Monthly Archives: May 2009

A klutz’s guide to yard work


     Dear Hubby finally listened to me and bought a weed whacker that isn’t too heavy for me to handle.  I really like this one.  It is battery powered.  There’s no electric cord to drag around or heavy gas tank to struggle with or refill. 

     Today was sunny and warm.  I decided to trim around the yard and gardens.  I was blithely trimming away then I stepped backwards and tripped over a couple of bricks.  As I looked at the sky, I pondered.  Why was I seeing the sky?  Gee, the hummingbird vine on the arbor needs trimming.  I hoped none of the neighbors saw me do that double deluxe flip.  Maybe I could tell them I was trying some new gymnastic move.  Yeah, sure.  They’d believe that.

     Time to take inventory.  Hey feet, you okay?  Yeah, we’re fine.  Ankles?  Still here.  Legs and knees?  We’re a go.  Hips?  Not a problem.  Back?  Spry as ever.  Shoulders, arms, and head?  Ready.  Whew. 

     Okay, the human was fine, but how was the machinery?  I stood, picked up the weed whacker, turned it on and it worked too.  What a relief.  I shut it off.  Then I heard my neighbor yell from her bedroom window, “Glad you got up.  I was ready to send my husband over to check on you.”


High Fashion, high heels, a klutz, and Bull Terriers


     I’m no fashion plate.  I wear jeans and T-shirts all the time.  When you have dogs, fashionable clothes shred easily if worn anywhere near them.  I own a few dresses but they seldom see the light of day or moonlight for that matter.  One of my dresses almost killed me.  I caught the heel of my shoe in the hem and went ass over tin cups.  It was a good thing that I was outside and had a soft landing on a nice, thick lawn.  The shoes didn’t have much of a heel and still I fell.  Okay, so I’m a klutz.  I admit it.  I have the T-shirt that says so.

     I can’t wear high heels.  Hell, I don’t even own a pair for fear of falling off them.  That’s why I live in flip flops or, when I have to wear shoes, sneakers.  The highest pair of heels I have are about two inches and I’ve only worn the shoes twice—I don’t get out much.  

     I have two Bull Terriers—not the best choice of dogs for a klutz to have.  My dogs are walking road blocks.  Occasionally, they seem to take great delight in tripping either Dear Hubby or me.  Gavin’s paws often aim for my feet when I’m not wearing sneakers.  Lately, since it is flip-flop season, the most often heard expression with the properly added expletive is, “Ow!  Foot!  Get off my ******* foot!”  Patty doesn’t aim for my feet as frequently but she’s managed to get a paw in from time to time.

Patty as Esther Williams


     Patty hates baths, rain, wet towels, washcloths, and squirt guns.  I’ve spent hours and numerous cookies trying to coax and or trick her into the bathtub to give her a bath.  Once I get her in the tub, she cringes in the corner, tucks her tail, ducks her head, and looks pitiful.  You send her out in the rain and you get the same reaction.  You would think you were killing her if you try to wipe her face with a wet paper towel or washcloth.  That is if you can catch her because when she see’s you coming at her with one she runs, hides in the back of her crate, and plays invisible dog.

     Now if only someone could explain her fascination with the pond.  Why is it, that when I turn my back for a second, I’m certain to find her standing on the rock ledge readying herself for an Esther Williams swan dive?  Maybe she does this to make me yell.  Could it be that she thinks my blood pressure needs a boost?  She’s never actually gone in.  However, she occasionally takes a drink while teetering on the edge just to make me crazy.

I hope that’s the last I ever see of Liberty Nursing and Rehab/ HCR Manor Care


     This morning Dear Hubby called Liberty Nursing and Rehab, he spoke to the head honcho about sending me in to pick up the remaining money in his Mother’s account there and she told him it would be ready when I arrived.  I didn’t want to go back there.  Oh, whom do I think I’m kidding?  I couldn’t wait to go back and raise some hell. 

     I went into Liberty Nursing and Rehab/HCR Manor Care all set to pick up the money and, knowing them, expecting the worst.  I found out I was right.  I told the receptionist who I was and why I was there.  She told me to take a seat and she’d have someone come to talk to me directly.  Soon afterwards, Al showed up.  Al told me, he didn’t have a check ready and that he’d mail one to us.

