Written for Scott and Denise Gerken's Hippitastic Vow Renewal

Picture
















Real love, strong love, lasting love is like a traditional Bluegrass duo.
Two voices singing in perfect harmony,
Each making the other more pure, more sure. 
Then, in turn, stepping out of the spotlight and playing background,
So the other can shine center stage.  
At the end of the night, all applause belongs to both, equally.  

Real love, strong love, lasting love is like a weekend at the lake.
A beautiful balance of motion and stillness,
Of blazing full-throttle toward destiny, hair whipping wild, leaving a wake.
Of floating with friends, happiness is meant to be shared, along with shots of bourbon whiskey. 

Of quiet moments drifting into minutes melting into hours of sun-soaked silence,
No words needed, just each other’s smiles. 


Real love, strong love, lasting love is like a well-built cabin.
Constructed with care on a firm foundation.
Sturdy enough to shelter those within from the storms that rage outside.
Yet, open enough to ensure its inhabitants have plenty of room to breathe…deep.
With wide windows where two can easily view the future.

Real love, strong love, lasting love is like your favorite tie-dye.
The colors of courtship, hues of the heart, and shades of two souls,
Swirling and whirling together to create a psychedelic pattern of…
You and me. Me and you. You and Me. Us.
Newlywed neon at first, then mellowing into the magical motif that is marriage.
And becoming more and more comfortable to wear with each passing year.

Real love, strong love, lasting love is like good moonshine.
First, the fire. Intense. Immense. Intoxicating.
Then the burn, the comfortable glow that starts out slow,
And seeps into the body, a wellspring of warmth and comfort.  
Then, the grin…that comes from knowing your commitment is 160 proof.

Real love, strong love, lasting love…
What everybody is searching for,
All anybody needs,
And what you have.


 
 
Picture
March 31. 2015 will go down as the most challenging day of my entire adult life. I awoke at 5am completely disoriented. I was in the same bed with the same man looking out the same window, but had a completely different view. The day before we had unhitched our floating house from the marina where we’ve lived for three years and moved it to a cove adjacent to our own property. It was a dream come true, that quickly became a nightmare.

So, back to 5am Tuesday. I couldn’t sleep. Neither could Frank. So we got up and made a big country breakfast replete with biscuits, eggs, gravy, sliced tomato--the works. It was lovely…then one of our worst fears came true. We heard a crash. Rufus, our lab-hellhound mix collapsed onto the floor. He was digging his front claws into the wood and his entire rear, including back legs, seemed paralyzed. He couldn’t stand. He couldn’t even sit. My first thought—spinal injury. He’d been running up and down the treacherous the rocks on the shoreline the evening before. Frank had already lost his beloved dog Mabel to the same sort of injury. He could not lose another. We had to get Rufus to the vet.

There was only one problem…well, actually several problems. The steps are not finished on our property, and even if they were we couldn’t carry a 115 pound dog up the steep hillside. And even if we could, our cars were still at the marina miles away. We’d thought of this. That is why we bought a pontoon for emergencies. However, we hadn’t yet launched it. The only transportation we had was a small jon boat, which is essentially a glorified canoe with a motor. Frank set out in it to Royalty’s Fishing Camp to get help while I tried to keep Rufus calm. Along the way, he called a friend with a pontoon. He met him at the shore. They zoomed back and the three of us carried Rufus on board. We hauled ass to our cars and loaded Rufus into my Scion. 

By the time we got to the animal hospital he was able to stand and stagger. After $440 worth of tests, it was determined that he had perhaps just over done it the day before or had a cramp. He walked out of the office was still far too weak and wobbly to make it down the hill. We needed our own pontoon in the water. So, we set out to find the most mellow launch. After settling on a place called Pandora, like the chick who released the box full of demons and with whom I was totally beginning to relate, we got our boat in Herrington. Once again, we carried Rufus across a swaying walkway and loaded him up. Frank would ferry him home. I would drive and meet them there.

Picture
I arrived at the property and realized that the only way for me to get to the house, where my much needed bourbon waited, was to descend Satan’s Stairway and then repel. So, in the caftan and cowboys boots that I’d thrown on in a panic earlier, I made my way down the mountain clinging to a rope and tree roots. Frank and Rufus returned shortly. By this time, the damn dog was trotting around like nothing had ever happened.

The day was far from over. We still had to pick up and move a 12 x 12 dock, two kayaks, and the jon boat we’d abandoned before our lease ran out at midnight. Two boats required two captains which meant I was going to have to learn to drive one. I took a crash course in piloting a pontoon and off we went. When we got to the marina, I got off to go gather the kayak’s while Frank went to pick up the dock. He didn’t return. I just thought he was off gabbing to some passing stranger as he is prone to do, then I heard the screaming echo off the water.

