Hello? Can You All Still Hear Me…?

It’s been three years since I’ve regularly posted here.

I’ll be honest with you — I’m not sure I remember how to do this.

I just finished writing 99,000 words, locked in the 1700s with characters who speak another language, live in another culture, and who are traveling on horses and mules 1500 miles to the promise land of California. I’ve just lived this amazing adventure, and I’m not sure how to come back here to my blog.

I’m having a hard time returning to the 21st Century.

But do you blame me?

This 21st Century isn’t easy to live in. There’s lead in the drinking water in Michigan. People are getting shot every day. There are hurricanes and Zika-bearing mosquitos in Florida, wild fires and earthquake warnings in California, 24 hour coverage of the nastiest political race that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime…and when I try to look away, to seek some solace in the words of my fellow 21st Century travelers on Facebook, Twitter, and in the blogs, I find sarcasm, snark, and insults. Sometimes even threats. It’s hard to stay positive with everything going on in the modern world around us. Harder still for a recovering agoraphobic to want to step out there into the middle of it all.

Some days I ask myself: Why aren’t there more agoraphobics in this 21st Century? After all, there’s nothing you can’t order online and have it delivered to your home. There’s no reason to go to the grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, or anywhere you need to purchase goods or content as long as you have the internet to do your shopping for you. There’s telecommuting for work, online courses for school and college, religious services, and dating. What’s the reason to ever step outside of our homes? To go out in the middle of such heartache and angst? Shouldn’t we all be hiding underneath our covers, cowering with fear and disgust? What pushes us out there every day? What gives us the faith to keep looking for the good in our world?

While writing this, I asked myself those questions. What makes me go out my front door every day, when I could stay warm and protected inside my house, with my imagination keeping me company, and without risking some unknown danger lurking outside?

The answer came easily – I didn’t have to look far.

Brown eyes.

These brown eyes…

stokely-headshot

This is my grandson, Stokely.

He was born in April, at the same hospital where my own son was born. It wasn’t planned that way – it was just one of those sweet quirks of Fate that make you smile and say, “Awwwww.”

If I stay hidden in my world, I will never have the chance to experience Stokely’s world. What I see when I look into those deep brown eyes are what make me forget about all the bad things that go bump in the night. This crazy-at-times 21st Century is his century too. Together, we have to navigate it. He knows no other century, no other world, and this crazy-by-my-terms 21st century is where he will be the most comfortable. Where I hope we can always make him feel comfortable. And above everything else—safe.

I’m working on that.

And that’s what gets me out the front door. Every. single. day.

What gets you out of your front door?

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

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girl  in  grunge interiorIt’s been a year since starting this blog and I want to thank every one of you who’s dropped by to read these posts, and to linger a little longer to leave a comment.  You’ve made me feel very welcome in this tiny corner of the Internet.

Many of you have been kind enough to leave a word or two and to keep the conversation rolling.  I can always count on Lynne, behindthemaskofabuse, Raani, Wayne, Heather, Jen, valeriedavis, Jeri, June, virginialorca, Cookie, bldodson, lindalochridge, alesiablogs, lpaulick, Dixie, Bette, Susan, quirky books, Adrienne, stutleytales, Shirley, 1dlagarino, Jodi, catnipoflife, Jessica, Expat Alien, Ria, Deanna, and Yasseen to let me know their feelings and ideas, as well as giving this writer a real motivation to keep posting. If you write me a comment, I value that, and I will always write you back.

It used to be that writing was something done in the loneliness of an empty room.  Just the writer, some paper, a pen or a typewriter, making up stories for anonymous readers.  Blogging came along and changed that.  Now, there are names and identities attached to readers, and I find myself eager to hear from people who I’ve come to know over the last 365 (or more) days I’ve been writing here.

So here’s to another 365 (or more) days of Can You All Hear Me In The Back?  I am toasting each and every one of you tonight – from those who comment, to those who are so considerate to “like” my posts or to click that “WordPress This” “Facebook” or “Twitter” button at the bottom of every post.  I wish I could send each and every one of you flowers.

After all, it is our anniversary.