      “Well, now aren’t you precious.  No, you won’t mail us a check.  You’ll get yourself back to your little office and you will cut a check NOW.”

      “But, I’m busy doing payroll.”

     “You have my deepest sympathies.  However, I was told to come in and pick up the money and I’m not leaving here without it.  How about this, why don’t you call your supervisor?”

     “You want to talk to my supervisor?”

     “Was I speaking in Latin?  Did you misunderstand me?  Let me say it again, nice and slow, so you can understand.  G e t   y o u r   s u p e r v i s o r   o u t   h e r e.”

     Al disappeared.

     His supervisor arrived a bit out of breath and tried to explain that Al was busy doing payroll checks, and did I really want him to stop what he was doing to cut a check for us?

     “Yes I do and yes, you will.  I don’t care what he’s busy doing.  I was told to come and get the money from my Mother-in-law’s account.  I’m here and I’m not leaving without it.”  Then I went on to say, “I’m a freelance writer, and this won’t be pretty.”  (I didn’t mention that I was a mystery writer.)

      She scurried away.

      I sat in the lobby putting pen to paper while eavesdropping on conversations around me.  I can’t help it I’m a writer.  I do believe that when I flipped over my third page of the legal pad and began to write on the fourth the receptionist was getting quite nervous.  On the other hand, could her nervousness have been caused by my making a point of reading the identification badges of every person who walked by?

      About twenty minutes later, Al appeared with a check.  It was for a mere $42.02.  Which for many people wouldn’t be a big deal, but for us, what it came down to was the principle of the thing.  It also felt real good to make them jump through my hoops.

      As you can guess, there’s another Doggoned book in here somewhere and Linnie will be in the thick of it.  I just need to think of the right title….

Balance has returned to our pond


     We’ve been hoping to have breeding Koi again.  A couple years back someone got into our yard, dumped a car battery in the pond, and killed all of our Koi.  I was heartbroken, they were our pets, they had names, and they ate food from our hands.  We had to work hard to clean out the pond, replace all the plants, snails, frogs—everything and get the pond back into balance.  Some of our baby Koi had gone to friends’ ponds over the years and they very graciously gave a few back to get us going again.  We also bought a few small Koi.

     Late last night I took the flashlight out to the pond.  A couple of weeks ago one of our Koi laid eggs and at night, shining a flashlight into the water, is the only time you can spot the fry (teensy newly hatched babies for those of you who don’t know fish terms.)  Yes, we have babies.  At least one that I know of and it looks like it might be yellow or white. 

     Proof to me that our pond is finally back to where it should be.  We have nine frogs that we’ve seen, there could be more.  We have eight large Koi about four or five years old and one that is small and is probably two years old.  There are snails, the water lilies are blooming, and I’ve even spotted a few salamanders.  Life in the pond is back to normal now if only we can keep Patty from trying to dive in there.

Good friends, good weather, a very good day


     I hope everyone took the time to say thank you to a soldier today.  And what a glorious day it was!  The temperature was perfect, the sky was clear, and Dear Hubby came home from his mother’s early enough for us to spend some time together outside in the yard.  He puttered around in his fold and go scooter while Patty and Gavin raced about the yard.  We were all enjoying the afternoon.

     I cleaned the grill and readied it for the steaks I planned to grill around six.  A few friends stopped by to chat—always a fun thing in my book.  However, we lost track of time and didn’t get the steaks on the grill until after seven.  That’s okay.  We didn’t mind because our stomachs weren’t growling for food.  Talking to friends we haven’t seen for a while, seemed more important at the time.

     The pups weren’t thrilled that their dinners were late, but they survived.  A few steak trimmings in their dinners gained forgiveness.  The games of hoops and hide and seek helped too.  DH and I are too easy to find but they do love to play.

How security conscious is Liberty Nursing and Rehab–HCR Manor Care?


