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Late, Late OCD Book Review: The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White — November 4, 2012

Late, Late OCD Book Review: The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White

The Unfinished GardenTLC Book Tours BannerHi,

just a little note of apology to TLC Book Tours who gave me a chance to review this book, and to the author of the book, who rushed me a signed, gorgeous copy…I’m really sorry. First I fled my old apartment under extreme duress. Trying to salvage the friendship of my roommate, I pawned my netbook (only just got it back) and gave him the money. I found all the stuff to my desktop…except my surge protector (It either got lost in the shuffle, or, it was just one of a number things my roomies decided to keep while I was away a few months ago). Anyway, my new neighbors blew a fuse and my computer died. I began reading The Unfinished Garden the day it arrived and finished it in a couple of days it was so good. I’m very sorry and thank you very much.

The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White is a unique, beautiful book.  This is a romance novel for everyone: those of us that are dyed-in-the-wool romantics and those who projectile vomit whenever we read Danielle Steele (I swing more toward the latter). Many romance novels have flawed characters, but these often seem contrived and cut from the same cloth the other biddies in the romance quilting bee spun their characters from. Not so with The Unfinished Garden. Claypole White’s first novel lingers with the reader long after the story ends.

The Unfinished Garden recommends itself to me in reminding me of one of my all-time favorite books, The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden is a classic children’s book, in which the flawed characters heal themselves through the redemptive qualities of gardening. The Unfinished Garden is The Secret Garden for adults, particularly those with OCD or are mourning. Since I am a card carrying member of Club OCD and recently joined the My Mom is Dead T-Shirt Committee, this book recommends itself to me in its entirety. Through gardening, the two main characters begin the process of healing from their demons, one with OCD, the other with the death of her husband.

James Nealy is not the typical love interest in a novel. James is handsome, but has enough ‘baggage’ to sink the Titanic, iceberg not needed. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder compounded with generalized anxiety disorder.  James easily could become the bungling, hilarious OCD guy of popular culture, but the author’s sensitivity to James and his affliction paints an authentic portrait of someone struggling with anxiety and the past.

Tilly Silverberg is the heroine of The Unfinished Garden, a widowed mother running her own plant nursery. The death of Tilly’s husband three years ago is still in the forefront of her mind, along with regret and guilt. David, her husband, got into a terrible auto accident and was left in a vegetative state. Tilly can’t help but wonder, though, had she refused her husband’s wish to not be kept alive by machines, would he have recovered? She feels by letting the doctors know about her husband’s living will, she in effect killed him. Thanks to modern technology, this is a very believable scenario. I wonder at times whether I should have done more, tried everything to prolong life though it would have gone against what I knew my mother wanted.

When James and Tilly meet, it is due to James wanting someone to build him a garden. While James feels an intense need for it to be Tilly who landscapes his garden, Tilly doesn’t want to branch out her nursery for James or anyone else. James persists though due to his attraction to Tilly and the reason he, a rich software designer, wants a garden: to conquer his contamination obsessions, dirt being a major trigger. As in all good love stories (the ones that are neither too sentimental or about dudes shooting photos of bridges while committing adultery) love conquers all. In spite of having a debilitating mental illness, and even because of the tenacity inspired by his  OCD, James emerges triumphant.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you have OCD, no matter what your particular obsessions and quirks, you will identify with James and the motivations of his actions in life. James has that sensitivity to the world that can be a blessing and a curse, where he is attracted to other troubled souls. He is afraid of everyday life situations, but has amazing strength at things that fluster or even terrify ‘normal’ folks.  I wish I knew James, and you will probably wish you did too by the end of the book. Shoot, if you just want to read a good book and are as normal as normal be, read The Unfinished Garden!

                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                          

Poetry Potluck: “Passionate Nights of Love” — August 16, 2011

Poetry Potluck: “Passionate Nights of Love”

Please visit http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com for better versed poets or to  join the meme.

Passionate Nights of Love (Ha Ha)

‘Passionate nights of love?’

Um, that’s what you want me to write?

Swine sprout wings and take flight.

 

Passionate nights of love?

Poison ivy becomes an aphrodisiac.

Maybe I’m just having a panic attack?

 

Passionate nights of love?

I hear rumors it exists.

In bed, in  shed, one gal with her cousin Ned.

 

Passionate nights of love?

I live with my mom, three cats, my doll collection.

And the consensus is I’m crazy.

 

Passionate nights of love?

What a joke!

