McKenzie Free

One woman's quest for greater understanding through freedom of self expression.



If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many women in the world who find it difficult to trust men, here’s a little story that might help you gain some insight.

I met a man online.  I’ve met many men online in the past…Tall, Thin, Short, Stocky, Funny, Intelligent, Slow, just looking for sex, wanting to get married, Rich, poor, and all shades in between…Like I said ALL kinds.  This particular man’s name was Bill and he purported to want a relationship.   He lived an hour south of me so we began emailing, then texting daily, several times a day.  He was crazy about me, loved my personality, wanted to see if we could have a relationship.  I thought that he was strong, funny, a hard worker, a great potential partner.

He got a job in the area and we met and dated.   And then, I invited him to my home where we made love followed immediately by him having a stroke.   I knew right away what was happening because he began speaking incoherently (he’d had nothing to drink) and couldn’t say anything clearly.   Strokes are one of my biggest fears and one of the main reasons I don’t date men my own age or older.   So I know the signs of a stroke:  Face Drooping; Arm Weakness; Speech Trouble; time to dial 911.

I was shaking and crying when ten minutes later five para-medics arrived in my bedroom and began asking the obvious questions.   Did he have a previous history of stroke?  What had we been doing?  They zipped him off to the local medical center and for the next five days I visited him in the ICU.

The first morning I met his parents.  Not the best way to meet a man’s parents, but they were kind enough.   His father told me that Bill had told them about me.  How nice, I thought, to be that close to one’s father.

The next day his parents were there and so was another woman.   About my age, similar in look to me, sitting by his bed very territorially. As soon as I arrived his parents got up and left.  On her way out the door his mother turned to us and said, “He’s just like his father.  I can’t tell you how hard I tried to make that not happen.”  I thought she was talking about his horrible sense of humor!  The other woman, Shanna, seemed a bit possessive and I didn’t know who she was so I left her to it and told him I’d come back another time.

The next day, yet another woman was there to visit.   She was sweet and said she was a friend of his and we chatted and visited together while he slept.

He was slowly gaining speech, by day three he could now string four word together, but his memory was very bad.   He didn’t remember who had been to visit him, and it wasn’t until day three that he remembered where he had been when he had the stroke.

By day four he remembered who I was and could talk enough to ask me to keep visiting.  “I feel really good about you”, he told me.

My friends couldn’t help but make jokes about how I was so good in bed I almost killed a man.  I felt guilty that it happened when he was with me, even though I knew it could have happened anywhere.  For four days I visited him several times a day trying to help with his rehabilitation.  I worried he might not regain full use of his right side.  I worried that his aphasia wouldn’t heal, that he wouldn’t regain his memory, that this once vital man would never be the same again.

On Sunday, Day five, I called into the ICU to ask to visit and the nurses response was, “Why not, come on back, there’s already two of you in there.”   I walked into Bill’s room to see two women, who looked just like my reflection in a mirror, sitting calmly while Bill slept (or pretended to).  And then, I got it.  I know it seems as though it took me a long time but in my defense I would like to say that the experience of having someone have a stroke in your bed is traumatizing and exhausting.

“Hello Ladies.”, I said.

Woman Number One asked, “How long have you been seeing him?”

“It doesn’t’ really matter, I’m pretty sure today will be the last time.”

It turns out that Woman Number One was his girlfriend of seven years.  She said to me, “What am I supposed to do, his name is on everything”.   I told her she was asking the wrong woman for advice.  I would have lit his hospital bed on fire, sold his truck and kept the money, and walked away.

I walked out of his room and the nurse asked if I was okay.  Okay?  No, not okay.  The man who had a stroke in my bed was seeing at least three other women.  The nurse told me she’d counted four so far.  I’m certain there are more.   I think one of his buddy’s thought it would be funny to text every woman he was seeing and let them know where he was.

His truck had been in my driveway the entire week.  I asked Woman Number One to contact his parents and have it moved.  They were at my house within an hour moving that truck.  They clearly had gotten the message that I was a woman scorned and knew his truck might not be safe in my driveway any longer.  As it turned out I was on my second glass of wine when they arrived and had been thinking evil thoughts of revenge.  Men do so cherish their trucks; and in this instance clearly it was more cherished than any female he had a relationship with. I thought of lighting it on fire, sugar in the gas tank, flattening all the tires, keying “lying, cheating bastard” down the side.  Thank heaven they arrived before I finished glass number three and saved me from myself!

