Living on Island Time: Making It Happen!


3- 21-17

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. Other businesses: the HEB supermarket, a bakery serving up pastries and home-cooking, a mall hawking one-of-a-kind wares, 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 who 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 park with cement driveways, 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, and even met some of our neighbors.

As Sunday’s 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.

“Hey, babe, did we really do that?” Jeff asked. “Did we really 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 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 information about each model, we promised him he would see us 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 a stop at a tiny-home dealership where a rep promised to call us when a new shipment of tiny homes arrived.

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

For the past few days, men have arrived to help us get our house in shape 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 about to become 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 April. RV life will prove quite a challenge, especially for an ol’ girl like me who loves 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

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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?

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OUR RUSSET: No More Does She Roam


11951756_10206446283109590_3593769978889703797_n

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!

*********

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!

*********

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”.

“ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL, Part 1: A Highlander Reunion


June 1, 2015

Pep Rally Days, 1965. It was our tradition. The Highlandettes would march down the aisle to “Loch Lomond” and file into the front-and-center rows of the auditorium. The band would play. Cheerleaders would lead us in “What’s the Good Word?” and other cheers, the football players would come up on stage, and our principal, Roy C. Johnson would practically throw his shoulder out leading us in another yell. Toward the end of the rally, we would sing our Alma Mater before crossing our arms, chain-style, and grabbing the hands of those on our left and right. If we sat on the end of the row, we’d hold the hand of the person behind us. And then we would shout, “All for one, and one for all!”

We are the Eastern Hills High School Highlanders, and this is our cry.

So it was only natural that these golden words would be splashed across our decorations when we celebrated our fiftieth class reunion on May 29 and 30. We’ve been ramping up to this event since as early as 2014, actually, when we received the first “Save the Date” postcards with a photo of Class Officers Phil Luebbehusen, Mike Gentry, and Steve Morris on the front.

Now, two days later, as I’m writing this post, Jeff and I are still winding down from the excitement — okay, image

that, and the dancing — but my  head, a runaway balloon, has drifted far above Cloud Ten. A two-day event — May 29 and 30 — the fifty-year reunion of the Eastern Hills High School Class of 1965 has been nothing short of beyond amazing. Our Howdy Party at the Ventana Grille of Tierra Verde Golf Course, Ladies’ Luncheon, complete with Mimosas at Ridglea Country Club, and a party-to-end-all parties at Mira Vista Country Club reinforced the fact that we Highlanders can still party like nobody’s looking.

We have Reunion Chairman, Marsha McCarty Hilcher, and her illustrious and accomplished Committee to thank. Starting in 2014, Marsha, the brains and beauty behind this extravaganza, and Terry Allen, in charge of “Save the Date” cards, Reunion invitations, and Facebook correspondence, began whetting our appetites for the  “Big Do” in May.  Some of us  posted our own “throwback” photos of those bygone days  on our EHHS Class of 1965 Facebook page. If Marsha did the “enfolding”, Susan Hunsaker Gregg did the “investigating”, doing an outstanding job of rounding up the lost “clan members” and providing contact info for students and teachers.

Since the day we marched down the aisle  to strains of “Pomp and Circumstance”, we have remained remarkably close-knit, in spite of our large class size — roughly four hundred grads. Thanks to Facebook, we have remained even closer and  have even met  for monthly lunches at our favorite Mexican Inn and the Dixie House Cafe on East Lancaster Avenue and other places in the area.

On Friday evening, the feeling I experienced by being surrounded by my classmates — some I hadn’t seen since graduation — was that it was the closest thing to Heaven, short of seeing my parents, grandparents, departed friends, and, of course, my dogs. Before we lined up for our buffet of fajitas, rice, and beans, our classmate, Ron Sellers, directed everyone to touch someone else and led us in a stirring prayer to thank God for our parents and teachers who brought us  to that moment. A video of our high-school memories as well as music from the 1960’s, such as Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” had us dancing in our seats as we ate.

Saturday, May 30 began with the Ladies’ Luncheon in the Garden Room of the Ridglea Country Club. Thanks to Patty Groody Enstrom, Karen Brantley Faulkner, Debbie Maddox Self, Becky Wright Gibbs, and Joann Hooten Mayer and a snort-worthy “stand-up” routine about the highlights of our high-school years delivered by Peggy Brooks Bain, we all dined sumptuously on salad, some chicken dish with angel-hair pasta and cream sauce, grilled zucchini, rolls, and lemon, pecan, and chocolate squares the consistency of brownies. After many more hugs and a group picture, we waved good-bye and “See you tonight!”.

A few hours later, Jeff and I drove out to the Mira Vista Country Club in Benbrook. Many thanks to Jerry Conatser for lining up such a beautiful location and a talented band. As we had been told, a guard would check our names on the list of attendees before opening the gates. Then, thanks to John Sparks for our nametags and the 50th Reunion video. What other words can I use to describe this event other than “absolutely unforgettable”?  Otis Schmidt, owner of the 1957 T-bird, was generous in loaning his snazzy little ride for any photo “opps”. With the help of Jan Bussey, she and I contributed parts of our Highlandette uniforms — she, the plumed cap and requisite white Oxford-cloth shirt and me, the vest and blue-gray-and-white wool Tartan skirt. Jerry Wood was the Golf Tournament Chairman and Texas Wesleyan University provided golf prizes. A roving photographer, Dave Roth, snapped group pictures on the staircase and candids of us as we mingled with each other and our teachers: English teacher, Beverly Hanks Weatherford; business teacher, Marjorie Reid McLendon, and Ronnie Martin, our band director.

Of course, there had to be someone to collect our money for this long-awaited shindig. Thank you, Jan Pack for being our treasurer for all these years. Better you than me to handle all that money.

While we mingled, Mira Vista servers circulated with shrimp, shish kebobs, and pecan chicken fingers and expert bartenders served our wine and beer and mixed our cocktails.

And thanks to Jimmy Bilderback for snagging a “real-live” bagpiper to usher in Phil Luebbehusen and Mike Gentry, Class Officers and the Master of Ceremonies.

Then, there was the buffet, offering three kinds of meat — fork-tender chicken, succulent salmon, and juicy beef — plus salad and pan-fried potatoes with their skins left on, and sauteed green beans was well worth the wad of cash we had to pay. Even on top of that were two huge cakes with Eastern Hills Class of ’65. One with chocolate cake, and the other, white. The buttercream frosting was so scrumptious that I was tempted to go back for a bowl of it, by itself.

Of course, the fun of reunions is — well — reuniting with classmates from all over the country. Although there were some who never wandered from the DFW Metroplex, others were from various points in Texas and other states. For example, among the nine at our table on Saturday night were two people I have not seen since junior high and high school. Two of us, Catheleen Jordan and I, are now college professors. Our friend from the East, the talented James Martin, is now an renowned artist living in New York City. Brian and Francine Hilliard — high-school sweethearts — settled in Rockwall, Texas. And Danny and Nancy Webb drove in all the way from picturesque Hot Springs, Arkansas.

After a video reenacting the highlights of our senior years, the band kicked off and the dancing began. I’m still seeing spots before my eyes after what seems like a million cell phone cameras flashing in the dark. At the beginning, couples rushed out to dance to a mixture of 1960’s music such as “Unchained Melody” and “The House of the Rising Sun” and even a few country-western songs such as Jim Reeves’ classic,”Welcome To My World”. Around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., tired husbands rested their “doggies” while we women kicked off our shoes, got out and wiggled and jiggled amongst ourselves and with each other.

At 11:45 p.m., the party started drawing to a close and the band sang their last song. After waving good-bye and yelling, “See you at the monthly lunch” or “See you at the Sixtieth”, we and our pooped-but-patient spouses  headed for home.

I can hardly wait for our sixtieth. The beauty of class reunions, as I’ve oberved them, is that the more I’ve attended, the more we all appreciate each other. The more “vintage” we become, the more we experience Life and Her ups and downs and the more we share and empathize with each other.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Patterson

LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, PART 5: “Shoes Full of Sand, Hearts Full of Memories”


IMG_098605-23-15

In the corner of our living room stands a rolling cart bulging with vacation clothes. For some reason, I have yet to unpack them. Around one a.m., this morning, my husband and I pulled into our driveway after a four-hundred-plus mile jaunt down to our beloved Port Aransas for a visit with my cousin, BeeGee and our favorite beach cottage, the Wahoo.

Once again, after a hectic semester that led to a scary fever-with-chills spell, I forced myself to be well enough for a jaunt to our favorite coastal area. It would be the perfect getaway to rest, write,and relax.

Monday, 5/18

After a weekend of Oma-and-Opa duty with two grandchildren, we get up around 9:00 a.m., pack the car with our vacation gear, and board Russet with her vet. It feels good to take off and grab a little time for ourselves before I have to start teaching summer school. After a round-about route ending on the ferry across Aransas Pass, we wind up in front of the Wahoo.

