A Ducque’s Eye View

The Duck




Let Sleeping Ducques Lie

August 2007


My friend Skinny Minnie always used always tease me about the number of naps I’d take.  She’s call me early on Sunday mornings for the sheer joy of waking me up.  Of course I’d just roll right over and go back to sleep because no one knew better than I the healing power of snoozing. I’ve read lots of articles lately that confirm that among other things people who get enough rest are happier, healthier, less stressed, thinner and just overall a kinder and gentler folk.


Aint’ that the truth?  Few of us get enough down time, and when we do, too often it is in front of a screen, be it television or computer, not allowing free flow dreaming and dead to the world dozing.  I believe the human spirit needs unstructured, unpressured time to soar.  It is in sleep that life’s problems resolve, creative avenues are designed and the body rejuvenates.


Now, knowing how this philosophy runs deep inside my soul, can you imagine my dismay about a year or so ago when menopause reared her ugly head and insomnia hit me like a bullet?  Lying awake, tossing and turning, counting dumb and dumber sheep, screaming inside…  My nights were, well, nightmarish and my days were drudgery.  I operated on caffeine and adrenaline month after month.


For those of you who have never suffered, sleeplessness goes something like this:  Wind down for the night, snuggle under the covers, turn off the light and then instead of blissful unconsciousness… Boiiing!  My eyes bounce open.  I look around the room.  Did I lock the door, turn off the computer, put away the milk?  Is my little abode really secured for the night?  I forgot to mail the electric bill.  All of the day’s undone details come crashing down on the bed. Varoooomm!  My brain starts racing.  I review conversations and choices.  Did I hurt my co-workers feelings when I didn’t eat her potato salad?  Did she know I was just kidding when I agreed she talked too much?  I wish I’d said “this” when he said “that.”  Will I ever have enough money to retire?  I wonder what Italy is like this time of year?  If I give up expanded cable, how much could I save a month?  What if I get sick and have a long hospitalization?  What if my kids put me in a nursing home?  Eccchuccch! I cannot get comfortable.  My shoulders are stiff, my legs twitch, my nose itches.  Did I take my allergy pill?  I roll over on my right side, then back to the left.  My bed’s too soft.  Maybe I’ll sleep on my back.  I can’t breathe.  I’m too hot, no too cold.  Maybe I should go pee.


So I get up, go to the bathroom even though I don’t really need to.  I straighten the towels.  Am I thirsty?  I go to the kitchen.  The floor needs sweeping.  I’m too tired to unload the dishwasher.  What’s on television?  Doesn’t Taco Bell’s latest sensation look good?  Darn, they closed at midnight. But, I think there’s an old wrap and some spare cheese on the bottom shelf of the frig.  The tort is a little hard but there’s no mold on my queso.  Nuke the sucker.  Yuck.  Guess I’m not really hungry.  Maybe I should read.  Turn a few pages of an old psychology text.  I think I’m manic depressive.  No wait it’s called bipolar disorder now.  While this might be mania, I’m awake to tell you it’s NOT euphoria. Why didn’t I get rid of that book years ago?  Hey, I’m sleepy!


Back to bed, curl up in a ball. Close my eyes and await blessed oblivion…  Did I turn off the light? The television?  This mattress is too hard.  What is that noise outside?  Is anyplace open this time of night?  Walmart is open 24 hours.  What do I need from the store? Who goes shopping in the middle of the night?  Is there any booze in the house?  There’s some crème de cacao and triple sec in the back of the cabinet from Harvey Wallbangers and margaritas long ago.   Wonder what they would taste like together?  No, I’m not that desperate.  Where’s the tequila and the brandy when you need it?  Oh, I’m thinking like an addict. Do we have an Alano club in this area?  There’s supposed to always be someone there in case you need support in not drinking.  Maybe I should become an alcoholic?  Then I could call my sponsor….This is nuts.  Drag the Ducque out of her disappointing nest.  Pace a bit.  Utter a few unspeakables.  Turn on the computer.  Play a few hours of Spider Solitaire.  The worst thing about insomnia is although I’m hypervigilant about everything that needs to be done, I’m too tired to actually do it.  My productivity is in the toilet.  


Rinse and repeat.  Sometimes after a few rounds I would get a few hours of restless rest.  Sometimes it went on all night.


Chamomile tea and breathing exercises helped, but they weren’t enough.  I studied and practiced “sleep hygiene:” going to bed at the same time every night, using your bed only for sleep and sex, reducing coffee and alcohol, avoiding evening exercise and nightly news.  I even gave up napping during the day.   I tried Benadryl and melatonin.  I saw my doc and graduated to trazodone, Ambien, and more prescriptions whose names I can’t remember.  Despite my best ducquely efforts I was only getting 4-5 hours sleep a night, if that.  Life was lacking its luster.  I was getting crazier by the night.  I was crankier by the day.  My brain hurt from racing thoughts and sometimes would just stop in the afternoon.  I dreaded the dark.


Then a couple of months ago I noticed I couldn’t stay up until my new 11:30 bedtime.  I was falling asleep early, going to bed and staying asleep.  As insidiously as it appeared, Insomnia skulked away under the cover of darkness.  I went on vacation and was even able to sleep in strange beds.  I didn’t rejoice immediately because I couldn’t trust that the “I” word wouldn’t reappear one night.  I am especially apprehensive when I get up every night for my midlife midnight trip to the bathroom.  But so far, so good.  I’ve had the occasional night of fitful sleep when I’ve had a few too many drinks or worries.  But, nothing like it was before. 


Lately, I’ve even been able to steal a few minutes shuteye in the daytime and still slumber that night.  ‘What do you want to do this weekend, Ducque?”  “Oh, I’ve got some chores I need to do at home.”  Translation: I’m going to take a nap.  A part of me feels guilty for wasting my golden summertime sleeping.  But you know what, there is nothing more delicious than opening my eyes unalarmed just in time to plan dinner.  This afternoon awakening is one of total relaxation unlike the workaday rising rush.


How do I explain the phenomena of the disappearing insomnia? Determination, outgrew it, done with menopause?  Dunno.  Don’t really care.  I’m just glad it’s gone.  The end result is I have learned to revere rest even more than I did before.  “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” has so resonated with my renewed ability to fall asleep on demand.  I’m like a little kid before Christmas every night as I crawl into bed.  I’m not envisioning treasure under the tree though; my anticipation lies under the comforter.  I love dreaming.  I’m thrilled that I can go to bed at night, turn off the light and…check out for a few hours.  I feel blessed to be able to nap again.


It is the little things in life that get us through the day, and the night.  Last winter I would have begged, borrowed or stolen any amount of money that would have assured me a sound sleep.  This simple realization launched me into apondering about the cliché “the best things in life are free.”  Sleep, health, love.  They don’t cost a dime, but as MasterCard likes to remind us they are priceless. 




May, 2007


When my daughter moved in with me last October (See “Cleaning House”) I promised to buy a spare car for her to use while she was here.  Never let it be said I don’t keep my promises...  Unfortunately the luxury model I picked up for a song from one of our local musicians was older than she is, and turned out to be an out of tune nightmare.  $1200 and three mechanics later we were forced to accept the reality that the car we named Bisby drove to a different drummer than the one to which either Daughter or I marched. 


