Living with Ethel

Maurice’s review:  My life would be more interesting if I could be a fly on the forehead of one of those circus performers who live in Cheryl’s head.

When I decided to write a blog, I was looking for a job in a new town where I was completely unknown and had no investments, financially or socially.  I remembered seeing news stories about entire towns being out of work in difficult economic times.  Mines shut down, manufacturing plants closed, farmers going bankrupt.  I thought then that those people needed to get together to find a way to energize, innovate and remake their occupations and their communities.  And so it was with me. I was Pittsburgh.  And I needed to rethink how best to use my skills, talents and assets to decide what my skills, talents and assets actually were.

I have been writing all my life. Nearly everything I have ever written has been funny, even my college papers were approached light-heartedly.  Nothing says “A” like interviewing the teenager who went for coffee for the gang at the Alamo and came back sadly unreimbursed.  I went to college in Texas, where sooner or later you have the pleasure of faking some pride in the state’s murderous history. Beyond college I wrote two musical plays.  High-five and blessings upon you if you were one of the brave souls who performed them.  Poetry, song lyrics, essays and short, smart-assed stories have been my stock in, well not exactly trade (yet), more along the lines of friendly amusement.  During one of my job applications I was asked to provide examples of my writing.  This did not go well for them or me.  I had to adjust my style a bit (a lot) for the legitimate workplace.  I can’t decide if changing it made it just crap or if I had not changed it enough or if I should have just told them I can’t write.  I submitted a writing.  They ceased all communication.  That was when I decided that my writing skills were both an asset and a deficit and perhaps there was a market for that. 

  As I gained friends and knowledge of where best to spend my money, I decided that I was a good investment and would write myself into a new occupation– humorous yet terrified writer.  Skills intact, I began to approach the logistics.

The sign from on high!

One day as I was riding toward home in our car, my husband at the wheel, we arrived a few cars away from an intersection where there is a brick building housing a furniture store.  From that position, we were able to see the back of the building.  Scrawled in huge white letters were the words… Awake! Ethel!  The shock of seeing this left me momentarily stunned.  I fumbled to get my phone out to take a picture before the light changed.  I quickly snapped the picture and then marveled over the chances of seeing such a personal, motivational message (they were pretty good as it turned out as the words are still there and I pass that intersection often to get to a Thai restaurant that I like). I then posted it on Facebook to get the opinions of the many. Is it a sign?   Do I believe in signs?  Significant signs?  Spiritual signs from on high?  I had been in a band called Bad Ethel, a name based on my love for the brassy, Broadway actress Ethel Merman, at a time in my life when I needed an outlet for my creativity and for the energy of the circus performers that live in my head.  I thank whoever, for whatever reason, spray painted those words on the back of that building.  They slapped me.  They shook me.  They inspired me.  They made me think that Ethel had also moved to Asheville and was telling me to crank up the old Roadster and step on the gas.  With some encouragement from local business women, I decided that Ethel and I would be taking an adventure together and would boldly launch a seemingly indulgent new occupation.  Writing about life, boldness and everything. (With apologies to Douglas Adams)

Many of you who know me personally may be surprised to learn that I live mostly in my head.  But Cheryl, you protest, you participate in so many physical activities!  Yes, as an outlet for all that kinetic energy that builds up and needs releasing.   I also rely heavily on yoga, tai chi and meditation to keep me mindfully grounded in the present moment, otherwise I am constantly writing epic sagas, potentially Grammy-winning songs and soulful poetry. Writing is my way of allowing all the circus performers who live in my head to migrate onto the page where they may live fuller, more satisfying lives. 

Writing appropriately for an audience may prove more daunting than keeping a journal or sharing scribblings with my writers’ group. Rambling is not an option.  Readers need to be entertained, uplifted, satisfied.  I will need to write about something interesting, I will have to stay on topic, I will have to have something meaningful to say, and I will have to stamp it with my own brand of humor and thoughtful insights (do I actually have any of those?).  What have I gotten myself into?   I have officially solicited on Facebook, that grand avenue of communication, larceny, pontification and cat videos, for topics of interest.  Knowing that I write observational humor, some of my friends have thrown some serious, terrifying topic ideas my way.  I don’t know whether to think they are just fucking with me or if they have great trust in my ability to approach the difficult aspects of living with the proper ratio of humor and respect.  I pledge to do my best either way. 

