Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Murphy's Law, Christmas Edition

I'm back, just in case anyone noticed I was gone.

I haven't been around much lately, and discovered I was about two weeks behind on blog comments--so if I haven't left a comment on anyone's post, I apologize. I'm still playing catch-up.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment with my primary care doctor--just a routine check-up. I had an ingrown fingernail that was bugging me, but I didn't think it was any big deal, so I didn't mention it to Dr. B.  Big mistake. That was on a Friday. By Sunday, there was swelling and a pocket of pus on the side of my fingertip. It wasn't painful and I had no fever, so on Monday morning, I emailed Dr. B. a photo of it and asked if I could just poke it with a sterilized needle and drain it. Her response: absolutely not! She wanted to see me that afternoon. I persuaded her to wait until Tuesday so Collin could go with me.

Gross, isn't it? And I wanted Collin to
do a video of the....uh, cutting....

When I saw her on Tuesday, she read me the riot act. She told me she couldn't treat it herself, that it would require a hand surgeon. Surgeon? Just what was she thinking? She said there was an infection, that it would require an incision to drain the pus and could cost me the fingertip or the whole finger. Maybe even the whole hand. Whoa! I'm right-handed and my left hand is rarely very cooperative. Nobody was cutting my hand off!

The hand surgeon, as it turned out, was triple-booked and couldn't see me that day, so Dr. B. insisted I go to the emergency room at St. Mary's across the street. Oh, great, I thought. An entire afternoon and maybe the evening as well, stuck in the ER waiting room? I almost didn't go.

As it turned out, the waiting room in the ER was nearly deserted. I was taken in immediately and seen by a doctor who, as it happened, had considerable experience in this sort of thing. He patiently explained the problem to me in medical jargon, describing what was building up in my finger.

"Pus," I concluded.

He nodded. "Pus."

He said he would anesthetize my finger, which would take about fifteen minutes. It would take two minutes max to drain it, then it would be bandaged. I asked if it would need stitches. He assured me it would not. It had to drain, after all. I felt a slight sting when he administered the anesthetic, but nothing after that, not even when he made the incision. He had me rest my arm on the arm of the chair, then covered it with a small cloth with a hole in it for my finger, similar to those used in operating rooms.

"Raise your finger," he told me, "like you're flipping me off."

I grimaced. "I think that's what got me into this mess." Is it possible to have an overworked flipping finger?

It was over in no time. The bandage made it look worse than it really was--like a mummy finger puppet. Collin and I left the ER in time to go to lunch, puck up some groceries and still get home by three that afternoon.

Now, it's healed and looks as if nothing ever happened. I think the most painful part was that $150 copay. Even with insurance, with my deductibles and out-of-pocket minimums met, it was still $150? Boy, am I glad we had insurance....

Monday, November 20, 2017

How They Have Changed in Thirty-Plus Years!

Having been housebound for the past ten days with a weird allergic reaction to something that has yet to be identified, I wasn't up for much of anything except lying on the couch watching TV. I decided to check out the Dynasty reboot. I hadn't planned to watch it at all, but I was sleeping a lot and figured if I fell asleep during an episode, I wouldn't mind so much. I had watched the original series back in the '80s and found it fell short (in my opinion) to Dallas. The original Dynasty was more of a fashion show than anything else, with less emphasis on character and story than on what the women were wearing.

Blake Carrington was the head of Denver-Carrington, a major oil company. At the start of the series, he had two children, daughter Fallon, who was headstrong and a bit of a tramp. Son Steven was quieter, more thoughtful--and gay, to his father's shame (a TV father was allowed to be ashamed of a gay child in the '80s). Fallon ended up married to Jeff Colby, nephew of Denver Carrington's chief rival, Cecil Colby of Colbyco. Blake married his secretary, the mostly spineless Crystal, who had previously been involved with a fellow employee, the mostly married Matthew Blaisdel. Then there was Crystal's niece, Sammy Jo, who managed to marry Steven--though of course it didn't last.

In 2017, Denver Carrington has been relocated to Atlanta, is no longer all about the oil, and is rechristened Carrington Atlantic. Crystal is now Cristal, the Hispanic COO of Carrington Atlantic, and Sammy Jo is now a guy. I guess that works better as far as his relationship with Steven is concerned. Time will tell. Fallon is furious that her father has promoted his new wife over her and becomes his competition in the business world. Her partner, Jeff Colby, is now an African-American tech whiz.

Oh, how times have changed!

