Winner of the Second Annual Georgia Independent Author of the Year Award in the category First Novel, for Life is Hard, Soften it with Laughter
On September 26, 2020, Marlene was announced as the winner in the category of First Novel at the second annual Georgia Independent Author of the Year Awards. Marlene won for her first book, Life is Hard Soften It With Laughter. The book is a collection of essays that reflect the wit and wisdom that she is known for.
Marlene is interviewed by Vickie Bley and Mary Treadwell on BTP Live by the Southern Pen Bookshop. July 2020
Yesterday was our son James’ 39t birthday. Yeah, I know. How in the world did he get to be 39. I swear we were in labor just a couple of years ago. He was just learning to walk. His first sentence was “I got Burt and Ernie at home.” Wasn’t that last week?
When James was born people asked us if he was our grandchild or adopted. Granted we were old and fossilized when he came into the world. He also didn’t look anything like his pasty white parents. This baby boy was born with head full of blue black hair, brown eyes and olive skin. He looks my daddy for whom he is named.
Yesterday, James had a birthday party at work. Cupcakes, cookies, key lime pie. Sugar in everything. And he loved it. We went to dinner last night. I had gotten him a chocolate cake. The restaurant gave him two chocolate brownies with chocolate syrup over them. Sugar, sugar, sugar.
And it was good. Real good.
Today is April Fool’s Day. I want you to know that the shakes we are having is from Sugar overload and not the DTs. No April Fool jokes. We are all running on high test sugar.
And it was good. Real good.
I am back. Well, OK. I am partially back. Since Covid didn’t kill me, I decided to throw myself down a flight of stairs.
That didn’t kill me either, but it broke my left hand, bruised me from can to can’t and really ticked me off. I wish Fruit of the Loom would call soon. I can be the perfect plum. All I have to do is lean over. New lyrics to Blue Moon over Kentucky, need to be written. Blue moon, I saw you standing there and it scared the hell out of me. It ain’t a Pale Moon Rising in our house! Now, with this cast on my arm, I can only make a capital letter if the letter key and the shift key are close together. OR YOU GET THIS. THE CAST ON MY LEFT HAND SEEMS TO LOCK THE SKIFT KEY IN PLACE SO I AM SCREAMING AT YOU. Really, I am just screaming for the general principal of being sick and tired of it. Think about this. Snell and I had Covid. I was in the hospital for eight days. Snell went in twice and Covid has given his heart issues. I thought I had lost him a couple of times. I just kept holding on to his shirt tail and telling come back from the light. James had a bad headache and slept for two days. That was it. If it hadn’t been for James we would have had to go into a nursing home situation. We were too weak to look after one another. James put Snell in the wheel chair and put him in bed and took care of him while I was in the hospital. James and Snell would call me each night. Snell would wheeze. James would interpret. One night James called “Mom, I made Dad eat a French Fry.” I was so proud of my baby boy. Sometimes we just have to be mean and hateful to keep those we love alive.
Here is a side note of the horrid virus. Snell lost ten pounds. If you know him, you know Snell is lean and lanky. Now he looks like as bad as an Auschwitz victim, but more grey. I swear I looked at him in strong light and his skin was grey and transparent. People pay plastic surgeons to get those protruding cheek bones. I am not sure Rick Johnson at Tom M. Wages could have put color back in those cheeks.
When Snell gets sick he doesn’t eat. He doesn’t move. He sleeps a lot and with his eyes open. One night, I couldn’t detect any breathing. His eyes were at half-mast. He was cold. Well, he is always cold. If the outside temperature drops below 75, he wears a jacket. I was terribly afraid that I would have to call in a home death.
I started pushing and pulling him in the bed. Just moving him. I was trying to move around the bed to his side to prep for CPR. He never woke up, but he snorted and I could hear breathing. I don’t think I slept again that night.
Oh yeah, when Snell is sick, he stops eating. When I am under stress I eat. I gained seven pounds. Another thing to be angry about Covid.
And I have Covid brain. You know that feeling about going into a room and can’t remember why you went? For several days I didn’t remember how I got into a room. Who cared about the purpose? Why I was there was not important. How did I get there? Sometimes I thought I had a magic cough and did a Bewitched teleportation thing.
There will be more revelations of our experiences of the Chinese Year of the Rat, 2020. I was excited that rats would be recognized. After all I am Ms. Rat, but RATS, this stunk!!!
Stay safe. Stay well. Don’t kiss any strangers or even those you love.
Marlene’s Georgia Independent Author of the Year books are on sale at Amazon.com, www.southernpenbookshop.com, www.scribblersweb.com.
Gwinnett Citizen column February 18, 2021
I went to the doctor the other day and stepped on the scales. I was told not to remove my shoes.
