The Killer Whale Is My Spirit Animal

I used to think that if I had a spirit animal it would be the Giant Sloth but I read an article the other day that changed my mind. According to Smithsonian magazine, after menopause, female killer whales become leaders. I knew they were smart! I sobbed during Blackfish and I was already totally boycotting Sea World, but this seals it. No pun intended.

According to the article, “The researchers saw that post-reproductive females would swim at the heads of hunting groups with young male whales in close pursuit. They were almost always the matriarch’s sons.” Did you hear that? They get to be the boss and their sons stay close to them. That’s a Jewish mother’s dream come true! Give me moment; I’m getting verklempt.

Okay, I’m back.  So, here’s my question, why is it that if whales can figure that older women have plenty of strength and wisdom to offer, people can’t figure that out too? Whales have their older females leading the whole damned pod. I can’t get someone to take my order at Starbucks. I’m telling you right now, there is no way that a whale would make a big deal out of some lost emails. If Hillary were a whale, she would not have to put up with being called “as bad as” a giant Oompa Loompa who brags about grabbing women’s genitals without asking first.

So, to sum up, whales are intellectually superior creatures who love their mothers and vote Democrat in November.

 

Estrogen, Special Sauce and Beat Poetry.

I have never had the urge to write poetry. Truth be told, I don’t even like poetry. But lately, I have the urge to write and perform poetic monologues. I’m a humorist, not a Beatnik! I don’t even OWN bongos. Although, I do dress in black a lot … but it’s slimming and I’ve lived in New York. Anyway, I blame estrogen for this. I obviously have gone around the perimenopausal bend. The next thing you know, I’ll be dropping acid and driving cross-country.

Hey, it’s not like I wanted to get to this point. I’ve tried it all. I eat well. I’m so “Paleo”that I might as well hunt and kill my own mastodon. I exercise. I ride my stationary bike the length of the Appalachian Trail. I see a chiropractor and I take every vitamin that GNC sells. I have also mediated, been mindful and done yoga. There are benefits to all of this of course. I’m so healthy my doctor has begun asking me for ID and I don’t hyperventilate at the thought of trying on bathing-suits anymore.

The problem is that all of this healthy living doesn’t regulate my wonky hormones. PMS is bad enough when you get it a few days per month; getting a few days per month without it is like a whole new ring of Hell. No matter what I do, I still have an emotional breakdown whenever yet ANOTHER team decides to make a bar cart on Flea Market Flip. Really? Is there nothing else they could make from that 19th Century hay sorter? I know what you’re thinking. Just for the record, I’ve tried all the traditional things too. Prozac anyone? Let’s just say that while I may not do much with my libido, I do like having one.

So, before I become romantic comedy’s answer to Allen Ginsberg, I have decided to go see  *insert ominous music* the menopause doctor. I know what this means.  It means that 1) I need to finally make the call and cancel my subscription to Seventeen magazine, like NOW 2) I’m contemplating playing around with my hormones which is really scary! Let’s face it, no one has ever said, “You’re in such a fun mood! You must be getting your period!”

What if they give me the wrong mix and I fall in love with a fire hydrant? Or vote for Donald Trump? Or start writing and performing Beat poetry? So many things could go wrong.  If my boobs get any bigger, I’ll tip over!  I could get cravings. What if I get them for things like “special sauce” or wine in a box? No! Not that!

Okay, it’s time to woman up and be brave.  The sad truth is that even being a Big Mac eating bongo player would be better than hot flashes and mood swings. Wish me luck with the menopause doctor. Actually, wish us all luck, honey.

Roughing It

Roughing It will be a novella in the Happy Endings Resort multi-author project. It will be released Aug. 29 and sell for .99.

Chapter One

“Team! You know that Bender Advertising is a place where expression is free and uninhibited … but there have to be some limits. Burning Arnie in effigy is just taking it a little too far,” Stewart Bender, our esteemed leader, said as he paced back and forth slowly at the front of the conference room. At least he was finally showing some concern. He paused and gave us a stern look. “Come on, people. Fire codes?”

Next to Stewart, Arnie sat glaring through his thick glasses. The tension was palpable on the side of the room where those of us in Marketing sat. Arnie was one of us. As the senior member of the department, I felt that I had somehow failed my people but they had assured me that I was not to blame. No, it wasn’t my fault that this company was in a constant state of internal conflict.

I leveled my gaze across the aisle, where rather than appearing chastised, I noted that the members of the Creative Department actually had the nerve to look amused! This was their doing of course. All of it was their doing … the flaky artistic types over there who wanted to do whatever they pleased and didn’t like listening to the voice of reason.