I can only believe that everyone who knows him knew about all the women he was lying to and cheating on, and they all, including his parents allowed him to continue on without letting any of us know how he was using us.

I don’t understand the fun a man gets from lying to a woman?  Surely in 2018 if you want to have no strings attached sex there are enough women who want the same thing.  You don’t have to tell lies to get sex. Why did he need me to think I’m the only one?  Why keep pretending and saying he wanted something real with me?  Was it because he knew when we finally all found out it would hurt that much more?

Five women?  NO wonder he had a stroke.  Men I know tell me it’s difficult enough to have a relationship with one woman!  And, I keep asking myself, how did he ever get any work done?   Texting five women all day long and keeping the stories straight has to be time consuming and difficult.   Is there an app for this?

All I can say is…Kharma is a bitch.  I no longer feel sorry for him having had a stroke.  I will not be visiting again.  I’m debating the pros and cons of celibacy and lesbianism.   When I land on a decision I’ll update you here.

Full Disclosure:  I usually change the names in my stories to protect the guilty but in this case I think it is important that other women know this man’s modus operandi because should he regain his health he will surely go back to his old games.

His name is William H. Clarke.  He lives in or outside of Roseburg, Oregon.  He runs Tower Towing and….he is a proven liar and a cheat.


Women, gals, babes, chicks, ladies, etc.

Here is what’s on my mind today.  I should be thinking about finding a job since I just resigned my current position and will be penniless soon.  Instead I’m wondering why it is so difficult for so many men to use the term “woman” when referring to members of the opposite sex.  Since I’m still single at 62 (yes, get that word out there, there must be one good man left somewhere!) I read a lot of profiles on dating sites.  In not one of them have I ever found man who is looking for a woman.  They are all looking for a “sweet gal”, a “nice girl”, a “beautiful lady”, a “loyal spouse”, a “good-looking babe”, a “down-to-earth Princess” (what an oxymoron that one is!).  There are so many terms I could go on almost endlessly: little woman; old lady; ball and chain; chick; queen bee; dame.   Apparently there are no men, at least in my age group, looking for a woman.

Full disclosure….no one who knows me would ever describe me as a “sweet gal”.   My friends who are reading this all have big grins on their faces right now just thinking about it.  I’m a strong woman: funny; irreverent; loyal; passionate.  I can be sweet…I AM sweet sometimes…but no one would describe me as sweet or as a gal.  This puts me at a complete disadvantage when looking for a man.

My last long-term relationship came about because after meeting me for the first time, my date wrote me an email in which he referred to me as a “strong woman”.  He wasn’t afraid of it, didn’t expect me to hide it or apologize for it, and let me know he’d be there for me if there were times I didn’t want to have to be so strong.  Those words endeared him to me immediately and he remains a cherished friend.

Women, and the Marines,  continue to look for a few good men.  We find it easy and simple to use that word to describe members of the opposite sex.  I’m sincerely interested to hear some male perspectives about why it seems difficult and awkward for most men to refer to women as women.

“In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Alfred Tennyson

It’s spring and a time when both young and old men’s minds appear to turn to thoughts of…well…getting laid.  I wish it turned to thoughts of love but in my experience this doesn’t seem to be the case.  I think old Al was just trying to stay within the confines of polite society when he wrote that.

This period when men’s minds take this flight of fancy is very brief.  It appears to take place sometime between the end of hunting season and the beginning of trout stocking by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  But, if you stay alert, the signs are all around us.

Men who normally never look up from their cell phones look up and smile when you walk into a bar or restaurant.  Some may even say hello while in line with you at the coffee shop or grocery store.   And all of the sudden your online dating profile that hasn’t gotten a response from an authentic person (other than continual hits by online scammers easily weeded out by emails such as “Good Morning by Beauty, my Queen”) has some winks and greetings from living, breathing males.

Unfortunately, as appears true with all things in life, this too has its pros and cons.   Men and women’s brain really don’t function the same and if you look at the differences, especially those involved in dating and mating, it’s sometimes amazing the species manages to continue to procreate at all.

