Monday, March 13, 2017
Monday, February 6, 2017
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Tougher than Harvard. More demanding than MIT. Husband Training School is the last hope of wives Who Have Had It.
They love their husbands but...
Sissie Canholme had had it. Her pulse was racing. Her heart was pounding. Her anti-perspirant stopped working hours ago.
A Zumba class?
Sissie Canholme was comfortably seated in a quiet room. Soothing music wafted from high quality speakers and fragrant jasmine tea in small porcelain cups waited on the low, red lacquered table in front of her.
But why the stress and anxiety? Certainly not because she was over eight and a half months pregnant. Sissie was healthy, the baby was healthy. Everything was ready and completely prepared for the coming blessed event.
So what was the problem?
Brunette, hazel eyes, age 36, California-born, California-bred, Sissie was on the executive floor in a sleek, ultra-modern office tower located in Chengwai, China. She was waiting for a decision from Ling Yun, Weibo Digital’s CEO that would affect her future—and, in turn, the baby’s future.
Sissie was in China to negotiate a manufacturing deal with Weibo Digital for her employer, California’s tech titan, xWorks. If Ling Yun’s response was positive, Sissie’s status at xWorks would rise. So would her paycheck, and she would move up another step in the company’s hierarchy.
Meanwhile, her hair smelled of Chinese cigarettes. Her eyes were dry and scratchy from too many late nights at the office and too many trans-Pacific flights. Her makeup was melted, her hairstyle collapsed, her shoulders slumped.
She had to pee. Her eyelids were drooping. She wanted to sleep. The baby was kicking up almighty hell. She was so tired she almost didn’t care any more when the door to the conference room opened. Ling Yun, elegantly attired in a hand-tailored Savile Row suit, gestured to her.
“Come in,” he said. “We’ve considered your proposal.”
His tone betrayed nothing nor did his expression. This was, after all, the inscrutable Orient.
Sissie, her armpits soggy, her stomach in knots, her bladder about to burst, the baby kicking up almighty hell, followed him into the conference room. She listened to the terms of Weibo Digital’s counter-offer, her expression neutral. (Ling Yun wasn’t the only one who could be inscrutable.)
When he finished, Sissie managed the polite bow mandatory for doing business in Asia. She thanked Ling Yun for his consideration and said she would have to discuss his response with her manager before she could reply.
Exhausted, Sissie barely remembered leaving Weibo Digital, going to the airport and boarding the plane. She was looking forward to seeing the nursery her husband, Gordo, had prepared for little Sissie Jr.
The baby furniture would be in place, and so would the pink scatter rug and pink-and-white gingham curtains she had picked out. Picturing her beautiful baby and the picture-perfect, fully furnished, freshly painted nursery that was waiting, Sissie smiled to herself.
She was looking forward to spending the few days before giving birth in an atmosphere of beauty, harmony and tranquillity. As the plane climbed to altitude and crossed the Pacific, she relaxed for the first time since arriving in China and fell into a deep, refreshing sleep.
* * *
Except when Sissie got home, the IKEA furniture—the bassinet, changing table and storage unit—was still in the garage, still packed in shipping cartons. The crib had been partially unpacked but not built. Slats and protective wrapping material were strewn over the cement floor, and a hammer and screw driver were abandoned somewhere in the chaos.
When Sissie went into the house, she saw that the nursery—it was the unused second bedroom—was unpainted. The rug was rolled up and shoved into a corner, the windows grimy, the curtains unhung.
Gordo, who had a freelance business maintaining the web sites and twitter accounts of on-line athletic wear and equipment retailers, was on his computer filling out the roster of his fantasy football team. His Joe-college good looks were untroubled, his blue eyes tranquil. He hadn’t had time to get to the crib yet, he said.
“You have time for fantasy football but you haven’t had time for the baby’s crib?” Sissie said, doing her best to keep her voice at a reasonable pitch. Still, the sarcasm leaked out. “You work at home. You’re here all day.”
“I wasn’t home all day,” said Gordo, completely missing the edge to her tone. “I was playing golf.”
“Golf?” Sissie snapped. “You were playing golf?”
“Jeff called,” said Gordo, referring to his college roommate. “He had the day off and asked if I could join him in a round or two.”
“You thought golf was more important than the baby we’re having in a week?”
“I don’t know why you’re so upset,” said Gordo, a bewildered expression crossing his face. “I’ll get the furniture put together. I promise.”