“Now I know that there are bound to be differences in opinion,” Stewart droned on. “It’s expected. You guys come at things from different angles.” He paused and looked from one side of the battle line to the other. “Jack and his team in Creative come up with their little drawings and ditties and Rachel and her Marketing people study their little charts.” Stewart had inherited the company from his father. He had no clear idea what any of us did.

“We do more …,” I began, but Stewart cut me off.

“And I’m sure you are great at it. Whatever it is. But that’s not the point here. The point is that despite our differences, we are on the same team, people. The same team.” He clutched his hands together in front of his heart for emphasis.

I heard the sound of a throat clearing and I tensed up because I knew to whom that throat belonged. It held up the head of Jack Malloy, senior member of the Creative Department. Admittedly, it was an attractive head, with perpetually rumpled sandy-colored hair and blue eyes that were often sparkling with laughter. Unfortunately, it was also a head swollen by an out-sized ego and the laughter was often aimed at me.

“I’m not excusing the Arnie thing, Stew,” Jack said. “But you gotta understand, we focus on finding that Big Idea that will make our clients memorable. We can’t do that with a bunch of number crunchers …”

“Number crunchers?” I sputtered angrily. “For you information, we focus on making our clients money! And when your ‘Big Idea’ looks like a big loser…”

“Loser?” he shot back, indignantly.

“Okay! Okay, kids, break it up,” Stewart took back control. “Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. And that is why I have come up with a plan.” The room was immediately engulfed in silence. After a long moment Jack spoke up.

“Ha! For a second there, I almost thought you said you had a plan.” The room exhaled.

“I do,” Stewart repeated with a smile. The room inhaled again. It was my turn.

“You can’t have a plan, Stewart. You don’t plan things. Well, other than an occasional round of golf anyway.”

“I know! I was more surprised than anyone!” Stewart said looking gleeful. “But I actually came up with one. Rachel and Jack, I’m sending you two to a corporate teambuilding retreat.” I felt my mouth go dry.

“He’s kidding. You’re kidding, right,” Jack said.

“Please be kidding,” I added weakly.

“See! You’re agreeing with each other already!”

I needed an idea – quickly! “Have you run the cost of this by Accounting, Stewart?” I asked desperately, hoping that perhaps they would put the kibosh on this little scheme of his.

“Yes and luckily there was one that fit our budget. It starts Monday at the Happy Endings Resort in beautiful rural North Carolina!”

“Oh my God, no,” Jack said in a strangled voice.

“It’s only a three-hour drive from D.C. It will be fun. They have a pool!”

“Stewart, you need to understand. I’m a lifelong urban dweller. To me roughing it is a hotel with no room service,” I explained.

“I’ve got to admit, Stew, I’ve never really been the outdoorsman type myself,” Jack added. “The closest I ever came was summer camp and other than the hot female counselors, I pretty much hated everything about that.”

“People, please! This isn’t The Hunger Games.” Stewart laughed. “It’s not like you won’t have indoor plumbing!”

“Well, thank God for that,” I mumbled.

“It won’t be in your actual cabins, but there are separate toilet and shower facility for men and women. It is North Carolina after all!” Stewart added with a wink.

“But there are cabins, not tents, right?” Jack asked. He was looking a bit pale.

“Of course,” Stewart assured him. “Except at the end of the week when each company’s representatives will need to spend a night out in the woods.”

I’m told that at that point I lost consciousness.

 

 

The Rewritten Power of Attorney – Chapter One

*No firm release date yet, but not too much longer.*

Chapter One

Philadelphia, Present Day

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Fishbein, but mooning Councilman Jackson is not Free Speech,” I shouted in the direction of her good ear. “Here, let me help you down over the curb with that walker.” I reached out to help my geriatric client and got my hand slapped as thanks.

Agnes Fishbein glared up at me with a face like a dried apple and I flinched as the image of how the other end must look popped unbidden into my head. Councilman Jackson would never be able to unsee that. I pictured golden sunsets and fluffy kittens as I tried to hail a cab for her. The first one sped past me, transferring an entire puddle from the gutter onto the suit I had so carefully picked out that morning. I gritted my teeth and turned back toward the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center.

Councilman Jackson exited the building at that moment, and seeing Agnes, understandably gave us a wide berth. Agnes grumbled something that I will generously say might have been “duck” and began lifting one hand into the air. Thinking quickly, I reached out again and took another slap for the team before she could extend a gesture that proved my duck theory wrong.

Ignoring the amused looks of fellow attorneys who had been in the courtroom enjoying the Agnes Fishbein show, I spun back toward the street and redoubled my cab hailing efforts. To my relief, the next taxi stopped and I immediately helped Agnes in to it.