I am asking people I trust to guest- edit each article before I post it.  I always appreciate another set of eyes to sort out the ridiculous and poorly- written phrases from the heart of the beast.  Editing my stuff will be no easy task.  I am the QRD (Queen of the Rhetorical Device), so often repeat myself, use alliteration, make annoyingly long lists and put the commas where ever I damn well please.   This should not be a burden for any one person. These brave, brave editors are then asked to write a one sentence review.  I trust them to be boldly honest.  I would like for my little musings to be a catalyst for conversation, friendship and community and will continually look for other ways to get you involved.

 My goal of writing a blog is to share my quirky observations of life in a manner that is like writing an amusing letter to a friend that sometimes touches on the serious but always ends with love and encouragement.  My fear is writing in a way that might trespass into Hallmark territory by being too sappy, condescending or preachy.  I trust my friends will call me out whenever this gets out of hand.

From my little workspace in downtown Asheville, I hope to keep you posted on the doings of the acrobats, elephants and ringmasters in my head as well as amusingly encourage you to boldly explore life’s full and trivial moments with me.

Live boldly,

Cheryl P. (QRD)

 PS:  Animal lovers need not worry about the role of the elephants as they are strictly kept to administrative duties.

This Week’s Guest Editor: Maurice is one of the first people I met when I moved to Asheville.   He runs a very successful Meetup group through which I have met many other awesome people.  He has been an enthusiastic cheerleader in this blogging endeavor and I certainly appreciate his support.


  1. So glad to have seen this today. I love the mix of warm whimsy and frigid fact. That harmony is unexpected, and in exactly the right key. These are the lyrics you were born for.
    I’ll be humming along…

  2. Great start, brilliant, can’t say enough unbiased praise.

  3. I can’t wait to see what’s next! I really enjoyed this piece alone.

  4. Well. So glad you are finally here!! Welcome to the blogosphere!! Looking forward to more!!

  5. Joanna F Crawford

    This is terrific!

  6. Melanie Sinclair

    Wow, Cheryl, great job on jumping into the deep end and swimming your arse off! I love it! Can’t wait to see more, good work friend. Your site doesn’t like my web address,

  7. Thanks! I have a few “life preservers” to help keep me afloat. I’ll check into the web address thing.

  8. This is a great start, Cheryl! I’m looking forward to reading more about whatever topic you choose to write about. Every time I look out my patio door I see the orange tree that you gave to us before you moved. That orange tree reminds me a lot of you. It isn’t supposed to grow that way, in a pot with Mexican Petunias, but it is. It’s resilient, happy, quirky, and fun, just like you.

    • Thanks Kate! I am happy to be like an orange tree growing in a pot with Mexican Petunias. The roots are starting to take here.

  9. Hey Cheryl!! You won’t believe this but I must have caught your vibe.! Yesterday morning I said to Chris…well, guess I won’t be doing my gig as a guest editor after all, I haven’t heard from Cheryl … But, low & behold, I FUN to read!!! Keep ’em coming!!! We all need to not worry about commas…and congratulations on the launch!!!!

    • Thank you for reading! I’ll have to check the guest editor list, you may be next. I appreciate any leniency with respect to commas.

  10. Very witty… I will enjoy the encouragement and different looks on this adventure called life. Start rolling!!

    • Thanks! I’m rolling, I think. Or maybe that’s trolling. IDK, language these days! Hmmm…maybe there’s a blog story there.

  11. Jennifer Bosch

    As I read, I could hear you speaking and laughing. Your writing style is easy going and welcoming and I enjoyed this VERY, VERY much. Looking forward to more…
    I miss you.

  12. Lovely, Cheryl — you go, girl!!!

  13. Very nicely written, Cheryl! And fun to read. Hope you realize that we all await the next episode. May the voice on the wall continue to call your name!

  14. Wow, Cheryl, this is awesome! I love it!!! Looking forward to reading more about your life and adventures. Love you and miss you very much.

  15. This was brave, interesting and funny Cheryl. I look forward to continued reading!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *