Friday, October 07, 2011

Letter to My Sponsor on Day 30 -- Crazy & Crazy/Mad

Hi, Patty, your sponsee writes in a tiny little guilty voice.

I have no excuses except that I seem to hold myself in perpetual readiness to write & my communication skills suffer as a consequence.

I have been very narrow-focused: writing, dogs, abstinence, some of what I've had to do for my dossier.

But before I go any farther into today I have to get off my chest how much I hate people & the terrible resentment I'm carrying that is sprouting out in ugly ways.

Two weeks ago I filled in for a colleague.  I invoiced a dog & the owners haven't yet paid.  I've left three similarly pleasant messages.  Yesterday the client called my colleague & asked how much he charges for a "pee & a poo," which is to say, not much of a walk but an elimination.  He hesitated because the standard walk is $15 -- who knows when a dog will go for the money shot?  Then she said that she noticed I'd walked their dog briefly -- he's old & doesn't want to leave home -- & my colleague suspects she wants to pay me less.

I'm supposed to walk that dog for three days next week.  I told Aaron he would have to pay me for that dog although I will invoice the others, but after that conversation this morning, I decided to simply let the $75 go & to tell him I wouldn't walk the dog again.  I feel humiliated from calling her, from her criticism which she took to Aaron instead of to me, & for the criticism itself.  I thought I was doing what the dog wanted because it was a complete tug-of-war to get him down the street.

I want to be mean to the client.  Aaron is desperate for next week's substitute so I said yes but never again for that dog.

I'm mad at joggers for clipping my dogs and making them startle & snarl.  I'm mad at joggers who won't break their stride when they come upon a group of people on the street but say, "Excuse me!" in that snippy voice.  I'm mad at joggers who don't stop to look at the fireworks bursting behind them on the Promenade.  What the hell is SO important about joggers???

I hate yuppie mothers in elevators talking loudly & cozy-self-consciously-I'm-my-
kid's-best-friend.  I hate people who know my dogs don't get along with theirs & don't cross the street, despite having one dog to my two or three.  I hate it most when they see me from behind & come up on us anyway -- Daisy spun me 180 degrees that morning for a hated Maltese & the walker just looked at me smugly.  I hate kids who come rattling down the sidewalk with whatever contraption they're using at the moment, see my dogs & start screaming in fear.  The dogs are terrified.

I hate strollers.  Today I moved my dogs to the side because I could hear one coming & the man just sailed by.  "You're welcome," I said in a sarcastic gooey voice.

& this is really weighing (ha ha) on me.

As is the book, which is going through the most difficult tunnel & is due in 10 days when I'll be walking dogs more than full time & I have a weekend of dogs ahead of me.

Prozac messes with my appetite. Yesterday I forgot to eat until night.  It not only suppresses my hunger, it seems to divert my attention from it.  (I had 1 c. yogurt, 1/2 c. oats, some sugar-free apricot jam.)


Today I don't have to mix with the world until evening, when I have something like six walks in a row.  I am not going to ask for money again from this client.  I'm trying to let my anger, self-justification, humiliation & hurt go: deep exhale.

I don't have to worry about money.  I have enough.  I haven't opened the check my father sent with all sorts of conditions that make me feel invaded.

There is light at the end of the tunnel in writing about last fall & getting on to the fun ending of the book.

I don't have to walk Crazy Emmett today.  It's just us girls, me & two naughty but adoring Labs.

All the proper recommendations have been requested & accepted.  My dossier is nearly done.

I only have to eat, stay away from joggers, parents, children, occasional clients, other dog-owners/walkers, & write a little today.

& get groceries.

I'm going to go have some yogurt now.  I don't have fruit in the house.

I'm going to have salad, 4 oz. ham & a tablespoon of oil for lunch.  I'M GOING TO EAT LUNCH.

I will probably have yogurt, 1/2 c. oats & a fruit for dinner.

I feel a little better getting all this off my chest.



Monday, September 26, 2011

Letter to My Sponsor on Day 20

Dear Patty:

I have this terrific need to write out, as closely as possible, what I'm eating and what I'm doing today. I just finished chapter 7. The book is due 10/15. I have decided that my desire always to write 12-chapter books is not necessary to the continued success of the written word so I may settle for 10. I don't know what to write today but I do know it will be painful.

I'm also going out on the academic job market & have much to in setting up a dossier, polishing my CV, asking for recommendations, pulling together a syllabus and looking at job listings.

I've already walked Daisy, Gertie & Emmett while fretting about all of this.  Then I had breakfast:

1 c. yogurt, 1 c. blueberries

Lunch will be: salad, 4 oz. chicken, 1 T oil
Dinner will probably be: 1 c. yogurt, 1/2 c. oats, 1 banana

I have three afternoon walks, at 2, 2.30 & 3. I cannot do them on time because from the 2.30 gig to the 3.00 gig is a long walk. Ergo I will move everything up a quarter hour: 1.45, 2.15, 3. I'll be home by 4. I need to pick up chicken on my way home. I need to stop at the bank & make a deposit & transfer funds.

Here is what my brain does NOT have room for today: going to Verizon to straighten out my accused non-payment (I've done the paperwork, I just don't have time  today and will not have to walk Gert & Emmett on Thursday); justifying my need for emotional space to an online suitor; how much money I will make in October; more than a few check-ins on Facebook; wondering if I've lost weight & when I'l fit some piece of clothing or how much weight I can lose by Xmas & all that chitter; composing academic cover letters in my head.  Just dossier, transcripts & recommendation requests for today.

