Monday, February 4, 2013

Language Barriers a.k.a. Those Pesky Little Details a.k.a. A Cat by Any Other Name

   Blog break from illness! (I can hear the collective sighs of relief even now and I would like kudos because I am NOT blogging about illness or doctor's appointments or any of those things. Thank you.) Moving on.

   Today I'm blogging about language barriers. I'm not talking about the kind you hit when you meet someone who only speaks Spanish (and high school Spanish was a LONG time ago), or someone who is deaf and uses sign language and the only sign language you know is inappropriate in any setting. I am talking about the language barriers that transpire when BOTH parties speak the SAME language and yet somewhere along the line a breakdown still occurs. In order to perform a much-needed public service, I have prepared two lessons. (In detail, of course- you can expect no less from me.)

Lesson number one: No matter how obvious the answer may seem, it never is.

   It has been interesting learning my way around a new office. You kind of get used to having to figure out where the office equipment is stored, finding the fax machine and becoming apprised of the list of temperamental idiosyncrasies of the local copier. However, the things you take for granted, such as, "Where might I find the bathroom?" (and once you get there, "Where is the blasted light switch located?") become astronomically more important in no time at all. The particular incident I'm talking about occurred within my second week of orientation, wherein we were all granted a simultaneous bathroom break and naturally all of the nearby restrooms were occupied. 

   Saints be praised, however, because I had recalled having located another bathroom at the back of the building, and feeling rather clever with myself, I sauntered that way. Upon my arrival I soon discovered the light switch was cleverly secreted in some clandestine location. It was an enigma, a riddle, a mystery. However, my bladder wasn't particularly interested in this cloak-and-dagger espionage and adventure, so I found myself doing a jig whilst searching desperately for the switch in a room darker than the deepest of caverns far, far, far below ground. I was just about to yell, "Olly, olly, oxen free!" to see if the switch would come out of hiding, when one of my new colleagues appeared at the end of the hallway. Naturally, I pleaded for her assistance in my secret-switch-search.

   Her response? "Oh, yeah. It's on the wall."

   Thanks for clearing up that mystery, Nancy Drew. Now I'll just be on my way and let you get back to solving The Hidden Staircase conundrum.

   On the wall. Why hadn't I thought of that? And here I'd been searching the floor, the ceiling, and even under the rug. Silly me.

   With that helpful assist, I continued my scavenger hunt, and my colleague, having realized that her less-than-practical pointer in no way prodded me towards my purpose (alliteration is my best friend), took pity on me and showed me where to find the tricky switch. Which, by the way, had I been left to my own devices I would still be standing there today, stewing and stymied, 'Curses foiled again!', thwarted by a switch. Plus I'd be more than a little damp. And, also, I'd probably smell a little funny. (Okay, maybe a lot.)

   It's all about those pesky little details.

Lesson number two: when it comes to language, setting is often significant.

   The community choir I am a member of has begun working on a new production. We will be doing Cats. Not my first choice actually. (I'm not really a cat person and so an entire Broadway show based on the life of critters of the feline persuasion is not really my cup of tea.) However, I love my choir, I love the members of my choir, and for that reason I will invest myself wholeheartedly in this endeavor.

   Having said that, my daughter, who succeeded in obtaining the role she greatly coveted, is wholly, entirely, and absolutely committed. Being an esthetician, she's also very excited about the numerous make-up opportunities. She and a family friend (whom I shall call The Mad Scientist) have spent hours in deep discussion regarding the various and sundry wig-making options available to them. (I have found myself with my chin on my chest and a line of drool forming a chain between the corner of my mouth and the tabletop while they discuss things like 'brushed wool' and 'synthetic vs. non-synthetic,' ad nauseam. Whenever the word 'dye' enters the conversation, that's pretty much what I want to do.) Now, all of this might be boring, but it does make sense when the conversations take place inside my home. However, change the setting and this is what you get:

*** Setting- local church after Sunday services.
People are exiting and stopping to chat with one another on their way out.
The Mad Scientist lurks among them. ***

   Mad Scientist: Yeah, so you want to know what my next project is?

   Church Lady: You mean your next art project?

   MS: Yeah! I'm making wigs for Cats! (His excitement is genuine- albeit confusing to his audience.)

   CL: I'm sorry, did you say 'wigs for cats?' (See what I did there? This becomes important.)

   MS: Yeah! I'm so excited! I've done wigs in the past, but these will be different.

   CL: Wigs for cats?

   MS: (Goes into a long rant of the various ways he intends to construct said wigs for said Cats.)

   CL: Wigs for CATS? (With an expression of extreme perplexity - she is confounded, discombobulated, befuddled and confused- this conversation has gone to the dogs! Sorry, couldn't resist.)

   MS: Yeeeeaaaah… (He is starting to realize that there is some kind of cat-astrophe- ba-dum-cha!- but he just hasn't quite caught on to what it is.)

   CL: I'm sorry- why is it that cats need wigs?

   MS: (Suddenly realizing that the Church Lady thinks there must be some kind of Locks for Love devoted to cats who have suffered from premature balding, or lost their hair to chemotherapy treatments or radiological testing, begins to chuckle.) Not 'wigs for cats'- wigs for 'Cats!' (Whereupon he performs a Broadway shuffle.)