It made me think. Years ago, when I decided to reissue my backlist books as ebooks, I considered updating them much in the way Dynasty has been updated. Mainly, I wanted to drop the glitz and glamour (even I used to refer to four of the five books I did during my time at Berkley as Lifestyles of the Shallow and Superficial). I saw Alexander's Empire (Dance of the Gods) as story more focused on his flashes of memory and his ties to a woman in a mental hospital. I considered making him an equestrian champion who bought a farm in the Midwest with a tragic history, only to find living there was triggering memories he didn't understand.The title, of course, would have to be changed.

Angels at Midnight would be about a young up and coming artist who married an idealistic lawyer with a dark family secret; a tech whiz who worked for a conglomerate taken over by a criminal element; and a custody fight that led to some creative forms of revenge.

Yeah, I guess I could have rebooted the four books. I was just never sure if it would be worth the effort....

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's Finally Here! I Was Startiing to Think it Might Not Come This Year!

I'm talking, of course, about the autumn colors. They were expected to show in mid-October, but only arrived in full this past week. I had Collin do the photo honors. And after he was finished, he explained to me that the Samsung Galaxy has a special feature that compensates for shaky hands like mine....


Monday, November 6, 2017

When You Just Have to Take a Break from the Real World....

It's been that kind of a week. It's been that kind of a month.

After Collin's health scare--he still has to have a neuromuscular consultation at St. Louis University on January 16th to verify that whatever happened to him isn't coming back--he's doing well and going back to work tomorrow. A lot of prayer got us through that one and apparently, God is still looking after us (we do need to be looked after). I still have some intermittent speech problems, but have reassurances from my doctors that I don't need to go to the ER every time I trip over my tongue. The rough patch was followed by an unexpected miracle. (Yes, they do happen. You just have to be watching for them.)

Having been through so much, we both needed a  break--from reality. Reality these days is not so great, between our Idiot-in-Chief still being in the White House, shootings at concerts and church services and a terrorist attacking people on a bike path in New York City. I grew up in a world that was a pretty great place. I had hoped it would be the same great place for Collin and any grandchildren I might have in the years to come. Sadly, it isn't.

But that's for another post. Last Friday, we got that desperately-needed break. We went to the movies--to see Thor: Ragnarok. We'd both been anxiously awaiting its release, and it did not disappoint--in fact, it was better than my expectations. The title might suggest a grimmer story than it is. It's got a lot of laughs. It's in some ways a buddy movie focused on Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), once they get that initial beatdown out of the way.  This movie explains a lot of what took place in the two previous Thor movies (I always wondered why Odin (Anthony Hopkins), particularly why Odin was so tough on Thor and his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). By the way, Loki is no longer the black sheep of Odin's family. Loki's actions were nothing compared to those of their long-lost sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett). 

I've known a lot of dysfunctional families, but Odin's family is far and away the most dysfunctional--but then, they've had thousands of years to build up all that nastiness.

I'll be posting my full review at Rotten Tomatoes later this week.

After the movie, we headed over to TGI Fridays for lunch. And since that day was World Sandwich Day and Subway was offering not only a buy-one-get-one-free deal. they were also making a contribution to Feeding America, we picked up subs for dinner. Any day I don't have to cook is a good day for me!

Oh, and one more thing: for months now, I've been entertaining the idea of getting a buzz cut. I was on the fence at first for a number of reasons. I didn't want to look butch. I didn't want anyone to think I was trying to turn into a guy or something. And I always thought that while it's a look that works great for some women, I don't have the face or bone structure for an almost-hairless look. I didn't want anyone to think I'm sick, either. On the other hand, my hair is baby-fine and has always been a pain in the backside, no matter how I wore it. I always wear a hat or a cap when I go out. In winter, I couldn't wear a knit cap because it did bizarre things to my baby-fine fluff. When we went to get our haircuts last week, I decided to take the plunge. Even so, the stylist was hesitant. She stood behind me, razor in hand.

"Are you sure about this?" she asked.

I was. And I am. I love it. It's so easy to care for. I'm planning to keep it this way for the foreseeable future. I don't have any photos yet, but it looks very much like this character from Marvel's Inhumans....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Next Time You Want to See a Movie, It Had Better be a Disney Movie!"

Happy Halloween, everyone! Today's post is one I've thought about doing for a long time now. It just fits the occasion. Back in 1973, I talked two friends, Shirley and Yvonne, into going to see The Exorcist. They were reluctant at first, but allowed themselves to be persuaded. If you've seen the movie, you know there are a couple of real appetite-killing onscreen moments. During one of those moments, both of my friends abruptly shoved their bags of chips at me. Being stuck in the middle between two unhappy moviegoers can be an awkward thing.