The New Yorker worked fine for the mechanics and our male friends, but stalled every time either of us girls got behind the wheel.  I traded it off and we decided to share my personal pumpkin coach until she could afford her own wheels.  (We decided Bisby must be gay because he loves his new (boy) owner too.)  We put on our good sport attitudes and have made the best out of sharing a vehicle.  Since Ducque works four week days and Ducqueling works three weekend nights we don’t actually need a car for transportation to employment at the same time, and the scheduling has worked out pretty well. 


Given that Yours Truly is one of the County’s worst drivers, my being grounded on weekends isn’t all bad.  But in a society where A-U-T-O-M-O-B-I-L-E spells I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E, it’s not all good either.  I’m certainly not the Party Girl I was 30 years ago, but I do like to venture away from home on the occasional Saturday night.  I have an admission to make:  Although my heart and most of my social life is in Bandonia, I live and work in CooCoo Bay.  Boyfriend’s shack, Bandon Bill’s and Old Town are definitely not within walking distance of my cottage.  So I have become reliant on the kindness of friends and strange taxi drivers when I want to kick up my heels or go out to dinner. 


I have become adept at hinting and opportunistic when someone mentions venturing south.  Several of my co-workers who commute have proffered me open invitations to drop me off on their way home.  I have a couple of pals who are also regular Bandon visitors.  Boyfriend is good about driving all the way in and out of town to collect me.  So I am mostly okay with being a commodity handed off in Ray’s parking lot. Mostly, but not always.


There is something undignified when a fifty-something woman is tailspinned back in time to the days of her misspent youth when one needed “cash, grass, or gas” to get a ride.  Thank goodness for my good natured friends who are above any crass expectations of return for their favors.  Yet always asking for a lift and being dependent on someone else’s timetable can be wearing on the psyche.  I don’t want to impose, but I don’t like missing out on the festivities either.  I feel I owe my drivers something.  Unlike Jessica Tandy in the movie Driving Miss Daisy I can’t pay my chauffeurs.  So, I try to be witty in conversation and buy lunches and drinks instead, and I offer to drive on Sundays. 


The perk in my pooling arrangement has been (re)discovering the level of closeness one can attain with another by spending hours in a car together.  Like Daisy and Hoke, I find myself learning new things about people I’ve known for years.  Being trapped together in a metal container is conducive to confiding.  Maybe it’s the parallel staring ahead at the road or at the scenery that triggers reminiscences and invites sharing?  Maybe it’s the lack of eye contact that facilitates disclosure?  Whatever the ingredients are parents of adolescents take note, this recipe of car talk works.  It helped when I had teenagers at home and it’s enhancing my adult friendships now.  I treasure the glimmers of childhood memories, travel stories, and past relationship confessions that have emerged on Highway 101 in recent months.


Another truth I’ve relearned is, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”  I really liked having a car all my own.  I’ve reflected and figured out a lot of stuff in solo excursions. I miss spontaneous spins in my Element to the beach for a sunset or to watch a storm.  Not being able to hop in my Honda and drive down my hill when I’m out of a spice has been a trifle annoying.  I’m too cheap to justify a $12 roundtrip ride for oregano.  I’ve regretted not being able to go to library lectures and karaoke at the bar even though I NEVER did these things before when I could have. 


But the thing I’m gonna miss the most is having my baby girl live with me.  As hard as it has been sharing my space and my SUV, the end is in sight.  She’s saved her money and is ready to return to Sac.  She’s not gone yet; and I’m already starting to miss her.  But we’ve set a date.  In mid-May I’ll be enjoying a bittersweet joint road trip even further south on 101.  This time Dear Daughter will be driving Miss Ducque.  





April, 2007


Since Selma Hayek announced she is getting married I only have a few female competitors left for the Boyfriend’s attention: his boats and his cat.  The boats are inanimate, don’t cohabitate with him, and take me places, so I can live with that.  However his common gray tabby is a horse of a different color.  Mostly we’re different creatures.  She eats rodents; I scream at the sight of them.  She lives to kill critters; the only wild things I fight are shoppers who get in my way of hunting bargains at the clearance rack.  But we do have a few of things in common.  In addition to sleeping a lot, we both love a certain burly boy and become green eyed monsters when he’s concerned.


So, I read that first paragraph to the aforementioned Hercules.  Any woman could tell you the right response to this writing would be something about the wittiness of my prose and an assurance of how much more I mattered to him than a silly kitty.  His reply? “But she really has green eyes and you don’t.  I think CatCat’s winning in that category.”  Does that illustrate the problem?


When this teenaged mother first presented herself at My Mountain Man’s cabin two Christmas’s ago we both fell for her.  I never met a baby I didn’t like.  She cuddled up between us to keep warm.  She was so hungry and so precious.  I would gladly get up in the middle of the night to hand feed her chicken scraps and again at the crack of dawn to let her out for her favorite part of the day. 


She quickly discovered people paws are for her personal petting pleasure.  She’ll prowl around looking for a hand under the cozy blankies or holding another human. It was so cute the way she nuzzled our hands apart so we would stroke and scratch her.  We spent days choosing the perfect name for his new pet.  She reminded him of Eloise and the Plaza Hotel, so we rented the video and thought she was nomenclatured.   But Eloise didn’t stick.  Although our animal is as autonomous and spoiled as that little girl, she is all cat, in fact so much cat she is CatCat indeed.


Did I mention I’m allergic to felines?  I spent a couple of hours’ pay concocting a bone meal and brewer’s yeast potion to keep her dander down so I could sleep in the same bed with her.  Boyfriend saw my reddened eyes and stuffed nose and gingerly offered to find her another home.  I would never force him to get rid of his darling, but it was nice that he offered.  A point for Ducque.


It wasn’t long before we figured out that even though she was just a kitten herself, she was “with child.”  We babied her.  We praised her for the way she cared for those first four.  Despite her own early abandonment, she was a fiercely protective mother.  We moved the family out of the bedroom closet where they were born into the spare room.  She scruffed them back to My Man’s laundry basket one by one. 


That should have been my first clue.  She was marking her territory which she assumed to be HIS bedroom.  After we found homes for her beloved offspring I thought she just needed extra TLC.  I am a big enough person that I imagined I could share my boyfriend’s bed for a little while.   After all, what are antihistamines for?  We thought it was too soon to get her fixed.  I never would have guessed such a sweet thing was such a whore.  Yep, at least two toms came around. She became pregnant again.  Boyfriend made a nest of clean rags and his old undershirts in the back room for her to have the next batch of kits.  He reasoned if she had a comfortable nursery she wouldn’t expose his bedroom to all those cat allergens. 


The birthing night arrived.  She meowed, “I’m in labor.”  Can you envision a really big guy carrying a tiny mother into his office and tucking her into his towels and tees?  He even took the shirt off his back, so her birthing room would smell like him.  He returned to the couch.  She followed him and whined.  He took her back to labor and delivery and lay down on the floor with her.  He spent the night with her there until all seven kitties were born.  I wasn’t really surprised when she towed her pride back under his dresser the next day.  I was just thankful that none of them had red hair.