   So you see, not unlike real estate, it's all about location, location, location!

   Summing up: The devil's in the details and the cat's on a hot tin roof.

   It made sense in my head.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More About Illness a.k.a. The Tonsil that Ate Tokyo a.k.a. Pain Management

   Lately my blog has evolved into little more than anecdotes about illness (which seems to have become the primary focus in my life anyway), so much so, that I have considered renaming the blog, 'The Virus Chronicles- Tales of the Sick and Malaised,' or, 'Infirmity Information- More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Phlegm,' or, 'The Disease Diaries- All the Nasty Little Tidbits that Web MD Never Thought About Telling You.' I will keep you updated.

   On a side note: it is currently fifty-one degrees, foggy and raining. Just five days ago I was scraping ice and snow off my vehicle in zero degrees- fifteen below with the wind chill. It's like the Twilight Zone with the weather around here and I can only imagine the maladies that will come from this.

   Meanwhile, onto yet another sickness saga. Firstly, when I had, 'The macabre dance of death performed by maniacal microorganism type beasties playing kettle drums inside your head and stomping on all your nerve endings with spiked cleats, whilst lighting roaring fires inside all of your cells,' ersatz the 'flu,' my son managed to get strep. Or, at least, that's what we thought it was. It looked like strep (if all the nasties growing on his gargantuan tonsils was anything to go by), and so I took him to Med One (in the middle of another white-out non-blizzard I might add), so that he might partake of the joy that is the throat culture. (Wherein they take a giant Q-tip and 'swab' your throat- a.k.a. rub it all over your tonsils while you try not to gag- you know the one. So much fun.) Anyway, it came back negative, but since the creeping-crud was encroaching on tonsils that were so big they needed their own zip code, it was a safe bet there was SOME kind of infection. And so, they sent him packing with steroids and antibiotics to go away and hopefully live to tell the tale.

   After a few days his fever subsided and he stopped looking like an extra from the Walking Dead and so naturally we thought all was well. At least until he stopped by over the weekend and I (being a mother I have special powers and all) could hear the swelling in his throat when he talked. And so I said, 'Hey? How you feeling? You doing okay? You sound kind of funny.' Or something like that. (It may actually have been, 'Hey, kid, you still sound sick! Take thy germs hence! Be gone hideous beastie!')

   He responded with a non-committal grunt which I took to be, 'Actually, Mom, best Mom in the whole wide world, mother who cares beyond all that is caring, and nurtures with the utmost nurturing, woman I love above all others,' (maybe I'm laying it on a little thick, but I'm sure it was something in that general vicinity). 'Now that you mention it, I am still feeling a bit under the weather, and my throat is still a tad tight.'

   So, I whipped out my handy-dandy flashlight and proceeded to shine it down the cavernous cavern that is my son's throat. I expected swollen tonsils, (after all, I was hearing them), I did NOT expect a solid wall of tonsil which was in fact beginning to swell DOWN his throat.

   Let me paint a picture. (I can hear the eeewwwwwws!!! from here; I don't care; I'm painting anyway- I already got my brush out.) One tonsil was pretty much normal (or as normal as anything on my son can ever be), the other, had swelled completely across his entire throat, squashing the uvula (get your minds out of the gutter- I'm talking about the little dangly thing that hangs at the back of your throat) so that it was horizontal, and flattening the other tonsil against the wall of his throat. In fact, it looked like it might actually be threatening the other tonsil. Something like:

   Tonsillus Monumentus: Hey, buddy, I don't like your kind hanging around here. This here throat is MY turf. You hear me? MY turf. So why don't you just get on outta here? Make like a tree and leave. Make like a tonsil and ectomy. Capice?
   Tonsillus Weenius: I get you, boss! I'm outta here! I'll just flatten myself against this wall over here and make like I'm invisible, see? That okay, boss?
   Tonsillus Monumentus: Just see that you do that, son. And just to make sure, I'll be hanging about, puttin' a little muscle into your disappearing act. You got a problem with that?
   Tonsillus Weenius: Nope. That's cool.

   I'm fairly sure that's how it went down. Meanwhile, Tonsillus Monumentus, having acquired the turf of all of his nearest neighbors, was looking for even more real estate. The only place to go was down.

   Needless to say, I told my son a return trip to the doctor was in order. Either that or name it, (we considered Ignatius), get it a Social Security number and tell it to get a job.

   Two days later we found ourselves sitting in the office, whilst the nurse took his temp, blood pressure and all that nonsense, and asked questions. Brilliant ones like, 'So, what brings you in today?' Honestly- what kind of response are they expecting? 'I was bored and had nothing better to do than come sit for hours in a waiting room riddled with disease laden bodies coughing all their germs into the air for me to breathe in- so here I am!'

   He told her about the Tonsil That Ate Tokyo, to which she said, 'Well, you've got some stiff competition this week. I saw a twelve-year-old girl the other day whose tonsils were so swollen that there was only a little tiny circle she could eat and breathe through. (Been there, done that, no less than a hundred times. Tonsillitis is prevalent in my family and if your tonsils weren’t at the very least touching each other, my mother didn't even panic. She was pretty much like, 'Come back to me when you can't breathe.' Hey, after five kids, I'm pretty sure you get like that. So, I'm thinking, 'This girl is a weenie and she ain't seen nothin' yet.')