OKAY! Two extra pounds right there. I have let my hair grow out about four inches, four pounds. I was wearing a shirt and pants, an extra 37 pounds. This justification thing works for me. Given enough time I could be underweight. Unfortunately, the nurse smiled at me and wrote down the real number of the scale. “Don’t worry,” she smirked, “Covid-19 means you will gain 19 pounds during the pandemic.” Well, old Smirky, I mastered that by the end of March, 2020. I am working on Covid-38. First, we need to establish some rules. I am not fat. I am fluffy—pudding like fluffy. It is all contained in a thin skin of epidermis. Poke a hole and red sugar water will run out. Yep, I have decided that my blood is more fat and sugar than corpuscles. This brings me to my symptoms: Tired, sluggish, unhappy, and slow to react physically and mentally. I am not functioning as the organized person I used to be. Remember things? I remember only that I don’t remember. I am craving sweets, bread, and food that isn’t necessarily the most nutritious. Personally I think all those added preservatives have probably kept me from rotting from the inside out.
Here is the diagnosis: I am SUGAR-BRAINED!
We have been eating a lot of packaged and prepared meals. I have been using the old early pregnancy trick of slipping a rubber band through my pants loophole and then around the button. I am needing the extra strength thick LONG rubber bands. I am not pregnant. The girl at the Arby’s take out window knows my voice and calls me by name. That isn’t good.
There is a cure for sugar-brained.
It isn’t pleasant. I did it once. For fifteen years I avoided gluten. I ate one gluten and now no gluten is safe from me. I must give up all gluten products. That is all wheat, rye, and barley.
Basically this means all things white: bread, potatoes, anything with white flour. To go gluten-free one relinquishes all fermented things like alcoholic drinks, beer, wine, liquor. I am a cheap drunk so I don’t drink anyway. That won’t be a problem, but here is the bigger issue-sugar.
There is a way to heal yourself from Sugar-Brain Syndrome.
Don’t eat sweet stuff—refined sugar, non-refined sugar, chocolate, citrus fruits, canned and pre-packed products. Look at the labels. It says sugar, fructose, dextrose, most any kind of “trose” or “tose” means sugar, you cannot have it.
Want to lose weight. Stop sugar. Want to have most of your brain cells working again? Stop sugar. Want to have the headache from hell and all the withdrawal symptoms of heroin or cocaine? Stop sugar.
The part of your brain that is sensitive to drug addiction is also the part that is stimulated by sugar. Sigh. Withdrawal from sugar is not life-threatening like cocaine, but it does leave you with some issues. Being hateful, mean and nasty is often a part of the withdrawal syndrome. Perhaps you will threaten the life of someone else. Tell your friends you are “off sugar and are struggling with a bit of withdrawal issues. Then you can let all the pent up rage and cussin’ you’ve been saving out. You will be forgiven. After all, you are in chemical withdrawal from one of the most addictive substances in the world. Sweetness. No sugar, no sweet disposition.
The good part is, if you can make it about 21 days, you are over most of it. Once the sugar is out of your system, your brain begins to work as it should. You start to shed that added fat from the slower metabolism and higher calorie count. You begin to remember things. You can actually find your keys again. Buttons button. Sleep becomes restorative. Energy returns. You have a life again. Natural sweetness returns to your disposition unless you are in Mama’s words a “Sweet Old Boy” or “Biddie.” Then you are just nasty anyway.
So I warn you all of this. I am going on a gluten-sugar reduction diet. I suggest you take this time of quarantine to avoid and pray for the three of us. If I am going to suffer withdrawal, so are James and Snell. James has my sweet tooth. Snell is one of those people who can pick up ONE piece of candy and not eat anymore. Yes, he can eat only five M&M’s. James and I had the severe sugar additive gene. One M&M means one pound of M&Ms. You don’t stop until they are all gone.
This is going to be tough, y’all. I think I need one more cup of coffee and a couple of chocolate covered almonds before I start this torture.
Gwinnettcitizen.com November 15, 2020
I have a hobby and it is shopping. I like to look at things. I love to feel the fabrics. I adore trying on clothes. I am one of those who fixes clothes back on the hangers.
I always return my things to the racks. I do not believe in buying anything at full price. A 50% discount sends me in rapture. 75% off is practically orgasmic. Belk's was having a huge clearance sale. I had waited for this day with great anticipation. Belk Bucks were burning a hole in my pocket yearning to be spent. I even had a 4% Rakuten cashback bonus. Everyone needs a hobby. This was mine. Yes, Wilma and Betty had nothing on me. I was ready. Fired up and poised to shop. My finger was limber and primed to click. I had enough coupons that Belk would owe me money on a purchase! Vibrating with excitement I watched as the sale items start forming on the screen. Slowly I scrolled down the rows of pretty things. Periodically I stopped to scrutinize details of an enticing item as I pondered the worthiness of my coupon
I reached the bottom; the end of all the pages. Nothing.