As we were leaving the theater, they issued a warning: "Next time you want to see a movie, it had better be a Disney movie!"

The following year, I transferred from Jefferson College to Saint Louis University. That was where I learned the true story behind The Exorcist. It was legend around the campus. The exorcism on which the movie and William Peter Blatty's novel were based took place at SLU. The details can be found on the University's website, but the child who was believed to be possessed was a boy, not a girl as was the case in the movie. The child, known only under an alias, was from the Washington DC area, but was brought here to a relative's home. The Jesuits performed the rituals at three locations--the relatives' home in Bel-Nor, the Jesuit rectory at St. Francis Xavier College Church on the SLU campus, and at the Alexian Brothers Hospital in south St. Louis. The old rectory was torn down and replaced in 1966; the hospital building where the final days of the exorcism took place was leveled and rebuilt in 1978. 

Yes, I've wondered if the destruction of those two buildings had anything to do with the exorcism....


Saturday, October 14, 2017

New Takes on a Not-So-Old Idea

I did promise fun today, didn't I? Let's see if this post delivers.

I've published (or more appropriately, re-published) six of my previous books with Creativia--but for the new books, which may finally be finished soon, thanks to my wonderful doctors (Dr. P. and Dr. B., take a bow!), Collin and I are considering going it on our own--especially now that Collin and his partner, William, are contemplating an audiobook publishing venture of their own.

I've been playing around with photoediting apps on my tablets for a while now. I posted some of the results here a while back. I decided I'd take a shot at "enhancing" some of Collin's cover ideas. Tell me what you think of these versions of Superhero in Training.

See anything here with potential?

These were just for fun, but....

Two of them are missing...I had one with weird colors, and another with a cat's paw clawing the dog's face....

Friday, October 13, 2017

They're Always Your Baby, No Matter How Old They Are!

The post I had planned for today will have to wait until tomorrow. I promise it will be something fun and Trump-free, so barf bags will not be needed.

I once told Collin that when he's eighty, he's still going to be my baby. His response? "When I'm eighty, you'll be dead." He has so many good traits...but diplomacy isn't one of them. I guess he gets that from me. He calls it like he sees it.

Some of you know that he's been having health issues for the past couple of weeks. He has arthritis in his ankles and feet. We've known that for over a year. He had to quit his job at IHOP because of it. But he actually likes serving, so a few months ago, he went back to it, in spite of my warnings to him that arthritis doesn't just go away. It can be managed (sometimes), but never cured. When walking was no longer easy, I refrained from my usual barrage of "I told you so." (I'm reserving them for another disaster on the horizon, for those who made said disaster possible--thankfully, Collin is not guilty of that one!) 

No, instead of rubbing his nose in it, I urged him to schedule an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon--but first, he had to see his primary care doctor. That appointment was yesterday. He could barely walk. I'd asked our friend Carolyn about borrowing a wheelchair, but we haven't been able to pick it up yet. So as we were walking up the sidewalk to the medical building, Collin lost his balance and almost fell. How I managed to hold him up, given that he's much bigger than I am, can only be attributed to divine intervention. I got him into the building, where wheelchairs are available for patient use. Again, I'm not sure how I managed to navigate it into the elevator and up to his doctor's office on the second floor, but we made it.

Because Collin had been having other symptoms like way too much sleeping, loss of appetite and vomiting, it made sense to see his primary doctor first. She ordered some lab tests--and an MRI of his spine. We had to wait around a couple of hours for the MRI, so Carolyn, who was coming from an appointment nearby, came to wait it out with us...and brought lunch. I tried to stay optimistic for Collin, but I think every imaginable worst case scenario ran through my head in that two hours.

Yep, he's still my baby. And my baby was in trouble.

We got the test results last night. He has arthritis in his spine and a small benign tumor, called a hemangioma, near the T12 (where the thoracic section becomes the lumbar section of the spinal column). What does that mean? I haven't a clue. We'll know more when he sees both of his doctors next week.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Changing Face of Evil--Or Has it Really Changed at All?

The news is currently all about the mass shooting in Las Vegas--over fifty people dead, over five hundred injured. The shooter, by all accounts, has nothing in his background to indicate he would even contemplate such a thing, let alone plan it so meticulously. Will we ever know why he did it?  Even if we do ever discover his motive, it's not going to make sense.

Terrorist attacks around the world...suicide bombers...serial killers...all faces of evil. The loving mother who suddenly murdered her small children...the son who plotted the murder of his own mother...the monster who encountered two young girls hiking in what should have been a safe area killed them after doing God only knows what to them. Again, the faces of real evil. There was a story in the news a while back about a cop--in New York, I believe--who fantasized about raping women, then eating them. If that's not pure evil, I don't know what is.

