Summer Reading, A Few More Laughs

Need a book with humor for the last days of summer?

My Very Best Friend: Two best friends, one is missing. A Scottish village. A man in a kilt. Lingerie Bike Riding At Midnight. One small bar fight. Truth.

What I Remember Most: Her name is Grenadine Scotch Wild. Collage Artist. Painter. Former foster child. She doesn’t know what happened to her parents on a dark night in the mountains. She’s about to find out.

The Last Time I Was Me: Jeanne Stewart took revenge on her cheating boyfriend with a condom, an exacto knife and a glue gun. She had a nervous breakdown in front of 834 advertising executives and called them schmucks. Then she started her life over.

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Publisher’s Weekly And The Language Of Sisters

This interview came out today in Publisher’s Weekly.  In it we talk about my new book, The Language of Sisters, out September 1.

A short summary of the book? Three sisters. One brother. One huge secret.

Spotlight on Cathy Lamb

The bestselling author’s latest novel is a perfect end-of-summer beach read

Cathy Lamb is no stranger to writing about secrets—the kind that, left buried, can tear lives apart. In her latest novel, The Language of Sisters, Lamb explores the bond between the three Kozlovsky sisters, who grew up in Communist Russia before their family immigrated to America. Sharing an intensely close connection—the women can intuit one another’s words, an ability inherited from their mother—they are all haunted by a past their parents had hoped was left behind in Moscow.

Lamb is the author of 10 novels. She said she started writing The Language of Sisters in March 2015 and found inspiration for the book in a number of places. Like her heroine Toni, Lamb is one of three sisters. And, also like Toni—a crime reporter—Lamb is quite familiar with the newspaper business. She freelanced for the Oregonian for years, writing about everything, including people, events, and interior design.

As it happens, Lamb’s journalistic pedigree was put to good use in the writing of this book, which required Lamb to do substantial research. To sketch out the lives of the Kozlovsky clan—whose experiences behind the Iron Curtain are set in flashbacks throughout the novel—Lamb read about Russian history from the 1890s onward. She read up on every Russian czar and president from 1900 to 2000. She also did a lot of research on the KGB, to which her fictional clan has ties.

Beyond the snapshot of Russian history and the country’s recent past, Lamb believes readers will enjoy the lively, extended, and diverse family she has created. Along with Toni and her two sisters—hard-driving prosecutor Valerie, and Ellie, who is about to break her parents’ heart by marrying an Italian—there are the wild and carefree cousins, Tati and Zoya. And there are the four endearing brothers, former boxers, who barely escaped the Soviet Union.

“I hope that people will be able to laugh with the huge family I’ve constructed,” she said.

Lamb also hopes readers will identify with her three central sisters, women—like many she’s written about—who are struggling and facing difficult problems. “Here’s the thing,” Lamb said, “I don’t write about fake women. I don’t write about women who have everything together in their lives. That would be irritating.” Instead, Lamb is interested in what makes these women fallible and human. “No one is perfect, and often the people who are trying the hardest to appear perfect are the ones closest to cracking like an egg. I write about real women leading real lives, with all the mess and complications that entails.”

The Language of Sisters is ultimately a story about family. “It’s about love and forgiveness,” Lamb explained.

“I think life is filled with tears and laughter. I love when my readers write to me and tell me that they laughed out loud while reading my books, and then they cried, then they laughed again. When my readers finish The Language of Sisters, I want the characters, the issues, and the laughter to stay with them. That’s always the goal: to create a story that the reader doesn’t forget.”

Here’s the “real” link. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/71173-spotlight-on-cathy-lamb.html


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Coyotes Taking Over Poker Games

Let’s pretend that there’s a space alien invasion and we’re all beamed up to beautiful new planets.

Now, most of us would go. We would be INVITED by the space aliens. But, probably not ALL of us. Some of us wouldn’t get an invitation.

