Don’t Punch Your Sister and Other Life Lessons

Considering the small amount of possessions we now own, it was hard to explain what took so long on moving day. Of course, there was the very large issue of my husband’s closet, which was still not empty. There are times in a marriage when you ask how the hell did I end up with this guy, but over the years you learn to bite your tongue and keep the peace. And then there are those times when you can’t control yourself.

“What the fuck is going on in this closet? And you wonder why the hell I bitch?” I know, it was a little harsh but I had packed 97% of the boxes over the course of a week.

He made lame excuses and argued with me about the toaster still sitting on the counter. The toaster? Really??

I ignored him and finally, four hours later, the rooms were empty. Almost.

empty apartment

That morning he brought me two boxes from his storage trailer. The trailer that is now carrying our meager collection of furniture. They contained a collection of our daughters’ childhood mementoes. One box for each daughter. He wanted me to consolidate them.

“You couldn’t bring this to me two weeks ago?” I asked, trying to keep the exasperated tone out of my voice. In all honesty, I wasn’t trying too hard. I was exasperated and losing patience. But those boxes. Oh my.

chelsea and michelle cahoons hollow

Little essays written with crooked, backwards letters. My cat Jenny. My sister and Me. All About My Mom. And books we had made together. We made books! I forgot all about that.

photo-4

The funniest thing I found was a book made by my younger daughter Michelle’s 2nd or 3rd grade teacher. It was titled Things Not To Do. Apparently the assignment was to use something from a story the class had read together because there was a lot of advice about never kissing alligators and don’t ever look under the bed. Michelle seemed to think she was supposed to offer her own advice, and hey why not? As the offspring of parents who always take the road less traveled and believe detours are not something to be avoided but an opportunity for an adventure, why would she follow directions?

dont punch your sister

Don’t punch your sister or you will get in trouble. She will tell your mother. ~ Michelle B.

I laughed out loud, powered on, and with a smile ripped my last strip of packing tape across the box of childhood memories. I consolidated nothing. There was no way I was throwing away any of these precious archives. This is the stuff life is made of.

Despite my aching back, tired legs, and no where to sit to rest my weary bones, by two o’clock we were in the management office returning the keys, out the gates of our gated community, and on the road again . Mumford and Sons playing on my car stereo, my husband in front of me, six ladders riding on the roof of the overloaded trailer he was towing. We took the right onto the big curving ramp at the intersection of Woolbright and Interstate 95, heading north, the rising crescendo of drums and guitars and the howl of Marcus Mumford, oh how I love Marcus Mumford, sealing this moment in time. One of those symbolic turning points I will hold in my mind’s eye as The Day We Left Florida.

Put me behind the wheel of a car with good music playing and my brain is cruising with grand stories. I am writing novels and making movies.

Homesteader

***

Seven a.m. Clermont, Florida, just north of Orlando. We sip coffee in a jasmine scented backyard with hot air balloons floating in the distance. We woke to bad news. The truck has a ruptured brake line my husband discovered when he and Pete were juggling the vehicles in the driveway. My husband’s good friend is on the case. A guy in the neighborhood is a mechanic. Another guy across the street knows this guy the mechanic and gives Pete his phone number. This neighbor across the street used to live in Portsmouth, N.H. where we used to live before we got married. His wife grew up in a town not far from the Inn we are moving to. You cannot make this shit up.

Because this is our story, the imperfect union of two very different minds who somehow agree to never do things the way “other people” do, we planned to take a detour west before we headed north. Our life is in transition. We are homeless at the moment, returning to the northeast to run a B&B, something we’ve never done before but we are confident we can do it well and enjoy doing it, so we are taking the vacation we planned before we got the job offer, bound for Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Great music, great food, a great American city.

Life is short. The truck can wait. We have until the 6th, give or take a few days, to get to the Inn. We leave the keys in the truck. Pete’s neighbor has agreed to pick it up later that day. Shit happens but why let that ruin a perfectly good road trip.