These acts of evil are becoming more common every day. There was a time they were only seen with any regularity in movies. I'm thinking of the Omen movies as an example.The first movie started with a stillborn baby who was later found to have been murdered so a priest under Satan's control could convince the dead child's father, an ambassador, to pass a baby he was told had been orphaned off as his own. The child's nanny took her own life in a horrific act to open the door for one of Satan's apostates to step in and serve as his protector. When another priest tried to warn the ambassador of what was to come, he died in a freak accident. The ambassador's wife was killed when she became pregnant again. A photographer who stumbled onto the truth was decapitated. 

In the second movie, an executive, a scientist and an elderly woman who controlled a large portion of the family fortune all died in "accidents." A cousin who discovered the truth suddenly collapsed--an aneurysm, according to the death certificate. By the third movie, the child was an adult beginning his rise to power. The US Ambassador to the Court of St. James (Great Britain), suddenly committed suicide in front of a group of reporters--after which Damien Thorn, aka the antichrist, was appointed as his replacement. A group of monks chosen to deal with him were killed, one by one. Anyone who got in his way was eliminated. When he was certain Christ was about to return, he ordered the elimination of all children born on March 24th. Among the executioners were a priest, a neonatal nurse and a pair of boy scouts. weird, huh? Ironically, the antichrist was stopped by the ultimate skeptic--a reporter.

Yes, these were movies. I'm not trivializing what happened in Las Vegas, just making a comparison. Killing without apparent reason. It raises a question that's been asked many times before: does true evil exist?

Many neuroscientists say no. They content that evil acts are the result of a glitch in the brain. Others, like blogger Richard Koch, are more open to the idea. I believe, without as doubt, that evil does exist, and that the potential for both exists in each of us. Which way we go is a choice we have to make. The problem is that too many don't believe evil exists, which makes them more vulnerable to it. Those of us who know it's there are on guard against it. Most of us, anyway. I've seen some, quite recently, who became so sure of themselves and their ability to deal with it, their arrogance inevitably led to their downfall.

Just think about it. That's all I ask.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Barf Bags and Fossilized Pizza

I was going to post this yesterday, but Collin, who never gets sick (I've asked him more than once when the mothership is returning for him), actually got sick. He missed work yesterday and was sent home today, right after he got there. The health department, it seems, frowns upon restaurant employees puking on the job.

He's been having gastrointestinal issues for the past week. Hard to believe, since this is my baby boy, who would put leftovers from restaurant meals in his backpack and eat them a week later, when he remembered he had them. I always thought it would be my cooking or fossilized pizza that brought him down.

He's in bed now, where he's been since he got home. His doctor prescribed a bland diet and lots of fluids for now. A bland diet is good. Easier to clean up when it won't stay down.

Anyway, my post for yesterday--today--was planned to be about my latest visit to my neurologist. Ever since I learned, back in June, that I'd had a tiny stroke, I've been apprehensive. I watched my mom suffer through multiple major strokes until she could no longer do anything for herself and didn't recognize Collin or me. I expected the worst. Going to sleep at night became a cliffhanger. I wondered if I'd even wake up in the morning.

That all changed on Wednesday.

After a thorough examination, my doctor told me that the spells I've been having--periodic speech problems, tremors, zero concentration, short-term memory issues--are not TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) but seizures. Mind you, seizures are no picnic--even mine, which are not the convulsions most people associate with epilepsy--but I'll take seizures over strokes any day. It's like the 2016 election, with Hillary Clinton being the seizures and Donald Trump being the strokes. You don't really want either one, but better to go with the one that will do the least amount of damage. You can't fix strokes.

I told her that I haven't been able to write for some time time now, beyond blog posts and obnoxious comments on Facebook. What once came so easily is now a struggle. I've considered giving up. Actually, I gave up more than once. I considered taking on ghostwriters. I have the ideas, I just haven't been able to turn the ideas into complete novels. And then I told myself it was time to retire, stop and smell the roses and all that.

I told myself the market isn't what it used to be. I'm not the writer I used to be. I'm not interested in doing the kind of books that end up on the bestseller lists anymore. There are more writers and fewer readers now. I've used every excuse in the book. But the truth is, I want to write. I just can't.

My doctor thinks that may not be a permanent issue. Seizures not strokes, right? It can be fixed. I can be fixed. Maybe. A change in meds, and time will tell....

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Words Aren't Mine This Time, but I Agree with the Author 100%!