   Finally, she got around to flipping out the flashlight and taking a gander at 'what brought him in today.' The reaction was priceless. She was forced to admit that she had never seen anything like it. Further, she mentioned that his weakness and exhaustion was no doubt stemming from the fact that this thing was sapping all of his strength and nutrition because, and I quote, 'That thing has got its own intestines.'

   Okay, now you can say ewwwwww!

   So that was yesterday. (When I should have been working on my writing, I was instead watching my son's tonsil stage a mutiny.) So, today, I had the joy of returning to the doctor's office, though this time for very different reasons. My father-in-law was partaking of some 'pain management' procedure. A.k.a. having an injection in his spine. Let me repeat: Having an injection IN his SPINE. Uh-huh. Pain management. I would venture a guess that having a twelve-inch needled rammed into the teensy-tiny vertebrae of your spine is hardly pain management. Pain inducing, yes. Pain managing, no. This is Marquis de Sade type doctoring right here.

   Anyway, naturally, after said procedure, he was not allowed to drive home, therefore he needed a driver. That's where I come in.

   Upon entering the clinic, there was only one other person in the waiting room. (Who was happy to tell me he was waiting for his boss, who had sustained a back injury at some point, yada, yada, yada, and he had told his boss the shot would be akin to a woman in labor getting a spinal block- without the benefit of the soul-searing pain caused by something trying to rip its way out of one's uterus, of course- etc, etc, etc.- Mister Man was really quite chatty.) They took my father-in-law back within a few minutes of our arrival and I sat there waiting, in the not-so-quiet room assigned for said waiting.

   And I waited.
   And waited.
   And waited.

   Meanwhile, several more patients arrived. Two younger (one was about mid-thirties, and the other upper forties to lower fifties), four older. (One MUCH older. He had a few years on Father Time.) Still, I waited.

   They took each person back, one by one and for awhile there no one was coming back out.

   I watched Mr. Chatty-pants partake of the amenities. (Consisting of a cappuccino maker, a sink, and a water cooler.)

   And I waited some more.

   Here came Mister Forty-something, followed closely by Miss Thirty-five. But none of the elders.

   Left with my own over-active imagination, Mr. Chatty-pants, (who finally took the hint and stopped talking- or maybe he burned his tongue on his cappuccino?) and a television spewing court TV soap operas- murder and mayhem at its finest- it didn't take long for me to start imagining what could possibly be going on back there.

   Another half hour passed and still no one came out. Court TV had moved on to an even more maniacal, twisted and bizarre case (hard to believe people really DO these things!) and I was very nearly in full blown panic mode.

   What could possibly be taking this long?

   What were they doing to that poor man?

   Was that a scream I heard coming from the other room?

   I swear, if anyone had come out of the office offering up a cracker, I would have leapt up and fled from the building screaming, 'Don't eat it! Soylent Green is people!!'

   Luckily, the geezers all began shuffling out. It was like watching the Bunny Hop with walkers. My father-in-law was amongst them, hale and hearty, and in no way cracker-like. He was a joy to behold.

   On a side note, I may not have imagined the scream, as he mentioned something about the introduction of a giant needle between his L-5 and some other letter-number combination I can't recall, having caused him a moment of extreme distress, so much so, that he let out a yelp.

   Meanwhile, Ignatius is scheduled for a photo-shoot (a.k.a. a CAT scan) later on in the week, although I'm not certain that I will attend. But I do hope my son has it billed to Iggy. It's only fair, after all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Measure of Illness a.k.a. Reality Bites a.k.a. Not Just For Disney Anymore

   I may have mentioned (at great length, no less) in my last blog that I had recently been ill. I also may have mentioned it on Facebook (although in not nearly as great length). The reason I mention this now is that I am not done mentioning it. Or, as the case may be, complaining about it. I had posted on FB that the true measure of an illness is in how many movies (a.k.a. DVD's) you watch while bedridden. While I was diseased, I managed to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy (director's cut- which anyone who is an LOTR fan knows fully encompasses nearly fourteen days of your life), the first three Shrek's (I don't own the fourth), and the entirety of the Harry Potter series.

   That's a lot of movie watching.

   Yet, still, the beasties continued to mount their attack, beating extraordinary rhythms on my brain (which, not unlike the Grinch's heart, grew three sizes that day). With my head pounding, it wasn't likely that I would get to sleep any time soon. And lying in a dark room with nothing to do only made me feel worse. Much worse. I could actually discern each and every individual beastie without something else to occupy my time and what was left of my brain. But, alas, I was too tired to get up and change out the DVD. And my eyes were too crossed to read. Therefore, I was relegated to whatever was on TV.

