House at the Edge of a Wooded Path


This gallery contains 4 photos.

When I pass by wooded paths, Or see old farm equipment covered in kudzu and brambles, I think of my father. I remember him on tractors or in old cars, Lincolns mostly, classics he collected from the forties. Or Suburbans, … Continue reading

Kiss the Grandmother

Most of my compassionate friends and now the world know that I have always struggled with weight issues. If you don’t see me for a few weeks, the possibility exists that I may have lost or gained, (more likely gained) a few pounds.  A few years ago, I went to a family reunion in California and when I got home, the pictures my cousins took began to show up on Facebook. That night I joined Weight Watchers.

It took me a year to lose seventeen pounds. Far from being nymph-like, I did feel better about myself and my size twelve jeans didn’t bind in the crotch.  When my mother died the next year, I lost another ten pounds.  By March, I was convinced I could maintain the weight loss on my own and quit Weight Watchers. By June, I’d gained every pound back. The true horror of this was made clear when my son Andy announced his engagement and I had to go Mother of the Groom shopping.  My daughter found a beautiful, silver silk Oleg Cassini suit for me. My reasoning for buying a size sixteen, even though I have never worn a sixteen, was that I could have my dress designer neighbor Kirk alter it for me so that it fit like a custom made suit.

I couldn’t wait for it to arrive. Two days later, the big cardboard box was delivered by FedEx.  I took it into the bedroom and started to strip.  The suit was packed in layers of tissue paper. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was when I lifted the jacket out of the box, rhinestone diamond buttons set in fake silver marched up the front.  The wedding theme was metallic, so I would fit right in.

Then I tried to get the jacket on. When I say it was too small, I mean I couldn’t get my arms into the sleeves. Even my hands were too big. I was so upset I wanted to first tear it up into pieces and then kill myself. It was simply another reminder that I am fat. My husband can deny it, and my friends will tell me I look great, but now I have proof. I can’t even get a size sixteen on. What’s next? I am only 5’3″. Soon I will be as wide as I am high.

So I swallowed my pride and went to the doctor. I had to get on the scale, which was torture.  He put me on a low calorie diet that was graduated in calorie amounts so my metabolism wouldn’t go into starvation mode. I took a ton of supplements. Fortunately, I had the time to lose enough to get into the suit.

This would be a good place to mention that the Mother of the Bride is a model.

By the wedding day, I felt great, I’d lost twenty-two pounds, I was starving, but what’s a little food, right? I could wear the suit. As a matter of fact, the skirt was too big. With a Spanx the jacket fit snugly, but the bell shaped skirt was too big. You get the picture.

I’ve decided I have reverse body dysmorphic disorder.  When I look in the mirror, I see an average sized, slightly chubby middle-aged woman who without my glasses has smooth skin, albeit a wrinkly neck which is minimized by holding my chin up as high as my cervical spine will allow.  But when the team of photographers at the wedding started shooting their cameras and videos in my direction, I was terrified.  The first picture the photographer showed me made me sick to my stomach. Why couldn’t I look trim and nice like everyone else?

The next horror was realizing that while Andy and I jumped around like maniacs on the stage, having picked We Will Rock You by Queen for the mother-son song we would dance to, the video camera was about chin height and two feet from me. I can just imagine what it will look like.

It was while flying back to Michigan that the sudden epiphany struck me.  I am a sixty-two year old, Greek grandmother. What the hell am I supposed to look like?  This is me! Suzanne Jenkins, chubby, friendly, paranoid and in love with life. I proved that I am willing to put it all out there when I started publishing my own books. I was narcissistic enough to think readers would want to read what I conjured up, and I was right. If I can be that self assured, surely a few horrible photos of me in my son’s wedding album won’t hurt me.

So needless to say, if anyone on Facebook tags photos of me at the wedding, I’ll be removing the tag asap.

