One Chapter

When Grandma Rose invited me over for dinner, I readily accepted. Cooking on The Gypsy was limited and I was getting tired of sandwiches. When I walked in the door I was greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread. “Yum! Something smells good!” I said as I gave Grandma Rose a hug. “I made your favorites, Jac. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. The bread is for you to take home- I am hearing that you are making a lot of sandwiches.” We laughed. I guess maybe I had complained about my sandwich making to Grandpa Joe.

Grandma Rose shooed me into the living room. “Why don’t you practice a bit. Joe and Billy aren’t here yet- they ran into town to get Billy some warmer clothes. He didn’t realize it still gets chilly at night here in Wisconsin. He’s used to California weather.” She laughed. “We’ll get him straightened out yet.” She went back into the kitchen as I went to the piano and opened the keyboard. I ran my fingers lightly over the keys. I hadn’t played for awhile. I sat down and started with some simple warm ups and then started to play some of my favorites. I was singing softly to myself as I played. It felt good.

I was concentrating on my music and working on some pieces I hadn’t played for at least a year. I was stumbling through a few stanzas of Midnight Blue. Melissa Manchester does a good version. Her version uses an electric piano. My version on a regular piano makes it seem like a different song. I used to play this song as part of my set when I used to sing in Madison. It’s a good couples song, good for late at night.

All of a sudden, I realized that someone was singing harmony. I looked up to find Billy Richards standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He was wearing a brand new blue Sampson’s sweatshirt. They must have stopped by to see Amy. “Hi. Nice sweatshirt. ” I said as I stopped playing. “Hi. Thanks. I got three in different colors. I’ve been freezing my ass off. ” He said back. “Don’t stop playing. You almost have it. Scoot over.” He came and sat next to me and pointed out a few things on the sheet music. “I think this is where you are getting hung up.” He showed me how he would play it. I practiced a few times and finally got it. We played and sang the entire song. It wasn’t half bad.

Grandma Rose called, “Dinner’s ready, kids.” Billy and I got up and went into the kitchen. Grandpa Joe was already sitting at his spot at the table. Billy and I sat down. I was in my usual spot and Billy went straight to the other side of the table, so I got the impression that was his usual seat. That was where Mick used to sit. Grandpa Joe said a quick prayer and we got to eating. It was delicious. We all ate the first few bites in silence. That is a sign of a good meal. After a bit, Billy started to tell us funny and interesting stories about his life and also asked about our lives. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Rose told the story about how they met and got married. That’s a good story. I didn’t say much.

Towards the end of the meal, both Billy and I told Grandma Rose it was the best meatloaf we had ever had. We meant it. “That’s because you both are starving yourselves!” Grandma Rose exclaimed. Billy laughed. “That’s true… I used to just drink instead of eat. I am going to have to figure out how to not drink anymore while trying to not get fat from eating Rose’s food. I have a rock star figure to maintain.” I smiled. I was surprised how open Billy was about his drinking.

“I’m not trying to starve myself, I just haven’t been very hungry.” I confessed. Everybody looked at me. “Do you know what’s going on?” I asked Billy. He nodded. “Yes, I am sorry to hear it. I don’t know the gory details, but I got the gist. I am sorry that is happening to you Jac, you are in a tough spot. That’s the kind of thing that usually happens to me! If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.”

I was getting a little choked up. I think everyone could tell. I got up to clear the table. “Billy, you can help by going into the living room and playing a few songs while Grandma Rose and I get the kitchen cleaned up. Grandpa Joe will keep you company.” Billy and Grandpa Joe went into the living room. I stood at the kitchen sink with my hands in the hot, sudsy water and washed dishes. Grandma Rose stood next to me and dried. I bowed my head and cried a few tears.

All these changes were a lot to absorb. Mick had a son, Billy was sitting in Mick’s spot at the table… I was living on a boat and playing music with a rock star. Grandma Rose let me cry. She understood. Billy played a bunch of songs from his Greatest Hits album. He kept it light, playing only the happy songs. I think he knew I needed it.