Mother fuckery, he’d just gotten the stitched out from his sawzall accident. I realized the screams were not of pain, but anger. The engine had died right when the wind kicked up. It pushed him to the far side of the shore where he was now stranded. He needed someone to pull him back, which meant I needed to man the jon boat and go retrieve him. Only one problem. I had no idea how to even start the damn motor. With a series of hand signals and yelling, Frank attempted to guide me through it. I climbed in and fired it up, but instead progressing in a straight line, it just started going in circles. The wind now made me her bitch and spun me like a top. I finally got back to the slip and fell out onto the concrete in a crying heap. A random fisherman seeing my distress offered to perform the rescue. I gladly allowed him to do so.


Picture
In the meantime, the Fairy Sisters, a pair of lesbian besties, poured me a stiff vodka cocktail, which I normally steer clear of because the white liquors make me as mean as a rabid badger. But, desperate times call for desperate drinking.

This time it was Dan the Dock Man to the rescue. He used his towboat to push me and the Bohemian Barge back to Bohemian Bay. Frank was following in the jon boat, but then an errant rope got wrapped around the prop and jacked up that motor. So, he tried the trolling motor, but the battery had died. I looked back just in time to see him take out an oar and begin to paddle. Almost immediately it snapped into two pieces once again leaving him adrift.

I couldn’t be bothered. I was too close to home and our stocked bar. I made it back and so did Frank…eventually with assistance from the same friend who'd helped us out with Rufus much earlier in what now felt like a sixty-five hour day. 


At 8pm, I downed a bourbon on the rocks and collapsed into the bed. I would like to say I downed a bourbon on the rocks, had a hot shower, and collapsed into bed, BUT we still don’t have running water. As I lay there looking through a familiar window at a still unfamiliar view, I analyzed all that had happened. What had it all taught me? That, no matter what happens, as long as Frank and I have each other and the generosity of the tight knit community of Lake Folk, we’ll be just fine. 


 
 
Picture
There is no going back. I have wiped out my savings and retirement on property, stairs, gravel, cable, wenches, wood, concrete, and immersible mining wire that costs $14.00 a foot. I rented out our house in Lexington on a one year lease. I gave the marina written notice that we’d be gone by April 1. I moved the cats here. So, in less than one week, we will unhook our house from Royalties and float away to Bohemian Bay, which is what I’ve decided to call the fairly remote cove that will be our new home. And, I am freaking the freak out. Seriously, I have never been so nervous about anything in my life.

Why? First off, I am terrified to go up and down the steep stair that are the only way to get from the water through the heavily-wooded forest and to the top of the hill where my car will be parked. On top of that, the lake is dropping. So near the bottom, we now have no stairs at all, and are going to have to climb by rope to the precarious ones that do exist. Second, at present, we have no electricity or water on the property. However, there are coyotes. And, I won’t have my tribe nearby. There is no Third Street Stuff or Holler Poets or Morris Book Shop or Carnegie Center or Sidebar where I know I will run into a friendly face. There is only the Village Inn where old men go to talk about what bait is working best on the bass. Also, here at the marina, I’m used to having neighbors, at least from April to November. There, I’ll be pretty much alone with myself most of the time. Have you met me? That’s a frightening prospect. Even more terrifying is all of the imagined monsters that may live in the depths and all of the horror-movie-scenarios that hijack the mind when darkness descends. Bad shit happens on the water…just watch Friday the 13th or Eden Lake or Zombie Lake or Lake Placid or Cape Fear  or Lake Dead…you get the picture. But, there is something even more horrific than the thought of a disfigured and clammy Jason Voorhees dragging me into the murky abyss. Brace yourselves…this is a dry county. No bourbon to be bought.

I should have been petrified three years ago when I quit the job, that it was a miracle I got in the first place, and sold 75% of my belongings and moved onto a houseboat. But, ignorance is bliss. And I was still in the honeymoon- sexallthetime-livingonlove phase of our marriage, so I couldn’t wait to be all cuddled up in that tiny space with Frank. And, I had big dreams of writing a bestselling book about the whole experience, which just didn’t happen. And, I still had downtown digs that I could always go back to. And, I had money in the bank in case of an emergency.

And, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had no idea how cold it could get on the water in the winter. Or how dangerous the lake can be if you don’t give it the proper respect. Or how tired you can get of dragging laundry and groceries and two giant dogs over treacherous terrain. Or how eerily quiet it can be at nine pm on a Thursday. Now, I know all of this and more, and we’re doing it anyway. Why? Because life is all about saying “Fuck you” to fear. So, the countdown begins. Wish me luck. 


