Rest, Poppa


James David Rhea, III

1940 – 2013

How To Write A Book Proposal, By Jimmie

Step One – November 2012

Receive news that a publishing company is accepting full book proposals from women writers.  The deadline is midnight, March 15, 2013.  Get excited and yap about it to everyone you meet for three solid days.

Step Two – December 2012 thru February 2013

Push book proposal far from your mind.  You have plenty of time.

Step Three – February 28, 2013

Realize in a sudden panic at 3:00 a.m. that you only have two weeks to complete the book proposal.   Berate yourself mightily for an hour or two then phone all friends and family members (at a reasonable hour, of course) to explain why you will be unavailable to them for the next 15 days. Tell them you love them then turn off your phone.  It is also best if you shut all off social media sights like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, etc. but everyone knows you would never do that in a million years.

Step Four – March 1, 2013

Begin your research on what a full book proposal entails.  Understand with a slow, sickening realization that this is worse than any term paper you have ever written.  Understand that as much as you talk about yourself on your blog and to your friends, a book proposal is a more narcissistic and self-involved project than you have attempted to date.  Did you guys know you have to sell yourself?  I didn’t.  I do now.

Step Five – March 1 – 14, 2013

Write like mad.  Massage your fingers when they cramp from the typing.  Dream of your book.  Leave a notebook beside your bed so that when you have a revelation at 2:00 a.m. you have a place to write your thoughts.  Make arrangements to stay late after work every night so that you have two giant monitors and fantastic internet service at your disposal.  You also want no distractions. Save your proposal in no less than three locations.  Losing that work is something you don’t even want to think about. 

Step Six – March 1 – 14, 2013

Do research.  Focus on what others have done before you and how it can help you now.  Realize that everyone who has ever written a book before you is a genius and you are an idiot. Wonder how 50 Shades of Gray ever got published (Gray? Grey?  I have no idea. Didn’t read them).  Reread some of your work and laugh out loud and then continue on with the proposal because you know that most of what you have is very good and that if you never pursue this, you will never succeed at this.  Repeat this step a minimum of five times.  You must second-guess yourself and then take pride in your work alternately.  It’s how you keep your weight down during this process. 

Step Seven – March 15, 2013

Receive an early morning phone call from Martie that Poppa is gravely ill and in a helicopter on his way to Vanderbilt.  Begin to cry at the office and then work like a dog so that when he finally gets to Vanderbilt you can leave and drive 90 miles an hour to the hospital where you sit for hours in the CCU.  Rub Poppa’s head and talk nonsense, as he is, about anything you can think of, just to make him stop hurting, just to calm everyone down.  Mention that you wrote a book.  When Poppa shows the merest sign of lucidity, he will say, “You wrote a book?  What is it about?” Tell him then, and explain about the book proposal and say “Yes, sir” when he says, “Make sure you turn it in.”

When Brother Bear gets to the hospital, you hug him then leave.  You have 90 minutes to put the finishing touches on your proposal.  You thought you were going to have five hours.  You were wrong.  You italicize everything, add commas, write the query letter and send it off three minutes before the midnight deadline.  Then you go to sleep with acid in your stomach worrying about Poppa.  The next morning you check your email to see that the proposal was received.  Then you wait for two months before hearing who won the coveted prize of a publishing contract.

Monkey wrenches you might encounter:

  1. You will think that Twizzlers will aid in the writing process. They do not.  Do not be lulled into the false sense of security they give with their unique waxy strawberry flavor.
  2. You will feel that you have enough time to make healthy dinners during this process.  You do not.  Subway needs to become part of your dietary plan during this time.
  3. Never forget the ponytail holder.  Your hair will annoy the ever-loving shit out of you during this process.
  4. Do not answer the phone, even for a quick question!  This is bad!  The person on the other end of the line will have every interest in eventually ending the call and you will not.  You will drone on for as long as they let you until they finally just hang up while you are in mid-sentence.  For those of you not in the know, this is called Procrastination. 
  5. Give yourself a pat on the back for staying late every night at work to really focus on your project.  Then take it back when you find yourself alone in the office with the one person who also is working late, the person who sits right next to you, and the person who is so quiet during the day that you are surprised when everyone leaves at how she begins a running monologue for one and half hours.  She is talking to you, telling you the same story over and over again, only changing a word here and there so it sounds different. She does not take a breath between sentences.  She is relentless yet sweet so you can say nothing other than the occasional “mmm hmmm”.  Go to the bathroom and when you get back, you’ll find that she is still talking, loudly and with force, and that she didn’t even realize you were gone.  Go to Subway, get some dinner, eat it, and when you get back, she will still be nattering on as if you never left.  When she finally leaves for home and all is quiet at the office, weep a little for the lost time.
  6. That might be it.  That whole process is a bit fuzzy now as time has passed and I cried a lot. 