The rest of the evening was spent playing music. Billy brought down his guitar and played for us. He played a bunch of stuff… his famous songs, plus some old time tunes that everybody knows. Grandma Rose played as well. It was clear to me that they had played together before – they were good. It was a nice evening. I was tired though, and before long I just laid down on the floor, put a sofa cushion under my head and listened to Billy. Paulie came over and circled three times and laid down next to me.

Before I knew it, it was 10:30 and it was time for everyone to go to bed. Grandma Rose wanted me to stay, but I told her I would be fine. Paulie and I jumped into my Volvo and headed back to the marina. I swung into my parking spot at the marina and Paulie and I walked up the dock to The Gypsy.

As I stepped onto the deck I could see Smitty McCoy flashing his flashlight three times from his upstairs deck. I didn’t have a light, so I yelled, “Goodnight Smitty!” He yelled back, “Goodnight Jac. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Someone from a few docks away yelled, “Get a room!” I could hear Smitty laugh. I smiled, shook my head and went below deck with Paulie.

Boy Scout Motto

 

I looked at my hands. They were covered in blood and trembling.

How many times had I been forced to cross the bridge with a gun held to my head? I had lost count. My Dad used to say, “Whatever you do, don’t let them get you into a car. Make them kill you first.” He was right.

I was completely stunned by the attack and didn’t put up any kind of a fight. I thought about that mistake for many months. Had it been a year? I was put in the car. When I woke up, I was on the ground with my hands tied and mouth taped. I was in the middle of nowhere with one of my long-time patients looking down at me. He smiled and then dragged me by the hair until I managed to get my legs under me. He walked me across the bridge with a gun to my head.

Tonight, he made the mistake of leaving the butcher knife unattended. I crossed the bridge for the last time. My Dad used to say, “Do you know the Boy Scout motto?” I nodded, “Yes. Be prepared.” Tonight, I was prepared.

Advanced Chemistry

Book Cover Advanced Chemistry

I published my first book. It is a “cozy mystery” that is very loosely based on my life.  Don’t worry, old friends.  I made up most of the juicy stuff. Most of it. Not all of it! Someone had to die and I didn’t have the heart to kill any of my real friends so the dead people are all fake people. There are some nods to people both dead and alive who have made my life interesting.  It is a love story in more ways than one. It’s a nod to the hometown I grew up in, the town I live in now… and most importantly the friendships and relationships that have molded my life.

The years are going by fast for me now. Looking back into my early twenties and writing a story based on those years was a blast. The twenties are such a crazy time… trying to figure out what to do with your life…  managing the expectations of others… and maybe not really knowing what to do… somehow it all gets sorted out.  Those decisions turn out to be important and pretty much dictate how life is going to go… so it’s not without risk.  This book made me think about the decisions I have made in my life and what the end result turned out to be. I felt both happy and sad.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda….

I published it on Amazon. I don’t expect to make a ton of money on the book… I just wanted to try to write a book. That is something I have wanted to do for many, many years. In my high school year book- my ambition was to write smut books! That is so funny to me now.  I think I just like to make up stories and see where they go.

This book was written from August 2017- February 2018.  I walked many miles along the lakeshore plotting of good ways to kill people.  I attended the Writers Policy Academy in Green Bay, WI last summer and it was in the arson investigation class that my first big idea for the book came to me.  Actually, it was presented to me in class and I twisted and turned the idea.  Thank you WPA.  I am attending again this summer. I have a bunch of questions to ask and I am sure I will get some more good ideas and information.

Lakeshore 1Lakeshore 3Lakeshore 2.JPG

The characters have become friends and I can’t wait to see what happens to them.  Jac Sanders and her best friend Sissy McNamara can’t help but get themselves into trouble! Throw in Sissy’s hot big brother Mick and a German Shepard named Paulie who flunked out of police dog training and you have got…. another story!

Split Personality

I almost changed the name of my blog today.

