NaNoWriMo: Scaffolding

I used to be a Pantser… a writer who writes by the seat of their pants without an outline. I was arrogantly proud of not using outlines and “just letting the words flow.”

Next, there are Plotters and they write with an outline that’s usually prepared before they start writing the book, but can also be altered during writing.

Outline? What’s an Outline?

I have been working (periodically) on In the Bushes (working title) for five years now. I worked on it during NaNoWriMo three years ago and won because I wrote 50,000 words that November. However, the last two NaNos were a bust for me because there was so much blurred, unorganized writing all I could do was skim what I had written and then try to find a place to pick up where I might have left off. It was impossible to move forward and I quit NaNo within the first week both years.

NaNoWriMo 2022 Scaffolding

After last year’s failure, I thought I should read up on outlines. Maybe I could use a teensy bit of organization? So I started reading.

I just looked in my Audible library and have read fifteen books specifically about outlines or have sections on outlines in them. In just the last year.

Information Confusion

Of course several of the books countered each other. Most said their way was The Best. Some were okay, but others I tossed aside as useless.

The two books that resonated most with me were Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. I’m not going to explain either of them, just know they teach different ways of doing an outline and I combined them.

Becoming a Plantser

NaNoWriMo 2022 Scaffolding

I’ve since become a Plantser… a person who does a combination of both Pantsing and Plotting. Starting in June, about four months before Preptober, which is the month before NaNoWriMo in November, I began arranging my outline in Scrivener. I’ve written a lot of words in this WIP, but it needed arranging in some sort of order.

I started with years: 1978, 1982, and 1988, the three most prominent years in the book. Then I moved to locations: Orlando, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Orlando again. These I could move around as needed, but had specific parts to the story. I could move the cities to their proper years when I knew where they would go. I arranged the characters I had into the years I knew they would be in and for those whose years were still unknown, they went into their own folders.

When I was done moving people and folders around as if I were playing Backgammon, I made sure the title of the folder aligned with what was inside. Here’s a fun one: “DC ScabiesIwoJima.” In Scrivener, there’s a place for notes on the side and I write clearer notes about what my folder has inside. I’ll leave this one up to your imagination.

NaNoWriMo 2022 Scaffolding

Lastly, I wrote “NNWM next to the folders I wanted/needed to work on this NaNoWriMo. So the folder I mentioned above says: “NNWM DC ScabiesIwoJima.”

I rarely worked in chronological order when I was Pantsing. Now, however, I am going down the list, starting at 1978 and moving down, filling in what is next. And next. And next again.

Where is the Pantsing Part?

Sure, I’m doing a good deal of Plotting, but I do not have the amount of detail either the books or people have said I should have.

I do not write back stories for my characters. I don’t write what the motivations of the neighbor might be. I don’t go into the minutiae many books suggest. I am more loose with those aspects.

NaNoWriMo Ease

This is my first NaNoWriMo with any kind of an outline and the difference is amazing.

I am so organized. That is not a sentence either my mind or mouth has uttered much in my life.

The writing is flowing each day with complete ease and joy. I do not dread the page. I am not crying with frustration confused about where to start. When I start the next morning, I merely read the last sentence and move forward. I am not spending hours re-reading and editing what I had been writing for months and, quite sadly, years.

NaNoWriMo 2022 Scaffolding

It’s stunning how easy NaNo is this year. As of today, with ten more days left to get to 50,000 words, I have 35 thousand plus words. If I continue as I have been, I will get there a couple of days early.

The novel will not be finished. Not remotely so. I will have to re-write so much because I am seeing where I went wrong in other parts. I can see through the muck easier now that things are neater. They are not perfect, mind you. Just neater.

Scaling the Scaffolding

I see the outline more as scaffolding… people call it that a lot, apparently. I was writing a couple of days ago and a new character I had not anticipated walked in on a beam I did not see I had lain down for her. She wandered in easily, walked on that skyscraper’s beam as if she were walking in the garden grass, introduced herself to me and made herself a space in my book. I wondered where she would have gone had I not had the scaffolding up at all. Would I have found her? Seen her at all?

NaNoWriMo 2022 Scaffolding

What’s Perfect for YOU?

I would never presume to tell a Pantser to learn to outline. Each person finds their own paths to writing. I am trying not to be cranky with my Self about that stubbornness all those years when I “should” have at least tried another way when I found myself flailing for so long.

And I will give a little shoutout to hypomania for the ability to focus more. Here’s to mental illness!

NaNoWriMo: Filling My Plot Holes

As I said in my post this morning, I felt much better after coming up with a strategy for inserting sexual innuendos into my WIP. I have practiced with my writing all day long and am not doing a bad job of it, as you can see in this paragraph.

Hypomanic Writing

I wrote quite a bit today. The post this morning, my NaNo word count, and a work post as well. It feels good to have the words falling out of my fingers.

After my 24-hour work day on the 8th (did I mention that?), I was exhausted for the next six days, napping like I had not since before the hypomania. I thought for sure the 24-hour day had zapped my supply of energy and I was really not happy about it. But starting mid-day yesterday, I started waking up again. So when I wrote so much today, it felt fantastic!

And yeah, the clock is still doing its weird blue glowing crap it’s been doing for a couple of months. I ignore it for the most part.

