Category Archives: Cast of Characters

Meet my guys

It’s been wild and busy around here. I had a couple blue days when there was no evident progress on the house and I was missing Rich and the cats, very much. But my good friend, Kristen, came and we took the River Arts Studio Tour and saw all the fine art and craft that made me want to throw up my hands and say, “I give up!” and then we ate some fine cheese and drank some wine and I felt better. Monday, I got just a tetch wiggy with the builder and unfortunately or no, I was rewarded for my rude and childish behavior because Tuesday EVERYONE was on the job. Same today. Part of the problem was that the builder took a well deserved weekend with his family and the siding guys took that as an opportunity to go watch World Cup or whatever.

So now. Yesterday Rosario mowed the weeds lawn and now it looks ever so much better. Especially if I squint and don’t notice the wisteria, that I loved 6 weeks ago, creeping around everything at the rate of a yard a day. Faster than kudzu.(This one is for Roxanne, queen of the pumpkin patch.) I saved seeds from various heirloom squash that we ate last fall, plus I sprouted some ornamental gourds and some melons and pumpkins and now I have no idea what is growing here. But they are definitely growing. As of now there are about 200 baby round-ish things growing at the base of beautiful orange blossoms. My sunflowers are blooming and I’ve started a new perennial bed behind the stones on the right. To the left of the vines are raspberries- many, many raspberries. Every morning I snack on sugar snap peas and raspberries. If I had a kitchen I could be making jam. Next year.
Oh! I DO have a kitchen! At least part of one. I love my pewter glazed solid maple custom cabinets. The countertop template has been done and that is a week out. The extra knobs (who knew I would need 38???) are being shipped. The fixtures, sourced by yours truly over a period of months, are waiting in the den, still boxed. I saved literally thousands by searching endlessly for precisely what I wanted and in the end it paid off. I found a brand new 2100.00 Kohler custom cast iron sink and articulating faucet pair for 900.00 from a plumber supply guy who won it for selling the most Kohler fixtures but said he’d rather have the money than put it in his old kitchen. Wait ’til you see it.It’s all in the details. Dichroic glass pulls. And no, the kitchen is not going to be pastel baby blue. That was a test primer that was supposed to be gray. Much the same way the Cosmic Sea in Rich’s office was not supposed to be rainbow violet. One of the smarter ideas is to tint your primer so you at least have a chance to make corrections.Meet Mike. He is my finish carpenter and trim guy. He also has a degree in horticulture and a brand new baby who entered this world about 10 weeks early but is now doing very well, up to 5# from 2#- something and nursing like a champ. I don’t care if Mike takes all the time in the world to be with his family but he’s on the job in any case. He was just waiting for the truck with the milled trim to show up. Carlos takes a siesta while waiting for caulk to arrive. When I walked in Rich’s office after he had primed it purple he kept an absolutely straight face while asking, “You like it, no?” and it was only when I said, “WTF!! It’s PURPLE!” did he burst out laughing. Carlos and his wife have been helping to feed Mike while Mike’s wife is busy with the new baby at the hospital. Carlos brings a hot plate and all sorts of tupperware containers filled with Mexican delicacies for lunch everyday. On Monday he will be making us all squash blossom quesadillas (from the garden, naturally) and when the house is done he and his wife will cater our housewarming with a pig roast and all the trimmings. Mario thinks it’s all funny. When I said to Carlos and Mario that there were some jalapenos ready in the garden, they dumped out a coffee can of nails and went running down.BABE MAGNET ALERT! Okay, this is Gustavo. The picture does not do him justice. Gustavo is from Italy. He loves opera and his daughter works at Columbia University so sometimes he goes to NYC to hear opera at the Met. (I told him about an opera singer I know of who recently debuted at the Met in Der fliegende Holländer.) Gustavo and I talk about Tuscany and olive oil and the proper humidity for making handmade pasta. Yesterday I made him some pesto with the basil from my garden. Gustavo’s grandfather was a tile setter. His father. And Gustavo is doing my tile. When I took his picture, he thanked me, in Italian. He said it was an honor that I wanted to take his picture and pictures of his work. Gustavo is single.Jose. Also very cute but young. Also working on tile. Gustavo pulled up the back of Jose’s pants before I took a picture. He cuts tile with one of those big saws with running water and it makes me insanely nervous; I have to look away.Sweet. Very sweet shower. The entire soaking tub surround in this master bath will also have that small glass tile (very expensive, imported from England). In order to justify the accent, I shopped long and hard for remainder lots of high quality porcelain at deep discount prices. I’ve seen every back room of every tile warehouse for two states.(Thank you, Cathy.)The kitty porch is no different now than it was last Friday. The siding guys are MIA. Apparently they have a new framing job and while I understand the need to take any and all work in this economy, I am, shall we say, irked. The cats are waiting for their porch, dammit. I think Bobby is irked, too. Where is a picture of my young and incredibly capable (and calm in the face of homeowner angst) builder, you ask? He was in town picking up caulk for Carlos and Mario. Tomorrow I’ll snag him and Roxie, the on site mascot.

