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I write the most amazing, thought provoking crap while I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep.  Do I get up and write it down so I won’t forget it? Of course not.  Instead I fool myself into thinking it will remain in my memory for the few hours of darkness and I’ll jump out of bed and write it out, word for word, once the sun comes up.  And after I’ve let the dogs out and fed them.  And straightened up the kitchen, gone to the gym, had coffee at Starbucks, worked, run errands and whatever else I do before I think, “Crap, I forgot what I wrote in my head last night, and dammit, it was good.” 

You’d think I’d remember that I don’t remember and actually write it down, but clearly that’s asking too much.  Probably it’s not nearly as fantastic as I think it is anyway.  I’m sure it’s a tired attempt at the most, but it sure seems good in the haze of sleeplessness. 

I haven’t worked much on my book lately.  The first draft is done, and I’ve got eight chapters of the final draft rewritten, but I’ve taken a well needed break.  The plan was to have it all done and ready for editing in October.  Of 2012, but that isn’t an option anymore.  Instead, my goal is to finish it by March.  Editing services are not cheap and I’ve got other expenses before I pay someone to tell me I suck at writing so March it is.  I’ve been writing for work a lot lately and it seems to stifle my muse so the break was needed. 

Even though I’m not working on Unfinished Business, I have been reading what others write, and what they think about writing, and mostly, about how they write.  I’m glad to see I’m not any different than most.  Sometimes I can write like a crazy person and it’s good and other times I can’t get a word on the screen to save my life.  Most of the time I find my best writing is while I’m driving and can’t do anything about it.  I do record some of it, but then I have to listen to it and type it and I…hate…that…  Hate it.  Who wants to retype their own dictation? It’s like listening to nails on a chalkboard for me.  I listen and think, “Who the hell is that person talking and why can’t she say something interesting?”  

I mentioned this to my husband and because he’s pretty darn wonderful, he got me that Dragon software.   It allow me to talk and record and then it magically types it out.  HOW COOL IS THAT? I’m hoping it works on my Mac.  If not, I’m going to go through a form of depression.  Planning to install it once the boy is back in school and my house is mine again. 

I’m looking forward to writing more.  I miss it, and it’s time. 

Chapter Three

 “Angela.  Angela Palanca.  Wake up, dear it’s me, your mother.”

As if I wouldn’t recognize her voice. Fighting off the chill, I pull the covers up over my shoulders and remind myself to turn the AC down before bed next time.   “Again with the Angela Frances Palanca.  It’s Panther, Ma.  Panther.  Should I spell it for you?”  I turn my head, hiding under the covers, willing this to be a dream.

“Ah Madone, child, I can spell Panther, I just don’t like it. It’s like Richter, too damned German.  Why didn’t you marry someone with a good Italian name like Angelini or Marconi?  Those I could use, you know?   Now turn over and look at me. I’m real, Angela.”  She nudges my shoulder and I open my eyes to see her crouched down and floating next to my bed.

“Told you so.” She smirks.

I sit up.  “Angela Angelini?  Really, Ma?”

Wait.  She nudged me, and I felt it.

I turn and look at Jake, who’s doing his freight train imitation again.  Clearly he didn’t hear Ma ranting about his name, either because he’s asleep or because I’ve gone insane.  My guess is I’m insane.  I get up, grab my robe, and quietly leave the room.  Gracie gets off her chair in the corner, nose up, and sniffing the air.  Her ears stand up, and she follows me out.  Unbelievable.  Gracie can smell ghosts.  I wonder if she’s smells dead people every time she sniffs the air?  Goodness, I hope not.  If that’s true, I’m sure I’ll never sleep again.

I tiptoe down to the kitchen.  I’m going to see the ghost of my mother at this hour; I’m going to need caffeine.

“Where are you going?”

I turn and give her the evil eye.  “Shh. Come.” I whisper and crook my finger for her to follow.