Drag Queens: “Teach Me Tonight”

This version of  “Teach Me Tonight” was a frequent Drag standard in 1978ish.

On YouTube, there are great LGBT history videos that I’m watching to help jog my memory of the sexual innuendos I need for my WIP. Besides what I need them for, they are amazing pieces of historical art and I encourage you to take a look as well. As much as I know, I am still learning from the Drag Queens, Female Impersonators, Transwomen, and more. Really good stuff.

I look forward to writing more tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo: Plot Holes Abound

So I’m writing writing and it’s going great when all of a sudden, I write, “Lisa walked away, but turned her head and stuck out her tongue. Manny yelled, ‘Hey, I’ve got somewhere you can put that.'”

And I had a writing epiphany.

That was the first sexual innuendo I had written in 135,000 words. (No comment from the peanut gallery about my over-writing. I know.)

Naughty Allusions

The gay world I was in in the late 70s and early 80s was rife with sex talk of all kinds. (I assume life still is, beyond my work.) I experienced everything from double entendre to graphically obvious and everything inbetween. How could I have forgotten that until now? And what the holy (har) fuck (har har) am I going to do about it now?

Burying My Head in the Snow

I was so upset last night I crawled into bed and cried before putting old Christmas movies on TV and melting into pretty dancing dresses and Santa Clause.

In the back of my Christmas mind, I kept thinking about the thousands of gay sex comments and jokes I would need to dredge up in my memory so I could use about one hundred of them. My stomach hurt trying to come up with even one. (Well, except for that one there.)

Drag Shows

I learned much of my naughty banter from drag queens. The ones on RuPaul’s Drag Race are quite different than the ones whose shows I attended and where P would grab strangers’ groins (that is P and the pic is mine) and ask to see their packages unzipped.

(I included one of P’s shows at the bottom.)

Paul Wegman at Parliament House

First, I don’t think drag queens would be allowed to grab strangers’ crotches anymore and then public nudity would surely be a no-no, right? And none of that would go on RuPaul’s show at all since it is on TV.

Drag Queens on YouTube

Ahhh, my YouTube addiction shall be rewarded with watching some 1970s and 1980s drag shows!

Amusingly, my dear Queen (the band) is interspersed with drag queens. My search title was: “1970 Drag Queen Shows” and drag shows and 1970’s Queen shows both popped up. I couldn’t have smiled more. And my stomach ache went away.

Tons of Work Ahead (and Behind)

I suspect I will be inserting the innuendos, double entendre, and smutty comments during the editing process when I am finished with the book. I will try, from here on out, to include them in my writing.

I was shocked by my realization, but think I have a solution so am not so freaked out today.

Oh, and I have finished my word count for today, and it is only 8:30am: 28,099 total words for November. Wheee! Apparently I can write when the pressure is on.

NaNoWriMo: Pieces-Parts

Today is Day 12 of National Novel Writing Month/NaNoWriMo and I now have over 23,000 words of the 50,000 expected for the month. I am really proud of myself!

I’m listening to a couple of Playlists as I write, mainly my Sting and my Queen “Meditation” Playlists.

The songs I listen to by Sting are on the softer side, Symphonicities, music from The Living Sea: Soundtrack from the IMAX Film album, some The Soul Cages.

I’ve written about the gist of my Queen “Meditation” Playlist in my “Rabbit Hole: Track 13” post… ballads and most songs from the Made in Heaven album.

Pulling a Book Apart by the Words

I’m in an odd part in the writing.

First, I was working on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (what STInfections were called in the 70s) and my MC’s (main character) gay friends going to the Free Clinic every week for medication. These were weekly gatherings where they would go to lunch afterwards to drink gin and tonic or shots of tequila to wash the antibiotics down. Back then, it was so flippant. There was a pill for everything, so it was no big deal to get syphilis or gonorrhea or the other parasitical infections that were common.

That got heavy after about 2000 words so I moved on to drag queens and their clothes and how they taught my MC how to dress and wear makeup properly. Well, like a drag queen, actually. My MC sat in the back of the stage with the queens, watching them get made up and bite each other with words and laugh. Mostly laugh. There were some drugs, too, but that was ancillary. And lots and lots of smoking cigarettes.


It’s tough when the two sections become cause and effect.

I was having a grand time writing about my MC dreaming about dressing in drag and spinning around in chiffon dresses or walking down the runway in bugle bead evening gowns when she had a vision of her favorite queen getting very sick and dying.

My own heart fell knowing this drag queen in real life and knew the circumstances of her death from AIDS, which is where the book is leading. The sadder parts are coming and my heart hurts knowing that.

Sometimes writing is hard, but not in the ways one typically thinks of writing challenges.

I will keep going. It needs to be said.

And read.

NaNoWriMo Inspiration

A woman in one of my forums was ready to quit (a common feeling about this point, Day 10, in NaNoWriMo) and I had a moment of clarity about something other than sexually transmitted diseases and bath houses and shared this with her:

Wayyyyyy long story very abbreviated, I’m watching musicians and artists and analyzing how they do what they do. One sidelight that has come to me as a writer is that they practice. A lot. When they feel like crap. When they just finished a concert. When their paintings are on the wall of the Louvre. They practice. Thousands of their pieces (musical/artistic/glass/etc.) are abandoned or broken or tossed (sometimes in anger!) to get to that ONE that might make it through to anyone seeing or hearing it. Even that isn’t a guarantee.