Maybe there would be some sort of standard set. Like, mean people couldn’t come. Or people that REALLY irritate you. They would have to stay on Earth.


My point is this: I wonder how long it would be, if humans were gone, for animals to take over and for the forests and swamps and plants to cover our streets and homes.

In other words, when would civilization disappear in favor of cougars running through the streets like mad men and wild horses galloping through Macy’s looking for the perfect bra?

I ask this because of the two deer in front of my house the other day, that you can see in the photo.

(This is not my house. This is my wonderful neighbor’s house. She is a very smart and kind person and her house looks way better than mine, but one day I aspire to be just like her. It’s just not going to be today, or tomorrow, because my kids are home from school and I am buried in laundry and washing dishes. You know how it is.)

I live in the middle of suburbia. To see deer here is surprising.

These two were walking down the street like they owned it. I do not know what their names are, so don’t ask.

They did seem a tad bit embarrassed. As if they couldn’t BELIEVE they were in the middle of suburbia, and how boring was this, and how did we get so off track, and where the heck is the forest, I’m thirsty and getting cranky, why do you never ask directions? There was a blue jay you could have talked to on the corner, you stubborn mule, and now we’re lost and I’m running out of gas.

Yes, I’m sure that was the conversation they were having.

A few months ago, again in Suburbia Land, a possum the size of a lion walked by my sliding glass door. Well, that’s a lie. It wasn’t the size of a lion, but it was HUGE, I mean, huge.

A walking, slogging white and grey thing that I knew would eat me alive if I scared it. He was not taking any crap, I could tell by the way he walked. He was a woman’s man. No time to talk. (Bee Gees)

Some months before that I had raccoons living under my house. They moved cement blocks and took out a wire screen to get in. I saw them in my backyard. Three of them. They looked straight back at me. They were not scared at all.

They reminded me of three raccoons that came to visit us years ago at our old house. We did not want raccoons in our backyard as our kids were little.

For some reason, Innocent Husband thought that if he let off a firecracker at night, when they were near our deck, this would make the raccoons scramble away in fear.

Oh no. The raccoons LOVED the firework. They were almost clapping they were so happy. They ran closer to the deck, sat back on their bottoms and waited. This was exciting! Their own firework show! Do it again, do it again! Do you guys have popcorn?

We had to call a critter – getter man to come and trap the raccoons and haul them off to the woods. How many did he catch? Six. And there were more. A neighbor later found that the raccoons had built a city under his house. They probably had an unseemly saloon down there. A casino. Boutiques and rib and potato restaurants.

On my walk today I saw a coyote sprinting across the park. I don’t know where he was going but he had to be somewhere quick. Maybe he had a date. Maybe he was in trouble with the Coyote Police.

The Sprinter is not the only coyote in this ole’ neighborhood, either. They howl at night in gangs in the field behind my house, like furry nightmares.

No, if we were all beamed up to new planets it wouldn’t be long before coyotes were running high stakes poker games on our dining room tables, raccoons were taking naps on our beds, and bears were slugging down beer and making fools of themselves at the coyotes’ poker games.

Good thing we’re here to keep everyone in line.

Until the alien invasion I shall continue to enjoy and appreciate these animals living with me in suburbia…from a few steps away.

And no, you may NOT devise a personal list of irritating people who MUST STAY on the planet Earth in the event of an alien invasion. Of COURSE NOT.

(Okay, you each get two people on your “You Have To Stay On Earth” list, but do NOT print their names here, that would be bad.)

Have a lovely day.

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He Talked To Many Voices

He talked to many voices.

He walked in as I was indulging in my daily drink at Starbucks.

He said, “Can I sit here?”

I said, “Yes, of course,” and he sat down across from me.

His conversation began immediately to the invisible people only he could see and hear. He muttered in a monotone, a quiet voice, as if he was far away.

I listened as I flipped through a book. He chatted with this person, and that, he swore now and then, but not in anger, he laughed, he asked questions, he used hand gestures.