Then along came my second clue.  As this bunch grew older CatCat would bring half dead mice into the back porch for her kit kits to practice hunting. She’d release the catch and teach them how to aim for the jugular.  When the little’uns missed, she’d gracefully swoop mousey back until finally one of the babes scored the kill.  This skillful huntress’ name should have been Artemis.  She never missed.


I put my foot down.  “No, Boyfriend, you can’t keep any of the kittens.  Yes, Boyfriend you have to get CatCat spayed.”  I was still in charge.  The devoted mother mourned the loss of her family and fertility.  I graciously allowed her to seek solace in the hands and bed of her master.  Already close, they bonded even further.  He left a window open all night so she could come and go at will.  He spent most of his evenings snuggled with her.  He began his mornings laughing at her cavorting in the tall grass.  He talked about his cat like other people do their children.  I got my prescription for Allegra refilled.


Since I’m only at the home of Boyfriend a couple of nights a week, I think she found it easier to blame me for the loss of her catting around than it was to get mad at her Meal Ticket.  But since I’m the only one who shares their bed I believe she sees me a threat to the ownership of Her Person.  One day in duck season Boyfriend left early for his own hunt.  CatCat was already out stalking her morning prey.  I was lounged in my jammies catching up on “Six Feet Under.”   The only things I was thinking about killing were my third cup of coffee over the second season of my show. 


Meanwhile, CatCat connived her revenge with evil genius.  Her scheme involved her own Ducque season.  Midway thorough my marathon she pounced inside carrying a rat almost as big as she was.  She delivered her prize to the middle of the Oriental carpet between the TV and me.  She dropped Mr. Fat Rat on the rug and stepped back so he could escape.  She made absolutely NO effort to recapture him.  Then she turned Cheshire.  No matter what anyone says, cats CAN smile.  And smile she did, right before she disappeared leaving Ducque screaming on the ottoman and Rat running around the room.  Now remember, CatCat is the lioness that never misses her quarry…


Bingo.  The animal is jealous of the person. She was saying, and not so politely, “You’ve worn out your welcome Dear Ducque… This shack ain’t big enough for the two of us… Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”  I knew who had won that battle, if not the war.  I demonstrated the meaning of the phrase, “Make haste.”  I was dressed, out that door and on the gravel road alickety split.  But at least I comforted myself, she must know I’m special to Boyfriend if she thinks I’m a threat.


When I told the tale to my Knight in Shining Armor, did he vow to protect me?  Did the phrase, “bad cat” pass his lips?  You probably already know the answer to those questions is a resounding NO!  He roared with laughter at his girl who can catch her own weight in rodents. “She just wanted to give you a present and teach you how to hunt,” he replied with pride.


To make matters worse, I joined him and the cranberry boggers at Billy Smoothboar’s for lunch last week.  He was telling the good old boys another story of how CatCat brought a bat inside the other night thinking it was just another rodent and looked so startled when it flew off.  I joined them.  As an aside, after reading my February column and suffering through the first season of “Sex and The City” on DVD my blustering boyfriend has learned it’s important to introduce me as his “girlfriend” not his “friend.”  So, he did.  The phrase, “be careful what you wish for” had new meaning when one of the regulars commented, “I didn’t know you had a girlfriend.”  Aha.  He talks about her but not me.  Score another for That Darn Cat.


I wondered what is it about a little ball of fluff that can draw such tenderness out of my tough guy?  So, I asked him.  “Be sure to write she can climb a 40 foot plum tree.  That’s one of her special skills.” Duh, I’m trying to be profound here…  No wait, I get it…   Sometimes it’s nice not to have to abstract and instead be able to stay in the here and now, with the physical joie de vie. 


So we talked a little more.  As I understand him, in addition to her agility, his admiration for CatCat has something to do with her independence, intelligence, playfulness and friendliness.  She entertains him and doesn’t pee or poop in the wrong places.  She can fend for herself when he’s gone for a day or two.  She’s glad to see him every morning, but if he’s not home in time for supper she’ll just make do with kibble or catch herself a mouse.  He likes those qualities.


Although he denied more complex companionship issues, I sensed there is a real relationship between man and beast.  He said, “We fit.  She was raised well.  She knows what ‘no’ means.”  Maybe it really is that simple.  They don’t have to talk and he doesn’t have to explain things to her.  She makes him laugh.  They have a history together.  She has so much of the joy of life that she even gave him kittens.  It’s a basic connection.  While he has made a “till death do us part” commitment to CatCat, he doesn’t have to be there for her every day. 


There are issues of acceptance and trust man to cat that can’t be duplicated man to woman.  She doesn’t ask him to think or explain how he feels.   She gets that sometimes a man just needs to be.  CatCat doesn’t get her feelings hurt when he doesn’t call.  When he stays out all night it can be corrected with canned food or a cuddle.  When he’s down or angry, she doesn’t bug him with “What’s wrong, honey?”  She’s there to pet when he wants something warm and fuzzy, but she can be tossed to the other side of the bed when he’s done.  Although he still might choose me if I gave him an ultimatum, CatCat never will expect him to make a choice. 




Love and the New Carissa

February, 2007




New Carissa


(Please note: This photo was not taken by Ducque’s troops.  They forgot their cameras.  It was stolen from the Internet.  Had we known what it looked like we might not have gone.)


Where were you and what were you doing on February 4, 1999?  What was happening in your love life like then, and what is it like now?  Come on, read the title of this column. That’s the day the New Carissa went aground near the North Spit in North Bend.  Granted, that date is not as noteworthy as the JFK assassination or your wedding day, but it something that most of us living in Coos County then probably remember now. 


February, 1999 was the confirmation of the end of my marriage and one of the beginnings of my on again off again relationship with The Boyfriend.  My soon-to-be-ex-husband and teenaged kids had moved to California and I was planning a visit to them over that President’s Day weekend.  The offspring had questions about the New Carissa, “How come nothing ever happened in Coos Bay when we lived there?  Did you see the fire?”  No, I didn’t see that blaze.   I was driving to Sacramento to spend Valentine’s Day with you all.  At the same time I was wondering about the man whom I had dated for a couple of months right after they left who had recently reappeared on my scene.


The above is in explanation as to why love and sinking ships are rather confused in my brain.


It is now Janaury, 2007.  After eight years they are finally going to move the New Carissa in 2008.  So, my friend Krab, her boy toy JASCD (Just A Simple Country Doc) and I decided to go see the sight while it was still here.  With our usual impeccable timing we ventured forth on our four mile beach trek the weekend after the January snow.  Can you imagine ducques ice skating in the wetlands?    Brrrrrrr.   JASCD’s tourettes always acts up when he gets irritated.  “Blankety, blank that wind is bitter.”  Here, JASCD dear, put on my extra headband to keep your ears warm.  Fluffy things that cover one’s ears are for girls.  But, did I mention the temperature was below freezing that day?  At least he had the comfort of his love and his manliness to keep him warm. 