After resting and refreshing, the three of us — BeeGee, Jeff, and I– drive to Harbor Grill where BeeGee gives the cook some redfish, ordering half fried and the other half, grilled, before we find a table at The Back Porch, an outdoor bar facing the harbor. After dinner, we come home to visit some more before BeeGee mixes up a special breathing potion in a mister and sends it, along with some peppermint and eucalyptus oil. to cure an annoying cough I had developed during my last day at school.

Sure enough, the salty beach air mixed with peppermint-and-eucalyptus scented mist sent me off to blissful sleep.

Tuesday, 5/19

Feeling so much better after the mister has cleaned out  those nasty toxins, I am ready for a romp on the beach.  After a quick cereal-and-coffee breakfast, Jeff and I head on down to a beach splashed with puddles from frequent, daily rains. Splashing through the puddles, we finally find a place to park. At last, I get to kick out of my flip-flops and squish wet sand between my toes as we stroll the beach. Among a variety of shells and broken sand dollars lay the bluish jelly-like Portuguese man-of-war. Knowing not to touch them, lest we touch one of their stinging tentacles, we dodge around them. Although the water is murky, even early in the morning, it doesn’t dull our fun of finding shells and feeling the cool water on our  toes.

Tired from the sun, we go home mid-afternoon, after stopping for fish tacos and a stroll through at Moby Dick’s souvenir shop. After purchasing a glittery visor and two small Talavera figurines — a turtle and a star — we head for the grocery store on the island for burger fixin’s for supper and then back to the cottage, which Jeff has started calling “home”.

That evening, we get together with BeeGee for a hamburger cookout. Ground beef  mixed with bison makes some mighty tasty burgers. Added to that, fresh melon, tossed salad, and wine provide a satisfying dinner. Afterwards, we all watch the finale of “The Voice”. Soon after Jeff excuses himself to go back to our cottage, I follow suit.

Wednesday, 5/20

After a morning romp on the beach, we strike out to surrounding areas — Aransas Pass and Rockport — for the possibility of homes to retire in.  We were particularly enchanted with picturesque Rockport with its La Buena Vida and neighboring City By The Sea neighborhoods. Although we have not decided, yet, we’re certainly open to the idea of moving closer to the gulf area where I can write and we can take life easy.

That night, BeeGee orders pizza and we watch t.v. until we get sleepy and cruise on back to our cabin.

Thursday, 5/21

As we are packing up our car to start back home, we get a call from the security alarm people. They have received  a “glass break” signal from our kitchen. As there have been bad storms in the Arlington area, the person on the phone admits that the lightning has probably set off the alarm. Still, she asks us if we wanted  to call the police, just to make sure and we say, “Yes”.

After we hug BeeGee, we head out for Padre Island in search of more shells. At the gate to the Padre Island National Seashore checkpoint, I purchase a senior’s pass that is good for a lifetime. Stopping at Malaquite Beach for our turkey-sandwich lunch, we drive along the beach where we find two men coaxing a beached shark back into the water and a number of washed up Portuguese man-of-war, which, according to Visitor’s Center display, is not one animal but many ]in the tentacles of one bluish jellyfish.

From there, we travel onto San Antonio in sporadic but blinding rainstorms. Thanks to Hotwire, I’m able to book our room in the Holiday Inn, near the Riverwalk. We arrive around four p.m., freshen up, and hop a shuttle to the area, lined with gift shops and restaurants catering to a variety of appetites from enchiladas to barbecue and beyond. Our quesadillas and the frozen margarita we share on Rita’s On the River are piquant and delicious.

“I stop picking up at 8:50 p.m, but if you run into a problem, just gimme a call,” said Steve, the shuttle driver.

Although we tried to be through in time to ride the shuttle back to our room, we wind up walking back to the hotel. It is a winding trip, but as there are others finding their way home, as well, we are perfectly safe. Although I had set up my laptop for some work, later,it takes only lying down on our comfy king-sized bed for us to realize how wiped-out we really are.

Friday,  5/22

“Hey, babe. Do you realize it’s nearly eleven?”

My eyelids, as if on hinges, spring open. “Yikes! What time is checkout?”

“Dunno,” says Jeff, picking up the phone in the room. “Let’s check.”

After a few minutes on the phone, I hear him say,”At noon? Thanks.”

Disappointed that our Holiday Inn doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast as its Express versions do,  we scout out a restaurant and find a Jim’s Restaurant which reminds me of the old Fort Worth Kip’s chain. Our egg-and-sausage breakfast tacos with hash browns and sliced tomatoes were generous and filling and the coffee, hot and bracing.

With the car freshly gassed and our tummies full, we head out for New Braunfels, driving through spurts of blinding rain, to see Jeff’s son and daughter-in-law and their sons, Jayson and Bryon and watch Bryon play the first of a three-game basketball tournament. After a stop at the Brackenridge Japanese Gardens, Jeff and I  decide to head on home instead of staying overnight with his son and daughter-in-law. After all, we are still hacking and coughing and don’t want to share that crud with anyone else.

On the way to San Marcos, the site of the game, we find stop-and-go traffic on nortbound Interstate 35. At the time, it is 6:45; the game is at 7:00. Still, there is no hope of the traffic clearing. All we know is that Bryon and his parents are two cars up ahead.

We were glad we went. After watching Bryon play and come out victorious when his team won, we headed on in to Arlington, stopping only in Belton to gas up and grab coffee and iced tea.

When we walk through our door, we discover that the lightning knocked off of a chunk of plaster in our living room, bottles from our kitchen window and even stuff from the window ledge in our office. As our townhome is located next door to the pool, the impact from the lightning must have been strong enough to not only set off the alarm but rattle our door and windows.

Saturday, May 23

Now, with our pooped puppy bailed out of the vet, here we are — sleeping off the trip. The whirlwind trip has been fun; we’re already looking forward to the next one. For now, as we shake the sand off our sandals, our hearts teem with memories. We are mighty glad to be home.

NOT JUST EVERYONE IS COLLEGE MATERIAL


05-16-15

Several weeks ago, a local college rolled out a new campaign in a public-service commercial. Their strategy: “We believe everyone is college material.”

While I can understand what the advertisers were trying to say, the “touchy-feely, fuzzy-wuzzy” slogan galled this professor.

The first time I heard the commercial, I was slamming out essays.  The pain that my students’ copious comma splices, fragments, “text-ese” and other essay no-no’s were inflicting made me yearn for a nice, slow a root canal  without Novocaine, or any kind of “caine”.

I have taught college English since the late 1980’s.  I love teaching college students and wouldn’t want to teach any other level. During my years in the classroom, I have taught many kinds of students: returning students, first-timers, part-timers, you name it. While there are a decent number who are there because they want to be and have set aside time to give me their best effort, too many fit within the second category I am writing about. Good kids, probably. But they are the ones who would have done better to hang back a year or two and do something else, instead.

Found a job.  Enlisted in the military. Traveled to Europe. Enrolled in a trade school.

Anything but showing up in class in body only.  Straggling into an 8:30 a.m. class at 9:20, just as I’m winding up. Or, after they have already arrived late, telling me they have to leave twenty minutes early to go to work. I can’t help wondering why they haven’t had a heart-to-heart with their bosses about coordinating their school requirements with their work schedules. Attending school is every bit as much of a commitment as is working.

Yes, college is tough. That’s why it is called college. It is a proving-ground for life. And no. Not everyone is ready for it. At least, not at first. Sometimes, not ever. Those of us who remember our college days have tales to tell. About  “mean” professors assigning at least fifty pages of reading per each book. About writing essays in response to challenging and, sometimes, downright impossible topics and turning them in by the end of the period, finished or not. And toting all of our required textbooks to class.

(*Raise your hands, here, if your backpack weighed more than you did, back then.)

Back in “the day”, there were no cell phones, no tablets, no Internet, and no e-books. While I am certainly not campaigning for doing away with the Internet — as that would take away my Facebook — I have noticed that students these days seem more distracted by their surroundings. technology, other students, their very lives. Pick one or all.

And what is this I hear about today’s students not being required to have textbooks? While I understand that those textbooks, especially the ones thick as a New York City phone directory, probably cost the same as one semester of college, purchasing them from the college bookstore is not a student’s only option. They can buy them used online, rent them, or find a friend who has finished the course and is dying to unload it.

Also, back then, there was no “bargaining” for grades. We took what we knew we had earned, barring unusual circumstances, of course. Today, it seems everybody  wants– no, demands –an A, whether they have earned it or not. Recently, some young lady asked me why she got a zero for a quiz when she waltzed in after I had taken them up. When I advised her to review the “no late or make-up work” policy in my syllabus, she protested.

“But I came, didn’t I?  Don’t I get a grade for being here?”

In a perfect world, maybe.

In conclusion, getting a job, traveling abroad, enlisting in the military, or learning a trade are all noble pursuits. Those experiences give people’s lives dimension and texture. Even the best student needs  a breather after high school. There is no shame in not plopping down behind a college  desk immediately after high school. In fact, waiting until they are ready and finding other ways to enrich their education might  make  students not only the best, but phenomenal!