My husband called it a fortunate misfortune. No one got hurt. The brake ruptured in the driveway. I don’t know how this relates to Don’t Punch Your Sister except to say, we are who we are. The eternal optimism may be one of the big reasons I ended up with this guy.

Marriage is hard work. Marriage is a commitment. A promise to have and to hold, For better or worse. LIFE IS ALL THIS is a story about a marriage. It is a story about people like you and me. It’s available on Amazon. Check it out and please Buy the Book.

And here’s one of my favorite guys, Mark Knopfler, singing one of my favorite songs with Emmy Lou Harris. I just realized if I ever get a movie deal for Life Is All This, this could be the soundtrack.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey9kdeOjT3o

IF IT HAS TIRES OR TESTICLES YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TROUBLE WITH IT

At no time is this more true than when I am packing with my husband to move once again. I am of the philosophy of let’s get this done, start packing now. He on the other hand believes why do today what you can do an hour before you leave?

The walls in the apartment are closing in, the stacks of boxes are growing taller. Ninety seven percent of these boxes have been packed by me. This morning I bent to lift an accordion folder full of medical records, insurance policies, and automobile information, tweaking my lower back. Work came to a screeching halt, and of course I started nagging. My husband sat in the recliner watching Aerial America.

After much arguing I got him up and into the guest bedroom. In our old house in New Hampshire, the closets were scarce and small. In Florida, we each have our own large walk-in-closet with built-in shelves. His closet is in the guest room.

My husband is a pack rat. Nothing gets thrown away. New T-shirts become work shirts become paint rags. If there is a place called heaven and taking care of Mother Earth by leaving a small carbon footprint is one of the criteria for getting in, my husband is guaranteed admission. He recycles everything and throws nothing away.

My mother was visiting us in New Hampshire one summer and despite my better instincts I brought her out to the barn to show her the kittens. One of two cats we inherited when we bought the house, out of the thirteen the former owner left behind, gave birth to two kittens snuggled in a nest she made at the back of the barn. We named her One Eyed Jack. She had a cloudy left eye and we thought She was a He. When I found her nursing the kittens we changed her name to One Eyed Jackie. The father was clearly Keeper, the sweetest cat out of the feral bunch we inherited. The rest of the brood ended up at the SCPA down the road. We were down to two, then there were four.

My mother grew up in Pawtucket, R.I. across the street from a family named LaForte. Mr Laforte made his living selling things from the ever growing junkyard that was his side yard. Just the sight of it drove my grandparents crazy.

Our barn was full of the detritus of leftovers from remodeling jobs my husband had worked on in wealthy homes near the ocean in Rye, N.H. Bathroom sinks, toilets, kitchen cabinets, a piece of marble from a countertop. “We could use this in our house,” he would say, but we rarely did.

There were three tractors and two snow blowers that cobbled together barely mowed the two acres of lawn and kept the driveway clear of snow without breaking down halfway through the job. A thousand pound spiral, cast-iron staircase from a restaurant basement renovation on Bolyston Street in Boston back from the days when we lived there in our twenties rested in a back corner of the barn near the kittens.

My mother looked around at this mess of a barn and shook her head sadly. “Oh, Sheila,” she said, with a true sense of compassion and worry, “you married a LaForte.”

Now I find myself flat on my back on the guest bed trying to manage the chaos that is my husband packing up his closet.

Something is wrong with this picture. He has three times as many clothes as I do. “If you somehow smuggled your Uncle Rob’s sweater down here in the last move, I am going to kill you,” I say. I never met Uncle Rob, he passed away before I met my husband thirty four years ago. I truly will kill him if I see that sweater coming out of the closet.

“I’m going to have a whole new look up there. The blazer look. Wide whale corduroy.”

“Oh, really?” Who does he think he is? Bob Newhart? “How about the patches on the elbows?” I ask.

