage. My appointment was for 1 p.m. Friday, about 80 hours after the original accident.

But at least I made myself a nice dinner of fig & ricotta ravioli from Lidl with Alfredo sauce from Hungryroot and vegetables (baby broccoli, red pepper, and peas) cooked in the Cuisinart air fryer toaster oven.

Last night, when the teenager got home from her dad’s, I think I was emptying the dishwasher and I went on a psychotic rant about silverware. You see, when her father and I got married, we registered for Oneida’s Easton flatware in the satin finish. I have always loved that silverware. It was $100 a place setting, and that was in 1999. That’s $20 per utensil. But it’s beautiful, and my husband and I both agreed on it without compromise, and it’s heavy, and we lived in an apartment in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania.

Oneida flatware pattern: Easton (Satin)

And sometime between when teenager two lived with us and now, many pieces of that silverware have disappeared. And it’s melodramatic, but the loss is like a gaping wound. No other silverware feels right in my hand. So I snapped, for the umpteenth time, and shouted at the teenager about my missing silverware.

In that moment, I realized that for some reason, that silverware really means something to me. Eating with it brings me joy. And that silverware looks as new as the day we bought it. Our marriage lasted 20 years, and the silverware may last generations.

“I don’t have the money to replace it,” I screamed.

And then I realized…

I launched a publishing company. I buy myself iced coffee about once a week. I spend almost as much on animal food as I do on people food. So, why can’t I figure out how to pay for new silverware? Especially since I know Replacements.com has just about every silverware and china pattern ever made (used) at a discount. I think I found my dream pattern. I ordered a few pieces of my silverware, based on cost and what I actually need.

This morning started with a cup of coffee, some cuddly cats, a trip to the chiropractor and a whole lot of cleaning before the remediation team arrived. I made the teenager and I a breakfast of fresh baguette from Lidl, toasted in the Cuisinart oven, buttered, covered a slice of proscuitto and toasted more, and then drizzled with hot honey and sprinkled with herbs de provence. It was as amazing as it sounds.

The teenager had her last high school final exam, the only one she had to take this year, and returned home to find me aflutter with the broom and a mop. I asked her to do something for me. It might have been to move a multipack of paper towels to another room, when she stopped and opened the sunporch window.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

And I thought to myself, she’s not smelling the roses.

And she replied, “I’m smelling the roses.”

“Seriously?” I said. “I ask you to do something and instead you literally stop to smell the roses!”

She then picked a bouquet for the main room downstairs. Eventually, she moved the paper towels.

Once the house was cleaned and the teenager shuffled off to work, I finished Natasha Sizlo’s memoir, All Signs Point to Paris. I received a copy via NetGalley and reviewed it on Goodreads and mentioned it in my Parisian Phoenix blog post that will go live tomorrow. I tried to start P.N. Dedeaux’s Algiers Tomorrow but it offended me beyond rebuke within the first two chapters.

I understand that the book was published in 1993. I also understand that erotica by its nature breaks rules and can feature taboos. But in the first two chapters, we join two bratty rich sixteen year olds nicknamed “Boobs” and “Butt” through a vacation in France. By the end of the chapters, I want them to get murdered. I was hoping for some cheesy references to Algerians with which I could have some Mystery Science Theater 3000-type fun.

chicken vodka pizza

I ordered a chicken pizza with vodka sauce from Nicolosi’s Pizza in Forks Township. It was a custom pizza and I told them to “put whatever on it to make it pizza-y.” They added fresh basil. It smelled amazing. The teenager was picking it up at 2:45 p.m after work.

And don’t you know it, the remediation team was late… They called at 2:55 p.m. and arrived at 3:05 p.m. I had one bite of my scrumptious, piping hot custom pizza. And it was time to find out if my house was wet.

Unfortunately, it is.

We could lose our bathroom subfloor. Our hardwood floors and walls are damp. We have five industrial air movers in the living area and a massive dehumidifier. And upstairs we have three more air movers in the bathroom and another dehumidifier.

But we’re safe, and sometimes you just have to have faith it will work out.

At the end of the day, Bean Dog got new toys.

First Book from Parisian Phoenix Launching Soon

Anyway else feel the universe going haywire?

The full moon is a few minutes away but its pull has been evident for a couple days. My recent health struggles, my employer giving us random time off, and today the dog ate my latest set of AirPods that I bought less than a month ago and emptied my favorite Coach leather wallet I bought in 2010 for my first excursion with my beloved M.