I read recently that if you are going to be a writer- you have to take yourself seriously and treat yourself like a writer. Huh? The idea being, that if you are going to take the time to write a story, you should have the balls to put your name on it and put it out there. Hiding behind an alter ego is fun but it might also be a cop out. I wasn’t sure if Gypsy Girl Jilly was real or a cop out.

My real name is Jill Anderson. There. I wish I had a neat story about how my Mom decided to name me Jill for some meaningful purpose – but the truth of the matter is that she couldn’t think of anything else. She was reading a magazine in the hospital after just giving birth and read an article about a person named Jill and she decided she liked it. Plus, Anderson is a long last name so she wanted something short so that I could fit my name in the allotted space on documents. Hence, I became Jill Anderson.

Nobody calls me that though. At least not people who know me. My Dad always called me “Jill the Pill”. He used to say I was a pill.  It may not have been a compliment. I was head strong, talkative, independent… pretty much straight out of the womb. I did my own thing from the get go. I don’t recall asking for much advice or permission from my parents when I was a kid. I just did it and either did not get caught or asked for forgiveness on the  occasions I got busted for doing something I shouldn’t have been doing or been somewhere I had no business being. When you are born the last of three girls to parents who are a bit older than regular parents… things happen.

Everybody else calls me Jilly. That is who I really am. Jilly loves dogs, reading, boat rides and adventures. Jilly loves to laugh. She has a soft heart and a long memory. She has the scars to prove it. Mostly, Jilly loves whatever is coming next. She can get antsy if she stays in one place too long or becomes stagnant in her daily life. She is a Gypsy. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a Gypsy sounds good in theory, but day to day living requires fortitude when it comes to building a career and family…both of those areas have given me a lot of trouble in life.  Forever is a very long time.

I am about half way through my life. You would think that the urge to throw everything into the back of your truck and start driving West would subside. If anything, it gets worse. I am working on some ways to manage the urge to head for the hills. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have been making some changes in my life to become more structured. What?? That seems nuts. (That is GGJ talking.)

I am an optometrist. This May I will have been practicing for 22 years. Can you believe it? Me either. I became an optometrist because I wanted to please my parents and I was good at science and quite frankly I did not know what to do with my life. I was good at school so I kept going to school. People ask me if my passion is “eye stuff” and I say “Nope.” They can’t believe it. I think it is because I act fairly normal at the office.

For 18.5 years I worked as an employee for other doctors or for big corporations. I made a comfortable living and worked with some good people who became friends. I lived in a bunch of different towns and had a couple of houses and/or great apartments.

Eventually, I kind of settled down in my old hometown. I purchased a super cute house with a big yard with a little river running through the back. I spent a lot of time and effort fixing it up.  It was perfect… until one day I came home from working on a Saturday. All of my friends and family were out having fun. I took my beloved dog Macy for a walk. Something happened on that walk. I realized that I would not be able to spend the next 20 years working nights and weekends for someone else. If I was going to work this hard- it had to be for myself. I went home and looked up the For Sale ads for optometry practices in my area.

I found it right away. There was a listing for a small practice in Oshkosh, WI. It was a friend of mine who was retiring. I gave him a buzz. He had another interested party, so I had to act fast. I went to look at the practice the next day and two weeks later I bought it. In hindsight, it was a big decision and a normal person would have thought about it a bit. I am a leaper before looker kind of person. When it works out – its great, but when it doesn’t…well the drop can be a killer. This time, it worked out.

I bought the practice and worked hard to make it my own. Three and a half years later, I find myself being the happiest I have been in a long time. Optometry-wise anyway.  At the office I am Dr. Jill. Monday through Friday I am Dr. Jill.

My personal life has been a little schizoid. That can happen. Recently, I was forced to take a long, hard look at the choices I have made in my personal life. My life hasn’t exactly gone as I had anticipated. No husband or kids. No tattoos. Nothing permanent.

