Hopeful Tasty

Lisa Mystic CroppedI see myself as Rhoda, not Mary Tyler Moore. 
–Iris Murdoch

Could 2014 be this “Subversive Writer’s” year? A better year? A writer’s year?

The hint of recognition comes my way, a glimmer of hope, sometime on December 31 as the light petered out of the sky on the final day of a fruitless year. A dark year, really, where I was unsure of where I was going, had exhausted my efforts, became terrified of what has become of me, wasted too much time writing, wished I could go back seven years and never had pursued it, stayed on the payroll.

It chimes into my inbox, a note from the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards, its subject header not blatantly suggesting another announcement of doom. Rejection of my first essay never gets any easier. The 18-page document Suzanne aptly entitled “The Subversive Writer,” depicts in summa my tales of adventures and mischief that in her view birthed this writer.

The essay, a contest-worthy piece, is a vehicle orchestrated by Suzanne to obtain pub credits in an effort to make a certain imminent admissions application more robust to academic types and my memoir manuscript more appetizing to the publishing world at large. Suzanne’s communiqué to the former and her editing magic to the latter, will make a world of difference, make me a bona fide contender.

The contents of the email await, it’s subject a breadcrumb for a thrill, a bite of something tasty. Hopeful tasty. Publication tasty. Cash prize tasty.

My heart thumps, a pang in my chest flares, swells hard against my insides. Perspiration comes in a wave. Be. Something. Good. My forefinger hovers over the enter key: I’m on the hopeful tasty rollercoaster, climbing up the lift hill.

The grind of metal teeth clank and crank. Up, up, up.

Biting my lip so hard, it’s got to have gone white. I give Dennis a sideward glance. He’s focused on his computer with laser precision, a quality that precedes him. He could conceivably bear witness to my cash prize tasty elation first hand. I’d have to have my arms raised taking the G and centrifugal forces on the dive down, spine arched, my laptop bobbling on my knees for him to notice. Hell, he deserves the high on the cash prize tasty too. This is, after all, the guy who has lovingly supported me alongside Suzanne through the canal, the rebirthing to writership.

The car crank is burdened, I’m peaking the crest nearing the yummy dive drop. I close my eyes, hit <enter>.

Be. Something. Good. Please.

I see the dark inside my skull, tiny explosions of stars, my neurons are firing like mad. I’d like to stay here for awhile on the seat of anticipation, cash prize tasty. Watch the fireworks. Dream. Doesn’t happen. Stage left, a disturbance registers externally. A cat paws at my cheek, one that’s in dire need of a manicure. She’s picked up on my vibe, the change in energy in the room, trying to snap me out of it. Eyes closed, I shoo her away, does no good, the razor sharp talons have caught and lodged into my skin. It sweetens the moment—no pain, no gain. I squint an eyeball open.

Across my petite MacBook Air’s monitor, text appears. Lots of it. Meaning, there isn’t the standard two lines “thank you very much, your submission didn’t cut it” followed by a concise no-name signature block. Blinking open the other eyeball, I fix the monitor where I can read it—two or so feet out.

The opening paragraph reads:

“Congratulations Writer.” [Lift off. Holy shit!!! I am cash prize and publication tasty! Arms fly towards the sky, mouth drops, I’m taking G’s down the dive. Life is the effin balls!!!]

“The Subversive Writer was chosen as a semi-finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards competition. We received over 550 submissions, and competition was tough.” [I won, I won, I won!! Whaddo I get? Whaddo I get? Huh-huh-huh? Pub? Cash? Both?]

“Though not one of the three cash award winners eligible for publication, your work was at the top of the semi-finalists list in the nonfiction category.” [Crank jams, my head lunges forward, breath leaves my body. Arms fall. A bowling ball drops into my belly; I’m showered with a ton of salamis.]

Semi-effin-finalist? Semi-effin-finalist tasty?

I surgically disengage the paw from my face, lick the blood away, thrust my laptop on top of Dennis’s. “What do you think of this?” I’m a disgruntled contestant. “It’s a gimmick, isn’t it?”

His face lights up, his eyes dart back and forth scanning the lines.

I watch him, watch for the change and it comes. His expression sours. He got to the bad part:

“Your semi-finalist status grants you an invitation to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books Masters Workshop on March 17 and 18 at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center in Tucson for $300. Please confirm your participation in the Masters Workshop by January 15 on the tucsonfestivalofbooks website.”

