Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Been One of Those Weeks...Months....

In the past few months, death has been prominent. Two of my cousins passed away. A dear family friend died, too. Another dear friend lost her beloved Scottie.

And as is the case as we grow older, I started to wonder how much time I have left. I found out back in June that I had a small stroke--better than the alternative, a large monster stroke, mind you, but still unsettling. Especially given that strokes are one of our family curses. I started thinking about how suddenly it could happen. Or how I could end up like my mother, slowly slipping away over two or three years. Or maybe longer.

Things made sense after that revelation--the memory lapses, the intermittent speech issues, the focus, the concentration, the ability to develop a story so easily. I stopped beating my head against the wall, trying to figure out why I was struggling to do what once came so easily. I learned to accept that there would be good days and bad days. Still better than the alternatives.

I'm learning to appreciate the important things in life, which is why I'm not around so much these days. I still manage to keep up with everybody else's blogs, even if I haven't posted anything of my own in a while.

One of the things I'm looking forward to is the total solar eclipse next Monday. The last total solar eclipse to cross the US was on June 8, 1918, ninety-nine years ago. There was a partial solar eclipse (80%) here on February 26, 1979, but I missed it. I was busy preparing for another kind of son, who arrived five days later. (Hi, Collin!)

We're prepared. We have our eclipse glasses, verified to be the correct glasses, not the dangerous ripoffs that have been going around, and four t-shirts are on the way--two designs, so we each have one of each design. Cute, huh? If you've been here before, you know I love Minions!

But now, Collin may not even be home for the Big Event. He got tired of being stuck in his bedroom on the phone for ten hours every day, and went back to his old job at IHOP. At least it's still close to home. He may have jinxed them, though. Shortly after he returned, the company that owns IHOP announced a number of their restaurants would close in the coming year. Then, last Saturday, he got to work to find his boss had been fired and left just before he arrived. 

I got tired of fighting with my baby-fine hair and last week, I got my head shaved (almost). I figured, why not? I always wear hats or caps everywhere but at home anyway. Who's going to see it? Then I got a notice informing me that it's time to renew my state ID. That means a new photo. A photo without a hat or a cap. No way. I'll just have to be late in renewing the ID!

And how has your week been? 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

An Exercise in Murphy's Law Survival?

I've got to be at least a week behind on blog reading/commenting. I promise, I'll get caught up in the next day or so. Fortunately, only three blogs I follow post every day!

It's been one of those weeks. Two of those weeks, actually.  Last week, we had a power outage during one of the hottest days in the past month. It was 103 degrees, with a heat index of something like 110. Fortunately, the power went out in the evening, around 5:30--and our AC had just run for a long period. Our ceiling fans had been running as well. The windows and blinds were closed. We left them that way for the duration of the outage, unlike our neighbors, who all went outside as soon as the lights went out. Our apartment was cool, and as long as we kept everything closed, it would remain so for several hours. We had a portable battery powered TV, a pocket radio and power banks to charge our phones. We also had an abundance of snacks that weren't messy and could be eaten in the dark. And toward the end, when my face started to feel warm, I had this cute little fan.

We used our phones to check the electric company's website for updates. First, they posted that power was expected to be restored by 8:45pm. Then, it was 11:00pm. By 11:00, it had been changed to 5:00. It looked to be a long night. I recalled a power outage I'd been through fifty years ago. (Fifty? Did I really just say fifty? I really am old!) I was a kid back then. There were no battery powered TVs, no smartphones...but we did have flashlights. Mom, Dad and I sat in our living room with Dad's big flashlight on the coffee table, pointed up at the ceiling. A bug got on the flashlight and spent hours running around in the light. That was our entertainment for the duration of the outage--watching that bug run around, looking much bigger than it actually was.

It took so little to entertain us back then.

But getting back to the immediate past, the lights came back on just after midnight--whereupon we checked everything electric to make sure there had been no damage from power surges. reset clocks, and promptly went to bed.

I've had a nasty cold. My nose is sore from blowing it so often. My lips are so chapped they look plumper than usual and much redder. I've bought so many boxes of tissues we should own stock in the company that makes Kleenex. Thankfully, it's almost gone now.

Now, we're preparing for the Big Event of the Century here in the Midwest. On August 21st, we'll be in the path of totality for the solar eclipse. It will pass through twelve states, including Missouri. The last total solar eclipse to come our way was on June 8, 1918, almost one hundred years ago. It was sixty-one years before Collin was born, thirty-five years before I was born and eleven years before my mother was born. My father was only four years old.

It's a big deal, especially to amateur astronomers like myself.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What Looks Good on Paper Might Not Look Good on the Jumbo Screen....

Those of you who have been regular visitors to this blog know that I've been a wrestling fan since childhood. As early as age five, I have memories of Mom, Dad and me watching Wrestling at the Chase every Saturday night--in black and white back then. Dad was a big fan. Mom was, too--until she found out it was staged (fake, scripted, whatever).