I’ve never even been with a bloke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Victorian Valentine
Mama’s Old Home Style Stiffy Cure

Pic from indiana.edu

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Short Story: A Day in the Life of Mary Smith, Cliche — August 14, 2011

Short Story: A Day in the Life of Mary Smith, Cliche

Three first editions of Barbie dolls from 1959...
Image via Wikipedia Choosing Mary Smith

This is the story of a cliché. Her name is Mary Smith like thousands of other women. She’s in her thirties and lives in a high-rise apartment in New York City, Boston,Chicago, or perhaps in Los Angeles. What does she look like? So many choices. We’re pretty sure she’s white though, the ultimate cliché color. Is she a ginger? No, too uncommon. We want something common in print. Golden strands of blond silk luminescent in the sun? Possibly. Brunette, her hair nearly as dark as her disposition? Also a possibility. Chestnut or mouse brown hair, tied conservatively behind her in a style reminiscent of a school marm?  Depends. Is Mary Smith a savvy professional woman with three or four friends trying to find love and sexual gratification in a city? Or is she the tragic soul who ends up throwing herself from a bridge in utter agony (Oh the demons! The demons of her psyche! Oh lost love!)?  Or is she that woman from whatever romantic comedy is in the theater every  other week, who by happenstance finds her true love? We think Mary Smith resembles the marm the most. But let’s read on, the obligatory scene before the mirror is being written…

Mary Smith stands before the mirror, a figure of brown. Her hair is mouse brown, her skirt tan cotton and slightly jutting away from her skinny frame. Her eyes –brown also- appraise herself with care, bringing her ponytail from her back to spread down to her small bosom.  A heroine.

Mirror spinning out of the way, she begins to sing a ditty:

Today, maybe today. Today!

Not yesterday, maybe today. Today!

Today!

Today could be the day. Maybe today!

Today, please today, something could happen today!

Todayyyy!

I feel it! Can you feel it? I think I feel it!

Maybe today! It didn’t happen yesterday, could be today.

Maybe love today, my destiny today. Today!

My life could change todayyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

 

This song is transcribed here for  inspiration and hope. But  a story needs a hint of pathos or some critic will criticize this as being too one-dimensional. Since Mary Smith is a cliché, we really shouldn’t care, though, should we? She reaches into her medicine cabinet and becomes the face in the latest anti-depressant commercial. I talked to my doctor about my depression and he gave me…

What should we say he gave her? Something easily recognized as an anti-depressant. Prozac? Paxil? Zoloft? Lets say Zoloft. Zoloft for the  so lofty dreams soaring over whatever clichéd demons Mary Smith subscribes to.

It is summertime and NYC, Boston, Chicago, LA, or wherever the hell our cliché lives. It is an oppressively hot day late in July. Mary Smith works in a paperback exchange, but will one day be the editor of a large publishing concern or maybe the romance columnist for a woman’s magazine. Some people are coming in, milling through the narrow aisles, not really interested in the mass market used paperback bonanza around them. Nor is Mary Smith interested in them unless they approach the counter, book in hand.

“Is it hot enough for ya?” is Mary’s attempt at being friendly with a book-clad fat woman in her 40s.

“Yeah. Hot.” A book called Savage Passion is  dropped on the counter. Typical cover in the Indian/White Heaving Breasted Lady genre: An American Indian  who looks like he lifts weights. He’s  wearing a feather, loincloth, and not much else. A lady, poofy blond hair like a 1980s porn star, with lots of green eyeshadow. A bit of tit and leg is showing from her Victorian gown, leaving enough to the imagination to be allowed at a grocery store bookrack. Mary Smith used to read such books, mainly when she was 14, and grew weary of the genre shortly thereafter, for even clichéd characters can only stand so much of the same. Mary Smith prefers the various yarns  spun by Danielle Steele. Now that is literature, is what Mary thinks, and that she need never vary in her choice of author, as Steele releases a new 400 page tome to indefeatable true love every three days or so.

And then he comes in. Mary Smith hears the refrain from that awful song she somehow made up on the spot this morning. Todayyyyy…

 

He’s the one, thinks Mary. He likes to read, he’s handsome, he’s perfect. Will he notice me?

What does Mary Smith’s future lover look like?  Hugh Grant ( He’ll look like Hugh Cronin by the time this story is over)?  We think he should look like perfection, the sort manufactured not by nature but by a Mattel factory. He is Ken articulated with the breath of life and perhaps looking for his Barbie in the flesh.

Mary Smith is a Barbie doll, Paperback Exchange Barbie, not manufactured by Mattel, but still ‘swell.’ She fantasizes about this man coming up to her, giving her a lengthy kiss rivaling a 1940s movie scene. I love you, Mary…

He’s  coming to the counter. He’s coming.

“Hi,” Mary Smith says for the first time in a long time without having to fake enthusiasm. 

“Hey,” says Ken, putting one hand in the pocket of his jeans. “You got a public rest room?”

 

 

The day progresses. It is around 3pm. The book store has thinned out and now Mary Smith is alone with a newspaper crossword. A mother comes in dragging her son by the hand. He looks to be about 6,  years-old, brown hair almost the color of Mary’s. Mary Smith thought as a young girl that she would one day have a child of her own. Maybe her phantom child would look somewhat like this little boy.