In my use of online dating sites I’ve noted one very important difference and that is: men only look at the pictures.   Women will look at the pictures and review the background of the photo looking for clues into the man’s lifestyle choices.  We will read the profile in detail (assuming they’ve written one, many men only fill in the number of spaces needed with Xs).  We will ask our friends for their opinion of what we’ve read and viewed.   We may be attracted to a man but we still want to know if he’s smart, kind, funny, a homebody or a nightowl. We want to know whether or not he’ll want to go dancing, hiking or to the theatre with us.

Men, on the other hand, look at the photos.  If they are attracted to you it doesn’t seem to matter if you have nothing at all in common, are as high maintenance as possible, or have been married ten times.   Those things can all be overlooked because they are focused on visual cues only.  If you don’t believe me check out “The Triggers of Sexual Desire: Men vs. Women”, Leon Seltzer, Psychology Today.  Neuroscience apparently has proven what some of us have always known.

So what this looks like on the receiving side of this male interest is an inbox full of emails from men who are very clearly, right from the beginning, not partner material.  Yet, when you point out to them that you have nothing in common, do not share similar tastes or lifestyles, they fail to see it.  They either get angry at your for not “giving them a chance”, or argue with you that “you won’t know until you try it”.

I would hope that at a certain age, and this writer is now (as much as I hate to admit it) over 60, you would “know before you try it”.  I know I will not be compatible with a man whose income is well below mine.  Not because I’m a money-grubbing hussy, but because I want a partner who can afford to enjoy the same lifestyle that I do.  It simply won’t work out when he can’t afford the dinner out, the movie or theatre ticket, or the vacation that I can afford and very much want to take.

I know I will not be able to date a smoker.  I’ve tried it before and I am way too allergic for this to work out no matter how much I may care for a person.

I know that if a man is old enough to date me and has never been married or lived with someone longer than five years…. he most likely won’t be able to relate to my life experiences.

I know that if a man is very serious and doesn’t get my (sometimes dark and morbid) sense of humor that we will not last.

So, I very much appreciate the “likes” on my photos; I’m grateful for the compliments; but I’m also happy to know that the first rivers and reservoirs are being stocked with trout this weekend!

The worst real estate deal that never got done (and how you can avoid the same mistake)

A couple of years ago I had a great plan for my future.  I was going to sell my house, pay off all of my debt, and purchase a very small condo with just enough room for the essentials of life.  What ended up happening was one of the worst mistakes of my adult life.

First, instead of calling the realtor I knew was the best in the area, I contacted another realtor who was a friend.  I thought that selling my home would not be difficult based on it’s location and price point and that she could certainly use the commission.

My back yard lawn had died the previous summer and she insisted I replace it with sod in order to make the property saleable (read, spend dollars$$$$).  I also needed to replace the flooring in the back bedroom where I had pulled up the carpet the year before (more $$$).

After months of the daily struggle to keep the house viewing ready, after very little traffic and on the same day I was going to call and fire her, we received an offer on the house.  It was a bit lower than what I originally wanted but I worked the numbers and decided to accept.  The buyers had a funding pre-approval letter from a mortgage brokerage firm that has a good reputation.

I began to prepare for closing by selling and giving away all my possessions that were not essential.  This included furniture (beds from the extra rooms, my mother’s dining room table, book shelves), lawn furniture, tools (saws, ladder, lawn mower), the freezer from the garage, etc.  I pared down my possessions until I had just enough to fill a one bedroom apartment.

Next, I went in search of an apartment with a short-term lease to move into while looking for the perfect condo to purchase.  The rental costs in the area surprised me, apparently driven higher than one would expect from a town this size by the local university housing shortage.  After exploring what the area had to offer and trying to stay within my budget I put a deposit down on an apartment and began to plan my move.

I hired local movers, set a date to turn my utilities off at the old house and on at the apartment, changed my mailing address, and all the other things one does when planning a household move.

Then, the closing date was pushed back by the buyers, not by a few days, but by weeks.  Their funding was taking longer than anticipated.  Understandable, I suppose, but it caused me to have to let the apartment go rather than pay rent on two places and my initial deposit of $500 was not refundable.  This was becoming a costlier move than anticipated.

I set about undoing all my moving prep and began my apartment search anew.  I found another apartment, available for move in a month later than the first one, and placed a deposit down again.  Meanwhile, I began packing for the intended move.