Why should my art come any easier? Why shouldn’t I also have to write millions of letters, thousands upon thousands of words that are for naught, just to get to one phrase (not even a full sentence!) that might lead to something that resembles a story years down the line?

So I keep going. I hope you do, too.

So discouraged artist, composer, musician, athlete, and of course, writer, please promise me you will keep going.

I will if you will.

Bipolar Diary & NaNoWriMo

Fluorescent Fingers

I was typing yesterday, like I do for hours and hours daily, and then I started seeing colors. They were fluorescent and seemed to be coming from my fingers. Confused, wondering if I had stuck my fingers somewhere I didn’t remember (you know how you get marker streaks or bruises that seem to come out of nowhere), I looked closely at my fingers. There was nothing on them.

As soon as I started typing again, there were the flashes of colors. Were they coming from the taps? That’s not what it looked like. They looked almost flame-like, licking the air around my first knuckle. The colors, really the colors of fluorescent markers, that bright green, orange, yellow, and blue, were what was dancing around my fingers.

They still are and only when I’m typing, but I have to say, it is quite distracting.

More than the clock which is, in case you wondered, still having intermittent sparks and glowing itself. It’s tormenting me. I know it has an agenda. (Is that psychotic? What I just said? haha!)

Bipolar Visual Hallucinations

Fluorescent NaNo

It’s oh so (not fun) typing for NaNoWriMo, trying for 1667 words a day, with flames emanating from either my fingers or the keyboard. I still can’t figure out which.

I’m trying to play along as I collect words for NaNoWriMo and am doing well. We are on Day 4 and I have completed 9735 words so far. 6668 words is the typical Day 4 goal and I am above that which is good because I have a constant work day on Tuesday and will not be writing, so trying to jump ahead to compensate.

Queen Walks Into My Novel

Queen NaNoWriMo

I swear it fits! It happened organically. I was writing along, fluorescent colors flicking up my fingers, and then the next moment, Queen was in my WIP.

I saw Queen in 1978 and there was a huge to-do about Freddie Mercury being a “fag” (the common word my group of gay friends used and I use throughout my novel) and I was going to the concert, well, because I loved Queen, but in my novel, the guys are charging my lead character, Lisa, to go see for herself if he is as gay as they say (who “they” are or where they said it is beyond me). Lisa’s friends gathered together $6.50 for the ticket (impossible for Lisa to have had at that time) and she got a friend from a kind of friend of a friend, having to exchange “favors” for the ride, and she went to the concert.

Queen NaNoWriMo
Roger and Freddie high-5 with Bri in the background. Montreal 1981

See how happy Queen is to be in my book?

Me, too! (Even if it is the weirdest thing ever. Maybe that’s what’s psychotic!)

NaNoWriMo & More

Days 1 and 2 of NaNoWriMo were a success (both days exceeding the 1667 words needed to stay on track) and it’s going surprisingly well. I often start well and fade as the month goes on, so let’s see how I am in a couple of weeks.


The Editor in My Fingers

I have always edited as I write. Always. My “drafts” are usually good enough to publish/print and that’s just the way I have always done things. Even writing these books I have been working on for nigh on five years. It’s definitely kept me from getting any traction to finish.


A few days ago, I had a dream that told me to write like I tell stories out loud. Just “speak” them onto the paper (keyboard). I practiced for three days before NaNo and it went surprisingly well. But what about when the pressure is on and I begin to think about editing all of this garble in the future? 

Don’t think.

Just write.

Talking Story to the Computer

These two days were so easy to get the words out without my constantly trying to think of a better word, making sure I don’t put too many adverbs in, getting the timeline correct.


Just write.

So I just wrote. 

NaNo Forums

I belong to a great forum for older writers and we are all so supportive of each other. Again, it is only Day 2, but I like several of the folks there and they seem to like me okay.

I’ve been asked several times to join Discord, but I have demurred. I do have to work during this month and have a lot of writing to do there, too. Besides my 2000 NaNo words this morning, I wrote an 800 word essay that was needed at the last minute. I have to Tweet and and and… blah blah. 


So no Discord. No new distractions even though I know it would be fun and might be helpful. Actually proud of myself for saying no to an invite. I must be growing up.

The Clock Still Glows

I really am still in this hypomanic state. It’s working well for NaNoWriMo, so not complaining.

My Morning Ritual


I tell the boys (Deacy, Freddie, Brian, and Roger) good morning, turn on the Playlist for the writing at that moment (shockingly, not always Queen!), light the candle, put the candle in front of Buddha, get two cans of Diet Coke (that I am hoarding as if it was TP in 2020), then sit down and begin writing. This is usually around 4am.

Feels like a good rhythm so far.

NaNoWriMo 2022 Begins in Hours

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, begins at midnight ET.

I am ready.

Aimee is ready. Meghann might jump in at 12:01am, she isn’t sure yet. Meghann’s daughter is ready.

I’m excited!

NaNoWriMo 2022

I so hope to get this Work in Progress (WIP) I have worked on for about five years (and three NaNos) finished this month. It will still need a year of editing, but at least it will be done.