I will start, as soon as I finish writing this, with calling the Associated Writing Programs and setting up a dossier file, then calling Cornell for transcripts to be sent, and calling my department head at Berkeley for a letter of recommendation.

Then I will consider whether chapter 8 should include my backing off of dating last summer but having my best friend in NYC coming on to me during his Lost Weekend, or whether that's two chapters. I may start it with how well I'm coming to know one of my dog clients and the sort of crush I have on him. I.e., I may skip ahead a year as a stated & hopefully deliberately artful way of avoiding the aftermath of disappointments last summer.

The job stuff may take up the two hours I have until I leave and I may be tired & crappy feeling after the hike across the Heights + 4 flights of stairs. If so, I will settle for setting up the chapter 8 folder, formatting the chapter, and free writing. I walk Gert and Emmett between 6 - 7 & there isn't much time before I have to walk Sandy, at 7.30,  then Daisy,  then dinner & bed.

I really, really need to say these things because I want to see huge progress today & it may not happen. But the day will be successful by staying abstinent, by taking steps toward two big goals, by showing up for the dogs, by NOT BLAMING MYSELF for the things I do not do beyond these non-negotiables.

Thanks for listening. Much love always -- fmk

P.S.  My first action now will be to brush my teeth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Wealthy-Job Creator Says....What Exactly?

 "Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) appeared on MSNBC with Chris Jansing this morning to attack President Obama’s new deficit reduction plan, which includes some tax increases on the wealthy. Taking up the typical GOP talking point, Fleming said raising taxes on 'wealthy job-creators' is a terrible idea that kills jobs because many of these people are small business owners who pay taxes through personal income rates.
Fleming is himself a businesses owner, so Jansing asked, 'If you have to pay more in taxes, you would get rid of some of those employees?' Fleming responded by saying that while his businesses made $6.3 million last year, after you 'pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment, and food,' his profits 'a mere fraction of that' — 'by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over.'"

Dear Representative Fleming:

Re. your MSNBC appearance of this morning, September 20, which has now gone viral: I would suggest that, in the event of higher taxes, you do what I do.  Don't see a doctor or dentist or veterinarian.  Don't eat out.  Don't take a vacation.  Don't own a car.  Sell what you can on eBay.  Buy generic foods.  Give up new clothes.  Take out books from the library.  Make minimum payments on credit cards.  Pay high interest on taxes you can't afford to pay on time.  Forgo air conditioning.  Move to smaller home.  Write loving Christmas cards instead of giving presents.  Cut your own hair.  Terminate Showtime and HBO.

Just some well-meant words of advice.


Frances Kuffel

If you, too, want to offer advice for living in tough times, here is Dr. Fleming's email address:

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It's been years since I've seen my money market drop to $35.  If I hadn't gone to Montana, maybe it would only have dropped to $500.  There's so little difference that I see no point in blaming myself.

The awful news came just as I began a week's substitute dog-walking for a friend.  After working out the kinks in the schedule to my pace, I've been walking from 7.30 or 8 until 4 or 5 with a one-hour break, with a couple of evening walks to finish out the day.  It will save my ass for a minute when I had counted on it to act as a bridge until I started teaching near the end of the month.

And then my courses were canceled.

I had to make the Call. 

You know the one.  "Hi -- [snivel] -- Dad...."

Is there a more humiliating call to make?

Yes.  The next time I have to do it.

This week has, until the break of Saturday, saved me from worrying too much about it.  There is always a sudden dog to go board with, I reasoned as Daisy & I packed off to do so.  I found 43 cents on the sidewalks yesterday.  At least I've caught up with other things that had dropped to new lows: doggie bags, dishes.  At least I'll have a good three weeks to write five chapters.


I have to say that I am tired of having a bad year.  2009 was a bad year.  My mother died.  2010 was a bad year.  Two months in a cast, my book bombed, Zoloft went funky on me.  2011 has been a hard year.  A difficult student during winter quarter, three quarters in a row in which I haven't taught, always countingcountingcounting (Blitzen is six walks this week and four next...150 dollars...can I pay off that Visa yet?).

But this piece of bad news is the worst because I have absolutely no savings.  I was planning to pay a lot of bills this fall.  I was looking forward to the occasional movie or Chinatown back-rub.  I was finally going to be able to relax

                      well, once I got my book turned in.

I still have that little chore.

Ever have a good idea for a book & then see it?  That happened to me yesterday via Twitter. 

And I have so few ideas for new books.

Still.  I am holding myself very tightly to focus on what's going right.  I can actually (with the help of a few drugs) DO the walking.  One of the dogs did not hide in the fireplace when I picked him up today.  Beanie, a shy Lab, comes quite briskly to me, her owner says.  I'm ten days abstinent and the weather went from warm and clammy to cool and dry which means I had to put on my favorite salmon pink corduroy jacket.  The sleeves are roomier than the last time I had it on.  I have to be out & about in a way I haven't been in years, visible & accountable.  I'm enjoying my iPod at last & feel intimate with the music.  The world is full of strange things -- loose change, fragile Christmas ornaments in the gutter, overheard comments like, "Urdu, Urdu, Urdu -- shit, man."

I need to get back into the Rooms but this time I want to change the emphasis in the Serenity Prayer from "accept the things I cannot change" to "courage to change the things I can".  That prayer fucked me up with the initial emphasis on acceptance.  Give me a test for post-traumatic stress disorder and I pass with flying colors from the women I worked for a decade and more ago.  I survived by clinging to acceptance.  I was even graciously accepting of having my courses canceled ("This must be so stressful for you," I wrote my department head).  Several times a week I dream about those women, about begging for my job back at no pay or other scenarios. 