Fellow author Karen Moline shared this on her Facebook page. I shared it as well, and I'm sharing it here for those of you who don't do Facebook. 

This long rant was posted by attorney Seth Abramson on Twitter, and it is one of the best dissections of Trump I've read. Please share: 

"We need to never again discuss this man with respect to policy — it's become more than clear in 9 months that he holds no policy positions. So if you support Donald Trump because of any view you claim he holds, I don't ever want to hear from you again. The man holds no views. There is no position Donald Trump has ever taken that he has not, at some point in the past or present, taken the opposite position to.

We mustn't ever discuss this man as someone "challenging the system" or any similar bromide. His White House is the most corrupt ever. Not one story of honorable conduct has emerged from this White House. Instead, it's been lies, deception, corruption, graft, propaganda. But the most important thing is this: this is the first U.S. president to systematically and willfully terrorize his own populace daily. His changeability is intended to keep us anxious and on guard. In fact, he's admitted publicly, many times, that this is a tactic of his.

His corruption is equally studied: his business model has always been "get away with what you can," and that's exactly how he's governed. He saw that he had a GOP Congress — and knew that his worst-case scenario was not getting re-elected to a job that he never really wanted. That's why he hasn't eliminated his conflicts of interest, delivered on his promises, "drained the swamp," acted as any kind of leader. His presidency is a criminal enterprise designed to enrich his family and give him the attention his father clearly denied him as a kid.

He has no beliefs, no ambitions, no morals, no principles, no guidelines, no plans, no expectations. He simply needs to sow chaos daily. What Trump knows better than most is that America is a chaos machine—you feed it and it spits out attention, headlines, sometimes money. I want to be very clear here: Donald Trump is a toxic human with a toxic public presence and—worst of all—he wants to poison his people. His reign will go down not just in U.S. history but human history as a reign of uncommon cruelty in the democracies of this millennium. 

It's more than that he'll go down in our history as the worst president we'll ever have—he'll go down as one of our greatest villains. Benedict Arnold tried to betray America for a prior sovereign—Trump is trying to *torture* a nation that was good to him his whole life.

Have you noticed a change in your mood since January? I mean a change you can't seem to escape? Anxiety, anger, fear, confusion, doubt? The most ubiquitous man in your nation is trying to poison you daily—because it gives him power—and no one's stopping him from doing it. If you've seen a dramatic change lately in your personality, home life, belief in the nation you love—please know that you're not alone. I'm not using hyperbole: you're under attack. A deliberate, unprovoked, systematic, and—yes—evil attack. And it's working. We're losing.

When humans are endangered, confused and hopeless, there are certain things we turn to—all of which Trump is deliberately stealing away. Our fight or flight instinct—which Trump activates—can be quelled if we're given respite, which is why Trump ensures we have no respite. That's why his tweets—which are intended to terrorize, and *do*—come in a daily barrage of needless conflict, warmongering, and cruelty. He must never stop tweeting, because his tweets now activate our culture in a way so *inescapable* that we're almost like his prisoners. You think he's attacking North Korea in his tweets? No—he's trying to terrorize *you*. The NFL? You. Segments of America? No—all of us.

When humans are confused, we seek the stability of truth, trusted institutions, neighbors. He's destroying those anchors systematically. "Fake news" isn't about getting re-elected—it's about controlling your fight-or-flight instinct by giving you no safe harbor in "truth." Every institution we like or trust, he's undermined. The media. Government. Unions. Hell—even the NFL. Veterans (when he feels like it).

He's enabled by the GOP—but he's no Republican. He wants to destroy any politics or politician whose world he's not at the center of. He's a malignant narcissist, and his *only* ambition is to spread his toxicity nationwide in whichever ways feed his perverse pathology. If you're a Trump voter, by all means laugh it up. You'll be caught in wars, recessions, and international collapse like the rest of us. He has 35% support because Americans love to be right/see fools suffer—and Trump voters think they're on the right side of the equation.

Time will show that we were all the fools—and whatever temporary satisfaction the Right got from annoying the Left wasn't worth America. Because the last thing—of the three I mentioned—humans look for in a crisis is hope, and he's systematically taking *that* away as well. We don't have hope future elections will be fair. We don't have hope our government is working in our interests. We don't have hope we can trust and love our neighbors and they'll trust and love us back. And we don't have hope things will start to make sense again. Trump has declared war on America—crafting his own brand of "American carnage"—and some groups have felt the pain quicker than others. But only a fool fails to see that the pain and suffering that comes from having a madman as a leader is soon coming for every one of us.