She goes back to her crossword puzzle. The boy is bored as his mom looks at suspense novels. The  owner of the bookstore likes knickknacks, the kind that have a sticker on the bottom that says, “Made Exclusively for Dollar Tree.” Cherubs, frogs, gnomes, and ceramic Jesus Christs all vie to be noticed on the tops of the bookshelves. One curio, a genuine African Mask (made in China of painted china), has caught the boy’s attention. His mother is oblivious to him though she is roughly 8 feet away. He starts to climb one shelf to get the mask. It would be fun to put over his face and pretend he is a masked superhero , we believe the child thinks.

The shelves only are about eye level to the average adult, so from the first shelf, the boy can reach…just reach. 

Suddenly a crash, the little African Mask now lies on the linoleum floor in several pieces. Mary Smith turns to look at what happened. The boy is still standing on the first shelf, one hand frozen in mid-air, the other clinging to the shelf. Before Mary Smith can reassure the boy’s mother that the mask was of no real consequence, the mother has gone red with rage. “Now what have you done? G—damn IDIOT!”

Don’t look, Mary.  Not your problem, Mary. Mary Smith resumes writing an answer on her puzzle. Her hand is shaking just a bit. She isn’t looking, but she hears. We see that the mother is small, blond, and in her early twenties. She doesn’t look capable of hurting her son, nor does she look capable of keeping him under control. Her frustration and rage is peaking. She grabs the boy off the shelf, but holds him kicking at the air 2 feet below him. Walks far enough away with him to clear the remains of the china African mask before dropping the child to the floor. The sound of the child’s body hitting the floor makes Mary Smith’s pen draw a line off of the paper as her shaking hand drops the pen.

Mary Smith can’t open her mouth. Her lips are stuck together, her tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth. Her voice is paralyzed. A movie of the week scene and she can’t turn the channel or swallow. The woman grabs up her son so that he stands again. He is winded, shocked, and not crying. She grabs his hand and they leave the store as they came.

Mary Smith is alone now. The mask is in the floor in several pieces. One piece containing a hole for an eye and a bit of forehead is on its side. To Mary Smith it looks like the eyeless socket is staring at her.

There was a time when Mary might have said something. How long ago was that? Ten years ago, maybe fifteen? Since before she let life pass her by. Before she began just trying to get on with life. Before her ideals began to shrivel and maturity blotted them out.

Mary Smith begins to pick up the pieces of the china African mask until she feels a sharp pain in her palm. The piece that had pricked her conscience has now cut her hand. This is the high melodrama we hoped Mary Smith, cliché of the great American short story, would  give us. Emotional, physical pain, the kind that will translate well on the silver screen. Keep going,Mary!

Mary Smith drops the offending piece into a plastic bag she is using to collect the debris and then opens her palm. Blood, not  massive, but considerable enough is leaking from a small cut. She stares at the red fluid that pumps through her body as though entranced. Funny the thoughts one thinks. Look, Mary, you’re alive. You’re still a person. Can you feel it? (Mournful reprise of the “Today” song’s music should be placed here in the movie version).

Perhaps a potential vampire boyfriend should materialize like a shark smelling blood? You know, a nice pale guy, handsome, opens the door for his lady-love before draining her of her lifeblood. So popular now, but we decide we like this story sans Dracula, and…

Mary Smith bandages her hand in the bathroom, places the last piece in the bag, and makes her way to the wastebasket behind the counter. But for some strange reason she can’t toss the tied bag into the basket. Something, some force has prevented her from throwing the mask away. Perhaps the mask is cursed, right? Not likely. Hello, it came from the wild forest pf The Dollar Tree, not an ancient African tribe. Probably something else. It seems to her that to throw the mask’s remains away after what happened would be wrong…almost bordering on disrespectful for her phantom son’s pain.

It’s time to close. Mary Smith is glad. It’s been a long day. I’ll throw it away when I get home, and with that she stuffs the plastic bag in her purse. The ‘closed’ sign is hung on the door, she sets the alarm, and locks the door . She is out on a generic sidewalk in NYC, Boston, Chicago, or LA.

  The loneliness of a large city is something Mary Smith is used to, but something has happened. The late afternoon sunlight is almost like it’s not there to her. The oppressive heat seems to not bother her. She almost feels cold. The world is gray  like an anti-depressant commercial pre-pill. People are all around her and she feels invisible until she bumps into a man (OK, here must be the meeting of the male romantic lead. FINALLY. Such a tedious read).

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” a man in a business suit admonishes.

“Sorry,” Mary Smith replies in the same tone as the gent.