It took about 30 minutes to locate my money, shopping club cards, credit cards and various ID. Not to mention she destroyed my AmEx.

The teenager got a toll violation in the mail for her Cape May road trip. The toll officer yelled at her for stopping to pay the toll because the equipment read my old transponder from the Altima. I had meant to return the damn thing but never got around to it.

She also broke her phone charger.

I also had the misfortune of having to cut off someone who left room for me to merge and then changed his mind. The situation had me worried he was going road rage-y.

But let’s celebrate all the good news.

It was an amazing day. I went to Grocery Outlet and bought my favorite Cabot cottage cheese. I got a free soda at Wawa.

I had dinner with my favorite nurse from Stitch Fix who left the company to “do” hospice. It was so nice to see her.

I came home and registered my first two ISBN numbers to Manipulations (print and ebook). This is the first novel in the Fashion and Fiends series.

I edited some bios, created at Ingram Sparks account, updated my ISBN info at Bowker, downloaded a bunch of user guides and wanted to vomit.

I approved the cover concept. The proofreader signed off.

I assigned prices.

And I pledged that I will donate $1 to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab for every print version of the book sold. One of the minor (but very key characters) in the novel is Zut the tabby, modeled after Zoot, my tabby of 16 years. Zoot was my familiar as it would be called in witchcraft terms.

The official publication date is September 11, which is my husband’s birthday. Even though we’ve been separated two years, he had always been my most loyal supporter when it comes to my fiction.

I have received encouragement from published authors Jonathan Maberry and Kathryn Craft, but no one encouraged me like Darrell did.

So thank you. There are so many good aspects to the 20-plus year relationship I had with you and that is only one.

And the goal is to get the next one out on my partner Gayle’s birthday.

Moving Forward on Fashion and Fiends

So last night I finished reading the final polished manuscript of my Fashion and Fiends series of horror novels.

There are probably at least six books in the series, though I totally believe the possibilities of the universe I have created are endless.

Recovery is the third novel in the Fashion and Fiends series. My friend Gayle and I are publishing the series as part of our little boutique “press,” Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

I copyrighted all three novels that are print ready tonight. It’s been… oh… 25 years since I copyrighted last. I was surprised to see it’s now $45 versus the $20 it was in the 1990s. And you can upload everything electronically now.

But interestingly enough, the Library of Congress website doesn’t appear to have changed at all since those days since the interface looks like this:

So to recap:

  • The name Fashion and Fiends refers to the mix of the high fashion world and the supernatural.
  • The first book, Manipulations, follows a 400-year-old witch as he tries to absorb a supermodel’s water magick in hopes of becoming an immortal being. The story mimics the realities of domestic violence, and the fantastically successful supermodel actually fights her own insecurities and body image issues.
  • The second book, Courting Apparitions, is a ghost story. The subtext explores grief, depression and impotence and their effects on human relationships.
  • The third book, Recovery, blends some supernatural craziness with sex and romance, while also diving deep into medicine, the military, and the African landscape. The subtext here looks at the ramifications of French colonialism and explores the complexities of how to blend Islam, multiculturalism and race in the modern environment. And a certain character comes face to face with the monster of Ghoubet.

But when I finished the third manuscript, I was shocked to see some of the rather dramatic things I thought happened in the novel Absolution happening in Recovery. One of my favorite characters was left in serious trouble. So, I had that special author distress where you know you need to save him.

But here lies the kicker— the next manuscript in the series no longer exists except for two large sections of the final two chapters.

So now I have to sit down and write.

Wish me luck.

PS— Tomorrow is Étienne d’Amille’s birthday. He is the fashion magnate in the series. He will be 62. Where does the time go?

Lost in a book

Yesterday, the teenagers spent time out of the house— which meant after chores I had some free time. Especially since teenager #1 took her dog.

I sent manuscript #1 of my old Fashion and Fiends series (Manipulations) and sent it to my friend Gayle for design. I last shopped these books to agents and publishers five years ago. At this point, I want my ideas and words recorded and preserved.

I decided to sit down with a slice of coconut cake (from Tic Toc Diner) at Rosie the new MacBook Air.

I wanted to read the second book of the series, Courting Apparitions. I couldn’t put it down. Gayle found it very amusing how much of my own story I had forgotten. But that is the point of putting a story away for a long time. To judge it with new eyes.