I’ve won something I have to pay for.

Dennis hands me back the laptop, doesn’t know quite what to say. I close the despicable thing, place it on the coffee table, pick up the remote and swaddle the cat that’s continuing to paw my face like a mummy.

The hopeful tasty aspiration fades into the sunset; the bowling ball and salamis remain.

An hour later, I’m curious. The 10-pound bowling ball I used to chunk down the lanes as a kid at St. Mark’s has shrunken to candlepin size. I elbow the salamis for clearance, toss the remote sticky with Mike and Ike’s aside, and displace the cat with my laptop.

Hi Meg,

Happy New Year.

I was thrilled to receive my semi-finalist ranking. Would it be possibly possible for you to tell me just where I ranked in terms of the nonfiction submissions? Number 15? 45? 449 out of 550?

I’d love to know.

Many thanks!

Lisa Mae DeMasi
Killer Receptionist, Writer, and Caretaker of Cute and Furry Animals

There is a good outcome to this whether or not I hear back from Meg. The Subversive Writer winning semi-final status comes in handy for the other endeavor I mentioned: making a certain imminent admissions application more robust. Suzanne again is involved as she is preparing a recommendation letter, the last remaining requisite to complete my MFA application to Florida Atlantic University, a fully-funded three-year program in sunny and warm Boca Raton. A letter that I fathom will include verbiage along the lines of “I highly recommend Lisa, a promising writer with enormous potential who just won top semi-final status in the world renown Tucson Festival of Books Literary Rewards…”

“Promising,” “enormous,” a woman showered by salamis.

The application deadline to the Masters in Fine Arts for Creative Writing is January 15. It was all Suzanne’s idea for me to pursue it, me a very grown woman, seasoned and unseasoned. Suzanne lives and breathes books and wants to convert the masses to become writers, even the ones who have surpassed the age of 25. That’s how critically-acclaimed novelists like her who coach amateur writers think. “I live and breathe books, so should everyone else. Begin the rebirthing!”

Bless her heart.

Last week the FAU admissions office, responding to my inkling of curiosity, told me they usually determine enrollment by February 15.

The date is fast approaching. I’m not taking it seriously, though. You know, getting in, the possibility of getting in, migrating the menagerie down to the affluent and charming shoreline of Boca for three years. It’s just an opportunity I’m considering, if they’ll have me.

Or not considering, if they won’t.

Dennis, incidentally, loves hot, sunny weather. I keep telling him insects keep growing in places where it’s summer most of the time, they don’t die off. He doesn’t seem to mind that daunting fact, one that I’ve repeated ad nauseam and by virtue of experience in living in the desert for three years.

Which desert, you ask?

The Sonoran one in Tucson, Arizona, the location of the infamous Festival of Booksevidence that life circles back to places we think we’ve left behind and cannot possibly offer us anything in the future.

From: Masters Workshop <masters@tucsonfestivalofbooks.org>
Date: Monday, January 6, 2014 3:36 PM
To: Lisa Mae DeMasi <lisa.demasi@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards] The Subversive Writer

Dear Lisa,

Out of the 125 nonfiction submissions, yours is among the top 30 that were sent to the final judge. (They weren’t ranked within the 30.) Being named a finalist is significant. I was greatly impressed and amazed at the credentials of the writers and the quality of the submissions. So congratulations again!

Meg

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Even Rabbits Have a Christmas Wish List

Even Rabbits Have a Christmas Wish List

A great holiday story! Rudy here, posing with Santa, is a former foster bun of mine who was formerly rescued from a horrible situation by Sue Bee, a great lover of all animals. Sue surrendered him to House Rabbit Network thinking she could live without him. End of the story? She couldn’t!

2013: In Remembrance of a Businesswoman

Photo on 10-29-13 at 11.49 AM

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. —Mark Twain

There’s a lot of irony in life.

I speak from experience, as you many have guessed.

There was no room for irony in what I had planned, however—a ticked continuum of objectives that would pave my way to success—a lucrative career, airtight stability, childless independence.

When I say, “pave,” think steamroll.

In my twenties, I sunk tooth and nail into pursuing a Babson MBA, a credential promised to launch me into the fast track to executive management. Babson is one of the top ranked business schools for Business and Entrepreneurship in the world, reads its online tagline. It’s true. My male peers at a Fortune 500 in the early 90’s were enrolling in the advanced degree and it motivated me to do the same—I can do what they can do. Not better, just the same.