He was very clearly in the midst of a pleasant visit with a group of people who were meeting in his mind.

I was glad, for him, that the voices weren’t causing him pain or anguish or scaring him. That is a heart breaking thing to see.

He seemed like he was happy, engaged, interested, in his imaginary world, at least for that moment in time.

He was fairly clean, leather jacket, boots. I felt no threat from him at all.

But as I listened to him, talking into the air, his brain tragically mis – firing, I thought, “This is someone’s son. He has a mother. He has a father.” I thought about their grief, their incessant worry, their sheer pain raising a son who may well have been “normal” growing up.

He may have played sports, smiled at girls, studied in school and then, something changed.

A flip switched in his mind. A breakdown. A snap.

Then the voices came and lived in this man’s head.

How horrible for him and for his family. How positively terrifying to feel yourself slipping like that, to battle reality vs. what is in your head, who is in your head, taunting you, scaring you, taking YOU away.

Why did it happen? Why him? Why so many people?

Who knows.

But I felt for him, sitting there across from me in Starbucks, I felt for his family. That could have been me. It could have been you. It could have been our kids.

And, maybe it is. Millions of people deal with family members who they love and adore who have a mental illness of some sort. So many people themselves deal with it every single day of their lives.

In a bitter moment, I thought of the billions of dollars we spend on weapons to kill other people, to invade other countries, and I thought of our broken mental health system.

It’s not right.

It isn’t.

We should take good care of each other here in this country and we’re not taking good care of our people with mental illness. Go to any city, any town, anywhere, and you’ll see some of these suffering people, like the man across from me, on the streets.

They do not belong on the streets. They should not be there.

It’s not safe.

Having a mental illness is like having pneumonia in your mind. We treat pneumonia. We need to treat this.

We need to put mental illness at the top of our list. We need to dump more money into research, into medications, into fixing and helping and curing and treating, with inpatient and outpatient care.

And for those who can’t beat it, we need to provide healthy, happy, safe places for them to live so they’re not on the streets, wandering, in danger, prey for criminals.

For the man across from me, talking to people only he could see and hear, a complete cure might not come in time.

But it might.

And that’s what we have to hold onto, hope for, advocate for.


Because he’s worth it.

He is someone’s son

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What Kind Of Fresh Hell Is This, Mom?

As Adventurous Singing Daughter would say, “What kind of fresh hell is this, Mom?”

This fresh hell is my latest manuscript. My eleventh novel. Yes, indeedy, it is.

Please note the scissors. Two pairs! And a stapler. Let me staple my forehead to get my brains back inside and working.

It may look like I’m a madwoman. That I’ve finally lost it. That I have thrown the pages of my manuscript into the air and started chopping them up while cackling.

Now the madwoman part might be true. But what you see here are different scenes that have been sliced and diced.


Sometimes I get real excited about a story line.

I write the whole story line, all at once. Then another story line, all at once. And another. Then they have to be printed out, cut up and re – organized to form a full plot that is not a total and complete wreck.

For example, with The Language of Sisters, out September 1, I wrote most of the full story line of the family’s escape from the Soviet Union before I moved on.

Another story line I wrote pretty much straight through was the adopted brother’s life and where he came from and why he had nightmares about butterflies and wooden ducks and blood.

A third story line was Toni’s relationship with Le Stud on the dock where she lives in a yellow tugboat.

To be quite honest, though, sometimes I don’t want to write a different story line, which is my excuse for writing straight through.

The story line I SHOULD be working on is too tough and makes me feel like whining.

Or, I am confused and baffled by my own story. Sometimes I am sick of my book and sick of myself. Sometimes I want to go and be a butterfly collector in the Amazon and quit being a writer.

But the pages you see now? That’s the book in progress.

Congratulations to me -I now have a bunch of crap.

Yes, the book is crap at this point. It’s terrible. It is. I’m not being modest. It’s a first draft and I know what yuck is and there it is.

People ask why I edit my books 12 times.