It was an exhilarating tramp. The Pacific rewarded us generously with treasures: an almost perfect sand dollar, well formed cockles, an agate and some fossils.  We spied a solitary sand piper.  Disclaimer: Not being an Audubon member, I can’t claim this specific species on my life list.  I just like alliteration and this bird was alone.  I’m used to seeing sand pipers run in gangs.  We anthromorphised.  Being the uncoupled person that day I identified a little.  Was this creature ostracized, in mourning for his lost love, an adventurer, a dreamer, or just trying to get a head start on dinner?   A few yards further we saw a peck of unpickled pipers so gave up further concerns about the  feathered one’s mental health.


Then we got close enough actually to see our destination.  Well, mmmmmm.  How do I say this?  The New Carissa ain’t the boat she used to be.  Seriously, it is just a lump of junk metal.  I wanted to turn around then and there, but my friends urged me onward.  And I’m glad they did.  Viewed from the south (as seen in pic at top of column) there is a more interesting view of the vessel.  At least she has some spots for nesting pipers amongst her pilings.



New Carissa


(Another plagurized pic.   Ensuing conversation: “Did you bring the camera?”  “No, you had it last night at Gallagher?”   “How about you, Ducque, where’s your camera?” “I don’t own a camera.  I still haven’t developed the photos I took last year with disposable cameras.”  Where’s Mongo and his digital when you need them?)


We came.  We saw.  We didn’t camera.  It was time to turn back.  OMG!  We needed to head north to return to the car and the wind was blowing in our faces.  Remember the aforementioned breeze and JASCD’s colorful vocabulary?  Insert sailor curses here.  Reaffix the baby blue newly christened man muffs.   Must trudge back.  In hopes of some wind screen, we voted to take the ATV road instead of the beach back.

On the road, there was a sign commemorating the site.  The notice said something like, “Beware: This wreck can move suddenly without warning.”  Excuse me, how many times did they try to move that ship?  Krab, JASCD and Ducque are nothing if not amusing.  Fast forward through multiple obvious jokes about this misleading marker.  For those of you that don’t remember the unsinkable New Carissa read the links below and remember the infamous quote from February 6, 1999, "We have no fear. We'll get it out of here."   





Then JASCD said something like, “One can fall in love suddenly without warning.”  That’s right, when you least expect it, out of the mouth of a babe, can come a simple truth.  How many of us know seemingly confirmed bachelors(ettes) who flurry into relationships after years of singledom?  How often do old beaus or tired spouses astonish us with acts of love?


It is so easy to miss the warning signs of love.  No matter how often one might have cruised the clubs looking for love or how many self help books one might have read preparing for love, love still strikes “without warning.”  Couples commonly preface the story of their first encounter with, “I wasn’t really looking….”  Or a man and a woman who were “just friends” tell the tale of when they discovered something more in their relationship.  Somehow the "old wreck" of a self can move suddenly when the time is right. 


Why is love so surprising?  How many words have been written and songs have been sung about love?  How can something so pervasive be so sneaky?  For me I think it might have something to do with being afraid of love.  Keeping love alive takes work.  Losing love causes pain.  After my shipwrecked marriage, I know love has been an approach/avoidance kind of thing for me. The only way Cupid had a chance of hitting me with his arrow was to aim beneath the armor.  I had been hurt too hard and too often by love.  Perhaps I have taken these warnings overly to heart.  Love had to strike suddenly without warning to get through and around the barriers I have constructed. 


Eight years later instead of staying in the present with my current association I tend to anticipate its end.  The New Carissa was afloat for 10 years before it dug itself in Horsfall Beach.  I don’t know of anyone who talks about her life as a working freighter ship.  But there are multiple articles about the unsuccessful attempts to extricate the vessel from the shoreline.  Likewise, I remember the hateful divorce instead of the magical moments of my marriage and hold back from loving fully today.  I am so busy looking for warning signs my mercurial relationship is over, I missed the warning that love had struck.


I definitely wasn’t looking for “it” when The Boyfriend first found me.  Throughout our many partings, I have spent an extraordinary amount of time longing for “it.”  Sometimes I know he and I have “it.”  And sometimes I wonder if I have ever experienced love?  There is room for a whole shipful of “warnings” in the way I dance anticipatorily around love.


Sometimes I complain about my liaison without a future.  After all these years we don’t live together, he doesn’t phone every day, he seldom says “I love you” and he still introduces me as  his “friend.”  I am aware, possibly too aware, that at any day our love boat could sink.  But once in awhile his love moves me suddenly without warning.  He looks at me and voices what I’m feeling before I know it.  He reaches for my hand while we’re watching a movie.  He makes me laugh when I need it the most. His warmth is helping me melt the ice with which I have protected my heart. 


Have no fear.  We’ll get it out of here.  The New Carissa and my marriage sank eight years ago.  None of us really know what will be happening in our lives eight years from now.  I don’t know if I will still be with The Boyfriend in 2015.  But I want to believe that the lump of junk that is the stern of New Carissa will only remain in photos.  I want to have “no fear” of love.




(For more nonsense from The Ducque, Not an Expert on Love, scroll through “Previous Columns from the Ducque” where you can find at least four more essays “Lost Loves: Exes and Personality Development”, 4/26/04; “Marriage Meanings and Myths,” 2/25/04; “How to Be Your Own Best Valentine,” 2/11/04 and “Confessions of a Single Girl,” 12/14/03 that skirt around love.


For more adventures with Krab, check out “I Had Morels but no Idee,” 4/12/04 and “Fishing Stories From The Ducquess, Part II, 3/11/04.) 




Here We Goal Again

January, 2007


Helloooooooooo 2007.   THIS is the year I am going to weigh less than 150 pounds, be on time to all of my appointments and clean my kitchen every day.  Yeah, right.  Hope springs eternal.


One problem with resolutions is they are so specific.  Not a lot of wiggle room.  I miss a day going to the gym and I throw in the towel the next day and the day after.  I have one brownie and before I know it the whole platter is empty.  The dishes start to pile up… I’m running late…  And it’s barely January.  Why bother?


Another problem with resolutions is they are not specific enough.  So how am I going to lose these 15 or so pounds?  What am I going to do differently to be punctual?  And who in the heck is going to wipe those counters?  Where does one even start?  Why bother?


I bother because hope actually does spring eternal.  Every year right after the Winter Solstice I find myself hoping again.  I’ve made it through the darkest day and the Christmas chaos has passed its peak. One of my favorite presents this year was a CD called, “Begin to Hope”   that exactly captures my mood.  I expect I’ll be around for another year and it’s time to start thinking ahead.


Mostly I know how to be a better person and how better to take care of my health.  A lot of life’s answers are not brain surgery.  To lose weight you eat less and move more.  To be prompt you schedule less tightly and allow yourself more minutes.  As for the dishes, you wash them as soon as you’re done eating.  Or get paper plates.  I just have to figure out how to tweak my brain so that my behavior is consistent with my intent.


As trite as it may be, the word “resolve” resonates within me. 


Re-solve.  That’s the ticket.  I want to learn how to refocus on my goals when the simple solutions don’t stick.  Life isn’t black and white.   Winter can be especially gray in the Pacific Northwest.  Some days I will be led astray by fast food, be delayed by car trouble, or be too tired to disinfect the kitchen.  Yes, it’s a given that I will I break my resolutions.  What could be different about 2007 is maybe I can strategize in advance how to minimize the harm when I do slip up.  Damage control.