What my male peers can do, I can do was a theme that spawned that continuum. The theme burned in my belly, fueled my pursuit of the MBA, a career that emulated my father and eventually when the bottom of school fell out, the double-dog dares that granted the chores I wanted on a Wyoming dude ranch, which incidentally, I did not do just the same but better.

Did you say dude ranch?

Uh-huh. The MBA debacle, when the bottom of school fell out, upset my ambitious continuum. More than midway through the program, in the midst of my steamrolling along, I met an insurmountable barrier. That barrier stood six feet tall, chaired the finance and accounting department, and championed a hear-me-roar motto that had the power to intimidate a confident thirty-year-old male student.

The barrier gave me no quarter on exam night, the final. My mind was muddled. I had sat just hours before gripping the arms of the chair opposing my boss’s desk. My job had been eliminated. Just minutes before that, my attorney called stating my divorce had been finalized.

The former deflated me; I found no triumph in the latter.

Rendered incapable of calculating NPV in the year 2050 with no option for a makeup, I forfeited the blank exam save my penned name and fled the classroom.

I didn’t stop running until I came face-to-face with the Rockies in Cody, Wyoming.

The mountains. Something in my body propelled me to them, to working with animals under the big open sky. I was after the Pacific and setting up a charitable organization working with celebrities in L.A., but under my skin’s surface I craved the dirty work, laborious labor. A cleansing of sorts. And I loved it, immersed myself into the chores amid the elements and swore I’d never leave the place.

But that all changed in an instant. A hit-and-run driver took me down in town, a newly licensed woman. One minute I was the monument of health and strength, the next disabled and gimping out of beautiful Cody.

My new invigorating lifestyle lasted two and a half months.

From Cody I followed up on a sure lead to work for a businessman south of Seattle. He offered me his vacant townhouse on the banks of Puget Sound at his Gig Harbor marina while I completed a two-month job. My busted leg would heal and I’d move onto L.A. and along the ticks of my continuum, MBA or not.

After sleeping on his offer, he reneged. Said I was overqualified. My contentions did not sway him.

A little voice in my head prompted me to go back home.

I ignored it.

I forged on to Tucson where I knew a familiar face would welcome me and started my own graphic design business. The MBA studies I had completed were back in business. Soon after I became involved with a weed-smoking Christian (I had found God a month prior) and a crack head aircraft mechanic that drank all the nips onboard in the wee hours when he was tasked with servicing the plane. He taxied the United 737 down the runway and in queue for take off. The FAA fellows loved it.

I loved it so much that I made an abrupt and dramatic departure for home, the guy was dangerous. Broke and wiped out of assets, I moved into my parents’ basement with my four cats. I had been away for three years.

Could the course of my little adventure be considered ironic? Or harebrained? Is there a lesson tucked into the fold of my frayed U.S. roadmap?

Well, I’ll get into that in a minute.

Through a series of detours and sidewinding paths, I’ve hopped on and off the corporate ladder to start my own business, recover from malfunctioning body parts, heal from broken relationships, minister to those suffering from broken relationships, finish my MBA, write a memoir, take up Reiki; and frolic in the vocations of horse mucking in affluent stables, ranching in the Wild West, and fostering cute and furry animals for adoption.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Kinda sorta? Not really?

In one of the opening paragraphs of my memoir, I say: if I had to summarize my lifetime achievements, it would go something like this: A+ in weathering trauma, A in gym, and B+ in stall mucking.

The irony in my lifetime summary? “Fabulous businessperson” doesn’t make the grade. Nurturing does. Being a businessperson wasn’t my calling—namely, possessing the cutthroat mentality and competitive spirit that dictates squash our rival or eliminate the project manager so my husband can have the job.

The lesson?

Anything needing to be “forced” or steamrolled as I like to put it, does not lead to one’s destiny.

What ultimately happened to my ambitious male-themed continuum, you ask? Was there a final straw, so-to-speak?

You bet there was. A big hard stop came down right across that continuum when I lost my last corporate job to the CEO’s husband, an affluent fuddy-duddy who obsolescent job was phased out at XYZ Widget Co. It was an absurd and altogether infuriating event that represented a corporate culmination of sorts. I could not do what he could do—his wife was going to see to it. (If you’re thinking there’s a female-themed set of barriers here, I’m onto you.)