I will tell you this: It is because the book is an embarrassment before then. It’s a tangled mess. It’s sad. The book is sad to be that bad and that makes it mad. (See? I can rhyme!!)

I would not let you read it even if you threatened me with a back lashing by rattlesnake.

If I am taken off by a flying dragon, my family has explicit directions to burn the first through seventh drafts of my book in progress rather than let it see the light of day or your sweet eyes.

So back to work I go on this fresh hell.

I’m writing about a secret keeping grandma, a chef who throws chickens, a cook book, and two little girls. The book is out in September, 2017.

There will be a lot of cackling between scenes.

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Lighting Your Bra On Fire

Need to light your bra on fire? What about your thong?

Henry’s Sisters is now, for the first time, at this very happy moment, out in mass market paperback for $5.80 (Kindle on sale for $4.99).

Here’s part of the first chapter, written in the voice of Isabelle Bommarito:

I would have to light my bra on fire. And my thong.

It is unfortunate that I feel compelled to do this, because I am particular about my bras and underwear.

I spent most of my childhood in near poverty, wearing scraggly underwear and fraying bras held together with safety pins or paper clips, so now I insist on wearing only the truly elegant stuff.

“Burn, bra, burn,” I whispered, as the golden light of morning illuminated me to myself. “Burn, thong, burn.”

I studied the man sprawled next to me under my white sheets and white comforter, amidst my white pillows. He was muscled, tanned, had a thick head of longish black hair, and needed a shave.

He had been quite kind.

I would use the lighter with the red handle!

I envisioned the flame crawling its way over each cup like a fire – serpent, crinkling my thong and turning the crotch black and crusty.


I stretched, pushed my skinny brown braids out of my face, fumbled under the bed, and found my bottle of Kahlua.

I swigged a few swallows as rain splattered on the windows, then walked naked across the wood floor of my loft to peer out. The other boxy buildings and sleek skyscrapers here in downtown Portland were blurry, wet masses of steel and glass.

I have been told that the people in the corporate buildings across the way can see me when I open my window and lean out, and that this causes a tremendous ruckus when I’m nude, but I can’t bring myself to give a rip. It’s my window, my air, my insanity.

My madness.

Besides, after that pink letter arrived yesterday, I needed to breathe. It made me think of my past, which I wanted to avoid, and it made me think of my future, which I also wanted to avoid.

I opened the window, leaned way out, and closed my eyes as the rain twisted through my braids, trickling in tiny rivulets over the beads at the ends, then my shoulders and boobs.

“Naked I am,” I informed myself. “Naked and partly semi sane.”

I did not want to do what that letter told me to do.

No, it was not possible.

I stretched my arms way out as if I were hugging the rain, the Kahlua bottle dangling, and studied myself. I had an upright rack, a skinny waist, and a belly button ring.

When I was drenched, I smiled and waved with both hands, hoping the busy buzzing boring worker bees in the office buildings were getting their kicks and jollies. They needed kicks and jollies.

“Your minds are dying! Your souls are decaying! Get out of there!” I brought the Kahlua bottle to my mouth, then shouted, “Free yourself! Free yourself!”

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A Stubborn Grandpa

My grandpa had a hole in his nose.

It was a fairly little hole, dark black, on the left side. You couldn’t miss it.

The doctor dug the skin cancer out of Thomas Cecil’s nose and told him to come back and get the hole filled. Who wouldn’t get a hole in their nose filled?

Well now, that would be my grandpa.

He refused to go back in. He didn’t like doctors. He wasn’t quite sure he trusted them and their quackery to begin with and he sure as heck didn’t like their bills.

When he didn’t return, the doctor called and begged him to come back. Offered to fill the hole for free. My grandpa said, “Hell no.”

So the hole in his nose stayed right where it was. To understand his decision, you might need to understand him.