Three days before our closing date I had no word from my realtor about setting a specific time and place so I contacted her to get the information.  I was told again that the buyers still had not received funding.  Now, I was getting angry, and I didn’t understand how this could be the case.  In the past I’d received a closing date within days of the loan going to the underwriter.  So I contacted another friend, a mortgage broker who just happened to work where the buyers had received a pre-approval letter, and asked her what might be holding up the funding.  She couldn’t tell me anything confidential, of course, but what she could tell me was that they had denied my buyers funding three days after they had put an offer on my house.  The moment they got past the pre-approval into real due diligence they hit an insurmountable road block.

I called my real estate agent and asked if she had known this.  Her response:  “Oh, yeah, did I forget to tell you that?”  She then begged me to hang in there with her and even had the buyers current mortgage broker call and beg me not to walk away from the deal, given me extensive details about the couple’s autistic children and how badly they needed my house.   Against my better judgement, I waited again.  At one point my realtor actually suggested I put all of my things in storage and go live with my sister until the deal finalized.

I’m sure by now you know what happened.   The buyers never received funding, the deal fell through, and I was now sitting in a packed up three bedroom home with very little furniture, not much on the walls and none of the tools necessary for upkeep.  I was out several thousand dollars, including another apartment deposit and repairs to the home requested by the buyer.  I also lost a friend.

Because my realtor never informed me that the buyers had failed to get funded initially, I was denied the opportunity to walk away from the deal at that time or to include an addendum that if they failed to receive funding I would be able to keep their earnest money.  Because of my realtor’s incompetence, I lost thousands of dollars with no recourse to be reimbursed.

If you use a realtor to buy or sell a home ensure that you choose wisely.  Ask for referrals and call for references.   A good realtor should keep you informed daily about traffic on their website and within your market area.  They should always have your interests in the forefront, not their own or that of the other party.  If you do not feel you are getting the service you are going to pay a very high price for at closing…do not hesitate to cancel the contract and move forward with someone else.  Your home is your biggest asset; protect it as vigorously as possible.








via Daily Prompt: Restart

What a perfect daily prompt for me!  I get a kick out of the way when anything goes wrong with your computer or software the first thing your IT Technician will ask is: “Did you try restarting your computer; modem; roku box; etc.?”  I love that with technology you can just hit the restart button and hope for improved results.

As anyone who struggles with clinical depression knows, you don’t need anything in your life to actually be depressed about for your mind to trigger a depressive episode. However when bad things do happen it makes it doubly difficult to keep yourself on a level playing field.  Depression usually represents repressed anger which has been turned inward.  In my instance,  I have been angry at myself for a very along time for all of the seemingly bad decisions I have made since my divorce twelve years ago.

Over the course of the last two years several depressing life events occurred.   For very complicated reasons I broke off my engagement to a wonderful man; I lost thousands of dollars when the sale of my home fell through; and then the country elected a misogynistic Cheeto as our nation’s commander and chief.  These sad developments piled one on top of another until I fell into a pit of despair that I was unable to climb out of.

After two years of isolating myself (isolation of family and friends is one of the key signs of depression), lacking energy, feeling exhausted, gaining 35 lbs., and abusing alcohol I had a wake up call.  I was given an opportunity to visit Australia this January.  A free vacation made possible by an old friend who I greatly love and admire.  Three weeks in the sunshine in what is normally a dark and dreary time of year here.  Most likely the best vacation I’ve ever had and yet I was unable to feel the level of joy I knew this experience should bring. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good trip, but everything was a bit dulled.

This realization was the impetus I needed to make some drastic changes in my life.   Three things collided and helped to hit the “restart” button on my brain.   First, we have had a mild winter with much less rain than usual.  This added to my three weeks in sunny Australia helped lighten my mood.

Second, I visited a sleep doctor to see if C-Pap masks have gotten any better since I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea ten years ago.  (Patients with obstructive sleep apnea wear a face mask during sleep which is connected to a pump  that forces air into the nasal passages at pressures high enough to overcome obstructions in the airway and stimulate normal breathing.)  As it turns out the new masks are far more comfortable and less claustrophobic than those I couldn’t tolerate previously.  This has led to me being able to getting a good night’s restorative sleep for the first time in ten years.

Third, and most important, I stopped drinking alone at night.  Always a social drinker, for the last two years I began having a glass of wine every evening to unwind after a stressful day at work, and to counteract all the caffeine I was drinking to help stay awake at work every day after a night without restorative sleep.  A glass of wine over the course of time became a bottle of wine.  Alcohol is a depressant, so although I continued to take my anti-depressant every morning, I was pouring a depressant down my throat every evening.