*********

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT, PART 10: “RETURNING TO HAPPY VALLEY”


05-14-15

Okay, this week’s prompt included two animals talking to each other. The dialogue goes as follows;

Animal 1: “I told you this was a bad idea”.

Animal 2: “You said that already.”

Animal 1: “Yes, but it bears repeating.”

Or something like that. Anyway, after closing another semester, I opened my Mac, flexed my fingers, and this is what happened. Enjoy!

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT: “Talking Animals” 

Happy Valley Animal Control Center 

Sunday

“Elvis? Elvis, wake up boy!”

Chiquita, the Chihuahua, as usual. The little rabble-rouser is at it again. All around us, a cacophany of yips, yaps, and woofs, all because some stranger, leash and clipboard in his hands, is strolling along the sidewalk between the cages before stopping at Number 40, the home of Bruiser, the Boxer.

“C’mon, boy. Let’s go for a walk.”

Within minutes, Bruiser, stubby tail wagging, lets himself be led through the double doors.

“Oh, noooo!” whines Chiquita. “Poor Bruiser. Elvis, you know where he’s going, don’t you? Elvis! Wake your butt up, boy! I’m talking to you.” 

Oh, go away.

Just when I am dreaming about juicy steaks, grassy yards and a new dog mommy, Chiquita has to go and wake me up.

“Aw, girl, what are you raising Cain about now?”

Her ears perk. Her tail is a blur. Her claws grip the fence.

“Haven’t you heard? A whole lotta us ‘seniors’, including you and me, have a date with
‘da room’.”

“What room?”

Chiquita rolled her doggy eyes. “You know – da room. I’m tellin’ ya. We gotta get outta here.”

Harrumph, I thought, as I curled back up, tucking my muzzle under my tail.

Go pester someone else.

“Okay, then. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn ya,” she says, before turning to the Rottweiler in the cage to the left.

“Ruby, Ruby! It’s gonna happen!”

Unfazed by the drama queen’s hysterics, the Rottie yawns.

The next day, as I’m wolfing down my dinner, Chiquita sidles up to my cage. “Psst…Elvis,” she says, outta the corner of her mouth. “One word: play time.”

After lapping water from my bowl, I look up at her. “Um, in case you haven’t heard, that’s two words.”

“Oh, shut up and listen. When they come to walk us, today, we play along. We don’t know nothin’, ya hear? Then we pull out all the stops: the puppy-eyes, the licks –blah, blah, blah. We catch ‘em off guard. And we wait for our moment.”

Monday

Who needs a rooster to wake you up when there’s a Chihuahua around? Yep, Chiquita is at it again.

“Wake up, Elvis. Time to rock and roll, boy.”

I yawn. I stretch. “I’m up. I’m up.”

The fresh morning air carries the aroma of freshly-mowed grass and dog poop – my favorite smells. As I let my volunteer lead me around, I play it to the hilt: rolling over so Chad can rub my speckled belly, licking his hand, and flapping my puppy-dog browns at him. He bends down to scratch behind my long, leathery ears and rub my muzzle.

“Elvis, if I let you off the leash, are you gonna be a good boy?”

I nod and roll over as I watch for Chiquita. Soon, I see her trotting out at the end of a leash. We make eye contact. Then, as I was hoping, the dumb chick walking her bends over, unhooks her, and throws a ball.

This should be interesting, I’m thinkin’, as I look for her to fetch and come a-runnin’ back.

But she keeps on a-goin’. So, I slip through the leash and take off running.

It doesn’t take us long to figure out that we goofed up big-time. As I catch up with Chiquita, a nervous little twit I wouldn’t be seen with, otherwise, I see a tall man who walks kinda funny. He has a big, bleeding hole in his throat and he’s missing an ear.

Meanwhile, people are screaming and running like their lives depend on it.

“Watch out for that ol’ boy, Chiquita. There’s something seriously wrong with him.”

But Chiquita, for all her street smarts, has the brains of a worm. She bounces up to him and pirouettes on her hind feet. He scoops her up and grins ghoulishly.

“Ugggggh!” he grunts, as he caresses her head and clutches her throat.

Well, don’t ask me how I know this, but when I see that gooney-bird open his mouth and go for her head, I run up and bite him on the ankle.

“Waaah!” he roars, swiping blindly at the air.

Suddenly another joins him. And then another. Men, women, even children, all shuffling around.

“Chiquita, I told you this was a bad idea. I don’t know who – or what – these people are, but I’m ready to head back to where we came from.”

“I know it,” she says.

“But it bears repeating. I’ll race you back there.”

“You’re on, Elvis.”

Turning tail, we run back to Happy Valley, past a stand with newspapers. Their headlines: “Day One of Zombie Apocalypse!”

********

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT 8: ONE BULLET IS A LIFETIME SUPPLY


05-03-15

Well, after a hairy school week, I flopped into my recliner, pulled up the latest prompt offered by Weekly Writing Prompts and tinkered around with each of the five ideas. To follow is the one that inspired me the most: “One bullet is a lifetime supply.”

Enjoy!

PROMPT: One bullet is a lifetime supply

 May 30   5:25 a.m.

Lindsey Brewster lifted her head off the pillow long enough to readjust it so she could fall asleep for five more precious minutes. Soon, the snooze alarm on her clock would bleat for the last time. Whatever she had done, the day before, she would do all over again. Pull self upright with her only good hand. Hobble downstairs on one crutch to start the coffee. Wake up five-year-old Crane and get him dressed so her mother could drive her to her job at Denny’s.

 Oh, for the luxury of calling in sickagain.

The hand she wrote with was braced with a cast clear up to her elbow. Her left foot, broken in two places, throbbed after her husband slammed the car door on it  when she didn’t get into the car fast enough. She needed more pain pills, but the doctor said, “No way”.

   Truth is, she mused. I need to be in the hospital. And Rance should be in jail. 

She ran water over last night’s dinner dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. Bending carefully, she groped under the sink for the dishwasher pods but found only liquid soap. Remembering Rance’s hair-trigger rage at coming home to an amoeba of soapsuds spreading on the kitchen tile, she backed away.

Nope, she thought, remembering how he stood over her and forced her to mop it up. I am not going through that, again.

Two nights ago, he had packed her and her broken foot into his pick-up and driven to an emergency room at a different hospital. In order to evade suspicion, he had taken her to every hospital in Fort Worth: Harris, Baylor, and even John Peter Smith. This time, it was North Hills.

The reactions were always the same. Sucked-in breath and shocked eyes.

“What happened?” a triage nurse would ask.

“I ran into something”, Lindsey would say.

Something like a mean husband.

She swiped away the tears stinging her swollen eyes, as she tried to remember happier times. Like, before they married.

            June 1, 2011

When Lindsey Myers, a newly-divorced young mother, gazed into Rance Brewster’s golden brown eyes, she saw a hero. An EMT for a Fort Worth ambulance crew, Brewster with his burly physique, swarthy good looks, and homespun charm appeared to be everything she had wanted in a man.

As they grew closer, one question –the deal breaker – burned like acid in her heart.

How will he treat Crane?

As their relationship escalated. Rance gradually earned Crane’s trust. One day, as they navigated the hilly terrain of the Fort Worth Zoo, he turned to Crane and held out his hands.

“Here, buddy, wanna ride on my shoulders? These hills are kinda steep.”

After piercing him with cobalt eyes, Crane held out his arms for Rance to hoist him onto his broad shoulders. Before long, Crane acted as though he belonged there.

Two months later, as they were perched at the top of a Ferris wheel, Rance presented Lindsey with an engagement ring. Although the diamond was only an eighth of a carat, Lindsey flashed it proudly wherever she went.

Then, a week after their honeymoon, she began to see changes. At first, she doubted herself when his snide comments and criticism pricked her heart.

“I was only kidding,” he grumbled. “Can’t you take a joke?”

Next came the “accidents”. Branding her arms with cigarette burns. Yanking her hair so hard that her scalp tingled. Calling her a stupid whore after she happily announced their baby was on the way.

Candlelight dinners and “honeymoon” trips, flowers, and candy followed.

Two weeks after they brought their own little spitfire, Penelope, home from the hospital, Lindsey walked into the nursery to find Rance standing over her crib. Eyes once misty with “new-dad wonder”  burned with suspicion and doubt.

“Who’d the red hair come from? No redheads on my side of the family.”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Could be from someone in my family.”

“Hmpfh”, he snorted. After pulling the cover a bit too close to the baby’s tiny nose, he lumbered into the kitchen, popped the top off a beer, and hurled himself into his recliner. Within minutes, the thin walls between the living room and the nursery shuddered from a Dallas Cowboys game cranked up as loud as it would go.

But the din in the living room was no match for their daughter’s strong lungs.

“Shut that brat up or I damn well will!” he would bellow.

Before long, Lindsey had Rance all figured out. One glimpse of Penny’s copper curls sent him stalking from the room, cranking up the television, and yelling and cursing  when he heard their children cry.

Yet, for all his yelling, it had been just that — noise. Oddly enough, he hadn’t laid a hand on Crane. Penelope  — his own daughter — was a whole different matter.