 
 
PictureArt Courtesy of Marie Fox.
“So, he likes bigger girls?”
Disdain dripped from her voice.

How dare he make that choice?
When there are women who monitor every bite
In their constant fight,
To live up to society’s standards.





At first, I wanted to say,
Oh, hell no,
You did not go…
There.

Instead I decided to step back, realign, and redefine what it means to be a bigger girl.  

Let’s assume you mean I’ve got… 
Bigger dreams.
Bigger schemes.
Bigger role in the community scene.
Bigger world view.
Bigger scope of what’s true.
A bigger plan that don’t require no man.
And take bigger risks which reap bigger rewards.
My motto--go big or go bigger.

But, the choice is yours.
Resign to just get older.
Or commit to bigger, badder, bolder

The life of a voluptuary can be a little scary.
Luckily, these curves can hold copious amounts of courage.

Allowing me to be larger than life,
In this world that is rife,
With tiny and timid people,
Who are terrified to…
Demand what they need,
Both fail and succeed.
Hear their own heart.
Finish what they start.
Act up, speak out.
Say “fuck you” to doubt,
And challenge those weak and worn-out adages like,
“You can never be too rich or too thin.”

Yes, over the years my body has grown bigger.
But my head is where the real expansion has happened.
My brain is guilty of gluttony.
I’ve been gulping down and gobbling up,
Radical ideas, life experience, inspiration, revelation, art,
And saying “yes” to most any adventure that dare wander my way.
Becoming with each day more immense…voluminous…capacious.
Becoming bigger.

Focus on the words from my lips.
Not the spread of my hips.
I am not the mass of my ass.
Though to be honest I think my ass looks fine…real fine.

So, in answer to your question.
Yes, he likes bigger girls…
Wait. Ain’t no girls around here.
He likes bigger women…
And what person in their right mind wouldn’t?


Art Courtesy of Marie Fox who specializes in original figurative oil and acrylic paitings of curvy, strong women. To see more of her amazing work, visit her website, HERE.
Picture
Courtesy of Marie Fox
 
 
Picture
It’s National Chocolate Cake Day! Let’s celebrate with this super simple, scrumptious Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake with a Walnut Bourbon Butter Sauce. 

First, open your bourbon. I suggest taking periodic shots throughout the cooking process, so both you and the pot will be crocked. Get it…crock pot…anyway.

Next, remember to spray your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray or it will be a bitch to clean. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

Now, whip up your Batter:

1 cup baking mix of the Bisquick variety.
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa.
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix until as smooth as slow jazz and pour in slow cooker.

Next, make the Magic Pudding Concoction:
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 2/3 cup HOT water.

Mix it up. Pour it over batter. Avoid the urge to stir. Trust in the magic.

Turn it on HIGH, leave it for three hours. Take some time to yourself. Paint your toe nails. Write in your journal. Watch Sixteen Candles for the one hundred and sixteenth time. What can I say? I heart Jake Ryan.

Serve with Smack-Your-Mama Walnut Bourbon Butter Sauce:

1 cup toasted walnut pieces.

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons water
1 egg, beaten

Melt butter, stir in other ingredients, thicken. Pour over cake.

If you’re feeling especially bold, add a big dollop of vanilla ice cream. Take a bite and settle in for a cakegasm of epic proportions. Warning: Moaning may be so loud that it makes your neighbors blush. Enjoy.


 
 
PictureImage courtesy of Mother-Daughter Press and Gay Bumgardner Images.
This is the story of a raccoon, rash, and reclamation. Two nights ago, we heard scurrying and squeaking and deduced a raccoon had made our attic its winter vacation home. We decided to venture up and set a trap. So, we filled the humane cage with obstacles and marshmallows--according the the experts, these adorable, rabies-laden creatures love a challenge and spongy, sugar snacks. 

When I climbed the rickety ladder and emerged into the dark and drafty space, I discovered the entire room was blanketed in ivy. It looked like a C.S. Lewis novel come to life. I wanted to run to the center, throw myself in the plush greenery, and roll around until a unicorn galloped up and carried me into a magical kingdom where I would reign eternal as Queen. Then, I realized it wasn't ivy at all, but poison oak. I started itching immediately. I backed down the ladder and called Frank who then called Horse. Horse is Frank's "neck-down-man," which means he hires him for jobs that require no activity from the tonsils up. Horse's tale is one of pride, a pistol, and prison, but that's a whole different blog. 