Kiss the Grandmother

Kiss the Grandmother

Come to My Window

I love the lyrics to Melissa Ethridge’s ballad, probably because my daughter sang it with the band my husband used to play with when we lived in New Jersey. The only reason I bring it up is because it popped into my head when I got a Skype account so I could Skype with a book club in Oklahoma who read Pam of Babylon. As a confessed computer idiot, the word window will never mean a computer screen.  It’s a clear, glass hole in the wall to look out of. Anyway….

The Bartlesville Book Lovers in Oklahoma. invited me to join their meeting, both to answer questions and to discuss some topics that came up as they were reading Pam of Babylon.  One of the members is a lovely woman I went to elementary school with back in good old Dearborn, Michigan. Linda and I reunited on Facebook, when a mutual friend, Marilynn suggested she read my book.  She liked it and offered it to her book club. Having friends read my work is very intimidating. They either love it, like Marilynn and Linda did and talk it up all over the nation, or they don’t mention it, either because they hated it or aren’t interested enough to read it. That makes life very uncomfortable, because all I do is write anymore and I hate to bring it up, like the pink elephant in the room. Sorry about the cliche’. It was validating to have Linda like Pam because she’s spent her adult life working as a professional writer.  I was certain her group would not have fluff questions, and I was right. Afterward, my husband asked me how the meeting went, and except for Skype not working, it was difficult! These women asked me the tough questions.  I was glad that just that morning I did two interviews with bloggers and some of the obvious issues were discussed so my thoughts were somewhat organized. It has been a few days since the chat with the ladies from Oklahoma and since then I had a few traumas with family members seriously ill and in the hospital, so I have forgotten some of what we talked about.  But I think when we were finished, I felt like it was okay to keep writing. I do owe readers honesty, and most of all, reason.  If I set out to write something I want it to have a purpose, not just a bunch of words meant to titillate, which I’ve said before.  I talked to my aunt about it, (she loves my books), and she said Pam needs ‘time to have a relationship with herself’ before I have her get involved with another man. In this last book, she is at the cusp of having a fling with someone younger than she is who is a Native American living on Long Island and I have to try really hard not to have that visualization of the cover of Mandingo when you are reading it.  But almost. She can have a relationship with herself when the series is finally completed.

People want to know why I would write about topics that are so despicable. Child sexual abuse and all the rest of the garbage that Pam contends with is there because it’s part of the story and that’s really all it is.  I can’t defend it. Someone who received the book in a Goodreads Giveaway was so upset by it that she said she was throwing it in the trash. She didn’t realize that in the subsequent books, the situations get worse. It’s really just life. Even people from the best families have awful things happen to them, and sometimes it perpetuates more awfulness.

But the women in the Bartlettsville group were right on. I know some of them weren’t thrilled with Jack, and that is as it should be! He was awful. How could a person move on in their life after discovering what Pam did about Jack?

This is a completely different kind of situation, but I want to talk about Rielle Hunter and John Edwards.   A few weeks ago, during his trial, pictures of the illicit couple were shown on the news and I told my husband that if you look at the way he smiled at Hunter, and then at pictures of him with his wife, he always looked at Elizabeth Edwards in a solemn,unhappy way.  Today I read that Elizabeth Edwards said Edwards never looked at her the way he looked at Rielle Hunter and supposedly, she took a photo of her husband looking at his mistress in such a joyful way and put it on her computer as a screen saver.  Do you think that had anything to do with her untimely death? Who would be able to think positively about life with that as a reminder daily of what a complete !@#$%^&* John Edwards was? Just my opinion.

So to get back to the book club, I realized after talking to the gracious members who were kind to me and allowed me to explain my purpose in writing the series, that there are going to be more readers out there who are angry about the book, like my Giveaway winner.  And she didn’t even have to buy it.

Happy New Year!!!

Hope today is a good day for you.  I am puttering around my house which is what I enjoy doing the most.  Back in the day when I worked in the OR and had to be in scrubs ready to work by seven in the morning, I used to dream about this.  Today I have talked to my good friends, or emailed them or texted them, cleaned up a little, knitted, played with my pets, and hugged my husband.