This loveliness took place at the tail end of 2008 just before the last recession hit. And it hit hard.

In the sea of joblessness, I eventually lost my home in foreclosure and filed bankruptcy–a personal apocalypse. Grasping for the meaning of it all, much of my life’s path, the failure of it, the reinventing of myself, I started writing the memoir. I didn’t come up for air until 2012 when I could no longer write, breath, or read another word of it.

But hold on. Drumroll. Here comes the irony finale and it’s a real kick in the head.

In the process of writing about my life experiences, a phenomenon took place. I call it “writer’s curse.” To date it’s an unprecedented event because no writer has ever discussed the curse in any writing circle or writers conference in which I’ve been involved. The writing, vomiting material onto page after page and revising the 100,000-word “manuscript,” pushed out any semblance of details and know-how for business from the coils of my brain.

Hence, I am not the person I used to be. I am a proverbial dummy.

Five years I isolated myself in the vacuum of the writer’s world (that is, unknowingly decimating my brain’s content) and when I tried to return to the corporate world to support my habit (editors, coaching), I obtained a relatively easy job working as an admin at a small consultancy. I had little success. I bumbled, I fumbled, I couldn’t remember jack—not just what happened yesterday, but ten minutes before. My supervisor eventually stated, “You’re not the Lisa I hired.” I lasted a whopping three months before I got canned (for something she asked me to do, but hey, I knew it was just a matter of time before my stage curtain was going to sweep closed).

My limitations. Once I accepted my brain’s malfunctioning, it made things in life easy. Hell, I’m no longer accountable for a mortgage (too bad bankruptcy doesn’t dismiss MBA loans) and have no car. I can, however, pull off making $10 an hour as a receptionist (“you help us so much, Lisa”) and in the vast amount of spare time it affords, I’m allowed to commiserate over the fifth revision of my manuscript and work on my volunteer interests—the care taking of cute and furry animals up for adoption. It’s a win-win situation: my employer accepts my limitations; I take the bit of money and run.

I’m content to have the job. Oh, there’s a gnawing voice inside my head that likes to tease “85K a year to this,” and “you’re the only one here with an advanced degree or a degree at all and making the least amount of dough.” Self-medication helps. But when it comes right down to it, my mind is a wasteland, advanced degree or not.

Making sense of the irony?

David Byrne of the Talking Heads says, “People use irony as a defense mechanism.”

I like David Byrne, many of his lyrics streamed in my head when I was writing the memoir and I think he’s got a point. I suppose I depict irony in the various events of my life as an excuse—for not employing foresight and reasoning, digging down and taking a good look at what’s inside me, motivates me, could fulfill me. It’s good to try different things, but I was way off base in retrospect: I pushed my round peg into a square hole for far too long.

The lesson in all this…advice I could offer you in order to avoid a good deal of self-created irony?

Find a way to erase the noise in your head to become a high paid cog in the wheel and do what you love, what your body compels you to do. If you’re in the space of listening, it will tell you. Don’t wait until your brain-dead like me.

And yes, it may make you poorer financially to do what you love. But there are the good things that happen every day and when you least expect it, a reward, a big one, will present itself. For instance, this year I was presented the certificate “Foster Home of the Year” by House Rabbit Network, one of the organizations in which I volunteer and it blew me a way. Further away than any other certificate or accolade I’ve received. (When I got my MBA on paper, fourteen years in the making, I told Dennis to hide it someplace in his mother’s attic.)

Today when people ask me what I do, some days I say I’m a writer, some I say I’m a receptionist. The first is too vague and the second feels too empty. I’m not sure I identify with either—I no longer consider myself a career-oriented person and have let the labeling and credential dropping go. I do have the hope that someday I’ll land a two-book deal with the help of my writing coach, but for now I’m just taking it a day at a time. I don’t want to dream too much, I’m too grown up for it. And I’m doing pretty good with the day-to-day even if I’m just drifting along…a lady way up in outer space tethered to the earth with a rabbit cradled in her arms, a rat on her shoulder, and a dog and cat at her knees.

Lisa and Hopscotch

Can a living room really resemble a petting zoo? You bet. Dennis and Lisa’s current menagerie includes: one black Lab, three cats, two rats, two degus (“inherited”), two gerbils (fosters), two rabbits (fosters), 2 tanks of fish, one crested gecko, and a fire-bellied newt named Phibby Newton. (In addition, a bonded pair of rabbits and two guinea pigs will be boarding with us ten days over the Christmas holiday.)