       One of the first things that Dear Hubby noticed about Liberty Nursing and Rehab (whose parent company is HCR Manor Care) was their complete lack of security.  DH, a former police officer, is retired and on disability.  With his certification as a crime prevention officer, it was his job to point out breeches in security.  It angered him to see such an utter lack of or concern for the security and safety of the patients.  

     Half the time the main entrance door was unlocked at night and there was no one on the front desk.  The door was always unlocked in the day time whether there was someone on the front desk or not.  The facility is in a neighborhood plagued with documented criminal activity and vandalism.  DH was quick to voice his concerns to the building director.  Gosh darn it; his mother was a patient in there.  

     The building director spoke to him about various options that they had considered but had never implemented.  Security cameras, security guards, yada, yada….  She then pooh-poohed all suggestions he made as unnecessary.  Yeah, I too said, “what?” 

     The only change since his meeting with the building’s director was that they now never manually unlock the front door by key and they rely on the timed magnetic lock.  He had watched many visitors and persons applying for employment try to open the door during the morning when the business was open.  They would try turning the lever, it wouldn’t turn, so they’d walk away confused and muttering.  They now rely on the timed magnetic lock   When DH would be around the outside and saw the people he would stop them and explain that they simply had to pull on the heavy wooden door.  Yes, I said a heavy wooden door, yet another obstacle for someone with a disability.

MIL sprung from substandard nursing home/rehab facility


     Thursday Dear Hubby and I went to the HCR Manor Care Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to spring his mother from the facility.  We had an appointment for 1:15 to sign her release forms.  How unfortunate that they kept us waiting for a good 45 minutes.  During that time, the staff began to get the idea that I was somehow not pleased. 

The rules on how to deal with incompetent people who think they are superior:

  1. Be prepared to use police methods of interrogation and intimidation body language.
  2. Arrive early
  3. Have your verbal ammunition primed
  4. Stay cool and calm

      Upon entering the facility I said loud enough to make certain everyone around the reception area heard me, “The ADA should see exactly how handicapped accessible this place is—NOT.”  I had to wheel my MIL’s new wheelchair down twelve steps to get into the building.  In the elevator, I voiced a few complaints about accessibility again.  DH was enjoying this.

      I roamed the hall for a bit, asking a few staff members if they knew where this meeting was to take place.  No one did—what a surprise.  Finally, a woman showed up in my MIL’s room at a quarter to two apologizing for running late.  Before she changed the subject, I told her that the least she could’ve done was send someone in to us and let us know.  I mentioned that it was rude to keep us waiting for as long as she did but knowing the facility, I gathered that rude treatment was par for the course.  I hadn’t begun to tell her what I truly thought of the place and she was already stuttering.  She beat a hasty retreat telling us she’d send someone with my MIL’s release papers.

 An open letter to Healthcare workers,

 If you don’t have any compassion or empathy for your patients, find another career.  Why did you choose the job in the first place?  

If you are burned out, quit and go into another field.  When you are having a bad day don’t take it out on your patients their best day is probably worse than your worst day. 

Always keep in mind that person in the bed could be you one day and treat them as you’d want to be treated.  Do treat their family members, as you would want yours to be treated. 

The person you are caring for is not a side of beef, no matter how far gone you think his/her mind is, you have no idea how much they really know about what is going on around them or what is being said. 

The best thought to keep in your mind when working with a patient is “This could be me, my mother, father, daughter, son, or grandchild.”  I’m betting, with that always in mind, you’ll treat your patients better. 

You chose the healthcare field so do your jobs without neglecting, abusing, or belittling your patients.  Do not treat elderly patients like children; they’ve earned the right to be treated with the respect due them.

When the owl goes home, you let the sleeping owl sleep in.


     Who gets up before six a.m. on a Sunday?  Under normal circumstances, it certainly wouldn’t be me.  Oh, but there I was at the Pennwriters conference and my roommate, bless her, was up by five which meant so was I.  Then Dave knocked on the door promptly at six.  “Yes, Dave.  We’re up.”  