As I watched them pull into traffic, I smiled with satisfaction. There had been a couple of tense moments, as Agnes could be a real pain in the … well, you know. But I had worked out a great deal for her in the end. No pun intended.

Although it had rained earlier, it was turning into gorgeous day and I looked up to feel the warm sunshine on my face. Just as I started to relax, I felt a sharp jolt in the middle of my back that sent me flying forward. Luckily, I managed to grab onto a street sign and catch myself before I became a traffic casualty.

Turning around, I saw what had hit me, a news camera being wielded by a big goofy-looking guy. As he was standing in profile, I could see that he had a belly that spoke of too many nights of pizza and beer. He also had a bad haircut and a clueless look that said that he was still unaware that he had just committed battery.

“Hey! Watch out!” I growled, tapping him on the shoulder hard enough to leave permanent indentations. “You almost knocked me into the street with that thing.”

“Huh?” he mumbled, turning toward me. He looked like he was about to apologize when a sound like a bark from an angry terrier made him spin around in the other direction, nearly hitting me again.

“Clyde! Get your ass over here!” the terrier bellowed from a location across the street by City Hall. I saw that “Clyde” was under the command of Mavis Walker, a reporter with the local FOX news affiliate. She covered the Philly crime beat and was known for having a “hard-hitting” style that was popular with a certain type of viewer. (Hint: Not my type).

Mavis had platinum blonde hair and a slightly sinister smile permanently etched into her “easy, breezy, beautiful” face. She was tiny, probably not even five-feet-tall, which made her look like “Crazy Eyes” Barbie.™ Although she tried to compensate for her lack of height by wearing heels that were a back injury waiting to happen, it was actually the size of her mouth that did it. I had to admire her balance though.

At that particular moment, those little legs were pumping like pistons, and she had a microphone thrust out in front of her like she was riding into a joust. I looked up ahead to see whom she was chasing. There were plenty of potentially newsworthy people milling around, including Councilman Jackson. I really hoped this had nothing to do with Agnes. Nobody needed to see that on the news.

Just then, a small group standing near an archway parted, and in the middle stood a tall, dark-haired figure. It was a like a scene from a movie and I half-expected a rainbow to form over him. Somehow, I knew immediately that he was her target. I was headed in that direction anyway, so I followed along with the flow of pedestrians trailing the sprinting Mavis and the lumbering Clyde.

As I got nearer, I saw that the dark haired guy looked young, probably only in his early thirties like me. Even at a distance, though, he radiated such an air of confidence that he seemed powerful and important, like someone worth interviewing.

I was quickly catching up to the news team, who had gotten stuck in a knot of tourists. As the gap between us got smaller, I realized that the closer I got to that guy, the more attractive he got. Wow, he was really good-looking … and also familiar looking. I recognized him from somewhere but I couldn’t place him. I stopped and squinted at him, thoughtfully.

“Clyde! Get my approach” Mavis called out, shoving a teenager taking a selfie out of the way. The cameraman emerged from the throng like a blubber tsunami and circled around to a position in front of me to the left.

The dark-haired guy turned in our direction, but he looked right past Clyde, who was filming him, and stared back at me instead. I saw him pause and a smirk slowly spread across his lips, not a smile mind you, a smirk. It dawned on me then; he thought I was checking him out! What an ego! He was sure I was staring, not because there was a news team stalking him, but because I thought he was hot, which I did, but that’s not the point! I was about to set him straight by giving him a good dismissive eye roll before walking off, but just then, Mavis finally arrived.

“I’m here in front of the City Hall with federal prosecutor Jacob Sachs,” she began, sounding out-of-breath, “who successfully convicted crime figure Carlo Moretti earlier this year. Rumor has it that Mr. Moretti’s counsel has filed a Motion alleging that there was prosecutorial misconduct involved.”

That was it! He had been the lead prosecutor in Moretti, the biggest mob trial Philly had seen in decades. Being an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he was normally at the federal courthouse rather than here. That was probably why I couldn’t place him. I had an interest in that case and I so decided to stick around and find out what was going on.

Sachs gave Mavis a look like a patient father listening to a rambling child. “This is just a desperate act on Mr. Moretti’s part,” he commented in a tone more dismissive than even my best eye roll. “He wants to get out of jail and he’s having his attorney pursue every strategy he can think of. There’s nothing more to it than that.” He glanced around as if looking for an excuse to leave.

“But this isn’t a typical line of appeal, is it?” Mavis followed up, undaunted. “Most defendants don’t claim that the prosecution actually did something illegal?”