At her first birthday party, Rance swirled his beer as he watched the celebration from behind the screen door.

“Hey, Rance,” urged Lindsey’s dad, camera in hand. “Come get in the pictures!”

“Catch you later, maybe,” Rance mumbled, faking a grin.

“Yes, come on out, Rance,” urged her mother, as she rose from a chaise. “Come take my chair. Penny’s about to blow out her first candle.”

Brewster’s lip curled. His eyes narrowed.

Bet-ty, I’ll be out in a minute!” he nagged, biting off the last syllable of his sentence.

“Cut that out, Brewster,” her dad chided. “We’re not idiots.”

So went  family celebrations – especially the kids’ birthdays . If they were not about Rance or for Rance, he went out of his way to make everyone else miserable. To Lindsey’s shock, her husband had become two people in one body. And, from one minute to the next, she never knew which one of them to expect.

Still, in spite of his threats against Crane or Penelope, Rance had never hurt either one of them. At least, not yet.

One stormy June night, around 11:30 p.m. Lindsey had straggled in from working a double shift when she heard  Penelope scream from the upstairs bathroom.

“Noooo, Daddy! You hurting me!”

“Aw, quit’cher cryin’ or I’ll give ya somethin’ to cry about!”

Short of breath from taking the stairs two at a time, Lindsey banged on the bathroom door. When Rance didn’t open the door, she rattled the knob. It was locked.

“Rance? What’s going on in there?”

“Mom-meeeeee,” Penelope shrieked, between gasps.

Suddenly, her strangled cries were followed by a sickening glub-glub. Shoulder to the door, Lindsey rammed it open and barged in.

Lying face-up and unresponsive in the bottom of a tub full of soapy water was her daughter. Frantic, Lindsey fished her limp body out of the suds, stretched her out on the bath mat, and began CPR. Through her tears, after five failed attempts, Lindsey wrote down the time of death on a scrap of toilet paper.

“Shit,” huffed Rance. “I was only givin’ the little brat a bath.”

Her blazing green eyes leveling at her husband, Lindsey cocked the gun.

“What the hell? What’re you doin’, Linds?”

“You son-of-a-bitch,” she spat, as she aimed the Colt at his heart. “You’re goin’ down!”

With a single blast, Brewster’s chest exploded against pink tiles.

After making sure the monster was dead, she punched in 9-1-1 with fluttery fingers and hit “Call”.

“Nine-one-one,” answered a female voice. ” What is your emergency?”

“ I just shot an intruder.”

I’ll fill in the rest when they get here. 

 Still in shock, Lindsey cradled her daughter in her arms. As she waited for the ambulance, she smirked at the irony of it all. She had found only one bullet in Rance’s pistol.  For someone who never — ever — expected to shoot another human being — especially her husband — she had done a good job. For her, that one well-spent bullet was a lifetime supply.

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

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT, PART 6: AGENT O’MALLEY, GOD, AND A WOMAN NAMED KIM


04-16-15

The last few weeks of school staring me down, I thought I would have to let this week’s prompt pass. But, last night, before I went comatose, this is what I came up with. Enjoy!

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT   “Agent O’Malley, God, and A Woman Named Kim”

Agent Patrick O’Malley shook his head as he watched a verrrry exasperated but dazzling professor scribble angry, crimson-inked notes on her students’ papers before pitching them across the room.

“What’s the matter with these kids?” she muttered. “It’s as though they have eaten their books. Did they ever have them, to begin with? This is the lousiest stack of themes I’ve ever seen!”

Perching atop her desk, as his charge fumed, fussed, and generally carried on something awful, O’Malley, a Texas angel, shook his head, and looked heavenward. “God! It’s me, O’Malley. Reckon you could help me, down here, dreckly?”

An earthquake knocked over a nearby oak tree.

“Patience, there, O’Malley,” boomed the Almighty. “I told you, ahead of time, that Kim was a handful. And I put my very best agent in charge.”

“Me? Well, thanks,” said O’Malley, briefly humbled. “But you didn’t warn me how much of a handful she is. Like, do you really know this chick?”

“Know her?” said God. The earth rumbled with the roar of his laughter. “I created her, remember?”

“That You did. I can’t let her out of my sight for one minute. I’m trying to tell you, this broad – um, woman – requires twenty-four-hour surveillance. Let’s face it, she needs a keeper.”

O’Malley scratched the budding wings on his shoulders until they bled. Suckers itched like the dickens.

This God never failed to amaze him.

“So, tell me, God, how on earth do you manage to watch everyone, everywhere, all the time, anyway? Doesn’t your neck hurt? Don’t you ever get eye strain?”

Again, the ground quaked. God was, no doubt, rolling on the floor of Heaven, clutching His sides.

“Whaaaat?” the angel said, hands on hips.

The heavens opened. Shooting stars zoomed back and forth.

“O’Malley, while you’ve been flapping your gums about Kim, she’s been spewing words vile enough to make old Lucifer blush, and now – uh-oh, look out! — she’s stomping into the kitchen to make herself another margarita.”

He raised His Almighty hand to shoo the angel away. “Get along, now, boy. Go do your job.”

Continuing to watch Kim from His VIP section, God shook His omniscient head.

“Boy, is she ever going to regret that second ‘rita when her alarm goes off at early-thirty. It’s not like I didn’t try to tell her. From the prayers I’ve been hearing, those rascals bring on raging, five-star hangovers.”

“So, why do you still put up with her, anyway? Really?” asked O’Malley, still hanging around.

God chuckled. Trees swayed.

“O’Malley, you’ve been in charge of Kim for only a little while. Maybe you are too close to the situation to see what I see from up here. Now, she made seem a little rough around the edges, but, trust me, she’s a good old girl with a heart big as Texas. She loves her kids and grandkids something fierce. And that husband I sent her? Well, if you could see what I see– zowee! They unwrap my wedding gift almost every night.”

“Wedding gift? What do you mean?”

You know,” said God, with a pregnant wiggle of His eyebrows. “My little gift to all husbands and wives. Just in time for their wedding night. Hee-hee.”

He rubbed His hands gleefully. A host of baby stars twinkled in the evening sky.

Well, O’Malley was not the brightest agent, His eyes clouded over. “God, I still don’t know what you’re talking about but I’ll take Your word for it.”

God smiled beatifically. The moon glowed like the noonday sun in the midnight sky.

“Boy, can that old girl teach! I’ve seen her students mesmerized by her lessons on Shakespeare’s Hamlet…that’s hard to do, you know, keep today’s students engaged by stories about guys in knee breeches.”

O’Malley nodded. “Okay, I hear you.”

“And, frustrated as she gets, she takes the extra time to write notes on even the worst essays to encourage the clueless. So, before I give you an easier charge, give her a little more time.”

“Yeah,” said O’Malley. “If you say so, sir.”

“So are we good, here?” asked God.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Hey, remember who you’re talking to, here. A yessir will suffice.”

“Yes, sir,” mumbled O’Malley.

“Good. Now, go head on. I have wars to end. People to heal. Prayers to answer.”

*********

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT, PART 5: “Not Another Stupid Blind Date!”


04-08-15

Wow, what fun I’ve had with these prompts. This one’s no different. Read on and enjoy!

NOT ANOTHER STUPID BLIND DATE! (in MALE POV)

So, here I am, in my drawers and undershirt, leaning back in my recliner with crushed beer cans takin’ over my snack table. But no snacks.

Where’s a wife when you need one, Herschel, I ask myself. Right about now, I’d be like, “Hey, hon, we got any more pretzels?”and she’d be all, “Sure, babe. If we’re out, I’ll run get more. Anything for the king of my heart.”

Yeah, right, I sit there a-thinkin’, as I belt out a thunderous belch. Who am I kiddin’? Five times divorced, in my late sixties, a bald spot in the back of my head, despite the “enhanced” color in front, thanks to “Just For Men”. Well, as I’m waiting for the queso I scraped out of a jar to heat up in the microwave, I duck into the bathroom and am “seein’ a man about a horse” when I hear the doorbell.

Aw, who in Sam Hill is that knocking on my door at nine o’clock at night? Well, after hitchin’ up my drawers below my growing pot belly, I hurry as fast as an ol’ fart with arthritis in his hip can hurry to get to the door.

“Sam Mann? You old geezer, I thought you died!”

New hair plugs in place and draped across his forehead, Sam-the-Mann strides through my door like he owns the place and we fist each other in the shoulders.

“I been thinkin’ the same ‘bout you, old pal. Been a long time. A long, long time. What the hell have you been up to since our glory days?”

“Man, you’re asking me to remember back to forty-some years ago. I don’t even remember havin’ lunch. How ‘bout you?”

“Just got married again, dude,” he says, his new mustache curves upwards.

“You old son-of-a-gun. How many does this one make?”

He holds up three fingers. “Numero tres. Y numero ultimo. Say, man, that’s why I’m here. She’s got a sister you oughta meet.”

“A woman? For me? Naw. No way,” I say, holding up my palms to fend off Sam and his hair-brained ideas. “Been there. Done that. Got the divorce papers to show for it.”