First a general lecture about goal setting.  (Skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to hear this again.) It’s pretty hard to get anywhere unless you know where you are going and have an idea about how to get there.  Goals need to be precise and achievable.  Write it down and know exactly what you are trying to accomplish.  If your goal is large, break it up in smaller pieces that are more doable.  Goals also have to be fluid, so if (when) you fall off the resolution wagon you can regroup and climb back on. 


We are all works in progress.  When we hit an obstacle we can fall down, detour, climb over, give up or any combination thereof.  So the best to hope for is to have a menu of solutions and re-solutions from which to choose in order to overcome barriers.  If one approach doesn’t work, then attempt something else.   If at first you don’t succeed….  Really. When at first we don’t succeed we must try, try again.


So here is my personal plan to attain my 2007 goals:


1) Weigh 149 pounds by January 1, 2008.  The math is easy.  Lose about a quarter of a pound every week.  Eat about 1915 calories every day.  Exercise about 30 minutes every other day. 


Life doesn’t quite fit into this mathematical formula.  I know there will be higher cal days when I consume food for comfort or celebration, not for fuel.  After 30 years of dieting daze I know my body’s clutch jerks and lets go of several pounds in clumps then hangs onto what it’s got for awhile before it releases any more poundage.  The first few pounds come off more easily than those last two will.  Hormones and holidays, mindless munching, and stress eating are the road blocks for which I need to prepare. 


This is where a hope chest full of tools to encourage my success in weight loss comes in.  I hope I won’t give into temptation as often.  I hope when I allow my self to indulge in treats they are full of worthy calories.  I hope to taste, enjoy, chew thoroughly and savor.  I hope to eat lots of fruits and veggies, drinks lots of water.  To maintain my motivation I need to hang onto my hope for a healthier being.


2) Be on time for all of my appointments.  Anyone who knows me is aware I operate on a Ducque clock, which is usually 5-30 minutes later than standard time.  They understand if they want me somewhere at a particular time it helps to tell me the party starts a half hour earlier than it actually does .  In December the 50 year old birthday girl arrived at her surprise party before I did.  My walking partners usually have most of a lap completed before I arrive.  Sigh.


Once again the math is straightforward.  Plan time for returning telephone calls and emails.  Figure out how long it’s going to take to go from Place A to B and allow a few extra minutes before you depart.  Schedule adequate time for Appointment 1 before penciling in Engagement 2.   If only life flowed that smoothly….


In order to begin to re-solve my chronic tardiness, I had to ask, “Self, why are you always late?”  Ducque replied with lots of excuses.  “I’m too busy, I need to finish what I’m doing, I have separation anxiety… and I hate to wait on others.”  Ah ha.  My dirty little secret is I would rather have others wait on me than risk having to wait on them.  Gulp.  I am not narcissistic enough to believe I and my time are more important than someone else’s. 


But I do get bored when I wait and I get anxious when I’m bored.  So, I need to prepare things to do while I wait.  Meditation, mini walks, cell phone calls. Carry a puzzle book in my purse, make a list, or just pull over and space out on nature.  Mmmmmmmmmmm, I know it will be enticing to wait out a rain shower before I set off for an unpleasant meeting.  I won’t be able to prevent real emergencies interfering with my time table.  Yet I hope that recognizing I have a responsibility to others will reinforce this resolve.


3) Clean my kitchen every day.  I typed that and then seriously considered deleting.  Aren’t my other two resolutions hard enough?  I reread the column so far and noted the number of times I would have had to edit out cleaning references.  I didn’t want to rewrite.  Since you are reading this, you see my reluctance to work won out and resolution #3 stayed in.  As you will recall I am lazy.  Sometimes there is no other psychological perspective.  I don’t like housework and I can’t afford a maid.  In regards to my kitchen I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.  Or continue to live with a dirty dishes. 


And there you have it.  Same old resolutions, but with new insight and motivation.  I’m embracing 2007 with both eyes open.  I don’t expect to make 100% on my test for resolve,  but at least I’ve planned for pitfalls.  I’ve examined why I fail and developed a safety net to catch me.  I’m HOPING that this year will be better than last year and I will be skinnier, prompter and have a cleaner kitchen. 


I also HOPE that something I might have said will trigger an insight in what and how you my beloved readers want to change.  I wish to leave you with the “P” motto that my dieting e-buddy Liz and I developed last year: Progress, not Perfection, and Persistence will Prevail.   (Hope I don’t sound too Preachy.) 


Happy New Year.




Spaces In Between

December 2, 2006


Some months you need to wear track shoes just to keep up with the runs of bad luck that occur between the first and payday.  November was like that for me.  It started out with having my purse stolen off my desk at work on Halloween afternoon and ended with the death of a schizophrenic I loved.   It seemed like I would just get back on my feet before I stumbled again.  Seriously, it was one depressing thing after another.  Possibly the worst part of the past 30 plus daze was every time I called someone up to complain about my calamity du jour I heard tales of woe more pitiful than mine.  At least I still have a job.  But who is going to care for the crazy lady’s imaginary dog Molly?  I promise this column is not going to be a venue for my whining. I just want to set the scene.


One day mid month and in between storms while driving from Bandon to Coos Bay I impulsively pulled off at Winchester Trails for a breather.  I decided some exercise and exposure to the outdoor world would do me good.  I needed to be alone.  So, I was wandering in the woods on this little trail I’d probably hiked twenty times before, once as recently as October.   But after all the wind and rain we’d had it looked really different.  In the rare afternoon sunlight the moss was greener.  All the colors were sharper.  I stepped over brush and broken trees.  My eyes alternated between scanning the ground for a stray chanterelle with enjoying the changed countryside.   There was a clearing I didn’t remember and a secret spot I knew but couldn’t find.  I had expected my familiar place to console me but instead had found a new and exciting environment to explore.  Cool.  I forged ahead. 


I got to wondering. Is it the big milestones in life or is it the little rituals that get us from one morning to the next which matter the most?   Would I be better off if I was walking in the rut of my usual hike?  Perhaps it was healthier to step outside my box and discover this new place.  How many times before had I been on this path without seeing this magical meadow?  How does a storm shake up a spot so much?  I walked and thought about the forest and life and luck.  My fresh perspective was invigorating.  I felt my luck had turned.  I felt wise as I meditated upon how all living things change and grow.  Lofty narcissism. 


After awhile I realized the terrain was getting steeper and no mushrooms were to be found.   I turned around and twisted my knee.  There was no trail, no meadow, and no cell phone reception.  Just a rugged hill.  I listened for noise from 101 or an ATV but all I could hear was a chattering squirrel. I had been so deeply communing with nature that I hadn’t a clue where I was.


Yep, it was late afternoon in daylight savings time; night was nearing.  What kind of former Camp Fire leader was I?  I never go hiking without telling someone where I am going.  I always grab my backpack prepacked with a space blanket, dried food and first aid kit.  But never arrived today when always became usually. I was lost in the jungle with an aching knee wearing a light jacket without water, snacks or matches.  I thought about sitting down and waiting for someone to find me.  But there were too many branches strewn about to sit comfortably.  And I hate to be cold so I strode onward and upward.