I would love to blame it on other people. Trust me, I have tried. That works for the first 25 years of your life but after that no one cares if your Dad loved you enough or being raised Catholic makes you an chronic sinner and guilt ridden person. At some point, you have to grow up.

I don’t think I ever grew up. Not really.

When did you start making decisions and acting on your own accord? When did you learn how to say “No.”?  When did you learn to walk away from people, places and things that were not good for you? When did you figure out what it was that you really needed to be content?

For me it happened…

It hasn’t totally happened yet. I am working on it.

Time has started to shift for me. In one way it has slowed down…and in another it has sped up.  My axis has shifted and thus the gravitational pull of my tides has changed.  (This is a little woo hoo, but stick with me.)  Even if all else has stayed the same… everything is still different.  Nothing stays the same. No one stays the same. To think it can be that way is…. unrealistic. It is a direct path to disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction and ultimately failure. Failure to communicate, failure to thrive, failure to find peace.

Next year I will be 50 years old. Part of me thinks that it has gone super fast… and another part of me thinks it has taken forever. The old adage is true… time speeds up as you get older. The last ten years of my life has gone much faster than the first ten years of my life. A minute is not a minute, a day is not a day. Someone needs to figure out a new calculation for time.  It’s got to be a fraction equation. I always get confused when you try to multiply or divide fractions. You have to flip everything upside down and backward.

Let’s see… where was I? Oh yes. I am trying to be more structured in an effort to gain freedom.  

I am figuring stuff out. You can’t be a dodo bird airhead your whole life.

A lot of headache and heartache stems from worries about money. I haven’t always been the greatest when it comes to finances. It’s not my thing. But, it should be. So, I now have professional people in my life who help me. I am slowly getting over the fear that I will be homeless and eating cat food when I am old. It’s always there though. It has made me afraid. For a long time, I was afraid to buy a practice. It’s a big investment. Then I did it, and it’s been the best thing for me.

So, now I am taking it a step further. I just bought a building. Instead of paying rent to a stranger, I will be paying the bank to eventually own the building. It will take awhile… it’s a commitment. But, it’s a commitment to myself and my future.

101 High

I used to say I wanted to be free so that I could move away. Back when I was afraid to buy a practice, an old friend/vendor of mine that has known me since year one pointed out that if I wanted to move away I probably would have done so by now- having stayed in a one hour radius of my hometown for the last 18.5 years. That comment pushed me over the edge to buy a practice. He was right.

I am staying. Time to make an office that will grow with me and be comfortable.

The project is expensive and Dr. Jill will admit to feeling some stress and nerves about the whole thing. Gypsy Girl Jilly is loving it and is making friends with the demo guys. She is baking them cookies and can’t wait to get upstairs to rip out the old carpet to see if the wood floors are worth saving. There is an ancient old gas stove upstairs and she wants to keep it. Dr. Jill is hoping there will be enough $$ to get a new stove and new bathtub. GGJ doesn’t care.

Just when I was back to normal finances, I went and bought a building so now I feel broke again. Back to living frugally. Damn. Actually, it not that bad. I have found out a couple of things. Most of the stuff I really like to do is free. I love walking in the woods. That’s free. I love listening to music. That’s mostly free. I love reading. I used to buy a ton of books, but now I download them from the library. That’s free. I love writing little stories. That’s free. That’s a lot of stuff for free. Free- dom. I am getting there.

I am hoping that there will be enough spending money to do some traveling down the road. GGJ loves to see new places. A good road trip once in awhile should do the trick. Years ago when I was making lots more money, I went on a trip to New Orleans and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. It was super fancy and quiet. It was almost too fancy and too quiet. I was afraid to laugh too loud.

I will be satisfied to drive somewhere with the windows open and stay at a Mom and Pop place on the side of the road. Dr. Jill will be nervous about getting killed, but GGJ will see it as an opportunity to gather some story making material.

I can’t quite see my future all the way to the end. I feel pretty good about the next 15 years or so. I am going to be Dr. Jill at the office and GGJ outside of the office. I fought it for a long time. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is both of these sides of myself that make me a complete person. They need each other.