“Suede patches? Those are cool. People are going to ask, do you sail? I could have sworn you sailed.” He looks at the growing pile of clothes on the bed. “I could go for two months without wearing the same thing twice. I’m gonna be the smoothest guy in town.”

He’s piling things on the bed by my feet. Every other item he takes from the closet receives this comment from me: “Get rid of it.” I notice a shirt I bought him twenty birthdays ago. “That definitely has to go.”

“Aww, it’s my favorite. That’s never gonna go. I’ll wear that to my grave.”

He does agree the faded, yellowing souvenir bathrobe from the Red Rocks casino in Vegas needs to go but he keeps the belt because he uses it for the leg stretches he does for his back.

He wipes his brow. “Phew. I need to take a break. I’m spent.” He reassesses the trash pile, grabs a flannel shirt, and slips it into the bulging duffel bag that belonged to his father. When he notices I noticed, he says, “We’re throwing away perfectly good shirts and we’re keeping this shower curtain?”

I did tell him to keep the shower curtain he was folding but it is covered with surfboards and woody station wagons and is sort of ugly so I’m rethinking my decision to keep it, however I am not giving ground until he gets rid of the flannel shirt.

Tucked in the back corner of the closet are old family slides that no longer have a slide projector to load them into. None of his eight siblings wanted them. “I have to do something with these some day,” he says. He also finds receipts that I needed for the 2010 tax return. “Do you want these?” he asks.

“There’s nothing I can do with those now, the tax return’s been filed.”

“Is it a rule that I have to throw out any clothes my mother bought me?” he asks. His mother passed away in 2001. He holds up an old, faded pair of swim trunks. “I could wear these around the house.”

“Yes, that is a major rule. Those swim trunks don’t even fit anymore, do they? You’re working at an inn. Guests could arrive unexpectedly. You can’t greet them in your bathing suit.”

“They could go with my blazer.”

I have a long three days ahead of me.

***If you enjoy my blogs, you will enjoy the books. Help keep a starving artist writing. Life Is All This is now available on Amazon.

Last Days of Sunshine and Palm Trees

Boca palms These days are filled with work. Late days crunching numbers for 8-9 hours. Everyone is replaceable in these types of jobs but personalities are harder to replace. Apparently I am a personality. Easy to get along with, the purveyor of entertaining tales. The bookkeeper who writes books. The woman with the funny stories and the easy-going personality. The woman who is escaping the mundane.

“I wish I was going with you,” is something I’ve heard more than once.

The heat has arrived in South Florida early this year. Only mid-April and the mornings are muggy. My husband, who is packing his sweaters and ski goggles with a certain joie de vivre, says, “You know what? There is no such thing as fresh air in Florida. It’s all stale and dank.”

I don’t necessarily agree with this sentiment. I know I suffer from that lack of sunshine deficiency, whatever they call it, and I am aware of the fact no one lives in New England for the weather. But other than that I am as excited as he is for the move.

Most nights after work we dine by the pool, facing the Intracoastal, the sunset at our backs but still coloring the eastern shoreline. The Florida sky is as big as the Montana sky because the landscape is flat. Violent reds and oranges light up the night. Bugs are never a concern, no black flies or mosquitos, and the breeze is the same temperature as my skin. “This is perfect weather,” I say.

“Yes it is,” he agrees, because how could he not.

A friend visits. He brings perfect packing boxes from his workplace. The corners of the apartment close in, piled high with boxes but the closets and cupboards empty quickly. We downsized when we moved from New Hampshire. This move will be relatively easy.

We leave the muffin and bread pans out, and the omelet pan. We are practicing the breakfast part of B&B for our new job. Yesterday’s egg and avocado crostini was a hit.

