OUR ALL-DAY JUNKET INTO CORPUS CHRISTI, PART 2: Navigating the USS Lexington Museum


USS Lexington Museum

Corpus Christi, Tx

June 28, 2017

Having browsed the amazing Texas State Aquarium with its amazing marine life, breathtaking decor, lively  dolphins, fascinating wildlife and hands-on, multimedia exhibits, we check it off our list of “places to visit” and step outside where I see the USS Lexington moored, nearby. It looks almost close enough to touch.

“Oh, good,” I say, nudging Jeff. “There’s the ship over there. Let’s just walk.”

He chuckles.

“Think again, babe. It’s farther away than it looks.”

So, after a longer drive than we had expected, we pull into the Lexington parking lot, and hop onto a shuttle that  the admission booth. As we have come to expect, the cost for two senior tickets is short of $13, but, hey, even that price doesn’t seem too steep for peak tourist season on Corpus Christi’s North Beach. And, just as I was eager to visit the aquarium, Jeff has been hankering to see the Lexington Museum.

Upon entrance to the ship, Jeff and I study the map that we picked up at the admission booth and find that the hangar deck is divided into three areas: Bay 1, including the foc’sle and the Joe Jessel 3D Mega Theater, in the bow end of the ship. Bay 2 containing virtual battle stations and a stage. Bay 3, located toward the fantail, encompassing a souvenir shop called “Ship’s Store” and a flight simulator. Both of these areas we find on the starboard, or right side. On the fantail end, or the stern, is the mess deck where we share a cinnamon roll and an iced tea before time for the 3D film at the Joe Jessel 3D Mega Theater for films of the USS Lexington in action during World War II, showing airplanes from all branches of the Armed Services, submarines, and lots of bombs exploding in the ocean. It was spectacular!

Yes, the USS Lexington is now a museum, but let us never forget that it is still an actual U.S. Navy ship in every way,  with stairs at right angles with the floor and portals that can really trip you up if you don’t step lively.  And when I say “you”, I mean me. Especially me. As I hug the rails on the way downstairs, I marvel at the young, agile sailors who once clambered up and down those same stairs, back then. As Jeff and I wander from one section to the next — the chapel, the galleys, the medical and dental bays, the bunks, and the library — my screenwriter’s vision imagines a slapstick-chase scene in which two bumble-brains trip, stumble, and tumble up and down those stairs and over one portal after another as they scramble up and down those narrow death-defying stairs in hot pursuit of each other.

Last, we wander out on the flight deck together to see planes from the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army on display. As I sit on a bench and rest, Jeff waves at me from the upper decks.

As we straggle off the ship, my last words, “Thank God for the shuttle” come back to bite me as someone tells us that the shuttle has stopped running for the rest of the night. Thankfully, we have only a street to cross before we return to the parking lot and the comfort of our Ford F350 pickup. On our way off the parking lot, Jeff slips the required token into the box, and soon we are on our way back to Aransas Pass by way of Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant where Stephen brings Jeff a frosty beer and me, a satisfying ‘one-and-you’re-done’-sized frozen margarita and zesty enchiladas that satisfy our craving for Mexican food.

Now, on July 31, a little more than a month later, here we are in the country town of Comfort — near the heart of Texas Hill Country.  Although we are heading westward after we leave here, we keep a running list of places we want to return to: The Texas State Aquarium, the USS Lexington Museum, and Pepito’s Restaurant are definitely on our list.

So, loyal readers, what is one of the greatest adventures you have ever taken? Please share it with us! Who knows — we might even see you there, again. We love positive comments, so feel free to leave yours in the “Leave a Reply” box at the end of this post.

Next up: some of our favorite places in the Hill Country. No telling where we, the ‘Vintage Honeymooners’ will wind up, but one thing’s for sure –wherever we go, fun is sure to follow.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 2: Debut Novel on The Way!


7-31-17

RV Park USA

Here we are, living in Comfort — Comfort, Texas. As if life weren’t already so so good we could hardly stand it, it skyrocketed when my publisher texted me the great news: that my debut suspense novel, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, would be launching sometime in the next two months on Amazon and other booksellers.

We kicked off the book-publishing process in June, while we were staying at Ransom Road RV Park in Aransas Pass, Texas. Stage by stage, I uploaded the photo for my “bio”, and chose the book cover that  communicated the soul of my story.

Last Sunday, as we were eating lunch at  Alamo Springs Cafe, near the Old Tunnel State Park, near Fredericksburg, Texas, I was scrolling through my email when I landed on a request for an interview.  While I didn’t know the sender — a WordPress blogger named Fiona Mcvie — I did see that she and I shared 74 mutual friends on Facebook and that she was from Inverness. Later, after we got home, I began answering the thirty-some questions she had sent me via email. Toward the end of the evening, I  sent my answers back to her. In a few days, the interview went “live” on WordPress. I’ve inserted the link below.

Fiona Mcvie’s Interview with me

In the meantime, I’ve been sidetracked from my WordPress blog for the best possible reason! Pictured above, is my book cover. I have set up my author site on Facebook and have inserted a link to my author page on LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and Tumblr. 

That said, I’ll soon be posting the latest adventure of the Vintage Honeymooners: the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi, Texas.

So, loyal readers, I do appreciate your comments. Please scroll down below the blog and share your thoughts and positive input on this post. And stay tuned for the adventures of Jeff and Kim, the ‘Vintage Honeymooners’. You just never know where we will turn up, next!

 

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OUR ALL-DAY JUNKET INTO CORPUS CHRISTI, Part I: Exploring the Texas State Aquarium


Wednesday, June 28

Ever since we first blew into Corpus Christi on our way home from Port Aransas, we promised each other we would stop to visit the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Museum, but probably not in the same day.  But, today, we plan to make this outing a double-whammy.  But when I think of writing about both sights in one post, I realize there is too much about each place to cover them, at once. Therefore, I have decided to cover the aquarium,  first.

Earlier, as we were driving into Corpus Christi,  Jeff asked me where I wanted to go, first. My answer was a slam-dunk;”Why, the aquarium, of course.”

When I was little, Daddy would take us to Hotel Breakers on Corpus Christi’s North Beach. Since then, I have always been in love with the ocean, especially the Texas gulf coast and its fish and other marine life. I am rarin’ to roam the museum to my heart’s content, in spite of its pricey admission: $32.50 per senior, or $65.90, plus taxes, for the two of us. As we stagger through the front door after a near-heart attack at the ticket booth, we remind each other that, although the admission price is steep, it does cover all activities in the building and, if we don’t catch all of it, we can return with our ticket later in the day and pay no additional charge.

Our first “handshake” with the aquarium is a girl handing us a map. After thanking her, we veer left, starting with the first section, the “Gulf of Mexico”. Pixaresque 3D displays with fish drifting  as if they are swimming in their sleep have me snapping photos non-stop on my iPhone.  At one point, a red snapper glares at me for eating his kinfolk at Landry’s Seafood Restaurant, two days earlier.  Besides for 3D displays spectacular enough to make Walt Disney gasp from his grave, this aquarium offers interactive displays with docents to educate and monitor us. At one, I touch a starfish, expecting it to be hard, as it would be if I found it washed up on the shore. Instead, the living version of it feels spongy.. The highlight of these  hands-on exhibits is a tank with live, white jellyfish bobbing in the water.  People young and old are daring to touch them, as directed by a guide assuring  them that the white “bell” at the top, cannot hurt us.

At first, I back away.

“The top cannot sting you,” the guide emphasizes. ” Just touch it gently, like this, back and forth on the top,” he says, demonstrating as he talks.

“Go ahead, babe,” says Jeff, whipping his phone from his holster. “I’ll  take a picture of you doing it.”

” One of these rascals stung me when I was a kid. I’m not touching it. No sirree-bob!”

Just then, a  little girl who doesn’t appear to be more than five years old, plunges her tiny  hand into the water and — plink! just like that — touches its pulsating bell-shaped top.

Well, now, that does it, I’m thinking, as I watch her. Even though one of these critters  stung me when I was her age, that’s where it stops. I will not be outdone by a kid. So I point to Jeff’s phone.

“Okay, boy, we’re on. Pull up that camera.” I tell him, as I pretend to roll up my sleeves. So he pans in on what is sure to be a fight to the finish between Mr. Jellyfish and me as I plunge my hand into the water and swipe my finger across the top of the jiggly creature in hit-and-run fashion.

Ploop!  Done. I’m good. Now show me to the gift shop. I’ve gotta have a tee-shirt that boasts my bravery for the world to see.

In the same area as the jellyfish, we see other tentacled creatures: squid and octopi. As I look at them, I remember my last calamari.

In yet another area, “Caribbean Journey”, we meet the Lionfish, who resembles a fishy version of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz with its whiskers going every which way. It happens to be the same kind of fish that recently bit one of our granddaughters.

I am the King. The Boss,” it snarls as it patrols the water. “Nobody. Messes. With. Me.”

“You so-and-so,” I growl,  staring it down. “Bite our Sydney, again, and you’re ‘dinner‘.”

Soon, we have seen everything there is to see inside and are pretty doggone hungry, so we stop in at the Shoreline Grill, a cafeteria-style cafe that offers burgers, hot dogs, pizza slices, and wraps. We plop a spinach-and-chicken wrap and an orange Gatorade onto our tray, pay the outrageous sum of $9.12 for it, and grab a table where we watch the most fascinating species:  people.

When we’ve devoured the last of our wraps, we amble outside to the  HEB “Splash Park” where kiddos of almost all ages slide and splash around on a watery surface. We pass “Dolphin Bay” where playful dolphins try to outdo each other, and stop to snap pictures of the stingrays at “Feed the Rays”, all of which we breezed past on the way to  “You ‘Otter’ Know This” where we listen to another presentation about otters from both fresh and salt water. When she finishes, it’s time for  “Wild Flight Theater” where staff introduce us to whiskered owls, parrots, turkey buzzards, and even African cats.

As much as we have seen, today, there is so much more that we did not get to see, namely the 4D “Shark” movie, sponsored by What-a-burger. Jeff and I promise each other that we will come back, the next time we’re on the coast. For now, we’re already worn out with one more sight to see: USS Lexington.

So, esteemed readers, what are some noteworthy sights that you recommend seeing, and where are they? I’d love to hear from you! Please type your comments in the box appearing below this post.

Jeff and I have only a few days left on the Coast and are looking for our next place to land. Coming soon at a Smartphone, tablet, or laptop near you: our jaunt to the USS Lexington, next to the aquarium. After that, who knows where we crazy “VintageNewlyweds” will turn up, next.

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FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS TO BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS: How They Came to Be


Tuesday, June 27

As I sit in my “writer’s cave” — a recliner in our RV– I am bubbling all over myself  about  a thrilling development about to happen. In a few months, FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, the first book in my two-book series, will be published. A few months later, the second book, BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS, will follow. At last, an acquaintance of ours in the publishing business wants to publish my books  so I can get them into my readers’ hands where they belong.

The process has already begun. After I submitted full drafts of both stories, my “bio” and a photo, synopses, and book-jacket blurbs, I am now receiving pictures of book covers to consider. By the end of the week, I expect  to receive the first track of edits.

This is really going to happen, I tell myself. Soon, I will transition from writer to author. Like every other worthwhile venture, this debut novel and change of roles has been a long time coming.

Up until January 2009, I wrote and sold poetry, only. But when Cousin BeeGee emailed me about a writing workshop called “The Laughing Gull”, in Port Aransas, she added, “I see your name all over this.”

So, at her invitation, I flew down to reunite with her after thirty-some years and to attend the workshop, held at Port Aransas High School. Purely for the fun of it, I attended non-poetry workshops. One was about writing the memoir. But the one I enjoyed most was presentation on writing a mystery novel.

“What fun!” I thought, rubbing my hands together, as we received hand-outs about writing mystery.  The presenter, David Ciambrone, even announced that special evening meeting titled “Murder 101” would take place in a nearby condo, that night. At that presentation, we would be covering blood-splatter patterns, weapons and poisons for killing the “victims” (in our books, that is), and other deliciously-gory stuff.

At times like these, I feel like a proud parent looking at her children’s photos, I flip back to my earlier drafts to laugh at the blunders I made, back then, and show myself how far I have come.  And like some mothers, I can even remember when and where BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS was conceived: in January of 2009, around noon, in the air somewhere between Corpus Christi and Dallas.

The story, about a newly-married travel writer forced to fly home from a long-awaited  writing assignment in Barcelona to care for her ailing mother in  the wake of her father’s death,  originated from my own experiences as my mother’s caregiver until I gave the story a diabolical what-if.

Since I first started writing this novel, I have banged out revision after revision,  each one an improvement over the one before it. I read mystery-and-suspense novels as voraciously as if I were popping peanut M&Ms. I experimented with point-of-view, prologues and epilogues, hired some characters, and fired others. When I got really frustrated, I re-tooled the plots. Friends who knew what I was up to hounded me with the question: “When is it going to be published?”

I wrote, re-wrote, and wrote again, but each time, I got lost in the labyrinth that BY HER DAUGHTER’S HANDS had become with more twists and turns, tall peaks, loopety-loops, and dark tunnels  than a Six Flags Over Texas roller-coaster. It also boasted a cast that would have made filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille drool. Each one of my characters, including “walk-ons”, “extras” and their dogs,  I felt was important enough for their own first and last names and convoluted back stories.

With too many characters and storylines for a single book, I  knew there was no other way to finish it unless I turned part of it into a prequel beginning in the 1950s if I didn’t want my novel to double as a doorstop. I had to write a prequel  beginning in the 1950s, showing the mother as a pregnant, unwed teen struggling with a decision no mother would want to make: whether to keep her baby or  place  her for adoption for her own good, as small-town society during that period dictated.

Enter FROM HER MOTHER’S ARMS, about Sybil at seventeen and Mona Lisa, her own “priceless work of art” born out of wedlock. When this work is ready, it will be available both in print and e-book format and distributed to bookstores.

I can hardly wait for the moment I can announce this book is ready. When it is, it will be available in print and e-book formats and distributed to bookstores and Amazon.

Loyal readers, what genres do you like to read? I love hearing from you and am super excited about giving you the opportunity to read my first book. Stay tuned for my next post, coming to you on your friendly neighborhood smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

 

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RANSOM NOTES: A Review of Ransom Road RV Park


June 16

Ransom Road RV Park

After we left Hill Country RV Resort, in New Braunfels, on Thursday, June 8, Jeff and I made the hour-and-a-half drive to the Texas coast. Although we had a rough idea of where we wanted to go and how long we wanted to stay before we even moved out of our Arlington townhouse, we wanted one of our first stops to be at Port Aransas, as that’s where my heart has been for years. Alas, since we were already into June — peak summer season — Jeff found out that many of the parks in “Port A” were full of vacationers wanting to stay there as late as July 4. Still, we wanted to stay in a location that was central to Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, and Rockport — our three favorite coastal spots — where we planned to take little day trips.

At last, as I listened in, Jeff found a vacancy at Ransom Road RV Park, in Aransas Pass. At first, I’ll admit that the idea of not being near the water didn’t thrill me. In fact, my past impression of Aransas Pass was just that of a town to whizz through on the way to Corpus Christi. While there was nothing necessarily bad about it, it just didn’t seem like anything special.

But as we pulled our rig into Ransom Road RV Park, we found it sparkling-clean and  peppered with palm trees. It gave me a whole new respect for what Aransas Pass had to offer.

According to a map of Ransom Road, the park offers both pull-through and back-in spaces for 122 RV of varying sizes, including Class A motorhomes, Airstreams, tear-drop travel trailers,  fifth-wheels like ours, and variations thereof. To better serve the residents of those RVs, there are two separate laundry rooms and bathrooms with showers and toilets for those times when, say, someone — here insert a pointed clearing of the throat –is occupying the one. single. bathroom. Park residents using those bathrooms can rest assured that they are secure, as each person needing to use the facilities has to punch in a code and press the “enter” button, from the outside. If there is someone inside a room, he or she can lock the door for added privacy.

The mailroom requires a different code from that of the laundry and bathrooms. Except for Sundays, mail usually, but not always, arrives around noon or later.

Then, there is The Captain’s Den, an activity room where residents can play board games, dominoes, or poker, shoot pool, borrow paperbacks or DVDs, or write. It even has a kitchen for any events involving the serving of food. Besides for the wide variety of games on the shelf, there are also paperback novels on one shelf and DVDs on another.  On July 4, there will even be a free barbeque for everyone living in the park.

Now, with all of these RVs around, someone might assume that a lot of visiting goes on among park dwellers. Well, yes and no. Yes because we “RV-types” do tend to be friendly and helpful, but no, because we also like our privacy. Many who live in this park and others like it actually live here and work nearby. When they straggle home, the last thing they feel like doing is making small talk for the sake of it. In other words, they — we — nod and say “Hi” while we are out walking our dogs or wave as we pass each other on the road, but we also respect each other’s privacy and space.

Space. Now that leads me to the next point: pets. Ransom Road has two dog runs with a covered can for disposing of “puppy poo”. Those of us, including Jeff and me, who have fur-babies, have formed the habit of grabbing a plastic bag when we walk our dogs.  Chances are, we’ll need it if we walk them very far. Since we have discovered that stores stock puppy “pee-pads”, only, we have had to improvise, as only one park provided plastic bags at its dog runs. Freezer-size bags are perfect for carrying out this “task” as they fit most hands perfectly, allowing us to turn the bags inside-out when we collect Russet’s “waste” and dump it in the allotted can.

We are now into our second week out of the month we reserved here. Other than the sketchy WiFi, which the management told us about, up front, we have been really happy here, so much so that we are toying with the idea of staying here for one  more month before we go further south, west, east, or north — wherever our rig takes us.

So, dear readers, if any of you have ever stayed in an RV park, what was one thing about it that you liked, or did not like? What did you expect from living there? Please feel free to share one of your experiences. I love hearing from you and reading your comments. Please scroll down to the Comments box below this post and share your thoughts.

And, in the meantime, keep your ears to the ground. Another adventure of the “Vintage Honeymooners” is coming to your favorite mode of digital technology soon. You just never know where we’ll turn up next.

 

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MY QUEST FOR FISH TACOS, PART 2: “Returning to our ‘Favorite Willie'”


Friday, June 16

Last Friday, I posted about a  seafood grill Jeff and I discovered: Redfish Willie’s Waterfront Grill. As if we thought our food could taste any more delicious than it already did,  the nice chefs there took our tastebuds above the clouds.

“Hey, y’all! Glad to see you, again!” said Jade, the ‘welcome host’ at the entrance.

“We told you we’d be back,” I said, hugging her. “And here we are.”

After Jade seated us at the same table as last time, she returned to her post, and Debbie took over, bringing our menus. She, also, had a hug for each of us.

“So, what kind of drinks can I bring you, this time?”

“Ummmm…I’ll have the same kind of beer I had last time,” Jeff said. “Whatever that was.”

“That would be the Redfish,” Debbie said, noting it on the order.

“And what can I bring  you, this time?” she asked me.

“A ‘Rum Runner’ sounds intriguing,” I said. “What’s in it?”

“Bacardi rum with different kinds of fruit juices. And it’s frozen.”

“And that peach drink?”

“Captain Morgan rum, peach schnapps, and fruit juice.”

Schnapps, I mused, remembering the Christmas Eve dinner in Sweden that I enjoyed with my son, Tam, and his family. We would be eating away on our reindeer and pickled herring when someone would pick up his or her glass and  break out in a drinking song, and we’d all down our schnapps at the end of the song. Schnapps, I reminded myself, tasted a whole lot like how I’d imagine varnish would taste. In fact, I had just “borrowed” Tam’s glass to hold up during the songs before putting it down, untouched.

Remembering my sketchy tolerance for rum and the mojito that, once upon a time, turned into a mo-heave-to in my stomach when I drank it too fast. But that happened when I chugged it on an empty stomach. This time, since I’d be sipping it along with a meal, I would be ‘golden’.

So I chose the Rum Runner, anyway. After all, it would be frozen, like a rum Slurpee, and contain fruit juice. Fruit’s good for me, right?

After Debbie brought out my Rum Runner and Jeff’s “Redfish,” an IPA beer made in Goliad, she took our food orders. Since the fish tacos had made such a hit, my order was a no-brainer:  tacos with blackened shrimp, red beans and rice, and one cup of mango sauce and a cup of remoulade, a sauce I hadn’t tasted since the mid-1950s when Mama and Daddy and I ate dinner at Corpus Christi’s Ship Ahoy Restaurant. Jeff ordered the entree portion of Harbor Salad which consisted of a mound of fresh, green lettuce leaves dolled up with cranberries and walnuts, and accompanied by a tantalizing slab of  savory redfish with lemon slices. After our filling dinner and two drinks apiece, we joked about riding a  buggy — the “beach” version of Uber — back to our RV before Jeff signed  our tab and Debbie brought me an iced tea to go.