Angry tears stung Sissie’s eyes. “You’ve been promising for six months and that furniture is still in the garage,” she said. “In shipping cartons. You haven’t even opened them."
“I opened the crib."
“Only halfway. The slats are all over the floor."
“I just said I’d get to it, didn’t I?” said Gordo, now sounding pouty and aggrieved. “I don’t know why you’re so angry."
“You don’t know WHY I’M ANGRY?” Sissie shouted, her pretty features screwed up in rage. “What’s wrong with you? You act like all this isn’t happening. Well, it is happening. We’re having a baby and, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m the size of a whale. My job is half killing me and I have two baby showers this week. Where am I supposed to put the baby stuff?” she asked. Then she burst into tears. “Where am I supposed to put the baby?”
“Now I understand,” said Gordo. He reached out in an attempt to soothe her. “You’re upset. It’s the hormones."
With that, Sissie pushed him away and homicide entered her mind. She was going to kill him, she thought. She was going to go to the garage and get the hammer and bash his brains in. She was going to pick up a slat and beat him into a mass of bloody, splintered bone and mangled tissue.
Then, memories of movies and TV shows elbowed into her consciousness—a tormented scream, the cold, hard bars of a cell door, the harsh rasp of a sadistic guard—and her murderous fantasies screeched to a halt.
Without another word, she marched into their bedroom and slammed the door so hard plaster rained down from the ceiling.
She picked up the phone and, blinking away tears of fury, she dialed the number one of the women in her Lamaze class had given her.
* * *
“I need an application form,” Sissie said, relaying her cell phone number and email address. “It’s an emergency.”
Former Marine Corps Drill Instructor Robin Aguirre sighed.
She had heard it all before from other wives who phoned Husband Training School.
It was always the same and it was always an emergency.
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Monday, December 5, 2016
Early morning at the Kihali animal orphanage in AfricaA poor, brave little rhino named Zuri (Swahili for “beautiful”) has been rescued from poachers but her recovery is not going well. She is depressed and listless, she has nightmares and lies in her stall crying for her cruelly murdered mother.
None of the medical interventions have helped, and Zuri, who associates humans with the killers who took her mother’s horn, refuses to nurse. Her sad bleating and quivering body are clear signs that she is still in deep mourning.
Why, wonders Renny Kudrow, Director of the Kihali animal orphanage, hasn’t she started to recover? What if she doesn’t get better and they lose her?
He’d be to blame, he thinks. Not the Kenyan rhino experts, tall, skinny Jomo and strong, burly Muthengi. And certainly not the vet. Dr. Starlite Higgins has done everything medically possible.
Feeling guilty and disconsolate, Renny’s thoughts drift to Starlite’s idea. Her impressive work on a DNA database will make Kihali a leader in the conservation of endangered species, but just because her latest idea was unconventional and untested, didn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying, did it?
Renny doesn’t know, but he is in charge, the responsibility is his and he feels its weight. Time is growing short for Zuri, he knows, and he is running out of options. He must make a decision.
Stretching his long legs, Renny gets up, abandons his tea, still hot in its battered tin mug, and leaves the veranda. He jogs across Kihali’s yard as the African sun begins to rise and doesn’t stop until he reaches the laundry line that, suspended between two poles, runs behind the kitchen. There, in her usual spot, tethered by a fraying rope, is Boozie.
The moment she sees him, she does what she always does. She jumps up and greets him the way she greets everyone.
She stands on his toes and kisses him.
A Goat Named BoozieShe has a black face, white ears and an inquisitive manner. Like most of her kind, she is intelligent and affectionate but, like most of her kind, she also has a propensity for creating mischief.
She’d earned her name when she’d gotten into the left-over drinks after a cocktail party on the veranda, over-imbibed, and fell off the low porch into the petunia bed where she passed out and slept it off. Since then, adult beverages have been carefully kept away from the adventuresome and irrepressible young goat named Boozie who, following Renny, bounds across the courtyard to Zuri’s stall.
Leading Boozie, he enters the stall wordlessly. Starlite and Muthengi both raise their eyebrows, glance at each other, but say nothing.
As Renny supervises and Starlite and Muthengi watch, Boozie introduces herself to Zuri with a kiss.
Mewling softly under her blanket, poor, depressed Zuri seems not to notice.
Boozie, undaunted by the lack of response, explores Zuri’s head and ears with dainty tastes and gentle nibbles. Then, ever curious, she investigates the short, stubby legs and, from there, moves down to the padded three-toed feet.