These days, Collin and I watch events from all over the world via the WWE Network on our big screen TV. There are four regular shows--Raw, SmackDown, NXT and 205 Live and so many pay-per-view events, I've lost count (they're actually only pay-per-view for the fans who don't subscribe and have to get them through cable or satellite providers, which is a lot more expensive). There are many new events, and some of the old ones have been rebranded. Most of the new brand names work well, while others, well....

Last Sunday's event is an example of a rebranding that just might have gone wrong. The new title is Great Balls of Fire. Great song title, but I'm not sure how it connects to wrestling. At any rate, it caused a few unfortunate images to pop up online....

I wonder how these played with the parents of some of wrestling's younger fans?

Looks like a throwback to the WWE's Attitude Era, before the raunchiness was replaced with a PG version cleaned up for the younger audience.

This guy's ring name is Big Cass. If he weren't seven feet tall, the C might have not been blocked out like the sun during an eclipse. But it's oddly appropriate here, since Big Cass had just turned heel and was on his way to the ring to pulverize his former partner/buddy, Enzo Amore. As a team, they looked like Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo--if Boo-Boo were a hyperactive chatterbox!

Note to WWE Creative: It's one thing for your guys' promos to sound as immature and illiterate as a Donald Trump speech, but maybe this one needs a new title?


Friday, June 30, 2017

Okay, Maybe I Was Wrong....

I've been hoping the studios would start making new films available for viewing at home at the same time they're released  to theaters. I never really enjoyed sitting in the theaters with people behind us kicking our seats. Regular seats weren't made for butts like ours--Collin and I would find ourselves competing for the armrests. We couldn't get to the theater late or we might not get the seats on the ground level--I can't climb the steps to the upper levels in stadium seating, and the lower levels are often uncomfortable  because they're too close to the screen. 

Some theaters now offer a special dining experience--meals prepared by professional chefs and served to theatergoers in their seats. I don't care about that. Eating in the dark tends to be messy. I prefer to have lunch before or after the movie. But now, they're offering something I can definitely get on board with.

Reserved seats. SuperScreen DLX.  Dreamlounger seats--recliners with wide armrests,  large cupholders, and even heating if you prefer.

Collin and I went to see Despicable Me 3 this morning. Because we chose the 9:00am showing, the tickets were only $5.00 each. Because we ordered our tickets in advance online, we got to reserve the seats we wanted and got a discount on Minion merchandise through Fandango (our Minions are scheduled to arrive tomorrow). We also got special Despicable Me 3 popcorn buckets.

Collin said my mom would have loved the new seats, which she would have. But she probably would have fallen asleep during the movie, snoring so loud that we would have been asked to leave!

As for the movie, it was great. I'll be reviewing it at Rotten Tomatoes within the next few days. I was disappointed to not see Kevin, Stuart and Bob, who were featured prominently in the Minions movie--but Mel, who was featured  this time, was a riot! I especially loved watching Gru's new wife, Lucy, struggle to make the transition from secret agent to mom to three young girls (Gru's adopted daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes), while Gru got to know Dru, the twin brother he never knew he had, and the restless Minions, led by Mel, left Gru in search of a life of villainy they were never really suited for.

Yep. Highly recommended. I give it five bananas!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Making a Statement...in Minionese!

When I was thirty years younger and launching my career as an author, I was expected to dress in a certain way. It was my fault, of course. My first two novels had very glitzy backdrops, so I was expected to look the part. I was clueless. I didn't know anything about fashion or designers. I still don't. I'm a Midwestern gal. I love being able to spend my life in jeans, shorts and T-shirts. My wardrobe is so limited that when a friend passed away recently, I had nothing suitable to wear to the funeral parlor.

If I had a do-over, those two novels would have both taken quite a different direction. It would have made my life a lot easier. I wouldn't have been pressured to lose weight. I wouldn't have made so many bad clothing choices and felt so awkward in my own clothing. I've looked at photos taken of me back then, and I looked pretty stupid most of the time.

These days, life is much easier. I do everything online. I can wear what I want. If I gain a few pounds, I get a lecture from my doctor, not my publisher. It's still frustrating, but at least it makes sense.

Most of my wardrobe (if it can even be called that) includes character T-shirts--mostly Minions. Those cute little yellow guys have proven to be great conversation starters. I'm always surprised by how many people come up to Collin and me on the street, in restaurants and at the movie theater to tell us how much they love the Minions. Recently, two hospital staffers approached Collin and me in the hospital cafeteria when we were there for one of the tests I had this month. They wanted to tell us how much they loved our King Bob backpacks. We each have several backpacks, but the only ones that get any attention are the one featuring the Minions.

A while back, we were at Golden Corral for lunch. The manager stopped us to talk about our Minion gear. I've even sold copies of my books to people who came to talk Minions and stuck around long enough to get to know a bit about us.

When I was young, I felt uncomfortable in my own clothing. Now that I'm a geezer, I'm having fun with it....

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Left Brain, Right Brain, What Brain?