According to a slogan on the souvenir beer koozies, Redfish Willie’s Waterfront Grill is  “coastal seafood at its finest.” We believe it is, too. We will certainly be back again and again…and again, because, as that koozie also says, our “favorite ‘Willie’ lives in Texas.”

So, esteemed readers, what favorite restaurant, cafe, or burger joint do youulike the food so much that you make an effort to return to, even if it’s out of your way? Please share it with us. We would like to go there and tell ’em you sent us. I love reading your comments. Please scroll down below this post and post them in the “Comments” box.

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the “Vintage Honeymooners'” next adventure  on a  laptop, desktop, tablet, or Smartphone nearest you.

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LIVING THE DREAM: RV Living from Both Angles


June 10, 2017

Ransom Road RV Park

Aransas Pass, TX

Just recently, a friend of ours who has admitted to living vicariously through my posts, told me, “You’re truly living the dream.”

And we are. Since the day Jeff and I got married, we began to plan how we wanted to share the rest of our lives with each other. It started when I retired, took a tricky U-turn when I broke my shoulder and had to hold on tight for eight weeks while Jeff and I finished our therapies. We put our house on the market, sold it to cash buyers after the third try, and bought our RV and a truck strong enough to tow it on the day after we closed on the sale of our house — May 25, 2017. Now, since our first night in our fifth-wheeler, we have been  RV dwellers; June 26 will make it a month. Even though my husband once lived by himself in a C & M RV/horse trailer when he sold Western-themed paintings, he and  I have learned that RV living is an ongoing lesson with joys and pitfalls. And, just like learning to ride a bike, you have to fall down a few times, first, before you get it right. Although we love our cozy home-on-wheels, we’ll be the first to share five differences we have noticed between our brick-and-stick home and our RV.

  • First, the walls in our RV  do not easily allow us to hang  pictures.  Precious  photos of grandparents and parents, children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins once, twice, or never removed, and pets would meet their “Waterloo” when the same sliders that graciously expand the living room, kitchen, or bedroom  retract before our fifth-wheel is ready to roll.  Just imagine the horror for yourself: -arriving at your new destination, tumbling out of your vehicle and climbing into the RV only to find  that a slider has crushed the photo of your dear Aunt Maudie like a discarded Coke can. Now, if you still feel — like I did — that you really must see your family’s faces, every. single. day, you can scan their  photos onto your iPad or tablet and  watch those pictures in a random, continuous loop. But if you can wait until you do have room for them, you can store them in a climate-controlled facility for a monthly fee.

*   Second, RV toilet paper is different from the standard kind you would use in a brick-and-mortar home. It is biodegradable paper that quickly dissolves. You can find this kind of  paper in two-roll or four-roll packs in camper-supply stores such as  Camping World for a slightly higher price but you will find it cheaper at  Wal-Mart.

*  Third, RV showers are radically different. Do you love to linger under the steam? I did, too, when we lived in our townhouse. But, when we moved into our fifth-wheel, I learned, the hard way, that hot water lasts only as long as it lasts, and that is not for long. About the time you wet yourself down with the handheld shower head, lather up, and then rinse,  the water turns cold. RV “veterans” will tell you about devices that keep your water  hotter for longer but, as with any other luxury, it’ll cost you. Sometimes the best way to enjoy complimentary hot showers is to use the ones at your RV park.

  • Fourth is limited space. When we bought our 34-foot fifth-wheel, we were agog at the amount of storage. Cabinets, pantries, closets, and drawers gave us the feeling that we had space to spare until we moved in and tried to store  both our trusty coffeemaker and the cut, red Keurig I had bought for my upstairs writer’s cave, several years ago. When push came to shove, one got banished to a remote cabinet above the microwave. Three guesses which one won the honorary spot beside the stove. Yep, you guessed it: the coffeemaker. And while we’re talking space, the freezer in our refrigerator provides space for one half-gallon of Bluebell ice cream.  Dr. Pepper mini cans.  A quart, rather than a gallon, of milk. Shoot, come to think of it,  our fridge could be  the best diet aid ever.

* Fifth is expense. While you do not have expenses such as  property tax, water and electric bills, and neighborhood association (HOA) dues unless you buy a lot,  you are still responsible for your own phone bill, gas, groceries, and maintenance of your RV.

Now that I’ve pointed to the underbelly of RV living,, I will stress the exciting part: being able to claim “Everywhere, USA” as our hometown.  A popular tee-shirt slogan I saw at Camper’s World said, “Home is Where You Park It.” Jeff and I are enjoying quite an adventure. After spending the first week in Arlington, just down the street from our former house, we traveled to New Braunfels and are now on the Texas Gulf Coast. From there, who knows? El Paso, Texas? Phoenix, Arizona? San Diego, California? The fun is making it up as we go along.

I’m sure there will always be those little hiccups in RV life. I’ve listed are only five of them. Now, the ball is in your “court”, dear readers. Have you ever stayed in a recreational vehicle on vacation or for life? What was the biggest drawback you discovered? And what did you like most about it? Speak up, for your wisdom and insight could help someone else “live the dream”.

I love receiving comments from you! Please scroll down below this post and leave your comments in the box provided. And stay tuned for our next excellent adventure wherever that may be. You just never know where we “vintage honeymooners” will turn up, next.

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MY QUEST FOR FISH TACOS: Redfish Willie’s To The Rescue


June 8

Aransas Pass

I’ve looked forward to this part of our most excellent journey for two weeks. We are now on the coast — my most favorite place on earth to visit. And, since we’re here, my mouth is screaming for  fish tacos. But as we cruise the town for the “restaurant most likely”, the only ones our naked eyes can see are McDonalds, Dairy Queen, Wing Stop, and quite a few Mexican restaurants, none of which I would trust with my specialized craving.

So, here’s the point at which I whip out my trusty phone and Google “Restaurants in Aransas Pass”. Just as I thought, as Google’s list unfurled, until I see a place called Redfish Willie’s Waterfront Grill, located on the marina.

“Betcha they would have fish tacos,” I tell Jeff. “And the marina is easy to find. It would be the place with boats in the water.”

“Okay. Where is it?”

Just finding the place makes us giggle, as we make one wrong turn after the other.

“Great. Reckon it’s even still there? Reckon Google’s playing a trick on us?” I muse out loud.

“Or it’s now a bar full of big ol’ ugly dudes I’d have to whup,” Jeff quips.

With my iPhone in his left hand and the steering wheel in the right, Jeff turns this way and that until we finally arrive at the marina and an expanse of cement.

“Um…reckon this is a road?”

“Try it and see. What do we have to lose?”

So we follow the  cement “road” to a boat storage building. It seems to stop right there until we press onward out of sheer curiosity and — voila! — find that Google really was telling us the truth. There, before us, stands an indoor/outdoor restaurant and a sign saying “Redfish Wilie’s”. Also true, the restaurant is most certainly located on a waterfront.

“Welcome to Redfish Willie’s,” says a cheerful brunette who introduces herself as Jade. “Would you like to sit inside or out?”

Jeff and I look at each other. “In there,” I answer.

As she directs us to a table, a friendly server named Debbie greets us and hands us a menu.

“What can I bring y’all out to drink?”

“I’ll have a beer,” Jeff says.

“And I’ll try a Bloody Mary,” I add, feeling adventurous.

As we study simple black-and-white paper menus, I point out to Jeff that, Redfish Willie’s does indeed offer tacos made with either fish or shrimp. After Debbie tells us that the “house” fish is redfish, I order my tacos with blackened redfish; Jeff orders a basket of fried  shrimp and fish.

After we have been sipping our drinks for awhile, Debbie presents our food. Seeing three soft, corn tortilla tacos heaped with blackened fish and cilantro with a mango garnish, I spoon the mixture onto the first taco, bite into it, and close my eyes, as I savor the combination of flavors: sweet mango, piquant cilantro , and smoky seasoning that instantly sends me to my “happy place”.

While we dine,  I  watch the people and take in the sights and the feel of the place. Red, yellow, and blue “Rock the Dock”  tee-shirts hang outside the bar. Couples lean back, swirl their wine glasses, and relax. Families who appear to be on vacation sit back and enjoy their children. For the most part, no one is dressed up. Shorts, tee-shirts, and flip-flops appear to be the unofficial mode of dress.

As we pop the last bites of shrimp or fish into our mouths, crumple our napkins, and push back our plates, Debbie comes around to tell us about the new pastry chef. The one who makes outstanding asparagus soup. One and the same one who concocts to-die-for almond tarts and Oreo pie.

“Have you two saved room for dessert?”

At first, we say no. At first. Then, our resolve weakens. We trade grins that we know mean “Here we go…again!”

“Hey, babe, how  about sharing something? Then we would get only half as fat.”

As Debbie promised, the small pie with its creamy chocolate center, slivered almond top, and mini-scoops of ice cream with chocolate syrup is perfect, in size and substance.

After paying the bill and giving both Debbie and Jade my business card and the address to KimTerrysBlog, we thank both women. Jeff snaps off a picture of Jade, Debbie, and me before we leave with full tummies and satisfied minds.

We plan to return to Redfish Willie’s, soon. That’s a fact. We’re already planning what we’ll order next time. But more important is that  I want to share this marina restaurant with you.

What and where was the last restaurant you discovered? Jeff and I would love to try it ourselves and, I’m sure, so would other readers. I love reading your comments. Please post them immediately below this post by scrolling down to the “Comments” box.

Stay tuned for our next adventure. There’s just no telling what we two crazy “vintage honeymooners” will get into next.

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN: “Winding toward Wimberley on the Square”


June 6

Wimberley on the Square

I’ve wanted to explore Wimberley  and its shops since I heard about it, three years ago. As a hard-core shopper, I had yearned to see and experience it to its fullest.  At last, since we were in the general vicinity of it, Jeff and I day-tripped over there on June 6.  True to its reputation, Wimberley on the Square offered far more than I expected.

For any of you who want to scope out this picturesque shopping mecca, it is nestled in the hills on Ranch Road 12, near Dripping Springs. This little town holds something for everyone who loves one-of-a-kind clothing, accessories, toys, or home furnishings, or for anyone drawn to boutiques or restaurants. In fact, the only “disappointment” was that we got there later and has less time to spend, that afternoon, than we had hoped.

First on the docket was The Old Mill Store, which offered a cornucopia of souvenirs, toys, and boutique items. I found a mint-green tee-shirt emblazoned with “Ranch Road 12 — Wimberley, Texas” on the front and back. So, I snatched it up, thankful I hadn’t squandered the money on a shirt, somewhere else.

Yes, the store had tee-shirts, short-sleeve and long, in every size and color. As if a rainbow of teeshirts in a wide range of sizes weren’t enough, we found vats of Blue Bell Ice Cream in at least eight different flavors in a case at the back of the store.

Blue Bell. Whoa. Time for a break, already. Our double-scoop cups piled high with strawberry ice cream (for Jeff) and Triple Chocolate  with Cookies and Cream (for me) deserved our full attention while we savored  every creamy spoonful we poked into our waiting mouths.

But, sad to say, all tasty things eventually come to an end. Gathering up our napkins, spoons, and cups, we dumped them into the trash and explored the rest of the store where the merchandise got pricier toward the back. Handcrafted handbags, imported gold and silver jewelry, “statement” pieces for the home, and handcrafted toys were only some of what we saw. One toy that fascinated me was a hand-carved kaleidoscope that held me spellbound with its endless variations of colors and patterns.

The next store I took in, while Jeff took a business call, was one called The Gypsy Market specializing in Bohemian fashion including long skirts, scarves, bags, and jewelry that you just will not find in mainstream stores. I purchased a “Broken Stones” ring. The single multi-colored stone was actually made up of several broken and pieced back together in a whole new creation set in Peruvian silver.

By the time I left The Gypsy Market, store owners were beginning to lock up for the day. I had time for only one more shop, so I breezed into the Queen Bee where I found Chala and Montana West handbags, a long teal scarf in a yellow peacock pattern,  Kenny Ma jewelry, and an assortment of dips and salsas all made in Texas.

Hadt, we  these and other gracious merchants been willing to stay open at least one or two more hours, I’d have been glad to relieve them of a few pieces of inventory so they wouldn’t have to keep track of them. Yes, I’m that kind of “giver”.  Alas, we had a newly-shorn dog back “home” and growling stomachs, to boot. Jeff had promised that, before we left New Braunfels, we would have some German food, so we stopped at Friesenhaus.

Now, as we batten the hatches on our RV and prepare to drive down to the Texas gulf coast, we have only to remember the time we spent with family and the sights we saw in New Braunfels, Gruene, Wimberley, Landa Park, and many other attractions. Although we couldn’t see it all, especially the Snake Farm Zoo on Interstate 35, What we didn’t see this time around will definitely be a sight worth returning for in the future.

Do you like to travel? What is one of your favorite towns to explore? What is it about that town that keeps you returning for more? Let us know! Jeff and I are always up for a  road trip to a town we haven’t been to.

Enjoy this post? Please let me know by scrolling down and leaving a comment in the box below. I love hearing from you!  Up next, at the device handiest to you, my post about our sojourn down to the Texas coastal towns of Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, Rockport, and Corpus Christi. Stay tuned for the next adventures of Jeff and  Kim, the vagabond “Vintage Newlyweds”.

 

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Going Gruene or Going Home


June 5

Gruene, Texas

When a late-afternoon rain shower and too many other stops along the way  cut into our plans to wander into Wimberly, we decided to go to the Gruene Historical District. It’s not as if we hadn’t been there, already, as Jeff grew up in New Braunfels, and I had visited both areas with my parents and Jeff, so I thought I already knew all there was to know about the community until I picked up the 2016-2017 edition of The New Braunfelser, a local tourist magazine about the City of New Braunfels and its tourist sights.

According to the “History of Gruene” blurb,  the  community was named after a German immigrant named Ernst Gruene who, along with his wife and sons, arrived at the recently-established  New Braunfels in 1845 where they discovered that prime acreage had already grown scarce. Then, just across the  Guadalupe River, they chose to buy nearby river frontage, and thus founded Gruene.

Who would have thought, more than a hundred years later, that such a settlement would become a trendy tourist sight for eating,, shopping, listening to country music, and dancing? Most likely, not Ernst Gruene.

Our first stop, as we ducked and dodged raindrops, was The Grapevine, a winery that offered samples and served  glasses and bottles of wine and beer. There, we relaxed over a glass of blackberry wine  and a bottle of imported beer that, according to its description, left notes of coffee and chocolate on the taster’s palate.

Rendered euphoric by our libations, we strolled the shops, purchased picture postcards for family members, and browsed a rainbow of Gruene tee-shirts which, even on clearance, cost more than we wanted to pay. As we left the store, Jeff paused as he looked across the street.

“So, now what?” I asked, recognizing that gleam in his eyes.

“We can eat something here or go home,” Jeff said. “What would you rather do, next?”

“We could eat at The Grist Mill, again.”

“‘Spose we could,  but don’t  you want to try something new?” he asked.

I linked my arm through his. “Y’know? You’re right. Lead the way,”

So we walked back to our pickup and headed on down the street to street to Adobe Verde, a Tex-Mex restaurant. Since “Mexican” is my go-to eat-out food, I let Jeff lead me to the brightly-colored building with the green tin roof. Our server, whom I’ll call “Casey”, was quick to take our drink orders and give us a few minutes to study the menu as well as offer helpful suggestions about our drink and entree orders.

After studying the menu, I chose one of my favorite Mexican dishes, a Chili Relleno stuffed with ground beef and smothered with a tangy ranchera sauce, rice, and borracho beans, and garnished with lettuce and tomato, pico de gallo, and  a dollop of guacamole.  Jeff chose Pollo Arroyo, a plump chicken breast smothered with spinach and cream sauce with the same sides and garnishes. He ordered Shiner Bock beer and I had a Black Barrel margarita with a splash of Midori (a melon-flavored liqueur), salt on the rim, and a wedge of lime. The chips were crisp and held their own underneath the salsa that delivered that perfect amount of heat.

As we got up from the table, Jeff left our  cards for our server along with our debit card. We were stuffed senseless and wished for a wheelbarrow valet to roll us out to our truck. As we drove home to our RV, Jeff and I agreed to take in Wimberly, the next day.

So, have you explored Gruene, yet? If no, what are you waiting for? If so, please share the name of your  favorite store or restaurant and what they are known for,

I always love hearing from you. Please scroll down to the  “comments” box below this blog and leave yours.

On its way to an iPad or tablet, Smartphone or iPhone,  Mac or PC near you is the next  post about  our jaunt to Wimberly. Stay tuned  because you just never know where we  crazy “Vintage Honeymooners” will turn up  next!

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“THE CUSTOMERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT”: Or Are They?


Hill Country RV Park

Sunday, June 4

What a difference a soft, cleansing morning rain can make! With a rested body and renewed mind, I am revising the draft of a blog post that teetered on the edge of being a “downer”, after some negative stuff that happened, yesterday.  But, as I said, that was yesterday. Today is today. Now,  as I watch raindrops bead the outside of our kitchen window while I sip “cuppa” number-two in our air-conditioned RV, I’m in a much more positive frame of mind.

Friday presented us with a mixed bag of negatives and positives. The positives,  a  visit with Jeff’s son and family and, most important, our waking up to each other. The negatives were that our truck, that we expected to be ready by Saturday around three p.m., would not be ready until Monday around noon. In the meantime, we had clothes to wash, cards to mail, groceries to buy. We needed “wheels”. But, when Jeff called about renting a car,  the phone rep  gave him grief for  calling  at the end of the day.Not letting my husband get in a word edgewise, this rep put him on  hold, told him that it would  take an hour to fill out the paperwork, paid little to no attention to our situation. Jeff’s calls got dropped multiple times, putting him through needless cycles of automated button-crunching.

Hold on a minute, I thought, as I heard my husband become more and more agitated. What happened to  “the customer is always right”?

In the past, anyone who worked with the public had the axiom drilled into their heads. Now, it seemed to have become a thing of the past. For example, yesterday, employees in three places we went showed us, beyond a doubt, that they had never heard of that principle.

First, you need to know that New Braunfels is Jeff’s hometown. We love seeing its sights, soaking up its centuries-old German heritage, and exploring nearby Gruene. We had  groceries and RV supplies to buy, but we still expected  to have fun, as always. But even otherwise good places have stupid people who do or say stupid things. Things that make us wonder: “Isn’t the customer still always right?”

First on Saturday’s list of errands was Wal-Mart. I realized, long ago, that no matter where it was located, Wal-Mart is still WAL-MART.  Stuff happens there that causes reasonable people to scratch their heads. On top of that, it was a Saturday when weird people act even weirder.  We had made a beeline to the RV section to get doodads and gizmos that would make our vagabond lives as simple and easy as they could possibly be. After tossing this and that off the shelves and into our basket, we were leaving that section of the store when I remembered some clothing I needed.

“Hey, babe,” I said,  “I think I’ll go check out their shorts and capris. Maybe even look for a spare bra.”

“Okay,” said Jeff. “Go ‘head on. I need to find some shorts, too. I’ll come find you.”

So, off I skedaddled to Ladies’ Apparel and slowed down when I saw a rack of navy, electric blue, fuchsia, and khaki shorts and capri pants in various sizes. They looked like they might be comfortable, but I needed to try them on, first. But when I got close to the fitting room, I found a long line. A long, long line. To make matters worse, as I waited my turn, I  realized an urgent need to hurry off to the restroom, but when I found it, I saw that a man — a man! — about to clean the restroom. In fact, his cart was blocking the door.

Okay, Kim, I thought.  You can do this. Just pay for these items, first, and try them on when you get back to the RV. Whatever doesn’t fit, you can always bring it back with the receipt.

But when I unzipped my purse and looked for my debit card, I remembered that Jeff still had it. Now,  I really, REALLY had to “go”. Querulous as a  two-year-old lost in a mall, I pecked out a quick “Hey, babe, where R U?”

After a couple of seconds, I checked my phone.

“Come to the fitting room,”Jeff had replied.

So I did and, boy, did I ever tattle on that man cleaning the bathroom.

“Tell him you have to go. Make HIM leave.” Jeff said.

So off I marched up front to the women’s restroom and spoke in my bossiest voice.

“Hel-loooo. I really have to go. NOW.  I’ll leave a puddle if you don’t let me in.”

“Use the other restroom,” he barked.

So off to the back side of the store I trotted with steam spewing out of my ears. When I finished, I wandered up one aisle and down another until I found Jeff waiting near the dressing room. Getting the attention of “Fitting-Room Lady”, he told her that he needed to go in with me because I’d had shoulder surgery and still needed  help dressing.

Surrounded by watchful eyes, the lady shook her head, at first, until Jeff  reasoned with  her. So, a few turns later, she  motioned both of us into a dressing room where, with my husband’s help, I tried on and cast off the shorts that did not fit right, but a bra that fit as though it had saved itself just for me.

After the Wal-Mart ordeal, we swung into  McDonald’s for two  grilled-chicken snack-wraps and “senior” iced teas. They were the same snack wraps that we’ve had at countless other McDonalds, everywhere, for the past three years  and the same Jeff had ALWAYS been able to find, no matter the location.

But not today. And not at this location. The  young lady at the counter stared at us with  open-mouthed stupefaction as if she had witnessed an alien de-boarding a UFO in the parking lot.

Snack-wraps? Um…we don’t have those, sir.”

Jeff flashed his famous grin. The one that could charm me into eating worms.

“Come on. Of course, y’all do. I’ve had them at every McDonalds,” he protested.

“Whadda they want?”  a co-worker asked.

“Snack wraps,” she said, with a shrug that seemed to say “Imagine that!”

“Don’t have ’em,” he growled.

“We have sausage  burritos,” she offered, hope glistening in her dark brown eyes.

“Sorry,” said Jeff, sliding the debit card back into his wallet.  “Not gonna happen. Gotta have snack wraps.”

The scenario we had just witnessed reminded me of a scene from a movie where the waitress had told a customer that the toasted BLT she ordered was impossible to make until the customer reminded her that, since the restaurant served burgers and breakfast, they were bound to have bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes. And if they had some kind of toaster? Well, there you have it.

As we wandered out to the car, I remembered my experience waiting on customers. No matter how crazy the order was, our manager helped us find a workaround that would benefit the customer.

“They did so have snack wraps. They had chicken, and soft tortillas. We were the customers, darn it. They could have come up with something had they wanted our money, badly enough.”

The weirdness didn’t stop there. When we left the Arby’s with our tummies full at last, we stopped at a camping-goods store for the supplies we didn’t find at Wal-Mart but nearly wilted in the heat before it was all over.

“Man, it’s hot! I feel like just walkin’ outta here,” Jeff said.

“Yeah,  I know, I’m going to the front to ask them to turn up the A/C,” I said, turning on my heel.

But after I told someone up front that we were going to leave unless they cranked up the air, a manager who looked younger than my sons were handed me some half-baked excuse.

” Ma’am, I can understand you’re hot, but it is, after all, a hot day out there.”

“Hold it right there,” I spat, as my ire gathered steam. .”I don’t want your excuses. My husband and I are so hot in your store that we’re about to leave without buying anything.”

But, as we continued to shop, the temp did not change. In fact, it grew hotter.

At the register, the cashier admitted that he got docked if he dared to monkey with the thermostat — even at a customer’s request. And, since that day, several other McDonalds employees have told us that they stopped carrying the snack wraps we love. And when I posted about the restroom incident on Facebook, many of my friends agreed that times were changing, and that hiring a  man to clean the women’s restroom was a new normal.  Times had indeed changed. We could choose to crumble  or cope.

No longer is the customer always “right”, because the word, as we know it, no longer seems to exist.

Or does it? Has “right” been redefined in a way we don’t recognize it, anymore?

I love to hearing from you and receiving your comments. Please leave them in the “comments” section following this post.

Coming to a tablet, iPad, Mac, or iPhone near you, more travel adventures from the ” Vintage Honeymooners”.

Stay tuned!

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A NEW START: On the Road to New Braunfels…Eventually


6-2-17

Hill Country RV Park

New Braunfels, Tx

Before driving our pre-owned RV and pickup off the lot, last Wednesday, we had agreed to stay local for the first week. So, from May 25-June 1, we hung out at Treetops RV Village in Arlington, Texas, in case we discovered any kinks in either one. Both RV and vehicle behaved like model children who knew their parents were watching.

The week flew by, with Jeff and me learning our home’s whims and little ways. Almost every night, we blazed a trail to our storage facility where we dug out boxes of items we had hoped to use — such as the toaster oven and the standard toaster — only to realize they hogged our kitchen’s counter space. So, back to the facility they went, to be unearthed if we upgraded to a bigger RV.  But most important of all, we reduced the rubble from F5 status to at least F2 — F1 on a good day. We were finally ready to venture out.

Yesterday, June 1, we awoke with every nerve pinging. We were all dressed in our traveling clothes and caps and had already connected the RV to that doohickey that holds it in place in the truck bed when we discovered one of our three slides was stuck. Seeing our distress, Treetops employees Jim and Franny putt-putted over in their little golf buggies to assist us. Together, the three of them pushed, prodded, and flipped the switch that retracts or expands all three slides, one by one.Only  until Jeff called  Jeter, the Fun Town employee who led us through the walk-through before we left the lot, was he able to solve the mystery: a tiny, black reset button located near the battery. Once he mashed that button, the slide slid.

After we drove away from Treetops, we veered west on Interstate 20, and then south on Interstate 35. Jeff and I were close to Alvarado when it dawned on us that the A/C that had been turning my knees into knee-sicles, a week ago, was by no stretch of imagination, blowing  cool air,

As soon as we could find a gas station, we stopped to buy cans of Dr. Pepper, let me find a restroom, and Russet, a patch of grass. Jeff called his son, John, to ask him who he knew on his end who could fix our A/C. At the time, we thought it was a matter of stopping at a  Ford dealership. After calling the name of the person John gave, Jeff arranged to leave  the truck at an automotive shop, the next morning. Toward the end of the afternoon, the breeze grew cooler, reminding us of why God gave us windows.

When we pulled into our pull-through site at Hill Country RV Park, wind-blown and sunburned, we had just enough time to unhook, expand the slides, and brush our teeth before rushing off to watch one of Jeff’s grandsons play basketball. By the time we got home from one and a half games and stopped at Taco Cabana, we fell comatose quicker than you can say “fajita bowl”.

Yes, we were two pooped puppies. So, when Jeff told me that Russet and I should stay in bed and rest, this morning, I didn’t argue with Jeff.

“I’m going to go over there, drop off the truck, and be back. You rest, babe,” he said, before giving me a good-bye peck before he left for Landa Tire and Automotive. After he returned, we waited word from the “other” Jeff at Landa.

As I’m writing this post, we  have found out that our vehicle will not be ready until Monday, around noon. So we have a choice of putting our son and daughter-in-law out or renting a car to get around in the meantime. Something tells me we’ll choose Door Number Two.

So, once again, Life has been eavesdropping. We’re not only in Jeff’s hometown but, also, one of the prime summer vacation hotspots in Texas. Oh, well. We still have the next six days to see as many of the sights as we can see. Hey, with any luck, we just might get to see at least one or two of them.

Coming soon at your friendly neighborhood PC, iPad, smart phone, or tablet near you: a running account of our adventures in New Braunfels, as soon as we get our wheels back.

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From the ‘Treetops’: Getting Ready to Roll


5-30-17

Well, here we go, ready to hit the road…almost. On Thursday, May 25, as soon as the money for the house hit the bank, Jeff and I headed in to A & L Imports in Colleyville to pick up our Ford F-350 that our sales rep, David Pickle, had been holding for us. Once we paid for it and drove off the lot, we headed down south to Fun Town RV  in Cleburne, where we hauled off our fifth-wheel RV,  a 2011 Wildcat, after going through the required walk-through session intended to orient us to it.  Hours later than we expected, we were, at last, towing our newly-purchased home-on-wheels behind our equally newly-purchased pickup. With our wheels and our RV, we were all ready to hit the road, the next day, right?

Whoa. Not so fast! As we had discussed on the week before we moved, we were going to stay in a local RV park while we put things away, oriented ourselves to living in an RV, and allowed Jeff to keep his doctor’s appointment. Most importantly, we had to move out of our stick-and-brick home that I moved into in September 2006. Although the new owners had specified that we vacate the house by six p.m on Friday, May 26, they had never laid eyes on us, so they had no way of knowing that expecting us, “vintage youngsters” to move that fast by that date might be asking a lot. As a friend had said he wanted some of the items we were going to sell, he came over to buy them and help us get out of there. Everywhere I looked, every drawer and closet I opened, we had something we needed to move, leaving even more convinced that it’s much harder to move out than it is to move in. As it happened, we were not out of there until we had moved three loads. Before they started moving Load #3, I knew my back would not let me move so much as a pencil, so I agreed to hang with our dog, Russet, amid piles of clothing on hangers, dishes and glassware in boxes, and miscellany in bags, at our space at Treetops RV Village, in Arlington. Although surrounded by schtuff and junk, Russet and I hung tight until after midnight, when. Jeff and I began to text each other about his estimated time of arrival, or ETA. At around two a.m., I received the text I’d been waiting for: that he was on his way with a sack of burgers from Denny’s Restaurant, the only place open at that wee hour.

Since the day we took up residence here, after pulling box after box out of storage, we discovered that some items we had looked forward to around would not work within our limited space.  Our china could break. We lacked counter space for both our coffeemaker and my beloved Keurig. And the many pictures that had hung on the wall along the staircase of our previous home would be destroyed in the living area once the sliders moved in. Knowing that we might upgrade to an RV with more space, we socked these things back into storage until we had the space for them.

About two days later, we had problems finding the switch for the water heater and discovered other glitches that needed fixing before we would feel comfortable heading out.  Today, even more glitches presented themselves, but Jeff assures me we’ll be ready to roll out of here on Thursday, June 1.

Even though we had envisioned ourselves immediately rolling out of here on the day after we closed on our house, we can’t help feel relieved that we took our time to become acclimated to our RV and put away whatever could weigh us down.

So, on Thursday, June 1, we’re set to roll on south to New Braunfels. See my post titled “Shhhh…Your Life is Listening”, as I’ve learned that plans, however certain we would like them to be, are written in sand.

So, readers, who among you has lived or traveled with an RV of any kind? What lessons did living in it teach you? Please leave them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.  Stay tuned for our next RV adventure tale, coming soon to a desktop, laptop, or tablet near you.

THE REALTOR COMETH, Part 1: Ten Cool Places to Skedaddle Off To When You Need to Lolligag


May 5, 2017

And here we go. Again! Our house sale fell through, two days ago, but already two realtors have prospective buyers.  Since they don’t like for us sellers to be in the house when they arrive, lest we “share” information that could kill the sale in cold blood,  my husband and I have to skedaddle off to someplace where we can rattle around for half an hour or more. Now, that is a slam-dunk if we have to go to the store or run errands, anyway. But what about those times when we just need to find a place to lolligag?

To follow are ten cool places you can find wherever you live, depending on how much money you can afford to blow:

1. Movie theaters (good for at least two hours and, if you’re lucky, they include refillable popcorn tubs)

2. Restaurants (can be loosely defined to include In-n-Out, McDonalds, or even a hot-dog-and-drink special at Costco)

3.  Shopping or Antique malls where nostalgia abounds. We like those with “husband” chairs

4.  Museums (local, state, national, or International, especially if you have the limitless resources of President Trump)

5. Hardware stores that stock doo-hickeys and gizmos galore

6. Sporting goods stores (where you can stock up on “Red Fox Urine” to scare squirrels out of your chimney)

7. Beauty salons or spas (for hair, nails, or foot or back massages). Naps optional.

8.  Zoos and amusement parks (if you are like us and never got the hang of “adulting”)

9. Office supply stores: (Where you can tinker with the latest laptops)

10. Libraries and book stores (Tread carefully in these places have caused uncontrollable bouts of reading and escapism)

Well, now that I have shared a few of our favorites when we have to dilly-dally, what are yours? Leave one of your favorite “lolligagging” places in the comments section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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THE REALTOR COMETH, Part 2: Stuff Potential Buyers Do Not Need to Hear, See, Smell, or Touch


May 4, 2017

Okay, here we go, again. For about the fourth time, our house is on the market (*although two of those times lasted only a few hours). After we let our realtor  list it on MLS (Multiple Listing Service), Jeff and I get the call that not one, but two realtors(at back-to-back times) want to show the house. Before we take off, we make a quick sweep of the house for anything that we do not want those realtors and our potential buyers to see, hear, smell, or touch.

** Trigger-warning: I am a mystery/suspense writer. Hence, heinous humor ahead. **

 NOISES

A. “SOS.”: (i.e. dripping faucets, running toilets, barking dogs or yowling cats; screaming and/or moaning not incited by * sexual pleasure and, if such is the case, see TMI, below)

B. ” TMI” (i.e. squeaking bedsprings, moans of ecstasy, cries of passion, answering machine messages from a debt collector, someone claiming she is the mother of your love child, your parole officer)

SIGHTS

* poop (pets, vermin, human, etc.)

* bodily fluids (urine, blood — need I elaborate? Eeew.)

* drug paraphernalia or “marital aids” (Must I draw you pictures?)

* dust (i.e. from the air, home repairs, dead skin from the last live sacrifice, etc.)

* skeletons of in-laws

SMELLS

* food (i.e. onions, garlic, pizza)

* rotting garbage (be it from food, diapers, body parts, etc.)

* poop (see also “Sights”, above)

* unwashed body parts (especially armpits or feet)

* decomposing carcasses of live sacrifices (especially after Halloween)

TEXTURES

* Sticky or slimy floors for whatever reason 

* Dust (see “Sights”, above)

Even one of the above visual, aural, olfactory, and tactile No-No’s can be a game-changer in itself. Can you think of others? If so, feel free to insert one in your comments below.

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Living On Island Time: “Roughing It”


05-03-17

Since April 24, when a woman who bought most of our furniture a month ago, came along with her moving crew to collect it, my husband and I have been sleeping on a mattress in the middle of our living room floor as we wait for “closing” day on our house. At the present, the only furniture we have left are two matching end tables and a coffee table, a home-made stand with my daddy’s deejay logo on it below the t.v.; Jeff’s card table and desk, and two lawn chairs that belonged to my parents. Besides for a light in our ceiling fan and another light in the ceiling above the stairs, we still have a floor lamp and two Tiffany-style lamps to light up our space, if needed.

If we were twenty-some years old and getting by until our furniture arrrived in our first apartment, this scenario would be all cutesy and romantic, like a scene from the 1970s Love, American Style. People watching us would say “Awwww. Ain’t love purdy?” And we would spring off the mattress because our tummy muscles would be firm and taut and our  legs would support us. But we’re  youngsters encased in “vintage” bodies.

Back on April 1, when we had a garage/estate sale at our house, some nice folks relieved us of our table and chairs, a hutch, and two living room lamps. Up to April 24, we still had three couches (as in a loveseat, recliner, and full size couch that folded down into a queen-sized bed), our bedroom set, including night tables, box springs, headboard and footboard, dresser, two pictures on the wall, and a big-honkin’ computer armoire and ottoman in the office, even though the sister of a former broker paid cash for them, one Sunday afternoon, promising to pick them up close to the time we were due to move, around May 11.

Well, May 3 is here. Only eight more days until we go to “closing” on the house, providing the buyer’s mortgage company gets on the ball. Like runners, we crouch in the get-set position, toes on the line,  ready for take-off. We have our RV, the truck to tow it, and a rough idea of where we want to go once we pull away from the house I moved into over Labor Day weekend of 2006, almost eleven years ago.

Meanwhile, here we are sleeping on a mattress, every night. In front of the television  . With a fridge full of food and a washer and dryer to launder our clothing.

Come to think of it, what is a few days’ wait?

As Jeff was telling me, earlier today while I agonized over the stop-start pattern of this whole event, life is one big wait after another, but good stuff can happen if we hang in there and “rough it” a little bit longer.

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Surviving Triple Twisters in Canton


04-29-17

“First Monday” Trade Days in Canton, Texas.

We knew today would be the last time we would get to attend “First Monday” Trade Days in Canton, Texas. But little did we expect it to be, possibly, the last day of our lives when triple tornadoes flattened Canton, that afternoon.

Since we will soon leave the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Jeff and I got up early, this morning for the hour-and-a-half drive East. Although the Weather Channel had predicted thunderstorms, we didn’t expect them to be a problem, since we planned to spend most of our time inside the  Marketplace, on the hill.

After spending two to three hours in the building where we sampled  salsa, coffee, and wine coolers, visited with vendors, we bought our second Bionic Bands from our friend, Jackie Blalock  of Cross-b Sales who sold us our first bands, three years ago. Since we bought the bands, they have helped us “vintage youngsters” maintain our balance when, otherwise, the slightest little trip-up might have sent us straight to the floor. Other than  the time I tripped over the dog and went flying through the air on New Year’s Eve 2016, the bands have been well worth the expense.

Now with two of these bands, one on each arm, we were feeling pretty indestructible. We ventured out to the grounds where we found a turquoise RV mat. Wearing our bands, and dreaming of our plans, we felt invincible. That is, until rain pelted the roof overhead , forcing us to head back to the building where we were greeted by officials bearing sobering news: A tornado was coming.

“Y’all go the bathrooms, now!” they urged. .

“Go ‘head on, babe,” Jeff said. “I’ll stay with Jackie in his booth. We’ll be okay.”

Heeding  my husband’s advice, I made a beeline for the restroom where I crowded in with a gaggle of fifty-some women and girls all talking at once. At first, we were simply waiting out a storm, as instructed by a calm but vigilant woman in charge. In her hand, a cell phone showing  a weather map showing an area colored bright red.

“Everyone get away from the mirrors. Go back to the stalls, instead.”

Now, up to that moment, I had never been in a tornado, so I never knew how I would react until it actually happened. I was amazed at how calm I was able to stay, even though my heart was doing somersaults and backflips. Fixing my eyes on the bathroom tiles, I bowed my head and sent up a prayer before texting my husband and posting to friends about the event on Facebook.

You will get through this, Kim, I whispered to my frightened self. Hang tough, ol’ girl.

“The tornado has turned north!” someone suddenly announced.

I looked up to see women leaving the restroom.

So it’s over, already. This is good news, right?

“Thank you, Lord,” I breathed, as my pulse raced.

Only an hour earlier,  the same women had been strangers to each other hugs before we wandered out to be reunited with our husbands, only to be shooed back into the restroom long  when someone yelled, “Get back in there! Another tornado’s on the way!”

So back into the bathroom we bustled. Teenaged girls, blowing off steam, engaged in horseplay until they were sobered by our solemn faces. One woman quietly breastfed her baby from a chair in the corner. A white-haired woman riding a mobility cart, brought her little dog inside with her. Still, another woman held a tiny, recently-rescued kitten to her chest. Some standing on toilet seats and peered over the top of the stalls. Others who were limber enough sat on the floor. Children wept into their mothers’ laps. When the nursing  mother her got up from the chair, I plopped down in it to relieve my back that suddenly ached from trudging all over the grounds.

In an instant, the room went dark. Collective breaths caught as we listened for the characteristic “freight train” roar signalingtwister would soon bear down upon us.

“Hit the floor! Cover your heads!” someone yelled. Knowing that if I got down on the floor, it would take a crane to hoist me up, I bent over and covered my head my purse. Again, I prayed until I broke down and wept as a woman stroked my back and prayed  over me.

“We’re all going to be all right,” she whispered. In spite of the  terror in my heart, I nodded. I knew that, even at that moment, God was still  in control. We would indeed be safe.

“Are you here by yourself?” she asked.

“No,” I replied. “My husband is out there with our friend in his booth. But our car is out on the lot. I’m so afraid that –.”

About that time, someone walked in swinging a lantern that lit up even the darkest part of the bathroom. Meanwhile, the air grew really hot, muggy, and eerily still. We could have heard a proverbial pin drop.

Eventually, I began to hear that the second twister had shifted direction. Only for a third to follow close on its heels. I began to wonder when we would ever get to leave the building.

How long is this going to go on? Are we going to spend the night here? 

I thought of our little dog back home and whether the weather was as deadly in Arlington as it was where we were. There was nothing I could do about Russet, other than to trust she would be okay.

Not long after that,  I noticed that women began to filter out if the restroom. I got up to walk out to look for Jeff. Was I ever relieved to find him sitting in our friend’s booth. I ran out to him, buried my face in his chest, and cried from relief on his strong shoulders.

After we stayed with Jackie a little while longer, he began to shut down his booth for the night. After the three of us shook hands and excahnged one-armed hugs, Jeff and I wandered out to the parking lot where our car appeared none the worse for wear and headed straight home, as emergency vehicles whizzed toward the scene of destruction and drivers huddled underneath bridges to shield their cars from hail that sounded like cannonballs when it hit the windshield.

Around six-thirty p.m., as we were nearing Lancaster, the rain stopped and the skies began to clear up. Although we had considered grabbing a bite on down the road, we decided to grab a few groceries at WinCo and head home, instead, where we heated  some soup, held each other for a long, long time before falling fell asleep in each other’s arms.

On Sunday morning, as we rode to church, I looked down at my gleaming silver-and- gold Bionic Band. I couldn’t help laughing at our human tendency to place our trust in “stuff”. Up to about three o’clock or so, on the day before, Jeff and I had placed our trust in two pieces of metal on our wrists until three tornadoes in rapid succession bore down on the city of Canton and left it in shock after many of its people were injured or killed  and many businesses demolished.