My grandpa grew up poor on a farm in Arkansas. He was one of eleven. There were three wives who all died before his father. After finishing an eighth grade education, he continued the back breaking work on the farm, then he and his brothers took off for Los Angeles and built solid, strong houses.

His childhood was so difficult that he changed his name from Cecil Thomas to Thomas Cecil on the way to Los Angeles. Shed the name, shed the pain.

Thomas Cecil married my nana, Mary Kathleen, and couldn’t stay in one place. By the time my mother was seventeen years old, she’d moved eighteen times. He would buy a house, flip it, and move on.

In the construction business it was boom or bust for them. Sometimes my grandpa made a lot of money building homes. The first thing he did with that pile of cash? He bought an expensive, flashy car.

My mother hated the attention they received riding in those sleek cars. Hated when people turned to point at their car. Hated when he flashed his wealth. My grandpa loved those cars. He wasn’t poor anymore. He wasn’t the farmer’s son with an eighth grade education feeding pigs at dawn and milking cows. He was someone.

But a couple of times, at least, my grandpa went bust. He built homes, the market crashed, and he was left with the homes and a financial disaster. They would be wiped out and the flashy car would go.

He was again that poor, desperate boy on the farm, scratching out a living.

To complicate it further, my grandpa suffered from depression.

Genetics? Maybe. A chemical imbalance? Maybe. His mother died when he was four. Lost in a crush of kids, no mother, maybe it started then. Maybe it started on the farm, poverty hanging like a scythe over the property.

My mother remembered her father’s depression. Remembered how down he would get, how the blackness would cover him.

And yet.

He still worked. Still built homes. Still provided. Still did the best he could do. He worked despite the emotional storm in his head, the thunder and lightning crashing in on him, the claws that were pulling him down.

And that hole in his nose he refused to fix? That tells you a lot about his personality. He didn’t care what anyone thought of him or his nose.

He didn’t like doctors, so he wasn’t going back and that was that.

At the end of his life, cancer eating him alive from decades of smoking, my mother practically had to drag that stubborn, sick man to the hospital. By then it was too late, cancer’s tentacles everywhere. My nana had been dead for years by then, he was terribly lonely, and ready to go.

Thomas Cecil dearly loved his family, his wife, his daughter, and his grandkids. He worked hard, despite the depression that wanted to shut him down and out. He dug his way out of poverty. He saved and sent his daughter to college, something he never had.

And when he lost it all, he went back out and started over, again and again.

My grandpa had a hole in his nose. It is only one of many, many important memories and life lessons I have from him.

*** Photo of my grandpa, nana, oldest sister and me.


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Talking To Insomnia

Insomnia has plagued me off and on since I was eighteen.

This is a recent conversation I created with Insomnia late one night. Yes, I have personified Insomnia. Insomnia is now a being. An it. And I talked to It. It talked back. Clearly I am losing my mind.

“Hello, Insomnia. Three in the morning. I can’t say I’m surprised to see your sorry self here.”

“Greetings, Cathy. It’s a pleasure to see you again, my friend.”

“Insomnia, you are not my friend. Let’s get that straight. Do you know how exhausted I’ve been over the decades because of you?”

“I apologize. But you’re worrying, as usual, which is what keeps you up, not me, so I came in for a short visit to see if I could offer any comfort or solace.”

“There’s a lot to worry about in the world. Shootings. ISIS. Maniacs. I get really upset when other people are upset.”

“The world is making all normal people really upset right now. I know. I’m Insomnia. I’m with them at night, too.”

“Plus, I’m worrying about my kids.”

“The children have always been your main worry focus. If I may make a polite suggestion? You worry about things that aren’t happening and probably won’t happen when it comes to Adventurous Singing Daughter, Rebel Dancing Daughter and Darling Laughing Son. Your mind takes off in unnecessary catastrophic directions. I’ve seen where your mind goes. Worry about a problem if and when it arrives, not beforehand.”

“I can’t help it. They’re flying off into the world so I envision all the disasters that might get them including earthquakes, large spiders that bite, and rabid wolves.”