I miss Rich and the kitties. We had our 7th anniversary on Monday and talking on the phone several times just didn’t cut it. He sent me a long and very thoughtful and loving note about our life together and why it’s okay to be apart this anniversary because we are building for all of our future anniversaries together. He is my late in life lover and soul mate and companion and friend. We are really good friends. I had left him a long “honey-do” list with many dated items: June 4, apply the Advantage Multi to cats, June 8, call Rick to come prune the giant Bougainvillea that overhangs the alley, June 12, write the check for second quarter estimated tax to IRS…On Monday, in the middle of a little romantic telephone schmaltz I asked if he had written the check on the 12th and he said no, he got busy, he would, etc. I scolded a bit and nagged a bit, just so he would really miss me. Yesterday he called and said, “You tricked me! It wasn’t due until the 15th!” I said yes, but now it will be on time. I always said the great thing about being single for a long spell after a divorce is that I settled into being self-reliant and when I did marry again it was because I chose to and not because I needed to be married. Now, seven years in, we need each other.

Anniversaries and milestones

First off, Wacky Ken’s charitable adventures across America continue. He’s gone ’round the bend in Mississippi and checked into a B&B with little toilet paper roses on the roll and he’s considering DeSalvo’s pickled pork lips for dinner.  Go visit his blog: it’s a comic mess over there but he’s managed to raise enough money to pay for two children to attend school for a year- tuition, books, uniforms- and I thank all my friends who have had a hand in that. Thank you.


Towards the end of the time that I was practicing as a psychotherapist in Ann Arbor, I had two exceedingly painful and difficult situations arise. The first was a referral from one of the county judges I had worked with over the years in various custody cases. He seemed to respect me and called upon me as an expert from time to time. He sent me three teenagers whose father had killed their mother and then himself while they hid in another bedroom. The father and mother were separated and there was a restraining order in place because the father’s hurt was coming out as that miserable stalking anger that sometimes happens. The father had recently been released from the hospital following major open heart surgery and he was a physical and emotional tsunami. No one at the hospital inquired about his family situation and no one monitored his psychological state despite all the things that contribute to depression around such a procedure- anesthesia, pain meds, etc. Because they lived in a sort of rural area where hunting and guns were routine he had a lot of hardware. Two weeks earlier he had walked into the small local police station and asked them to keep his shotguns and handguns and ammunition because he was afraid of what he might do. Then, on this day, he went in and asked for his guns and ammo back, announcing somewhat manically that he “had some hunting to do.”  They gave him all his weapons and he went to the house, broke through a window, shot his wife and then shot himself. The oldest child huddled with the two younger ones during the yelling and screaming and shots and then ran barefoot through the snow to the neighbor’s house for help. For some reason the local police had to wait for the county sheriff’s department as the first responders and it took them close to 40 minutes to get through bad weather to the house. All of this was in the local newspapers. What the children went through for the next years was not.

I had been working with those youngsters about 8 months when I met Rich. I had been single for over a dozen years, happy working in my practice, raising the kids as a single parent (with their dad doing the same not too far away) and taking care of home and garden and pets. In my spare moments I got together with the women of BCMA (Book Club My Ass) and went out to Wit’s End, my little vinyl clad shack of a cottage. I was very happy but I was also very tired.

I didn’t realize how tired I was until I began working with a young bright professional woman with a new baby and a history of binge drinking alcoholism. She came to me because she had had several episodes of binge drinking during her pregnancy and she wanted someone to help monitor her baby’s growth and development and support her sobriety. I liked her a lot and I looked forward to my sessions with her and her beautiful baby. Sadly, she was in a really abusive and addictive relationship; her husband was one of those people who send shivers up the spines of therapists, a true well-spoken white color sociopath. I won’t go into all the convoluted details of that situation but they were separated and it ended with the baby being smothered to death during a visit with the father. Everybody knew it, there was a coroner’s inquest, but in the end there was just not quite enough evidence. I testified, along with the pediatrician, that the baby was healthy and strong and beyond any of the parameters of sudden infant death. Alcohol, cocaine and another woman were involved. The county prosecutor, with many misgivings, decided not to press charges.

Rich and I had been together for just a few months but we were each at that point in our lives and our love that we knew we were serious about one another. I asked him if he would go with me to the baby’s funeral and he did. That night he stayed over but he slept and I didn’t. I went down to my office and ended up all curled up in that totally regressed and miserable ball of hopelessness and wept. After 30 years I believed I could not continue for another hour doing what I had been doing.