After living through my first tornado, I realized, even more than before, that they are no respecters of persons or places. They don’t make sense in the people they randomly injure or kill or the property they wipe out.

Whoa, but neither do they make sense in the people and places they spare. Among them, folks like us who happened to wander into Canton for one last hurrah.

Bottom line: we survived. We are safe. And, once again, we realized that we are blessed.

So, dear readers, here’s the question I have for you: have you ever wound up in the middle of a dangerous situation?

Many thanks to the Storm Chasers for risking their lives to produce this YouTube video of the in Canton, Texas tornadoes.

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Living on Island Time? How a Plot Twist Helped Us Dream Up a New Future


4-26-17

Plot-twists. In writer-speak, they are like roller-coasters with their swerves, switchbacks, and slopes that writers place in protagonists’ paths to show their strength and ability to rise above the challenges presented by their antagonists.

As my husband and I have discovered, these twists, turns, and tunnels are not restricted to fiction. They happen every day in real life. Often mucking up beautifully laid out plans, they stimulate us to find work-arounds. Alternate ways of arriving at our goals.

And, sometimes, plot twists can even become blessings in disguise when they open our eyes to newer possibilities that we never stopped to consider.

On Tuesday morning, our lives took such a turn. While we were still sleeping, Jeff’s phone rang. It was our real-estate broker. As I watched Jeff’s face and eavesdropped on  his end of the conversation, I agonized.

No! This cannot be happening, Especially not since the  period is up when our buyer can back out.

When Jeff hung up, he explained everything to me. Our property had appraised at $10,000 lower than we thought, leaving us with less money  than we thought we would have at closing. Short of the buyer outright cancelling the sale and our having to start over, the news devastated me.  After all, we had plunked down money for a lot in Rockport where we planned to plop down a fifth wheel of about  thirty-eight to forty feet long.

I was depressed. Discombobulated. Even disconsolate until Jeff and I poured another mug of coffee and grabbed a couple of cookies, while we considered our options. The most obvious one was buying a smaller, less expensive RV. Another was looking for a smaller lot in the same park.

But when we called our contacts for the three dealerships we had been shopping — Larry at Rockport’s Camper Clinic, Terry in Kennedale Camper Sales, and Pete at FunTown RV in Cleburne, all of them told us that the lower-priced RVs we had been watching online had already been sold.

Forcing ourselves to dress and go do something — anything — while we kicked around other solutions, I remembered something Jeff had popped out with as we drove to church on Easter Sunday.

“Hey, babe, what if we didn’t get that lot down in Rockport. Instead, we get an RV and a one-ton pickup to tow it with. After we close on the house, we could hop into the RV and hit the road.”

Funny. I can remember my reaction, at the time.

“What? Are you crazy?  We’re already buying a lot!” I gasped.

Jeff laughed. “Yeah, yeah, I know. But think, for a minute. If we were not limited by that lot, we could go anywhere. Sure, we could still spend time on the Texas coast, but we’d also visit the coastline in other states. New England. The Pacific Northwest. And we could even venture out to Grand Canyon. Up to Alaska or Canada.  Think of it.”

“But shouldn’t we stick to our original plan?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Just give ‘er some thought, okay? Like if you could choose any place on the map, where would you want to go, first? This might be the only time we can do this. C’mon, what would you really like to do?”

“What do you want to do?”

We actually said it at the same time. “Travel.”

Jeff grinned. “Uh-huh. I was hoping you would say that, too. Just think — we can go anywhere we want to go. Take our time. If we find a place we would like to spend more time in, we can pull into a nice RV park and stay a couple days,  weeks, even a month, before heading onto somewhere else. You be thinking of the first place  you really want to see.”

With our new plan in mind, we returned to Kennedale where Terry showed us several smaller travel trailers. Some were pretty cute, but we needed to see what else there might be at a Cleburne lot called Fun Town RV.

“Let me show you what we just got in. In fact, it’s not even posted on our site, yet,” said Pete, as he led the way to an RV in another part of his lot. Well,  by then, I had fallen in love with the Wildwood, but when we climbed up into the Wildcat, a Forest River product, I  had the definite sense that I had  come home. The Wildcat had cabinets and storage galore throughout the trailer, two air-conditioning units, Surround Sound on the television, and plenty of room, even though it was about thirty-three feet long. What I liked was the brick trim that made the unit homey.  I could already imagine us calling this 2011 Wildcat “home”.  Thankfully, we had just deposited the money from the sale of our furniture and were due to receive our income-tax refund on the next day, so we were armed with a substantial bank balance and a couple of checks in my purse.

“Theoretically, what kind of deposit would you accept to hold this RV?”

“Aw, about two thousand,” said Pete.

“Would you take one thousand?”

“That’d do.”

I pulled Jeff off to the side. “Listen, babe, I really want us to have this RV. And while I still have the money to hold it. I don’t want this baby to slip through our fingers.”

After I finished, I gave him the “eyes” that I knew he would be powerless to resist.

“Okay,” said my husband. “Let’s do it.”

When we met up with Pete, he was all grins.

“Well, whaddya say? Are you folks ready to start the paperwork?”

“Yep, I believe so,” I said. “Let’s go.”

An hour or two later, Jeff and I left the dealership with the papers on the Wildcat. After about a week, “she” would be ready.  Soon to be the thankful occupants of a gently pre-owned fifth-wheel, we knew what the next step would have to be: finding a truck suitable for towing our love nest on wheels.

So, the plot thickens. Did we find a suitable truck? What kind did we get?

Tune in for the next installment of “Living on Island Time” coming soon. In the mean time, what has been the craziest idea you entertained about how to spend the rest of your life? Did you act on it? If so, how is it working out?

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‘April’ Love: How a Pregnant Giraffe Helped Me Get Ready to Move


April 18, 2017

Well, April the Giraffe has finally delivered her calf despite snide and stinging comments from naysayers and trolls lurking behind their laptop screens:

“She ain’t pregnant,” sneered some.

“That’s a male giraffe,” sniped others.

“Best April Fool’s joke ever,” scoffed one too many.

On the evening of the last Saturday of February, I became aware of the pregnant giraffe and the Harpursville, New York zoo called Animal Adventure Park. Earlier in the day, Jeff and I had returned from an afternoon of shopping for a fifth-wheel RV to move onto our lot.

The first thing I learned about April, the Giraffe, that night, was that her blessed event would not happen any too soon.  A giraffe’s average gestational period lasts around fifteen months — six months longer than a human pregnancy. (Did I just hear shrieking from a few women out there?). As April had mated  more than once, no one could pinpoint the exact date of conception. Still, every day and around the clock, people worldwide tuned in to watch the “live giraffe cam”. Having read the signs of impending labor, including the raised tail, spread legs and “crowning” hooves, we held our breaths every time April raised her tail and watched her for any sign of hooves.

When April didn’t “domino” during February or March, some irate viewers blamed the park, the caretakers, the vet, even April herself — anyone  who didn’t produce April’s calf according to their royal timetables.

“Do a C-section,” urged some.

“Give her Pitocin,”  demanded others.

Knowing it was all just a matter of waiting for God and Mother Nature, I leaned back in my recliner to wait for the delivery whenever it came to pass. While waiting stressed out many viewers, I found the event to be a refreshing break from fussing over our plans to move.

In early February, as April was growing her calf, Jeff and I returned from the coast to set  our moving plans into motion. We were set to close on our property down south during the second week in April. The first potential buyer surfaced but promptly cancelled in March.  So we started the process again, bringing in a different company to help us. As the process progressed, I couldn’t help observing that this house sale was exponentially different from the sale of my childhood home when when I was able to  move into my new home  — the one Jeff and are now selling — in September 2006 while a crew worked on updating and renovating my other home before my realtor sold it, only a few months later.

Since we found the property in February, the name of our ‘game’ has been “hurry up-and-wait”. Hurry and clean for the next showing. Wait for a buyer. Hurry and pack. Wait for closing. Many false starts, it has seemed. Much like waiting for April’s calf. The pace of the move might have been brutal if I had not been able to relax by watching a majestic giraffe with breathtaking  eyes deliver her calf. In fact, I fell asleep at night while watching April stroll around her pen, chew her cud, lick the walls and the camera with her long, black tongue; eight hours later, I tuned in, again, to catch the update on the giraffe cam.

Last Saturday, on April 15, around 8:00 a.m., I awoke to a long-awaited surprise: April, in active labor, starting with the hooves. After she waddled around at least thirty minutes after the hooves crowned, I saw the snout and, soon, the entire calf, encased in its amniotic sac, tumbled six feet to the ground along with a great gush of fluid. After a few heart-stopping minutes, the calf came lifted its head, tried its wobbly legs, flopping into walls and collapsing to the ground. Finally, with Mommy’s help, the little fellow managed to stand.

Now, in the month of April, not only has April the Giraffe delivered her calf and the little booger, bonded with Mommy and Daddy, Jeff and I now have a contract on our home and are packing  to leave during the second week in May. By this time, next month, we expect to wake up in our RV on the coast.

As I continue packing, I can’t help wondering which of the Park’s animals will get pregnant, next. Will it be the camel? The wolf? The zebra? The monkey? Who knows? For more information about the park, visit the site. The park is closed, for now, before it opens officially in a few weeks. For your information, the source for this photo is Animal Adventure Park.

So, who else waited along with me for April’s little bundle? What was the most fascinating fact or observation you took away from this event? I’d love to read your comments. Please scroll down and leave a comment in the allotted space. Coming up soon, the next installment of the “Living On Island Time” series: “‘Southbound and Down”.

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Living on Island Time: Making It Happen!


4-18-17

We’ve talked about moving down to the coast for years, at least since our first two years of being married. Alas, I had classes to teach, so we had to hold our dream at bay, one semester at a time. At last, on December 31, 2016, I joined the ranks of the retired. Although I had always dreamed of retiring in Port Aransas since my cousin lived there, its pricey real estate and crush of tourists cooled my ardor. Then when BeeGee passed away after nine years of full-on guerilla warfare against cancer, Jeff and I drove down for her Saturday memorial service.

After leaving our room at the Shark Reef Resort in Port Aransas on the day after her service, we lingered awhile in Rockport, a neighboring town only a ferry ride away. Since it was Sunday, we prowled around there to get a sense of the area. A quiet town, Rockport offers its own generous slice of coastal living. It is every bit as beachy as “Port A” but without traffic that can be hectic even in the off-season.

As we had to return to Arlington by Wednesday for rehab on my broken arm and shoulder, we knew this was, maybe, our only chance to explore the town to our hearts’ content so we gave ourselves over to it.

The first step was checking out a local RV dealer to see what he could show us. Unfortunately, the dealership was closed until Monday, but all was not lost. There were still other places to check out: the HEB supermarket, a bakery that served up pastries abd doubled as a cafe featuring home cooking, a mall hawking one-of-a-kind wares by local artisans, and a real-estate office.

Finding a house for sale in town, Jeff pulled into the driveway and called the number on the sign. A realtor named Nancy  answered the phone and gave us the address of the office.  After we visited with her and told her what we wanted, she sent us out to Rockport Oaks RV Park, an immaculately kept layout with cement driveways and manicured lawns. After checking it out and falling in love with what we saw, we drove back into town and brought her back out to the park where we met the couple selling a lot that even had its own little storage shed, which I immediately saw as a possible writing cave. We even met the neighbors. Later that evening, as the Sunday sun melted into the coastal horizon, Jeff and I were signing papers in Nancy’s office and putting down earnest money to hold the lot we had chosen.

As we drove away from her office, we were in shock.

“Hey, babe, did we really do that?” Jeff asked me. “Did we really and truly plunk down earnest money for that property?”

“Yep,” I answered, as we turned into the motel parking lot. “We sure enough did.”

“Amazing,” he said, as he got out of the car. “Be back in a few,” as he headed into the office.

Soon, as pre-dawn rays filtered through the curtains, we were up and at ’em and tracing our path back to the RV lot where a sales rep named Larry showed us several new models including the Salem Villa Classic, Salem Estate, and the Salem Hemisphere. Each of the new models inspired our imagination of the life we could live. After taking his card and a handful of full-color brochures about each model, we promised Larry we would  see him again, soon.

On down the road a piece (as we say in Texas), we stopped off in Seguin for brisket dinners at Bill Miller’s Barbeque and then at a tiny-home dealership where another rep promised to call us when a new shipment of tiny houses arrived.

Since our return from the coast, we have begun rounding up extra books, clothing, and other items we knew we would have no room for and toted them to Half-Price Books, Mission Arlington, and other worthy recipients.

For the past few days, men have arrived to help us get our house readt to put on the market. Carpentry. Painting. Plumbing. Whatever it took. They did it all. Early Saturday evening, after I awoke from a much-needed nap, I found a “For Sale By Owner” sign on our lawn.

Our dream was becoming a reality.

The next leg of our journey — closing on the lot we are purchasing with funds from the sale of our house — starts some time in the middle of May. RV life will prove quite a challenge, especially for an ol’ girl like me who loves her long, hot showers. Or for both Jeff and me who love our “schtuff”. Stay tuned for our next adventure in RV-land on your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Did you enjoy this post? Positive feedback means a lot to us bloggers.  If you liked reading this post, please scroll to the bottom of the page and hit “like” and share your comments and, possibly, your own experiences adjusting to RV living. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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I THINK I MAY, I THINK I MIGHT–Part 2: Have a Frozen “Marg” Tonight


Monday, 2-27-17

Campo Verde Mexican Restaurant

Arlington, TX

Jeff and I were on our way home from his EECP therapy at Legacy Heart Care in Fort Worth via a jog to Burleson to browse used fifth-wheel RVs when we started kicking around supper ideas: fixing the other half of the pork-venison sausage or warming up the chicken nuggets.

“Y’know, on second thought, I sure could go for some Mexican,” he said.

Call me easy, but Jeff had me at “Mexican”. With some major life plans in the works, we tried convincing each other that we really should watch our expenses. However, our resolve flew out the window at the thought of enchiladas. Yeah, beef enchiladas oozing with melty cheese and a frozen margarita.

I pointed to the time on the dashboard.

“Hey, it’s five-forty-five. We’re still in time for Happy Hour.”

With a nod, Jeff hung a hard left under the I-20 E overpass and turned onto Bowen Road. In minutes, we were pulling into the Campo Verde parking lot.

Besides for a good glass o’ red, I love  a frozen margarita or, as I like to call it, a “tequila slurpee”. I have yearned for a “frozen margarita with salt on the rim” since New Year’s Day when an ER doctor put me on heavy-duty painkillers after I showed up with a broken arm. Since  my brain was foggy from medicine, I’ve had to be satisfied with  Coke, iced tea,  or ice water.

Until now.

Well, that all ends tonight, I told self, as I — a ‘frequent flier’ at Campo Verde since 2006 — looked over a menu I already knew by heart.

While we grazed on Campo Verde’s irresistible chips, queso, and salsa, a server calling himself Jimmy took our food orders: chicken enchiladas for Jeff, and flautas for me. Then he asked us for our drink orders.

“I’ll take a Shiner Bock, if you have it,” said Jeff. Jimmy scribbled on his pad before turning to me.

“And for you, ma’am?”

I gave him a sidelong I-thought-you’d-never-ask wink.

“As a matter of fact, I would love a frozen margarita with salt on the rim, please. It’s my first, since I came off the meds.”

Okay, maybe that last part, classified as “too much information” or TMI, made him wonder what kind of substances I’d been strung out on, but I simply couldn’t help it. I had to have that frozen “marg”.

So Jeff cut in. “Just so you know, my wife had shoulder surgery which had her on some pretty stout stuff to get her over the pain. Now that she’s healing,  and her doctor has taken her off of them, she’s looked forward to a margarita for almost two months. You could say this is sort of a celebration for us.”

After a few minutes, Jimmy returned with Jeff’s beer and my  ‘rita.

Whipping his phone from his holster,  Jeff  handed it to Jimmy.

“Before you go, could you take our picture?”

“And take one with my phone, too, while you’re at it,” I added, handing him my phone.

“Sure,” Jimmy said, as he put down napkins on the table for our drinks. As he was handing me my drink, I –incurable ‘ham’ that I  tend to be– clutched his arm and gave him my most beseeching smile as I took the margarita.

“Oh, thank you, THANK you!” I gushed like an ingenue actor receiving her first Oscar.  “I’ll remember you in my next  blog post.”

“Thanks, ma’am,” he said, with a self-conscious laugh. “I’d appreciate that.”

About an hour later and full to popping from our meal, Jeff and I waddled up to the register, grabbed a praline, and paid out.

Back in our car with the praline, Jeff was shifting into reverse when I  suddenly pawed my face and frantically dug through my purse. For about the nth time since  I shifted away from contact lenses and back to frames in 2013, I had once again wandered out without my glasses.

“I’ll get them, ” Jeff said, unbuckling his seat belt. “Where do you think you left them?”

“On the table? Or on the checkout counter? Shoot, I don’t know.  Ask our server.”

So, Jimmybecause you made my milestone, one-and-you’re-done ‘marg’ memorable, this blog’s for you.

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“Breaking My Left Wing, Part 7: Flinging My Sling”


2-22-17

TMI Sports Medicine

Oh, happy day! Notice anything missing in the above picture? I’ll give you a hint — it is a common noun that rhymes with fling.

Yes, after today around eleven-thirty a.m., I received the long-awaited news. News I’ve been yearning to hear since January 9, the day before my surgery.  As Jeff and I waited for Dr. Seroyer after I came back from x-ray, we perked up when he finally walked into the room and shook our hands.

“Hey, how’s it going? How’s your therapy coming along?”

“Great!”, I said, lighting up. “In fact, I have something to show you.”

“And I have something to show you, too,”  he said, as he punched a few keys.

“Okay, you go first,” I said, as I picked up my iPhone and scrolled through some photos until to the one I was looking for.

“All righty,” he said, showing me a healing upper arm showing the plate and screws he had implanted. “Here you go. Lookin’ good. Now, what were you going to show me?”

I pointed to the photo in which my ring finger and pinkie mashed all the way down on a gripper.

“See this? The first time I tried it, I did well to press it even a little with my ring finger. My pinkie? Forget it. Total wipeout. When Shelby told me that playing my piano regularly could strengthen my fingers, I went home and started playing, again. On Tuesday of this week, she gave me another run at the gripper. Here, take a look at what happened.”

Dr. Seroyer looked at it and nodded. ” Impressive!”

“It is, indeed. I cried happy tears after I saw how I had improved.”

I pointed to the x-ray. “So, tell me. Does this mean I can fling that sling?”

He nodded as he  scribbled in my chart. “Yes, it does.”

I gave Jeff a thumbs-up before firing off my next question.

“And since I’m not taking the hard-core pain-killers, can I start driving, again?”

“Yes, you may,” he affirmed, still focused on my chart.

I had come in with three questions to ask him; so far, two answers out of three were ‘wins’.

Dare I push it? Shoot, yeah, I thought. Go for it, Kim, ol’ girl.

I took a breath before I popped the last question: “So do I even need any more therapy?”

He looked up from his notes. “Oh, yes, you will definitely need it for a while longer. I want to see you back here in six weeks.”

“We might have a problem with that,” Jeff said. “We’re planning to be in Rockport, then.”

Dr. Seroyer closed my chart and walked over to the table. Picking up my left arm, he tested its strength, flexibility, and sensitivity to pain. All had improved even more since Tuesday.

“Well, in that case, if you continue to do better than you are, now, I’ll just send along some exercises for you to practice on your own.”

We gave him the thumbs-up. “Sounds like a plan.”

After we left the exam room and checked out, I started for the therapy room.

“Where are you going?” Jeff asked.

“To tell Daniel and Shelby how it went. They will want to know.”

I stood outside the door of the therapy room until I saw Shelby and caught her attention. Her smile lit up as she came to let me in.

“Well how did it go?”

“Great. Just as I hoped, in fact. I finally get to ditch that sling and start driving, again.  Say, is Daniel around?”

Daniel looked up and grinned as we approached him.

“Hey, girl. What did the doctor say?”

“No mo’ sling. And I can drive, again. So you’d better stay off the sidewalk.”

He  laughed. “So did you tell him you loved your therapist?”

“More like therapists,” I said. “I told him I loved both of you. But it looks like y’all are going to see me around for another six weeks, give or take — that is, unless you don’t.”

Before they returned to their clients, I hugged them. “See y’all bright and early on Friday.”

Friday at eight a.m., to be exact. Ordinarily, the time was entirely too early for retired night-owls like us, but well worth it in exchange for a full recovery.

So, this is the final post in the “Breaking My Left Wing” theme. Up next, a series of posts about another exciting adventure with my husband and soulmate. Stay tuned.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I invite you to scroll down to the comments section and drop me a note. If you have had a similar experience that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.