I read all 90,000 words— in six hours.

And for the second time this week set a meal on fire. Which, since it was salmon, actually gave it a nice crisp.

One of the main characters of the series, fictional fashion designer Étienne d’Amille, turns 62 this week. In the series, he is 43 and his significant other, investment banker Basilie, is 45. I am currently 45. And Basilie and her sisters represent some of the strongest women I know, so great homage to Women’s History Month.

The series is a feminine version of horror fiction, or a darkly intense psychological version of chick lit. Manipulations focuses on a supermodel who has uncontrollable water magic, which leads to her fashion world success and gives her healing powers, but also attracts supernatural forces.

Because of the industry and her own past, no one sees the danger of her body image issues and lack of self-esteem instead only seeing her as “the girl in the pictures” which allows her to fall into otherworldly domestic violence.

Courting Apparitions is a ghost story. The characters involved have to cope with their own emotions and relationships as a ghost, and the witches who want its power, haunt them. It’s as much a story about recovering from depression and reconnecting/forgiving loved ones as it is about the supernatural.

Author Jonathan Maberry once told me that if I wrote my stories as paranormal romance, or pitched them as such, I would find success. But as funny and poignant and incredibly sexy these stories are, the romance has a gritty reality to it that I can’t tone down.

Gayle always said I like to torture my characters, but I really just want them to overcome terrible things so I can bring out there strength and admire them. They become my heroes in addition to the heroes of their own stories.

Initial thoughts on “I am not an easy man.”

The other night I finally took the time to watch the French comedy I am Not an Easy Man on Netflix.

I am writing now in a few stolen moments between my nail appointment and my father stopping by to deliver some wood to my daughter. These are my reflections three days later without notes.

The basic premise is this: a single guy with a rich sexual history with women suddenly wakes up in a world where females are the dominant and stronger sex.

My almost-fourteen-year-old daughter watched bits of the film with me and I think it made her look at gender roles and gender expectations in a new light.

Women wore suits. Women initiated sex. Women went topless and didn’t shave.

Men waxed. Men stayed home with the children. Men carried purses.

Breasts became the power symbol.

The script was funny, but seriously thought provoking. I hope to watch it again and provide a more thorough analysis.

Goodbye, Paris. Hello, Moscow.

Our traveling companion M took us on a walk through Barbès where my daughter made some French/Algerian friends in one of the shops. The people there tried to get her to speech French and Arabic and gave her a piece of candy. She noted the difference between standard touristy Paris and the so-called immigrant presence in the outer districts, seeing Africans and Arabs. I use the term so-called immigrants because of how the French consider even second generation citizens “immigrants.”

We walked up to Sacre Ceour. Lil Miss didn’t realize it was on the top of a hill. She just thought it was tall. But she was a trooper walking up the hill. And M showed her the Eiffel Tower in the distance.We wandered half way down the hill and she spotted the funicular. We had a metro ticket for the day so we actually walked back UP to Sacre Ceour and rode the funicular down.

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Funicular to Sacre Couer

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View from Sacre Coeur

Dinner was at Le Magenta, another place where I have eaten before. I ordered a two course meal for each of us, with Lil Miss trying to overcome her fear of using French words. I suggested the restaurant based on past experience and as soon as she saw they served escargot she was in.  She ordered six escargot in a bourgogne sauce. In the photo, she looks a tad intimidated but in reality she was merely focused on getting those snails out of their shells. I asked her why she liked them and she said it was because she loved getting them out of their shells. I suppose she’s like a cat and needs to play with her food.

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She also had a duck thigh which came artfully arranged on potato wedges and slivers of tomatoes that resembled flower petals.

The walk back to the hotel was exhausting, not because it was far but because of the jet lag and the nine miles we had walked. Lil Miss showered, collapsed into bed. In the morning, we were on the RER early returning to CDG-Roissy.

In the Air France lounge, Lil Miss made an amazing discovery. 1. She LIKES croissants. She has insisted for years that she doesn’t like plain croissant. I have countered, for years, that it’s because she hasn’t tasted one in France.

She ate five or six plain croissants and two pain au chocolat. She also learned how to read French jam labels, though she thought the “orange” was orange marmalade and it turned out to be bitter orange. An adjective makes a big difference.

IMG_3928.JPGThe plane from Paris to Moscow was on an Airbus A318, a big change from the Boeing 777. I discovered this morning a lovely note from the TSA that apparently gave my bag a check before it left the States. Not that I noticed.