Long story short, I decided we might as well clean out the attic while we were at it. Here is a list of the mysterious items I found lurking amidst the toxicodendron diversilobum:

Three vaccuum cleaners--we have all hard wood floors. 
A set of electric crackling logs--we don't have a wood fireplace.
A box of tarnished silver--I must have deemed it valuable enough to keep, but not enough to polish.
An entire box of casserole dishes--I only make three casseroles. Follow this link to my fave.
Three boxes of files with labels such as: Bank Statements 2002 and Hot Fall Looks 2005.
Some piece of furniture still in the original packing.
Several items that Frank snuck in and hid including a UK corn hole set, drums, and steer horns.
And, the beloved chocolate fountain that I last saw five years ago after a Christmas party. Today, I have reclaimed the ability to supply the masses with flowing chocolate goodness. It is a grand Friday, indeed. Huzzah!

 
 
Picture
Each year I am faced with a dilemma. Do I tell Frank exactly what to get me for Christmas and surrender the fun element of surprise OR do I let him shop on his own and end up with the craziest crap you’ve ever seen, which I then have to pretend to love. This year I let him go rogue…not a good decision. I received a purple furry sweatshirt that I’m fairly certain was stolen from one of the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba; two scented-candles in pumpkin and mulled spice (I've smelled all the cinnamon and nutmeg I can stomach this season); earrings which cause me an allergic reaction; a pair of gloves two sizes too big…and so on. But because I am the queen of faking a giftgasm, I squealed and gasped and acted thrilled. Until…I didn’t. Then, I put it all in a neat pile and asked if he’d kept the receipts.

Here is where you can start to think that I’m an ungrateful bitch. But it gets worse. Later, at our family’s celebration, I opened a gorgeous monogrammed jacket…with the wrong initials. On the way home in the car, I lost it and went on the most un-Christmas like rant ever. It went something like…“Do you know how many hours I spend cooking and shopping and online researching and running my ass off to make sure everyone else’s holidays are frickin’ perfect? And, I get nothing from you people. At least, nothing good.”

Then, I remembered my commitment to the first principle of the Blisskrieg. Believe Bounty. I allowed myself another half hour of sulking…alright, it was more like a full hour…and then went about being the most grateful girl on the planet.

Of course, I could have just acknowledged how lucky I was to be alive, healthy, homed, and loved on Christmas, which I realize is more than enough to send me to my knees with "Hallelujah!" on my lips. But a
ccording to Robert Emmons in his book Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, the real key to gratitude is specificity. He states that being specific “helps us avoid gratitude fatigue. The more discrete the elements, the less we will cease to recognize them or take any one of them for granted.” You should make what you are thankful for as specific as possible. So instead of just thinking, “I’m grateful that I have food,” you should get detailed and think, “I am thankful that these beets are not only tasty, but have restorative properties that will repair my liver.”  

Using this lesson, here are a few things I am thankful for today (in no certain order):
1) Angus the Cat's 4am purring which lulls me back to sleep from a nightmare when nothing else will.
2) 
The musky odor that Frank gives off after a hard day’s work—If you bottled it, the scent would be called “Proud Provider”
3) The satisfaction that comes with writing the last sentence of a chapter.
4) How Doc Grizzly and Rufus greet me with unbridled excitement and pure love even when I've only been gone five minutes. 
5) The Village Inn’s $2.65 cheeseburger with all the fixins.
6) The primordial squawk of the heron that heralds the beginning of each day on the lake.
7) That first sip of hot coffee in the morning and cold bourbon in the evening. 

In University of Southern California study, they found that instead of naming five different things you were thankful for, it was more rewarding to name five separate details about one thing.

We’ll try this on the gloves that were two sizes too big.
1) I am lucky enough to have all ten fingers and therefore fill out a pair of gloves.
2) They were proof that Frank does listen to me sometimes--I did say I needed black gloves.
3) We live in a society with the technology to invent handwear touchscreen compatible.
4) This week, it's been too warm for gloves anyway. 
5) The store where he purchased them has a very liberal holiday return policy.


 
 
Picture
There is a word in the German vocabulary that pretty much sums up my every-other-day state-of-mind for the last fifteen years. It is Weltschmerz, which translates as that melancholy feeling that overcomes you when you realize that your life and the world will never be what you'd like it or expected it to be. It was once described as the inherent sadness of mortality.

Recently, with all of the disturbing trends in police behavior, political confusion, renewed racial tensions, environmental destruction, holiday pressures, and overall disgruntlement by the majority with the state of the world, Weltschmerz is easy to adopt.