   Now, I have to say, aside from a few cooking shows (I'm a HUGE Top Chef nut) and The Walking Dead (prerequisite for a woman that runs a haunted house, wouldn't you say?), I rarely, if ever, watch TV. I'm more of a book fan. But, as I said, my eyes were crossed and my brain was swollen, therefore, TV seemed like the only alternative. Besides, I could always change the channel. With 300 plus channels (I say 300 plus because although the cable company likes to advertise 600 plus, most of them are the same channel twice over- I still haven't figured out the reasoning behind that one- and a good hundred or more are either sports or Spanish channels- I understand them both equally- which is to say, not at all- and that leaves roughly 300), anyway, with 300 channels, how hard could it be to find something to watch?

   It didn't take long to realize how hard it could in fact be and why I don't watch TV.

   First, I found, 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.' Somehow, with my encephalitis lethargica, I thought this might be something about Yogi Bear. Hey, it's logical- honey equals bears- just ask Pooh, and then there was that reference to Boo Boo, Yogi's best bud. I thought, maybe it was one of those Hollywood behind the scenes scandal kind of things that would drag all the skeletons- or pic-a-nic baskets, as it were- out of Yogi's closet. Maybe the Goose wasn't so Spruce after all; maybe Boo Boo Runs Wild, was more Girls Gone Wild;  maybe- E-GADS!- Yogi wasn't a bear after all! I couldn't wait to tune in and find out. I snuggled down in my thick, fluffy blankets and awaited the antics.

   Boy was I in for a surprise.

   There was no bear. There was no ranger. There were no pic-a-nic baskets in Jellystone Park. There was no whimsy, no flights of fancy, no joy in Mudville. There was only horror. I witnessed a decapitation (and only because I didn't turn away in time) on The Walking Dead that was far less gruesome and heaps more entertaining than the 'Honey Boo Boo' family. I'm fairly certain the swelling in my brain was the only thing that kept me from losing cells- they were pressed too tightly against my skull to go anywhere. Thank God for the raging fever that allowed me to forget all but a few scenes- something about a squealing pig- although how I was able to differentiate the pig from the rest of the cast as they all looked fairly identical, is pretty much anyone's guess. Actually, I think the pig may have been cleaner.

   I vaguely recall having switched channels and finally landing on something called 'Swamp People.' I thought it was a horror movie.

   I was right.

   And I couldn't help but to think, if this is the stuff reality TV is made up of, then reality bites. And it has rabies.

   Whose reality is this, by the way? Certainly not mine! When I see people like that, only two things come to mind. Neither of which is good.

   Option #1- Chainsaw-toting, not-their-own-skin wearing, maniacs who inhabit some portion of Texas.

   Option #2- Banjoes playing the opening to Deliverance. At least I think it was the opening. Having never seen (nor having any desire WHAT-SO-FREAKING-EVER to see) the film, I can't really be sure. But that's how I picture it.

   The point is, either way, it's time to run.

   Anyway, back to sur-reality TV.

   'Duck Dynasty.' I had been hearing talk about this series at work. Several people had asked me if I'd seen it. Somehow, I instantly envisioned a cartoon. It sounds like a cartoon. I was thinking something along the lines of Darkwing Duck meets Dynasty. (The mystifyingly popular 1980's prime time soap starring Joan Collins- which by the way I never watched, but couldn't help but to be inundated with anyway. When I say it was popular, I mean it was POP-U-LAR.) Anyway, I was picturing Drake Mallard (a.k.a. Darkwing Duck) as Drake Carrington (John Forsythe's character on Dynasty- I had to look that up in Wikipedia, by the way, and found it immensely funny that they were both Drake's…). So that's how my brain works.

   It's pretty obvious to those who have had the dubious pleasure of watching that particular television series, that I had never seen it. So I chose a time when I was too riddled with fever to do anything else to check it out. Hey, it's a cartoon, right? How bad can it be? Something about being ill makes you (or at least me) long for the childhood years of chicken noodle soup (something I hate) and PB&J sandwiches (something I detest) and cartoons (something I rarely watched as a child.) Yet, still, when I am sick, I long for them. Weird, I know.

   Anyway, I decided to tune in, expecting, 'I am the terror that flaps in the night! And also an oil magnate.'
   That's not what I got. Or maybe it is. I still haven't decided. I will say it's the stuff of nightmares.

   I'm always behind in the times. I remember a few years ago when 'Jersey Shore' was all the rage and everyone kept talking to me about it. People kept mentioning this 'J Wow' chick. Naturally, I thought J Lo had changed her name a la Prince the incomprehensible. I later learned that 'JWoww' (thank you once again Wikipedia for that spelling), was an entirely different person. Also, there was mention of a 'Snookie' which I instantly related to pool. (For me the word 'snooker' relates to billiards, as in: 'To snooker someone at a game of pool.' It makes sense in my head…) I also relate 'Snookie' to a dog's name. So in my head, Snookie was a pool-playing dog. (And yes, instantly I had that awful Dogs Playing Pool print imagery in my head. On black velvet, no less.) Anywho, there I was, listening to babble about a pool-playing dog and J Lo, who had apparently changed her name, and some guy named Vinny (who was, of course, my cousin, the lawyer. Ask Ralph Macchio.) This didn't sound like anything that I would want to watch. And it was a little confusing.