Thanks to technology, I saw a picture of my sister Sarah as she had lunch with Liz at noon, sent a video of myself (terrible) back to her, spoke with my aunts on different coasts, texted both my kids, got an email from the guy who built the electric spinner I bought, sent the winners of the giveaway on goodreads their books by ordering them directly from the publisher, had a crying fit until Jim intervened because I couldn’t find the Nook version of Pam of Babylon to send to a customer and finally, spent a small fortune on a device which converts an old spinning wheel of mine into the latest of modern convenience. How did I spend my time before the computer? I’d probably have rested or watched TV.

We are having the most winter like weather; high winds and precipitation which vacillates between rain, sleet and snow.  The yard is filled with birds but no deer since the bow and arrow catastrophe a few weeks ago. Betty told me deer season ends today so maybe that’s way there hasn’t been any deer around here. They’re hiding and don’t feel safe anymore.

The Lions are playing today.  I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the game. I hope they win.. Turn your volume up and you might hear Jim yelling Lions scores in the background.

What are you doing today?  I hope its restful, peace-giving. I hope you find your passion this year, that the things that scare you are resolved, and any lingering issues come to a positive ending.  Thank you for being in my life, because I need you there.

A Prayer for My Mother

My mom holding me as an infant, and Aunt Lilybet.

Yesterday, my mother died at the age of eighty-three.  I suppose I should have expected this.  One of my sisters asked me today why we didn’t let her die at home.  The truth is that I either didn’t realize that she was dying, or in denial about it.  She took a shower alone the day before, had been bathing and cooking for my mentally retarded sister in the prior weeks. There was no change in her routine except for the tendency to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation (I attributed that to us boring her).

Last weekend the struggle to eat and drink seemed to have escalated.  My sister became a short-order cook.  I tried shoveling food into my mother’s mouth, but she wouldn’t allow it. We hounded her all weekend about eating and drinking.  By Sunday night, I was starting to worry.  She was sleeping a lot, but still lucid with periods where she seemed a little confused.  I had threatened her with the Emergency Room for an IV if she didn’t drink, and she tried.  Finally, I realized that she was unable to get more than a sip or two down.

Monday morning I asked Liz if I could make the call and she agreed.  Five men in three ambulances came in to my mother’s antique filled house, and with gentleness and respect, took her to the hospital.  It was surreal.  My mother has been a pillar of strength to me.  To see her frail frame on the stretcher in the Emergency Room was a baffling and soulful experience.  How did this happen? When did she get old?  She did her own taxes up until last year.  My mother could discuss politics with the best of them; she was a liberal who was looking at conservative candidates for the next election.  She was interested in everything and everyone. She still enjoyed going to a good garage sale with my sister more than anything.

And now, this.  I had to leave the room for a few moments to compose myself.  Seeing her laying there confirmed something to me; everything I had argued with my mother about was of no importance.  All the horrible things I have said to her over the years, first as a rebellious teenager and then sadly, a disrespectful adult, now haunted me. I had to hurry; I had to apologize to her before it was too late.

She was starting to drift in and out of consciousness, but during a lucid period, I could say to her how sorry I was that I had spoken without really understanding what I was saying, that if I could take back anything hurtful over the years, I would do it right then.  And so like my mother, she said ‘don’t be silly.  There is nothing to feel badly about at all.  Nothing at all.’  And then she slipped into a sleep that would only be disturbed one more time, and that was when her baby sister, now eighty, and my sister Liz, her lifetime companion and best friend, came to see her in the evening.  She woke up and acknowledged them, thrilled to see her sister after a long absence.  After they left, she did say to me, ‘I am surrounded by beautiful women.’ And that was that.  She never regained consciousness.

I am so sad.  There is no one else who will always be happy to hear from me.  I could call her at any time of the day or night.  My mother was my champion, no matter what I wanted to do.  My mother wasn’t perfect, but she was wonderful.  Many, many things have happened in the past twenty-four hours where my first impulse was to say, ‘I need to call my mother and tell her about this.’  And I can’t.

I love you, Mom.  I miss you so much already.  Oh, I hope heaven really exists and that you are up there with Dad.  I can’t wait to see you again.