So that’s how it’s done, people.  A book proposal in seven easy steps.  Piece of cake.  

I got this, right? 


Poppa is home!  I am so happy to be able to type that sentence.  On Tuesday I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to and on Thursday they began the discharge process.  Poppa wanted to give the teams of specialists at Vanderbilt a challenge, I think, because he tested all of them: heart, lung, head, gastro, ortho, circulation, janitorial, nutrition, laundry, medical supplies, etc.  It was a scary time but God is good, and while Poppa is tired and sore and weak, he’s sleeping in his own bed now.  All the nurses loved him, by the way.  He is a charmer even if he looks and feels like death. 

Brother Bear flew in for our hospital party last Friday and while he was here, I remembered why I hate his very guts.  I’ve been working hard these last few weeks to get rid of the fat that likes to embrace my body in a giant bear hug.  I’ve lost something like 13 pounds overall (the exact same weight Poppa lost in two weeks when he started feeling poorly), and it’s because I’m picky about the food I eat and because I go to the gym a lot.  Brother Bear waltzed in off the plane with his lithe, thin whippet body and during the three days he visited, he ate the following:

  • Donuts
  • Poptarts
  • 10 piece Chicken McNuggets
  • Some bready, cheesy, saucy, fat-filled sandwich from Au Bon Pain
  • Some floury, cheesy, saucy, fat-filled wrap from Au Bon Pain
  • A footlong Subway something or other
  • Mountain Dew
  • Chocolate
  • And this monstrosity


Do you know that that is?  It’s a Monte Cristo which means it has the fat content of four sandwiches and that it has ham and turkey and lots of bread and two kinds cheese and then some more cheese and then some batter and then it is DEEP FRIED and then it has powdered sugar AND JAM.  Are you kidding me?  He ate it all.  I had some grilled chicken and green beans and broccoli. And then I got bloated and he lost a pound. 

Brother Bear, I don’t even want to talk to you right now.

Another update: Woney moved.  Remember, she lived all the way across the country in CALlFORNIA while I live all way on the other side of the country in TENNESSEE and that makes gossiping with her face to face very difficult.  However, Woney has now moved to MISSISSIPPI.  Yes, I know. I don’t understand it either.  The culture shock may kill her so we all need to think good thoughts for her as now she has to learn how to say “y’all” and “bless her heart” and also how to make tea with four cups of sugar per gallon.  I really wanted to ask you guys to remember her in your prayers and whatnot before she left as she was driving across the country by herself but since she did it quicker than I was expecting, she’s already there.  It won’t be long until she begins complaining of the heat and the humidity and I’ll feel compelled to buy her a box fan which I will totally do and then personally hand deliver it because now she is no longer a $400 plane ride away.  Now I can go visit her on the weekends.  Do you know how happy this makes me?  Oh, we are going to get into so much trouble. 

I have some other requests for you.  Loads of my friends are in transition now, so while you are lifting up Poppa and Woney, I’d also like for you to remember Lynnette, Freddie, Kindle, Quan and a new-to-you friend I shall call Happy.  And then throw Madre on the list because life with Poppa will be a bit different now.  Madre will take that on as she does everything else: fiercely and with great vigor, but still, transition is hard.

As for me, I turned in my book proposal.  Yay, me.  I would be far more enthusiastic about that but my family and I just spent eight days being terrified and so it is enough for me to type all this up tonight.  I really am proud and once I get my house in order and my laundry done, I’ll write with much more finesse and with many more exclamation points.

Thanks, all, who were supportive in any way.  Prayers, good thoughts, hugs, phone calls, offers of assistance, emails.  Thank you for all of it.  I’m proud to call you mine.

These Hands


See these hands?  I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, “What in the world happened to that guy?  Why do his hands look like that?  What are you doing, showing us a picture like that?”  Hang on with me here.

Those are Poppa’s hands.  Yes, they are gnarled and they look beat all to hell.  They look weak and sick and like they can’t do much, I know.  I’m here to tell you that that isn’t true.  Those hands have done amazing things over the course of his lifetime.

See this eagle?  Poppa made that for me.  Carved it with his own two hands.


See this knife?  Poppa made it.  He carved every single curve in that handle by hand. 


See these gun stocks?  Poppa made them.  All of that shaping was done by hand, with a tool and some sandpaper.


Poppa’s hands have always looked like knots of inflammation and bone, and they curl inward more with every year that passes.  They hurt him but mostly you never know it.  Give him a glass with no handle and instead of asking for another that is easier for him to lift, he hooks his thumb and forefinger onto to lip instead.  Give him some jeans that are too large and instead of fighting to run a belt through the loops, he attaches a pair of suspenders and hitches them over his shoulders.  Give him a cheek and he will reach up to touch it, soft and gentle.