Gypsy Girl Jilly is the one who writes these stores. Therefore, she gets the title.

GGJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just write the book.

Last year I attended my first writers workshop. I went to the Writers Police Academy in Green Bay, WI. I went for a number of reasons.  Initially, I signed up because I wanted to see Craig Johnson (author of the Longmire series) in person and listen to his keynote speech.  Then I decided to attend the entire three day conference and signed up for classes in Death Scene Investigation, Blood Spatter, Arson etc… it really lit a fire under me! Hahaha! I met a lot of interesting and friendly writers who are obsessed with telling stories about people dying in very unpleasant circumstances. It was right up my alley.  I participated in a hands on long gun class- which means I shot an assault rifle. It was informative, engaging and a great way to get my creative energy flowing.

The last evening of the banquet I sat at a table of about ten writers. We introduced ourselves and discussed what we were writing and if/how we were planning to publish the book.  I admitted that I did not have a book, but that I had wanted to write a book for as long as I could remember. The writers all encouraged me- regardless of whether it would be self-published, published independently, or if I got an agent and publisher. They told me it didn’t matter. Just write a book.  So, I did.

It’s a “cozy” which means it is a lighthearted romance with a murder/mystery thrown in. I started writing November 1, 2017 as a first time participant in NaNoWriMo and published it on Amazon today.  I don’t know what will happen next, but I know that writing this book was fun.

I signed up for the Writers Police Academy again this year.  Jeffrey Deaver is the speaker this year. It should be interesting… It’s the ten year anniversary for WPA so they are going all out. The classes and speakers look great.  I signed up for a bunch more hands on classes and look forward to learning new ways to portray my characters and get them in and out of hairy situations.

Mostly, I can’t wait to see my new friends and tell them that I did exactly as they recommended. I wrote a book. I just might write another one. My main character, Jac Sanders is a lot like me. I have to figure out what happens to her. I will keep you posted.

Wabi-Sabi Christmas

It’s that time again. Christmas.

I have always had a hard time at Christmas. When I was a kid I would always think that this would be the year where we would all get along and there would be a pile of Christmas gifts from Santa waiting for me under the tree. In my fantasy, my Dad would not drink too much and become a morose person lecturing us on how “We did not know what it was like” to grow up poor. My Mom and Sisters were okay and we all tried to make it through with no damage done. Thankfully, we are all bookworms so a few new books in each of our hands and we would retreat to our neutral corners. Nancy Drew saved the day.

 
I would open a few gifts, maybe a game or two along with some socks and batteries in my stocking. I laugh now thinking about getting batteries, but you know… that is kind of crucial to the whole new toy thing working out. I have memories of driving around our little town looking for a place that would be open so that we could get batteries to fire up the new Merlin game. Thank you, Holiday gas station.

 
Later in the day I would call my best friend, Elaine, and I would ask her, “What did you get?” and she would say, “Nothing…. What did you get?” I would then reply, “Nothing.” We would then agree to bundle up in our snow pants and meet half way between our houses and go freeze our asses off skating or building snow forts. We did that for many years. One year, Elaine got a diamond necklace for Christmas. It was very pretty. I was jealous. I was also happy for her because she deserved a diamond necklace for Christmas.

 
This year has been a year for changes. My Mom has had a series of health issues and decided to go live in assisted living. It is for the best and I think it increases her chance of surviving to see another Christmas. Earlier this year, I had thought she might not make it to this one. There have been some bumps along the way. These types of changes in life are tough on everybody.

 

 

For my Mom, I am sure it has been difficult. She has been incredibly fortunate to be athletic her entire life. For 88 years she was a rock star. She has always walked many miles, been a great golfer, and just a year or two ago was lifting weights at the gym. That is all gone now. Her heart is broken. Literally. The valves are leaking, and the rhythm has gone haywire. The frustrating thing is that her will is not broken, but the physical parts are not cooperating. She told me a month or two ago that “Getting old sucks.” It is true. Thankfully for her it did not hit until age 89. Still….