Everything is wrong somehow. People are so unkind and she is tired of it all. Mary Smith is relieved to lock herself safely into her apartment away from everyone. Suddenly she  remembers skimming through the  paper that day, the stories. Along with the daily dose of murder, mayham, and outed gay conservatives, there was the story of a man who lived in an apartment building not far from where  Mary Smith lives. He hung himself in his closet and wasn’t found for a week, not until someone smelled him. What if one day that happens to me?  What if I died one day by natural causes or by dispatching myself  and they only found me because I stunk? Would anyone wonder what happened to me? Would anyone care? Oh, knock it off,  Mary. Someone would call, your employer, your landlady sure would be  on the case if the rent  was late. Maybe a friend sometime.

  My life doesn’t matter.

Eat something, Mary. You’re just tired and hungry.

 

Would anyone remember me for anything? No one would. I’m nothing in this world.

Rinse off your face. Get a grip. Ugh, no wonder no one loves me.The mirror doesn’t lie!

The mask is still in her purse, which she has hung on the coat rack. She takes the bag out of the purse, empties the pieces on a tray, hunts down her super glue, and pieces The Dollar Tree African mask together.

Watch something on the TV.

Canned laughter, fake, beautiful people sitting on couches talking their humorous adventures in love and life. Oh kill me now. I’m going to bed.

“Maybe today? Fuck it. Tomorrow,” she sings as she slips into bed. Mary Smith covers her head with her pillow and drowns the out the world.

The next day she picks up the dried mask from where she glued it together. The mask falls to pieces again.  Mary Smith sweeps the pieces into the plastic bag and throws it away on the way to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Decided to Post This Comment Poem I Wrote: STD for the Heart — May 29, 2011

I Decided to Post This Comment Poem I Wrote: STD for the Heart

I don't remember what STD stands for.

Thanks Jammer for the idear. Now you can proudly say, “Lisa gave me an STD.”

 

STD for the Heart

Your love, my love, pains me to my heart’s core,
that I plead to you, Make this pain no more!

My heart is a flurry of tell-tale spots,
pulsating and throbbing with ecstatic fury.
My love drips down my heart’s swollen confines;
nefarious, necrotic, non-negotiable
dropping like tears.

Your love, my love , seduces and destroys,
no cure for it here anymore,
the penicillin is still at the store.

Poetry Pot Luck -Love: Original Depressing VS. Trailer Park Remix — February 13, 2011

Poetry Pot Luck -Love: Original Depressing VS. Trailer Park Remix

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...
My Wal-Mart Valentine Image via Wikipedia

OK, first poem is depressing, 2nd poem is really vulgar. Just  thought you should know that about the 2nd one in case you aren’t a fan of raunchy humor…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love (original version)

 

Love alone,

Loved by none,

not in that way.

 

You swore not again,

but you lied.

Love like a virus

spread inside.

 

Love alone,

Love quarantined

isn’t contagious.

if contained.

 

Love alone

must exist concealed,

vaulted in a safe.

No rejection, no depression.

Wish the love object

better love than you.

 

Love alone.

Love by none

Must be love undone.

 

 

Love (Trailer Park remix)

 

Screw love!

Loved by none,

If batteries are included,

who needs someone?

 

The Valentine’s aisle at Wal-Mart,

you swore not again,

but chocolate is a demanding lover,

not like any other.

Gotta get some!

 

Screw love!

Love undone is love for one.

Love that won’t be scorned

is love you don’t have to mourn.

 

Love with chocolate,

love with self-love .

No rejection, no depression.

Minimal sin detection.

Screw love!

Seriously though, Happy Valentine’s Day!

A couple poems on love for Poetry Pot Luck — October 27, 2010

A couple poems on love for Poetry Pot Luck

http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com/ My first poem for Poetry Pot Luck

L'amour

Love: A Tragic Poem

Love has never been my friend;

It’s only stupid crushes ’til the end.

I kept looking for someone who understands,

Someone  I could also call a friend.

But my heart has too big a hole;

It’s just something I can’t control.

Love isn’t out there, it’s too far away.

It’s too beautiful, my mind says.

Lonlieness is easier than love,

Crying ever easier than happiness..

Better to remain alone,

My heart a vagrant with no home.


Love: A Semi-Tragic Poem

Love decided to not be my friend,

Since I stole and wrecked his  Benz.

I kept looking for someone who understands,

A friend who’d pay my bail with few demands.

I admit I ran into that pothole and lost control,

but you’d have done the same if  you  breathed in that much aerosol,

washing it down with a bottle of Nyquil to ease all the pain in my heart,

Grand theft auto and porn are easier than love from the start.

I could have found happiness in your arms,

but I guess that restraining order proves you’re immune to my charms.

Better to flee than call prison my new home,

Guess Tijuana will be where I roam.

S0uth Park pic from http://abbylehman07.wordpress.com/ Used w/o permission.

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