We navigated the Moscow airport with no problem and child kept trying to compliment the female customs agent on her pretty eye makeup. Overall, she’s a good kid but we’re working on NOT spurting out every thought in her head to the entire universe.

We even navigated the Moscow subway. The majestic tunnels, architecture and details in the stations. Every train looks completely different. Some old, some new. Very colorful.

We had Russian-style beef dumplings with a butter and sour cream sauce for dinner in a little restaurant off Red Square where to Lil Miss’s delight they had American music videos playing. Calvin Harris and the Disciples: “How Deep is Your Love?”

Child compared Moscow to an urban New York feel. Paris seems smaller and offers more recreation. She thought Moscow was more exotic while Paris felt more like an American town.

And the best so far–

“All I know about Russia is what I see on CNN and they don’t have nice things to say.”

That’s my baby. Now when you go back to school, set them straight.

 

 

Tarts and bonnets

The afternoon passed quickly. Any piece of Parisian real estate needs to capitalize on space, so you experience many spiral staircases. I’ve already had at least one friend picture me falling down them. And breaking something. Or many things.

We headed up to Barbès and out the metro to Couronnes. I am looking for a more effective way to prepare my hijab. There’s a lot of Muslim shops in that neighborhood, but before we even got too far I noticed a bakery that suited my fancy.

This bakery had a raspberry tart that looked appealing. As I perused the case, the contents just got better. I decided on a chocolate bread and impulse bought a raspberry and also a pistachio scone. They were 50 cents each. And they were scrumptious. I spent 3.50 Euros for a Diet Coke, the bread and the macaroons. It was all truly delectable.

Then we stopped in a women’s Muslim dress shop. I wanted some sort of secure underscarf so if my scarf moved I would still be covered. In Africa, I want to find some kind of niqab/dress. M encouraged me to converse with the shop owner in French.

She had some lovely scarfs and even walked me through her dress selection. But when I mentioned I wanted a head covering that didn’t move, she showed me the bonnet.I fell in love with the pink one because it matches the color scheme of clothes I packed for the Horn of Africa. Two Euros fifty. And right now the dollar is darn near equal to the Euro.

We went to Leader Prix on the way home to get envelopes for M and I snapped a photo of the pink sky.

Good surprise, bad surprise

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This hardly getting any sleep and doing a lot of walking and traveling takes a toll. I was so exhausted on the RER into Paris.

Luckily M knows we’re not as young as we used to be so he booked us a hotel room at Mercure-Gare de Nord. We always stay in this neighborhood, but usually in little m0m-and-pop establishments deeper in the side streets. This hotel is across the street from Gare de Nord.

That was a great surprise. I flopped onto the bed and took a nap.

But… speaking of small establishments… the coffee shop where M and I have taken coffee for the five years we have been traveling together has changed hands and it’s now a STARBUCKS. Sigh. So sad.

But… more news… We are here during the January sales! France only has sales twice a year. And I managed to show up during the sales. Went shopping already.

And since I am interested in youth disenfranchisement, immigrant politics in France and French rap, I bought Diam’s two books.

‘This Paris’ in StepAway Magazine

It thrills me to share with you my first official creative byline, a milestone despite my fifteen years as a professional print journalist.

My friend Nancy and I were reviewing markets in September when we discovered StepAway, an online literary journal honoring flâneur style poetry. I submitted what I call “my Paris poem,” which captures a walk through multi-cultural, post-colonial influenced Paris. The poem comes from my return to Paris, fifteen years after I first met her.

We had both changed.

I see Paris as a bewitching, urine-stained whore and the details in the poem are real. They had put us in our room before housekeeping cleaned it. They did have 85 pink and brown stairs. We were sandwiched between Gare de Nord and Gare de l’Est.

The man in dreadlocks really existed. And my tears were also real.

I will find myself in Paris again Jan. 8, on my way to East Africa (Djibouti and Somalia). It’s a common stop-over for me now, but in 2010 I wasn’t sure I would ever see Paris again.

When I submitted the poem in late September, I didn’t know what would happen November 13. I think my poem speaks to inclusion, and if I wrote it now perhaps Paris herself would cry and the man in dreads would soothe her. 

The editor’s note in StepAway offers a great sentiment and lead in to my poem:

StepAway Letter From Editor

And my poem itself:

This Paris in StepAway

Some of my Paris photos:

Angel’s Paris photos