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“I THINK I MAY, I THINK I MIGHT… enjoy a glass of wine, tonight.”


2-18-17

At home

Do you like wine? I certainly do. Up until December 31, 2016, I enjoyed a half-glass of Cab, Merlot, or Shiraz every night with three squares of dark chocolate. Not only was it my favorite dessert, but it had also become my nightly ritual until shortly after eleven p.m on New Year’s Eve when a nasty fall resulting in a diagnosis of “fracture of the humeral head” knocked me into the rank of “teetotaler” while I was on heavy-duty painkillers that carried warnings against “operating heavy machinery” or “consuming alcohol”.

I’ve been on the hard  stuff for  almost seven weeks until forty-eight hours ago when the pharmacy failed to receive the doctor’s okay for refills for both medicines.

Whatev, I thought. There’s always Aleve.

So I downshifted into Aleve before realizing, this morning, that  I was experiencing only fleeting twinges. Nothing like the “holler out loud” pain that sent us to the ER on New Year’s Day.

“Shoot, girl. You don’t need no stinkin’ pain meds,” I told self, out loud. “You’ve got this.”

Earlier in January, shortly after I broke my arm, we received twelve bottles of different varieties of wine, last month, and four more bottles — two reds and two whites — by FedEx, this morning.

Aha! Now’s my chance. All I have to do is lay off of the Aleve, I told myself.

Tonight, after supper at Taco Bueno, I told my husband, “When we get home, I’m going to pour myself a glass of that Trovati Rosso (a red blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and some Italian wine I cannot even begin to pronounce) and nibble some chocolate. You know, for old time’s sake.”

Jeff grinned. The impish twinkle  that sent me head over heels for him, almost three years ago, glittered in his soft, grey eyes.

“Since when do you need my permission?”

“You know? You’re right. I don’t. So there,” I smarted back.

I had been off Tramadol and Acetaminaphen with codeine for at least twenty-four hours, and Aleve since around ten o’clock, this morning, so I was feeling pretty confident that I had finally snickered in the face of pain. In fact, during the past week or two, I had discovered that I was going for longer periods without popping a pill into my mouth.

Now, it’s time to start enjoying life, again. Kick back, turn on the “tube” and pour myself a glass of red or white wine, and relax with my husband.

Jeff and I joined Direct Cellars wine club early in January. Since he is an elite distributor of the club, our first shipment consisted of twelve bottles of both domestic and imported wines, both red and white. Essentially, we got our wine for free. So far, we’ve enjoyed wines from Italy, Australia, Chile, Washington, and Oregon. These wines, made in small wineries, are not available in liquor stores. And the fun part is that what we’ve received in the past two shipments has been a total surprise.

Want to know how you can receive your shipment for free?  Go to Direct Cellars and take a look around.

Did you enjoy reading my blog? If so, please scroll on down to the “Comments” box,  below this post and share your thoughts.   Comments mean a lot to me as a member of the blogging community.

 

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“Living on Island Time, Part 6: A Celebration of Life and of Memories”


February 15, 2017

“Rest well, Gran. Give Grady a hug.”

Above the  message,  posted only fifty-one minutes earlier by Beeg’s daughter-in-law, Brandy, was a picture of BeeGee and her son, Grady, who had preceded her in death scarcely a year earlier.

Dumbstruck, I was staring at the picture and trying to process the news when my husband came down the stairs.

“What’s the matter, babe?”

I looked up at him, eyes glassy.

“BeeGee passed away,” I said in a voice I didn’t recognize as my own.

A day or two later, we arranged a quick trip down to Port Aransas to attend BeeGee’s memorial.

As surreal as the news seemed, it explained why I hadn’t heard from Beeg during the past two weeks. A lot had happened to both of us, during that short span of time. I had recently undergone surgery to repair a fracture in my humerus, including the implantation of a metal plate and nine screws. I had sent her pictures that Jeff had taken with my cell phone camera on January 10. Two days later, I received  a text message from her:

“Having a rough spell here. Been pretty much bed-bound…hoping to get back some stamina…check in when you are up to it”. On January 16, my last piece of correspondence from her, came another message: “How did you fare over the weekend? Hope the pain meds did the trick.”

In the days to follow, I called her. Texted her. Left her one voicemail after another. Although I knew that cancer had  once again knocked her under, I prayed that she would rally, as she had so many other times before.

“Hey, Cuz, I’m worried about you. Call me when you feel like it. Okay?”

On February 2, I just happened to go on Brandy’s Facebook page and saw the news: that my cousin had passed away only fifty-one minutes earlier.

One week later, Jeff and I arranged with our neighbor to watch our dog for  five days and headed down to Port Aransas on February 9, after my first two weeks of physical therapy on my arm and Jeff’s first twenty days of therapy on his heart.

On our way down, I regaled Jeff with tales of the fun Beeg and I had at Nannie and Granddad’s house in Lamesa, Texas. We were about nine or ten years old at the time.

“Eeew! You’ve got the bogies!” BeeGee said, pointing at me and giggling.

“No I don’t,” I said. “You do.”

“Don’t neither,” she retorted. “You.”

“No. You.”

The bogies. They were more than just a cousin thing. They were our thing, as much as playing dress-up in Nannie’s clothing, pretending the butterscotch disks she always kept around were “diet pills”, and surprising Granddad McBride when we managed to sleep outside in our homemade tent in the back yard for the entire night.

Born three months apart — BeeGee’s birthday in August and mine in November — we were the two oldest McBride cousins between my mother and her brother, Bill. Joining us, every summer, were Beeg’s younger sister LouLou and little brothers Mack and Indian, and our cousins, Marcia, Janie, Kathie, and Barbara Sue, daughters of  my mother’s other brother, “Oke”. As our three sets of parents visited with each other and Nannie and Granddad, we cousins would run around in the yard and play before putting on a “talent show” in the living room, in front of Nannie and Granddad watching proudly from their recliners. The McBride troupe, directed by my drama-teacher mother, Lois McBride Terry, rivaled  The Ed Sullivan Show. Everyone took part. We sang. We put on skits. We did “schtick”.

The following few days, after Beeg’s parents took the boys home, Nannie and Granddad would take us girls to the variety store in Lamesa’s town square and buy us one one-dollar toy apiece. Now, keep in mind that, in the mid-1950s,  one whole dollar was enough to buy a package of paper dolls, remnants to make doll clothes which my mother would sew for our dolls, and a variety of other goodies which we would happily tote home.

That night, we McBride girls slept on a pallet in front of the television in Granddad’s undershirts until around 1959 when we became self-conscious about our blossoming bodies and slipped into our jammies or gowns.

Years later, when BeeGee and I were marrying and having our first babies, we got busy with our own lives and saw each other sporadically until early January, 2009, when she sent me an email about The Laughing Gull Writers’ Workshop meeting in Port Aransas, that weekend.

“This doesn’t appeal to me, but it has your name written all over it,” Beeg said. “Why don’t you plan to come down, that weekend. I’d love to see you, again.”

It just so happened that I had the funds to book a flight and, because my semester hadn’t started yet, I was able to fly down to Corpus Christi where Beeg met my plane. That night, I met some of her friends whom she had invited to meet her “Cousin Kim”.

Four years later, after a taxing semester, I screwed up the courage to drive down to Port Aransas all by my big, grown-up self. The next year, I introduced Jeff, my bridegroom of two months, to BeeGee who let us stay in the unit next door to hers. For us, it was a delayed honeymoon, as in March, I was focused on school.

The last time Jeff and I visited her, BeeGee took me over to the unit she had reserved for us when we went down for her son Grady’s memorial service.

“What exactly were the  bogies?” I asked.

“Why don’t you know? The ‘bogies’ were stinky feet.”

As we pulled into the driveway outside the Yellow Fin, she nudged me, “And, Cousin Kim, you won that prize, hands-down.”

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“BREAKING MY LEFT WING: Day 4 –Training My Fingers by Tickling the Ivories”


Wednesday, February 8

TMI Sports Medicine

Piano. A simple, five-letter word. For at least four years, now, mine has waited by the staircase, like a wallflower at a high-school dance, for me to set down my laptop and pay it some attention

“Stupid computer,” I could almost hear it whine. “You pay more attention to it and even take it places. You never take me anywhere.”

“I’ll get back to you. But, first, I have lessons to plan. Papers to grade. Classes to teach. Books to write,” I said, as I glanced up from my Mac or iPad. “Sit tight.”

On Monday, February 6, one month after my surgery, things started look brighter for “Mademoiselle Piano”. As I was squeezing the hand-gripper in therapy to strengthen one finger at a time, I remembered that neglected piece of furniture standing by our staircase. So I went home, cleared off miscellaneous stuff from it, slid back the cover, and reacquainted myself with it to my heart’s content. As a kid reuniting with a favorite, old toy, I played every song on it that I could remember playing before, even though I knew I would be rusty. Having played by ear since my sixth birthday when Daddy surprised me with an upright piano, I had already developed an extensive repertoire; it was simply a matter of brushing up and letting muscle memory take over from there.

This morning, when I went to my Wednesday session at TMI, I was surprised at how much stronger my ring finger was when I pressed the gripper. Even my little finger pressed down a teensy bit more.

Of course, there were other exercises, as well. I stretched my neck to the right. Flexed my elbow, wrist, and fingers.Pushed hard against a door jamb with my balled-up fist. Tucked my chin. Tightened my shoulder blades. Stood with my back to the door jamb and pressed back hard against it with my elbow. Leaned over the table and, with my left arm hanging, and, in a hula-hoop motion with my hips, swiveled them first in one direction and then the other.

As the next to last activity for the day, before she applied ice to my shoulder for ten minutes, Shelby massaged my  biceps and encouraged me to do the same at  home.

“They’re really tight. You will need to massage them often,” she cautioned.

Although I’ve noticed a lot of improvement, starting with one of the most important ones: wrapping my left arm, as well as my right one, around Jeff, I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me before I’m fully functional, as in able to wash my own hair and take showers unassisted.

Something else has started happening as I’m preparing to sling my sling. When Daniel told me I could take off my sling around home, I immediately flung it off and going without it, nearly all day. Over the past four weeks, the same sling that made my shoulder and arm feel secure before and after my surgery, has really started bugging me. Early mornings are the worst when it gets all twisted up and pulls heavily at my neck.

I’m chomping at the bit to fling my sling, but Daniel and Shelby say I’ll have to wait another two weeks. According to them, my orthopedist has to run another set of x-rays to determine my progress and the magic day  I can face the world  sans sling. Then,  I will begin Phase Two of my therapy.

Coming up after a brief break, the next step in my journey accessible on your favorite form of digital communication.

So, to those who have ever suffered a fracture, what part of your  body was involved, and  what was involved in its rehabilitation? I’d love to hear from  you!

If you have enjoyed this post, please scroll down and hit “like” at the bottom. I love to see comments. Until then, have a great weekend and be careful.

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“Breaking My Left Wing: Reporting for Rehab-Days 2 and 3”


Friday, 2/3/17  Day 2

TMI Sports Medicine

Well, after having lived through Day 1 and practiced all seven exercises from the handout Shelby, the  PT student gave me, I showed up at the gym medicated to the gills but nonetheless sparkly-eyed and ready to go.

“How have you felt, today?”

“Can’t complain,” I said. “In fact, I turned another corner today.”

“Oh? What did you do?”
“I managed to put in my left earring with my left hand,” I  gloated.

She sucked in her breath. “Hey, great!”

After leading me to a table, she asked me to show her the exercises I’d been assigned to do, as we chatted about this and that.

Soon, she was placing a much-deserved ice pack — my reward for work well-done — on my shoulder and helping me lean back.

“Is Daniel here?” I asked.

“Sure, he’s right over there. Let me go get him for you.”

Within minutes, he came around and, after more friendly chit-chat, stretched my arm as gently as he could. Although it was a minor “owee”, I took some deep breaths and made it through. It was a small price to pay to regain full use of my left arm. My spirits were soaring because after Jeff and I finished our therapy sessions — my PT at TMI and his EECP at Legacy Heart Center — we would head out for a day at the Fort Worth Stock Show.

At last, after the machine he was attached to stopped and the assistants freed him from the straps that held him down, we struck out for the stock show where we strolled the cattle and pig barns, shared a jumbo corny dog slathered with mustard and a large iced tea, before checking out the general exhibits. Best of all, we benefitted from some badly-needed exercise.

As we walked, Jeff was impressed that I was finally able to take his hand as we walked, something I had not been able to do up until then.

Between Days 2 and 3, I reached yet another milestone: applying mascara to my left eye with my left hand without winding up looking like a Picasso painting. I could hardly wait to report my progress to Shelby  on Monday, February 6.

Monday, February 6 

Day

This time, after putting me through my “paces”, Shelby raised the bar a couple more notches.  This time, she handed me a pair of hand-grippers that athletes use for strengthening their hands and fingers and asked me to use each finger at a time as I squeeze it. When we noticed that that my ring finger and little finger were barely cutting it by themselves, she asked me to use both of them.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be helping you to further strengthen your fingers.”

An “aha!” moment flashed in my brain.

“Would playing my piano help my fingers?”

“You know, it just might.”

“Good,” I said, grinning. “I haven’t played my piano in years, but I’ve been dying to pick out a song I’ve been hearing on Pandora.”

For my  last exercise, Shelby led me to a door where she directed me to ball my fist on a wash rag against a door jamb, push as hard as I could, and count to twenty. Once I finished, she had me turn around and so that I was facing the other way with my elbow touching the cloth. This time I was to push as hard as I could against the door with the back of my shoulder.

Soon, Daniel came around and stretched my arm while I was chilling with ice on. my shoulder. Bracing for another “owee”, I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t hurt like it did on Friday.

“Okay, that’s it. We’ll see you next Wednesday,” Shelby said, leading us to the checkout desk.

I caught their attention one last time. “I will definitely play my piano when I get home.”

Each of them gave me a thumbs-up and waved good-bye.

When we returned from Jeff’s therapy, play the piano, I did. Thank God for muscle memory. Although years without practice had caused me to be rusty,  I sat  down and picked out the tune and accompanying chords to Leonard Cohen’s  “Alleluia” on a piano badly out-of-tune. Regardless, I was ecstatic.

“Wow, babe,” said Jeff, as he came out of the kitchen. “That sounded  really good!”

“And would you believe this is the first time I’ve played this song?”

Once again, I turned one more corner by removing my sling and leaving it off for the rest of the evening, as my PTs said I could start doing.

Every step I’ve taken, so far, has been a step forward. When I return, next Wednesday,  I can’t wait to tell them what all I’ve accomplished since I was there, today.

Stay tuned for Days 4 and 5 in my continued journey to recovery coming on February 15 and 17.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please scroll to the end and click the  “like” button.

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“Breaking My Left Wing”, Part 4: “Reporting for Rehab–Day 1”


January 30, 2017

TMI Sports Medicine

10:00 am

“Drop and give me fifty, grunt” snarled my physical therapist, spittle dripping from his chin. “On the double!”

I quivered. I cowered. I rolled into a ball.

“P-p-please. D-d-d-on’t h-h-h-urt m-m-e,” I whimpered.

“You helpless puddle of poo. You disgust me,” he said, upper lips curled, as he kicked me in the side with his steel-toed combat boot.

I was afraid I would surely die until, lo and behold, a miracle  happened:  I woke up.

Yes, the big day had arrived, at last. As I brushed my teeth, my every nerve pinged with excitement.From here on out, I would eventually get to sling my sling after  completing  the prescribed number of  sessions . Meanwhile, Facebook friends who had undergone physical therapy for on various body parts regaled me with “war” stories. Despite  tales from the trenches  from other PT “vets”, I resolved, then and there, that my experience would be different. 16266230_10210422592714845_5765612115168230575_n

Jeff and I arrived fifteen minutes before my ten o’clock appointment. Again, my nerves began tuning  like an orchestra before a concert. My eyes trained on the entrance to the therapy room; any  minute, someone would call my name.

Unlike the part of the office reserved for people waited fifteen minutes — and then thirty, forty, and so on –for someone to call them back, I waited, maybe,  twenty minutes at the most. As specified by my paperwork, Daniel would be my therapist. So when I heard a feminine voice say “Kim?”, I was surprised to see a young woman who appeared to be in her twenties.

“You don’t look like Daniel,” I told her as Jeff and I entered the therapy room, set up like a fitness gym. She laughed.

“No, I’m *Sara, one of the students. I’m just going to lead you through some exercises to see what you are able to do, right now.”

Now, it’s  important for you to know that I was so excited about the  procedure that I really didn’t catch her name, thus the asterisk beside the name “Sara”. It is also crucial to remember that I really don’t remember her exact words, only their essence.

My husband and I followed her into the gym where she directed me to sit up on one of the padded tables, asked me some questions about my pain tolerance and when I took my last pain pill. Then she led me through seven range-of-motion exercises:

  1. Wrist Active Range of Motion
  2. Elbow Passive Pronation/Supination
  3. Active Hand/Finger Gripping
  4. Passive/Active Assisted Elbow Flexion
  5. Upper Trapezius Stretch (Stretching the neck muscles)
  6. Cervical Retractions (Chin Tucks)
  7. Scapular “Clock” Active Motion (on the shoulders)

She also measured the distance I was able to move my left arm away from my body.

Well, as she directed me through the various routines and told me that these exercises, performed in ten reps each, twice a day, would also be my homework, I felt elated that I could easily do them, particularly the hand and finger movements and tried not to sound boastful when I reported that I already used all ten fingers to type three out of four blog posts since the date of my surgery. I was feeling pretty darned good — for awhile, that is, until the warm room started spinning, and I broke out in a cold sweat. Raising the head of the table, Sara eased me back against it and ran to get an ice pack which she applied to my shoulder.

“Does this happen to other people?” I asked. “I’m not the only weenie, am I?”

“Oh, no,” she assured me. “Since you’ve just taken your pain meds and are obviously excited about your first session, it is perfectly normal. I’ll tell you what — we’ll let this be it for today,” she said, handing me two sheets of paper with photos and instructions for completing my homework and walked Jeff and me up to the front to set my next appointment time.

All in all, even though today was only the beginning of Physical Therapy “boot camp”, I came out of there feeling not only thankful to have completed my first session but, also,  pretty proud of myself. Within the three weeks since surgery and even the hellish second week of 2017 when I hollered a lot from the pain, I knew I had come a long way within a relatively short time period.

Last Wednesday, not only did I get the staples removed from my shoulder incision, I also got to ditch the stabilizer  that weighed down my sling for two weeks. Jeff and I had even been able to take little outings where we walked around. What’s more, I have already been able to  slack off on my meds since last Wednesday after the PA said I no longer needed to take them around the clock, but could take them on a PRN — Latin for pro re nata or “as needed” — basis. While I still need my Tylenol with codeine “fix”, I have just about cut out the need for Tramadol which I had taken regularly, four hours apart, since I got out of the ER on New Year’s Day.

My next session is this Friday, February 3. I expect Daniel will be back to put me through the paces and to see how well I have done on my homework. I, for one, intend to be one of his biggest success stories. Tune in for “Breaking My Left Wing: Reporting for Rehab — Day 2” coming to a computer, tablet, or Smart Phone near you.

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“Breaking My Left Wing”, Part 3: Ramping Up for Rehab”


January 25, 2017

TMI Sports Medicine

I’ve known, for two weeks, that I would have this to go through. On Wednesday, January 11, the  day after my surgery, Dr. Seroyer told me he needed to see me in two weeks to do a dressing change. He said something about therapy. What I did not hear him mention was snipping out nineteen staples he had used to sew up my shoulder.

This morning, after another set of x-rays and a long wait afterwards that sent my Lifetime Movie Network imagination down a rabbit hole, the doctor strolled in and pulled up the x-rays.

“Your  x-rays looked excellent. Ready to get your stitches out?”

“Am I ever!” I said. “The sooner, the better.”

Up to two weeks ago, I’d had only one other surgery in my life and a set of stitches on the top of my head. Although I had dreaded their removal, they only tickled a little when an aide removed them with bandage scissors. But those were merely stitches sewn with surgical thread. These rascals, on the other hand, were industrial-strength staples. Like inHome Depot staple gun.

“Okay, I want to see you back in a month. And you’ll be starting therapy here on Monday,” said the doctor, flapping an appointment card into my hand.

When Lisa, the PA, started removing them, I sucked in my breath. Cringed. Winced, even. In fact, I was such a weenie that I reminded myself of the little “piggie” who went “wee-wee-wee all the way home”. Only, in my case, it was more like “owee-owee-owee!” as I endured the nineteen hard pinches and as many sharp nips.

Deep breaths, Kim, I told self, until I heard the last staple go ker-plunk into a cup.

After swabbing my incision with iodine and applying steri-strips on it, Lisa removed the wearisome stabilizer that had held Dr. Seroyer’s handiwork intact and slipped back on the sturdy sling.