“It’s not typical, but it’s not shocking. He’s a career criminal. Why wouldn’t he fabricate if necessary to try to get a new trial?” He glanced at his watch.

“So, you deny the allegations?” Mavis asked, as if he would actually admit it on camera if they were true. Sachs remained perfectly composed but the tightness around his eyes and the rigid line of his jaw suggested that that was tiring of this little tête-à-tête.

“Let’s just say that my record of convictions speaks for itself. I don’t need to break the law to win. I just win,” he answered and that smirk was back.

I just win. Listen to him. A simple “yes” would have sufficed. He was even cockier than my younger brother, and let me tell you, Adam was cocky. He had started off as a prosecutor too. Maybe it went with the job. Still, Sachs seemed to take it to a whole new level.

I shook my head and turned to leave. That was enough for me. As I started off down the sidewalk, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Sachs was watching me but the smirk was gone, replaced by a thoughtful look. Maybe he wasn’t used to women walking away from him.

My “New” Bucket List

So, I was on Pinterest the other day, which incidentally is like Crack for people with OCD, (like me), and I saw a pin that would make a cool addition to my “Bucket List” board. But at that moment, it suddenly dawned on me that there are lots of other things that I should be aspiring to do rather than “Walking behind a waterfall.”

I have reached that time in my life, (somewhere between 39 and death), where I have finally learned to like myself, thick thighs and all.  Moreover, I have fully embraced the fact that while I should (and do) try to be a decent human being, I don’t have to actually impress anyone.  If they don’t like me just as I am, the chances are pretty much nonexistent that I’m going to change, so they might as well shove off.  Or shove something. So, isn’t it time that I did something with that? Thus, I give you … My New Bucket List.

Before I die, I would like to …

  1. Try on a bathing suit that’s more “Victoria’s Secret” than “Victorian England.”
  2. Take the last Tic Tac for myself.
  3. Wear whatever I feel like wearing to go out, even if I look like a clown.  With no bra.
  4. Find a reason to yell, “You go, girl!”
  5. Listen to my 80’s music at full blast in the car with the windows open. And sing.
  6. Quote lines from The Blues Brothers at a cocktail party when I can’t come up with small talk.
  7. Tell pretentious people that I’m a smut peddler when they ask me what I do.
  8. Go somewhere I want to, even if I don’t have anyone to go with. And not worry that I look like I have no friends. Or possibly a contagious disease.
  9. Dance like nobody is watching. Without injuring myself.
  10. Be confident enough not to fear rejection or failure.

Walking behind a waterfall would probably be cool too though.

Another Rewritten Scene from the New POA

Here’s another rewritten scene from the New POA. In the original is was all just Abby’s internal monologue. I like it much better as inter-character dialogue. Dana is on the autism spectrum by the way.

I touched base with Dana and Lena back at the office later that afternoon and told them everything. Dana tried to reach Trog, but he had become incommunicado. At six o’clock, with nothing else left to do, I got ready to go home.
“I’m leaving,” I announced to Lena, who was sitting at her desk.
“Don’t you think maybe we should stay and see if we can track down, Trog?” Dana asked, suddenly appearing in Lena’s doorway next to me.
“No, I don’t. He’ll contact you. He’s motivated enough. Besides, I have plans.”
“What kind of plans?” Dana asked with a smile.
“I’m picking up some Chinese and watching Ally McBeal,” I said with dignity.
“You wild woman!” Lena snorted.
“Hey, I may not be living life in the fast lane, but it’s a hell of a lot better than proofreading contracts in a freezing cold office. I finally have work/life balance.”
“I think that spending an evening at home sounds like a lot of fun,” Dana said enthusiastically. Dana was agreeing with me about having a fun social life. I must admit, that made me pause a little. Dana liked to do things like learn neuroscience for fun.
“Well, once in a while,” I clarified. “My life will get more exciting eventually, though. I have long-term plans too.”
“Like what?” Lena asked, sitting back and folding her arms.
“I want to travel. See the world!” I answered somewhat defiantly.
“Have you gone anywhere lately?” she asked, knowing the answer perfectly well.
“Yes!” I shot back and she lifted an eyebrow at me. “There was that family reunion, thing … in the Poconos.”
“How exotic,” she said dryly and then turned to Dana. “That was sarcasm.”
“I knew that,” Dana answered.
“Okay, well I may not have gone anywhere yet, but I will. When I have some money again.”
“I saw a deal for Atlantic City online,” Dana offered helpfully. “You get a free bus ride and a roll of quarters too!” Lena bit her lip trying not to laugh.
“I’m also developing some hobbies,” I broke in.
“Such as?” Lena asked, looking ever more amused.
“So far, not many,” I conceded. “But um … I bookmarked several articles on making your own soap. In case soap isn’t, you know, readily available.”
“You have a growing collection of empty wine bottles. That could be a hobby,” Dana chimed in, trying to stick up for me. I think.
“Yoga is kind of hobbyish,” I added, realizing how pathetic I sounded. “Yeah, okay, my life is pretty sad.” I walked into her office and plopped down in a chair.
“The fact is that we all need to get a life now that we finally have the time to do it,” Lena said. “None of us is trying very hard to get out and do things and meet new people. At this rate we’ll wind up becoming the Golden Girls someday.”
“I’m not really good at knowing what to say or do when I go out,” Dana said, looking a bit glum. “It’s very rare to find other people who like discussing subjects like the Higgs boson or the veracity of eye-witness accounts at Roswell.”
“We’ll help you, Agent Mulder,” Lena reassured her with a wink.
“Okay, point taken,” I replied, getting up and heading for the door again. “We should come up with some plan to improve our social lives, but not tonight. After a morning with Agnes, a lunchtime with Barry and an afternoon with Wright and Wong, I just want my moo shu chicken and my Ally McBeal.”