Things are going to get very bad. And many fools will say, "Well—that's America." And America *is* deeply flawed. But we weren't *this*. One in every few generations in the West, a leader arises *so vile* that he can draw out the evil from his population and weaponize it. Trump is *not* Hitler. There was only *one* Hitler. But Trump is the *sort* of Hitler that America in 2017—at its very worst—can breed. Everything evil a man can do to a country like this, at a time like this, in a span of four or eight years, Donald Trump will try to do. He'll try to make the vulnerable live in fear. He'll position himself as unreviewable by the media and government. He'll sow confusion.

And when his crimes are uncovered—and he's been a villain and criminal his whole adult life—he'll try to stoke violence to save himself. Trump is the most dangerous American of all our lifetimes—he's so dangerous we can't fully apprehend the danger or how to respond to it. He's everything people say—a pathological liar; a corrupt politician; a serial sexual assailant; and, yes, a traitor—but he's also more. He's an actually evil presence that hangs over your life—and the life of a nation you love—every single day. And he may be unstoppable. Is there any reason to trust future election results—now that we know Russia is hacking/interfering and Trump's doing *zero* to stop it?

And is there any reason to think the damage Trump has done to our political system can be solved in just a single American generation? And as he plunges us deeper into our Longest War and tries to start World War III in Asia, can we be certain lasting doom isn't ahead? My point: there is only one fight in America today that matters, because all other fights are ultimately a direct corollary to this one. If we want to save ourselves—and our country—Trump must be legally, peacefully and transparently removed from a position of power. ASAP.

P.S It's OK to finally indulge the idea that everything is as bad as you think it is if hitting rock-bottom gives you the courage to FIGHT."

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Return of Caligula?

"And no wonder, for Satan himself 
masquerades as an angel of light."
2 Corinthians 11:14

I'm posting this for those of you (and I'm sure there are a few) who still support Donald Trump. This isn't going to be pretty, so you might want to move on now.

I've been going back and forth on this one, on whether or not to post it, for a while now. I'm fairly active in political groups on Facebook and I tweet and retweet on Twitter daily--but what I have to say now requires a much longer format, so here I am.

I've made no secret of my opposition to our current (and likely illegitimate) leader. I've been disappointed by the outcomes of elections before, but never concerned that the winner would destroy our country and perhaps even the world. I might not like some of their policies, but then, I've never agreed 100% with any candidate. As I've said before, I've never belonged to either party. I've just voted for whoever I felt would be best for the job. I'm pro-life--I don't think abortion should be legal except in cases where the mother's or baby's life is at risk. I had a child as a single mother. It wasn't easy--I was less prepared than most women for motherhood. But I look at Collin now and I can't imagine a world in which he would not exist. I can't take credit for how well he turned out (I think God just gave him the qualities he needed to survive such a pathetic excuse for a mother), but I'm glad I took the gift of life so seriously that abortion was never an option. Having him, being his mother, made me a better person--not perfect, just better.

I'm in favor of the Second Amendment. There might be a situation in which it would be a matter of life and death. I have no qualms about defending myself, my loved ones, or anyone else being threatened. Gay marriage? Not a lifestyle I'd choose for myself, but it's none of my business. It doesn't affect me, so I'll stay out of that fight. Transgender bathrooms? Opposed. Public restrooms have enough problems already. Deal with the broken latches on the doors and the toilet paper that should be on the rolls instead of in the floor before we figure out any other issues. It should be simple: if you have indoor plumbing, use the women's room; outdoor plumbing, men's room--no matter what you're wearing. 

I grew up in the rural Midwest. We weren't confused about our identities; we knew who and what we were. Most of us, at one time or another, wanted to be something we weren't, but we faced reality. I wonder if this identity confusion might be a factor in the rising number of suicides annually. 

But I've gotten off track here. Donald Trump. How did it come to this? How did we end up with a man so unqualified, so temperamentally unfit for the job, so self-absorbed and greedy as our 45th President? Was it voter manipulation by the Russian government? Partly. I'm convinced they were involved. But there's got to be more to it than that. I suspect it goes back to the 2008 election, when Barack Obama became our first African-American President. That had to infuriate the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, and their like. From the day President Obama was elected to his first term, I imagine they were, fueled by fury, working on getting him out of office as soon as possible. Yet he was still thankfully elected to a second term.

"Then Peter said, 'Now I understand that God 
doesn't play favorites.'"
Acts 10:34

Then there were the Evangelical Christians. Gay marriage was now legal in many states. It wasn't a matter of live and let live, though. Gay couples wanted to force Christian bakeries and wedding planners to handle their weddings, rather than find other bakers and planners who'd be happy to have the job. No--instead, they sued those who refused, sometimes driving them out of business. Another angry group fed up with political correctness. 