“The slimmest of slim chances that any of those things will happen to the children, so why worry now?”

“Because it’s what I do. I worry.”

“It keeps you up at night. Then I come to keep you company.”

“You’re not very good company.”

“I will endeavor to become better.”

“And I’m also worried about my book.”

“Do share. What’s the problem?”

“It’s hard. The characters are all over the place. They all want to be wild and rebellious. I think they’re picking my energy up. I want to be wild and rebellious, too, but I’m a mother so I can’t. I have to have dinner on the table by six. Two characters are angry and I can only have one angry character. My main character wants to have up against the wall sex with the stud in the book but I won’t let her and she’s throwing fits about the whole thing. I don’t blame her. It does sound like fun.”

“Let them be themselves. Like you are yourself.”

“I’m not a character, Insomnia. I’m a person. Don’t confuse me. It’s already hard enough for me to keep the real people in my life separated from the characters in my head. They all start to blur.”

“Maybe you should try yoga before bed. You’re quite tightly wound.”

“I hate yoga. All that quiet time where I’m supposed to find Zen. Who is Zen? It’s very frustrating.”

“Perhaps a straight shot of whiskey before bed, Cathy?”

“Very funny. You know I don’t drink the devil’s vinegar.”

“May I suggest that you start?”

“No, Insomnia, you shouldn’t. I like to be in control as much as possible.”

“People have very little control over their lives. It’s an illusion. Trust me.”

“You’re annoying me, Insomnia.”

“You’re often annoyed. You’re Type A, Cathy. You’re impatient. You still have a temper even though you’re getting older. I was hoping that you would mellow out a bit at your age and that would help you sleep.”

“I have mellowed out! How dare you tell me I haven’t mellowed out. What’s wrong with you? I’m mellow. And I don’t need you reminding me of my age because then I’ll worry about old things happening to me like bladder leaks, unnecessary flatulence, and uncontrolled burping.”

“Ah. You’re again worrying about possible medical challenges in the future that will probably not actually appear.”

“Why not? Someone has to do it. You’re not being helpful, Insomnia. I think I’ll try to go to sleep now.”

“Well then, I’ll head on to the next insomniac. It’s almost four, you should be fine. Around four your body finally collapses.”

“Please don’t use the words, ‘your body’ and ‘collapse’ in the same sentence. It triggers my very slight problem with hypochondria.”

“Forgive me. Goodnight, Cathy. Pleasant dreams, friend.”

“Goodnight, Insomnia. And we’re not friends. Remember? I already said that.”

“Pardon me. Pleasant dreams, person.”

“Goodnight, Insomnia.”

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That Mean Woman

I saw a woman the other day that I don’t like.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen her, but I recognized her. I was in my car, she was walking along the sidewalk.

No, I did not try to hit her, that would have been uncalled for. Plus, I would have gone to jail and my coloring clashes mightily with orange. I also don’t like jumpsuits, communal showers, or anyone telling me what to do.

Knowing all this, I drove on by. She didn’t see me, and she wouldn’t have recognized me anyhow. I am quite sure that when we met nineteen years ago I didn’t make the slightest imprint on her little brain.

So who was this woman? She was a checker at our local grocery store.

I was a young mother then, three kids under the age of three, and had quit my job as a teacher to stay home. I was delighted to be at home with the kids but financially it was like a cyclone hit.

We had a 1450 square foot home, a car payment, and my husband’s student loan.

We were check to check, each month, and the slightest surprise – car repairs, dish washer breaking, etc. threw us off a mini financial cliff.

I cut coupons religiously, planned all meals around the coupons, then headed up to the grocery store.

One rainy Oregon day, after carefully buying all my groceries, the kids in the cart, coupons ready to go, I headed to the checkout lanes.

I handed this woman my coupons and she all but rolled her eyes straight back into her head. It was as if I’d handed her a dead possum and asked her to stuff it and get it ready for a funeral.