Ready, set, go!

Open That Orange (easy peasy!)

Intro: I do not work for or make money from Tupperware, Amazon, or Target.

Family Lore

I grew up in Orlando, Florida… where I live today. We had an orange and grapefruit tree in the backyard, so eating citrus was a daily thing. As you know, peeling anything but tangerines or Cuties can be a challenging task, especially when you have smaller hands.

Tupperware Parties

Tupperware Orange Peeler

Mom used to go to Tupperware parties, something of the past now since Amazon and Target are now selling the amazing storage containers (and more) in their stores.

The hostess of the Tupperware party received a Hostess gift and one of the coveted items was an orange peeler, especially in Florida. Mom was given a yellow one that we cherished in our kitchen.

Tupperware Orange Peeler
Tupperware Orange Peeler (technically a “Citrus Peeler”)


She only got one in all the years of hosting Tupperware parties.

It was kept in the silverware drawer and stood out easily because of its bright yellow color. If the orange peeler wasn’t in the drawer, an all-out hunt was on for the device until it was found. If we had missed school to look for it, I would not have been at all surprised.

Moving Out

When I left home, I was most distraught over leaving the orange peeler. Not my room. Not my parents. Not even the dog. It was the orange peeler.

I keened as I drove away from the beloved yellow kitchen tool. There really was no way to get another and I missed it every day of my teen, young adult, adult, and now older adult life.

(You think I am kidding? Uh, no.)

Tupperware Joined Amazon in June 2022

…and then Target this month (October 2022).

When it dawned on me a couple of weeks ago to look for the orange peeler on Amazon, I wept when I found the tool, in bulk, no less. I knew I had to get them for the kids as well as myself.

I ordered the ten-pack of orange peelers ($11.93 for ten… the least expensive item Tupperware has ever sold!) and waited the few days for them to arrive.

They Arrived!

When they got here, I pulled the package of ten out of the Amazon bag, rocking, held them to my heart, disbelieving I actually had an orange peeler in my possession again.

One would think sending them to my kidlets might have been difficult, if not trauma-inducing, but I giddily packed five for my daughter Meghann’s whole family, then four for Aimee’s family, even the 4-month old baby. How could I not send one to my youngest grandbaby?

Tristan travels the world, so I need to ask him if he has room for this small stick in his luggage and will get him his own if he says yes.

Kids’ Orange Peelers Arrive in Their Mailboxes

I had a niggling feeling the kids wouldn’t know what the orange peelers were and would be asking once they arrived. I was correct.

Meghann was the first to ask what the heck I sent.

Tupperware Orange Peeler

I told her, then explained how to use it and she was ecstatic having just endured, and was still recovering from, an Opening an Orange accident under a fingernail. She told me how each person has opened their citrus, from teeth to the injury-inducing fingernail method, and was happy to have an alternative.

I had her open an orange while I was on the phone and she loved it!

Tupperware Citrus Peeler

Tupperware Citrus Peeler

Tupperware Citrus Peeler

Tupperware Citrus Peeler

Tupperware Citrus Peeler

Tupperware Citrus Peeler

The kids, too, were excited. The youngest could now open her oranges without the help of an older person.

Tupperware Orange Peeler
Meghann’s youngest opening her own orange with the new orange peeler.

20 Minutes Later

It wasn’t twenty minutes before I got a text from Aimee asking what I’d sent and then guessed, “Orange peelers?”

DingDingDing! Aimee got it right. She said her oldest daughter will love it so she doesn’t get juice squirting in her eyes anymore.

Orange (and yellow) Memories

Both girls had vague memories of the yellow orange peeler, so it had to have been when visiting my dad. I have no idea what happened to it and who inherited it. For all I know, he was buried with it. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Outro: When you get your own orange peeler, as you peel that first piece of citrus, send me a thanks through the Universe. I will catch all of them and hug them tightly. 

Have fun peeling!


Babies, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” & Uber Rides

I had a wonderful day!

I took an Uber to my daughter Aimee’s a couple of hours away and spent a few hours holding her four-month old baby (my grandbaby!) and had time with my other toddler granddaughter, too. It was glorious being with all of them.

I also got to fold clothes which is my favorite chore to do ever ever.

As I held the child in my family line, I began singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” to her. She seemed to like it, smiling at me at one point. Then, from the kitchen, I hear someone joining my voice, singing along. I got chills and kept singing. It was wonderful to know so many people know this amazing song.


I was tired when I left, so put my earbuds in for the two hour ride home and dozed to my Queen playlist.

I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” playing and, confused, took one of my earbuds out only to hear “BoRhap” playing on the driver’s sound system. I laughed and asked him how he knew “Bohemian Rhapsody” and he said, “Doesn’t everybody?” When I asked how old he was, he said 22 and I was floored.

“When was the first time you heard this song?”

“I’ve always known it.”

In my head I laughed. I think kids are born knowing it now. A from-the-womb sort of thing.

“Killer Queen” came on and I asked, “Are you playing a Queen playlist?”

“I am,” he said.

All I could do was laugh and thank him for being so cool.

He started “Bohemian Rhapsody” again and we sang together; the entire song.

Second Time

This was the second time a driver had a Queen playlist. The second time the driver was in his twenties and knew every word to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

How random is this?