Personally, I I am constantly fighting it off. Don’t get me wrong. I know that I have a good life, in many ways a grand life. Parts of it have been so surprising and amazing they have exceeded expectation. Other areas, people, and experiences have not. I grapple with the overwhelming feeling that I have not lived up to my potential. In my early twenties, I was certain that I would move to New York and become a soap opera villainess. I did move to New York and nail an audition with the short lived serial “The City,” but fame and fortune did not find me. Then I wrote and produced a film that I was just sure would hit it big. And it might have…if we hadn’t lost our funding halfway through the final edit…but that’s a different story. Then, as I moved into my late thirties…early forties, I was certain I would become a best-selling author. I haven’t given up on that dream, but it seems more distant than it did ten years ago. I thought I’d stay svelte and fit with little to no effort, but apparently my ass didn’t get the memo. I was sure there were certain people who would never let me down.

I’ve had fleeting moments of overwhelming happiness and genuine success, but I’m seeking perpetual peace and impenetrable joy. I’m on a search for the kind of happy that comes from deep inside and cannot be swayed by outside circumstances.  

So, have decided to launch a Blisskrieg…a full-on assault against unhappiness.

I have come up with an five-step game plan in the form of a handy acronym to help me achieve this BLISS.

Believe Bounty

Live Love

Ignore the Imp

Sustain Self

Seek Source

I’ll explain each principle as I attempt to master them. Today, I rest, in preparation. Tomorrow, I’ll begin my battle against the blues by learning to Believe Bounty



 
 
Picture
Last night at the Nomadic Ink Holiday Party, I won the 53-Word story contest. The theme was loosely Christmas. It was voted on by my peers. I got a prize, and not a tacky leg lamp either. Still, to most this would be a minor victory…a very minor victory. But after a week that seemed to last seventeen days instead of seven and was filled by disappointment, loss, political unrest, serious stress, and a headache that would not go away, this little win felt like a Pulitzer Prize. Here is my 53-Word story, entitled "Leftovers." 

 
Leftovers

Alice slathered a thick layer of gelatinous, red spread on the turkey sandwich she was meticulously making for her husband. He’d complained the meat was dry.

She firmly believed cranberry sauce was the most underrated of all holiday fare. Its tart and tangy flavor could completely mask the acrid taste of rat poison.
_________________________________________________________________________


If you would like to read more 53-Word stories or submit your own, head over to their official site 53wordstory.com. December’s theme is “Flying.” 


 
 
Picture
They say the two best days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. Yesterday, we sold our small boat, The Muse, but the happiness hasn’t quite set in yet. 

Here’s a little back story. One weekend, friends and I were taking in a band on Sunset Marina, the dock that regularly hosts the wildest parties on the water. I overindulged a bit in their hospitality and needed to escape the rowdy mob. So, I wandered the slips trying to find refuge when I saw a little boat that seemed to be abandoned. Upon closer inspection, I saw a “For Sale” sign, so I went up and found that the padlock on the front was broken. I slid  open the door, sneaked to the bedroom, and pulled a Goldilocks. I slept like a baby angel until I was awakened by the desperate calls from my friends who’d decided to go home and realized I was missing. I said good-bye to my new boat friend and returned to my own marina.

The next morning I awoke in my own bed and realized that the little boat was the answer to my prayers. In 2012, I decided I wanted to take on the challenge of living on the lake for a full year, but there was no way our boat, Lakematized, could accommodate me, Frank, two dogs, and two cats. And, there was no way we could afford a houseboat large enough to do so. However, we could afford a small 1972 steel-hulled, Cumberland to house the cats, my office, and guests. My dream of lake life could become a reality.

We found out the owner was an elderly man who absolutely adored the lake and lived there until he passed. He had a cat. It was an omen. So, we bought the little boat that I hijacked that July night and named her The Muse. It soon became my haven. Upon stepping on board, I always felt engulfed by peace and safety. Whenever I couldn’t sleep, or was mad at Frank, or just feeling sad and angsty, I would go sit on that boat and let it rock the blues away. Whenever I had to stay here overnight all alone, I'd lock myself in and know that The Muse would protect me until morning. 

Yesterday, with hardly any notice a man showed up to look at The Muse. He came back within three hours with cash and supplies so he could stay on it for the night. Selling a boat at this time of year is a huge blessing. I should be thrilled, but I’m so sad. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to say good-bye. I wanted to bask in the memories of all of the fabulous friends who made it their home for the weekend. I wanted to remember the "before and after" and take pride in all the work we'd done to her. 
I wanted to take one more nap on that little boat before letting her go. 

Maybe I still can. After all, my relationship with The Muse started with trespassing. It should end that way too. The next time I know the new owner is out-of-town, I’m going to break back in, and give the little boat a proper thank you and farewell.