“I hear ya, buddy, but this one’s special. Me ‘n Suzy Jo, we’d double with ya, but with our livin’ in Lubbock?” He shakes his head. “That there’s a fur piece from Arlington. But no reason you two can’t get together. Whaddya say. Grab coffee, maybe a burger, the first time. See if you hit it off?”

I mess myself up by pausing, giving Sam the notion I’m even thinkin’ ‘bout it.

“No strings. You go your way; she goes hers. Unless, of course…”.

He winks lewdly.

“C’mon, man. Dating? At my age? Can’t we just be – y’know – ‘buddies’?” I give him the wink-wink back.

“No strings?”

He nods. “No strings absolutely.”

Two days later, I walk into Starbuck’s lookin’ for any reason to turn tail walk out, again. I scope out the other customers, but I don’t see the kind of woman Sam and I used to go for in UT.

“Welcome to Starbuck’s, sir,” chirps a creamy-skinned girl my granddaughter’s age. Her badge says, “Hi, I’m Amber!”

“Naw, I was looking for someone. Don’t see her here.”

Don’t know why, but outta the corner of my eye, a redhead waves at me. “Yoo-hoo! Over here!”

She’s petite, fit, and really good-looking in a chiseled sort of way. Her blue eyes and shapely lips have the perfect touch of color.

“What did you expect?” she asks, her face dead-pan, as she sips Chai tea. Beside the tea is a plastic cup of fresh fruit chunks and a bottled water.

Not one of my usual women. I look away and snort, remembering all my other blind dates. “Oh, I don’t know. Probably a blonde, busty, single-digit IQ MILF.”

“MILF?” she asks, arching a tweezed eyebrow. “That’s a new acronym. Please translate.”

Embarrassed, I turn my head so she won’t see me blush. “Uh, you don’t really wanna know.”

She holds me with her gaze. “Then why did you say it?”

“Never mind. ‘My bad’.” As I utter the last two words, I remind myself of my sixteen-year-old grandson, Lance.

As she nibbles on a pineapple chunk, she pins me, a helpless butterfly, with her shrewd gaze. “You don’t do this very often, do you, Mr. Lloyd?”

“It’s Floyd, actually. And, no, I don’t.”

“Sorry, Floyd-actually.”

“Meaning no disrespect, ma’am. You seem like a decent lady, but ya gotta know somethin’ ‘bout me. I suck at this blind-date crap.”

She smirked and covered her mouth. “So do I. When Sam told me about you, I almost didn’t show up.” 

Well, now we’re even, I’m thinkin’, as I look over this little bird-like woman and her sharp, downturned nose. Shit, it even looks like a beak! 

“So, how do you know Sam?” I ask, as I knock back a slug of espresso.

She curls her perfect lips. “He’s my ex. I can’t believe he set me up with you.”

“No kidding? No, I don’t believe he did, either. All my exes? Shit, they’re long gone. Good riddance to all of ‘em except, maybe, the mother of my sons.”

“Why are they all your exes?”

I’m speechless. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Why did all those women divorce you?”

I make a sound that somewhere between a laugh and a grunt. “I can’t believe you’ve got the nerve to ask me that on our first meeting.”

“All right, I could ask you the same. What went wrong between you and Sam?”

I back away, waiting for an explosion. There, lady. Let’s turn the tables.

Her eyes sparkle. “Touche!” she says, as she sets down her Chai and dabs her mouth. “Sam and I were never on the same intellectual plane. Rather hard to converse with someone so unenlightened.”

“Unenlightened? That’s a kind word, I suppose. Unenlightened about what?”

She shrugs, gazing out the window at a young couple taking PDA to a whole new level: arms and hands slithering up and down each other’s bodies, tongues flicking. She shudders and looks away.

“Oh, philosophy. Politics. The Classics. The last book Sam read was Hank, the Cowdog.

She titters. “Can you imagine such?”

I look back at her, straight-faced. “As a matter of fact, I’m about to finish the last book in the Hank series. Good reading.”

She assesses me with that gaze of hers and allows me a teensy-weensy, lipstick-y smile. “Well, at least you’re honest.”

“Hey, ma’am, we’ve talked the whole time and all I’ve called you is ma’am. You do have a name, don’t you?”

She smiles a rather jerky, mechanical smile. “It’s Lucille B-b-b.—.” Without warning, the woman’s head and face twitch and then freeze.

Oh, God. She’s had a stroke, I’m thinkin’ when my phone goes off. It’s Sam.

“Hey, Hersch, how’s it goin’ with your dream girl?”

“Not so good, Sam, I think she might’ve had a stroke. Her face won’t move.”

I hear a gasp and an “Aw, mannn!” on the other end. And here I am thinkin’ the worst.

“She runs on batteries, man. Plug her back in.”

“Sam, you been drinkin’?”

  1. “No way, dude. There’s somethin’ I forgot to tell ya about Lucille. She’s a robot.”

**********

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT, Part 3: “Four Little Old Ladies Go On the Run When Their Secret Is Exposed”


“Little Old Ladies” Prompt

RETURNING THE TOYS

Noonish, 2004 Fort Worth, Texas

March 10 — another semi-normal day at Cherrywood Villa, an assisted-living and memory care facility. The able-bodied stroll down the hall in groups, lured by the aromas of chicken-and-dumplings and home-baked yeast rolls in the French Provincial-decorated cafeteria. From the east and west wings, aides roll the wheel-chair bound and position them at tables for two and four. The Alzheimer’s Gang, as the Memory Wing residents are called, are awaiting their turn to eat when sirens begin whooping. Chaos ensuing, no one misses the five residents, including one on a walker — hobbling out the emergency exit. They certainly have no clue that Mabel, Mavis and Maude, Gladys, and Daisy – upstanding denizens of Cherrywood have commandeered Hazel Greenwood’s grandson’s vintage Volkswagen.

As they rush out, Mabel herds her passengers into the cramped kiddy-sized car.

“Daisy, you ride up front with me. Mavis, hurry Maud up. And Gladys — where the heck’s Gladys?”

“Yoo-hooo! Here I am!” Running as fast as she can, huffing and puffing, pendulous boobs jiggling, Gladys catches up with them and settles her well-upholstered chassis into the back seat.

After folding her 5’10” frame into the tiny car, Mabel buckles up herself and straps in Daisy, a mid-stage Alzheimer’s patient.

Mabel releases the clutch and starts the engine. “We all in? Everyone buckle up, now.”

Mavis, a flapper-throwback, with her bobbed, red hair and cupid’s bow lips, scoots as far away as she can from her sister, Maud.

“You’re clear, Mabel,” she chirps. “Gun it!”

Pink, plastic sacks crisp from years of storage balanced on their laps, Mabel and Daisy, up front, and Mavis, Maude, and Gladys, squirm, scrunched up close to each other in the back. Soon, the back seat becomes a battlefield of dueling elbows. To make it worse, Gladys seems to have bathed in Estee Lauder’s “Youth Dew”.

“Somebody roll down the windows, will ya?” growls Maud, as she scoots away from Gladys. “Gladys’s perfume is gettin’ to me!”

Although Mabel and Gladys had originally said only four could go, they relent when Mavis insists she cannot leave without Maude.

“After all,” she explains, “we are conjoined twins.”

Mavis, whose doctor has pronounced her condition “terminal”, sniffles from the back. Gladys passes her a crumpled tissue.

“I’m sure glad we’re finally doing this,” she blubbers, dabbing her eyes. “It’s been on my conscience for years. Now that I’m about to — you know – I want to be wearing a robe of white for the the Good Lord.”

“Oh, can it, Mavis,”  Maud grumbles. “Gettin’ that nonsense was all your idea to begin with.”

Mavis turns her head sharply, meeting Maud’s judgmental gray-eyed glare.

“You think I don’t know that, sister dear? Why, every day of my life, since our sleepover at Daisy’s, my heart has been weighed down by guilt.”

“Hmph,” snorts Maud, as she gazes out the window. Beside her, Gladys unzips a black satchel-handbag roomy enough to stow a toddler and pulls out a round, red, poinsettia-decorated tin and opens the lid. Peeling off the plastic wrap, she passes it around.

“Any of y’all want any peanut brittle? My granddaughter, Nessie, gave it to me at the Christmas party.”

Mabel peers into the rear-view mirror. Here we go, again. Gladys has been trying to palm that sticky stuff off on us since last January. Damn crap sticks to my dentures.

“Um, Gladys? That stuff’s a year old, by now.”

“I know,” she says with a sigh, as she plunges in her chubby hand to pull out a piece of brittle the size of a pie plate. “But it’s so good. Mmmm!”

Mavis narrows her over-tweezed eyebrows at Mabel. “Reckon this place will still be there? I mean, like, what if we go all that way only to find a parking lot?”

Clutching the steering wheel in a death grip, Mabel keeps her eyes on the road.

“Shoot, yeah,” she mutters. “It’ll be there, all right. It’s only been – what — forty or fifty years, at most?”