Apparently, not so random after all.

B12 Shot – Stripped & Naked

B12 with syringe
Pushing the syringe so I can draw the fluid back out.
Drawing up the B12.
Getting air out of the syringe and needle.
Used needle “re-capped” with safety covering.

Wasn’t That Fun?

Once a month, I give myself a shot. It keeps my B12 going. I can’t absorb it any other way because of the Gastric Bypass in 2001.

Here’s a song for your troubles.

7 O’clock News/Silent Night

I am making a 70s Playlist to listen to as I write during NaNoWriMo, which starts in one week from tomorrow.

As I pulled up Simon and Garfunkel, I came across the 7 O’clock News/Silent Night that I’d heard as a young teen, but could not have understood completely.

Tonight I listened to it and wept at the juxtaposition they created and how so little has changed. Except there is no 7 O’clock news anymore. But with 24/7 news, it makes it even more alarming because Silent Night would have to be on a constant loop to accompany the world’s horrors.

Young people need to hear this. I hope some will React to it on YouTube come the holiday season.

Or tomorrow.

There is no “season” this sadness is appropriate, but the message is very much needed every day of the year.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – NEEDS An Audience!

I’ve been watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show (TRHPS) Reaction videos on YouTube, it being near Halloween and all, and it took about four of them that I started and left, before it dawned on me what was annoying.

The people watching did not understand the cultural references, nor did they understand the campy-ness of the movie.

And they certainly did not know what to say in the right spots. They sat mute as if there wasn’t anything to say!

One person asked what they were throwing at the wedding… popcorn? I rolled my eyes all over the room. Does no one know about throwing rice anymore?

Others did not recognize Riff Raff and Magenta as the painting American Gothic, asking, “Why does he have a pitchfork?” Ugh.

Pitchforks abound.

If they didn’t understand these small and easy details, how would the pick up on the horror movie tropes like the car breaking down in the rain or the creepy housekeepers? Or the B-Movie references to King Kong and Fay Wray?

And there was no patience! I couldn’t even get past the wedding as person after person commented on the “bad acting.”

CAMP, people, CAMP!

Fill in the Blanks, Already

“I really loved the………………………………………………………………… skillful way………………. You beat the other girls… to the bride’s bouquet”

The hesitation before “skillful way” was annoying to the viewers. That was where I gave up each time.

If they were annoyed by that, what were they going to think of Frank-N-Furter’s


(You know you had to say it!)

Rocky and Me

I first saw TRHPS when I was 16 years old. It was early in the participation era – rice, squirt guns, and newspapers were the main things I remember back in those days. Over the years, as we know, more and more was added to the show/production. I didn’t ever dress in movie drag, but definitely dressed like a drag queen. 

Going to the movie was a glorious respite from the repressive society we were living in. I was in the gay world in high school, but only on the periphery. Within the next year, I was swimming in the deep end of the gay community, helping the guys find tricks at Lake Eola.

I was still going to Rocky Horror at 17, then 18, 19, 20, and 21. The last time I went at 21, I was pregnant with Tristan and wore a purple Izod shirt and was physically dragged down the center of the aisle as parts of the audience yelled, “VIRGIN!” at me. I was very worried about my pregnancy and did not have a good time that night. That was my last Rocky Horror experience. It broke my heart they thought I was a TRHPS virgin having been over 100 times in five years. Fucking preppy Izod. I should have known better.

History Passing By

Rocky Horror is shown in many cities around the country, usually on Halloween, but theaters do not allow the throwing of all the fun-stuffs like hot dogs, using squirt bottles, or raising lighters into the air; all that “dangerous” crap we didn’t consider back in the olden days.

I’ve watched Rocky Horror on TV each Halloween and I holler out the proper interjections at the right time, yet it just isn’t the same as with a theater full of crazy-fun folks dressed, high, and loving our bizarre lives for at least one hour and 38 minutes.

Shout With Me!

If you watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show this season, please yell along with me. I would love the company.

RHPS Rocky Horror Picture Show

What’s an “Operator?” – (Thanks, Rick Beato!)

Rick Beato is one of my favorite YouTubers. He is a fantastic guitar player and music teacher who dissects songs that often go over my head (as a non-musician), but enough of the time I do understand enough to keep watching since I do love music and played flute and piccolo for many years. I watch him even if it’s just to hear music-speak; it’s all fascinating.

He had a segment with Mary Spender, another musician YouTuber, and they talked about Jim Croce’s song “Operator” which was written in 1972. While the majority of the discussion was music-oriented, I was piqued by his mentioning items in the song that younger people probably have no clue about. I am talking about the time around 1972 in this post.

I’m writing this specifically for my kids and grandkids, but I’m spring boarding off you, Rick… thanks!

Operator Jim Croce

Baseline: Our Family’s Telephone

This was on the kitchen wall at the house where I grew up. I made the pic bigger so you could see the numbers in the middle of the dial.

Operator Jim Croce
First, there is the dial. You put your finger in the hole and spin it around to dial the number. This is why we still say “dial a phone” – we did! The area code says 305… the same area code written there decades after it changed to 407. And the phone number where I grew up – 855-9485 – always imprinted in my mind. This phone was corded, as they all were then, with a short cord until they the made longer ones when I was a teenager. Still, the long ones didn’t go very far and got really tangled, so that was annoying.