I won’t go so far as to say that Rich was my lifeboat but he was certainly a port in the storm and I was truly floundering and we got married. I continued to see that sad childless mother until she moved away to live in another state with her parents (and she has gone on to lead a better, healthier life). Dan graduated from U-M School of Music and has gone on to become a successful and gifted musician. Abby stopped smoking pot, did a bit of jello wrestling and is now a married young woman starting on her PhD. All of our children make the world a better place for lots of people.

Although we have traveled a lot, where I have joined Rich on nicer business trips we have never officially gone on a “honeymoon.” He is not big on holidays and what started with a proclamation that Valentine’s Day was something trumped up by Hallmark and I’m not HIS mother on Mother’s Day has now spread to birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries. This incredibly kind and generous man is holiday challenged and one friend even offered to send him to gift-giving camp.

Where were we? Oh, yes, at the Fourth Street Shrimp Store for lunch today. Rich has been busy, busy, busy with work as he most always is and he had been away for his Myrtle Beach guy golf come-to-Jesus thing he does each year. I was in Asheville the week before that. We’ve barely seen each other and at night, when we’re together, I consider hitting him with a fat book because he snores loudly from a deviated septum. Instead I recorded it on my Blackberry so at least he can’t keep denying it. So, we went to lunch. And I said, “Listen, I know you said something all vague about me not making any plans the last week of October this year (I will turn 60) but we need to talk about that. That is the week of the WNC Animal Fiber Fair and this is a big deal in my life. I have several fiber artist friends who would like to come to the new house then and I would like to sign up to teach and take workshops and so forth and so on. What’s up?”

Rich said that he had originally been thinking of inviting all my friends to come for my birthday. He believes that he is a romantic and I am not but be that as it may and I’ll get back to that in a moment, I planned on inviting them all myself in any case. He went on to say that he had rethought that and he now has another plan which is probably best not delivered as a last minute surprise. He said that he was thinking we could take a private tour through rural Italy, through wine and cheese country and would I like that? I cried in my flounder sandwich.

Rich doesn’t like to travel that much since he has to on business and the one time I talked him into going to Mexico he had diarrhea for a month. I used to travel a lot but now, between airports, cattle-class and more persnickety sleep patterns, I’ve lost a bit of my enthusiasm. Plus, it’s not so much fun if you have to bully and manipulate your partner into going. Back at lunch, Rich handed me a napkin and shared some of what he had been thinking about since his week at the beach, where he and the guys sit around and, presumably, grouse about their wives and then count their blessings, the way women often do. He said he had been thinking that in the beginning he was afraid of how openly emotionally expressive I was. He had never met anyone who just opened her mouth and let it rip, the way I do. (Instead he comes from people who are all bottled up and nicey-nice and then misbehave badly at times.) And he’s right. I do tend to say, for better and often worse, how I feel. I’ve called him terrible, vile names and said many mean and awful and sometimes true things that lots of people wouldn’t say. I’ve tried to get that under control, incidentally, and have quite successfully now that we’re getting to be old hat with each other and I’ve made safe passage through menopause, the death of my mother, and various and sundry other inevitable losses that come with age. So, in the beginning, Rich was afraid of me and it was my good fortune that he was more in love with me. He said now he is not and he has come to value my outbursts. He started to say more and then he teared up so we just went silent and he paid the bill. In the car he said he values my emotional charge because it has opened him up to his own feelings. He said that any and all negative energy that I put into words is not only balanced but far outweighed by the positive energy that I live. He said other nice things. He said he has never ever ever known me to hold on to anger for more than the minutes when I am expressing it and I never hold a grudge, ever. That is true. I forgive everybody everything because God knows, I need forgiveness and it’s only fair. And I’m fair. I say mean things about his children and I say mean things about my children and I love them all insanely. (Really, it probably is a little crazy how much I love them. Bordering on disturbed.) And he said that when I am sneaky, like hiding money or manipulative, rearranging the furniture of life in secret, it is only because I am a little bit insecure and also it is always for the good of us, rather than just the good of me. (Except for the internet wool purchases. We’re not talking about those here.) And that’s true. I’d rather secretly break the budget on a lovely artisanal cheese to share than something for me. Oh, and then he said he thinks he’s very romantic but I’m not and I believe he was suggesting that I’ve squelched his romantic nature. This is probably true because although I rant and rave in the privacy of our own home I am extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable with displays. Anything that calls attention such as him singing to me out in public, which he did once and I shushed him. That was really unkind and one of those things I still wish, 7 years later, that I could take back. On further reflection, I’m sobered by how I sometimes behave.