“What do you want me to do with the stabilizer?”

Burn it,” I spat.

“It’s yours, you know. You can do whatever you want with it.”

On the way out, we stopped at the Physical Therapy window to set the first appointment for ten o’clock on Monday morning. As I walked out to the car with my husband, I felt as if I had been handed a whole new start. For the first time since eleven o’clock p.m on New Year’s Eve, I would once again be able to take showers, again, instead of settling for sponge baths. Shampoo my hair. Apply eye make-up. Wear “human” clothing. And sleep in our bed, again, instead of the recliner.

Most important  of all, I’ll finally be able to wrap both arms around Jeff who has been selfless in his caregiving.

To come in Part 4, the final and most rigorous step in my journey: therapy. The “given” is that I’ll go twice a week for one hour per session. The number of weeks I will have to go is up for discussion between my physical therapist and me. The number of weeks I go remains to be seen.

Bottom line: pain sucks. Although I have managed to adapt to the situation, and  learn shortcuts and “workarounds” during my recovery, I am all packed and ready to return to the land of the “functional “.

 

***********

 

 

 

 

Breaking My Left Wing, Part 2: “Under The Knife”


January 23, 2017

As I continue the saga of “Breaking My Left Wing”,  I’m typing with only the fingers of my right hand. Not the usual rhythm nor energy I prefer, but I have stories to tell. This is only Part 2, “Under The Knife”.

Rewind to almost three weeks ago: Monday, January 9, 2016.

There we sat in an examining room at TMI Sports Medicine, waiting to see the orthopedist, as per the discharge instructions from the ER attending. The rub was that the doctor named in the orders was not in the hospital’s network. So the phone rep lined us up with another one: Dr. Shane Seroyer.

Up to that point, I’d managed to do more and more, even using all ten fingers on the computer keyboard, only for my bum shoulder to growl, “Give me codeine. NOW!”

Other than a lightweight sling with little to no support and pain  in my shoulder and upper arm that still made me holler at the slightest touch, I guess I expected to hear that my arm was healing and that nothing further would be required.

Wrong-0 de-dong-0.

First, the PA bustled in and pulled up the x-rays, pointing at the area in question.

“Yep, here you go. Multiple breaks in both the upper arm and the shoulder. You’re gonna need surgery.”

BONG. I gasped as my stomach did somersaults before plummeting to my toes.

“S-s-surgery? W-w-when?”

“Tomorrow.  Probably around nine or ten. Keep in mind that several days have already gone by.  The longer you wait, the worse off you’re gonna get.”

After Justin ducked out, the doctor slipped in, introduced himself, and outlined the plan of action: I was to have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, but I could take my Synthroid, as usual, in the morning. A team would prep me for the outpatient procedure, give me “happy drops” to make me drowsy, and then wheel me into the operating room, fit a mask over my face, and he would implant a metal plate and some screws after making a single incision in my shoulder before closing up, delivering me to Recovery where I would sleep off the surgery for about four hours before being returned to my room and my husband.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

“Will you actually be the one doing the surgery?” I asked, calmed down by his competent but caring manner.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “See you tomorrow, Mrs. Schwarz.”

That afternoon, I texted family and friends to ask for prayers, as I dealt with the shock that I — a woman who turned into a weenie at the thought of going  “under” and being sliced open –would go into surgery in less than twenty-four hours.

That night, I petitioned God to watch over me during the procedure and admitted to being slightly scared. He stroked my forehead.

“Got you covered. Now go to sleep.”

“But the doc’s gonna put me under!”

“Have you forgotten that major surgery I brought you through twenty-one years ago? You know, the one where your family hung out in the waiting room for four hours?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “That brain-tumor surgery that had everyone wondering whether I’d come out with my head on straight.”

He nodded. “That would be the one. This procedure you’re so worried about is outpatient surgery that requires only one incision and only about an hour and a half — on your time zone, not mine, that is. Soon after, you can go home with that husband I gave you, three years ago.”

“But, Lord, what if –?”

“What if what, my child?”

“Jeff and I watch Code Black and Chicago Med. Stuff happens. People die!”

“Trust me. Go to sleep.”

Soon after, I yawned and closed eyelids grown heavy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2016

Next thing I knew, my alarm was going off to the time I had set: 6:30 a.m. I had managed to sleep quite soundly. After dressing in something comfortable, Jeff helped me ease into the front seat of the car and fastened my seat belt before he slid behind the wheel and headed down the street to Medical City Arlington — the same hospital where he bid adieu to a diseased gallbladder — and Lisa, in Admissions where we filled out all that really fun paperwork before she issued me a bracelet.

Minutes later, a nurse  escorted me to the Surgical Suite. This time, as she opened the door and took me to the room where I would await my turn in the surgical queue, I felt uplifted. Energized. I was ready to quit hurting — the sooner, the better.

Under her direction, I donned what I called my “Jiffy Pop Ensemble” — a blue gown and cap appearing to be decorated with aluminum foil. Garbed in the strange, new get-up,  I crawled onto the bed and let Nurse Lisa put some non-skid slipper socks on my feet before injecting a numbing medicine in my arm and asking me a battery of questions.

“You’ll find yourself answering the same questions by about four people, before it’s all over,” she added.

True to her word, each member of the surgical team– the OR nurse, anesthesiologist, and the surgeon — did indeed ask me the same questions and inspired my confidence in them until the big moment came. The anesthesiologist inserted a needle into my inner arm like liquid silk.  After Jeff bent down to kiss me, I slipped “under”.

It seemed  like only a few minutes when I awoke to someone shutting cabinets and looked around. I was numb  from shoulders to waist. A mound underneath my  gown resembled a the pregnant belly of someone carrying sextuplets and, although I knew it was still there, I couldn’t feel my left hand. Must be that nerve block the nurse told me about.

“Oh, hey, there. You’re awake!” said a young man wearing a cap and scrubs.

“Um…yeah. Where am I?”

“You’re in recovery. We’re gonna take you back to your room in a bit.”

As someone wheeled me back to the room where Jeff greeted me with another kiss, I marveled that I had no memories of the dreaded operating room. No cold, hard, table. No  mask over my nose and mouth.

No memory a’tall, I thought, with a grin. How cool is  that?

After Lisa got me settled, I received a snack of Sprite and crackers which I  managed to hold down. I peed. I belched.  An hour later, I got to go home wearing some big-honkin’ sling/stabilizer contraption intended to protect the surgeon’s handiwork, enough painkillers to fell a Clydesdale, and a metal plate and nine screws (which removed all  doubt that I am officially screwed-up).

Back at home, that evening,  I napped on and off on the couch with my feet in Jeff’s lap and our trusty dog perched somewhere in between.When it came time for bed, Jeff situated me in the recliner, as the nurse recommended. He stretched out on the couch so he’d hear me when I needed anything.

“Thank you, Lord. Y’know, for guiding my team and me through the surgery.”

I imagined loving eyes twinkling.

“Didn’t I tell you I had this covered?”

“You did, indeed. But I’m still glad it’s over.”

“Think nothing of it. It’s my job. Besides, I  love you, kiddo.”

In a few weeks, I’ll be writing Part 3 of “Breaking My Left Wing: Lessons Learned”,  about the next step: rehabilitation, but first, I have to ditch this sling. Meanwhile, here I sit, trying to be patient as I type with only one hand.

*************

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking My “Left Wing”


01-03-17

Four nights ago, my husband and I were watching “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on television and waiting for the 2017 ball to drop when he said, “Hey, go over there and point to the screen. I’ll take your picture as if you are really there.”

So, over to the t.v. I hustled and pointed to the screen as if I were actually among the New Years’ throng.

A click and a flash later, Jeff hollered, “Got it.”

I was coming back to the couch before I — well — didn’t. Finding myself splayed out on the floor, I wailed. I writhed. I clutched my left arm. Our dog, Russet, who had been curled up on the rug,  gave me a sympathetic lick. In spite of the pain, we were about ninety-percent sure I had just pulled a muscle and that I’d feel better in the morning.

Remembering how friendly Aleve had been, a few years ago, when I fell on the dance floor, we dosed me with the magic blue caplets for the rest of the night, promising each other that if I felt worse, the next morning, we’d head down the street to our friendly neighborhood hospital. Since I had just changed insurance carriers, I knew that my old fall-back, Care Now,  would not accept Care ‘n Care.

Surprisingly, I slept well, that night, dosed to the gills with Aleve. Getting out of bed and, generally, moving at all was another matter. So off to Medical Center of Arlington, we went.

The MCA team did not disappoint. After a triage nurse asked me to rank my pain level from 2 to 10 and I rated it at least an 8, she placed me in a room where a witty nurse and a compassionate x-ray technician who x-rayed me there on the bed, snapped into action. Within minutes, a doctor came in to tell me that I had a fracture of the humerus — a broken upper-arm bone — just below the shoulder. He estimated it would take a good six to eight weeks to heal, referred me to an orthopedist, handed us a prescription for Tramadol, a pain reliever, and sent us home to our black-eyed peas.

Now, here I sit, thankful. Thankful that I already feel like typing this blog. Thankful that I don’t have to hurry and get syllabi and lesson plans slammed out before the Spring 2017 semester. Thankful for my loving and solicitous husband.

It could have been worse. A whole lot worse. Where I landed, I could have hit the corner of the piano bench. Or banged my head on the coffee table. But, as badly as my arm was hurt, and as ragged as I still feel, I’m thankful, most of all, that God spared me, again, from the worst.

Holidays can sometimes be the worst for accidents. Do you have any to share?o

*********

 

 

Adios,”Thirteenth Grade”!


12-18-16

Thursday, December 15, 2016 was my last day of school. Shortly after nine a.m., when the last student in the room turned in her exam packet and Scantron sheet, I wished her a merry Christmas and told her I had enjoyed having her in class. Once she left, I erased the whiteboard, gathered my belongings, locked the room, and returned to the Adjunct Office to run the Scantrons through the machine.

Oh, happy, happy, I thought. It’s all over but the shouting.

On Monday, December 12, I had closed out my first two classes and had already done everything I intended to do for this last class. I had only to record their exam grades into the electronic grade book and then post the grades on Web Advisor. After one last once-over to make sure the correct grades were posted for the correct students, I printed two hard copies of the grades and attendance for myself and my Department Chair and then — ZIP, BAM, BOOM — hit “Submit”.

Point, click , done.

After closing out the grades, I reached into my messenger bag and pulled out one final order of business of my own: a folder from the Teacher Retirement System. Not only had I planned to turn in my grades and unload my textbooks in the English Department office, at the end of this semester, I would also take the first step in the retirement process. At the time, both my husband and I thought  the form for “Notification of Final Deposit” form was what I needed to start the ball rolling. To my surprise, a Human Resources representative from the downtown campus told me that I needed only to inform my Chair that I was retiring and ask him  to input an “EX TRM.” Once he did that, she explained, the actual retirement process would begin, even though I would still have some paperwork to fill out. I had already broken the ice with him, earlier that day, by telling  him that I would be retiring, as of the end of the Fall 2016 semester and explaining that, after twenty-seven years with the district, I wanted to retire while my husband and I were able to travel while we were young enough and healthy enough.

Less than one hour later, once I returned home, my Chair called to let me know that one of his assistants had completed the “input”. For all practical purposes, I could call myself “retired”.

To celebrate the occasion, that night, Jeff and I dined at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Campo Verde, a festive place with Christmas tree lights strung inside.

Although I’ve been planning to retire for the past year or two, I had put it off, promising to teach “one more semester”.

That “one more semester”, my last day of the Fall 2016, is here. Right now, we’re still in a daze. And, with more paperwork for TRS and the Social Security Administration looming ahead, we know that today was just the “kickoff” and that the process will take some adjustment as well as self-control. But it won’t really seem real until January 17, when I would normally return for Adjunct Orientation.

“So, what’s your next adventure” asked a Facebook friend, that night.

“Writing, writing, and more writing,” I wrote back. “From either our ‘tiny house‘ in Rockport, Texas or our Airstream or other comfortable, used recreational vehicle as we tool around the country and see all those sites — Grand Ole Opry New England, and other sights on our combined bucket list.

So that’s it, for now. As my husband told me, it’s all about deciding it’s going to happen and making a plan. I finally did it. For those of you who are thinking of retirement or have have already retired, what does your new adventure in life include?

**************

OUR RUSSET: No More Does She Roam


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Today, Jeff forwarded an email to me from a friend  we met during a trip to Canton’s  monthly “First Monday” event. He told us he was compiling stories about people and what their dogs meant to them and was gathering  pictures to use in an upcoming book.

“You might want to do this,” Jeff wrote when he forwarded the email to me.

Don’t mind if I do, I thought, as I opened up a Word file and fired up my brain. The picture above is of a cozy moment with all three of us resting on our bed. The one on the left, below, is Russet on the day I adopted her on March 30, 2011. On the right, Russet as the happiest baby girl in the neighborhood when Jeff returned from the hospital.

To follow in “OUR RUSSET: No More Does She Roam” is the story that goes with the pictures.

 

After I lost “Boaz”, my senior Welsh Corgi, in January 2010, I allowed my empty,  broken heart to remain, dog-less, before I even felt like welcoming another dog.

In March 2011, fifteen months later, the pics of a friend’s new fur-baby on Facebook made me hanker for a pair of moo-cow eyes, slurpy kisses, and reassuring scent. So, I headed for the nearest bar before I remembered a prior incident that ended badly.

No, on second thought, make that a pet shelter.

Okay, I’m kidding about the bar fiasco, but not the pet shelter.

When I asked an Arlington Animal Shelter volunteer about the Shepherd mix  in the window, she said that someone had surrendered her only the previous day  because she “was getting too expensive.” And, as far as she knew, this dog had no name.

Well, she does, now, I thought, as I tapped on the window and wiggled my fingers at the long-haired, perky-eared beauty with the expressive eyebrows and fur the color of a baked potato. From that moment, I decided that she and I would become a team.

I’m gonna name her “Russet”, take her home, and love her forever.

Now, since I was seven, I’ve had a lot of dogs, all with soulful, liquid-brown eyes, but the yearning in Russet’s eyes tore my heart from its moorings. Knowing someone had dumped  her at the shelter, like a shabby couch out on a curb made me want her even more.

“And her adoption fee includes spaying and shots,” said the volunteer.

“Say no more, then. Hold onto her for me. I’ll be back in a couple of days when I get paid.”

In the meantime, I visited Russet at the shelter after school to bond with and play with her and get her used to her new name.

From  March 2011 until September 2012, the little spit-fire reminded me of a two-year-old, sometimes, and a teenager, others, as she seized opportunities to flee until a car hit her, one afternoon. Her little set-to with a Saturn sedan cost us emergency surgery on her right hind leg followed by six weeks of weekly treatments. But, as I had hoped, it made her think twice about dashing into the street.

Soon, she settled down, especially when her “Daddy” – my husband, Jeff — blessed her life and mine by marrying us on March  2, 2014.

Now, when one of us opens either the front or back door without her dashing out, I believe it’s safe to say that Russet’s roaming days are over.

That said, what does your dog mean to you? I’d love to see your pictures and read your “love stories” about you and your own fur-babies.

 

MARRIAGE 101: “In Sickness and In Health”


05-05-16

Medical Center of Arlington

12:05 a.m.

As I continue  “Marriage 101: ‘In Sickness'” in our hospital room, the clock on the wall shows the little hand on the one and the big one on the twelve. One o’clock: the exact time Jeff was wheeled into the emergency room of Medical Center of Arlington, three weeks ago.

Yes, you heard me right. Three whole fun-filled weeks in which his doctors juggled his heart with his gallbladder.

That night, as Jeff  clutched his chest in the icy-cold emergency room of Medical Center of Arlington — or, the “MCA ‘Hilton'”, as we started calling it — we were so sure that he was in the middle of a heart attack. Were we ever shocked to learn that those pains that started in his chest before traveling elsewhere were caused by gallstones! Only a couple of days later, while he was undergoing an M.R.I — Magnetic Resonance Imaging — those pains returned.When the test came back, the cardiologist told us that this attack in the MRI was an honest-to-goodness heart attack.

Since it was crucial to his life to stabilize his heart first, his cardiologist scheduled a heart catheterization where he discovered two good arteries and blockage in the other three, yet, he told us that he thought best not to perform any other procedures or even another stent, as it might have actually blocked the arteries even worse.

Then came Week Two which crept by like an army of snails on Lithium. The wait was brutal and we wondered why Jeff’s doctors didn’t just haul off and hold a big pow-wow to decide what to do, and when and where they would do it. In the meantime, his heart man and two GI men (one of them a surgeon), and a general practitioner kept an eye on him.  At one point, one offered him the option of going home for a week or staying put where he would already be safe, should he suffer another episode. Well, as much as we both wanted him home, we also knew the only safe solution was  to stay put where he could safely wait it out.

During that same week, our room was a hub of activity with  doctors, nurses, PCA’s (a new term for nurses’ aides), respiratory therapists, and a phlebotomist or two milling into and out of our room at all times of the day and night until I expected they would be able to find it blindfolded.

So far,  Jeff has had endured at least one X-ray,  blood work, two MRIs, one  heart catheterization, two echocardiograms.

In the works for Week Three, would be an ERCP  (“alphabet soup” for  Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) to prepare for what we had all hoped would be the grand finale: a cholecystectomy (or, gallbladder removal). It would take place probably Monday or Tuesday.  (That was the maddening part of this whole thing. No one gave us a definite date or time so that we could make plans. They explained that it depended on when they could get a room for it and the doctor performing the procedure could work it into his schedule.)

Week Three started off with a bang when I heard Jeff whispering to me. Doped up on Benadryl, when I couldn’t get my eyes to quit itching, the night before, I had finally sunk into bottomless  slumber.

“Psssst. Wake up, babe.”

“Mghgbt,” I mumbled, lifting my leaden head off the pillow. “Huh?”

“We gotta move.”

“Umghg. Where?”

“Down the hall. The nurses tried to move us at six, but I held them off.”

“Why do they need that?”

“Because of a leak on the second floor that dripped down to our floor. Get up. They’ll help us move.”

As my brain started waking up, I remembered someone laying out tarps of some kind, the night before. When I had started down to the Nutrition Kitchen to get Jeff some strawberry ice cream, a nurse had routed me through the support-staff office and cautioned me to ‘be careful’.

Sure enough, just before breakfast, here came nurse rolling in a wheelchair for our ‘schtuff’. As I had been gathering stuff up and taking it home, as we realized we hadn’t needed it, and as I had kept our belongings fairly easy to grab up, our exodus to the room at the end of the hall went  smoothly, but it screwed our breakfast up. Still, all things considered, the rest of our day went smoothly and our new “digs” were even a bit bigger. Week Three, the week we had been waiting for, was just about at our door, so we were in pretty good spirits. On Monday, May 2 — which also happened to be our twenty-seven-month anniversary — he would go down for an ERCP to pluck out the stones. On Tuesday, he would get his gallbladder out.

At last, the  GI Lab transport arrived and wheeled Jeff out on his bed. I followed along behind him until we got to the place where he would go in.

“Break a leg, baby,” I whispered in his good ear before entering the hospital lobby to wait out the forty-five-minute procedure.

On that day, there had been a fatality shooting in the Walgreens on New York Avenue, the street I take to get to school. Another family whom I had seen in the GI area gathered around the t.v. After making a couple of remarks to them, I opened my laptop and set to work on grading more essays. I just started grading one when the doctor came out.

Wow, is it that time already?

“Mrs. Schwarz, we’re through in there,” he said.

“So, you did pick out the stones?”

He handed me some pictures. One frankly turned my stomach inside out.

“See this? It’s pus. Lots of it. I washed it out, but his gallbladder will definitely need to come out, tomorrow.”

At this point, I need to explain that this all happened during final examination review week. In fact, as I prepared the review, it was with the possibility that a sub might have to present it.

As I, myself, have appreciated clean-cut and easy-to-follow lesson plans from colleagues for whom I have subbed, I made mine super easy to follow, as well. So you can imagine my relief when I learned that Jeff’s surgery would come to pass on a day when I could be off. According to the plan, he would have the surgery on Tuesday and, maybe go home on Wednesday. Thursday at the latest. We were almost home.

Please note that I said “almost”.

On Tuesday, May 3, the surgeon removed the gallbladder. As it was the most serious procedure to date, I had asked one of my besties if she would be available to come and sit it out with  me. As we were waiting, someone from our congregation joined us, and we started talking.  Soon, I looked up to find the surgeon approaching me.

“Mrs. Schwarz?”

“Yes. I’m Kim Schwarz.”

“Well, we’re through and it went well. I figure your husband will sleep a lot today and then, depending on how he does, he might get to go home, tomorrow. He’s still asleep, but you can go back in just a bit.”