For a month I quit drinking altogether whether I was out to dinner with friends or home alone.  Now I allow myself a glass of wine or two when socializing, but I  have one firm, fast rule; No drinking alone (and the dog doesn’t count–I must be with a human companion!)

As of today I have more energy than I’ve had in years and I once again look forward to time spent socializing with family and friends.  I am playing with my dog, singing to myself as I go about my household chores, and laughing at the daily frustrations in life that used to make me feel that I couldn’t go on.

I am still saddened that our current President’s racist, homophobic and misogynistic behavior make it appear as though the country’s social consciousness hasn’t improved since the 1950s, but it is no longer making me unable to get out of bed in the morning.  I have hit the restart button on my brain and I’m enjoying life again.




 “We are all only one step away from insanity.”

Morgaine Eucalyptus Freeman, Death Row Inmate, Mississippi State Penitentiary


I sensed something wasn’t right that day.  Although all the windows were open the air was too still.  It felt like it does when you walk into a house that’s been closed up for months. So I wandered outside to the front porch with my coffee to see if I could catch a breeze.

John had gotten up hours ago and was off on an errand of some kind.  He was always busy although it seemed nothing ever came of all his activity.  My mother would have called it “puttering” although that was a term usually applied to much older men than John.

I heard a noise from the barn and saw a flock of sparrows fly up into the trees.   We called it a barn, and I suppose it was once, but now it was just a dilapidated out-building used for nothing but storing the remains of projects John had set aside each time something more intriguing came along.  John had big plans to repair it when we first bought the property but, as with many things, the plans never became a reality.

I heard another noise.  I couldn’t quite place the sound so I got up from the porch and wandered out to see what it was.  Probably a small animal had gotten itself trapped in there somehow.   Hopefully not a possum.  We’d had a possum live under our porch for a while and they were mean creatures.

As I neared the barn door the noise became clearer and, although I didn’t want to believe what my brain was telling me, it was moaning.   The long, low moaning of a woman in the throws of sexual pleasure.   I walked in to see my neighbor Tessie, up against the wall, dress thrown up around her waist, her legs spread wide.  A man was kneeling before her with his head in her crotch.  I knew the back of that head and those broad shoulders intimately.  I recognized the jeans I had just washed, folded and put away in his dresser the previous night.

I picked up the closest thing to me, which was an old shovel leaning against the wall, and I swung it at his head.  He fell aside and I swung at her knocking her down. And then I just kept swinging until there was blood everywhere and I had no more strength.

My name is Evelyn Moore and I now reside in Salem, Oregon.  I’m an inmate at the Oregon State Prison.  That’s where you go when you beat two people to death with a shovel and then call 911 to tell them you think some people are dead.  This is the end of my story and every day now I wonder when my story took a turn towards this ending.   Had I always had that violence in me?  Had I wanted John dead for a long time like the District Attorney said I did?   Was that always somewhere deep inside me, only to come out that day?  Where did it begin?

I have very few memories from my early childhood.  The shrinks here all have different theories about why this is.  Perhaps nothing too memorable happened, or perhaps horrible things happened and not remembering them is my minds way of protecting me.  We will never know.  My first vivid memory is when I was about five years old.


In a writing class I’m taking one woman repeatedly asked the same question over and over again one night.  Her question was “Why?”  What she wanted to know was, “Why would anyone want to read what I have to write?”   When asked why she reads, she replied, “I don’t really.   I don’t have time.  I’m basically illiterate?”  You might think in a class of writers that we would take offense to someone who doesn’t read but I sensed nothing of the sort among us.  I can’t answer for everyone but I suspect that most of us write for the same reason we read, and for the same reason I’d like to read her stories, and it’s because I’m continually asking the same question she is, “Why?”

I began writing as soon as I learned to hold a pen and I’ve always been an incessant reader.   Put me in a room with nothing to read and I’ll find a poster on the wall or directions on how to use the microwave and I’ll start reading.   Reading and writing have always been a means for me to try and understand “Why?”  The heading on my blog remains “One woman’s quest for greater understanding through freedom of self-expression”.