The Pink Village: It’s All Rectal, Baby

Lisa Mae DeMasi:

My thoughts on pink today.

Originally posted on Nurture is My Nature:

pink village

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles. —Audrey Hepburn

My roommate Dawn in college was well versed in a certain malady. She got pregnant her second year at the Catholic College for Girls, a situation that horrified the collective institution and infinitely worse, inflicted said malady: the blossoming of a pink-colored protuberance on her behind.

Dawn coined the hemorroidal affliction, “the pink village.”

Eventually, I too, experienced the burgeoning mass. If you’ve never been plagued by the condition, I can succinctly describe for you: it’s an acutely painful, itchy and nauseating state of being that can drive you to madness.

Acute and madness are the…

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Mae, the Kale Eating Machine–Crank it Up!

Mae is a foster house rabbit in my care awaiting adoption. She is cat, dog and rodent-friendly. Check out her debut!

Butt Skating on Veteran’s Day: A Tribute to Our Women Vets

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Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. –Ernest Hemingway

Dennis came home last night to find me slouched on the couch drugged and sated from consuming a saucepan-sized serving of Annie’s mac and cheese. I ate the stuff with a wooden spoon and for added delight, threw in a cup of corn. It was all I wanted it to be—a tick in my continuum of closet food binging. Subsequently, exercising forethought, I rid of the evidence to save me from Dennis’s finding out and imparting his too-many-calories eye roll.

He was in high spirits, my beloved, had just come from attending the reception of this week’s SIMposium in Boston, a conference geared towards high level IT executives.

The dog’s tail thumps hard against the cushion beside me as he approached, loosening the knot in his tie. Before getting into the details of the conference, he says, “I ate something really bad tonight.”

Seems when we’re isolated from one another, we’re both inclined to indulge in what the other disapproves of.

Figuring he’s played a part in murdering a cute and furry animal, I brow beat him. “You didn’t eat veal or lamb, did you?”

A game of elimination ensues. We eventually narrow the transgression down to a hot dog, the first one he’s eaten since he met me eight years ago.

“Sounds like a classy conference,” I offer, shifting in my seat and thinking if I tucked the folded box of Annie’s well enough into the recycling bin.

Dennis says, which is typical of any conference keynote speaker he’s seen, “You would have loved the talk tonight.”

Somehow, the subjects that I love most in life—animals, women who rock, news of writers that fail—come up in keynote addresses.

I drag my eyeballs his way. His hands are on his hips, light projected from the TV reflects off his glasses. “There was a paraplegic woman who spoke…she suffered extensive damage to her spine while serving in Afghanistan…she ice skates on her butt with men with a short hockey stick in each hand…it’s an international sport…she’s the only woman competing amongst a bunch of men…”

From this point his voice trails off. “And she has this cute Golden Retriever as a companion…”

My mind is stymied; it can’t ingest the blurb about the service dog. An image of a woman with skates taped to her butt is taunting me. It actually infuriates me, brings me right out of the mac-and-cheese stupor to an unwarranted meltdown, one of significant proportion.

“Butt skating! That’s absurd!” I rant, flailing my arms about. “What is it with vets and terrorist victims and the need to over-the-top compensate for being maimed! For crying out loud…”

Dennis’s mouth is gaping; he’s shocked at my reaction. Funny, so I am. In a huff of fluff, I pop off the couch displacing two or three felines and head to the bathroom to wash off the residue of cheese sauce from my chin. Dennis says in my wake, “I thought you’d like the story about her dog.”

Disgusted, I stomp down the hallway, lagomorphs and rodents scurry for cover. On the other side of the bathroom door, I announce I’m going to bed so loud that the downstairs neighbors now know the same.

In bed, I pick up the memoir I’m reading about a Deadhead that digs bars and has the command of the English language that I wish I had. Convention, I’m convinced, has led me astray.

The words pan by; my rolling boil won’t quiet down to a simmer. I’m stuck on contemplating the reasons why the news of the veteran butt skater launched me into a tirade.

Sleeping on the boil does little to sort it out.

The reason, finally, begins to surface in the coils of my brain some hours later en route for work. I’m weaving my bike around potholes and breathing in fumes on Cambridge Street in Allston. The bubbles of the boil diminish, the feelings separate, I can put my finger on them. They’re emotions, how I feel about conflict, the horror our servicemen and women are subjected to in the Middle East—the ongoing saga, the inevitable risk of death, the chances of grave injury both mentally and physically.