Flowers

It’s Impossible to Hide In Your House When You’ve Got Friends

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You Gotta Have Friends LIGHTERFriends manage to talk you into doing things, going places, and tasting life outside your comfort zone.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it againFriends can help your agoraphobia get better.  Not the ones who shake their head and tell you you’re being dramatic, just get out of the house.  Not the ones who laugh and say, “You’re a agor…ah…a WTF?”  Not the ones who try to talk you out of the house, or guilt you into stepping outside.  Those people you will eventually learn are not your friends; they’re simply people that you know.

The friends that I’m talking about are those that love you for who you are.  And if that means you don’t get out much (for whatever reason) well, that’s okay, and they’ll sit in the house with you and be perfectly fine with it.  At my most phobic, when I was terrified of so many things, a rather large space station called “Skylab” (yes, a whole space station!) was poised to re-enter our atmosphere and come crashing back to earth.

I was certain it would fall on my head.

Actually, fall directly on my head.  Nobody else would be injured, I was sure, except for me.  And boy, that did nothing to get me to budge from my couch.  The logic escaped me that perhaps if I left the house and moved around a lot, that maybe I could avoid this 169,000 pound massive missile from the skies.  No, my idea of saving myself was to become a sitting duck on my sofa in West Hollywood.

The truth was I was just too terrified to move.

So what did my friends do?  We had a party to celebrate Skylab’s return.  Well, actually, I threw the party because I was the only one with a blender at the time and we were having frozen daiquiris.  But the point is:  my friends came to keep me company.  There I was sitting on my couch, so terrified that Skylab had my name on it, and my friends came over to join me on that couch.  In my mind, they were risking their lives just to be there with me.

And that’s not all.

They showed up – all of my friends – wearing construction hard hats, an Army helmet, and my dear friend John even put a large bullseye and a magnet on top of his baseball hat just to defy fate.  Or maybe to save me from a direct hit.  I was so busy laughing and enjoying our “impromptu” party that I completely forgot about Skylab.  All that dread and terror my imagination had been feasting on simply was forgotten that evening.

My friends got me through the night.

Thanks to my friends (and 9 other things that helped me go from agoraphobic to recovering agoraphobic) I now get out of my house.  I still need help with driving – I don’t do freeways.  So if there are freeways involved, my hubbie is the one behind the wheel.  And that’s how I will be getting to Ventura this Saturday for a book signing and personal appearance at Bank of Books at 748 E. Main Street. It’s an hour away from my house so I’m calling it a road trip.  Yes I’m a little bit nervous – it’s definitely out of my comfort zone.  But I’m certain I can do it.

My friend Wayne talked me into it and he’ll be there.

And thankfully, no space stations are scheduled to fall this weekend.

(If you live in or around Ventura, please come by and keep me company.  It always helps to be around friends.  Not sure I can bring any frozen daiquiris…Will cookies do?)

NEW AAGTH Cover_ebook

Sometimes Yes To The Dress Is A No

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Love at first sight doesn’t always end happily.

That guy in high school?  In truth, he probably never asked us out. But that didn’t stop our heart from skipping a beat every time he was near us.  Brad Pitt.  Ryan GoslingBradley Cooper. Oh yeah.  None of those guys even know we exist.  But it doesn’t mean we don’t smile in a darkened theater the moment our eyes catch sight of them.  My friend Adrienne always says, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”  But it’s Mick Jagger who keeps us grounded by reminding us, “You can’t always get what you want.”

I’ve given up trying to find that damn dress.

You know the one:

Mother of the Bride Dress at Marys

Yeah, it’s beautiful.  But it’s taken over my life trying to find it.  And it’s time to put a stop to this unrequited love affair.

There was a moment of hope last week when my dear cousin Nancy, and my good friend Lynne both text messaged and emailed me (ten minutes apart) a website address with the dress featured on it.  I held my breath as I checked the price – half off!  But when I tried to order it there was no place to enter my size.  Hmmmm.  I sensed a problem.