My Worlds Collide or I’m Coming Out!

I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna let my worlds collide. Fasten your seatbelts, kids!

April is a month where lots of people talk about autism. I know, I know, “We’re here to be amused, honey. What’s so funny about that?” The answer is, I am. I’m funny, (so I’m told). And I’m Autistic too. For reals! Surprise!

You may have heard that Autistic people don’t understand sarcasm, irony or satire.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do, and some of my Autistic friends are pretty damned funny.  Oh yeah, we have friends too. So, don’t believe that one either.

This is how it went down, I was a kid who didn’t blend in, to say the least.  I didn’t have any friends back then, and I got picked on a lot too.  So, I used to make up stories in my head, with people I thought were nice, and who treated other people well, and were “weird,” but smart, like me.

People didn’t realize I was making up those stories in my head, because usually while I was doing it, I was just pacing around, mumbling to myself, or riding on a swing until someone cut it down and pried it from my six year-old tuchus. So, they thought I didn’t know how to do “pretend play” and that somebody should probably fix me. They stressed me out a lot, so I spent even more time in my head, but that was okay, because my stories got even better.

In high school, I learned that if I could make people laugh, they wouldn’t beat the crap out of me and call me names anymore.  So, I learned how to be a comedienne. I also learned how to blend in better, and soon everyone was patting themselves on the back because they figured that I wasn’t “broken” anymore.  They never realized how hard I had to work to pretend to be “normal” because my senses are very sensitive and I have to remember a lot of social rules that others know naturally.

College was pretty tough, because I can’t take notes, but law school was awesome because they teach you in a different way there.  That was when somebody finally did the right tests and figured out that I’m Autistic. To be honest, though, I didn’t do much with that information for a few years. There wasn’t really much information back then and I had no idea how to meet and connect with other Autistic people.

Then, my kids were born, and they were like me.  To my surprise, although I’m not sure why, some people thought that was a problem.  I have never considered it a problem, although I do realize that good support is an important thing to have.  So they have good support, but they are being raised to not feel like they are weird or broken.  And they are being raised with the belief that different is not less.

Because I decided to homeschool them, I couldn’t be a lawyer full-time anymore.  I still wanted to work though, and frankly, I needed the money.  (Good support can cost a lot). So, I decided to take those stories I have always made up in my head and write them down.

The people in my story worlds are still nice, and smart and a little weird.  And they are funny, and hopefully they make people feel good.  Maybe my stories even give people a place to escape like they always have for me. My first female main character, Gabrielle is very quirky and uncoordinated. She says awkward things, makes corny jokes and has no filter.  But she has a good heart and she cares about people. People seem to worry about her a lot, her parents, her husband, her friends … But that’s just because they love her.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about Gabrielle.

Although I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m Autistic from the people who read my sexy rom com books, I have never officially acknowledged it either.  In part, I didn’t want people to think I was somehow using it, for sympathy, for sales, for whatever. And in part, people still have a lot of misconceptions about Autistic people, so I worried that you might think I didn’t write my own books or something.  That’s finally starting to change, though.

So, I am officially “coming out!”  I am Neurodivergent and I am proud of my quirks!  I am in the process of rewriting Power of Attorney, which includes an openly Autistic character. I’m hoping that letting my worlds collide turns out to a be good choice and that this April, you’ll think about the fact that Autistic people may be more than you see in a lot of those ads for awareness.