 
What happens when the head honcho/matriarch isn’t physically/mentally/emotionally able to boss everybody around? The shit hits the fan. That’s what happens.

 
My Mom has always been a huge influence on me. I am the youngest of three daughters. My Mom has been my Mom/best friend/head shrinker/drill sergeant…. My whole life. I have made most of my biggest decisions in life based on her advice and my desire to please her.

 
When her health began to decline it affected the three daughters in different ways. We failed to communicate and our differences in opinion regarding her health and her care resulted in a major falling out between myself, the Sisters, and Mom. My feelings were hurt, and I was offended to the core of my being. Words were said that can never be forgotten. I felt that no one could hear me or see me. Nothing I said had any value and nothing that I did was appreciated. I was drowning in my despair.

 
I am pretty sure that the Sisters and Mom would argue that I was the asshole and was the one causing the problems… I have thought about it for many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months and I have finally found some peace with the whole thing. I did what I thought was best. I offered up what I could and would have been able to do. Done. It did not work out, but I did the best I could. That has to be enough. It is enough.

 
I know, I know! Merry Christmas, right? Wait, it gets better.

 
So, what happens when you are 48.5 years old and you get pushed out of the nest?

 

You fly. You fly.

 

I have learned a few things these past few months. I have been making some choices. Choices that are all mine. When things get ugly, when times get tough… how are you going to respond? I responded by taking care of myself. I increased my yoga sessions, increased my water intake, cooked some good, healthy meals for myself and tried to go to bed early. I reached out to some old friends. I opened myself up to making some new friends. I made myself available to accept the invitations I had been declining because I was always going back to my home town and my Mom every weekend. I grew up. I got a life.

 
I set some boundaries. Boundaries for myself and for others. I have forgiven myself for screwing up. I have forgiven others for harsh words and actions. I am entertaining the possibility of mending broken relationships. For me, I cannot and will not pretend that nothing has occurred. That is the easy way out…but not the way out for me. I am wondering if something that has broken in many pieces can ever be repaired? Can it be functional? Can it be better than the original?

 

There is a term in Japanese culture called wabi-sabi.

 

I have a Pinterest board on it. Basically, it is the art of finding beauty in things that are broken. Picture an old tea cup with a crack in it. The crack has been filled in with gold. The tea cup was not thrown away. It was painstakingly repaired, and it is now more than a tea cup- it is a work of art.

 
I was broken. I am being repaired. I am being repaired by the love and kindness of old friends, new friends, and strangers. Is the new GGJ going to be better than the original? I hope so.

 
Last night, I went to Christmas Eve mass with some old friends at their Church. It was a beautiful old Church filled with dark wood, Tiffany stained glass and a massive organ. The service was filled with music. There was a beginning part where the huge organ was playing a funky mix of Christmas carols but with a steam-punk kind of attitude. I pictured a mad person wearing a leather duster and goggles running the huge organ while smoking a cigar. Later, it turned out that the organ player was a sweet little old lady who came out to read the story about Mary having Jesus in a manger. Who knew? She rocked that organ!

 
We were sitting in the pew waiting for the service to start when a young friend came in with his parents. He saw me and said, “There’s Jill” and he sat next to me. His parents ended up sitting one pew up and over. I think perhaps that he thought that they would join us in our pew. I give him credit, he stayed by me. I did not know some of the hymns, but there were a few of the classic Christmas carols. I was singing what I knew… and then I heard his voice join me. The sweetest, clearest 13 year-old voice in my ear.

 
The finale was the best when they turned off the lights. We were holding candles and one by one they were lit. My young friend lit my candle. We sang Silent Night, Holy Night. It was beautiful.

 

Merry Christmas,
GGJ

 

 

 

Flying Too Close To The Sun

I had a farm in Africa…

No, not really but lately I have been receiving some cosmic mojo from Isak Dinesen’s book Out of Africa.