The feelings, too, are wrapped up in the aftermath of the maimed and dead victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the one of two terrorists remaining among the living who should be strung up by his toenails, gonads, and anything else weight-bearing that brings affliction.

This is the rolling boil that has been simmering just beneath my flesh—the world’s conflict that brings death, maiming, PTSD. I had jumped all over Dennis with his report of a vet, a woman, who despite losing function of her lower limbs, her livelihood, her future; overcomes her severe disability and competes athletically among others like her.

That’s a helluva thing.

But it does piss me off: I don’t want her to have to butt skate because her spine has been blown to bits and I don’t want her to have a service dog. I want her to be intact, the way she used to be, mentally and physically, have a regular dog, and not the brunt of some fucked up plan to kill or maim a random person—soldier, child, civilian—treading on Afghan sands.

I guess I just never realized how much all this bothers me, is residing just below the surface. And I wish I knew what I could do about it short of waving a magic wand and establishing world peace, how I could help. I’m all for volunteering, especially with Sabrina, our Lab that I’ve been looking to get enrolled in a certification program to, in part, function as a therapy or service dog. She’d be my cover—save me from coming across as a bumbling idiot spouting off futile woes such as I’m so sorry this happened to you, the world really sucks, geez it makes me sick…in the presence of a vet or victim.

Yes, I shall leave it up to Sabrina to be my ambassador, to convey warmth and sweetness, not my pity and anger. 

Afghanistan is one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world. It is believed that there are still about a million mines in the country, killing and maiming hundreds of people every year.

Afghanistan is one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world. It is believed that there are still about a million mines in the country, killing and maiming hundreds of people every year.

Hopscotch: Small Bun, Big Personality

"I like to think of myself as low in maintenance and high in entertainment.”

“I like to think of myself as low in maintenance and high in entertainment.”

Our newest foster, Hopscotch insists on speaking for herself and I wouldn’t dream of preventing her from doing so. Here’s her pitch…

I’m an adorable lion head house rabbit, a very special breed that came into being in Belgium. This means I speak English with a Dutch accent.

Far from Belgium and anything Dutch, I ended up for sale as an 8-week old baby and was bought by a young boy who feared for my life at a New England fair. He could not keep me.

Since then, more than a year later, I have been moved around a lot and grown wary about being picked up and even touched, so I would do best in an experienced home. Experienced means you are seasoned in caring for a rabbit like me, have patience, and don’t expect me jump on your lap and shower you with kisses. At least not right away. Don’t get me wrong I want to trust you–I just need time. I’ve been with my new foster mom and dad for nearly three weeks now and already taking treats from their fingers—bits of banana and their slow movements have enticed me to do so. Banana also happens to be my  favorite thing next to Stella Artois, Guylian’s Chocolate Seashells, and Ridley’s “The Liz,” a road bike. (My foster mom is budding in here saying never give any type of beer or chocolate to a ‘bunny.’ She also says she’s never seen a ‘bunny’ ride a bike no matter how fantastically engineered it is).

Most rabbits, even Belgian ones like me use a litter box and I’m quite tidy—I like to think of myself as low in maintenance and high in entertainment. I am “a petite” at just 3½ pounds, but I’m a spry girl and prefer being kept in a pen so I can run its perimeter as fast as my little feet will carry me and do binkies. What’s a binky, you ask? In the language of a lagomorph, it’s when rabbits become so overwhelmed in glee, we jump into the air and twist our head and body in opposing directions—to a first time observer, it looks like we’re having some kind of convulsion. In reality, it’s actually a conniption, a form of hysterical frenzy.

Talking about binkies, do you know that cats can bink too? My foster mom sometimes straightens out my pen so I have access to most of the first floor. The only bit of mischief I get into is sneaking up on and startling the cat that often shares my pen—she binks straight up into the air!

After a great while of exploring the place, I begin to feel tired and climb up on my cardboard box tunnel. Like the bun diva that I am, I survey the room feeling secure and confident until I grow so sleepy that my eyes close and I fall asleep sitting up. How I love to have room to exercise, feel safe and be cared for. And, I find, I have developed a certain affinity for cats.