Soured by Maud’s ever-present bitch-face and her arms crossed at her chest, Mavis elbows her.   “Whatever is wrong, now?”

“Told you I didn’t wanna go, Mavis. Didn’t back then and I don’t now.”

“Oh, Maud,” snipes Mabel. “You never want to do anything or go anywhere. We’d have left you back at the home, had we any choice in the matter. Now shut up and quit’cher belly-achin’.”

“We’re gonna be late for school!” wails Daisy, off in her own little world, until now. “My parents will ground me til I’m thirty if I get caught, again.”

Used to Daisy’s Alzheimer’s-induced ramblings, the other three ignore her.

“Whatever got into us, that night, anyway?” asks Mabel. “And why Longview, of all places?” She shakes her head and laughs, in spite of herself. “Parents dern near tanned my hide, they did.”

“For the fun of it, probably,” says Gladys. “You’d just gotten your license, hadn’t you?”

“Yeah, I think you’re right. But how in the world did we sneak out of Daisy’s house without her parents knowing?”

“My parents are gonna kill me when they find out,” Daisy whimpers, wringing her hands.

“Remember when these things used to be called ‘marital aids’ ?” Mavis says, giving Maud a good-natured nudge. “There we were, silly teenage girls looking for thrills. Then, that night, we found that stash of True Confessions magazines under Daisy’s bed. Lo and behold, there they were. A place in Longview actually sold them. Never mind it was a two-hundred-mile drive. We just threw on our clothes and skedaddled.”

She chuckles. “Curiosity got the better of us. Remember what fun we had when we got those gizmos home and set ’em all off, at once?”

They are almost to Tyler when red-and-blue lights flash in Mabel’s mirror. She pulls over to the shoulder.

“Aw, crap! Game over, ladies.”

“Oh, God,” Daisy murmurs. “My parents will kill me.”

“Okay, everyone. Act natural,” Mabel hisses, as the trooper approaches the vintage Bug.

“ Good afternoon, ladies,” he says, scribbling something on a pink slip. “Know why I’m stopping you?”

“Um, yeah, but we’re bringing them back,” blurts Daisy in her little-girl voice.

Feeling defeated, Mabel sinks her forehead into the steering wheel. Sheesh, Daisy. For a quiet, little lady, you can be a real loose cannon. 

“Them?” asks Officer Wilson. He removes his Baden-Powell-style cover and mops the beads of sweat jeweling the top of his bald head. “What are you ladies telling me?”

“Why don’t you tell us?” Mabel asks.

“Y’all know what the speed limit is, around here? I clocked your car doing eighty in a sixty-five mile-an-hour zone. What’s your big hurry, anyway?”

Quick, Mabel. Make something up.

Gladys leans forward and lays her manicured hand on Mabel’s shoulder. “Officer, if I may? We’re hurrying Daisy, here, to a hospital. She got sick on the peanut brittle I brought along.”

“I did?”

“Oh, Daisy, bless your heart. You don’t remember?”

“She has Alzheimer’s”, Gladys explains in a stage-whisper, shaking her head.

“Oh, well, why didn’t you say that, in the first place? Follow me. I’ll escort you there.”

Oh, shit, thinks Mabel, grimacing. We’re knee-deep in ‘gators, now.

“Thanks for your offer, sir, but we have another stop before we swing by the hospital.”

“But, I thought you said your friend, here, had an emergency.”

“She did – er, does, but….”

Wilson’s smile fades. “Okay, ma’am. Fun’s over. I need to see your license and registration.”

Finding an official-looking document in the glove box, Mabel hands it over. Wilson scrutinizes it.

“One minute, please,” he says, as he walks slowly to his cruiser and opens the door. Her heart down to her knees, Mavis watches him key information into that little computer of his.

“Oh, dear me!” Gladys says, fanning herself. “What are we going to do?”.

In about five minutes, Wilson returns. He is actually smiling.

“Sorry for the trouble, ladies. We’ve been looking for four fugitives from a Fort Worth nursing facility. But I see, here, there are five of you.”

He tips his hat. “Y’all drive careful, now, y’hear. And take care of your friend.”

Incredulous with relief, Mabel starts the engine. “Longview, here we come!”

“Shouldn’t be too much farther,” Mavis says. “As I remember, the store was on the edge of town, back then. Off the Loop, I think..”

But, as Mabel, Mavis and Maud, Gladys and Daisy pull into the still-familiar, gravel driveway with a Taco Bell on one side and a Shell station on the other, they gasp: the adult-toy store/”peep show” from the late 1950’s is now a Toys R Us.

Mabel turns around and grins. “Girls, the store’s gone. We are home free. Now, whaddya say we go play with the real toys!”

 

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

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT, PART 2: Man After Midnight, suspense turned fairy tale


03-17-15

So, I’m at it — again. I’ve accepted the second challenge: to turn one of my WIPs into a fairy tale. After brainstorming a few ideas and half a jillion rough drafts, here is what I came up with.

From my mystery/suspense WIP, MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT

Fairy-Tale PROMPT

Once Upon A Mirror

A long, long time ago, in a warehouse/high-rent loft in Greenwich Village lived a hippy chick named Destiny. Unbeknownst to her, a sly, shape-shifting predator, Luce DeVille lurked in the haunted but enchanted Facebook Forest. Now, DeVille had a  magical mirror that allowed him to see what others in the village were up to. No one escaped his glowing, red eyes. From the least to the greatest, Luce DeVille knew everyone – and I do mean everyone — in Village of Greenwich.

One day, on Destiny’s sixteenth birthday, Good Witch Melissa appeared in a puff of pink glitter.

Destiny was holding a pity-party, when the Witch pulled  a baton out of her pink-and-purple hair.

“Your wish is my command, my dear. Ask away.”

“Oooh, can I have a car?”

Witch Melissa curled her lip. “No way.”

“A puppy?”

The witch rolled her violet eyes.  “Pfft” she snorted. “Get real.

Destiny’s brow furrowed before her face lit up. “Oh, I know! Can I live forever and ever?”

Witch Melissa shifted her weight to her other foot, the one without the sore toe.

Kiddo, you don’t know what you’re asking for, but what the heck. Knock yourself out!

“Ooookay! But don’t say I didn’t warn you?”

And, just like that, bibbety-bobbity-POOF! Her wish was granted.

From that moment on out,  Destiny, as her name implies, got to live forever. Yeah, you heard me right — forever.  Live. Live. Repeat.

Oh, but let me tell you a little  secret. The Good Witch Melissa happened to be Destiny’s mother. So, naturally, she promised her daughter she could live forever. Mothers always say stuff like that.

Anyway, here was Destiny, smack-dab in the middle of Life-Number-Five and counting. This forever-and-ever stuff, she found out, was a real hoot. In fact, she got to be a little of everything: a duchess, a bar maid, a midwife (which got messy), and a magician. The magic stint was cool because she got to change into a swan, once, just to see what it was like to glide around in a pond without drowning. (Oh, didn’t I tell you Destiny couldn’t swim?)

One day, as she lay on her canopied bed, she realized that never, in all of her lives, had she ever been some handsome prince’s passion.

Now’s my chance, she thought, popping a zit on her nose as she gazed into the mirror.

“Mirror, mirror,” she implored. “Please send me a hot, hunky prince.”

Well, here, I need to let you in on a teensy detail; Destiny was blonde. As blonde as a blonde can get. And that’s pretty blonde. She begged until the royal cows came home but the mirror just stood there, looking like — duh — a mirror.

(Did you, kind reader, reaaally expect it to be anything else? I mean, seriously?)

One day, she pestered that mirror to send her a man until – zap! –it suffered a brain-fart and shattered. She collapsed, weeping and wailing over her grave misfortune when, suddenly, she heard singing.

Singing and galloping.

Up from the distance rode Sir Erik-the-Schmuck in his coat of mail. As he alit from his steed, he took her left hand in his, kissed it, and knelt before her. Recoiling, she jerked her hand away.

“Oh, it’s you!”

He nodded and bowed.

“Yes, my beloved. ‘Tis I.”

 Well, that blows it, she thought, growing more fretful by the minute.

“But I want a preeeeunce,” Destiny whined like a two-year-old, stamping her foot. “Not a skirt-chasing ex-husband!”

Erik looked crestfallen. Disconsolate. Despondent (and all those other SAT words).

“But, my darling, I love you. I came to ask for your hand in marriage – again.”

Destiny shoved him as hard as she could. Erik reeled backwards, landing within stomping distance of old Guinevere’s hooves.

“Buzz off, freak!” she yelled. (Yeah, this language is tame, but, hey, isn’t this a fairy tale? You know — rated “G”?)

Anyway, little could Destiny have known that Old Luce, CEO of Facebook Forest, also owned the mirrors of everyone in the village.Much to her dismay, the mirror through which she marveled over her beauty didn’t belong to her, after all.

Bloated and bummed amid shards of her precious mirror, Destiny curled up in the fetal position and lived miserably ever after.

And there you have it. Want something happier? Read Mother Goose.