I turn on the coffeepot but lack the patience to wait for it to finish, so I cheat and pour myself a cup before it’s done.  Thank God for the auto stop feature.  Ma is quietly floating near the kitchen sink, and I motion for her to go down to the basement where no one can hear me.  I don’t want to wake the kids and have them think their mother is loony, not that they don’t already think that anyway.

“Look at you, pointing and motioning, telling me what to do.  I may be dead, Angela, but I’m still your mother.”

There’s something innately wrong with her last sentence, so I do what any crazy person would do; I ignore it.  “Holy mother of God, I’m going insane.  I have to be,” I say as I look at my mother floating around the basement family room.  “You nudged me Ma and I felt it.  I felt it.”

“Ah, you’re not any more crazy than you were before I died,” she quips. Then her mouth takes on the shape of a capital O shape.  “I did nudge you, didn’t I? Well whadda know; I can touch things.”  She looks at the wall, leans her shoulder into it, and disappears.

“Ma?”

She laughs her loud, that-is-really-funny laugh, but I can’t see her.

“Ma?”

“Whoops,” she says as she reappears, shuddering.  “I guess I can’t touch everything, and I gotta tell ya, that’s okay.”  She shakes and little flickers of light float from her.

It’s disturbing.  My mother sparkles.

“That whole passing through things feels creepy,” she continues.  “When that man at the funeral home walked through me, I thought I might barf.  It made me sick to my stomach.  Huh.  I wonder if I still have a stomach,” she says as she looks at her belly.

In life, my mother was a beautiful, robust woman.  She had curves that she hated, and always wanted to be thinner, smaller, and taller.  I’m not sure if I got my body image issues from her, or if that’s how all women are, but I loved her curves.  She wasn’t fat.  She embodied strength, both mentally and physically.  I admired that and yearned for it for me.  It was heartbreaking to watch cancer rob her body of its stature, in the end leaving her nothing but skin and bones.  She often joked that she’d be skinny for eternity, but I couldn’t quite see the humor in her dying.

Now, as I watch her floating next to me, I see the more voluptuous Ma, only she’s transparent.  The irony of what she looked like when she died and what I see now is not lost on me, but I’m not stupid enough to say that out loud.   It’s not just her shape that’s changed.  Her eyes have regained their bright blue hue, and her nose is no longer red from years of uncontrolled allergies.  Her lips are fuller, like the lips I remember from my childhood, not lips that have been permanently crinkled to inhale the poison of a cigarette.

“Ma, where are your dentures?”

She puts her hand to her mouth and feels around.  “Huh.  Beats the hell out of me.  Maybe ghosts don’t need dentures,” she says as she smacks her lips together, making a funny sound.

I hug myself to ward off another chill. “I still have them.  They’re in the medicine cabinet in the kitchen.”   Tears well up in my eyes and I wipe them away, not wanting to cry about something as simple as her dentures.

“Ah Madone.”  She throws her hands up in the air.  “You kept my dentures?  What, did you think you could use them some day?  Goodness, child.  You have beautiful teeth.  I always loved them.  They were like mine, so big and strong, until I was pregnant with your brother and he sucked the calcium right out of them, that is,” she touched her mouth again and sighed.

“And you wonder why I’ve never really liked him.”

Ma looks serious. “Ang, you gotta let that go and be nicer to your brothers.  Leave the past in the past because pretty soon it’ll be just you three.”

The hairs on my neck stand up.  “What are you saying, Ma?  Are you saying something’s going to happen to Dad?”

She shrugs her shoulders. “I’m not saying anything, Angela.  It’s just the way it is.  No one lives forever; so don’t waste your time on the past.  What’s done is done. You gotta move on.”

“What’s this?  You die and suddenly you’re all patient and forgiving?  That’s a crock, Ma, and you know it.  Patience was never your virtue and forgiveness wasn’t even in your vocabulary, so don’t go acting like you’ve seen the light or something and tell me how I should act now, because you know if you were still alive, you’d be singing a totally different tune.”