I want to close out 2011 by being able to say it was a hard rather than a bad year.  I want to change things.  I want to have normal nightmares about werewolves and falling and fire.  I want to be the first to have a good book idea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Little Town

 It's been a month since I've posted here and I find, this morning that I have lots to say.  In the interests of all of our sanities, I'm going to stick to one subject and try to follow up on the others through the week.  I need to start writing daily anyway, so you'll be my experiment...

I'm slowly -- as I seem to do everything -- getting back into life after being in Montana for two weeks.  I didn't mean to be away as long as I was but I thought some stranded flier might need Tuesday seat into LaGuardia less than 48 hours after Irene & then United gave me $800 in vouchers to take a flight later in the week.  (Can you say Bora Bora?)

This simple series of events pretty much covers my trip.  It extended it, it extended what I most needed to accomplish, and it extended my regrets over what felt like I didn't have time to accomplish.

My relationship with my family was tested pretty severely two years ago after my mother died.  My reclusion and the difficulties of making friends in New York to begin with, meant that this very lonely person needed both to reconnect and, if not to make actual amends, live them.  I stayed with my brother for two weeks and got silently irritated with the situation exactly twice.  I felt guilty at imposing on them but given the number of hours I was there, I enjoyed 99.99% of our time together.  The entire family, except for one grand-niece (yeah, you!) drove to Spokane for another family member's birthday so I got to see everyone except said grand-niece in my brother's family.  I lovedlovedloved laughing and talking with my oldest nephew who is as cynical as I am and almost as psycho.  I met new nieces.  An in-law I've met once was recounting a story about her favorite cousin and my father's head shot up and he said, "Jumbo?  He was a conductor on the NP.  He had a sister..."  I thought that was a fine serendipity and a fitting one for Missoula, with its concentric circles of family history.

I spent a lot of time with my father.  I was confessor to younger family members.  I saw our old house at Flathead but fleetingly: I couldn't bear to look.  I took day trips with one or another of my family to the east, west, north and south.  I had huckleberries, elk, prime rib, corn that had been picked that day.

So much for the slide show.  I also failed in other important reconnects and amends, with friends from grade and high school, from the Writing Community, with cousins.  I thought I was on a shorter schedule.  I found that talking after saying perhaps twenty sentences a day for the last four months was exhausting.  I was ashamed of what I look like.  I was scared to meet some of the people who have hurt me in the past.  I put myself on my family's schedule and agenda and took a vacation from self-determination.  I'm sorry that this is so, K, M, T, L, J, M, S, J, C, F, N, L, L.  I don't know whether you'll read this but I will try to make it up to you next summer, although my brother and I have plans already to float the Blackfoot.

I haven't been back to Missoula -- really and truly there on an out-and-about basis -- for more than ten years.  What I noticed when I stepped out of the airport was the smell of green grass in 15% humidity, and the skytheskytheksy.  I have only ever seen that sky in one other place -- Austin, Texas -- and only in Montana is it that cornflower blue. 

The next startlement is the growth of the town.  I mean, it's really grown, with lots of raw housing tracts, miles of chain restaurants and stores, and a complete rerouting of traffic.  Part of it has been Super WalMartized, another part has been darlingized in restoration, and another part is permanently Outdoor Magazined.  I could spot the latter by the badly maintained yards but neatly stacked inflatables -- inner-tubes, rafts, tents, mountain bikes.  The OMs have too high morals an no time to waste water by changing sprinklers.

I probably could have met up with everyone I didn't see if I'd hung around the Saturday morning farmer's market longer.  At some point my willies came up and said, "Get your fat ass outta here."  My sister-in-law and I lugged out bread and sun flowers and beets back to the car and took off for the corn farm just, perhaps, in time.

Even out-and-about, however, was traditional stuff.  Hamburger with my pa at the Missoula Club, a visit to the Clinic on the former St. Pat's hospital site, pie at Glen's in Florence.  That stuff.  Someone would mention a local favorite restaurant and I would wrinkle up in consternation.  I bought gifts at the airport the day I left. 

So maybe it was a visit to Montana but not Missoula.  I think my father will be moving there permanently next year and maybe I'll have the nerve and energy to see Missoula then.  I came home to find that the hurricane took out an old survivor of the 1928 Dutch Elm epidemic that graced several homes with its shade, and that the tree had taken down two other trees, uprooted wiring and busted up the doorway of the 1828 wooden house next door.  I stepped out of the cab from the airport to be greeted by the smell of the sea.  I had a calendar of dogs awaiting me the next day and a pile of catalogues.  A friend had come in and changed my sheets and put a salad and yogurt in the fridge.

I was back in Brooklyn even though I wouldn't say I'm back in New York.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011



if you went to St. Anthony's School in Missoula, Montana, & were, at any time, part of the class that graduated in 1971,



FIND Me OR John D'Orazi

on Facebook.  We are gathering forces
to meet on Sunday, August 27th, at 2 p.m.

Boiled hot dogs will [not] be served.  Bring your own powdered doughnuts.....

& stories of Sr. M. Francesca!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Nothing has gone right for the last four days. 

As the heat wave roared in, I went to the dentist on Thursday & got a temporary crown which cracked apart within an hour of leaving the office.

Friday the temperature soared to 104 degrees.  Sometime very early that morning I woke up and noticed I  And the the cable box was not telling me the time.  I opened the door and was met with complete darkness.  I proceeded to pad out into the street to find a bevvy of Con Ed trucks and patches of the street opened up.  We didn't get electricity back until mid-afternoon.