   I've always been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to popular culture. I swear I'm not stupid. I just have some fairly severe blond moments at times.

   For example, about five years ago (and this is a story my daughter still LOVES to tell), my daughter and I went out to Dairy Queen for ice cream. We were sitting there sucking down our hot fudge sundaes, when I happened to look out the window at the business next door. It's a lingerie store. And I'm not talkin' Victoria's Secret. There is NOTHING secret about that place. It's more whips and chains than feathers and lace. An interesting set-up when you think about it- Dairy Queen, the epitome of family fun and frivolity, and right beside their drive-thru, Exotic Lingerie, the epitome of YECH and BLECH!

   So, there I sat, staring at their sign out front, which read, 'Pirates of the Caribbean, ONLY $6.99.' I frowned. Now that was a good price for a DVD, but still…

   I mentioned this to my daughter (who was roughly sixteen at the time), adding, "I know that's a good price, but I think I'd rather go to Walmart or Target and probably pay the same thing. Even if you paid more, who would go into a place like that just to save a few bucks?"

   Hot fudge jettisoned from her nose. Ice cream splattered out of her mouth and plopped onto the table. She nearly had a seizure she was laughing so hard. When she was finally able to speak, she said, (deadpan serious,) "Mom. I don't think that's the same movie."

   And that's when it dawned on me, she was probably right. (And then I asked her how she knew that, but that's beside the point.)

   The point is, I learned a few things while I was sick:
   #1- Pigs are indeed classier than some people.
   #2- Alligators have more teeth than the people that hunt them.
   #3- There is an amazing amount of money to be made in producing duck calls.
   #4- And MOST important- I need to buy more DVD's.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Vacillations, Vaccinations and Vacations

   Indiana weather is interesting to say the least. It is more random than a three-year-old hopped up on pixie sticks. It vacillates more than a politician running for office. It is always arbitrary and often vengeful. I hate it.

   In this last few weeks since Christmas, (has it only been a few weeks?!), we have experienced a "blizzard," (I'll get back to that), rain, sleet, fog, below zero and above 60 degree weather. WHAT?

   Let me start with the "blizzard." I'm from upstate New York. When I hear the word blizzard, I automatically start thinking of snow- kind of a foundation for a blizzard, wouldn't you say? Snow in copious, massive, staggering amounts- amounts that can only be measured with a yard stick- or several yard sticks. I think of power lines coming down, sheds bowling over, roofs caving in, trees falling, fences collapsing; in short, I think of all sorts of disasters resulting from the monumental weight of all that snow. (I also think of warm fires, thick, fuzzy blankets, and cocoa, but that's beside the point.)

   Instead, what we got was four lousy inches. Four measly little, insignificant inches of snow. A smattering, yes. A coating, sure. A dusting, by all means.  A mere four inches does NOT a blizzard make, folks. True, there were strong winds blowing the snow here, there, and everywhere. That's called a white out. (Not to be confused with the handy-dandy office implement that assists in concealing errors, as it is neither handy, nor dandy, and causes, rather than conceals errors.)  What we had was, "Some snow with white-out conditions." NOT a blizzard. (This particular 'Weather Event' was very nearly as disappointing as the Non-Apocalypse.)

   After the "Blizzard that Wasn't," temperatures stayed as near to zero as they could possibly manage. I stepped outside and felt my eyelashes instantly freeze. My breath crystallized on the air and shattered to the ground like broken glass. I was wrapped up like a mummy: coat, hat, boots, scarf, gloves, and doing my best impression of the kid on "A Christmas Story," who can't put his arms down. Conditions were NOT cozy.

   And then came the thaw. Oh, rapture! Oh, what heavenly joy! Winter is already over! I was rejoicing; ecstatic. Somehow I had managed to survive yet another winter! And this one had seemed so much shorter than the last…

   And then I consulted the calendar. It was only the first week in January.


   Alas, the cold returned again- though only for a few short days, followed by another thaw, this one even better than the first. This I could get used to. Temperatures reached 69 degrees over the span of several days. I thought somehow I had fallen asleep and awoken in Florida. I was a slightly under-aged Snowbird. Yay, me!!

   Of course, there is the whole Ying and Yang to contend with. With the good, always comes the bad. The bad in this case being various and sundry colds which had been running rampant thanks to the fluctuating temperatures, and also- duh-duh-duuuuhhh- The Flu(For which, I might add, because this becomes very important later on- my new job was offering vaccinations. Free of charge.)

   Personally, I think the label 'the flu' is far too innocuous. Even 'influenza' doesn't come nearly close enough to describing the ailment. In actuality we should call it: 'The macabre dance of death performed by maniacal microorganism type beasties playing kettle drums inside your head and stomping on all your nerve endings with spiked cleats, whilst lighting roaring fires inside all of your cells.' But I suppose that name is too long and so we have coined it the 'flu.'

   Naturally, I managed to get 'The Flu.' But we'll get to that later. Let's start with the cold: a petty, but annoying malady which lulls you into a false sense of security that being sick isn't really all that bad.