 

*********

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPTS: “An Idiot With a Crayon”


03-09-15

So, last night, I joined a Facebook-based group called “Weekly Writing Prompts”. Today, I’m playing around with the first writing prompt: “We Are Being Led By An Idiot With A Crayon.”

So, now, not knowing what the administrator wants — fiction or non-fiction — I wax philosophical in an essay. See below:

“We Are Being Led By An Idiot With A Crayon”: My First Writing Prompt

As a college English professor, I instruct students to pre-write in order to generate ideas for a major assignment. Now, it is my turn to become my own student. As I ponder this one-sentence challenge, several ideas occur to me.

First, who are “we”?  Townspeople? An army? A tribe? An enclave? A special-interest group?

And what lucky soul gets to be the “idiot”? How else will we recognize our esteemed leader? After all, “idiot” seems so unkind. Perhaps this person is only a grossly-misunderstood, much-maligned genius or free thinker instead of one who is profoundly challenged.

Next, the crayon. Could it be a metaphor for something greater than a stick of wax that colors pictures? And what color is it? Playful orange? Tree-hugger green? Regal purple? “Kiss me, you fool” lipstick-red? “Just-the-facts-ma’am” black? Or, just maybe, an “invisible” white?

Finally, we must consider the tone. Serious? Sarcastic? Matter-of-fact? Tongue-in-cheek?

So many angles to consider. Where on earth should I begin?

Nah, I thought, wadding it up after I read it. Too erudite. Too…teacher-y.

After batting around a couple of ideas, Ideas, like hailstones, pelted my brain. The following story is what I  posted to the group.

“We Are Being Led By An Idiot With A Crayon”

“Family Day” in the Fernwood Asylum dayroom is going about as I expected. Charlie, ninety-years old and toothless, in his backless hospital gown, is mooning anyone who gives a rip. Inez, a tiara on in her two-toned red-and-black permed head, is parading around in her swimsuit, serenading the visitors with an off-key falsetto solo of “Here She Comes, Miss America”. And I – a run-of-the-mill, garden-variety likeable nut – am doing my best to steer clear of the real crazies in this joint.

In one corner, “Wheel of Fortune” blares from a wide-screened television. Inmates and their families shift around, crossing and uncrossing their legs in metal folding chairs and yell out the answers faster than Vanna can turn the letters. In the center of the room, four sit around a card table playing “reverse strip-poker” with the loser winning unclaimed clothing from the laundry. The Grand Prize:  someone gets to wear someone else’s choppers for a day.

All is reasonably quiet. Okay, that’s not entirely true. In a place like this, you learn to re-define “quiet”. Even so, with family here, we are all on our semi-best behavior until our newcomer — Hazel, renowned ballerina who runs around in a tutu, wound up in here after someone found her hiding from militant extra-terrestrials – pirouettes into the dayroom, embarrassing the snot out of those of us who are trying our best to act civilized in front of our mamas, daddies, spouses, and kiddos.

Commanding our attention by banging on the back of a bedpan, she turns the page on a huge tablet we use to play Pictionary with on “Game Night”. Pulling a red crayon from a sixty-four pack of Crayolas, she then passes the box around as if it contained fine chocolates.

“Take one without noticing what color it is and wait for me to tell you what to do with it once everyone has one.”

Well, knowing Hazel, or “Witch Hazel”, as we like to call her, just to piss her off, there’s no telling what she’ll do, next. She waits until we all settle down before she asks us to put our crayons in our mouths and hum “Yankee Doodle” at the same time.

Well, we may be a bunch of nuts, here, but we ain’t stupid. We wouldn’t be caught doin’ half the stuff she dreams up in that frizzy head of hers.

Bubba, a Larry-the-Cable-Guy wannabe,  stands up in back. “I ain’t-a gonna do this,” he yells, thumping his chest. “It ain’t right. It ain’t natural!”

“Me, neither,” says his side-kick, the one we call his “Other-Brother Bubba”.

Well, after one right after another rebels against Hazel’s wack-a-doodle idea, we have us a good ol’ riot goin’ on.

Cupcakes fly. Punch sloshes. Babies cry.

Suddenly, Pedro, a former inmate-turned-security-guard pulls me aside.

”What’s goin’ on, here?”

As Hazel in her pink tutu leads everyone on a march around the day-room, holding their Crayolas to their mouths and playing them like flutes, I point to her and whisper, “We are being led by an idiot with a crayon.

********

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A GIRL’S GOTTA HAVE HER MOM


02-26-15

This Monday, March 2, Jeff and I will celebrate our first year of “Mr.-and-Mrs-ness”. We’ll buy a bottle of champagne at Costco, feast on their $1.50 hot-dog-and-drink special, and go home and rescue our frost-bitten wedding cake from the freezer and take turns licking it like a popsicle. Then, we’ll reminisce over our wedding pictures and dance to our wedding music. If we have any money left over after paying our bills, we might even take a day trip to Canton Trade Days.

Yes, March will always be our favorite month, but it will always be bittersweet. My mother passed away on March 10, 2004. So, a week after I married my soulmate for life, I took him. flowers in hand, to meet my parents — at Rose Hill Cemetery.

I wish they were alive to meet Jeff.  He and Daddy would have loved each other — you know, in a guy-kind of way. And my mother and I would go off in another room where she would ask me how I met him, what I wore, where we went on our first date, and whether he acted “smitten”.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I miss both of my parents. But my mother? Well, helping me plan my wedding,  zipping up my dress, calming my nerves, looking regal as the usher walks her down the aisle, and crying happy tears from the front row?  Well, isn’t that what mothers do when their daughters get married? Shoot, it’s in their DNA!

From the first day I met Jeff, on Thanksgiving Day 2013, I ached to tell Mama about the handsome cowboy I met on Zoosk.com. The one with the kind face and eyes and — be still my heart! — gray sideburns peeking out from under his cowboy hat. I wanted her to be the first to see my engagement ring — a one-carat, three-stone “past, present, and future” design — that Jeff presented, down on one knee, when he asked me to marry him.

I yearned for Mama to go with me to David’s Bridal for my wedding dress and at Michaels to help me find silk bluebonnets and yellow roses for my bouquet and Mason jars for our unity sand.

I wish for my parents every day of my life. To drop in and have a bowl of fudge-marble ice cream with them because, as Daddy always said, “our little girl has come home”. Their faces would beam when I tell them what fine  husbands, and fathers Tam and Terry have become. To meet their grandchildren, Harald, Sofia, Sadie, and Thomas. And to hear all about my teaching and writing triumphs. And, finally, to get to know Jeff, the love of my life, my husband and their son-in-law.

But, you know — I sort of get the feeling that, just maybe, they already know.

 

IMG_0891

JOURNEYS THROUGH LIFE: Women at the Depot


02-22-15

On December 1, 1995, I was released to my mother’s care to recover from successful brain surgery. Now, twenty years later, as I look back on our nine years together, I now realize that we were  passengers on different trains arriving at the same depot. Our journeys in life, as if on parallel tracks, had finally converged.

Three weeks before a respiratory crisis sent me to the hospital, Mama and I laid Daddy to rest; my was-band and I were separating.  As much as we both denied it, my mother and I needed each other.

On March 10, 2004, she said “See you later”. Only then did my writer’s mind’s-eye see our story as a play-in-the-works. Please take your seats, now, as the drama unfolds.

Lights dim. Curtain rises. Audience awaits. The stage is dark. Suddenly, red and blue spotlights follow two women — mother and daughter — as they enter stage left, stage right, to front and center where they stand side by side within a single, white beam.

Mama wears widow’s black;  I, bridal white stained and tattered from countless skirmishes.  Mama’s eyes are weak, but her spirit, strong as she continues to care for me until I become the strong one. With steady hands, I become her caregiver, guiding her faltering feet.

This play is no coincidence. The same God who created us placed us on those tracks and in that depot on purpose. He stood at her shoulders when I was born and beside me as I held her hand and awaited her last breath..

And so the story goes. One journey ends. Another one continues.

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

 

 

NANOWRIMO, PART 4: THE STRUGGLE BEGINS


02-03-15
With the NaNoWriMo marathon over, the inspired sweat beading on my forehead in November has evaporated. After hauling the Christmas tree to the curb, I dusted off my fast draft and began revising. I amped up the drama, created excruciating tension between my protag and her nemesis, sprinkled in more plot twists than a Six Flags roller-coaster, wrecked and  rebuilt my word count, cut flabby scenes, and fired my “little darlings”.

Whew! Now, with January hibernating in its cave until next year, February has emerged, slobbering and baring its yellowed teeth.

“Get offa dat Facebook, girl,” it snarls, scalding me with its breath. “Sit your fluffy butt down and set those keys on fire!”

At times like that, I have learned to say, “Yes, sir!”

February, a short month to begin with, will soon be followed by March and Spring Break, and then little old thirty-day April. Early in May, I will pitch my NaNo-suspense novel, MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT, to an agent at the DFW Writers Conference.