I panicked.  Drama Ducque that I am I imagined the creatures that would feast upon me in the dark hours that were approaching. I prayed for the rogue jeeper who would find my corpse in the spring, hoping the sight wouldn’t traumatize him the rest of his life.  I was idly curious as to whether my fat blue jeans would be recognizable as mine in six months.   I wished I’d squeezed into some size 10’s and brushed my hair before I ventured forth that fatal day. 


When I was done planning my memorial service, I limped faster frantically seeking landmarks.  I fleetingly lamented that I wouldn’t get to go to Europe again or see my first grandchild born…  But those weren’t my real regrets.  Surprisingly enough what I was truly missing in my last minutes on the planet were: Saturday dinner with my boyfriend, Jazz Sunday on Jefferson Public Radio, Monday night football with friends,  Tuesday telephone calls with my aunt, Wednesday evenings home with my daughter, Thursday lunches with my co-workers and Friday night on USA TV with Monk, Psychic and House.  Getting home to a hot bath was what kept me going that afternoon.  It was a scary twenty minutes before I found my way.


Jeez, how boring is that?  While you can’t quite set a clock according to my behavior, I am fairly predictable.  I have actually worked hard to create regularity in my life.  I think it gives me the illusion of control.  There is so much in this world that we have no power over.  Bosses have bad moods.  Cars have accidents.  Children lead their own lives.  The stock market falls.  People get sick.  And trees get downed over our favorite paths. 


While I realize my little obsessions can’t prevent tragedies or even my current stream of bad fortune, they give me something to look forward to.   When in November my job sucks eggs with a straw, I know there are eggnog lattes in December.  When I can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed I speculate what the daily online jigsaw puzzle might be.  I need my daily routines.  Chatting online and walking the mall with my girlfriends are what carry me through life.  It is those spaces in between the crises that keep me “somewhat” sane. 


I can’t avert the next disaster but I can create a new ritual.  Remember the November 30 death I mentioned in my first paragraph?  Well, I am now taking care of Molly the Made up Mutt.  She’s the perfect pet for me.  My daughter has installed an imaginary doggy door for her.  I can afford her fantasy food and virtual vet bills.  She is an excuse for me to walk in the morning and something soft to cuddle at night.  Now you understand while I put quotations on the word somewhat in that previous paragraph.


Eventually my luck really has to change and I will refocus on meaningful meditations, writing columns on time and accomplishing my woulda coulda shouldas.  But until things calm down a bit I am grateful for the spaces in between.


Postscript to Spaces In Between

December 8, 2006


After a bad case of writer’s block I was able to piece together “Spaces In Between” only a week ago.  It now seems like months ago.  That next day Chuck Holloway and Dan Kelly’s plane went down.  Then over the next few days we started hearing about the Kim family from San Francisco lost in the Oregon woods.  Mother and daughters were found okay, but husband and father died seeking help for his family. 


Sheeut.  As the theme to the Twilight Zone starts playing in my head, I considered withdrawing my paltry column from publication.  I thought I had it bad….  My 20 panicked minutes lost in Winchester Trails were miniscule compared to the heroism of Mr. James Kim’s plodding in the woods for days searching for help for his family.  While I would do anything I could for my kids, I have never had to breastfeed two scared little girls while freezing in a car the way Kati Kim did.  It has been years since I had to experience the raw grief of losing a parent or friend.  I can’t even imagine losing your husband or child.  How could I ever have thought my little vignettes were worth your reading?


But you know what?  I reread “Spaces,” and it is not insignificant.  I stand by my words.  What matters in life is those ways we get through our days.  Instead of stressing out over the holidays maybe we can create some quality time with our loved ones this month?  Let us all remember to breathe and appreciated those spaces in between.  May we all pull together to comfort one another in our tragedies.


There are lessons to be learned from disaster.  For example, I now have my backpack in my car, not my closet. I’m working on getting my storm readiness stuff together for the winter.  But perhaps the most important lesson is the tritest one of all.  When was the last time you told your nearest and dearest that you loved them? Isn’t it time now to call your former best friend that you haven’t spoken to this year?


‘Tis the season.   Molly and I wish you and yours a wonderful December with both joyous highlights and peaceful places in between.


A Tribute To Charles Holloway, MD

December 8, 2006


Newspaper article


Dr. Charles Holloway was a son of a doctor.  He once told me his father entered medicine as a calling.  He himself chose the vocation to be a service to others and regretted that in modern days medicine had forced physicians to be businessmen.  Although I’m pretty sure he made some good business investments, Dr. Holloway refused to succumb to the dollars and cents bottom line.  When he was in private practice he stayed in his office until the last patient was seen.  His wife can attest that was sometimes after the janitor had gone home.  I didn’t know him all that well but I could tell you the names of many people he saw for barter or for free.


When my daughter was fifteen she lived in Sacramento with her dad.  They found a tumor on her thyroid so at that tender age she had to make a critical choice regarding whether or not to have surgery.  When she called me with the news I was in a training of some kind sitting next to Dr. Holloway who was one of the presenters scheduled to speak a little later.  She had a medical query I couldn’t answer, so I called him out of the conference to ask a quick question.  He got on the line with her but not for “just a second.”  He spent twenty minutes with her until all of her questions were answered and she clearly understood her options.  Now while he and I both would grasp any excuse to get out of a meeting, this was truly above and beyond the call of duty.  Her own California practitioner, who was charging for the treatment, didn’t spend that much time with her.


Dr. Holloway was glad to retire when he did before managed “care” took the care out of patient “care.”   After he retired he helped out in surgery at the hospital, consulted with public health, stood in as the county medical examiner and was medical director at a nursing home.  Oh yeah, in his retirement he worked harder than many of us do at the peak of our careers.


His mother was a story teller.  And her son inherited her gift of gab. The story of his tragic airplane accident reminded me of the premature death of another important physician in our community.  The only time I saw tears in Dr. H’s eyes were when he was telling me about Dr. Massey, whose own life was cut short on a pair of skis more than a decade ago.  As the story goes Dr. M. performed so many surgeries in a year that his billing was reviewed.  The major problem with the inspection was the auditor couldn’t keep up with the surgeon and had to send in for more auditor reinforcements just to shadow Dr. M. and his relentless labor.  I remember praising Dr. H  because that story reminded me of his own dedication.


I don’t want to imply that the Doc was a saint.  Au contraire.  He played hard too. He loved fine food and wine. In fact there were a few nights when he drank too much.  His struggle with weight gain

from his gourmet cooking is paralleled only to my own.  We traded recipes and diet strategies as we yo-yo’d up and down in our respective battles of the bulge.  Dr. Holloway was a bawdy man.  His off color jokes got him in trouble more than once.  He was a Taurus and true to his astrological destiny he could be quite bullish.  His outspokenness earned him a few enemies.  But I think he could count more loyalists like myself than he had adversaries in his life.


Dr. Holloway wasn’t exactly my friend.  I always referred to him as Dr. Holloway, never Chuck.  I think it would have been okay with him if I used his first name, but I was too much in awe of him to be that intimate.  We didn’t socialize unless you count a half dozen lunches in twice that many years and occasionally running into each other at Roger’s Zoo as socializing.  Yet he meant way more to me than a mere colleague.  The word “mentor” comes to mind.  We were email buddies and confidants.  Yes, confidant is the word for which I’m searching. 