   It started over Christmas. I was feeling rather victorious as I was still managing to balance everything- writing, my new job, the bakery, and all the extra work a holiday entails. Okay, so maybe I was spreading just a little phlegm with my comfort and joy, but I was a champ! Nothing could stop me! "Ain't nothing gonna break my stride; nobody's gonna slow me down, oh no, I've got to keep on moving!" Men at Work had nothing on me!

   Being the generous soul that I am, I gladly shared my malady with my husband. He was thrilled. But, it was only a cold. We would survive. (Bring on Gloria Gaynor.)

   And then the cold took a vicious turn. The coughs and sniffles became a tad more insistent. Before long we were both losing brain cells at an alarming rate to our Puffs Plus with lotion and the coughs had turned from pesky annoyances into those whole-body wracking coughs- the kind of cough that starts at your toes and forces you into a fetal position, while your chest contracts and your throat screams, and all the while you are certain this will be your last breath. Talking is not an option; breathing a rare treat.

   My husband was on vacation (a vacation I ruined for him), but alas, I was still working and calling in sick was NOT an option. So my routine was: get up early, pop a handful of assorted meds, head off to work and attempt to function. I managed about fifty-percent capacity. Eight hours later I would head home, wrap up in a bathrobe and blankets and push fluids hardcore. (Needless to say, the bakery did not require my presence during this time. They had these supercilious concerns about my spreading germs inside their establishment- something about the health department frowning on that… Silly if you ask me. Whatever.)

   And then, just as I thought I was shaking loose of this devilish delight, The Flu came along and knocked me on my proboscis. (I just like the sound of that- proboscis. It makes more sense that it knocked me on a much lower portion of my anatomy, but nose or not, proboscis is fun.)

   Everything hurt. My hair hurt. My teeth hurt. My eyelashes hurt. The beasties were becoming more astute with their kettle-drumming and I was fairly certain I was dying. I considered calling in a hospice.

   (Luckily, my husband didn't contract that portion of the disease, otherwise, "in sickness and in health," be damned; he might have filed for divorce citing germ warfare via the unwarranted attack  of millions of microorganisms meant to kill, maim, and destroy. It might even have been considered an attempted murder. Hey, it's possible.)
   If I find the schmuck that gave it to me, I definitely intend to sue. For now, I think I'll step outside and enjoy the weather.

   Oh wait. It's thirty degrees again.

   And snowing.

   No worries; tomorrow it should be just fine for sunbathing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Prepare for an Apocalypse

   I apologize for the unannounced break in blogging, but as there was an apocalypse looming, I hadn't really anticipated the need for a blog. Besides, I was busy preparing for said apocalypse.

   How do you prepare for an apocalypse, you ask?

   Good question! And lucky for you, it is one I am prepared to answer, having recently acquired some experience in the matter.

   Preparing for an apocalypse is only slightly different than preparing for any other emergency, for example, a "Weather Event." (This is the coined term the local news uses to reference such things as blizzards/tornadoes/hurricanes, because in today's world the usage of such shocking terms as 'catastrophes' is just not PC.) Anyway, preparing for a "Weather Event" is pretty self-explanatory, isn't it? It simply means being equipped to handle any emergency should the power go out for an extended period of time and/or the roads be closed by the local law enforcement. There are only a few simple steps one needs to remember.

   Step One: Make a foray into the nearest grocery store. Be prepared to battle your way through throngs thicker than any Black Friday crowd, with a lot less to lose. Wear comfy clothing that allows for greater flexibility-think sweats, although a cat-suit at this time is not necessarily inappropriate. We're not going for fashion forward here people- we want the ability to maneuver. Besides, it's the end of the world- who cares what you look like? You will find yourself weaving up and down the aisles, pressed between close quarters, ducking and crawling, and honestly, dive-rolling is not completely out of the question- skinny jeans are NOT an option. It's like Mission Impossible on steroids out there and you've got to be ready!

   Stock up on canned goods, (don’t forget the manual can-opener as the electronic gadget you've got at home won’t do you much good and you don't want to find yourself opening the pork and beans with a claw hammer). Get milk, bread, coffee, toilet paper, first aid kits and any other necessity that occurs to you. Don’t allow yourself to be denied by empty shelves, there are plenty of grocery carts lurking around every corner stuffed to the hilt with said supplies and a simple diversion such as, "Hey, what's that over there? Is that Johnny Depp perusing the pork chops?" should allow you enough time to snatch whatever is needed and make your escape. All's fair in love and grocery shopping. Especially "Weather Event" grocery shopping. You can never stoop too low when it comes to self-preservation.

   Step Two: Once you have collected all your supplies, by fair means or foul, (don't forget the cocoa- NO mini-marshmallows please!), return home and squirrel away your findings. You should have two stashes. The first is the one which you will show and share with your neighbors should they have failed to prepare (shame on them- they should have read all about the grasshopper and the ants, and if they haven't that's their own tough luck- and if you haven't- shame on you too! just saying). The second stash, the more important one, (this is the one which includes such necessities as cookies, coffee, cocoa, and chocolate- any apocalypse without chocolate is just not worth surviving), needs to be well hidden. This is the stash which you will keep secreted in the event of a full blown emergency and share with NO ONE. Not even your own mother. You might even consider hiding it from your children. Hey, these kids play enough real-world video games; if they haven't learned to fend for themselves by now then consider this a life lesson. They'll be better prepared next time.