The next day I called the store (yes, an actual store and not located in China) and I got a guy (yes, a guy) who gruffly told me the website wasn’t working.  When I asked him when he thought it might be working, he annoyingly said, “I don’t know!”

I didn’t let this throw me.  I was on a mission.

“I want to buy one of your dresses,” I explained.  He sighed, and transferred me.

It wasn’t long before a salesgirl picked up the line.  I asked her if I could place an order, and after she checked with the manager, I was told yes, that’s fine.  Finally!  Things were looking up – I could just imagine the feel of the fabric, and how wonderful the dress would look.

Until she told me the price.

It was double what was quoted online.  And then to make matters worse, suddenly the salesgirl grew dumber by the minute.  She had no idea why the dress was that price.  She didn’t know anything about the online site, or the price quoted.  As a matter of fact, she didn’t know anything about anything. Oh except for one thing: no returns.

You buy it.  It’s yours.

I.don’t.think.so.  I didn’t just come into the big city from pumpkinville.  As much as I wanted to get my hands on that dress, I wasn’t about to be taken to the cleaners.  I could hear all of your voices (sort of like an online Greek chorus) telling me to walk away.  “Walk away from the dress!” “Put you hands in the air, free of credit cards!  And walk away from the dress!”

And that’s what I did.

So now I’m still looking for a Mother of the Bride dress.

I’m not worried though.  Last night the Mother of the Groom called me out of the blue to ask what I was wearing for the wedding.

“I have no idea,” I told her, in all honesty.

“Oh thank goodness!” she admitted. “I don’t have a dress yet either!”

We spent the rest of the phone call commiserating with each other about colors, dress styles, online shopping, and department stores.  I actually felt pretty good speaking with this lovely woman, who by the way is an hourglass figure and not just an old Bartlett pear like me.  This woman would look great in any dress but she was having the same fashionista doubts that I was having.  That’s when I realized that for a lot of women fashion doesn’t come easily.  I thought it was just me, this over-aged tomboy, who was intimidated by chiffon and taffeta, sweetheart necklines and tea-length hemlines.

But I was wrong.

Most of us don’t dress like the women we see in style magazines, television shows, or in the movies.  But guess what?  Those women – those characters – have wardrobe departments buying them clothes, altering them to their unique figures (not all hourglass and not all perfect).  All we end up seeing are the results, and all we know is that we don’t look like them.  We don’t measure up.  But in my book, I think we all just measure up fine.

I’m still looking for my Mother of the Bride dress.  But now I’m doing it with much more confidence, and a sense of fun and adventure.  Everyone who commented on these blog posts helped me find my way in this crazy world of dress up elegance. I appreciate all of your kind words and suggestions.  I wish we could all go shopping together; I know we’d have fun.  But instead, I’m taking my good friend Marie with me, who is Ethel to my Lucy, and Lucy to my Ethel, and I will keep all of your fashion advice in mind as we go shopping on Saturday.  We may not find the right dress this weekend, but I know we’ll have a lot of fun and good laughs while we’re looking.  Eventually, I’ll find my dress.  The correct color. The right length.  The perfect style.  A dress that’s beautiful, and makes me feel beautiful wearing it.

And I won’t think twice about the one that got away.

(Want to see the dress I finally found?  Read the next installment: It’s Hard Work Being Mother Of The Bride)

Jasmine MOB DressAlex Dress

                                   Don’t get your hopes up – They’re the wrong color!

Saying Yes To The Dress (UPDATE)

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(One woman’s quest for a simple but elusive Mother of the Bride Dress…)

Your responses to last week’s blog post (Should I Say Yes To The Dress?) were so enthusiastic and helpful I wanted to let you know how the search for my special Mother of the Bride dress is going.

Not too good.

First, to recap:  Here is the dress I’m looking for:

Mother of the Bride Dress at Marys

All of you who commented last week agreed that the dress was beautiful and it would make a wonderful Mother of the Bride dress.  But the problem was that the closest store that “might” have this dress was listed as being in Yucaipa.  Besides not knowing where the hell Yucaipa was, that word “might” was making me mighty nervous.  Mary’s Bridal (the designer) was not willing to commit one way or the other if the dress was actually in Yucaipa or not.  Only that it had been delivered there in the last year.