Since I was born I’ve been trying to figure out why people act the way they do?  Why was I put on the planet and is any of it supposed to make any sense?  Why do we respond the way we do in situations? Why is one person considered successful and another not?  Why are parents, who are the people children rely on to keep them safe, often the ones who harm children the most?  Why did Michael O’Brien love his baseball cap more than me?  Why did my brother cut off all my dolly’s hair?  Why did my sister wear seven pairs of socks and take one off each day so it would look like she had clean one’s on?  Why are people attracted to each other?  Why didn’t my Daddy love me?  Or, if he did, why couldn’t he show it?  Why does the one male director in my Agency seem to not have to follow any rules of norm?   Why have I failed to find a lasting partner while my best friends are happily ensconced in a long-term love affair with each other that’s lasted 30 years?  Why? Why? Why?   I’m like a three year old who never got past the questioning phase.  Everything about human behavior is interesting to me and I want to know more about it.

Currently one of the most popular TV programs on the air is NBC’s number 1 rated “This Is Us”.   According to Forbes Online, the trailer for the second season of this show got a whopping 105 million views.  What’s the show about?   A family.  A mother, a father, and three kids.  Regular parents with a relatively regular family.  Two twins, a boy and a girl, and an adopted brother born on the same day.   The children are adults when the show takes place with weekly flashbacks into their lives growing up.

Why is it so popular?   I think it’s because we all want to know the answer to “why”?    Why is one twin a normal weight while the other is morbidly obese?  Why did the parents choose not to tell the adopted son about his birth parents?   Why were the parents attracted to each other?  Was their style of parenting like ours?  Like our parents? Is it better?  Is it worse?  Did it work?

We all read and watch and write in order to be entertained, certainly.  But why is it entertaining?   It entertains us because it’s a way of trying to understand the world around us and the life we find ourselves living.  If next season finds that Chrissy Metz, who plays the twin sister Kate, is suddenly able to drop 100 pounds and find solace in something other than food I will be on the edge of my seat hoping she has finally solved the riddle of why so many of us have this love/hate struggle with food.  Why do we struggle when so many others don’t?  Why is this our particular cross to bear?

So I continue to ask the question, “Why?”, and in response to my fellow classmate I want to read your story because I’m fascinated by human behavior and still desperate to know:  Why were you in the dorm room to begin with, why was your hand on that suitcase so ready to flee, why were you still in the room when the roommate and her mother finally appeared, what happened next and ….why?…why?….why???

The Red Sofa

The email attachment downloaded slowly and the first photo finally opened up in full screen.  My eyes were immediately drawn front and center to the remains of what had once been my beautiful, red leather sofa.  That sofa had been my first solo purchase after leaving my beige husband of 20 years and had symbolized freedom to me.   It wasn’t the wine red or dull maroon of the overstuffed sofas you most frequently saw in furniture stores.   It was a glistening cherry red reminiscent of bright, sugary, cherry pie and small in stature as if tailor made to fit my 5’3” frame perfectly.

Bits of red, no longer bright, were still visible amidst the soot and smoke surrounded by water saturated split open boxes, the contents spilling out everywhere.  Here lay my personal history strewn randomly across the prairie:  melted photo albums; half a painting bought in a small shop in Aspen; a shattered tea set I picked up in London; what appeared to be a piece of the hand-made lamp I’d purchased in Connecticut.   Smoke and smoldering fire were apparent in the background and on the very edge of the photo stood a firefighter in full gear water gushing out of the hose he held pouring over the piles of burning goods and grassy Wyoming prairie.   Next to him the remains of what had been a shiny, new 18-wheeler now partially melted like a cheap plastic toy that was left too long in the August sun.

I sat at my desk in my new office and stared out the window at the park and the river beyond.  I wasn’t certain I wanted to see the rest of the attached photos.  It was my boss’ idea to have our business lawyer contact the only Attorney’s office in the small town in Wyoming outside of which the moving van carrying all my belongings had caught on fire  eventually destroying four families possessions and 500 acres of prairie land.  The moving van had been on its way to meet me in New York City where I had begun my new job as CFO for an international not-for-profit a week earlier working out of the God Box, the tongue in cheek nickname for The Interchurch Center building located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The attorney already knew about the fire.  In a town with a population of 9,500, most of whom were dispersed far outside the 2.95 square miles that comprised the town limits, this was the biggest thing to happen for some time.  He immediately sent someone out to photograph the wreckage and clean-up and multiple photos of the site were now awaiting my review.