She put all my coupons, one by one, in a pile, then crossed her fingers, as if she was praying, and said in a condescending voice, “Well, let’s begin.”

The line was long, it got longer, as she methodically, and with arrogant glee, rejected one coupon after another, about half of them. The cereal I bought was four ounces too small. This coupon didn’t apply because I didn’t buy something else.

Now, clearly, I made a mistake with the products and the coupons. Tired mother, hardly thinking/sleeping with twin babies and a three year old. My fault.

I should have noticed the cereal coupon was for the twenty ounce box only and that one coupon had expired yesterday.

But it was her patronizing voice and how slowly she processed the coupons, as if to deliberately embarrass me in front of everyone in that line. It was her simmering anger that I had brought coupons in, as if I was trying to rip off the store, as if I was nothing.

I was so humiliated I could hardly speak. We finally left, the kids fussing, the line longer still, our groceries in the bags, my checkbook crushed, as usual.

I was exhausted from taking care of three kids under three, I was tired of having to hunt for spare change under the car seats, so I was extra sensitive then, and I realized this, but I cried in the car that day.

I really didn’t need anyone making me feel poorer and more desperate than I already felt.

Innocent Husband and I are in a different place now. We moved to a new house, the student loan and car payment are long gone.

But when I saw that woman walking along it all came back – how she treated me with such disdain, a mother juggling young children, using coupons because that was the way she was going to make the food budget work that week.

You remember how people treat you especially when you’re in a tough place in life, don’t you?

I didn’t run her over when I saw her. I didn’t stop to say anything. I don’t wish her ill at all. But I have learned two things from her. One, an act of meanness can last a long time in someone else’s life.

And two – I’ll share this wisdom with you, friends – when you see someone you don’t like refrain from hitting them with your car.

You’re not gonna look good in an orange jumpsuit, either, and you so know it, you do.

Wishing you a happy day, as always.

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Such A Pretty Face On Sale

Hello everyone,

Such A Pretty Face is on sale for a short and sweet amount of time for $2.99.



An excerpt:

Written by Stevie Barrett.

I am going to plant a garden this summer.

With the exception of two pink cherry trees, one white cherry tree, and one pink tulip tree, all huge, I have a barren, dry backyard and I’m tired of looking at it. I almost see it as a metaphor for my whole life, and I think if I can fix this, I can fix my life. Simplistic, silly, I know, but I can’t get past it.

So I’m going to garden even if my hands shake as if there are live circuits inside of them and a floppy yellow hat dances ominously through my mind.

I’m going to build upraised beds, a whole bunch of them, and fill them with tomatoes, squash, zucchini, radishes, lettuce, carrots, peas, and beans. But not corn.

I’m not emotionally able to do corn yet – too many memories – but I am going to plant marigolds around the borders, pink and purple petunias, rose bushes and clematis and grapevines.

I’m going to stick two small crosses at the back fence, but not for who you think. I’m going to build a grape arbor with a deck beneath it, and then I’m going to add a table so I can paint there, as I used to, before my memories took that away.

Silverton Tulips 020I’m also going to build three trellises for climbing roses over a rock pathway, one arch for me, Grandma, and Grandpa, which will lead to another garden, with cracked china plates in a mosaic pattern in the middle of a concrete circle, for Sunshine.

This may sound way too ambitious.

It is. But I see this as my last chance to get control of my mind before it blows.

I can wield any type of saw out there, and I have to do this, even if it takes me years. That I can even think in terms of a future is a miracle.


Because two and a half years ago, when I was thirty two years old, I had a heart attack.

I used to be the size of a small, depressed cow.

Silverton Tulips 017The heart attack led to my stomach strangling operation, and I lost 170 pounds. Now I am less than half myself, in more ways than one.

My name is Stevie Barrett.

This is a story of why I was the way I was and how I am now me.

I am going to plant a garden.


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Cathy Lamb
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