Jeff woke up just as I approached his bed. The nurses had handed him a kidney basin, as sometimes the anesthesia can be nauseating, but soon he was ready to return to the room where my friend Jodi, Rusty from church, and I waited.

Although Jodi had wanted us to go to lunch somewhere, I had asked her if we could wait until after the surgery. Suddenly, though, with it all behind us, I was starving.

“Y’all go on ahead,” Jeff urged. “I’m just gonna go back to sleep.”

So we drove across the street to Cafe Pulido, on Mayfield Road and had enchilada dinners and caught up on girlfriend gab, even splurging on two orders of flan, before starting back.

When we got back, I was floored to see Jeff barely making it as a nurse ambulated him after his surgery, to keep him from getting pneumonia in his lungs. We all knew there had to be something wrong. Sure enough, the same doctor who performed the ERCP said he had found a large stone with no place to escape but Jeff’s bile duct.

He would need another ERCP. This time, though, getting the stone out would be simple. The next day, a Wednesday, he had prepared for elevenish; however, with a crowded schedule, Jeff was told the doctor would squeeze him in around five-ish that afternoon.

“But I’ll have to teach,” I wailed.

“Look, babe,” said Jeff. “I want you to go on in, as usual. I’m gonna be all right. The doctor is just going to take out the stone and send me back up here and all I’m gonna do after that is sleep.”

So I did just that. After letting my seven o’clock class out a little early, I drove home to feed our dog before swinging through Whataburger’s drive-through to redeem a coupon for a Chop House Cheddar and Bacon burger. With my car smelling like grilled onions, I pulled onto the access road to turn right onto Matlock where the hospital was located. As it was after nine o’clock p.m., I knew I’d have to get into the hospital through the emergency doors, as MCA locks the main entrance at that time.

When I arrived at Jeff’s room and swung open the curtain, my usually happy-go-lucky hubby stared at me as though I were an alien. Instantly, I knew that he had been gobsmacked by anesthesia.

There was no way Jeff felt like going home on Thursday; thankfully, his heart doctor listened and supported our decision to hang in until Friday.

On Friday, around one p.m. or so, after we had finished our sweet-and-sour chicken and rice, a nurse brought his discharge instructions and left us to pack our belongings. After gathering up the plant that friends had brought us during the first week, I pulled the car out of the parking lot and swung around under the porte-cochere  where two navy-vested volunteers  waited with Jeff in a wheelchair.

Now that we’re home, the real recovery and change of lifestyle begins with sleep. Lots of sleep, changing our diets to low-fat cardiac, and working in some exercise, every day. On Saturday, we accomplished two of those goals: getting his prescriptions and stocking up on food he could eat.

All in all, our time at MCA was as pleasant, down-home even, as a hospital can possibly be. As a wife,  I loved its family-friendliness. The nurses actually seemed to like my sleeping in his room on a fold-out couch. The staff, from diverse cultures, were professional, courteous, and many times, downright fun. The meals, for the most part, were tasty for hospital fare. Best of all was its proximity to our house: only  five minutes west from our house. In short, on that tense Friday morning around 1:00 a.m. when every second counted, Medical Center of Arlington was a Godsend.

Coming up, I’ll be returning to my lighter-hearted posts. Until then, take care of yourselves. You have only one body. Be good to it.

 

 

AMBIT ENERGY ADVENTURES, Part I: Orange is My New Favorite Color


02-04-2016

I have never been a wearer of “orange”. With my “winter” coloring — fair with cool tones, –I  have preferred jewel colors: sapphire blue, emerald green, amethyst purple, ruby red, and even raven black. Orange, the color of pumpkins and all things autumn, drains my face of color and makes me look tired.

At least that was what I thought until Jeff and I attended an Ambit Energy meeting at the Botanical Gardens, in Fort Worth, last Tuesday. When we were surrounded  by cheerful, orange Ambit logos, I began re-thinking orange. Already satisfied Ambit electricity customers, we joined our consultant, Rick, and his wife, Darleen, at a meeting. Rick had persisted in telling my husband that he ought to become a consultant, but, for some reason, the time had not been right.

That was, until after the Tuesday meeting. Watching people receive their Regional, Senior, Executive, and National Consultant pins, I was so pumped by their “Whys” — their impassioned reasons for joining Ambit — and the range of backgrounds from realtors, business owners, nurses, and teachers, that I convinced Jeff that it would be stupid for us not to become consultants, given the ten-year-old company’s leadership and sterling reputation.

After the meeting, Rick and Darlene bubbled over about an annual Ambit rally called Simulcast 2016, that would take place at the Verizon Theater that Saturday. Thousands would attend, both in Texas and New York and thousands more would be watching the event online. Only consultants could attend.

The next night, before I met my first class, Jeff texted me.  He had signed us up as consultants. Depending on how hard we were willing to work, we could earn extra pocket change by picking up a few new customers here and there, or we could become eligible to take five-star trips with other consultants. I could write. We could move  to Rockport, as we have dreamed of doing. Most importantly, I could retire on my own time, rather than someone else’s.

On Saturday, we attended Simulcast ’16, Ambit Energy’s pep rally between Texas and New  York. Heading it up were Ambit’s co-founders, Jere Thompson, Jr., whose family founded Seven-Eleven stores, and Chris Chambless, Marketing Executive. Between Grand Prairie, Texas and Utica, New York, consultants of all ranks — Regional, Senior, Executive, and National — and  yellow-jacketed Millionaires  — shared their stirring stories. Each encouraged us even more. During the feverish four-hour rally, we waved orange and white Simulcast “balloons” and orange pom-poms and scribbled copious notes in specially designed, spiral-bound Ambit notebooks with silver Ambit Energy pens.

When the event was over, our team gathered at Humperdinck’s to eat, drink, and celebrate and inspire each other, remind each other of future meetings, and rev each other up for Ambition 2016, Ambit’s four-day conference in Dallas, Texas in August

As new consultants, Jeff and I know we have a lot of training to go through, mostly online, but now that we have received our official consultant package, including our own website, business cards, and a flip-chart, we are starting to feel official. Maybe with some of our residual income from bringing in consultants and customers, we can invest in orange tee-shirts which I aim to wear with Ambit pride.

So, curious friends, this is my question to you. Are you willing to let us show you how to save money on your energy needs? And would you like to find out how you can earn residual income? If your answer is “yes” to one or both of these proposals, Jeff and I would love to welcome you to our growing Ambit team or add you to the numbers of satisfied Ambit customers.

When you’re ready. we’ll be waiting for you in our tee-shirts of invigorating Ambit orange.

*********

 

MAN ON BOARD, Part V: You Know You’re “Marr’ed” When…


12-17-15

Remember that cowboy I met on the Zoosk dating site and wrote about in “Man On Board, Parts I-IV”?  Well, two years have passed since our wedding day  — March 2, 2014.  Jeff and I are now inseparable. Seamless. He is my soulmate. My confidante. My partner-in-crime. And, even though I also have female besties, he’s the best buddy a wife could ever hope for. Shortly after our first anniversary,  we have crossed over that subtle but definite border between being “married” into being, as we Texans say,  “marr’ed.”

We started joking about this word even before we said “I do.”

One night, when Jeff and I were together, I suggested that we buy a six-pack of beer to toast the occasion.

“For our wedding day,  we oughta buy a  ‘bu’r.”

“A  what?” he asked.

“Bu’r. You know…”. I tipped back an imaginary brewski. “A bu’r.

“But why should we buy a bu’r?”

“Because that’s whatcha do when you’re marr’ed. You drink bu’r.”

Yes, here in Texas, everybody knows that “married” is what fiancees look forward to becoming and squeaky-green newlyweds like to  call themselves until reality sets in, roughly two years later. It’s that time when we begin to feel even more comfortable around our spouses and freer about being who we really are until, one day, one of us looks at the other and says, “We’re marr’ed!”

So, to put a new twist on Jeff Foxworthy‘s classic “You might be a redneck if…” jokes, you know you’re marr’ed when you:

  •  spit into the same sink at the same time while brushing your teeth together.
  • hold your morning conversations in the bathroom
  • swap slobbers by sharing a water bottle
  • understand why your spouse suddenly lowers the car window after dinner during a road trip.
  •  answer your spouse’s unasked questions.
  • Look forward to your nightly pillow-talks.
  • And — finally — realizing there is no way you can sleep without your spouse beside you at night.

So, these are all of my observations about Year Two of being “marr’ed”. What have you discovered about being “marr’ed”?

image
Jeff Schwarz, the love of my life

 

 

 

Coming in for the Finish


NaNoWriMo 2015 Workshop Participant and Winner Certificates

11-24-15

One night, last week, I went  on the NaNoWriMo 2015 site site to enter my word count for the night when I saw the message below:

“Winning Starts on November 20!”

Last year about this time, I was teaching Composition I at one college and Composition  II at another and dog-paddling along on my work-in-progress, Man After Midnight, on NaNoWriMo 2014.Last year, the idea that I could actually finish early was impossible, even unfathomable. Merely allowing myself to think about it would have driven me crazy.

But this year? In spite of teaching  three classes turning in just as four batches of essays before the semester is over, here I am back for more.

Color me fearless.

Pumped about jumping into a whole new work, Crimson Feathers, a paranormal romance with a healthy dose of reality, I could hardly wait for October to get out of the way. With a synopsis, a pitch, and a fistful of character sketches, I was primed to jump into my story and could hardly wait for October to get out of the way.  In the meantime, I had  managed to come down with write-in fever that raged like California wildfire and even spread into the minds of some students after I offered them extra credit for attending the presentations, signing up and posting a novel idea on NaNoWriMo,  to staying the course and pounding out a 50,000 first draft of a novel of their own.

Although jobs and other commitments caused some to fall by the wayside, one has stayed strong since the second night.  Tonight, as she and I  worked on our stories, I almost forgot for that two hours that I was  her professor and she was my student. For tonight, we were mighty writers on fire. She was working on her NaNo WIP. Since I finished and received my Winner Certificate on Friday, November 20, I was writing yet a more expanded synopsis of my work.

It  has been an exciting three weeks with presentations at the Judith Carrier Library at Tarrant County College’s Southeast Campus every Tuesday, from November 3 to tonight’s finale on November 24. Hosted by Liliana Cano, a library employee, and Yvonne Jocks, a creative writing professor, the presentation has been a huge success, at least in this writer’s mind. Even though we had brief presentations on November 10 and 17, we spent most of the evening in a write-in that, for some, could last as long as 10:00 p.m.

On November 10, one of my English colleagues, Emilee Taylor, brought a presentation on revision and editing.

On November 17,  Charles Renthrope, a former TCCD student, talked about the children’s book, Escape From Smoothie Mountain that he and his wife authored.

Tonight was the final presentation and party. People who had been attending received decals, collapsible water bottles, and certificates with their names and titles of their books on them.To come, Writers Cubes, for further inspiration.

Now that I am a two-time winner of NaNoWriMo, I have gained the confidence to help others find their way around the NaNoWriMo site. Tonight, as a reporter from the Collegian, our campus newspaper, interviewed me, one of her questions was this: “What advice would you give an aspiring writer?”

My answer was the same one I continue to tell myself over and over. And over:  “Whatever happens, keep writing.”

 

 

REVVING UP FOR NANO-TIME!


October 23, 2015

Two-time NaNo Winner!
Two-time NaNo Winner!

“Hey, kids! What time is it?” a character named Buffalo Bob once shouted.

Sparrow voices from the audience would holler, “It’s Howdy-Doody Time!”

Fast-forward *&%$ years later (ahem!). In a little over a week, NaNoWriMo writers or “Wrimos”, will flex their fingers and yell, “It’s NaNoWriMo time!”

Yes, indeed.  At 12:00 a.m on November 1, writers worldwide,  snacks and coffee beside them, will pound out at least 1,667 words, more or less, every day, stopping only on November 30 at 11:59 p.m.

When it originated, Chris Baty, author of No Plot, No Problem, and his fellow writers, started NaNoWriMo, short for  National Novel Writing Month, in July. According to Baty, the problem with having NaNoWriMo in July was that July was vacation season and the weather is still semi-balmy. So Baty and the bunch moved NaNo to November, when plunging temperatures usher in ice or snow, making our warm homes feel just right for a month-long write-in. Writers love to write at night, anyway. At least, this writer does.

In the past, my NaNo WIPS have been suspense stories. In MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT, an Internet predator calling himself  “The Man”, lurks on the “Man After Midnight” dating site as a drop-dead-gorgeous man to lure the main character’s teen-aged daughter into his web. In order to save her daughter, the protagonist must join the site, herself, and “date” the suspects until she finds the one.

In July, for Camp NaNoWriMo, I wrote THE KILLER MOST LIKELY, in which twin brothers — a convict and a class president attend their high-school  reunion hoping to reunite with the same woman, the convict’s ex-wife.

This time, for the fun of it, I’m trying my hand at fantasy. When I described my NaNo WIP to a student, he summed up CRIMSON FEATHERS as a “slice-of-life fantasy” about a homely and plump professor who meets the man of her dreams —  an Aztec warrior  — in her dreams. It is based on an actual dream I had in the late 1980’s. Now, after figuring thinking the plot over, I’ve decided to go for it.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, even schools are coming up with their own NaNo presentations. Mine will meet in our campus library, every Tuesday night at seven o’clock for presentations and write-ins. Even better, the first one, on November 3, will meet on my birthday.

If you have always wanted to say you wrote a novel — defined by NaNoWriMo as 50,000 words — this is your chance. Prepare your character sketches. Build your “worlds”, and even dash off an outline or two, but the actual work must start no sooner than 12:00 a.m. on November 1.

Have fun making a royal  mess. Change the characters’ names in the middle of the story. Send New Yorkers off on an African safari in Central Park. Above all, jump in with both feet and have yourself a ball.

For inspiration, read Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem. As you learn how to write out numbers and eschew hyphenated words, you’ll giggle over his instructive silliness.

Okay, so who wants to join me in a month-long write-in? On your mark, get set, go!

NAVIGATING THE MAZE, PART 2: Winding Around and Around…and AROUND!


10-19-2015

Jeff’s coming home from his two-day trip to a POWUR conference in San Diego! Oh, happy day!

Only one hitch: the plane will arrive early Monday morning. Well, one thing you have to know is that neither one of us is an early-riser. We wake up around ten and eat breakfast at noon. So, in order for me to meet his plane on time at 5:09 a.m, I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m to allow time to take a shower, fix my face, and choose my outfit. Since the route to the airport is still fresh on my mind, and Jeff has said the plane would arrive at Terminal E, all I need to do is get there and follow the road to “arrivals”. Check, check, and check. Gotcha.

On second thought, make that, “don’t gotcha”.

6:10 a.m. — I  awake with a start, wondering why it’s already so bright, outside. I glance at the time. Yikes!  Jeff must wonder where the heck I am! Sure enough, there are five messages from Jeff.

“I here.”

“Where R U?”

“U ok?”

“wreck?”

and, finally, “Phone battery going down.”

So, while I’m trying to wake up, I call him to say I’m on my way as soon as I throw on some clothes.I have no idea why my alarm didn’t wake me up.

“No hurry, babe,” he says. “Just get here soon as you can.”

So I throw on my clothes, brush my teeth, and grab my purse. This time, I know which exit to take and which lane to be sure I’m in. Before I know it, I pull up in front of Terminal E and text “Here.”

So where is my hot and sexy husband?

“No, you’re not,” he replies.

Ack! Okay, Kim. Circle around, again.

Well, anyone who has been to DFW Airport, recently, can understand. There is no such thing as a quick turn-around. After finding my way out of a tunnel of construction and winding up almost to the toll gate, I see a lane way over to the left marked “Return to Terminals”.

Thank you, Jesus, I whisper, as I scooch on over to the left.

A bell clangs in my head.

“Round Two. We’re going to get it right, this time.”.

Alas and alack, minutes later, I wind up in the same place: “Departures”.  Where did I go wrong, I wondered. I flogged myself a couple of times and smacked my forehead, just for good measure.

As I take the other fork on the “Arrivals” and “Departures” ramp , I choose the path I didn’t take the first two times.

Now this is looking familiar, I’m thinking, as warm fuzzies encircle me. But it gets even better when I see Jeff approaching. I’ve finally done it right. After he throws his bag in the back, he comes around to my side to let me out and drive us home.

Out of curiosity, I pull out my phone which I had set for 3:30 a.m….or so I thought. I had even double-checked it. But, after two nights of sleeping fitfully and alone, I should have known better than to trust my foggy brain.

On our way home, I pull out my phone and check the time I had set for the alarm. I was halfway right. I did set it for 3:30…P.M?  With love and understanding in his bloodshot  eyes, Jeff chuckles. “My bride,” he says, patting my knee.

So here we are, back at home.  I have survived another harrowing trip to DFW International Airport. As Jeff snores, upstairs, I’m downstairs in my recliner, Mac in lap, mighty thankful I’m alive to tell the tale.

***************

NAVIGATING THE MAZE: Winding Around and Around at DFW Airport


10-17-15.

In all the months Jeff and I have been married, we’ve been together almost all the time. I can count the number of nights we’ve been away from each other. Exactly one, when he did “Opa-duty” that turned out keeping him overnight at his daughter’s house when I had to teach.

But recently, an opportunity for a two-day meeting in San Diego cropped up. What he stood to learn from this two-day stint could greatly improve our lives and our pocketbooks. It sounded like exciting stuff!

So, yesterday morning, I hitched up my “big girl” bloomers and drove my husband to DFW International Airport for his flight. The night before, we agreed (sort of) that I  find my way back home easier if I drove him there, to begin with.

*Slapping forehead* What was I thinking?

You must know, up front, that I believe in starting out early, giving myself plenty of turn-around time, in case I goof up. So, before bedtime, I set the alarm for 5:45 a.m. so we could make it in time for his 8:50 a.m. departure. Early, much? You bet! Still, I’ve learned, particularly when it comes to flying, that it is much easier to be early and have nothing to do but hang around rather than zipping down the road and swerving around traffic that had the nerve to be on the road at the same time we were.

It was one of those situations. The same sunglasses that shielded my eyes from the sun also blinded me to the dashboard of our car. When I was glancing at the dash, I needed to be watching the roads which zigged and zagged.

On the way there, I remembered  why I hate driving to the airport. Left turns here and right turns there are not gradual; they are sharp, immediate, and, too often, after-the-fact. Invariably, I’m always in the left lane when I need to be in the right.

Before we left, Jeff warned me that he was not a good passenger, no matter who is in the driver’s seat. Must be a “dude” thing. Anyway, I believe him. As tears stung my eyes, I had to remind myself, “He’s just nervous, Kim. Nothing personal.”

So, we  made it all the way to the South Entrance toll booth, So far, so good. But when we pulled up to the arm that was supposed to swing up and let us through, it didn’t. The attendants ignored us until my usually-sweet-tempered hubby whammed on the horn and yelled, “Hey, you over there! Get over here and help us!”

Yes, I’ll admit I’m a chicken-liver about driving anyone to the airport. In fact, the times I’ve flown out, I’ve either ridden the TRE (“alphabet-soup” for Trinity Railway Express) or hitched a ride on Super Shuttle there. Even my own sons, knowing how I shrink from the idea, have driven themselves to the airport.  I can usually find my way home back.

Key word:  “usually”.

While driving around and around in the parking garage “labyrinth”, I got hopelessly and claustrophobically lost while trying to find my way out. Instead of the South Entrance, exit, I wound up taking the North one through Grapevine. But, hey, by then, I was on my way home after depositing Jeff in time his 8:50 a.m. flight. He did make it, didn’t he?

Nope. I no sooner got home when he texted me. “Missed plane. Waiting for another flight.” The important thing was, he cooled down and I realized I had lived through it.

The best part of all was getting his text. “I’m sorry. I love you.”

That said, which airports do you particularly hate and why?

FROM “MISERABILIA” TO MEMORABILIA


09-24-15

Hey, girlfriends: what do you call trinkets and other mementos that remind you from sad times in your life?

Well, I coined a word for them — “miserabilia”. Like so many other words, it comes from the Latin — “misery” or “miserable”.

Okay, I lied about that one. Still, some of us still have them in drawers or jewelry boxes, somewhere, never to be worn again.

Necklaces, bracelets, earrings — even rings.  We happen onto these relics from “other lives” while we are rummaging for something else:  loose change or  forgotten $100 bills.

Yeah. Those.

So, what do you do with them? Wear them, anyway, thinking, “They are mine. So, what the heck?”  Hold your breath and pitch them into the  “give-away” pile? Sell them at garage sales? Relegate them to deep, dark drawers. Find a way to turn old into new?

And what about those “selfies” of you and ol’ “Mr. Wrong”? Before my husband and I married, I exorcised those suckers as fast as my finger could delete, delete, delete and freed some space to store a lifetime of happy memories with my “Mr. Right”.