Very bad for Facebook games.

Yesterday, still in the low hundreds with humidity in the 50s, I opened a letter from my agent & discovered someone had mistaken my request for a three-month extension for the deadline of Sex and the Pity as a two-month extension.

Of course that had to happen on a SATURDAY.  When I can't do anything about it.

The building's elevator is busted.  The door to the cellar is locked.  My laundry is being held hostage & I can't take trash or recycling out.

I do not feel like writing.

The chapter I'm working on, however, is rather musical. I was cool with the first half of this chapter, and now, with some great advice from Facebook friends, I'm facing the second half.  To stall for time, I put a play list of all the songs mention in the book so far.  My fundamentalist family can listen with impunity -- & I hope you will enjoy it. 

I'm even kinda in the mood for a smoke & an assault on the next bit, armed with Owl City and the lamented Amy Winehouse.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tap on the Shoulder

I don't want to think about how long it's been since I've posted here.  I've had so little to say, you see.

And what an incredibly selfish statement that is.

I'm stalled out in the middle of chapter five of Sex and the Pity, frozen in place by fear of more failure.  More, you say?  The advance on acceptance is a spit in the wind.  Angry Fat Girls, now called Eating Ice Cream with My Dog, sold about three copies.  It's probably not my fault but I'm beginning my second quarter of not getting a teaching assignment and I've done nothing to change that situation other than to walk dogs and try to pick up writing coaching gigs.  (Hint!) 

And I've been frozen in fear itself.  What if I can't write this book?  What if it's horrible?  If I move from my bed I'll have to think about my bank balances and the fact that dog walking thins out in the summer.  I'll have to think about my weight.  I'll have to stay awake, which is hard to do when I can't sleep at night but nap all afternoon under the influence of really bad nutrition.  I'll be awake to the fact that I have no health insurance, few local friends, few friends I'm really in touch with.  I'd have to notice how much I need to sweep and clean and bathe.  And as of about Thursday, I'd have to admit that the molar I broke half of a few years ago is now very painful and that the pain is moving into my upper jaw.

Wait.  Is there such a thing as an upper jaw?

I'd have to admit I should know things like that.

So I've been hiding in bed, obsessing my way through a psychoanalytic biography of Hitler (which makes him scarier than he already was), onto the siege of Stalingrad, on to biographies of Churchill, Roosevelt and, now, Stalin.  I sleep.  I don't walk Daisy enough.  I get up and plug at Facebook games, which I've come to loathe but still involve myself in.  I promise each night I'll stay awake the next day and write two pages, get proper  groceries, and/or update my website with the new book cover and an announcement about editing.

With no results.

It's called a situational depression, one that circumstances such as a death or break-up or job loss can induce.  At times I pull it together and am wonderful.  Then I hide in bed for 23 hours of Stalin purging Belarus.

But I got my comeuppance yesterday and I'd like to think the universe tapped me subtly on the shoulder and that today I'm doing my best to respond.

Last night at dusk, I was skanked out from a day in bed and walking Sandy, an elderly golden retriever, on the Promenade.  We visited with a puppyish Bernise mountain dog and then moved on.  I had sort of unconsciously noticed -- sort of/unconsciously should prove how vague I was -- a woman behind us and when she caught up to Sandy and me I assumed she wanted some of Sandy's prodigious golden retriever adoration.  (I call goldens "barnacles" because they latch on to your side and won't let go.)

"Are you Frances Kuffel?" she asked.  "I love your blog."

I was ashamed.  Primarily I was ashamed of having neglected it for so long.  All the other shame -- unbrushed teeth, unbathed body, gained weight, the gray world of my existence -- crept up behind that, but slowly enough for me to thank her, tell her I've done a couple of pieces over at Psychology Today and that I should come back to Car on the Hill.

She didn't really care, I think.  She was forgiving of my absence and mostly wanted to say hello and that I speak to her in my writing.


I have a really hard time with that Frances hanging in my closet who speaks to people through her writing.  It's incredibly difficult for this Frances, in shorts dirty from the dog run, to respond to...well, they are fan letters, I suppose.  The real Frances is grotty and sweaty and scared and sleepy and neglectful of her dog and her father.  The one hanging in my closet is wrinkled from being smashed in with everything else and unused for so long.

But, um, I guess it's these ten fingers on the keyboard that wrote those books and the blogs and somehow they are connected to something that people want to read.

I resolved to write a Car on the Hill blog.  I began to think very very very very superficially about the possibility that Sex and the Pity could -- might -- have meaning for the spinsters among us who are afraid of men -- or the men who are afraid of us spinsters.

That was sort of a double-tap on the shoulder.  I'd gotten an email from a man I was interested in dating who effused about my work and my answer was so diffident that it insulted him away. 

Sorry, Mystery Date.  I need to dry clean the other Frances and sit her down in front of email when contemplating serious communication.  This Frances is mostly on her way to sleep these days.

I finished my walks around 10 and made my bed.  I turned to pick something up and stepped on my Kindle.  There was a crack.  It didn't look damaged but it's dead.  Right in the middle of Stalin's post-war cultural purges.

The universe had tapped again, just to prove it means it.

Kindle + sugar = all of the above.

I had an Amazon gift certificate so, yes, I'm getting a new Kindle. 

But not until Tuesday.

In the meantime, I found a credit card site that offers a fair deal on medical/dental procedures.  The scariest dogs in the Heights (Ooper will let about ten people touch him and I'm one) need a walker.  Sandy is here this weekend for $120 I didn't expect.  And I hope that what I've had to say here, as whiney-complainy as it is (which is one reason I've avoided coming here, but really only a small reason because I'd have to fucking wake up in order to do this), strikes a chord for anyone who has a wrinkled doppelganger in her closet.