Operator Jim Croce
Same phone showing the short cord.

Party Lines

Until I was about 11 years old (1972), we had a party line. That’s when several households shared one phone line. Not number, but line. When our phone number was called, we had a certain ring. When the other houses’ numbers were called, they had their own distinct rings. Some rings were two short rings, a break, and then a longer ring. Something like that. But, if you wanted to… and many did… you could pick up the phone and listen in on the other people’s calls. You could talk, too, but mostly people just wanted to listen in. Privacy was not a thing back then. The major reasons, clearly, were the party line and the short phone cord.

If you needed to make a call and someone from the party line was on their phone, you either had to wait until they were done or tell them you needed the phone and hope they hung up. More often than not, they did not hang up and you got angrier and angrier the longer they talked. I distinctly remember my mom trying to get one of the teens off the line for quite awhile and ended up slamming the phone down after calling her a bitch. I asked what a bitch was and my mom, ever the avoider, said, “I said, ‘witch.'” I can hear her yelling bitch all these decades later.

Slamming a Phone Down

Operator Jim Croce

Busy Signal

If you were on the phone and another person was trying to call you, they got a busy signal. They would get a busy signal until you hung up the phone. No one could get through. There was no call-waiting until I was an adult.

We didn’t have Caller ID until well after call-waiting came around.

There was one phone number per house until I was in my late teens when parents got their own lines in their bedrooms. Which we used when they weren’t home because we could lie on the bed and yack for hours. Our parents would call their line and know we were on it. For hours. We always got in trouble, but did it anyway.

It’s so odd to think we know exactly who is calling now. People can call and get a ring even if someone is talking to us, and we can go anywhere there is a signal, even lying on our beds.

Prank Calls

How many of you remember either placing prank calls during slumber parties or receiving dirty prank calls on Saturday nights?

I remember both.

We were giggling girls calling random numbers and giggling more when some unsuspecting person picked up their phone. We would do any number of silly things; ask them what they were wearing… ask, “Is your refrigerator running? Then go catch it!” It’s embarrassing me to even write that I did these things. At the time, they were hilarious.

The scary ones were the calls in to us. Heavy breathing men who, now I know, were probably wanking. We didn’t know that then, though. Men who tried to talk dirty to us. We would quickly hang up and nervously laugh about what they said.

The worst were when they tried to terrify us with murder or rape talk. We couldn’t hang up fast enough, but not before we clung to each other in fear.

It’s odd thinking prank phone calls are a thing in our past that shan’t be repeated.

“Help Me Place This Call?”

In the first line of the song “Operator,” we have an operator who, among other things, was someone who would dial for the caller.

“Operator, oh, could you help me place this call?”

Operator Jim Croce

ATT – American Telephone and Telegraph Company operator. ATT acquired Bell Telephone in 1885 and was the phone company until 1984 when the US government broke ATT into parts, eliminating their monopoly.

Women (and they were always women) were hired to be telephone operators and they had a few jobs, but mainly (from what I know), they talked to people who dialed 0 (zero) on a phone. Back then there was no 911, so if there was an emergency, you dialed 0 and they would connect you to who you needed… fire, ambulance, or police. Operators were initially around the country and you never knew where you would get an Operator so that made it difficult if you needed emergency help, so they were eventually hired more locally, in an area code, for example.

Area Codes

Sorry this is jumping around, but things are popping out as I write that need to be addressed before the next item. Didn’t expect the rabbit hole with the word “operator,” did you?

Before I was born, phone numbers were different than they are now. They often combined letters and numbers. In 1972, they were different, too. Then, we had seven numbers unless we were calling out of our area. Then we had to use the area code before the seven numbers. An area code grouped regions together.

The area code for Orlando and surrounding areas was 305 when I was growing up. That went all the way down the southeast to Key West. So if we were calling anywhere in our area code, there was no extra fee. As Orlando and everywhere else grew, they needed more area codes and in 1988, Orlando’s changed from 305 to 407. It was quite distressing to lose our 305, but now no one gives it a second thought. Today, Orlando also has 321 area code numbers.

As we all know, even if you are calling next door, you have to dial the area code. Ten number dialing is totally normal for us now.

Pay Phones

Operator Jim Croce
A phone booth with the folding door.

In the olden days, we had to pay for calls – to dial the pay phone (hence its name) and to pay for long-distance calls (“distance” being quite arbitrary). If you didn’t have money for a call, for many years, you were out of luck. Rarely, you could beg an operator (who you could call even without money) to place a call for you.

Operator Jim Croce
Note the dial with numbers and letters by the finger slot. Phone numbers used letters in my mom’s day. By the time I was dialing a phone, only numbers were used. See also where you put the coins at the top? You had to carry a lot of change for long-distance calls.

In my mom’s time, calls were a nickel (five cents). In mine, they were a dime (ten cents) and that lasted for a very long time. In 1981, Bell Systems raised prices around the country to a quarter (25 cents) a call.

To make a long-distance call, you would need many quarters to pay for the call, putting the coins in as the operator told you how much to put into the phone. I always found it interesting how they knew the amount I put in and would continue the call. If, while you were talking, the money/time ran out, the operator would break in tell you to deposit more. If you could put a lot in, you wouldn’t be interrupted as much and, as far as I remember, if your call finished before you ran out of money, the coins would drop down into the coin return thingie.