“Mouthing and chewing are the ways goats explore the world around them,” mutters Renny in his professorial way, not looking at Starlite even though he is standing next to her.
“You sound like you think I didn’t know,” Starlite replies with a slight edge, looking straight at him as Boozie continues her affectionate explorations. “Wasn’t my suggestion the reason you decided to introduce them?”
Renny isn’t about to give her all the credit. “One of the reasons.”
Starlite isn’t in the mood to back off, either. “So maybe I had a good idea after all.”
“Possibly,” he says and shrugs slightly, keeping his eyes on Zuri and Boozie and assiduously refusing to acknowledge Starlite. “Let’s see what happens.”
Starlite leaves her tart retort unspoken when she notices that Zuri’s quivering has subsided. She turns to Muthengi. “Zuri seems almost relaxed for the first time since coming to Kihali.”
“Rhinos have thick hides but sensitive skin,” Muthengi says. “They love to be touched.”
“And goats love to do the touching,” Starlite adds.
Renny, watching, suppresses a smile and makes no comment as Zuri, turning her head to favor her right eye, looks to see who is paying so much attention to her.
Seeming to conclude that the friendly young goat offers no threat, Zuri takes a deep breath and clumsily struggles to her feet. She is weak from lack of exercise and her short, stubby legs wobble and offer unstable support.
She takes a few hesitant steps, then stumbles and falls. She cries out in distress and remains on the floor of her stall. She seems defeated and ready to give up.
Boozie, undeterred, scampers over and kisses her ear. Zuri turns toward her new friend and, encouraged, she takes a deep breath and rests for a moment; then, gathering her will, she uses her chin to help support herself while she gets up. She teeters for a moment, then finds her balance and arranges her feet squarely on the ground beneath her.
She turns toward Boozie, who urges her on with another enthusiastic kiss. Zuri looks up at her new acquaintance and even seems to smile.
The two quadrupeds stand side by side, one slim and sprightly, the other low-slung and rounded, a mismatched couple if there ever was one. Still, they are at peace, comfortable with each other, comfortable with themselves.
Wordlessly, Renny turns to Starlite and she sees that his eyes are filmed with tears. For so long, she has felt the sting of his disapproval and she, too, is moved. Impulsively, she reaches out and, wordlessly, briefly grazes his hand with hers.
“They’ll do well together,” she says.
“Yes,” he replies, his voice thick. “I do believe they will.”
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016
DECADES, Book #1 in the Park Avenue Series was originally published in hard cover by Simon & Schuster. Now FREE at all ebook vendors.
THREE WOMEN. THREE DECADES.
Spanning the years from the optimistic post-War 1940s to the Mad Men 1950s and rebellious Make Love, Not War 1960s, DECADES is about three generations of women who must confront the radical changes and upended expectations presented by the turbulent decades in which they lived.
Evelyn, talented but insecure, faithful to the traditional values she grew up with, is a loyal and loving wife whose marriage means everything to her.
Nick, handsome and ambitious, a chameleon who changes with the changing times, is her successful but restless husband.
Joy, their daughter, coming of age at a time of anger and rebellion, needs them both but is torn between them.
Barbara is the other woman. Younger than Evelyn, accomplished but alone, she wonders if she can have everything--including another woman's husband.
But can she? Is she willing to pay the price? And how will Evelyn handle her rebellious daughter, her straying husband and the threat to her marriage?
DECADES, sweeping in scope yet intimate in detail, is the emotional, compelling story of family and marriage, betrayal and healing.
“A brilliant book. Three generations of women are succinctly capsuled in this novel by a writer who has all the intellect of Mary McCarthy, all the insight of Joan Didion. Rarely have attitudes been so probingly examined—tough, trenchant, chic and ultra-sophisticated, Ms. Harris recreates the decades in which her heroines lived, from zoot suits and Sammy Kaye, through Eisenhower, Elvis and poodle-cut hairdos to moon walks, Mick Jagger and micro-minis. Readers will be entertained and few will be able to forget what Decades has to say about men and women and the games people play.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Ruth Harris has re-created both the style and substance of three decades of American life—from the bobby socks and innocence of the 1940s, to the crinolines and caution of the 1950s, to the bra-less T-shirts and alienation of the 1960s.” —Book-of-the-Month Club
“Powerful. A gripping novel that depicts the lives and loves of three generations of women.” —Women Today Book Club