Yes, some memories are worth re-visiting. Other memories — and trinkets — are best forgotten, in favor of  newer and happier ones with your soul mate.

So, ladies, what did you do with baubles from other beaux?

*********

CARS, COMPUTERS, AND CASH: My Top-Three “Necessary Evils”


09-18-18

What things do you most hate to be without? Contraptions and gizmos that, when they work, you’re in love. And, when they go kablooey, you curse the day you ever discovered them? Well, my three are cars, computers, and cash. As David Letterman used to do, I’ll present these from least to most.

Number-threecars. You love when they run.  You fire up the engine, crank up the tunes, slide open the sun roof, and go, go, go. That is, until the needle on the gas gauge hovers below that red “check fuel” zone. Unless you want to walk twenty, ten, or even five miles to work, you gotta swing by the pump. Then, sooner or later,  those pesky tires and batteries rear their heads and twiddle their thumbs, waiting for you to deal with them. And, lest we forget, those annoying inspection and registration reminder.As the late Gilda Radner always said in her Roseanne Roseanna Anna Danna persona: “It’s always something!”

Number two: computers — the second biggest object of my affection/disgust: computers. And why are cars less annoying than computers? Because even if your car breaks down and you are stuck at home, you can always crack open that trusty laptop. Or can you?  Included in this category are printers, particularly the wireless ones, iPhones and I-anything-elses. As a college professor, I can count on my wireless printer to develop Alzheimers at three major times of the semester: the beginning,  the middle, and the end. Around our house, printer cartridges and toner drain like sieves, and printer paper becomes precious as  gold. Before we know it, we run out.  And don’t even trip my trigger about the short life span of even the trustiest laptop. Last year, my faithful,  five-year-old Toshiba — fifth in my laptop lineage– succumbed to a killer virus that rendered the screen totally black, never to light up again. Of course, its untimely demise happened two weeks before payday.

That leads to the number-one “root of all evil”– money.  Without it,  you can’t buy gas, pay for inspection or registration, or other matters automotive. Without “moolah”, you can’t replace the toner or buy paper, or, worst-case scenario, buy another computer. Without “dough”, you can’t buy food or even use your credit cards. In other words:  “no mon, no fun!”

Cars, computers, and cash — the top three on my list of necessary evils. What are the top three items you love until they go belly-up or need maintenance?

AND WE’RE BACK: Continued Tales From The “Trenches”


09-11-2015

On August 31, the Fall 2015 semester at the community college where I teach started off with a bang. Having been an instructor of Composition 1 — the dreaded “Freshman Comp” — I should know what I’m in for. I mean, I’ve been at this for more than twenty-six years. Let’s face it — college students’ thumbs may flutter like hummingbird wings over their phone keyboards, but when it comes to their being able to follow directions, it’s a different story. As I’m writing this post, it reminds me of others I’ve written:  “They Like To Watch Me Tap Dance”. Granted, as an instructor in a Humanities course such as English, I must teach the format prescribed by the Modern Language Association (also lovingly known as “MLA”)  in which sources are cited within the paper according to an author-page format and then the publication information for that source, listed in a Works Cited page following the last page of the paper.

But, first, before they start writing full-blown essays, they must practice with the three types of research notes: direct quotations, summaries, and paraphrases. Particularly paraphrases.

Just the other night, I led them through instructions for paraphrasing homework. A popular online college website, the the Purdue Online Writing Lab, has an excellent site for practicing paraphrasing and summarizing in order to avoid plagiarizing the original source. At the end of each class, my face was bathed in sweat and my hair hung in strings, sort of like when I gave birth.

Face it, folks, teaching this stuff is not for wimps.

Every semester, I look for other exercises. Sure-fire, slam-dunk ways to put these skills across. I’ve been teased and even accused for giving people too much information during my instructions.So I inserted a link to the exercise I wanted my students to complete. To be sure they saw it, I even posted it in that assignment and even color-coded the parts of the original citation that I wanted them to include:  the source’s last name or the article title (whichever they had to work with) and the page number. I also pointed out the information in the original source’s citation that they did not need to include in their own citations of the sources, such as journal titles and publication dates. I tap-danced ad nauseam about the fact that, even though the original sources included citations, already, that they, my  esteemed students, were also supposed to include their own parenthetical citations also, following the last line of each passage.

My final instruction:  they were to upload their homework to the “assignments” link of the Blackboard page for their course and section number by the following Monday, stressing that I would not, under any circumstances, accept hard copies.(After all, I gave the assignment on Wednesday to be due the following Monday. Certainly, that would give them enough time to complete the assignment, as directed, thirty minutes before class time.)

Please excuse me, here, while I bang my head against a wall.

Yesterday, when the earliest assignments reared their heads in my grade book, I discovered that, while a few computer-savvy souls followed the directions, many others turned in “creative” spins on my assignment. Ether they did not listen, or they asked others what they were supposed to do, or, my favorite, they blatantly forged right ahead and did it their way, anyway. One even assigned each word in the citation a different color, even though I stressed that I had color-coded the parts of the citation only to show them what I needed to see.

During my lesson on this exercise, the other day, I also stressed that paraphrases were about the same length as the original sources’ passages. So if the original one consisted of a paragraph, then their paraphrase of it should be about the same length.

Well, to put a twist on Bill Clinton’s famous words about “what the definition of is is,”, I began to think that my illustrious students redefined the word about in the same way. For instead of paraphrases that were about one paragraph in length, as the originals, I saw only one-or-two-sentence summaries of the source’s words, instead.

Even worse — here insert the JAWS or PSYCHO soundtrack — there was no evidence whatsoever that they had tried any kind of parenthetical citation!

Granted, paraphrasing and summarizing are skills that are difficult to grasp, but I was doing my darnedest to reduce those skills to their simplest terms.

The first week — shoot, make that the first month — of Freshman Comp is fraught with woes. See my posts, “Cries From Babes In The Woods” and “The Second First Grade”. College freshmen may stand heads taller, wear bigger clothes, and have more hair on their bodies. They may be real whiz-bangs at texting and even copying and pasting, but there appears to be a disconnect in uploading anything online and following directions.

Tell me, do I care too much?

IN SEVEN TO TEN BUSINESS DAYS


08-15-15

IN SEVEN TO TEN BUSINESS DAYS

Back in December 2014, a company from whom I ordered a messenger bag emailed me that it was on its way.

“Thank you for your purchase,” said the email. “Your package has shipped. You will receive it in seven to ten business days.

While it was good that it was on the way, I wanted it to arrive as soon as possible. Like yesterday. Like mostly everyone else, I hate to wait. Seven to ten business days from the date of the email meant it would not arrive until almost two weeks later.

That email got me to thinking, which is always dangerous. Depending on what or whom we are waiting for and whether he, she, or it is good or bad, seven to ten business days – almost two weeks – can seem fleeting or eternal. It all depends on how badly you want what’s about to happen.

A lot of major events happen quickly. Some of them –- a baby or a wedding — are happy. Others — bills, assignments, taxes, or death — not so. Ever notice how things we do not want come around quicker than those we do?  That same week-or-so can be interminable while we wait for something good to happen.

Case in point, when my husband and I planned to meet in person after talking on the phone, chatting, and emailing each other for the first three weeks, our big day was frozen by a record ice-storm that paralyzed Dallas and Fort Worth in December 2013. As a result, the big “reveal” was postponed until the next weekend. As it turned out, he proved to be worth the wait.

Seven to ten business days are basically two weeks. It can come quickly for something you dread. If it is something or somebody you want, the time can drag like a forty-eight-hour clock.

What thing or event came entirely too fast in your life? And for what or whom did you have to wait an eternity?

WELCOME TO THE ” ‘GET-A MALL”!


08-15-15

WELCOME TO THE “GET-A” MALL

08-15-15

“Get real.”

“Get a life!”

“Get a job.”

Every day, people hear those words from friends, family, colleagues, and even enemies. But where do they go to “get-a” something they cannot get with money? Welcome to the “Get-A” Mall — the place you go to “get-a”. Open 24/7/365, this mall is available for all your “get-a” needs. But, a word of caution, it is not online. You need to “get-a” there in person.

The “Get-a” Mall offers a variety of stores, including its three most popular:

* “Get real”: First, do you really want to get real? Reality is scary. Sometimes, it even sucks! Divorce, disease, disability, death, bankruptcy — they are all part of life. But, if you are tired of your virtual existence, the nice folks at “Get real” aim to serve.

* “Get-a life”: Now this store’s waaaay more fun. Always wanted to be a stuntman? Here’s your chance. A ballerina? We have a tutu for yuyu. Rock star? Rock on!

* “Get-a job”: “What?” you say, “I don’t have any training!” Relax, man. Get someone else’s job. Be a doctor. Yeah, being a brain surgeon would be cool. All you would need is a good Black and Decker drill and you’re golden. Just go operate on someone else’s brain, okay? I’m good for now.

Attorney: (You really want people to vilify you?) Get a pair of running shoes – handy for chasing those ambulances.

*Teacher: (What? Are you crazy?)

Those are only three of the “Get-A” mall’s most popular stores. But how many times have people’s faces gone brain-dead and their eyes glassed over when you told them a joke? For those unfortunate sense-of-humor-challenged souls, there’s the “get-a joke” store. In one department, “stand-up comedy” schticks. In another, vaudevillian slapstick. And in a deep, dark medieval dungeon reserved for the truly humor-deficient, court jesters hired to jump out and tickle them senseless.

So, there you have it. “Get real”, “Get-a life”, “Get-a Job”, and “Get-a Joke”. Be the first to visit the “Get-a” Mall today.

WADING INTO THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, Part 1: “THIS HAS BECOME A QUEST!”


06-18-15

In the original National Lampoon’s Vacation, Clark Griswold is determined to take his wife and two children to “Wally World”, a theme park about the size of Six Flags. Soon after they start out, they get lost, visit down-on-their-luck cousins, wreck their vehicle, go broke, and wind up with crotchety, walker-bound Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) for the rest of their trip until she dies in her sleep. Rather than returning her to Cousins Eddie and Catherine, they strap Edna’s corpse on top of their car and, after a highly unconventional prayer,  leave her on her children’s doorstep, in pouring rain.

In spite of his wife (Beverly D’Angelo) urging him to give up the idea and drive them home, Griswold ( Chevy Chase) shouts, “Oh, no.This has become a quest!

Quest. I know that word well. I’ve been known to launch into a few, myself. Earning two degrees, launching out for Port Aransas all by myself and even searching for a husband.

Let’s face it. I can be relentless when I need to be.

So, in April, while we were browsing the booths at McKinney Trade Days, someone sat me down and gave me an Instantly Ageless demo. After tapping it here and there — under my eyes, on my wrinkled cheeks, she handed me a mirror. Even my husband was astounded at the two-minute results. My wrinkles were gone. My weary eyes, rested. I had to have some for my own.  With my fifty-year high-school class reunion only a month away, I wanted to look good. No — breathtaking.

Toward the end of May, I took the next step toward the Fountain of Youth.  I found someone local to give me some Instantly Ageless samples for my husband and myself; I also decided to become a distributor.

Now, in my past experiences in promoting skin-care from another company, I have learned, the hard way, that people can be really skeptical. It seems to be the nature of the beast.

Feeling pumped at my first “Wine and Wrinkles” J-Party,  I sold a fistful of Instantly Ageless sachets to someone on a budget. The experience empowered me. After all, when people see their wrinkles diminish and the bags under their eyes disappear within two minutes, something almost super-human happens — that little drop of product  starts to sell itself.

After hearing about this cutting-edge cream that packs the same one-two tap on wrinkles as its rival, Botox but without needles or risks, I started brainstorming types of people who might use it. My first thought — people in the “beauty biz”.

I remembered the person who gave me facials.

“Oh, I know! I’ll try it with *Lisa (*not her real name). She can use it on her clients.”

Well, it sounded like a good idea, at the time. So, on Tuesday, I called the massage center where I once had a membership and made an appointment. When I arrived, the girl at the desk escorted me to the “Tranquility Room” to wait for her.

Lisa was in her early twenties, if I had to guess. Her face was already flawless and wrinkle-free. But, hey, I had to get my feet wet. She sat patiently while I fumbled with my phone, wrangled with a slow-loading demo video and forgot to take a “Before” picture of her before I started. At last, the easy part — squeezing out a droplet of Instantly Ageless to tap-tap-tap below her already bagless eyes and smooth complexion.

As I inexpertly performed my first demo of the product, I remembered the famous words: “Don’t try this at home.”

Finished, at last, I snapped an “After” picture on my iPhone and showed it to her. She loved it. At least, she acted as if she did to make me feel better.

Okay! Moving right along, here, I thought, before I homed in for the “close”.

“So how much Instantly Ageless would you like, today?”

Her eyes clouded. She bit her pretty lower lip. She cleared her throat.

“Actually. We’re not supposed to use any other products but the ones the company gives us.”

Now, I have to tell you that, before I walked into her room to do my schtick, I had heard grisly tales — about  “ex-pats” who defected from rival companies after they saw the amazing results of Instantly Ageless on themselves. I was prepared to show Lisa a picture of that “scoundrel”. At least, I thought I was. Alas — as I dug through my bag, I discovered I didn’t have it, after all.

My big-time “bad”. Still, I remembered other famous words: “Never let ’em see you sweat.”

“Is that so? Okay, then. But, you know, I’ve been known to work a deal with people who want to try it for themselves.”

Again, she smiled ruefully. “Sorry, can’t. But thanks for coming.”

Well, I know enough about sales to know the odds. It’s like inviting people to a party. You have to ask twelve to wind up with six who actually show up.

I remembered what someone in a rival company once told me about customer behavior: “Remember, they’re not rejecting you. They’re just rejecting the idea.”

Hey, no problem, I thought, as I returned to my car.  There always has to be a first time. Besides, I have another appointment with someone at a nail salon. The same one I have used for eight years. Certainly, the techs there will be receptive.

Or not?

Okay, on my first day out, I batted zero. But, at least, I went out.  And, as my sponsor told me, “You did great. Keep it up.”

Yes, I’m determined. By the way, I did mention the word quest, didn’t I? Meanwhile, besides for having my web site with the company, I also created a Facebook page, Fountain of Youth by Kim Terry. Come in out of the heat. Look around. Make yourself at home.

So, how can you look at least ten years younger? Click the link below and see this woman’s amazing results for yourself.

*****

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL: Part 4, “Highlander Heads and Threads”


June 7, 2015

Part of being a Highlander in the 1960’s, besides for the hangouts, the hits, and the reunions, were our hairdos and our clothes, or  “heads” and “threads”.

HEADS

Girls:

1. The “Flip” — a high-maintenance “do” requiring us to use over-sized brush rollers (and, even, soup or juice cans), Scotch tape to keep our bangs from curling, a metal ratting comb, and enough hair spray to alert the EPA. We spent enough money on our “do’s” to buy our own beauty salons or sat for what seemed like hours under our own portable bonnet hair dryers.

Please note: the YouTube video shows someone using a blow-dryer and a curling iron. To that, I say, “No pain, no gain”. They’ll never know the fun or the sleep they missed doing it our way.

2. The beehive was another “do” we attempted, usually for dressier occasions. It didn’t work out too hot in the gym. See the YouTube link below.

Again, how can these “twenty-somethings” know how to do up a good bouffant? Sheesh!

Boys: Crew-cuts (successor of the flat-top and ducks of the 1950’s). Relatively low-maintenance (I guess, as I never wore them). Thanks to Bing images images for providing this picture.

THREADS

Girls: Although women were influenced by the simple but classic elegance of Jackie Kennedy with her pill box hat, we wore pleated skirts, Oxford-cloth blouses, cardigans, and suede penny loafers in coordinating colors to school in cooler weather and spaghetti-strap sundresses in warmer weather.

http://cdn.is.bluefly.com/mgen/Bluefly/eqzoom85.ms?img=308713901.pct&outputx=583&outputy=700&level=1&ver=1

Boys: white or light-colored jeans with Oxford-cloth shirts (with loops in the back), Madras plaid shirts, Italian-style slip-on leather shoes.

http://pimg.tradeindia.com/00360657/b/1/Indigo-Madras-Plaid-Short-Sleeved-Shirt-.jpg

Thanks to YouTube and Bing contributors for their videos and images. I could not have written a post like this without their help.

In conclusion, I have inserted pictures of some popular haircuts, styles, and clothing  from back then. One question remains — what styles worked for you, back then? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!

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ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL, PART 3: “Highlander Hits”


June 5, 2015

Hey, Highlanders, on count of three, raise your hands if you can name the artist for each song. Ready, set, GO!

1. “California Dreamin’ ”  a) the Grateful Dead  b) Jimmy Buffet  c) the Mamas and the Papas

2. “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me”  a) the Rolling Stones  b) Linda Ronstadt  c) the Mama’s and the Papas

3. “Come See About Me”  a) The Supremes  b) the Shirelles  c) Linda Ronstadt

4. “Little Deuce Coupe”  a) Jan and Dean  b) the Beatles  c) the Beach Boys

And the last one <drum roll>:

5. “Cherry, Cherry”  a) Elvis Presley  b) the Beatles  c) Neil Diamond

Okay, let’s see how everyone did. Below are the answers to each of the five quiz questions.

1.  c (Mama’s and the Papas) 

2. b (Linda Ronstadt) 

3. a (The Supremes) 

4.  c (the Beach Boys) 

5. c (Neil Diamond) 

* My thanks go to the YouTube contributors for these embedded links.*

The next level of the quiz, #6-9 matching the following numbers with the name of their AM radio stations. Here we go, again!

6. 1360  a) KFJZ  b) KXOL  c) WBAP  d) KLIF.

7. 1270   a) KLIF  b) KFJZ  c) KXOL  d) WBAP

8. 1190 a) KLIF  b) WBAP  c) KFJZ  d) KXOL

9. 820  a) KLIF b) KXOL  c) KFJZ  d) WBAP.

And for the trivia question <another drum roll>

10. Charlie Hobbie was a deejay on  a) KXOL  b) KLIF  c) WBAP  d) KFJZ.

Let’s see how we did on the second round. Please hold your applause until the end.

6. b (KXOL)

7. b) KFJZ

8. a) KLIF

9. d (WBAP)

10. d (KFJZ)

So, there you have it. My favorite song from the 1960’s was the Diamonds’ “Li’l Darlin'”. What was your favorite? I’d love to hear from you!

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ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL, PART 2: “Highlander Hangouts


June 2, 2015

Come on, Highlanders, show me your hands if you remember any of the following bygone East Lancaster sites:

*  Jack Collier Drug Store

* Fair East Shopping Center

* Hart’s Dress Shop

* Pizza Tower

* Gateway Theater

Growing up on Sargent Street, off Meadowbrook Drive, I terrorized East Lancaster almost every day, for one reason or another. My earliest memory was munching animal crackers and looking at the new Golden Book Mama bought to keep me peaceful while she grocery-shopped at Worth Food Market. If she was “flush”, we stopped off  for a greasy burger and a Coke “suicide” at Jack Collier Drug Store. I shopped for school supplies and made sure they added up to at least a dollar so the nice soda jerks would give me a free shake or malt. And Hart’s, a little hole-in-the-wall dress shop, was the source of many of my outfits for those special school events.

Along about my teens, I loved to walk up to Fair East Shopping Center just for the exercise and browse the magazine rack at Skillern’s, rummage through and play 45-rpm records at the record store, drool over the darrrrling dresses at Monnig’s and Kay Fleming and stroll the creaking hardwood floors of Mott’s, just to sniff that unique, five-and-dime  smell.

The Pizza Tower was the perfect little restaurant for a romantic candlelight dinner with a date after a football game or a movie at the Hollywood, Worth, Palace, or Gateway Theaters (where I know I paid more attention to the crowd than I did the movie or the game).

Also located on Lancaster, the Griddle System. I remember my “bestie”, Tonya Woolbright (now-deceased EHHS 1967 grad) and I would walk up to the Griddle System on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and feast on their “special”: a burger with special sauce, French fries, and a frosty root beer.

After gorging at the Griddle, we would head up to the Gateway for the rest of the afternoon. Back then, if we showed our “Teenage Discount Cards”, we would get in for under a dollar with change left for popcorn, candy, and a drink from the Coke machine. Tonie and I watched the movie, cartoons, and any serials at least twice before calling it a day and starting back home. The Gateway, being up the street from my house, was also a convenient landmark for directing anyone to my house before I was able to drive by myself.

There were other places along our much-decayed but never-forgotten “beat”: Spartans, Char-Bar, the Crown Root Beer stand,Driftwood Drive-in, and Cox’s Department Store.   Now, each of them is  out of business, boarded up, or transformed into something else. Still, whenever we meet for our monthly lunches at Mexican Inn, I try to allow time to drive down East Lancaster Avenue and, once more, relive  our “Highlander Hang-outs”.