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 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!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"I Don't Like Spiders and Snakes...."

There was a song back in the '70s, during my college years: "I don't like spiders and snakes...." I really don't. I love animals, birds, fish and some insects, but I really wish spiders and snakes would keep their distance. I haven't seen any snakes in a while, but I had an encounter with a spider this morning that was too close for comfort.

We have a small bathroom. If it were any smaller, it would be a closet. I was not fully awake yet when I spotted him, crawling on one of the bath towels on the rack. The adrenaline kicked in so fast, my head is still spinning.

Brown recluse? It did look the part, but I wasn't about to get close enough for verification. The only thing I knew with certainty was that this encounter was not going to end well for one of us. I'm a whole lot bigger than said spider and could easily crush him under my flip-flop, if I could get him onto the floor. Crushed arachnid on the floor, no big deal. Crushed arachnid on the wall, ick!

The spider's advantage? If it was a brown recluse, enough venom to put an early end to my early retirement. Definitely not my preferred option.

According to the spider experts, though the venom is deadlier than that of most snakes, only ten percent of all recluse bites result in a medical emergency, since the itsy bitsy spider's fangs are so small. In other words, it's got to really sink those suckers in to make a difference. It can't bite through clothing. I don't think I want to take that chance. 

There are several reported infestations in homes that led to permanent evacuations. One story claims a family lived in a house with over 2000 brown recluses without a single bite. Ever. No way would I stay in that house for even five minutes.

I grabbed the towel. Instead of jumping off, the little idiot crawled between the layers of the towel. I shook it again. The spider hit the floor running.

Until I stomped on it.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

I Didn't Get to Do the Chicken Dance....

I just got this book. Talk about timing!

Never again will I tell Collin to go on ahead and order the food. Every time he does, something goes wrong.

Yesterday, I had what was supposed to be a routine appointment with my primary care doctor. Just following up, making sure all the meds have been doing their job, stuff like that. I expected to be in and out in no more than twenty minutes. Dr. B. was running a little behind, so I suggested Collin go on to Boston Market and order our lunch and I would meet him there. They had a special deal that day: do the chicken dance for a free cookie. I was going to do the chicken dance--but I never got there. I ended up eating my lunch for dinner after we got home. What really bites is that Collin did the dance, and they got a video of it. I missed that, too.

I had mentioned to Dr. B. that I had been having some speech problems the day before (now that I think about it, it actually started before that, maybe a week before). I'd know what I wanted to say, but the words that came out had to fight their way out. Collin says I've mastered Minionese!

Anyway, Dr. B. wanted an immediate CT scan of my brain. This is not exactly unusual. My brain has been viewed more often than I Love Lucy reruns. I was diagnosed epileptic after a head injury when I was a teenager. I tried to get her to let me wait an hour so I could go eat my lunch while it was still hot and maybe, just maybe, get my turn at the Chicken Dance. No go. She told me she would cart my sorry butt over to the hospital across the street herself. Not in those exact words, of course, but...

Normally, if anyone pushed me like that, I'd call their bluff. But I knew better than to mess with Dr. B. I've had two other doctors in my life--Dr. P. and Dr. Z.--who were tough like that, and they were both first-rate physicians. Dr. B's determination to make me do the right thing made me respect her even more than I already did. So I texted Collin and told him to meet me there.

So the CT scan was done and I finally got something to eat at the hospital cafeteria: a slice of pizza and an apple dumpling. Brain food of champions. Fortunately, our dear friend Cathy works fairly close to the hospital, so I texted her and she came after work to take us home. I got a CD of my CT as soon as they finished, and Collin and I viewed it last night. Neither of us is by any means qualified to read them, but they're still interesting to look at. The black spot on one side of my brain was a little ominous, like an ugly little storm cloud about to rain on my parade.

I got the official report from Dr. B. She says there's a decreased blood flow to one area in the left side of my brain. This came as a surprise. I didn't think I still had a left brain. My right brain is a bully. It beats up the left brain and takes over the neighborhood. A few words in the radiologist's report jumped out at me: acute cerebral infarction. In other words, a stroke. Strokes killed my mother--and she was two years older than me when she had the first big one. I have to have an MRI to confirm it, but still....

Okay, God--you have my attention. Time to grow up.

Do I have to?

I choose to look at the bright side. If my speech issues are permanent, I now have the perfect excuse for not talking on the phone....

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Peeves I Keep As Pets

I'm not sure which I hate more: cooking or shopping for clothing.

I'm a disaster in the kitchen, always have been. Anything I attempt is overcooked, undercooked, or nuked. I can use a microwave or crock pot with passable results, but that's the extent of my culinary skills. This past week has been a new low for me. I didn't set the kitchen on fire, no, but it was still pretty bad. 

First, I attempted to make pasta. Collin loves it, so I make it for him in spite of my aversion to cooking. In the past, I've ruined or nearly ruined the pots I used. This time, I missed the pot entirely. Twelve ounces of a twenty-four ounce box of macaroni ended up in the kitchen floor. I'm still finding elbows here and there--I even found a few of them as far away as the living room.

One morning, I attempted something simple: a bowl of cereal. Most of it ended up on the counter. Who can't fill a bowl with cereal?

I put a cup of mac and cheese in the microwave. As I was removing it, it burned my hand. I dropped it, and the sauce somehow ended up inside my oven door--as in between two glass panels. Still haven't figured out how to get it out.

Shopping for clothing, by contrast, used to be easy. If you knew your sizes, you could buy whatever you needed anywhere, no problem. I've never been fond of taking several items into a dressing room, trying each one on, checking them out in the mirror. I like to cruise through the racks, find things I like in my sizes, buy them and take them home. I'm no clotheshorse. I live in jeans, T-shirts and shorts. 