Add to that anger of the coal miners and others who were out of jobs because of EPA regulations. They felt no one in Washington was listening to them. No one in Washington cared. The 2016 election was coming up, and they were taking a stand. They wanted a new President who was an outsider, a problem solver, not someone who was part of the political establishment. The Democrats failed them. Instead of the popular independent running as a Democrat, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democrats were determined to have the nomination go to their choice, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who didn't inspire the Millennial voters who were so strongly behind Sanders.

We were ripe for the picking, when you think about it.

In spite of a large number of Republican candidates, Donald Trump took the lead early on. I'm still trying to figure out how anybody could see him as an outsider. It's no secret that most politicians are bought and paid for by wealthy donors--the so-called elite 1%. Think, people. Trump is one of them--one of the 1%! He's the guy who lines the pockets of politicians to get them to vote his way. Why did he bother to run for President instead of just buying himself a candidate? Simple. He wanted the attention. And for some reason, he thought everyone loved him. Surprise! He's divided our country as no leader before him ever has.

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than
it is for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God."
Mark 10:25

Evangelical leaders took to social media, declaring him to be sent by God. Some even compared him to Jesus. I find that offensive. Jesus healed the sick--Trump and his GOP stooges want to take away healthcare for all but those who can afford high insurance premiums. Jesus told the rich man to sell all he owned and give the money to the poor (Matthew 19:21). Trump and Co. are followers of the so-called Prosperity Gospels, believing that God wants everyone to be rich (this is why I have issues with organized religion). Jesus despised sin; Trump embraces it. Jesus was humble; Trump is an arrogant braggart who's all about profit, all about himself and his needs. Jesus lived as a poor man; Trump lived in the Tacky Palace high about Manhattan. Trump has, by all accounts, unapologetically committed every one of the seven deadly sins.

Yes, God chooses those who are broken, sinners he can transform to show the world it's his hand at work. The keyword here is transform. Trump hasn't changed, at least not visibly. He's not an example to follow. Yet follow they do.

This is what I find most troubling. In the past, presidents who fell from grace lost the favor of even their most devoted supporters. Not so in the case of Donald Trump. He once said he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his followers would still support him. That may be the most truthful statement he's ever made. They would. And that's unnatural.

He's signed the Religious Liberty executive order--supposedly to benefit churches, but actually a means to allow tax-exempt churches to oppose or endorse political candidates. Good for politicians, bad for churches. In fact, having seen countless posts online by Christians who are devastated at having to leave their churches because the political arguments have become too much to bear. It's tearing the churches apart--not something God would want, but I can think of someone who would....

I've been disheartened by posts declaring God to be dead or nonexistent because "if there were a God, how could this man be in the White House?"

"Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you 
who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, 
because the devil has gone down to you! 
He is filled with fury, because he
knows that his time is short."  
                                                Revelation 12:12

Some believe Trump was sent by God as a test; some believe he's been sent as a punishment for our godlessness. Others wonder if he's something much more sinister. I don't know. I know something is not normal. I believe that we as a nation are weaker under his questionable leadership than we have ever been. I believe the world is at risk. We have two unstable leaders, Trump and Kim Jong Un of North Korea, making threats, playing chicken with the nukes.

Not a good place to be.

Years ago, I asked our pastor if the Book of Revelation is literal or symbolic, expecting a long discussion of it. Nope. He said, quite simply, "It comes down to one question: are you ready?"

Are we?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Once Again, I've Missed the Boat!

Unless you've been living under a rock, or maybe on the moon, you've heard that a civilian expedition led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has found the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, seventy-two years after it was torpedoed and sunk in the south Pacific. Unless you've been living on another planet, you know that the Indianapolis was instrumental in the US victory in World War II, having delivered parts of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima to Tinian Island. The Indianapolis was en route to the Phillippines when it was sunk.

Back in 1994, Berkley published my novel, Luck of the Draw, part of which took place during World War II. A pivotal scene in the novel was set aboard the Indianapolis, where my protagonist met a young man from an affluent background, Spencer Randall. Spencer didn't survive the attack, but Frankie, a rough young man from Chicago, did. Frankie was found with Spencer's dog tags. Long story short, he assumed Spencer Randall's identity and returned to the US to build a financial empire.