We visit our favorite haunts. The Old Key Lime House where Hemingway once pissed and my character, Josie Wolcott in Take Me Home, hung out and enjoyed the wisdom painted on the walls in the ladies room. A Woman’s Rule of Thumb: If it has tires or testicles you’re going to have trouble with it. Woman's Rule of Thumb We make a point of visiting my favorite bartender Matt Swig aka Swigaliscious at the Sundy House. He mixes me a free drink, his latest concoction, because I promote him on Instagram. My last swigalicious drink is made with lemon, lime, and an exotic fruit called Budddha’s Hand, the intense citrus flavor cut with vanilla sugar and aged for six months.  He is a master mixologist. We are talking about having him send some of his infusions to our Inn for the cocktail hour. Buddha's Hand I will miss al fresco dining anytime of year. I will miss palm trees reflected in storefront windows or tall blue glass office buildings. Shadows of palm trees on sidewalks, created by sunlight or streetlight. Walks on the beach. Dinner on the beach. Cocktails on the beach. Anytime of year.

I will not miss the traffic. The population density. The thick, heavy stagnant air of summer. The lines at the supermarket, the gas station, the registry of motor vehicles, the bank.

I will miss the variety of food. The beautiful, bountiful supermarkets and farmers markets. The cheap drinks and half price gourmet food items at happy hour. Palm trees. The friends I have made while I was here. Sunshine. Never having to think about the weather. Wearing sandals anytime of year. My hairdresser Natalie. Street art and graffiti.

I am looking forward to community. A small town atmosphere. Family and friends. Pine cones, blueberries, and lilacs. Reading a book by the fire. Sweaters. Work that I enjoy.

I’ve been listening to Jackson Browne a lot lately. He was there when I was writing Life Is All This. He’s been on the CD rotation in my car for a month now. There’s a lyric from Colors of the Sun on the For Everyman album that resonates:

Oh, leave me where I am

For I am not losing

If I am choosing not to plan my life

If you enjoy my blogs, you will love my books. Life is All This is now available on Amazon. Life-Is-All-This

DAYDREAM BELIEVER: Raymond Cothern, Swimming Underwater

*** This is the 4th blog in a series of interviews with baby boomers who are pursuing their dreams.

I met Raymond Cothern on another writer’s Facebook page. The writer was also someone I don’t really know, not in the old-fashioned face to face, I met you in college or at the school our kids attend or at the office kind of way. Raymond and I had both commented on the same post.

As a self-published author trying to sell books I’ve been working on growing my Friends list on Facebook. So I checked Raymond out, or as my daughters call it, I creeped on him. What immediately grabbed me when I read his bio was that he is a Louisiana native and studied at LSU with Walker Percy. Years ago, a guy I was dating introduced me to Percy’s The Moviegoer and I loved the daydreaming character Binx Bolling, his boredom with his mundane days and his search for meaning in the everydayness of life. I thought Raymond and I might have a few things in common along the lines of Binx Bolling’s famous quote: “What is the nature of the search? The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.”

You have quite an impressive resume, Raymond. The plays you’ve written have won numerous awards including the Deep South Writers Conference and the St. Tammany National One-Act Play Festival. The Long Hymn of Dilemma was produced in New York and The Pallbearer’s Social was a finalist in the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference. Did you actually get to see the production of your plays? What was it like, seeing your words interpreted and acted out on the stage?

I have seen some readings and productions of my plays. Two shorter plays done more recently in festivals in New York City—The Long Hymn of Dilemma as part of the DTE New Play Festival, and Fat Girl From Texas in the Distilled Theatre Company Short Play Festival—I did not attend for various reasons. Funny, after living there early in my youth and thinking I wanted to act, and then after discovering writing was really what I was driven to do, I would have killed to hear my words in any theatre in that city. Like so many dreams, when actually realized they are not quite as you imagined them. They are always different in most respects. Hearing words you wrote spoken by others is always a thrill. And I happen to think reading a story out loud is a good way to see if it flows. If you can’t read it aloud and keep the meaning going, if there are long and complicated sentences then most probably more editing needs to be done.