But in recent years, that hasn't been so easy. It's no secret that high-end designers size their clothing in a way that caters to a clientele that wants to believe they're smaller than they really are. Now, however, the size you wear depends on the manufacturer, even for inexpensive clothing.

It's frustrating.

A few years ago, I bought a pair of shorts in a size I'd worn for years. They were baggy. That was just the start. I've purchased several items I couldn't wear. Since I also hate standing in exchange lines, I donate the stuff I can't wear.

My poor eyesight makes matters worse. A couple of months ago, I bought two pair of lightweight pants for warm weather. One pair was a good fit. The other pair was so baggy, I had to tighten the drawstring to keep them up.

They were a 4X.

I like T-shirts to be slightly loose and the sleeves comfortable, so I buy them in the men's department. It's worked out pretty well so far. Until we ordered shirts from the WWE Shop online. I now have two 4X shirts.

Oh, well. They're so baggy, they make comfy sleep shirts!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Neurologist Tells Me I'm Too Sharp to be Senile, But....

I'm really behind here. I haven't posted since the Friday before Mother's Day, and I'm behind on reading and commenting on friends' blogs. I'll catch up...eventually. I've been spending more and more time on Facebook, where there are far more interactions with others--especially in the anti-Trump groups. One, TWIT (The Week in Trump) has a Happy Days parody, Crappy Days, that's hilarious.

I confess, I'm still recovering from last Thursday. Collin and I went to the lab in Kirkwood to get blood drawn for tests ordered by our doctors (just routine stuff). As we were crossing the street at Kirkwood and Woodbine, some woman who either doesn't get pedestrian right of way or was going to a fire made the turn at high speed while we were in the crosswalk. Near miss. Then there were problems with both of our lab orders. Collin's was resolved, but mine wasn't. Fortunately, the tech drew my blood anyway and put it in the refrigerator. (The problem was resolved this morning.) Then, we went to Taco Bell for lunch. While there, I somehow ended up using the men's restroom by mistake. I didn't realize it until I was washing my hands and spotted the urinal. I made a quick exit and found Collin laughing.

I couldn't get out of the restaurant fast enough!

As a result of our blood tests, Collin and I have engaged in a casual competition. We got the results of our lab work the other day. For the most part, all is well. My A1C is 5.7 (normal is 5.6 or lower). His cholesterol is up a bit and his doctor referred him to a nutritionist (he must not have told her I can't cook).

Anyway, we started doing little things to improve healthwise. He eats the stuff he likes--but a lot less of it. Most of the time, he has no bread with meals. I gave up soda over a year ago and no longer have bouts of acid reflux. I don't use much salt--pepper is a good replacement for salt in most cases when the dish is bland. 

Yes, I know....

Here's a challenge, Collin. Whoever has the best report after our next doctor visits wins. The prize? Movie tickets, of course! (I was going to add lunch at TGI Fridays or Olive Garden to the prize, but that would defeat the purpose of the challenge, wouldn't it?)

Friday, May 12, 2017

I've Become My Mom. The Transition is Complete!

I miss my mom.

Since Sunday is Mother's Day, I'm going to write about my mother (Dad will get his turn on Father's Day). I've written anecdotal posts about both of them in the past, but today, I'm going to look at the good and bad in my relationship with her.

For the most part, we were close. I could tell her just about anything. She wouldn't judge me. Sometimes, I think she was too easy on me. I wasn't so easy on her. I didn't understand why she put up with so much crap from her sisters and a particular "friend" who was clearly a two-faced backstabber. As it turned out, I was right...but it took Mom a long time to see it.

I was furious when she loaned my favorite lamp to one of the tenants (my parents owned rental property)--who took it with them when they moved. Okay, they were evicted and it was a nasty, late-night scene that involved law enforcement and an angry neighbor who wanted to repo the car said tenant had bought from him but failed to pay for. I never let Mom forget that she had trusted a lowlife with my lamp. Pretty silly, huh?

Nobody was more proud than Mom when I sold my first novel. She wanted to go with me when I made my first trip to New York to meet with the publisher. I said no. I knew I'd be busy, that I couldn't take her with me to meetings--which was what she really wanted. It would have been viewed as unprofessional--but I'm embarrassed to admit that it wasn't the only reason I didn't want her to go along. From the day the book sold, Mom acted as if she were my co-author whenever we were in public, whenever I was asked about it. The publisher sent me roses. Mom wanted to know why she didn't get roses. She was joking, of course, but I overreacted. Why?

Because I'd always been dependent upon my parents in one way or another. That novel was the first thing I felt I'd done entirely on my own. It was mine, and I didn't want to share that accomplishment--with anyone.

But that wasn't true. I did all of the research and writing, yes. I found my agent on my own, yes. But I was a single mother with a toddler who had lived in Jefferson County, where public transportation at the time was almost nonexistent. I worked downtown, twenty miles away--and I couldn't drive. The only solution was to move into St. Louis, closer to the downtown area, so I could take a bus to work. But that would mean having to find a daycare for Collin or hire a babysitter to stay with him at home while I worked. I didn't like either option. I'd seen too many stories on the news about children harmed, killed or abducted by babysitters or daycare workers.

Mom and Dad sold their home and rented a place in south St. Louis for all of us. I could go to work knowing Collin was safe while I was at work. They gave up a home that was paid for and would have given them security in their retirement so I could work and Collin could have safety and security. In truth, I could not have written and sold Alexander's Empire without them. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I wish you and Dad were still here with us.