She looks at me and we both burst out laughing.

“So you believe me now?  You believe I’m a ghost?”

“You’re not my imagination, are you?”

“Nope.”

“But why are you here?  It can’t be this unfinished business.  That doesn’t make sense.  Didn’t you see the light?  You’re supposed to go to the light, Ma.  I mean, there is a light, right?”

My mother throws her arms up in the air, and floats around the room.  “All my life I told you if I could, I’d come back, and you always said, good Ma, come back.  But when I do, you tell me I should have gone to the light.  For the love of God, Angela, make up your mind.”

She’s right.  I did always say that, I just didn’t know it would actually happen.

“Geez, Ma,” I say, throwing my hands up in the air, too.   “Cut me some slack here, will you?  I don’t know what to think.  It’s not like I’ve been seeing ghosts my whole life.  This is new to me, and honestly, you’re freaking me out a little.  I can see through you, and you’ve got these little sparkly things flying off of you.  That’s messed up, Ma.  It’s messed up.”

She frowns, and mumbles something I don’t understand.

“What?”

“I freak you out, do I?  You want I should disappear and not come back? I can do that, Angela.  Say the word and I’m gone.  Poof.  Out of your life and back into the light forever.”

I rub my temples, feeling a headache starting.  “No, Ma.  That’s not what I’m saying.  I’m just saying you need to give me a little leeway here, so I can wrap my head around this, is all.  You think you can you do that for me, Ma?”

She looks at the ground.  “You should clean this carpet.”

“Ma.”

“Oh, fine.  Fine.”

“Thank you.  So about the light; there is a light, right?”

“Yes, Ang, there is a light, and I’ll go back to it.  I just got some stuff to do down here first.”

I don’t know how this afterlife stuff is supposed to work, but I thought that once a person dies and goes to the light, they’re supposed to stay there, not go back and forth.  Maybe Ma didn’t actually see the light, and she’s afraid to tell me.  Maybe she needs me to help her find it.

I’m no ghost whisperer, but I give it my best shot.   I lean forward, putting on my most sincere face.  “Do you see the light?  Go to the light, Ma.  Your family is there, waiting for you.”

“Ah, Madone, knock it off, will you?  I’ll go back when I’m darned good and ready.  Your grandmother, she knows I’m busy taking care of things down here.  She was just dead once too, ya know.”

“You saw Grandma?”

“Of course I saw Grandma.  What do you think happens when you go to the light?  Didn’t you ever listen to that psychic on TV?  The one from that show, what was his name again?”  She pauses, then flicks her hand in the air.  “Pfft.  I can’t remember.  But yes, I saw your grandmother, and your grandfather, and your auntie Rita, too, but I told them I’d be back.  I said to them, I said, I’ve got affare non terminato down there, and here I am.”

“John Edward, Ma.”  I tell her.  “John Edward is the psychic with the TV show.   And what do you mean you’ve got affare non terminato, unfinished business?  We took care of everything before you…you know.”

“I died Angela.  Before I died.  You can say it, you know.  It’s not like it’s gonna change.  I’m deader than a doornail, already a pile of gravel in a fancy little bottle, so you might as well get used to it.”

Get used to it?  It’s been a little over a day.

“What unfinished business, Ma?  Maybe I can help you with it, so you can, you know, get back to the light?”

“Stuff.  I’ve got stuff to do, and…and it’s not your business anyway, so don’t you worry.”  She turns away and looks at the wall. “You really need to paint down here; a nice light grey would be pretty.”

I fall back onto the couch and cover my head with a throw pillow.  Flip me over and put a bun on me because I’m done.  I’m seeing the ghost of my mother and she’s telling me to redecorate.

Yikes. 

Things are happening and it’s not fun.  Not fun at all.  Now I completely get why old people sit around and talk about their ailments.  It’s because they’re so totally freaked out and fascinated about what’s happening to their bodies they simply feel compelled to find others who understand. Share the grief, if you will. 