   Step Three: Finish up by filling copious bottles of water (split between the two stashes) and collecting batteries, flashlights, radios, blankets and candles.

   Done, done, and done.

   Simple really.

   But alas, this is not a "Weather Event," it is the: 'End of the World' (dum dum duuuuuummmm!) No need for any of the above- all of this has been collected to no avail. I mean, the 'End of the World.' Everything comes to a stop. It is terminated. Halted. Finished. Ceased and desisted. No need for anything. Ever. Again.

   Damn. Now what?

   I decided, (in the interest of me), to put my own PC spin on it, making it an 'End of the World Event.' Sounds so much more pleasant now, doesn't it? Think of this not as an 'Apocalypse', but rather, a pause in the action; not the 'end' of the Mayan calendar, but more of a 'changing of the guard,' as it were. Let's be real, we switched to the Gregorian calendar some time ago, because apparently the Mayan civilization wasn't nearly as intellectually gifted as the pope; so it only stands to reason that if good old Greg hadn't foreseen the 'End of the World,' (dum dum duuuuummmmm!) it wasn't likely to be THE apocalypse. Right? Of course, right!

   And so I determined that this 'end of the Mayan calendar' nonsense would indeed be an apocalypse of the zombie type (because as I may have mentioned before, anything else would just be disappointing) and now we got something going on. 'Cause everybody knows the Zombie Apocalypse is more of a long, drawn out affair. No, CRASH, BANG, BOOM, 'End of the World' (dum dum duuuummmm!) here. More of a dramatic lingering of things slowly coming to an end.

   (You doubt me? Watch AMC.)

   SO, now I'm back in business. Everything I've collected thus far comes back into play, plus then, there's the need for zombie-type weapons. Coolness abounds! I once more had someplace to focus my attention.

   So what does one do to prepare for a 'Zombie Apocalypse Event?' Steps one through three still entirely hold their merit, though maybe with a little more desperate intent, because you're not preparing for a short measure, but rather a long term event, and while the raiding of local homes and businesses does hold its own merit, it also increases the danger of running into zombies and there's something creepy about taking out your seventy-five year old zombie neighbor who you used to talk over the fence with.

   After completing the first three steps to your complete satisfaction, you must move on to Step Four.

   The amassing of zombie-type weapons. Yeah, guns are great and they do sell those 'Zombie Bullets,' but as everyone knows, noise draws hordes of shambling masses, so let's do this thing quietly whenever possible. Among the weapons you will need: baseball bats (preferably with as many nails driven into them as you can possibly manage), hatchets, axes, swords: think melee weapons of any type. This, of course, does require a lot of gore. Something I'm not equipped to handle. The more I consider it, the more disturbed I become. And I realize, much to my consternation, I am NOT prepared for the 'Zombie Apocalypse Event.'

   And then December 21st came and went. The Mayan calendar ended; the world did not. I breathed a sigh of relief. I did not have to prepare! I thanked the heavens and all its glories and went about my business a more confident being. I was saved.

   At least until the next apocalypse.
   And then, maybe I'll just stay locked up in my basement with my coffee and chocolate and wait the thing out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Murder and Mischief in the Hamptons

    Murder and Mischief in the Hamptons is now available on Smashwords. It should become available at B&N in time for Christmas. There is still a delay with Amazon picking up my books, their site is not large enough to carry the selection that B&N does. They are working to improve and enlarge their site (which I think is a good idea given that they carry and promote their own e-reader...), and hope to have it done soon. Apple has also fallen behind and has not picked up either of the Hamptons books (disappointing), and I'm hoping they'll pick them up soon. Not sure what the delay there is. Meanwhile, you can purchase both books (both FREE!!) from Smashwords for any e-reader, or from B&N.

Be advised, "Murder and Mischief in the Hamptons," is the second book in the series, so if you have not read, Living and Dying in the Hamptons, you will want to read that one first. I have felt exceptionally blessed by the reception of this first book in the series (great reviews), and it helped to make the decision to continue the series that much easier. I fell in love with these characters instantly, and I have to say, writing the Hamptons books has felt much less like work and a lot more like play. I hope you all enjoy them both! I am currently hard at work (play) on the third book, and I am already completely in love with it.
     The last thing I want to mention is the dedication of this book. All my books and short stories have had some sort of dedication linked to them, and there's always been a good reason. Murder and Mischief is no different. I dedicated this book to 'my biggest fan,' but in essence it is dedicated to all of them. It brings tears to my eyes when someone reads and enjoys something I've written. When they tell me they like something, be it through reviews, e-mails, private messages, or even sometimes in person, it's everything I can do to contain myself and not spin cartwheels across the room. (Which at my age is not advisable anyway.) Thank you all for your support and encouragement, it means more to me than I can ever say!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Thanksgiving in a Nutshell a.k.a. Setting the Bar: How Low Can You Go? a.k.a. The Best Guest List EVER

   I hope that everyone had a happy holiday. Here's mine in a nutshell. (You must all realize by now that my nutshell is not small insomuch as the Hulk is small. It is the condominium of nutshells, and I shall take you through each and every room. Possibly several times.) You have been warned.