Poppa needs your prayers again.  Please.  My brother calls him the Man on the Mountain.  It is accurate.  Our Man on the Mountain is giving us another scare, and we truly are afraid.  Please think of him.  Wish him peace.  We need that.


I made the unlikeliest friend today.  I’m not even sure what to do with this story.

I’ve had the funk all week.  I’m not saying I’ve ever had the flu but I’m not saying I’ve never had it either.  Whatever this was, this throat/ear/ache thing, I relied heavily on ibuprofen and sleep and thus missed three out of the last five gym visits.  It has not been fun.

Today I basically went to the gym to take a shower and to weigh in (had a loss!).  I was hoofing it around the indoor track for a fifteen minute walk to justify my shower when snooty snothole Bianca jogged up beside me.  She reached out and touched my arm and said, “Jog with me?”’

Now remember, Bianca does not speak to me.  The last conversation we had was really more of a monologue in which Bianca said, “I come to the gym to work out, not to make friends.”  My surprise at her request was so great that I began to jog with her except what we did could in no way be classified as a jog.  It was a half mile sprint.  My poor Advil-weary lungs were burning but I sprinted on for six whole laps.  Then I walked a few and when I was able to stop gasping, Bianca and I chatted.  It was . . . . nice. 

I know I’ve been seen sparingly here this week and next week will be no different.  I’m working on a book proposal.  It’s my first one and there is a deadline attached to it.  I have no illusions about my success but I will never get anywhere with this if I don’t try.  Let me get this done and I’ll be back with you.  I still have more stuff to tell you. 

Your favorite,


See You Later, Kasi Starr

I promised you a story about Kasi Starr but I haven’t wanted to write it for a while.  See, she left.  She moved to another state.  We both knew she probably would, even from the beginning, but it didn’t make it fun for either of us. 

For weeks before leaving, Kasi Starr planned her move.  She packed boxes and gave away stuff and sorted and packed her car then unpacked her car then repacked her car.  She got boxes from the post office and mailed them to her new address.  We took some stuff to less fortunate people.  She bought calming spray for Miss Kitty, so that putting her in her crate would not be traumatic (didn’t work).  She cancelled her gym memberships and had parties with all her friends.  Etc.  However, not once through this process did either of us remember that the end of this process would bring her departure.  Until the day that she left, that is. 

(An aside here – Murphy got it.  He knew what was going on, as evidenced by the urinary soaking he gave everything near her stuff before she left.  The limerick I wrote?  About him peeing on stuff?  Yeah, that was the weekend after she left and I cleaned out from under her bed.)

So the day rolled around that she was to leave.  She had been so excited about her move, the new stuff she was going to do, and I was excited for her as well.  Excitement quickly waned when reality hit.  This was our conversation.

Kasi Starr:  Well, I’m all packed.  I’ll be gone by lunch so I’ll give you a hug now.

Jimmie:  Wait, what?

Kasi Starr:  <silence> <small tear>

Jimmie:  <silence> <small tear>

Kasi Starr:  So . . . . good-bye? 

Right in the middle of the good-bye, she choked.  And then:

Jimmie:  No. Not good-bye. <choke>  How about, see you later?

Kasi Starr:  Yes.  <choke>  See you later.

And then we hugged the tightest of hugs and it was fabulous and awful all at once.  Neither of us wanted to cry because we both knew that once the waterworks started they wouldn’t stop for a while.  I was going to work, the place where I don’t want to look like someone used my eyes as punching bags (as opposed to all the other places I go and DO want to look like someone used my eyes as punching bags), and she was going to be driving a long distance with one seriously pissed off cat.  Tears were not going to work. 

I learned a long time ago that women should never live with friends, if you were friends first.  Nothing breeds contempt any faster than two BFFs deciding that a roommate situation is a great idea.  However, if you meet a stranger and invite her into your home and THEN become friends, well, when they leave it is just awful, especially if that person is sweet and funny and nice and charming and always keeps the house supplied with paper towels.  I am so happy to have made a new connection, a new friend, and I am so happy that she is beginning her new journey.  This is the good stuff.  The awful stuff is that when the new connection, new friend, person, leaves, they leave a hole. 

I got a new roommate already.  She is also very sweet and nice and she understands that I never buy paper towels and so she came home one day with this.


I love them.  They work great.  But it isn’t the same.  When I feel a little melancholy that Kasi Starr is gone, I take a paper towel out to the garage and look at her stuff that she left behind and sniffle.  This is what’s left. 


She’s coming back to get it one day.  When she does, we will give each other the tightest of hugs that will be mostly fabulous but a little awful because it won’t be long before she leaves again. 

When she does, I’ll say, “See you later, Kasi Starr.”  And she’ll say the same to me.  Not good-bye.  See you later.