I found nothing I wanted.
I had pants in all those colors. I had more tops than Belk had listed on either its clearance or its regular purchase list. There was nothing to fire my imagination of dressing up to go somewhere so I could flaunt my new duds. Sigh.
I hadn't checked shoes.
Quickly I began the search for the perfect pair of shoes. Row after row. Page after page.
I found nothing. Again?
There was not one pair of shoes to buy. No new colors. No new styles.
Covid has taken its toll. I don't need anything, because I don't go anywhere. I have shopped through the pandemic and have no place to wear my pretties.
Oh woe is me. My hobby is failing me and my husband is laughing and dancing a jig. "She found NOTHING" he sings.
Gwinnettcitizen.com November 23. 2020
I was trying to choose a topic for the October column. Should it concern the centennial anniversary of women’s rights, Halloween, or Covid-19, a nightmare in itself? Then it clicked. October. Pink. Ta-ta month!
Oh yes, it is ta-ta time again. If you haven’t had your annual goose from the giant Squisher, you need to make your appointment. Practice your deep breathing exercises, not for calmness, but so you can take that great big gasp when the plates make your breast the baloney in the sandwich. “Hold your breath. Hold it. Hold it.” Try not to pass out. It hurts to hang by one breast from the machine. If Dante had been a woman and the mammogram had been around in his time he would have made the fifth rung of hell all about this experience. As a matter of fact, women should re-write Dante’s Inferno from our point of view. It has been eight years since my time with the Big C. When you have boobs the size of mine, the Big C has significant meaning. I am down to being squished twice a year. Been there, got the tattoos and don’t want to do it again. Let’s talk about those jugs, girls. We got ‘em. They come in different sizes. Gravity loves to pull on them. The female undergarment industry designs fancy pieces of nothing that won’t hold up a grape, let alone a cantaloupe. Hate to tell you this, girls, after the first child or 30 years of gravity, you need industrial-strength rebar to hold those babies up. Laughing with a friend, she commented on how often she had gone without a bra during the Covid quarantine. I asked why she was wearing one now. “I got tired of them rubbing my knees raw” she responded.
It is true. I walk down the hall and it sounds like the Clydesdales’ hooves pounding on the floor. It is just the old ta-tas beating against my thighs. I had hand surgery last month. Putting on clothes with zippers and clasps has been hard. Fastening a bra was impossible. Enter the husband. Snell said he had forgotten all the tricks on fastening and unfastening bras. He asked me how I managed to get “those things in there and they not fall out.” I told him it took practice, perseverance and the fear of pain. Another friend had to have both breasts removed. When she talked to the surgeon about reconstructive surgery she requested "itty bitty titties". She was about like me - nine-pound bowling balls in each cup. She throws her chest out—because she can now stand upright--and points her tangerines out into the world. Her husband likes to hug me. I told him he just missed Cherry's big, bodacious boobs. He said "I think I do.” And hugged me again. When you go in for your Mush and Squish you are asked to “remove all navel rings, nipple rings, and body studs.” I can’t have nipple rings. I would get my toes caught in them and my arms are not long enough to undo the fasteners. It makes me smile to know that all these rings, studs and tattoos will eventually be wrinkled and crinkled. That rose on your breast? It will look like a poison ivy growing up from your waist. That butterfly on your fanny will looks like a dirty spot on your thigh. If you see a young woman with perky boobs and all the guys are eyeing her, take solace. Time and gravity will fix that.
So go get that inner beauty photo taken. It is an hour. It isn’t comfortable. Wear warm pants because the top of you will be cold and the machines are icy. So are the technician’s hands. The room temperature is only about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t believe them when they tell you it is 68. They keep medical places cold so blood vessels are constricted preventing excessive bleeding. Germs don’t survive well in cold temperatures. Breasts are fat wads. It is cold. That adipose tissue will solidify. Hard to squish those babies, but don’t worry, those technicians know how to do it. NO matter the shape, color, size or length, they are yours. Take a couple of hours and protect your health. After all you are the woman in the family. Without you, everyone suffers.
I hate helpless. Hand surgery left me dependent on the kindness of others. My family can’t wait for me to be doing all the things I did before--feeding cats, zipping my own pants. My husband said it had been so long since he hooked and unhooked a bra that he didn't know what to do when he got it off me. I told him he could stand there in awe or help my put on pajamas. He helped me with the pajamas. There is nothing awe inspiring about these ta-tas any more.