The Coin Return

Operator Jim Croce

An annoying thing happened a lot; when you put a coin in, it would just drop to the coin return. Did the phone or operator think you put a Canadian coin in the phone? You would put the same coin in, trying several times, and invariably, it would fall through to the coin return slot. Occasionally, the repeat try would actually work and that was worthy of a “whoopeeeee!” as it echoed inside the small enclosed booth.

It was normal for everyone to check the coin return for coins someone forgot to get out before they left the phone booth. If there were phone booths today, I would be checking for loose change in them, that’s how ingrained that behavior was.

Operator Jim Croce
Accurate meme.

Collect Calls

If we didn’t have money, but had to call someone, we could… or would… call collect.

Me: “I need to make a collect call to 305-855-9485. My name is Barbie.”

Operator talking to the person called: “I have a collect call from Barbie. Will you accept the charges?” I could hear the operator ask that question.

Whomever I was calling would either accept or refuse the call. If they refused it could be one of two reasons; one, they didn’t want to talk to me, or two, I was calling to let them know I was okay and they didn’t need to accept the charge. We would do that if we needed to check in and didn’t want to spend money.

What machinations!

Operator Jim Croce

Third Party Calling

Third party billing could be demonstrated best by my I-Ran-Away-From-Home story.

Me: “Operator, I need to make a call and charge it to (random area code and number).”

Operator: “Okay.”

Me: (talking to parents for free and some stranger got charged for the call) – (gift: bad karma)

Occasionally, the operator would call that third number to see if they would pay, then I would hang up and try another operator. Invariably, within a couple three calls, I could call for free without my parents ever knowing. Years later, I learned people did not have to pay for those stranger calls. I was quite relieved.

Finding a Number

Jim Croce’s next line is:

“And give me the number if you can find it”

At one time, operators did look things up for us. Remember, there was a time, in my lifetime, that there were no computers. They had to turn the phone book’s pages just like we did on this end of the phone.

Operator Jim Croce
A public pay phone booth with hanging phone book, encased in a plastic cover.

While there were phone books hanging on pay phones, it wasn’t uncommon to have a page ripped out because someone wanted to save the number for future reference. I doubt many people thought, “Gee, what if someone needs this page?” They were in their own heads and kept the page they wanted.

Once computers came around, a new type of operator was born – the Information, or 411, Operator. I had a partner who was a 411 operator and it was one of the strangest jobs ever. A call-center job, people asked the oddest questions.

“What is the airline closest to the airport?”

“What is the closest taxi to my house?”

Operator Jim Croce
Antique Call Center

They thought they called 911 all the time and 411 finally started forwarding it instead of trying to explain the person needed to hang up and dial again. Alternately, 911 had the same issue with people calling to ask for the number to Shakey’s Pizza.

Phone Books

Yes another obsolete item attached to the phones of the past.

Operator Jim Croce
A stack of smaller phone books. Some were several inches thick. The Yellow Pages (what they were called) were ads. The White Pages (also what they were called) were residences.

Operator Jim Croce
Notice the 7-digit numbers. No area code needed to be used wherever this was.

Operator Jim Croce
Yellow Pages Ads

Phone books came every year in December for the year ahead. The ads cost money and it was a big thing to be in the phone book. It was how everyone found what they were looking for.

When people were short, they would sometimes sit on a big phone book to lift them up. In the car, kids at the dinner table, in high chairs.

Come December, when we knew the new phone book would be out soon, a lot of people made Phone Book Christmas Trees. We did this a lot. Tons of glitter. Messy.

Operator Jim Croce
How to make a Phone Book Christmas tree.

Operator Jim Croce
Glitter Phone Book Christmas Tree

Who Does Not Hang Up On You?

The second-to-the-last verse says:

“Operator, oh, let’s forget about this call
There’s no one there I really wanted to talk to
Thank you for your time
Ah, you’ve been so much more than kind
You can keep the dime”

It was wonderful to hear that soothing female voice on the other end at times, especially when you were scared and waiting for the police or ambulance to arrive. She was someone who would talk to you and not randomly hang up.

I know many of us felt like Jim Croce, only having that voice to validate our existence.

Bless the telephone operators.

I’m Wearing a Shirt!!

That might seem weird hearing me say that, but I have not put on a normal shirt that I could buy in a regular store in over a decade. I have been wearing huge, baggy dresses that are either specially made or come from “super-size” women’s clothing stores.

But since I’ve lost 70 pounds, I thought I would give it a try. It’s the biggest size, but it fucking fits! I have tears I am so excited.

Of course I had to put Queen on first!

Queen Shirt Fits

A Night at the Opera Queen

Yay, me!!

Below, Brian May sings his song “’39” from Queen’s A Night at the Opera album. 

This is a song about traveling far and fast, then returning to a changed world. This is exactly how I feel.

Thanks, Bri!

Being Ghosted

I’ve been ghosted several times in my life. It sucks every time.


I’ve been ghosted by midwives, but they are weird, so I am not horribly shocked by that. Although I do want to say, “We did experience life and death together. And now you can’t bother talking to me anymore? How did you come to hate me so much? Some of us worked side by side for years!” Again, midwives are weird women. So be it.