It was difficult to even believe that it was only a few hours ago I’d received my very first phone call at my new job.  The administrative assistant came in to my office to let me know I had a call.  “Someone asked for me by name?” I’d asked her.  “Who even knows I work here yet?”

I picked up the phone to hear, “This is (a name I don’t remember) from (a Van Line I will not name).   The moving van carrying your items has caught on fire. Nothing is salvageable.”

Since I had just gone through the process of pairing down everything I owned from a three bedroom house allowing myself to only keep enough to fill two rooms; what was left in that van were only items that were completely necessary or that truly brought me joy.  To think that none of my precious belongings could be saved was hard for me to believe so I forged ahead and looked at multiple pictures of the decimation of my material goods.  I had come to New York with my dog, Petunia the Pitt Bull, and one carry-on suitcase of casual clothes.  I had mailed myself a blow up bed, sheets and towels that were delivered the day I arrived.  From the looks of these pictures I’d be sleeping on a blow-up bed for some time to come.

This was my thirtieth move, including several cross-country and one international, so I knew quite a bit about moving in general.  I could pack up a three bedroom house into sealed stackable boxes in 24 hours flat.  I was an expert at when to use bubble wrap, saran wrap and packaging tape; when to use a box, when to use a bag and when to throw the item away and buy a new one when you arrive.  Within all my experience there was nothing to tell me how to handle this type of loss.

It was my boss, again, who came up with the idea that helped me move forward.  She said, “Think of it as an opportunity.  You were going to make items you’d purchased for a three bedroom home fit somehow into your new apartment.  Now you have a fresh slate.  Hire a designer and make your new apartment a showcase with items purchased specifically for it.”

A designer?  Me?  Seriously?

I had been born into poverty.  Through hard work and education I worked my way up to a solid, resolute working class existence.  The idea of something as extravagant as paying someone else for their opinion on how my home should look was a hard one for me to digest but what I knew for sure was that I was in no emotional state to be making decisions alone.   It was completely possible that if left to my own I might purchase the first items I saw with no regard for anything but filling my empty space.  I could wake up from my emotional daze in a few months broke and living in the apartment version of a government office; functional, dark and unattractive.

Luckily, I had been insured both through the van line and through my home owner’s policy.  What I learned about property insurance, loss, damage and the depreciated value of goods could fill another book but in a few weeks I would be receiving a check.   So I called up a designer recommended by one of my new office mates.  Upon hearing I had a budget of $30,000 to furnish a two room apartment, an amount that I thought was extremely generous, my designer commented, “Oye, we’ll have to shop retail!”

And then, almost before I knew what happened we were off and shopping.  First stop the largest Crate and Barrel store I’d ever been in; a two- story extravaganza on Madison Avenue.  I don’t know how most designers work but this particular one worked from the ground up.  The first thing she wanted me to choose were my rugs.  From this she got an idea of the colors I liked and the rest fell into place from there.

For the living room I chose a striped wool rug with deep fall tones of red, orange, gold, green, and brown and out of that simple choice grew a room with a red accent wall, a soft green sofa and chair, with bright red and orange pillows and unique one of a kind lamps.

The bedroom became a softer space with a place for sleep and a place for work and study.  The room came alive with a pale green rug on the floor and a matching accent wall, a Caribbean-style bed and armoire with wicker insets, a gold wicker chair at the desk and a mock sea chest as my bedside table.

The three feet of counter space that served as my kitchen needed some bar stools and, you guessed it, cherry red leather seemed the perfect choice!  We then spent weeks in small shops throughout New York City purchasing the perfect accessories.

The planning and shopping with my designer were interesting and enjoyable and a beautiful apartment home was realized.   My designer’s knowledge of the city and her emotional support during this process were invaluable.  I learned from her that large items like sofas, chairs and expensive bed covers should be neutral in palette.  Your color comes from painted walls, pillows and other smaller accessories that can be more easily and inexpensively replaced to create a completely new look when you’re ready for a change.

I will never have the same emotional attachment to these new belongs that I had to my old.  My New York apartment was put together in matter of weeks out of necessity.  The items I had lost were gathered over the course of thirty years of living. They had memories attached to them that evoked different people, different parts of the world, and valued life experiences.   Still they were only things and things can be replaced.  Along with everything else I lost in the fire I also seem to have lost my emotional attachment to things.  There will never be another red sofa in my life…literally or figuratively.

Beware the Oregon Deli!