You have had your fiction published in numerous literary magazines and you also had an essay, Food & Photographs, included in the book Meanwhile Back at the Cafe Du Monde. As the self-published author of three novels now, I know it’s close to impossible to pay the bills on writing alone. In the piece you posted on your blog on the one year anniversary of your heart attack you mention you initially ignored your symptoms and passed them off as discomfort brought on by the stress of financial concerns in retirement. What was your day job and did you enjoy it or like me, were you always thinking about writing?

Well, I wasn’t sure why I was feeling discomfort in my chest. Shortfall in retirement funds definitely caused stress in my life. I was lucky, feeling the discomfort, and then doing what they tell you not to do: drive yourself to the hospital. In one of those things I will think about the rest of my life—some form of survivor’s guilt, I guess—I will always remember my father dying one afternoon at age 58 and me driving myself to the hospital at age 69, stopping at red lights, and surviving to live longer. At the time I had retired from a job that began with hurricane recovery for Katrina that morphed into housing for the disadvantage. I also had retired from managing the general interest part of the LSU Bookstore for 23 years. Most of my adult life has been spent as a bookseller, and, yes, I have written stories and such and thought seriously about writing since I was in the 8th grade.

If it makes you feel any better, my Dad also drove himself to a walk-in clinic thinking he had the flu when he was really having a heart attack. The name of your blog is Swimming Underwater which is also the title of your recently completed memoir. Can you tell us a bit about that?

The blog started as a place to post some of the memoir—Swimming Underwater—which is about growing up in Louisiana and framed by the story of the devastating effects of viral encephalitis on my daughter and of her triumph in achieving a normal life. The blog then evolved into writing about other things as well, heart attacks, aging, as well as dealing with an aging parent, all those fun things in life. The title of the memoir and the blog comes from the hospital experience and living in general, wanting things done in a timely manner which rarely happens. The feeling of swimming while submerged and the resistance against you and holding your breath and struggling to get to the end of something and the feeling of desperately needing air before you get there.

When I was reading your flash fiction story Amanda I was struck by how much you and I think alike at times. You wrote: “What depresses the hell out of me—is that the onset of crippling arthritis is the heredity factors made manifest, the visible proof there is no escaping family, the predisposition for diseases of body and spirit never avoided.” And in my latest novel, Life Is All This, I wrote: “This was his fault. He was the one with the weak genes, the addiction problems, and the lack of willpower. His DNA carried his vices and bad habits. It was hard enough protecting your kids from the outside world, but what could you do about genetic codes and inherited predispositions?” I knew when I read that you were a kindred spirit, and I also read you are a fan of Hemingway’s brevity. I have steered away from a memoir because one, I don’t think anything out of the ordinary has ever happened to me and two, the critics of my first novel caused me to shy away from telling too much of my story. I prefer to put my feelings into fictional characters and their stories. What led you to the memoir? In your fiction do you write what you know? What other influences find their way into your writing?

Yes, there’s not much to be done about passing physical diseases on to your children or their children down the road. But I’ve always been particularly sensitive about how people treat other people, what less than desirable messages and lessons get conveyed by parents to their children. Seeing my youngest daughter develop rheumatoid arthritis—a disease I’ve suffered from more than half my life—seeing that after the devastation of encephalitis was tremendously discouraging and a reminder the physical is just one aspect of the spirits we pass on. I came to the memoir because I kept a journal about what was happening to my daughter, Jennifer, and what I was feeling. It took me years to really begin to work on it—it raised such anxiety in me—but the more I shaped the material the easier it became to deal with all that had happened. It was therapy. Since I could see from the hospital window the neighborhood where I grew up, where Dee and I raised Laurie and Jennifer for a few years, the memoir incorporated more than just a story of illness and recovery. I think all writers use the material of their lives in their fiction. Come on, really, what else do they have to draw from? Oh, the material gets mashed and shaped and comes out so differently from some known experience, but there is always some footprint or DNA from the original author source. I think any hiding done behind characters—fictional or otherwise—can eventually become a weakness. Writing the memoir, getting to the core of how I felt about all things, getting to the point (as some writer said) where I knew I would have to learn to forgive myself for the life I led, all that digging and revealing and the angst it brought has made me such a better writer. That is what has influenced me more than anything.