We talked.  Long, important conversations.  I was never in his home, but I loved to escape to his office on Friday mornings and snuggle in his big leather chair and just listen to him drone on.  Sometimes we got so caught up in philosophy or drama or writing that the whole morning was shot without either of us getting a lick of work done.  Unlike some men, he was able to talk about emotional stuff without hightailing it to the nearest exit.  He also knew my husband and was able to help me understand why our divorce was for the best.  I am no dummy, but Dr. Holloway was so much smarter than me.  My eyes often glazed over as he talked about esoteric points of medicine that I will never be able to understand.  But still I caught on some and learned more from him than probably anyone else I’ve known in Coos County.


When Krab called me after his airplane crashed I went through all the stages of grief.  My denial was as vivid as one of his screenplays.  I imagined him stranded on an undiscovered island a few hundred feet away from Horsfall or staging the crash to leave the country and change identities.  Sigh.  Over the week I have come to accept that he is dead.  I find some comfort in knowing that he truly went out in a blaze of glory pursuing one of his passions.  I’ve cried, laughed and remembered.  I will always cherish those leather chair breaks. 


As profound of a loss as this passing is for our community, it is of course so much deeper for his wife, his son and his many close friends.  My heart goes out to them in their grief.





Cleaning House


Nov. 01, 2006


A homeless person could live happily ever after out of my car.  At any given time it has a blankie, snacks, a flask of whiskey, paper towels, toilet paper, extra clothes, analgesics, antihistamines and a first aid kit.  Now this would be great if the stuff was organized in brightly labeled plastic bins.  But it’s not.  My necessities are tucked loosely in nooks and crannies and strewn out all over the floor space in the back.


My desk at work is similarly well supplied.  I have snacks, fast food packaged condiments, a sewing kit, hand lotion, extra meds, and greeting cards in addition to the obligatory planner, pens, writing pads in all sizes, assortedly colored and sized stickies, paper clips, staples and hole puncher.   Unlike my car I DO have little containers for everything but usually once I use something it hangs out on a corner of the desk for awhile before it finds it way back into its plastic home.


I like having my stuff surrounding me where I can see it, not hidden away in organizers.  Which means, yes, I’m a slob. No ifs, ands or buts.  If the neatness cop ever arrests me I will have no one to testify in my defense at the trial.  Plus I have a touch of hoarding disorder.  I still have the gumball machine and all the other treasures my son designed in wood working class.  I still have the masks and drawings my daughter created in art class.  Both of my offspring’s handprints from preschool, the cookie jar my first boyfriend gave me, and the covered wagon Oklahoma clock from my Aunt Mary reside in various corners of my personal space. 


Got the picture?  Now imagine my house, the same house I moved into nine years ago after my divorce; the tiny two bedroomed home into which I transferred forty-plus years, five bedrooms and two children’s worth of memories; the house that stores the mementos of my new life…..  When you’re done shuddering I have to tell you that I invited my 22 year old daughter to live with me for the next few months while she figures out what comes next in her life.  Deep breath.


So I’ve been spending the past month cleaning house.  My first realization was why those globs of dust and lint are called bunnies – they propagate like rabbits.   My second insight is a bit more profound.  If a single woman wants to make room in her life for someone else, be it her lover or her baby girl, she needs to make room in her house.


I actually had read that somewhere before.  And I’d done a bit of feng shui-ing in my bedroom by purchasing two bedside stands and lamps.  But making room in your bed is not the same as making room in your closets and bathroom.  And emptying an entire room of junk is major.


Rusty recollections of my youth resided in my back bedroom.  While there might be something revitalizing about neat shelves in your house, and order in your life, chaos predates renewal in my universe.  In other words I had to go through stacks of trinkets and toys and other tangible things before anything resembling tidiness emerged.  At one point there was barely a footpath through my entire house. Stacks of papers, books, art supplies, jewelry, stuffed animals and old clothes were everywhere you looked. 


Musty memories are found in 15 year old hand lotion.  My sweet daughter tried to help me go through old toiletries so we could make room for her cosmetics in the bathroom.  I couldn’t let her do it.  For years my friends have given me bubble bath and other smell good potions.  So, I had to handle each bottle myself and remember who gave me that particular present before I reluctantly dropped the mostly empty container in the garbage.  Then I had to pace myself to swim through the flooding of reminiscence.  I can only do a little bit at a time.  Sorting stuff is exhausting.


Each drawer, shelf and area that I’ve cleared has taken a few minutes of time and a large chunk of emotional energy.  The garbage bags of clothing and old furniture have gone to the trash or the Bandon Teen Center thrift store leaving me with the peace of accomplishment.   But the process of donating my son’s first real bed and costumes from Halloweens long ago has awakened anxious crooks of my mind. 


I’m not totally sure what these emotional gymnastics are about.  What if the emptied space makes me forget those precious days when the kids were little?  What if nothing worth remembering ever happens to me again?  What if taking in a grown up daughter has to make me grow up?  What if I was to grow old and someone else had to toss out my gold lame purses?


So, hanging onto stuff must have something to do with hanging onto life.  Most days I will tell you I have a good life.  Life IS good here on the Oregon Coast.  And I did try to make the most of the dry October with which we were blessed this year.  But there were a few sunny days I whiled away inside, some lost hours looking at the ‘puter or TV screens.  Most of the time I will tell you I am a “good” person.  I am loving, honest and responsible.  But in addition to my aforementioned idleness there have been a lot of thoughtless words that have escaped my mouth over the month (and years.)  It is these indiscretions, like the spider webs in the corner, which haunt me.   Ah ha.


Sometimes I fall into the trap of beating myself up for being a sloth and a shrew. In a bizarre way I realized clinging to possessions is my personal reminder that I’m not always so “bad.”   When I reread yellowed letters, pet tired stuffed ducks, and try on old outfits I remember someone loved me once and I used to be skinny.  This trash helps me to feel good about myself. How silly is that?


It was this third and last insight that surprised me.  Our image of ourselves needs to inner, not defined by others or outer trappings.  I really thought I had learned that lesson a long time ago.  But as I struggled with letting go of obsolete objects I stumbled on my antiquated insecurity.   The truth is I do have friends and I’m a pretty nice person.  I don’t need to hang so tightly onto the past to enjoy the day.  So for me cleaning house was long overdue. 


If a fall cleaning can freshen my house, the possibilities for my future are infinite.  No doubt I will continue to collect new junk and I might never get rid of that dumb clock.  But at least for now there is room for another person in my space and new experiences in my world.






Mirror, mirror in my mind

Which Ducque will I find?

October 01, 2006


Denial is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person faced with a fact that is uncomfortable or painful to accept rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. Source: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia


When I look into the mirror of my mind I see a twenty-something girl with long blonde hair dressed in overalls.  Anything is possible.  I can eat whatever I fancy, drink like a fish, stay out all night and do all sorts of things I hope my twenty-something offspring never imagine.


However, my bathroom mirror reveals a fifty-plus graying short haired woman, still dressed in overalls.  Been there, done that and keep on doing it over and over again.  But now “it” has consequences. 