So, I don’t know where I was going with this except to say that it seems as though Rich has squirreled away some funds of his own and he’s going to take me to Tuscany this fall but not during the fiber fair, either just before or just after and who knows? He might try singing to me again. And all of my attributes were articulated at lunch and in the car and this day has left me sort of speechless, which should be obvious from this little journal entry. Soon it will be our anniversary and then we move to Asheville until it gets uncomfortably cold and then we can come back here whenever we want. My life is so much richer than I deserve. Don’t think I don’t know that it can all change in a second, but for now-well, I know where I stand.

(Oh! Oh- NOW I remember where this started. Today, waiting until the eleventh hour, I went online, filled out the form, paid my fee and it is now, officially, my 35th year as a licensed certified psychotherapist.)

Instant gratification

Right off the bat, you guys delivered. THANK YOU! And, along with the sheer pleasure of giving to a most wonderful cause, comes your reward: the first chapter of The Scooter Diaries. Seriously, this will be your new favorite blog and the best part is Ken has left absolutely no place to leave comments so you can just go, read, laugh and feel great. He says he has no interest in online networking, beyond sharing his adventures and raising money for the school. But he did send me a nice list of donors via my place here- including my daughter who called in the midst of a panic attack last night. She donated 25.00 on Paypal, which is a LOT for them and then, was instantly terrified that she had pledged 25.00 per mile for the entire 2500+ miles. Ah, me.

Go. Enjoy. Oh- and Bob? The ashes of one of Ken’s good friends, along for the ride.

My friend, Ken

…is one of the more colorful friends I have. I wanted to post a bit about him today because tomorrow he is getting ready to ride his Vespa scooter all the way across America, from Florida to California, to raise money for the children of Canoa, Ecuador. A few years ago he got involved in building a school there, in a small village without a school. They have been building La Escuela Bilingue los Algarrobos, one classroom at a time, each year trying to raise enough money to buy books and uniforms, and pay a meager salary to a teacher. You can read all about the school, the children and the village HERE.

(Here is their little school and the entire village of young children, teachers and EcoSurf volunteers.)

I can’t remember ever asking you guys directly to donate to a charitable cause and I can’t imagine a time when I would ask you again because, you know, everybody has plenty of charities they favor and not so much money right now. But here is the top ten list of reasons why you should go HERE and sponsor a few miles.

1. No matter how little money you have, you have more than they do. The school needs your help and you get a LOT of bang for your buck when you donate to them.

2. Ken adopted Stretch, the screech owl, at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve and is providing his food for a whole year.

3. Ken volunteers every single week at The Christmas Toy Shop here in St. Petersburg, repairing donated and discarded bicycles and at Christmas time, he gives them to all the families in St. Petersburg who can’t afford to buy them for their children. He is a curmudgeon with a big heart.

4. Ken bought a screech owl box at Wildlife Weekend and hung it in his tree. When our not so favorite neighbor attacked a honeybee hive, high up and bothering no one, out on the easement, with a can of hornet spray and insulation foam, the bees moved over to Ken’s owl house. As much as he wanted screech owls, he is letting the bees stay as long as they please.

5. Ken fought, long and hard, through the most miserable war, for his country. That would be you.(Scoot and Ken stop to see airplanes along the way. Ken flew helicopter rescue in Vietnam and went on to become a commercial pilot so he has interest in planes.)

6. Ken will write funny posts every day about his trip. They are funny because a) spelling is not his long suit and b) since it is just him and Scoot, he posts funny photos of Scoot doing things like admiring flowers, talking to policemen, enjoying a beer at a local diner. You can follow along with Scoot’s diary.

7. This is a ridiculously long trip for a 60-something guy to make on a Vespa Scooter and he needs all the encouragement he can get.

8. These photos of the first graduation at La Escuela Bilingue los Algarrobos illustrate the power and pride of education. When we help educate the children of the world we make it a better place for all of us.

9. Ken would do it for you. That’s a fact.

And the number one reason you should sponsor a few miles along Ken’s way:

He loves chickens!

We have no idea how long this trip will take. Ken thinks it will be about a month, give or take. We’ll keep his wife (the other Vicki, who helped me plant the new garden) company while he is gone, although she seems to do just fine on her own. They lived on a boat for a dozen years and half the time Ken would be flying off somewhere and she managed to entertain herself. Still, I know she will miss him.

Anyway, I think you should support Ken’s efforts to build the next classroom for the school. Death Valley and Bakersfield, California are already spoken for but you can sponsor as few or as many miles as you please through paypal or anyway you want, HERE. And then follow along as Ken and Scoot make their way across America.(Now that I think about it, he does sort of look like James Bond.)