Yes, I like that. The footprints are always there. So now that you’re retired, are you devoting more time to your writing? What are your plans for Swimming Underwater? Have you considered self-publishing?

I continue sending out query letters to agents about Swimming Underwater—but not as much as I used to—and I continue submitting the manuscript to various competitions I think are worthwhile. Occasionally I have excerpts from it published in various literary magazines. Submitting fiction is an ongoing thing. A story published in North American Review was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Sometimes to get away from prose, I do some work on a few plays and send them around. As far as self-publishing, I haven’t decided to go that route yet, but I know plenty of writers—some well-known—who have become frustrated by the publishing scene nowadays and have decided to get new material out by themselves. Look at The Martian by Andy Weir. Originally published by him as an ebook, picked up by Crown Publishing, and now the screen rights have sold. So success can happen but I think it is rare.

It is certainly hard getting the book to the readers. I can attest to that. So after all the years and all the miles, I reread The Moviegoer recently and realized although I have learned a lot along the way, I still struggle with the everydayness of life. It was something I wanted to explore in Life Is All This. Having studied with Walker Percy, did you gain any insider insight into the nature of the search? How do you feel about it all?

No, I wish Walker Percy had given me tips on the search and successfully finding what all this living means. What he gave me was more concrete. He told me I was a good writer, and he told me writers make up their own rules. One gave me the confidence to continue on in a horribly difficult life endeavor and the other made me less fearful about constructing my own paths while involved in the search. Raymond

LIFE IS ALL THIS – AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON

LIFE IS ALL THIS by SHEILA BLANCHETTE

In the summer of 1975, Samuel Ryder sets off to hitchhike to the Grand Canyon where he realizes life is very good. Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona the road ahead appears to be one never ending smooth ride full of fun, adventure, and pretty women.

Late at night in a vacant hotel lobby in South Florida, decades later Sam finds himself trying to come to peace with the fact that plans do not always work out and the life you imagined is not always the life you end up living. Alone at the front desk, he writes novels and communicates via email with his wife who has left him and now runs a food truck in Colorado. The two of them alone but at the same time together, trying to work things out, trying to hold onto a marriage that has moved just out of reach.

With a sharp eye for the world around him, Sam’s memories wander through the decades of his life as a traveling salesman, husband, and father. His story takes the reader on a journey from 1960’s New Hampshire where he writes letters to his brother in Vietnam, to Boston and New York where he and his wife raise their young family during the tumultuous years at the turn of the century, to South Florida during the Great Recession.

Against the backdrop of the conflicts and anxieties of a changing world, Life Is All This is the story of a modern American family facing life’s hardships with hope, optimism, and humor while discovering that pain, loss, and distance can strengthen their love and enrich their lives.

Click here to: BUY THE BOOK

Life-Is-All-This

IF YOU WRITE IT, IT WILL HAPPEN

**This is a true story. It falls under the category of Truth is Stranger Than Fiction.**

A lot can happen in a short period of time. Two and a half years ago, a woman from New Hampshire wrote a novel about escaping her cubicle and moving to the Islands to run a Bed and Breakfast. It was a roman a clef. A fictional version of a true story. The title was The Reverse Commute.

She didn’t quite make it to the Islands but she published the novel and did get as far south as Florida, below the tropical latitude. Close enough, she thought. The days were sunny. She met some wonderful people and walked the beach most every day. There’s something to be said for never having to think about the weather.

The true story did not unfold exactly as the fictional novel was written. There was no Bed and Breakfast, but there were a series of part-time accounting jobs that were better than a cubicle, leaving a lot more time to write. A year after arriving in the Sunshine State, she published a second novel, a work of pure fiction about a woman who has been kicked around by life but keeps searching for happiness and eventually finds herself running a small fishing lodge along the Snake River in southeastern Idaho. Its title was Take Me Home.