It's OK.  I didn't even iron mine.

Saturday, April 09, 2011


I remarked to Daisy and Hero as we walked down Willow Street on Thursday that I feel good.  "Not happy," I added.  "I'm still scared about money and I'm really lonely and I don't know how to have fun and my body is too big.  But I feel...good."

This is my all-time favorite place to be except for being in that place and being abstinent as well.  It's a delicate balance, that place.  I can't think too much about any of those things I'm not and I have to look very hard at what it is that makes me feel "good" despite the negatives.

Late this fall I think I was on the verge of a depressive psychotic break.  I remember walking along and thinking, "I need coffee, yogurt, soup and I wish I wasn't any more."  I'd stop and think, "Hunh??"  I wasn't, in the beginning, consciously suicidal, I'd simply move from one thought to "If it weren't for my debt and Daddy and Daisy..."

After that happened a couple of times, of course, I became aware of what was happening which made it a lot worse.

So when I say I feel "good," the baseline is that I don't feel like that.

I've been working on Sex and the Pity every day and have come up with a dumb device that I like a lot: at the head of each chapter I give a pertinent sexual fact from the animal kingdom.  It's good because it sets the episodes off on a lighthearted note.  It's also good because I got to spend a couple of hours one day searching for these factoids.  We're familiar with the black widow who eats her mate: it's that kind of thing.  They make me laugh.

I have an editing project in-hand and that's always something I like.  It's there when I'm sick of the computer and it makes my brain go on working in writing mode, only it's objective.

Then there are days when I have to study what I need to do to remain feeling "good".  Yesterday I woke up and was really tired.  I'd had a busy couple of weeks with dogs which would end that early evening and I'd been such a Good Girl about writing and editing and getting things on my list done.  When I reckoned I had to write three pages a day to turn this manuscript in on time, I didn't give myself any days off.  That was insane of me.  Yesterday I required of myself that I write one page.  I almost accomplished that.  It will all probably turn out fine in the end.  I'll get a couple of five-page days but I'd better start including some slump days.

I've just realized that walking in the fresh air helps a lot.  Duh!  I know.  I'm an idiot.  It's partly how I get to the Novembers of my life.  In my defense, we're just coming into pleasant walking again after some months of acutely dangerous to miserable walking conditions.

I'm moving through the world with a conscious rule to forgive myself.  I slept in too long this morning, so long that I was kind of hung over from it.  I don't like getting up in the morning because I'm so scared of my precarious bank account and of writing and of time; today I pushed it too long.  "If you don't write early, you'll work tonight," I had to tell myself.

I'm scared of what will happen if I don't take it everything except Sex at a slow pace (yeah, I see the pun), and even that I have to offer up to the blue sky with the attitude that I'm in it for the long haul now and that the mounting page count proves I'm doing what I should be doing.

I don't even feel out of the woods of depression yet.  There are signs around the house that tell me I have a ways to go.  For instance, Wendy, I'm sorry I haven't opened your Christmas package yet.  When I do, I will...have to acknowledge it and you, which will force me to join the human race by another increment.  It will probably mean I have to acknowledge that you like[d] me, ibid. on the human race.  It will probably introduce something nice into my life when I'm still living in this bubble of make-do.

These are not the feelings of a terribly healthy person.

I have several such packages around the house.

There are a couple of spots in the Bat Cave that could use some cleaning...except that would mean I could ask someone to come in.  I'm afraid of letting any one in.

And yet, I feel good.  I feel like I will swat out some words on Sex today.  I washed my hair today.  It's after 3 p.m. so this day doesn't have all that far to go: the fear might not have a chance to take over if I take a constructive step here and there.

I might open one of those packages today.  I might --  I've sat here with my chin in my hand for about four minutes trying to finish the sentence with no real triumphs.  But you know?  I don't care.  I feel good.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Chapter One

I hoped to finish Chapter One of Sex and the Pity yesterday but after four or five hours I was three pages short and had no more words left.  At 3 in the morning I grogged awake muttering, "Oh shit," because I realized in my sleep that I had given away the ending in the unfinished chapter.

Which was kind of cool because I couldn't wait to get back to it this morning.  And then five pages fell quickly and magically & funnily into place.

At which point the afternoon y-a-w-n-e-d at me.  I didn't really have the words or ambition to work on a magazine proposal or my novel.  I transferred $600 to checking, which scared the hell out of me.  I set up a new email account for the chronicles.*  I played too much Bejewelled on Facebook.

Days on which I finish a chapter are as hard in their way as the days I have to write and have nothing to say.

Remind me of that the next time I say "this" is the hardest kind of writing day.

So I laid down for an hour and fell barely asleep.  This afternoon's unconscious obsession was my desire for rotisserie chicken and French cut string beans.  So I fed Daisy and we went out to admire the forsythia with the western light behind it, and I was off to procure a sane meal.

After which I explored some Pay Pal options for the f chronicles and feel marginally as though I've pulled the last half of the day out of lassitude.

Chapter One, my worried friends and relatives, is about the men I've had the misfortune to fall in love with and the utter necessity of friends.  Clean as a plate after Daisy's licked it.

I even laughed writing it, as well as cried.