Yeah. Not much help.

Encouraged by those of you who suggested a road trip, I reached for my phone and called the Yucaipa store that Mary’s Bridals had listed on its website as a possible location for this Dress Style #S13-M2172.  With today’s gas prices, I wasn’t about to take a second mortgage out on my house to  finance a Yucaipa road trip if the dress wasn’t there.

So I decided to call the store in Yucaipa.

On Friday no one answered the phone. On Saturday when I called I got a Sprint mailbox and a strange beep.  I tried again on Monday and still got the answering machine with no one’s name attached to it, and no name of the store.  On Tuesday night, I decided to google the store just to make sure it actually existed.  And voila, I found it!

Yucaipa’s “European Famous Tailor” was listed online – right there in Google. There was an address listed (a good sign!) and I could see by the listing that it actually existed.  Now, we all know you can’t judge a store just by its name,  so I decided to use the store’s address and Google Street View just to get a look at European Famous Tailor’s store front.  Here’s what Google showed me:

Famous Tailor

That’s right, a strip mall.

Call me silly, but when people ask me where I got my Mother Of The Bride dress, I don’t want to say a strip mall in Yucaipa.  “Around the corner from Rob’s Gun shop and Terry’s Bail Bonds.”

I took a day to think about it.  There were four other stores listed at Mary’s Bridal website that also “might” have the dress.  The next closest was in Tucson.  Okay, why not?  I called.  They answered.  They’d never heard of Dress Style #S13-M2172.

“But we can order it!” the cheerful saleslady told me.

“…Can I return it if it doesn’t fit?” I asked.

“Not really.”

Goodbye, $458 (that’s not including alterations).

Tucson was a helluva lot further than Yucaipa, and I still wouldn’t get a chance to see the dress before buying it.  I wouldn’t even be able to try it on.  But I’m the kind of person who gets an idea in my head and I don’t give up easily.  As a matter of fact, I like challenges so much, I’ve been known to persevere in spite of the fact it’s a stupid idea.  And this is where all of your comments helped me: I could just hear in my imagination Adrienne, catnipoflife, June Collins, Lynne, jubileewriter,  and so many others of you who commented telling me to take a deep breath, and not commit to buying a dress without trying it on, or at least seeing it up close.  I could hear those words of wisdom from JeriWB, quirkybooks, Raani, Wayne, Yaseen, Jen, and the rest of you.  It made me look before leaping: I thanked the saleslady, hung up, and called Yucaipa again.  This time I dialed a second number listed on the Google website.  And someone finally answered the phone.

“Hola!”

Oh, no.

“Do you speak English?”

“Un poquito,” the woman admitted, sounding not the most confident.

“I’m looking for a dress,” I told her, speaking as loudly as possible, as though volume alone would help her understand English.  Rambling on, nervously (even I would have trouble understanding me) I told her I was looking for a Mother of the Bride dress, the name of the designer, and I gave her the style number.

“Call back, ten minutes” she told me, with great certainty.

I hung up.  I waited fifteen minutes (giving her an extra five so she’d be prepared).  I dialed her again, the phone rang and rang and rang and is probably still ringing.

Nobody answered.

You know what I’m thinking?  I’m willing to bet that Yucaipa’s European Famous Tailor has never even seen Mary’s #S13-2172 dress.  Or if they have seen it, maybe it sold right away.  Just to make sure, I called one more dress store – this time in Glendale, a store that lists Mary’s Bridal as one of its designers.

“We haven’t had that dress for months,” the woman with a thick accent explained to me.  “It sold right away!” she said.  And rubbing the wound even harder, “It’s such a beautiful dress!  One of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen.”

There are two more stores on Mary’s Bridal list that I could call: Chrsitina’s Bridal in Caspar, Wyoming or Debi’s Bridal Shop in San Antonio, Texas.

Frankly, I think it’s time to look for another dress.

What do you all think?

(Read the next installment of the hunt for a Mother of the Bride dress:  Sometimes Yes To The Dress Is No)