Since I have joined the WANA — We Are Not Alone — group on Facebook, I have watched them dream up and publish book after book while I languished, procrastinated, and lolligagged over my WIPs and wished I could be like them when I “grew up” until, about a week ago, she taught me a new acronym. DWIDI, as in “Don’t wish it. Do it.”

I intend to finish this WIP and its predecessor, once and for all, and do just that.

NANOWRIMO, PART 3: “CRASHING THROUGH THE FINISH LINE”


December 1, 2014
Last night, at 11:59 p.m., I crashed through the “Finish Line” with 50,014 words (that NaNoWriMo counted as 50,150). Before that day, I had worked up to 45,000 words. Knowing I had a long way to go, still, I turned into one romping-stomping writing machine, as I applied the word-count building tricks I had learned along the way.

This has been the hardest part. As a writer and professor who has always stressed the wisdom of tightening up and shearing off excess verbiage, I was now my own worst writing nightmare: writing wordy sentences, leaving off hyphens, spelling out numbers such as two hundred, three hundred forty three thousand…well, I think you get the picture. If I had been reading my own draft, I would have flunked myself.

But, from the beginning, as Chris Baty stresses in his book, No Plot, No Problem, the objective is finishing the draft, polished or not. In fact, it is okay to change character names in the middle of the draft. Or send characters off on a safari when they are in downtown New York. Anything to keep writing.

And that is what I had to remember with only 500 — oops, five hundred — words to go. So, I started wrapping up the story by marrying off my protagonist. Fingers a blur as I typed madly along, I created a wedding for her in which she and her cowboy beau married in a wedding almost identical to my own.

Ah, but once I hit 50,014 words, the next task was to validate my novel by copying and pasting it into a box designated for it. When I discovered that I had copied only the first paragraph of my book into the box, my husband had  to jump in and save me from my raging “NaNo Nerves”. After a quick email to the NaNoWriMo Liaison who was able to validate my novel manually — BOOM! — I was in!

This was not my first NaNo experience, but it is the first time I have ever finished. Now that I know the ins and outs of finishing a draft and have shown myself I can do it, there is nothing  holding me back in future NaNoWriMo experiences.

The next stage of the adventure: revising and editing my brainchild. Stay tuned!

LEAF IT, PART 2: Plant Yourself On The Leaf It ‘Tree’


8-3-14

In Leafit, Part 1, “Money Does Grow On Trees”, I covered the perks of the Leafit mobile app: checking prices, finding stores, and earning commissions.

Yes, you heard me right. You get paid. If someone on  Facebook or Twitter sees the item you posted and purchases it via  Leafit’s “It” app, then Leafit pays you.

Want an example? Okay, let’s say you just got engaged. While perusing Pinterest for wedding dresses, you happen upon the dress  of your dreams. So, you access the Leafit app on your smartphone, tap the product or tag it by writing words that describe it by brand,  and post it to Facebook. If another starry-eyed bride-to-be buys that gown by clicking your posted picture — BOOM! — Leafit pays you.

As if getting paid for your own posts isn’t tantalizing enough, there is a way you can also earn a commission for the posts of others. You can join as a member at no cost. That’s right — you can join for free.

So, how do you get your free app? The “It” app for Apple products is due to be released sometime in early August. Get your free activation membership through my website  http://leafit.biz/opajeff. If you have an Android, you can expect to see the app available some time this September.

Want more information? Click on the YouTube link below or copy and paste it to your browser

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=l1ZHZyfAbMw

Jeff and I work as part-time Leafit Associates, The app is free, but you have to receive it as a gift from someone. That’s where I come in. Please click on my Leafit site below, view the “app demo” and plant yourself on my Leafit tree for free.

The Leafit It app works worldwide

http://leafit.biz/opajeff

LEAF IT: MONEY DOES GROW ON TREES! Part 1


07-28-14

“Snap it. Tag it. Post it – It Pays You!”

As I explored the  Leafit web site, my brain short-circuited, thinking of the possibilities.

Ooooh, I thought, as a shiver raced up and down my spine.  I can definitely do this.

My husband, Jeff, and I are Facebook regulars. Everywhere we go, we “check in” — even at Wal-Mart. Naturally,  I started wondering – what if we got paid for our posts?

Enter Leaf it, a mobile app resulting from the merger of social networking and e-commerce. iPhone users can download the free app from iTunes, starting this weekend. In September, Android users can find it on Google Play.

Leafit’s platform represents over 19,000 retailers and millions of products including Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Sony, and many others. It appeals to an expansive variety of shoppers and their interests. With this free app, fashion-forward females can price Jimmy Choo shoes. Movie buffs can find state-of-the-art television screens.  Carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, or homeowners can shop for drills, spigots, or monkey wrenches. Bookworms can purchase the latest James Patterson or Stephen King “nail-biters”.

Yep, you get the idea. Almost everything.

After you find your item, snap a picture of yourself with your “hearts desire” or grab the picture off the Internet. Then tag your picture and post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social network. When your  connections click on that picture, they will see the item you tagged. If they choose to buy that item as a result of seeing your post, you have just earned a commission from Leafit.

So whether you want to check prices, shop stores, or post pictures, check out the following link. See what Leafit can do for you.  http://leafit.biz/opajeff

See the demo video on my Leafit web site.

 

Bizop1a

Any questions?

 

 

BACK TO MY ROOTS, ONLY BETTER


The woman with short, sorrel-
colored hair smiled back at me in the mirror.

“OMG! I’m gorgeous!!” I said, as I ran my fingers through newly-trimmed, dark red hair. I couldn’t believe how long I had waited before changing from bright, red-turned- sandy to rich brown with glistening red highlights. I had returned to the original me, only better.  My husband, expecting the usual, punky red, went speechless but only until he caught his breath.

“Well helloooo, you sexy thang! I didn’t know you were gonna do this!”

To tell the truth, neither did I. When we started out, that afternoon, I’d faded to a golden tan. Still, I had avoided going darker for fear I’d look older.

Seven years and two life-changing events ago, I frowned at the downtrodden woman with the gray on her temples. Inevitable as I knew it was, I wanted to hit “Pause” on the graying process.

From 1995 to 2007, I had survived brain surgery, lost both of my vivacious and talented parents, and watched. the marriage I’d tried so hard to save go down the drain. The woman I saw in the mirror, though not yet sixty, looked and felt decades older. It was time for a change.

In 2005, I let Stef give me a few blonde highlights. Then, a few more. In fact every time I plopped down in her chair I chirped, “More highlights, please!”  Two years later, as Stef flipped through my yellowed, straw-dry locks, she frowned.

“Girl, it’s time for a change. Let’s try red.”

Two visits later, I arrived at the perfect shade — “Sharon Osborne Red”, as we started calling it.  The bright burgundy red plus the spiky hair style took years off my personality as I cruised into my sixties. even though it faded to a reddish tan only three weeks later.

I’m still trying to get used to the new-old me. I can’t promise I won’t revert to my redheaded ways. Still, every time I see myself, at least from my nose on up, I see my mother.

In more ways than one, I’m back to my roots, again — only better.

MAN ON BOARD,PART III: “Our Wedding, Our Way”


02-16-2014

Since Thanksgiving, when Jeff and I met on Zoosk.com, our relationship  has broken the sound barrier. In Parts I and II of this series, I have led you from our explosive  chemistry in  “Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom” to “Sometimes You Just Know”, about the moment we realized our meeting was a “God-thing”. In January, we got engaged. Since that first “wink-wink” online, everything about our relationship has fallen into place. Although this marriage is not a first for either of us, it will certainly be the last for both.  That said, Jeff and I have decided to shake things up in “wedding-land”.  Martha Stewart — if you’re reading this post, cover your eyes.  This will be our wedding, our way.

First, instead of printed invitations, we’re using  Facebook to spread our good news. Our friends can RSVP to our event by clicking “going”, “maybe”, or “decline”. For our FOF’s (or, Friends outside Facebook), there is the old Texas “Y’all come” via phone or in person or even email.

Second, no white dress-and-tuxedo for us. In keeping with our Texas/country theme, I plan to walk down the  aisle in my non-white wedding dress and brand-new boots on the arm of my handsome, Western man.  Guests may wear  Stetsons, blue  jeans, and boots, if they choose.  Horses and pickups, also, are welcome.

Next, instead of the white, tiered version,  we’ll serve up slices of sheet cake  the size of a small ranch. Instead of separate bride’s and groom’s cakes, ours will be half-and-half. Cookies or cupcakes will be available for the children. And, because it’s a church wedding, my bridegroom and I will toast each other with sparkling punch, instead of champagne.

Finally, after we toss my garter and bouquet and get ready to skedaddle, well-wishers can mosey outside, scoop up fistfuls of bird seed from a small feed trough, and toss it at us as we dash to our  “limo” — Jeff’s old, Dodge pick-up truck.

We have a list of “to-do’s” before our “I-do’s”. Flowers, wedding pictures, and…oh, yeah…marriage license coming up.

Stay tuned for Part IV, the conclusion of  “Man On Board”.

So, ladies, what does your “dream” wedding look like? If you are already married, what would you change if you could do it all over again?

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