I wish I were one of those people who can finish a chapter at 1 p.m. and be onto another piece of writing by 3.  I have an overwhelming list of things I "ought" to do:

  1. Write chapter Four of novel.
  2. Outline novel.
  3. Outline Sex and the Pity.
  4. Redo my website.
  5. Get in touch with my sponsor.
  6. Write magazine proposal about adoption.  Find editors to send it to.
  7. Go "live" on the f chronicles.
  8. Get out the word that I'm available for coaching.
  9. Return 8,000 Twitters and emails.
  10. Read a bunch of articles on sex, dating, relationships.
  11. Start my series on the new Seven Deadly Sins for my Psychology Today blog post.**
  12. Clean my desk.
  13. Make reading list for my next nonfiction proposal.
But what I have done since my last post here was finish totaling up thousands of receipts for taxes and write about 20 pages.  

And done some preliminary footwork on the f chronicles.

Which isn't that bad.

And the forsythia, which is not my favorite harbinger of spring, is gorgeous at 6:30 p.m.

* Write me at >< to be added to the list.  Payment options to follow.

** All the old seven deadly sins are now -- well, I can't say virtues because those are taken, but maybe assets.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

[Partial] Answers

My editor, Laura, was as worried by the tone of "Headlights" as you are.  You may have noticed I haven't posted anything there in a hundred years.  That's because I a) haven't posted anywhere, and b) need to stand back and think about the book I will be turning in.  I should take "Headlights" down.  What material I'll use from it will be fleeting and watered down.

I'm working on Chapter One now.  It is rueful and funny.  At this point the cruel things I have to say are, I think, universal.  One cannot write about a thing like looking for love without looking back, and that's what I'm working on now.  So here is a sample that, I hope, will help to allay some of your worry:

Here is another truism: You can only find neutral ground with someone you were in love with when you have the upper hand.

Tim and I have emailed over the last couple of months but each of us reacts like bumper cars when we hit a sensitive spot.  I need a boyfriend named Jean-Claude who teaches philosophy at the Sorbonne, to fit into my flippiest trousers from Lillith, to have a Pulitzer gathering dust to actually show myself to him.  

Jean-Claudeless, there are no ex-loves I am anxious to meet again.

Trust me, I could wax really snarky there if I wanted to.

Professionally, I must turn Sex and the Pity in on time.  And by the way -- Berkeley isn't fond of that title but I think it's brilliant.

Also by the way?  Thank you for worrying because in copying that sample, I made it better.

I'm not quite dithery enough to go out and post ads for babysitting, tutoring, dog-walking, editing and grout-cleaning all at once.
But thanks for worrying about overkill.


I wouldn't mind getting rid of tchotchkes if you paid the postage.  It could be kind of fun to put them all in a bag and blindly grab one.  It could the hoarder's version of seeking an answer by randomly opening the Bible and sticking one's finger on a verse.

Although I've never quite gotten that because who would "randomly" open the Bible at Genesis or Revelation?  It seems that as an advice mechanism, you're pretty much gonna be hearing from Samuel  through Luke.*

I'm thinking about serializing short stories in the f chronicles: doing so would force me to write some.  But that's not what the chronicles are mostly about, so don't worry.  I'm also thinking about a subtitle for the newsletter: a life without ideas.


Note to self:  The hardest part of the unemployed day is evening.

Note to self: When I'm depressed I read chick lit.  When I frightened I read Tudor history.  In the last four days I've whizzed through Elizabeth's Women Friends and The Lady Elizabeth.  Neither have quite the grit I crave.  Must switch to Derek Wilson. 

* So then, of course, I had to try the Bible Answer trick.  I don't know whether to laugh or bawl:

"And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity; and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies."  Jeremiah 20:6

Friday, April 01, 2011


 Barb!  I'm sorry your response didn't get published!  I got all kinds of spam at one point & closed open comments: sometimes new comments slip by me!

So much good advice, for which I thank everyone.

It was never an option to break my book contract.  I know too well that my real professional future rests on the notion of publish or perish.  My brother means well & wants me to be secure & solvent.  I do, too -- just as soon as I turn this book in.

& I know we are all overwhelmed by blogs -- but I think I will take a chance on the newsletter, which I intend to call the f chronicles.

As well as posting ads for tutoring, editing, dog walking, baby-sitting.

& I'm terrified.

But there is humor in the situation.  What placard, I'm wondering this drizzly morning, would Daisy and I huddle behind begging for money?  "Help a writer finish her book"?  "Willing to work -- later"?

I've also been mulling over how to convince people to subscribe to the f chronicles.  I have a vision of a five-minute infomercial:

In this once-a-week, finely crafted two-to-three page letter you will be invited into process of the Promethean struggle of one woman to combat relapse and become abstinent, battle the dogs of depression and the dogs of Brooklyn Heights, write a book about dating and own up to her failures and possibilities.  For the price of $5 a month, you will have access to a closed blog where you can discuss the chronicles of f, offer her advice that will make her squirm, criticize her choices and ask why she has never trained her dog to heel.  

And if you send your $5 payment to Pay Pal in the next ten minutes, you will have the unprecedented opportunity to sign up for the f chronicles for only five dollars a month.  That's less than a grande latte and is guaranteed to make you ask for that latte with skim milk!

Listen to what readers of the f chronicles have to say:

"Frances Kuffel should shower more often and take yoga -- and I enjoy telling her this on a daily basis!  It's so much fun to boss someone smart around!" - Susan K., Glenwood, IA

"the f chronicles are better than Ambien!" - John M., Jasper, AL

"I hate her food plan but I'll be damned if I let her lose more weight than me!" - Sylvia T., Visalia, CA

Act now and Frances Kuffel will send you one of her very own tchotchkes!