***

Two years and two months later, a week before the woman from New Hampshire is about to publish her third novel, a brilliant sun rises over the high-rises stacked along the Fort Lauderdale beachfront, her plane dipping left, heading north to Hartford, Connecticut.

It seems oddly appropriate that today is April Fools Day. Some folks think she’s crazy. One of her critics on Amazon stated, “usually by the time you’re middle aged, you’ve worked through your choices in life… In my opinion, you don’t have daydreams about how romantic your life should be.” Wait until they hear her latest tale.

***

Snow covers the ground beneath the barren trees. The brutal winter this region experienced is evident everywhere. Fallen trees, broken fences, sagging porch roofs.The lakes are still frozen. Welcome to the Ice Box of Connecticut. Why is she eager to leave sunshine and palm trees?

Opportunity knocked twelve days ago. She sent their resumes on a Friday. There was an email on Saturday morning leading to a phone interview on Sunday and on Monday, a trip to a town an hour north of where she lived. “You need to visit the inn,” the owners told her and her husband. “As soon as you can. We’d like to fill the position by the middle of May.” She bought the tickets the next day and purchased some new sweaters for the trip north. Shoes too. Except when walking in sneakers, she hasn’t worn socks in two years.

***

The town is quintessential New England. White houses, maple trees, stone houses, stone walls, rolling hills, covered bridges. At night it is quiet. A sound of silence she hasn’t heard in a long time. The moon is the only light outside the window. Stars are scattered across the night sky, constellations easily identified. She needs to climb on a tiny velvet stool to get into the four poster bed. Sleep is elusive. She and her husband toss and turn, wondering what road their life will take after tomorrow’s meeting.

***

They all shake hands, the couple who own the inn and the couple who are the new innkeepers. They’ll be returning to Florida on Sunday morning, giving their notice, saying their goodbyes, packing once again. It will be easier this time, they’ve already lightened their load. When they left New Hampshire, they left with open minds. Seeking adventures, ready for something new. Everything didn’t work out as planned, some plans fell through, others didn’t work out. They readjusted and came up with a few ideas, one of them that bed and breakfast she had written about.

So they put together the resumes, sent out the cover letters, and actually heard from several places. They really did have the perfect combination of skills for this type of work. Daydream Believers sometimes do succeed at bringing their dreams to life.

Her third book was ready to go last week but life got in the way. There has been a minor delay, but when the accountant/writer/innkeeper returns to Florida on Sunday, she will be publishing it on Amazon. It will be available sometime next week. It’s titled Life Is All This. And that is certainly true.

It’s A Finger Food, Mon

“The only things that are important in life are the things you remember.” 

~ Jean Renoir

A good friend of ours visited last weekend. My husband and Peter go all the way back to first grade. I met him when I was twenty five and first started dating Rich. It was one of life’s odd coincidences. One night when we stopped by Pete’s parents’ house, I noticed the high school photos on the mantle above the fireplace and recognized him immediately. He lived down the hall from me my freshman year in college.

Peter lives in Orlando now and the drive to Boynton Beach is about two and a half hours, but when a round of golf with a life-long friend is involved distance is relative.

I was working Friday, tutoring a college freshman. My Tuesday boss thinks I’m semi-famous because I write for the Huffington Post, and despite the fact he is a staunch conservative and I am a bleeding heart liberal he thinks I am competent enough to guide his son through Creative Writing 101. I mainly ask him questions and try to keep him off his cell phone.

On the way home, I picked up some prepared food at Joseph’s Italian Market in Boca Raton where there is always a party going on. Free wine, free food, and music.

That night we dined on chicken francaise, penne alla vodka, and Caesar salad, while revisiting the shared stories that took place over the course of fifty years. I still can’t believe I can say something like that, or like this question I asked at dinner: “Do you remember Hilton Head twenty seven years ago?” Twenty seven years ago? How the hell did that happen?