You know, the one that was made into a fab movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. She played Karen Blixen, a gutsy Scandinavian who married a Barron to get away from her family. He was a very likeable sort, and they really were good friends. That being said- he had numerous affairs and gave her syphilis. She survived by having terrible treatments (this was before penicillin, bummer) leaving her unable to have children. Denys Finch Hatton, played by Robert Redford, was the gorgeous ex-soldier turned game hunter who loved freedom more than anything or anyone else. He was an addicting combination of extremely capable (no lion is going to eat you on his watch) and well-read and a bit romantic. In the movie he washes her hair by the river while reciting poetry to her. That will do it. Sign me up.

But wait, hold on! There is more to the story and I just found out about it this week.

If you recall in the movie there is a character of a young tomboy named Felicity. She and Karen were fond of each other and became friends. She is sent to school and comes back gorgeous and well mannered. Karen later does not like it that Denys is taking Felicity flying with him. Remember that? Oh yes, my kitties. There is more to the story than that.

Here it is.

That character was based on a real person. That person was Beryl Markham. Beryl grew up kind of wild. Her father was a horse breeder and trainer. His wife took his son and returned to Europe leaving him alone to raise Beryl. From all accounts she was tall, gorgeous, extremely talented with horses and most certainly a woman before her time. She was married three times, had a few open affairs….one with a Prince but that was shut down by the royal family.

She was friends with Karen Blixen. She also had an affair with Denys Finch Hatton and may or may not have been impregnated by him and had an abortion. Wow!

It is reported that on the day Denys Finch Hatton was killed in a plane crash… he had first asked Karen to join him and she said “No.” He then asked Beryl to join him and she was asked not to go by a flying friend who had a bad feeling about flying that day. She said, “No.” She felt there would be other days to fly.

Denys’s plane went down that day.

Karen went back to Europe and became a writer. She had been writing stories all along and published her first story at age 22. Her marriage and the coffee farm in Africa were but one part of her life. It was that life that she recorded in Out of Africa which was first published in 1937. She also wrote Babette’s Feast which was also made into an Academy award winning film. It won the 1987 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The name is familiar to me but I have not seen the film. I hope to do so this weekend. It is reported to also be a favorite of Pope Francis.

This is also interesting to me because I am getting some religious vibes. More on that later.

As for Karen, after she left Africa she continued to have some ups and downs. It seems to me that her success as a writer did allow her some fun. She became a bit of a character herself and was regarded as being eccentric and a bit of an outsider. I could find no more mentions of lovers or relationships after Denys. She was plagued by health problems and it is widely believed that she was anorexic. It is thought she died in 1962 of malnutrition.

Beryl Markham broke the rules. She grew up wild, got married and divorced a bunch of times, and had a few affairs with men who seem to have been very interesting. Go Girl!

She was the first woman to become a licensed racehorse trainer in Kenya. She later was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She wrote a memoir, West with the Night, that I am dying to read. Her book did not receive very much attention when it was first published.

Later, in 1982 in a collection of Ernest Hemingway’s letters it was found that Hemingway himself praised the book saying, “But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers….it really is a bloody wonderful book.”

That spurred some interest in the book and it was republished in 1983. The proceeds allowed a now broke Beryl to live the rest of her life in modest comfort.

If you want to read more about these people/characters in a fictionalized setting check out Paula McLain’s book Circling the Sun. I just read it and that is why this story is being written. Oh Paula, what road have you gotten me going down?

As for me…

Many of you know that I am single and have never been married. No kids. There have been a few romances along the way… good ones…bad ones…. They were all worth it. Am I like Karen and Beryl? Am I destined to be alone at the end of my days with nothing but a few good stories to tell? Would that be okay? Maybe, I think to myself. Maybe.

Something has shifted. I think maybe it is stemming from the yoga I have been doing this past year. Last night I went to a sound immersion- a combination of restorative yoga and then resting while a sound therapist plays gongs and chimes. I did not think anything was happening to me. Suddenly, I was fully awake, right before the crescendo. I was energized and knew that I could handle it. I was AWAKE. I wanted to jump up and run out of that room and get GOING.