OK.  Back to Friday, April Fool's Day & the sound of rain on a sheet of plastic outside my window that is beginning to feel very much like the first round of torture at Guantanamo Bay.

There is some truth here.  Upon reading feedback, I think once a week with time to respond is a good way to go.  I think readers should have the chance to subscribe for one, three, six or twelve months, & I think the prices need to reflect that commitment -- $5, 12, 25, 45?
I can promise there is going to be some tough going because I do not WANT to be abstinent and I do not WANT to go back to the Rooms.  But I have never said 12-step programs are the only prescription and I've never said they are by any means undeserving of criticism.

& I also promise I will cheer the fuck up.  I spent two or three months this winter with unbidden thoughts of suicide tapping me on the shoulder &, at its worst, it was because I'm so tired of myself -- tired of fighting, tired of being alone, tired of being afraid of everything.  I can't live like that any more.  I've have a three-day nervous breakdown, slept a lot, pondered much -- & this post is to announce that I am seeking courage, hope, adjectives &, ultimately, 1,000 subscribers.
We can work out a deal on referrals, too.

Look for announcements here, on Facebook & on for further action.

Aren't those the scariest of all words to commit to cyberspace: "further action"?
I think I'll start by brushing my teeth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Daft Idea

Yesterday I was informed that my single course has been reassigned.  I don't think this was due to being an inadequate teacher.  Times are tough and senior/full time staff have first dibs.  My course leader wants to keep me "active" in the sense that if courses are available this summer, he will hire me.

Still, I'm in a desperate situation, made more desperate after a very frank cards-on-the-table talk with my brother last night.  His advice, which is intensely sensible, is to find as high-paying a job as I can and stick it out for two years to pay off all debt and then resume my writing career.  This would include voiding the contract for my current book, the manuscript of which requires me to write three pages a day in order to turn it in by its due date of June 15th.  The first thing I would have to do is pay back the advance.

This is a problem.  I need that third book, Sex and the Pity, which will be more PG than R-rated, because Angry Fat Girls (soon to be released in paperback under the title Eating Ice Cream with My Dog) did not do well.  I must redeem myself as quickly as possible in the cut-throat world of publishing.  That's a reality I don't expect someone outside the business to understand.

And besides, what would I do?  My computer skills have always been limited and I'm afraid they are positively outdated at this point. 

So I began to consider my skills.

  1. Pam Peeke recently wrote, "Your words are so amazing Frances.  I know no one who can capture feelings the way you do."  And I have to say I'd along with that insofar as I do a really good job of writing about feelings.
  2. I'm a good writer in general.
  3. I bake great cookies.
  4. I speak Dog.
  5. I can relapse like nobody's business.
  6. I can lose weight.
  7. I can hang on through nightmare depressions.
  8. I have the ability and willingness to be an open book.
  9. I'm a good teacher.
  10. I'm a good editor, from line-editing (thanks to 20 years of teaching composition) to rearranging the parts of a book to finding the idea for a book in the first place.
  11. I have a certain amount of wisdom, humor, intelligence, imagination, compassion, empathy.  I spin back what people tell me in ways that they appreciate and can use.
  12. I buy nearly perfect gifts.
  13. I have good taste in clothes.
  14. I take good photos.
  15. I'm a good researcher.
  16. I've read a lot.
That's an incomplete but decent and random list of what I can do.

I placed a Craig's List ad this morning offering tutorial services.  I'm reopening shop as a writing coach, which I'm very good at.

I'll pick up more dog gigs.

I'll put up signs around the neighborhood for tutoring and dog-walking (on different tear sheets, of course).

But Pam's words and my balls-to-the-wind confessionals began circling in my head as I was dashed out to pick up dog food.

What if...

What if I attack relapse, weight loss, depression, job hunting, the writing process and the odd dog in a closed media.  What if I get abstinent and write about it in a way that will help readers feel what I have always wanted to say: you're not crazy and you're not the only one

I am not dogmatic about how anyone should lose weight unless it's clearly insane.  I understand as well as anyone that weight loss is not simple -- I have to combine it with all of the above and other women have yet more complications in their lives.

I have read a lot on the subject and know a number of experts.  I could interview people.

I could create a closed blog in which, with the newsletter subscription, readers can ask me questions, criticize my lack of exercise and gloomy outlook, request more attention paid to whatever topic or aspect they want, and talk to each other.

I would do this as an email newsletter -- daily? three times a week? -- by paid subscription.  If someone wants to receive the newsletter and can't pay, she can refer one? two? subscribers and receive a free subscription/password.

Hell, I'll even try to figure out a way to give readers 10% off either Ice Cream or Sex and the Pity.

So what do you think?  Really: is this a good idea?  If so, how often would readers want such a newsletter and how much should I charge?  Is there anything else missing from what I could write about that would be of use to people (women, really) trying to lose weight or lose weight again?

Please, please: respond!

I think it would be fun.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't. Push. Me.

5.30 a.m.

An email from someone I went kaboom over twenty years ago.  Yes, he says, he thinks we can be friends.

7 a.m.

A young man in a top coat hurries away from the deli with a bunch of white roses in tight bud under his arm.

7.15 a.m.

A heart shaped balloon bobs with each lurch of the train toward Borough Hall.

7.20 a.m.

A bouquet wrapped in a plastic bag full of water held like the torch of the Statue of Liberty as we pull into Wall Street.

8.05 a.m.

A Venezuelan student asks if I like chocolate.  His parents are visiting and brought a lot of chocolate with them.  If I could cry, I would.  I say no.