   To begin with, my husband and I, ever the pre-planners, found ourselves shopping on the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. On a Saturday. At two o'clock in the afternoon. The store could not have been busier if the TV news had announced a three week blizzard followed by a zombie apocalypse.

   The line for the turkeys- yes- the LINE- was long and winding. Though not nearly as pleasant as the road in the Beatles' ballad. Tempers were high, greed even higher, and everyone had the I'm-the-only-person-in-existence complex working for them. I advised one girl- a tiny, trim little thing- that was trying to wedge her way in to get a frozen bird to throw an elbow. She giggled. She thought I was joking.

   Alas, I was not.

   Eventually I got my bird without having to give one, and made my way through the rest of the aisles like Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible (I even had the theme music running through my head), winding and weaving, twisting, turning, feinting and all but cart-wheeling through the store. I was grace and determination personified. At least I thought so.

   With our cache of food, we made it home, to wait for the DAY. Okay, so waiting really meant working eight to ten hour days and juggling in choir practice, all with a blinding migraine. It was AWESOME!

   The day finally arrived and I dragged myself out of the bed at the ungodly six o'clock hour, stumbled in the kitchen to pour myself a cup of ambition (thanks Dolly) and started wrestling the turkey. I bathed, buttered, seasoned, stocked and slapped the turkey into the roasting pan, all the while waiting for the oven to pre-heat. Meanwhile, I was reminiscing the Thanksgiving from Hell.

   This happened many moons ago, when my children were still small and cute. We were celebrating the holiday in our new home, and some very close friends of mine (more extended family than friends) were coming to join us. At that time, I was a pre-planner to the hilt. You have to be when you have kids. Now, I pretty much wing it.

   Anyway, Sunday: pre-turkey day, I awoke to a chill in the air. A cold, Artic chill. Hmmm. Whatever could be the problem? The furnace was out. Great. So I called the furnace guys. The furnace guys enlightened me with the glorious news that indeed, my furnace was kaput, in every sense of the word. Bad news: you need a new furnace. Good news: they could install it in time for the arrival of my guests and just before I slapped the turkey on the table. Goody.

   Monday: I awoke to a flood in my kitchen. Egads! Whatever shall I do? Build an ark or call a plumber? I called the plumber. He found a leak in the pipe going in or out of the water heater in the closet in my kitchen, replaced it and went on his merry way. Meanwhile the furnace guys were tinkering around in the other side of the closet.

   Tuesday: I awoke to yet ANOTHER flood in my kitchen. Figuring the plumber had been thrown off his game by working in such close proximity to the furnace guys (who by the way, were still finishing up the job), I called him back. He returned only to discover the leak was not ONLY in the pipe, but also out of the bottom of the water heater that was completely rusted out. Off to Menards to buy a new water heater. Oh, and also new flooring because the second flood was too much for the floor to handle and since it had been carpeted (WHO puts carpet in a kitchen anyway??) it had to all be torn out and replaced. I spent the rest of the day pulling out carpeting and laying new vinyl flooring until roughly two in the morning. At least it was toasty with the new furnace cycling merrily away.

   Wednesday: With a new floor, new water heater, new pipes running to and/or from said water heater, and a new furnace, I was feeling more than slightly broke, BUT relatively safe. Until I started baking. And the oven did NOT work. NO joke. Heated up to about 100 degrees and called it quits. Back to Menards to buy a new stove. KILL ME NOW.

   Thursday: TURKEY day!! Hallelujah! We made it! I dragged my butt out of the bed at the ungodly six o'clock hour, stumbled to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of ambition- BUT WAIT- no- the coffee pot does NOT work. There is NO perk in the percolator. The stupid light doesn't even come on. I picked it up- not just the pot- THE WHOLE thing- and THREW it across my shiny new kitchen.

   So, back to the present, with the bar set that low there is NO way I can ever NOT clear it again for essentially the rest of my life. No matter how exhausted and over-worked I was, no matter how bad my migraine, I hadn't spent the week in mandatory remodeling. All was well.

   I went to shove the turkey into the oven when I realized that he/she was wearing a bracelet, or a watch, or something around it's ankle(?). What is this oddity? I wondered. I retrieved my glasses and looked closer. All of the turkey, with the exception of this one ankle, had been plucked smooth. The ankle was still fluffy with feathers. Weird. I plucked them and moved on. Who eats ankles anyway?

   The day went off without a hitch- except that I forgot to make my daughter's favorite green beans, and we had to scramble around at the last minute for an extra place setting due to errant counting. Overall though, it was a success. The guest list included some of my kids' friends, so it was a large group that sat elbow to elbow around the table, but everyone seemed to have a good time and they all seemed to enjoy the food. I was feeling gloriously triumphant. Victory was mine! The BEST Thanksgiving EVER.

   Until we went to my friends' house for a second, belated celebration of the same holiday. Upon entering their living room I found a life-sized cardboard stand-up of Saruman and another of Frodo waiting near the stairs. They were just in time for dinner. Damn. I had only invited family and friends. Obviously, their guest list was WAY better than mine…