But what about best friends for life? People I have known for 50+ years? People who have seen the best and worst of me and I of them? People who know my favorite music, my bodily functions, my slightest moods? What could I do that is so horrible as to alienate them until the end of my life?

Sex It Down


There are two best friends who have ghosted me, both of whom (I assume because I have not been told exactly) because of sex. Not our sex, but the part sex has (and has had) in my life. One who found out that BDSM had a part in my life and the other because I’m a sex worker. It’s not even like I talked to them about these things! I am not that stupid.

The BDSM one happened through the grapevine. The other one, I told her what I was doing now that I have retired from midwifery, nothing more. I had no idea either would freak out so much they would cut me out of their lives.

I just saw this meme:


I tell you what, this helped me a lot.

Is It Me?

As much as I know the issue was theirs, there is a part of me, a good-sized part, that feels I am bad, wrong, a horrible person. How could people I love turn their backs on me during good and bad times? I know these people! They would never unfriend someone unless they were terrible people, right?

Sharing these thoughts, my vulnerabilities, gives them more power. I understand that. But they had that power by giving me their friendship in the first place; I gave it (friendship and power) to them in return.

For me, it was without limits. Well, if they hurt someone I loved, that would disqualify the relationship, but for fuck’s sake, what they did in their bedroom or for a living? Why the fuck does that make a difference to me?

Hmmm… a little aggro showing. (Hear my British verbiage? HA!)

“You’ve Got a Friend”

It’s true.

You do.

Working on Stuff… and the bloody clock!

I am watching so many Brits now I’m picking up British slang. When I say, “Taking a piss” (kind of meaning “pulling your leg”) you can worry about my up and moving to the UK. (Nevahhh!)

Tristan’s Birthday

Today is my first baby’s 40th birthday. It’s just shocking how fast time flies. He was just put in my arms a minute ago. I love my boy so very much!

Tristan 40


I’m working on a post that is now interminably long called “Operator” which is based on the Jim Croce song. I like it a lot, but it’s more intricate than I expected. Who knew that word could lead down so many rabbit holes?


The Clock

The fucking clock continues annoying me endlessly. The blue numbers are often in licking blue flames, jumping out of the clock’s face. I wish I were an animator so I could animate what I see. It’s frustrating I can’t show you all this dancing and flashing, the numbers with a life of their own.

I can’t help wondering why it is the clock that’s tormenting me. Am I not in the moment enough? Do I need to watch my time more closely? What’s going to happen when NaNoWriMo starts in 12 days? Will I really be “against the clock” then?

My Clock


I have mild hallucinations elsewhere. (Can hallucinations be considered “mild?”) I continue being in a deliciously energetic place, so can only assume it is the high end of hypomania. I am sleeping more, so that’s good, but I am continuing to be somewhat impulsive and weird. Work is benefiting greatly from my productivity, so there is that. 


Oncology Report

My labs at the hematologist/oncologist were relatively good. My doctor was shocked at my 70 pound weight loss. I keep being asked if I had a gastric bypass. “Yes. In 2001.” They ask, “A revision?” Nope. I just quit eating Uber Eats and all processed foods. 70 pounds in 5.5 months without starving or denying myself food is pretty damn good. I am proud of myself!

I do need an iron infusion, but that’s no big deal. I’ll have that done next week. Then I don’t see her until the end of December. Wheeee!

Iron Infusion
My Iron Infusion IV… pic from my vantage point.


Off to Scrivener to do some NaNo prep. It’s rushing closer and closer!

NNWM = NaNoWriMo – a few of the projects I need to do for November.

“Death on Two Legs”: When a Writer Gets Revenge

There are plenty of songs, articles, and posts about getting revenge on someone through words.

There might not be any better song than “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)” by Queen on the 1975 A Night at the Opera album.

Death on two legs
Tearing me apart
Death on two legs
You never had a heart (You never did)
Of your own (Right from the start)
Insane, should be put inside
You’re a sewer rat decaying in a cesspool of pride
Should be made unemployed
Then make yourself null and void
Make me feel good (I feel good)

This section is not even the worst of the lyrics. Give a listen for the whole picture.

Warnings Abound

When Googling “Revenge Memoir” a slew of posts and articles come up explaining why revenge memoirs are not the way to go about exacting revenge on someone.

It seems like revenge songs are way more common. They would be fun to sing, wouldn’t they?

Queen’s “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)” was about their first manager, Norman Sheffield, who swirled in Queen’s money while they were still broke. While Sheffield’s name or job was not mentioned, Sheffield outed himself by suing Queen for defamation. They settled out of court and Sheffield, many years later, wrote Life on Two Legs: Set the Record Straight where, of course, he denied stealing from Queen.

What I Wish I Could Write

There are plenty of people in my life, including midwives, who I wish I could write trash about. Sadly, I doubt that will ever happen. If I do write about my midwifery life, the bitches will be composites and while they can’t know for absolute sure, they will know who they are by their own words still floating around trying to stab me and polluting their own air.

That felt good.

(And yes I know my own words affect me, but they are inside even if you don’t see or hear them and writing them outside is a release. Of sorts. I’ll accept the consequences.)

The following song is perfect to close on.