10.15 a.m.

An Italian greyhound keeps jumping on me as I pee and I finally shout, "Off!"  She whimpers and runs away.

This feels oddly satisfying.

10.30 a.m.

An email from someone I am still going kaboom over telling me that "Need You Now," a song we loathed loudly on a car trip, won a Grammy.  Per.  Fect.  "Our" song is about booty call.

11.15 a.m.

Daisy and I meet Boomer and his owner as we walk home from the dog run.  She reminds me it's Boomer's birthday.  Happy birthday, Boomer.

11.25 a.m.

Proflowers reports it has delivered the dozen red roses I ordered for my father's amour.  Tomorrow they will deliver another bouquet to his neighbor. 

12.30 p.m. 

I'm feeling more than a little sullen & short-tempered.  Do not tell me Valentine's Day is no big deal.  The world is skim milk-blue and blackened snow.  Big velvet boxes and big flowers are a powerful antidote to the feebleness of February.

12.38 pm.

I'm pouting and jealous and craving chocolate.

Why isn't St. Agatha's Day honored on February Fifth?  The timing is perfect and she's the patron saint of single women.  Aside from that little matter of also being the patron of rape victims, I think there is a need for a day celebrating all of us who are trying not to live in perpetual bitterness.  First of all, single people are there to listen to everyone's problems.  We are always free to do whatever.  We are at least four-to-one ahead on gift giving (shower, wedding, shower, baby).  Hallmark and the rest of the economy could use another holiday -- DVDs, books, pop corn poppers, bubble baths, half-bottles of champagne...there a lots of things single people need to pad out their singleosity.

St. Agatha's Day can be co-opted by new mothers, depressives and workaholics as well.  Her final prayer before dying of torture was, " have taken me from love of the world and given me patience to suffer".  Because her torturers twisted her breasts off, she is also the patron saint of breast cancer.  Your gifts to us could be tax exemptions!  In a neat irony in which her breasts are suggestive of other stuff, rather than other stuff being suggestive of titties, she patronizes bell makers (which could add a merry noontime carillon to delight everyone and pump up Ivy League ambitions) and bread makers.  I could live with a bouquet of croissants, a warm focaccia with some dry-cured olives and a half-bottle of chardonay, or a box of diplomats, along with a nice card ("with a bit of my heart forever," "You're in my speed dial, your wedding gift's on the mantle, you'll be mine until we redecorate").

Perhaps this will convince you: St Agatha protects against the outbreak of both fire and volcanoes. 

N-i-c-e.  Ignore me on February Fifth and I'll set your roses on fire.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Human Race - Joining It

It's a slow road with switchbacks.

In too many ways I'm still doing damage control from the Descent that began in July.  My job has been threatened.  I don't know how I'm going to make it financially.  There is so much stuff I have to do that I go blank contemplating how to get my life back in order.

I was wandering around on Kindle the other night, looking for something nonthreatening, and made a discovery that put me in a cold sweat.  I haven't been a literary agent for eight years but there was someone I had worked very, very hard for and been unable to sell.  That person's books, which I edited with an Exacto knife, are now published.

I was surprised that my former, er, career still has that kind of power over me and I noted on Facebook that I wanted to chew my right hand off with jealousy.

"X (the literary agent who made money off some serious work I had done on the manuscript) doesn't have Daisy," I mantra'd as I turned off my computer and crawled into bed.  "X doesn't have a new flannel nightgown and clean flannel sheets and Daisy."

Of course, X might well have much better stuff but does not have that ineffable alchemy of flannel and Daisy, the solid 70-pounds of muscled weight sleeping next to me.

The Prozac, you see, is working.  The dosage isn't yet right but the worst is over until the next time.

Sometime in the last month I had a severe loneliness for a god I can't quite believe in.  One evening I went out to walk Sandy, a mild enough golden retriever, and demanded that god get down here and show himself to me.  It was a week of fuck-ups at school coming back to haunt me and I was scared and, always, lonely.  This demand was a bratty win-win: I know there is no god with a personal interest in me so there would be no answer and I could continue my terror and loneliness in blissful non-peace.

Then Sandy's owner gave me a hundred-dollar tip she referred to as "snow duty".

It was not Fatima but it was a penny placed on the other side of my personal scales of life.

And so I told the green-eyed dog of jealousy that I have a silky yellow one to sleep with, thank you very much, and fell asleep wondering how much of a wreck I would be the next day.

I woke at six in a rush to get to Facebook and quit all my farms.  Suddenly, I had to declutter that much of my life.  (I kept my city.  It's my only game and takes little time.)  And I was surprised to see that my post had several responses from women I respect saying, me too.  I was comforted not to be alone.

Not to be alone.

Not to be alone.

By writing a sentence I had let some people admit to the green dog as well and I could begin to laugh.  I began to hope that the version of the manuscript I worked hardest on had been the one to sell.  I owe that boss amends, although not for what she probably thinks I owe.  Maybe I can say I made them with that work.

Maybe it augers well for the novel I'm editing now.

That morning, the winter light poured through the windows of Grand Central so purely that I thought there was a spotlight shining on the west windows.  I asked one of my students if he'd seen it and yes, he said, he thought it was a special effect, too.  And I felt I had not been alone in that cold bath of early light, and that my loneliness and my isolation are not one and the same but are, certainly, related.  If I can't break the former maybe I can break the latter.  And maybe that will begin to mend the day-to-day lack of family and close friends at hand.

By whatever means.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trending in Francieland...

Why I Won't Tune in to Next's Week's Episode of Heavy on my Psychology Today blog.