I always knew it could happen. In fact, I expected it. A stroke, that is.

I had a stroke.

Yes, this is really my brain. William says it looks like Cookie Monster!
Heart attacks and strokes are in my blood, literally. Both of my parents had heart disease. A heart attack killed Dad. Strokes were a major factor in Mom's death. The odds of beating either were not in my favor.

I'm pretty dense when it comes to medical issues. Even when I do my homework, I've missed the obvious too many times. When I was pregnant with Collin, I read every book I could find. I was convinced I was prepared for childbirth. When the time came, however, I didn't even realize I was in labor until the contractions were five or six minutes apart. Smart, huh?

About fifteen years ago, I had a heart attack. Again, I was clueless. I didn't know until my doctor at the time was concerned about my slow heart rate and ordered some tests, including an EKG. It showed a past attack.

Earlier this month, I saw my current doctor for what was supposed to be a routine checkup. I mentioned in passing that I'd had some frustrating speech problems. It was something that's happened to all of us at one time or another: you try to say something, but the words just don't form. Your brain sends the message, but your mouth just doesn't quite get it.

It made me think of a sign I saw years ago: "Please Be Sure Brain is Engaged Before Putting Mouth Into Gear." My brain was engaged. My mouth, apparently, had slipped a gear!

In my case, it was happening too frequently. It was a pain in the butt. And there were other problems--tremors in my right hand, poor concentration and memory lapses. Sleeping too much. Brain fog.

Dr. B. explained what might be happening. It could be seizure-related. It could be a stroke. Or it could indicate a tumor. She was ordering an immediate CT scan. As those of you who follow this blog already know, I had the CT scan two weeks ago. It showed a possible stroke and slow blood flow to the brain. Last Friday, an MRI confirmed a past stroke (Dr. B. called it a pinpoint stroke, which I'm guessing is better than a big bully of a stroke) and chronic small vessel disease. I guess that explains everything.

My regular Friday dates at the hospital aren't over yet. This Friday, I'm having a Doppler ultrasound of my carotid arteries to find out if there's any plaque buildup there, keeping blood from getting through.

Oh, this is going to be so much fun. Not!

I'm lucky to have health insurance. My CT scan was over $1500. My copay was $148. I don't have the bill for the MRI yet, but I expect it to be even more expensive. I've been told the copay for the Doppler ultrasound will be $61. Without the healthcare the Republicans want to take away, these tests would have been impossible. And they wonder why we're so angry....

Sunday, June 18, 2017

You Don't Mess Around With...Godzilla?

Death is a fact of life. Eventually, it's going to come to all of us. But even knowing this to be a fact, we're rarely prepared to lose a parent. Somewhere in the back of our minds, we just can't accept that they won't always be there, taking care of us.

I was more dependent than most on my parents. They were always there to clean up the messes I made--some of them big messes. While Mom was the comforter, the optimist, Dad was the pragmatist, my reality check. If I was BSing him, he'd call me on it--and somehow he almost always knew.

I guess that came from the harsh realities of his early years: discovering at fourteen that his mother had died when he was a baby (ruled a suicide, but there were rumors that her husband had killed her while drunk)...having a father and a stepmother who weren't loving parents...leaving home, being on his own for a time before finding a home with his maternal grandmother...and a failed marriage.

Dad was mercurial. He could be fun, protective, committed--but there were also times he was dark and moody, not wanting to talk to anyone. He could be stubborn and childish at times. (Mom said that was why Dad and I so often butted heads--we were too much alike.)

I don't have too many photos. Dad didn't like having his picture taken.

Maybe she was right--to an extent. We both had tempers, but we were like faucets. Mine ran hot, blowing like an angry volcano. Dad's was cold. He rarely argued, instead retreating into a chilling silence.

But not always. I remember one incident in particular...I was a teenager at the time. Dad bought a dump truck (he designed and built houses, usually doing everything himself). Our next door neighbor at the time had volunteered the use of the truck to her church--without asking Dad if he was okay with that. (It's a long story.) Dad put the brakes on that, and the neighbor was furious. One Saturday, Mom went out, taking Dad's pickup instead of her own car. The neighbor must have thought Dad was gone and Mom would be alone and an easier target for her anger. I was in the living room, watching TV when that clearly suicidal redhead came storming into our house, not bothering to knock. She headed for the kitchen. From the sound of things, Godzilla must have been in there. It was like watching a film in reverse. She backed out of the kitchen, through the dining room, through the living room, out the front door, with Dad following, as angry as I've ever seen him.

It was fun to watch.

Dad had a great sense of humor. I learned some of my best pranks from him. There were some, though, that even I wouldn't try.

He's been gone twenty-six years now. He had a premonition of his own death in great detail...and it happened exactly as he predicted. I think that was God's way of telling Dad to get his affairs in order, to get right with Him, before it was too late. I hope he did.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. Wish you and Mom were here. There's a wrestling event tonight, right here in St. Louis. You would have loved that!