Fifteen months ago I started having terrible tummy troubles.  After thousands of dollars worth of tests, I was re-diagnosed with GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease), an ailment I’d had for 15 years with few symptoms.  If I take my meds, follow a GERD diet, avoid my personal trigger foods, eat lightly in the evenings and fast for three hours before bedtime I’m fine.  But that’s boring.  If I cheat just a little I can usually get by with no more than a Maalox moment or two for penance.  Serious cheating and I’m seriously sick.


So, it should be simple right?  This is not rocket science.  Follow your program and live healthier and happier.  Wrong.  I continually test my limits.  Fatty dinners.  One more drink.  Just a teensy bedtime snack. 

I think it was Rita May Brown who said the definition of insanity is when you keep repeating the same action and expect a different result.  I must be insane.  (And I’m in good company.  I know lots of people who overeat, smoke, take drugs and/or don’t exercise despite overwhelming evidence of the hazards these behaviors have to our health.  Unsafe sex, failure to floss, ignoring warning signals.  And then there are those of us who keep choosing toxic partners or stay in bad relationships… The list goes on and on.) 


Why do we do it to ourselves?


That’s the million dollar question.  The obvious answers are the need for immediate gratification, the pursuit of pleasure and our personal rationalization du jour. 


I think my current excuse might have something to do with social insecurity.  It only took a couple of Haagen Daaz evenings early on in my illness for me to be pretty good when I’m home alone.  But I can’t count the times I’ve been up all night after an evening with others.   A big dinner and a few drinks is my recipe for misery.  It’s not really peer pressure.  My friends try to eat earlier when I’m around and while they invite me to imbibe with them, no one force feeds me or pours liquor down my throat. 


No, it’s me.  What if I can’t think of anything to say?  What if no one gets my jokes?  What if they just invited me because they wanted my boyfriend there and they felt stuck with me?   What will I do with my hands and mouth?  If I don’t eat and drink with everyone else, I’ll feel deprived and isolated.  Just like that twenty something girl in my mind’s mirror, I want to belong, to be one of the crowd.  After a couple of glasses of wine I am so much more interesting.  My comments are wittier, my laughter readier.  And then alcohol induced amnesia sets in and I have a big helping of creamy pasta or a rich dessert.


I might have hit rock bottom over Labor Day weekend.  I was house sitting in a magnificent country home in Langlois and had a dinner party.  Bar-B-Q steaks and free booze before hand and then romantic Jacuzzi for two afterwards was my festive plan.  Talk about plans that go awry.  Nausea and heartburn set in post spa and pre conjugal…  Excuse me dear, but I’m no longer in the mood.


Usually when I’m having an acid reflux night I head for home, but that night I had a responsibility to someone else’s plants and animals.  In my dark times I typically find some relief being vertical with my PC or TV.  But I didn’t know how to log onto the owners’ computer and their satellite dish speaks a different language than my cable television.  I was too sick to concentrate on reading.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but be advised that the only silver lining in that very cloudy night was the fact that the house had three floors, each with a bathroom and various amenities upon which to rest.  Meanwhile, my Prince Charming pretended to sleep in the guest bedroom while my hostess’ geriatric dog whined in sympathy to my pain.  I tried to be quiet, but screams of anguish are hard to silence.


I had nothing to do that endless night but be with myself and think about why I continue this counterproductive behavior.  As I write about this nightmare the word denial keeps pounding through my brain (similar to the caffeine withdrawal headache I experienced the day after when my stomach refused to allow me to drink my morning coffee.)  Did I think that far from home my GERD couldn’t find me?  Didn’t work; the evil lurks inside.  Was I trying too hard to put on the Ritz in order to wow my guy?   Didn’t work; he was unimpressed.


Lets go back to that definition we started with: Denial is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person faced with a fact that is uncomfortable or painful to accept rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.  Ouch.


I think just maybe I might be defending against that mirror with the sickly gray haired lady inside.  I don’t want to believe she is me.  That image IS so uncomfortable and so painful that I HAVE rejected it “despite overwhelming evidence.” 


There comes a time in every evolved person’s life when she realizes her familiar defenses aren’t working any more.  I reached that point over an unfamiliar commode in Langlois.  So, it’s time to put on my big girl (not “granny”) panties and admit I have a disease and I have to make some changes.  I’ve decided to give up alcohol for awhile and I’m making an appointment with my doctor.  Who says you can’t teach an old ducque new tricks?




Dedicated to the Spirit of Arlene

(I wish I’da Known Her More Betta)


Sept. 01, 2006



Someone I knew a little died suddenly a few weeks ago.  Without warning I experienced the meaning of grief stricken.  Shocked, shuddering and overcome with huge uncontrollable sobs in the arms of my office mate I had a melt down.  Now, if this had been my mother or lover or best friend this reaction might have made sense.  Don’t get me wrong, this woman deserved my tears and to be memorialized.  She was dynamic, funny, outspoken and definitely a role model to independent women everywhere. 


But this was a woman I’d only met a dozen or so times.  I did like and admire her.  When our mutual Colorado friend was in Bandon we always had lunch together.  She let me pick the huckleberries from her yard.  And I knew one day…. when I had more time … and I got around to it… we’d do lunch, just the two of us.  I had her number programmed in my cell for over a year and I coulda called at any time.  One day never came.


At first I thought it was the dying alone thing that triggered my overreaction.  Remember when Miranda from Sex In the City moves into her new apartment, and the neighbor lady tells her the former tenant died there, and it took a week to find her, and her cat was gnawing at her when they finally found her, and so Miranda overfeeds her cat and tells all of her friends to agree to check up on her if they don’t hear from her for a couple of days?  Well, ever since I’ve been single that has been a primeval fear of mine as well.  So, that must be why I cried so hard.  The tears were for me and my loneliness.


I’m kinda glad Arlene won’t be reading that last pathetic paragraph because I’m pretty sure she woulda told me to get over it.  That I’m better off with my own good company than settling for something less.  Brutally honest at times, you always knew exactly where you stood with her.  She embraced her retirement.  I know she was happy with her newly remodeled home and her other many projects.  She always told me about how appalled her California friends were when she moved to Bandon sight unseen.  To her life was an adventure.  She wasn’t afraid to pick up and start over.  She filled her days with growing beautiful roses, not with regrets. 


One of my first and most faithful of The Ducque column fans, Arlene asked me the last time I saw her why I’d quit writing it.  I blamed it on Mongo, the disappearing Webmaster.  She knew how to call bullshit.  “Well, then find someone else to write for.”  Coincidentally, this was over the Fourth of July holiday weekend when aforementioned Webmaster was in town.  So, I asked him about restarting the column.  (I’m not brave enough just yet to try to find a new publisher.)  And he said yes.


So this, my reentry Bandon.tv column really isn’t about grief or even about Arlene.  It’s about living your life today and identifying your own shouldas.  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old.  But writing takes discipline and almost a half a century later I’ve never got around to it.  So now as I start my semi retirement I’m making a commitment.  I don’t wanna die with a tombstone reading, “she shoulda been a writer.”  I’m going to give it a try.


And, PS to my friends and family, if you don’t hear from me for a few days, please give me a call.


previous columns from the ducque