Why am I bringing this up now? I recently decided not to reissue all of my backlist. I'd changed as a writer. The glitz and glamour of my previous writing identity was no longer me. Would reissuing those old books help or hurt my new books' sales? I'll never know. For one thing, I haven't published anything new since 2009. Anyway, Luck of the Draw was one of the books that didn't make the cut. Would the discovery of the Indianapolis now help that book's sales? Who knows.

I'm still kicking myself....

Monday, September 11, 2017

All Aboard the Medical Merry-Go-Round!

First, we were told too much sitting is bad for us. It increases the risk for some cancers, type 2 diabetes and other medical issues. Stand more, the medical community told us. You'll live longer. Now, it seems too much standing can lead to heart disease, according to a recent Canadian study.

What's left? Lying down all day? I could get on board with that.

I saw a comment online from someone in their late seventies who says he ignores all the studies. He eats whatever he wants in moderation--including junk food--and gets moderate exercise. Late seventies? He seems to have done something right.

Think about it. How many studies have contradicted each other over the years? First, a fatty diet was bad. Then it was carbs. Don't eat chocolate, they said. Then we were told chocolate is good for us--dark chocolate, anyway. Don't use whole milk--skim is better (for the record, skim tastes like water). Now, whole milk is not only okay, but better, according to some researchers. Eggs were taboo for years. Now it's okay to eat eggs. Soda is bad. Drink diet soda--now, diet soda is the villain.

And then there are the medications that are supposed to help us deal with some of the health problems that can result for eating or drinking some of those things we've been consuming. Have you seen the TV ads? 

Looks good, until you get the long list of side effects and warnings that come with just about every drug on the market. Makes you want to run to your doctor and ask for a prescription, doesn't it?

It makes me want to STOP taking some of the stuff I'm currently using.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Where Were You When the Sun Went AWOL?

If you weren't aware of yesterday's total solar eclipse, you weren't on this planet. Okay, maybe that's stretching it a bit, but only a bit. It was a big deal here, because we were "in the path of totality," as it was billed. We had the Official (TV) Station of the Eclipse, and all kinds of other "official" things. Who knew the sun and the moon could hire a PR firm to promote their brief encounter?

Not that it was needed. The excitement that grew in anticipation for this once-in-a-lifetime event had been building for months. On the Big Day, thousands of people made the trip to our area just to see it. Some came from as far away as Japan and China. Some booked flights just to be in the air as it happened. Some got engaged during the Moment (totality, when the sun's corona looked very much like a celestial diamond ring). Ten babies were born during the eclipse--an unusually high number, according to doctors. A black foal born during the eclipse had a crescent-shaped white mark on its head. Guess what she was named?

For one day, most of us put aside our differences, joined in our excitement over seeing something that, if you're lucky, you get to see once in your lifetime. Eclipses weren't always so popular, however. Some ancient cultures believed the sun might disappear forever and demons would descend upon the earth and devour humans. Some fasted, believing food cooked during an eclipse was impure. Some ancient superstitions told of children born during eclipses turning into mice. Others suggested women and children were at risk and had to stay indoors.Some saw it as a warning to settle differences, as the sun would not come back until they did so. Good thing that one's not true. We'd still be waiting for the sun to come back!

In movies, eclipses have been harbingers of doom. In The Seventh Sign, an eclipse was one of the signs preceding the end of the world.

I viewed the eclipse with a neighbor, right here in our courtyard. I almost didn't go outside, even though I had my eclipse glasses ready to go. One of our local TV stations was doing a three-hour special to cover it. It would be more impressive on TV, I told myself. The image would be larger. More detailed. It wouldn't look any different. 

Boy, was I wrong.

I did venture out, at first, just to see how tiny the sun looked through the glasses at the beginning. There was just a small part of the sun obscured by the moon. Made me wish I still had my telescope. Made me wish for another. Made me wish I had brought my tablet out so I could view it through the Mobile Observatory app. I decided I wanted to see the big finale. I watched through the eclipse glasses as the sun was reduced to a tiny orange sliver, then nothing.

I'd forgotten the part about removing the glasses when totality was reached. I pulled the glasses off--and was immediately speechless. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was wrong--seeing it on TV would not have been the same.

Collin wanted to photograph it. I advised him to forget about that and just enjoy it. There would be plenty of photos available afterward. There have been--including a couple of amazing shots now available for viewing at St. Louis Daily Photo

For once, Collin took my advice and is still taking about the experience. Things were busy at IHOP, he said, until about 11:45. There was a viewing party at Jefferson Barracks, so I'm guessing everyone headed over there to wait for the eclipse. It was so quiet at the restaurant, Collin and his fellow servers were able to go outside and see it themselves.

Now, we're planning for April 2024. We want to go see the next one at Carbondale....

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?