Won’t you consider adopting me as one of your companions—developing a bond with me, have me trust you? I’m so much fun to have around, I just need a permanent loving home in which to blossom. 

Please contact House Rabbit Network to inquire about adopting me, the little caramel-colored rabbit with a Dutch accent and a lion’s mane.

Consider fostering too!

 

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Who’s the Real Rabbit?

Who's the Real Rabbit?

Happy Halloween!

It’s Love in the First Degree

cat in suitcase

Who, being loved, is poor? –Oscar Wilde

The dog knows; she’s slinking around like I’m running the vacuum. The cat knows; he’s lying on top of his clothes inside his suitcase. Dennis is nearly packed for the week, part of his attire waits in ready mode scattered about the bathroom. This is the eve of his 6:30AM flight to Nashville.

I don’t want him to go. Not without me, anyway.

We enjoy dinner, a couple of movies, wine. I don’t worry about the heaviness of his alcohol consumption; the man can drink a barrel of Irish whisky and still get up at 4:00AM the next morning. He’s a medical marvel.

The night passes, in the wee hours he departs. I don’t even hear him go, I am still under the influence of wine and two doses of Tylenol P.M. The waking hour for me won’t come around ‘til ten.

I wake, midmorning, in a pall of melancholy. An entire Sunday without him looms before me—beginning with no strong coffee, lagging conversation and his magnificent cheese omelets, all taken in on the couch while cloaked in a heavy head and assorted mammalia.

The dog’s next me, on the bed. “Sabrina?” I say. She lifts her head in my direction like it weighs a 100 pounds. “He’s gone, dawgie. Gone for a week.” She looks at me, the white of her eyes showing, plunks her head back down. She’s ahead on the curve.

I rise, open the blinds, it’s a sunny autumn day. The sun reflects light off the shimmering leaves. The air feels cool against my thigh; the window is open about half an inch. There are things I need to do today—grocery shopping, errands, walk the dog—and it’s going to take all I can muster to get out there and do it, without him.

I’m a slug all day; settle for playing fetch with Sabrina in the yard. Since I don’t make it to the store, I’ll be eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and soup for dinner by Wednesday.

It turns out that Sunday is the only Sunday I can remember that I wish would come to an end. I cannot fathom watching one more old movie with my feet slumped over the side of the couch, the crick in my neck and breathing in air through the coats of the two cats stretched out of my chest.

Only six more days until he comes home, for crying out loud.

Monday turns out to be tolerable until I get home from work. His absence leaves me without a sounding board, to wallow alone in that day’s frustrations. Come seven at night, our usual time to gather for a glass of wine (2 bottles, in fact) and dinner, the various piles of fluff about the room—rabbits, degus, rats, gerbils, the aforementioned—do little to quell my woes, the things that pain me—my having to play chicken on my bike in Brighton Center with a bus or that my ass has grown so big, it’s sticking out my unmentionable sized pair of khakis, or how in light of supporting my passion for writing, feel like a schmuck answering the phone and stuffing envelopes, a task delegated to me by a Latina woman from East Boston more than half my age.

Ranting into my soup, solo, sucks (drinking alone isn’t that bad). I miss Dennis’s sympathetic ear, the massive amount of things he does to spoil me and despite growing up petless, the partiality and tenderness he bequeaths on the animals. It’s damn endearing.

In despair, I begin texting and emailing him round the clock asking him if he is coming home tomorrow. He tells me no, it’s Saturday, remember?

Yes, I remember. Saturday. Days ahead that keep me in a place of realizing, admitting, just how much I take his companionship, stewardship (and I mean that in the fullest sense), and love for granted.

Lisa Sabrina Dennis

I may be poor in assets (practically nil), but I’ve got Dennis. And if I had a choice between a lucrative career (say, a best-selling writer) or steadiness in love and companionship, I’d go with the latter. Who would prefer being well off to all alone?

I am blessed.

This is My Brain on Writing

Lisa Mystic

You fail only if you stop writing. —Ray Bradbury

It happened sometime in between 2009 and 2012. Insidiously. I lost my ability to remember details, be proactive in a business sort of sense and exercise forethought. It’s a monumental problem—it’s made me practically unemployable. At times I may have been expendable, but I had to be employable first.

Five years ago, my visible and career-high job was handed to the CEO’s husband. His job had been phased out at XYZ Widget Company in Dallas, thousands of miles away, in close proximity of the couple’s affluent home base. It was Christmastime and a recession was on, and I couldn’t find another full time position.