It was so long ago Peter couldn’t remember the time we were together in South Carolina and swore he was never there with us. I had photographic proof so I got up from the dinner table to search through the photo albums stacked in the closet in the guest bedroom.

We never figured out why Peter was on Hilton Head Island the week before Rich’s brother’s wedding, but there he was in the photos, joining in the pre-wedding festivities.

“You crashed the wedding party,” Rich said.

Peter was more amazed with his thirty year old self. “I look like a stud,” he said.

There were other photos through the years, including the time we attended a pulled pork festival in Dahlonega, Georgia. Peter couldn’t remember what he was doing there either. “I must have been driving through on my way to Tennessee,” was his best guess.

Dahlonaga

Memories tumble through your mind, out of sequence, some as clear as a blue sky day, others foggy and distorted. Shared memories often have different points of view.

“That was the night we saw the Allman Brothers.”

“No, it wasn’t. I never saw the Allman Brothers with you. You must be thinking of your old girlfriend.”

Saturday morning we hit the Delray Greenmarket, stopping along Atlantic Avenue for coffees then loading up at the booth where they sell chocolate croissants and fruit tarts.

Favorite foods trigger memories. A picnic of French bread, tomatoes, and Swiss cheese in Grindelwald with a view of the north face of the Eiger. My cousin Kathy and I always referred to it as one of the best meals we ever shared. A waterfront restaurant on St. Kitts with a view of Nevis the night of my twentieth wedding anniversary was by far the most romantic.

TheBeachHouse-gourmet-cuisine-st-kitts-2

On the drive back from the Farmers’ Market, we passed the jerk chicken guys in front of the wicker and rattan furniture store. It may be All About Recliners most of the week, but on Saturdays it’s all about jerked chicken. Caesar’s BBQ is a real Mom and Pop business and the jerked chicken and ribs are authentic Jamaican food.

all about

Caesar’s Famous Ribs Boynton Beach, FL

Which led us to a trip to Jamaica thirty years ago.

Peter was not with us that time. We traveled to Seven Mile Beach in Negril with friends of mine from Rhode Island. Three decades later it’s all a bit hazy.  Rich and I remember different things and some of the same things differently.

There was the day the water wasn’t working in the beachfront motel so Rich showered under a drain spout when a torrential rainstorm passed across the island.

Negril, Jamaica

Negril, Jamaica

The little shack where we stopped for a case of Red Stripe on our drive out of Montego Bay.

Montego Bay, Jamaica 1987

Montego Bay, Jamaica 1987

And Da Bus.

Da Bus Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica 1987

Da Bus Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica 1987

We stumbled upon this place on a long walk down the beach. The smell of pimento wood and spices drew us in. They served Red Stripe and jerked chicken smoked all day long in large metal drums. That’s it. No menu.

The chef chopped the cooked chicken with a cleaver and served it on paper plates. I asked for a fork. “It’s a finger food, mon,” the dreadlocked waiter told me. To this day, we still use that term. A friend of ours likes to eat his chicken wings with a knife and a fork and we always tease him with that line, “It’s a finger food, mon.”  When our daughters sat in their high chair mastering the art of picking up Cheerios with chubby baby fingers, we would laugh and say, “It’s a finger food, mon.”

Life Is All This, the novel I am about to publish, is much like this. Memories tumble through the decades, sometimes out of sequence. There is the cryptic lingo of family and friends, such as Rich’s opening line to our daughters when he sends a text message. “This your Fahtha.” He’s paraphrasing a line from The Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker he’s his father. It is one of their favorite movies and the shared language evokes memories of snowy afternoons by the fireplace watching Star Wars marathons.

We all have memories that trigger the important stories of our lives. That is what Life Is All This is all about. Life, marriage, family, and friends. The story of a modern American family facing life’s hardships with hope, optimism, and humor while discovering that pain, loss, and distance can strengthen their love and enrich their lives.

Caeser's Famous Ribs and Jerked Chicken by the pool

Caeser’s Famous Ribs and Jerked Chicken by the pool