I do it now, too.  I have two friends with whom I text on a regular basis.  We joke and laugh, and share and vent about everything and anything and I cannot even tell you how many embarrassing secrets we’ve shared.  (Chicken fat). If we published that stuff, we’d be totally horrified, but incredibly rich.  It’s priceless.  Anyway, I share with these two, things currently happening to my body, or the body I now have.  Honestly, this can’t be my body.  My body would not, under any circumstance, betray me the way this one has. 

My body, the one I rarely appreciated, took somewhat decent care of, and now miss terribly, would not grow chin hairs without prior approval.  That body would not develop these funky little brown spots I initially mistook for freckles, but are, in fact, age spots.  My body would not appreciate age spots.  My body would not, no way, no how, nuh-uh, ever, EVER dribble a little when I pick up the pace on the treadmill, or cough.  N.E.V.E.R. What the hell is that all about? Note to those younger than me.  Kegels.  All day.  Every day.  Kegels.  Who knew those would end up being so important after all? Obviously not me. 

Whomever swapped out my formerly unappreciated, and now terribly missed body, please return it, and take back this crap you left with you because it does not belong here! 

I’m only 46, and just turned, at that.  Yeah, I know, if you consider the average lifespan of a woman (wikipedia reports it as 69, but I’m calling BS on that!), then I am far past ‘middle age’ and well into ‘old age’, but the thing is, while my body may be aging, my mind has yet to catch up. 

Sure, I’m older and wiser, but I still think like I’m a 30-something, so when these old people things start happening to me, I get a little freaked.  Then reality hits and I realize I am, in fact, bordering on the brink of old.  And that makes me want to cry, which by the way, is not something I ever really did until the changes started happening.  Now I seem to tear up at everything.  (remember the moose?) 

Truth be told, I’m okay with the old part.  It’s the changes that happen because of the old part I can do without.  I sleep less, but seem to need more.  I tolerate less unhealthy foods, (which would be a good thing if I were less stubborn!) and gray hair is coarse.  My hair is already a bundle of frizz, I don’t need the wire-like grays to make it worse.  My once tight facial skin seems to hang a little more than before and while I may not have a lot of wrinkles (thank you, God for that!), I feel saggy.  Feeling saggy is not fun. 

Oprah said the new 30 was 40, then she turned 50 and said the new 40 is 50.  I was kind of going with that thought when I hit 40, but I’m not much liking the thought of what 50 is going to bring, even if it’s new.  Had I known my 40’s would include this crap, I would have, well, I don’t know what I would have done, but I wouldn’t have been happy, that’s for sure. 

I can happily report the hot flashes have ceased.  Actually, they stopped a few years ago.  Sadly, that means the real stuff is starting.  I didn’t like the hot flashes, but I’ll take them back if this other crap will hit the road.  

I hear that once I’m through actual menopause life will be great.  Great? Facial hair growing in mass volumes, other important hairs turning gray, sagging facial muscles, DRIBBLING and age spots do not sound great. 

Can someone tell me what the great part is? 

I’ve been writing my book for, well, forever.  It’s taken on many faces, many themes and far too many rewrites, but it’s this close to done and I’m starting to get excited.  I’ve toyed with the idea of an agent, and have sent out a few queries, but with the ability to self publish an ebook, I am not too worried about not having an agent, yet.  

I’ve decided to go ahead with the ebook and still search for an agent, or even a publisher.  I’m traditional in many ways, but am trying hard to move in the direction of modern times. 

There are so many things to consider when publishing a book, even if an agent is used.  Marketing is a huge issue.  No one will read a book if no one knows about it, will they?  I’ve been researching the various avenues of self marketing, and I have to say, it makes me nervous.  I’ve never been one to really ‘toot my own horn’, but I have to now.  So if you’ve happened upon this new blog, please take a moment to check out my first chapter, currently available via a public Facebook page at unfinished business.  

Bare with me as I navigate through this world completely unknown to me!