After a month and a half of searching, I landed independent work working for an elderly Middle Eastern Harvard professor and cardiologist who needed help in writing a book on heart disease. Since I’d suffered a heart condition growing up, I figured the venture was meant to be and would not only prove worthwhile, but also segue into a promising future.

Keyword here: promising.

Delving into the project, I went through a mind-mapping exercise and filled in his written content into newly created chapter headings. This was my brain on business—leveraging good organization skills from my handy project management toolkit. I also limited contact to email versus his suggestion for late night meetings involving wine and exotic dishes, which early on got him off-topic and forlornly speaking of his mother and home country, his wife who confined him to living in the basement, and his doctor son who no longer spoke to him.

The fifth week into the project Dr. M’Heet Sheet began withholding payment unless I met with him. I agreed to see him at Lala Rokh, an upscale Persian restaurant in Beacon Hill. Over Yarma Shourba Ash, I kept trying to slide the manuscript to him, while he elbowed the pages aside, took my hand in his, kissed it and muttered “my sweet, sweet Lisa”.

I left him and my soup of ash in Lala Rohk and never got paid.

The following morning, I found myself staring at the chapter headings I’d put together. In frustration, I rested my forehead on the keyboard and with the letters digging into my brain, it occurred to me: Write for yourself.

M’Heet Sheet, the Middle Eastern love machine, isn’t what caused my memory or forethought to deteriorate. But he was the catalyst.

I started to write, feverishly, about everything: the neo-natal incubator that sustained my life when Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW)–a form of rapid heartbeat– kept me blue in the face; my menagerie of collected foster animals that comprise a sort of emotional rescue in themselves; the Cody Wyoming ranch where I mucked stalls the year I ran away from my marriage; the meth addict in a trailer in the middle of Tucson who almost killed me.

As most writers are, I am mad about writing, it alternately feeds me and makes me feel fit for the straight jacket but there’s nothing else I want to do. Passion for one’s vocation such as this is fabulous, what we all yearn for. Writing, however, is a vocation for yours truly that yields no pay (or promises to) and calls for a survival job, which isn’t so fabulous at pushing 50. The writer’s frame of mind—cognizance, processing internal and external stimuli and reporting it—has also altered my brain’s chemistry. Rendered me dopey. Forgetful. Inarticulate. It keeps me sucked up into a vortex of some distant galaxy.

(Incidentally as I type this, a co-worker asked me if so-and-so was in his office, which is located before me. Scrambling for recollection, I closed my eyes, grimaced and came up blank. By the time I opened my eyes, the inquirer had opened up the door to the office and found it empty. His departing expression of “do you have a brain?” lingers. Killer receptionist, I call myself.

In an email to Dennis, I am telling him: My brain is gone. I already knew that, but now I really know.

The writing. It’s what has corrupted my mind, taken over, rendered me incapable of recalling where that street goes, how much kibble I feed the dog, simple math, even when the dreaded MBA loan payment is due.

I can no longer build elaborate spreadsheets, but I can sit down and write a blog post. I can’t remember who called 5 minutes ago, but I can rewrite a part of my memoir that dates back 30 years ago. I can’t stop eating every crumb out a party size bag of chips at night or drinking dirty martinis in angst, but come daybreak I have the wherewithal to complete the detailed requisites to apply for an MFA in Creative Writing.

Is it a phenomenon?

I debate giving the writing up for good, reboot my brain and going back to a real job. Something full time with a salary and benefits, a project management type gig. But when I read job postings, I know I just can’t handle it. My ability to multi-task and manage has been shot apart by a steady stream of inner rhetoric gunfire. Permanently.

I am writer, born to it. Desire my memoir, a work-in-process, to someday make the best seller’s list.

Maybe that’s just a dream.

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, a genius (and hilarious) work of how to write says something to the effect of if you’re into writing to get published and rich and famous, you’re wrong. Because there’s a fat chance of any of that happening. Write because you’re driven to write.

Stephen King holds the same principle. He says writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. 

I am driven to write, it enriches my life. I’m not sure it enriches other’s lives– maybe someday my memoir, when it’s no longer a work-in-process, will. Writing is not going to make me rich, I was really dreaming there in the beginning. But the fact is I can’t do anything else. I wear writing like a cloak. I breathe through it, cry out in it and sing in it.

It’ll have to do.