I’m such a slow learner.  I’ve been living in Oregon now for six years (this time) and still when I see the word “Deli” displayed on the outside of a building I believe it’s a place where I can get a good, freshly made sandwich.  For those of you who, like me, believe “Deli” to be an abbreviation of the word “Delicatessen” you may be suffering from the same illusion.

Wikipedia states:  “Delicatessen is a German loanword which first appeared in English in 1889 and is the plural of Delikatesse. In German it was originally a French loanword, délicatesse, meaning “delicious things (to eat)”. Its root word is the Latin adjective delicatus, meaning “giving pleasure, delightful, pleasing”. The first Americanized short version of this word, deli, came into existence c. 1954.”

In other parts of the United States it has come to mean a deliciously fresh, diverse menu with sandwiches made to order.  Rarely will you find fried foods, or use of a fryer, with the possible exception of some eat-in delis that serve French fries.

In Oregon, however, beware.  The word “Deli” here usually describes a tiny, warn, space with a three or four booths or tables for seating; a minimal menu consisting of a few deli meats but mostly of items that can be quickly pulled out of the freezer and deep fried, and ; a room partitioned off, with saloon doors and no windows, where you can hear the click, click, click and occasional celebratory music as someone on the other side of that wall wins three dollars on a video lottery game.

Apparently slot machines, or video lottery games,  have become the second biggest revenue earner for Oregon, after state taxes.   According to State Law a business cannot make lottery games their only or dominant purpose.  Hence, the cropping up of “delis” serving nothing eatable but allowing gambling all around the state.   Were any of these establishments audited one would most certainly find that their dominant activity is gambling but as with all things government…money rules…and the money pouring in to state coffers from this activity provides little incentive to enforce the gambling law and limit these type of businesses.

Some believe that making these lottery game machines available in every local mall is creating a social issue by providing easy access to potential gambling addicts.  I don’t know how I feel about that since from what I’ve learned an addict will find a way to his or her pleasure regardless of difficulties or consequences.

What I do believe, however, is that one cannot get a decent deli sandwich in Oregon and that should be a crime.


The Front Line is Wherever You Are

I have been in an inconsolable depression since the election.  I don’t mean in a slump.  I mean in a black spiral falling deeper and deeper into a hole that appears to have no bottom.  I am not a partisan person.  It has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans.  I’m pretty much a free thinker and I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone who believes in exactly the things I do.

One thing I do believe in is the struggle between good and evil. It takes place in each of us every day as we consider whether or not to do what is right, or what is usually easier.    Right now my fear is that evil has a grip on our country in a way I’ve never before seen in my lifetime.  My depression stems from fear.   Fear that we may see the type of pure evil again that many of our parents lived through in the Second World War

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. There is contention about who should be attributed with these words; Edmond Burke, Charles F. Aked, John F. Kennedy, but in the end it really doesn’t matter who first spoke this truth.  It only matters that it is a truth.  Today, some good men and women in all parts of the political spectrum are standing back and letting what they know is evil take place.  I can’t begin to imagine or pretend to know their motives.  I think many of them are just in denial and don’t want to admit how badly they erred in judging our new President’s character.

What I do know is that for me, I think the only way out of my spiraling depression is to stand.  Stand up for something again and don’t back down.  Stand up for what I believe is right.  Stand up tall and strong with others who are as frightened as I am about what is happening in this country and say “no, not here, not on our watch.  We won’t let it happen.  We want our country to continue to stand for freedom, inclusion and social justice.  We want a kind country with arms reaching out to embrace those in need.  We will not close our borders.  We will not run in fear.  We will continue to fight for human rights for all people.”

At first I felt the need to rush back to DC.  I thought that’s where the front line was.  That’s where the real fight was happening.  I should be back there with my old friends and colleagues fighting the good fight.  But after a bit of thinking I realized that’s not the case.  The real front line is in whatever country, whatever state, whatever town, whatever room we find ourselves in.  The fight is everywhere and holding the line is as simple as not laughing at the racist joke at work; greeting each person we meet with compassion; not allowing bigoted behavior to go unchallenged in any form.  Holding the line is simply living your beliefs wherever you find yourself and speaking up whenever you see injustice taking hold. 

Realizing once again that each of us can make a difference has helped me to climb to the top of the pit.  I’m not out of the dark hole yet, but I can see light above.  A light that grows brighter each time I see someone standing up and holding the line.

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