Where are you going and what are you going to do, you ask?

Well, for starters I am going to STOP WORRYING.

I signed a contract to purchase a historic building. I plan to gut it and design a new optometry office. I had to give my notice this week to my current land lord- so I am officially past the point of no return. I was stressing out about the building stuff- rules, rules, rules! Who knew that renovating a building could be such a hassle. But I have found the right architect and he is going to steer me through the mine fields of historic building renovation and City codes… I have faith. He is good at what he does and I am going to let him do his thing.

I am going to RELINQUISH CONTROL.

I think this is the underlying basis for pretty much everything that is happening in my life.

I overthink everything.

Thinking can be good. There is nothing wrong with attention to detail and striving for excellence. Perfection on the other hand… is a nasty word that needs to be destroyed. What is perfection? Can perfection endure the test of time and forces of nature? I have tried to be perfect. The perfect daughter, sister, friend, and lover… I can state with certainty that perfection is at a minimum fleeting and most likely nonexistent.

What is it then? What am I craving? What am I needing?

I think what I need is to be able TO BE MYSELF.

I want to try. I don’t always care if I succeed. I want to try to write a novel. Who cares if it is bad? I want to travel to places I haven’t been. Who cares if I don’t like it? I want to cook and bake and eat and drink. Who cares if I am not as skinny as I was in 1987, or 1996, or 2005? I want to be me and I want to eat some bread, dammit! My face and my boobs are certainly showing the effects of gravity. Who cares? I might not look as good- but I do have some good stories to tell. I want to have lots more of those stories to tell before I end up too old to remember or dead. I want to do those things with people who like being with me and don’t expect me to be perfect. I want to be able to disagree at times and have messy hair without fear of abandonment. I want to be able to wear my flannel pj’s with holes in them and still feel desired. Is that possible? I may have gone too far.

As for being alone, I have seen with my own eyes that most of us do end up alone. It is probably a good thing to be comfortable with that from the get go.

What are the rules? I do not know….rules, rules, rules! I am not a big fan. What is good for me, might not be good for you. Who is to say?

Yesterday I was speaking with a lady who is helping me find new health insurance. My current plan is being axed from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. I buy my own health insurance and have for many years. The whole thing is a mess. Anyway, she told me I have a few options. One is to buy traditional insurance. The other way is to join a group of individuals who are Christians who “help” one another with medical expenses in a Christian way. She asked me if I was a Christian? I said, “Yes” because I grew up going to St. Mary Magdalene every Sunday and CCD every Wednesday of my young life until I turned 19 and started tending bar. That was the end of that. However, I still pray to St. Rita and I have faith. I am not sure if that qualifies as a resounding yes, but I think that got me over the first hurdle. Ok, now on to the second question. Am I interested in helping others? That one was easy. Sure! I am a definite “Yes” for helping others. The last question…Am I living my life in a way that upholds Christian beliefs? Uh oh. What does that mean exactly? Well, for this model of medical sharing (they don’t call it insurance) it means that if you engage in behavior that is not considered acceptable… you will not be covered if you hurt yourself or get diseases. No smoking, no drinking and driving and getting into accidents. No sexual relationships outside of marriage. Birth control isn’t covered. You get the drift.

For the most part- I do live a Christian life. I am not 100%. You had probably figured that out by now. I thought a lot about that. I am a sinner. I sent a text to a good friend and told him I could save $2300 bucks a year. He replied it might be worth $2300 bucks a year to have fun. Lol.

So, I am going to pay extra and get traditional health insurance. I just don’t want to have to LIE about anything or pretend I am someone I am not to save money.  I will stick with St. Rita (patron saint of lost cases) and try to live a good life.

Maybe I am like Karen and Beryl. In some ways I think that would be great. Maybe if all goes well I will have a better ending. I will work on that. Before you can have an ending though there must be a beginning.

I bought a historic building in Oshkosh…

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