      After we had breakfast, we all made one last ticket buy for the Chinese auction and then some of us headed off to the first of the morning sessions.  9:15 to 10:15 we had our choice of Susan Gable—You say tomato, I say to-motto: How Character motto influences plot, conflict & other story elements, Bobbi Carducci—No means nothing, finding yes in rejection, and Lucienne Diver—trends in publishing.

     10:30 to 11:30 Uwe Stender—Writing non-fiction from query to publication, Don Helin—You landed that Publisher…now what?, Tim Esaias—point of view.  I sure that if more people had known that in Tim’s session you got chocolate for participating we would’ve had more than the SRO group we did have in there.  I know I enjoyed the chocolate.

     10:30 to 12:30 closing ceremonies and the Chinese auction.  I took two baskets home.  Upon arriving home, I was abused by two Bull Terriers for hours.  Their tails wagged so hard that I have bruises on my legs from being thwacked by them.  Dear hubby let me sleep for an hour or two when I crashed on my chair (with two sixty pound dogs on me.)

     It was good to see so many of my fellow writers whom I’d not seen for a year and renew friendships.  It’s always fun to meet new people and make new friends.

     There was one member of our group, who we all missed terribly—Debbie, are you reading this?  Debbie was in a bad auto accident two years ago and there has been a hole in our little gang of rowdies without her.  We missed hearing her laugh and after something bawdy was said, chime in with, “And I write for children.”  We do hope to see her next year.  Her recovery has been slow and her medical expenses–atrocious enough to keep her from attending again this year.  We all send prayers that you will continue to recover—but at warp speed now, and that your finances improve greatly over this year.

     {Note to Valerie Malmont}  Valerie we missed you too! 

     See you all in Lancaster next year!

Day two with the owl…


     Dave rapped on the door at six Saturday morning.  Again, bleary eyed, I answered.  I think he got a kick out of dragging this poor owl out of her nice, warm nest at dawn.  I was up, showered, and dressed—surprise!  No surprise to me however because my roommate was up when the sun rose.

     The breakfast and general meeting was from 8 to 9.  The first three sessions offered ran from 9:15 to 10:15.  Sci-fi/Fantasy breakout—Tim Esaias Colleen Lindsay, Jonathan Maberry, John Lamb—Homicide 101:  an overview of murder investigations, Romance Panel—Esi Sogah, Susan Gable, Susan Meier.  You can guess where I was… John was fantastic!  He has that great, cop’s sense of humor and dry wit that I live with every day.

     10:30 to 11:30  (my free hour since none of the sessions interested me.)  Paige Wheeler—key concepts for career novelists, Bobbi Carducci–Children and YA panel, Jonathan Maberry—making money as a writer.  I was in the hospitality suite filling out tickets for the Chinese auction.  I had my eye on a couple of nice baskets.

     Noon to 1:30 Lunch, awards, and keynote speaker Tim Esais—fun, fabulous, speaker.  Tim had us in the giggles.

     1:30 to 2:30  Crime fiction panel—John Lamb, CJ Lyons, Nancy Martin, and Kathleen George.  FABULOUS session.  Susan Meier—Story, Theme, and Idea.  Nate Hardy—Marketing made easy: success strategies for writers.

     2:45 to 3:45  Kathleen George—playwriting.  Agents Panel—Lucienne Diver, Paige Wheeler, Uwe Stender, Colleen Lindsay, and Becca Stump—moderated by Nancy Martin.  Nancy Christie—essentials of essay writing.  I had another free hour so I was back in the hospitality suite dropping tickets into bags.  There were three baskets that had really caught my eye.

     Then we went to dinner in the hotel around 5.  The rest of the night was ours to do as we wished and it was very much the same as the night before.  Many people in the lobby all having great conversations.  Our group grew, and grew, and grew.  That was Mudslide night for me. 

     Did I mention that Friday night was Bahama Momma night?  No, I didn’t do any table dancing either night, although I think Dave was waiting for it both nights and had his camera handy.

An owl’s view continued…


     The Owl (me) began to wake up after lunch.  I now had enough caffeine in me to get the heart pumping blood to the brain.  Nevertheless, it didn’t hurt to grab another cup on the way to the next session at 1:30-2:30.  I went to Linda Lavarentz’s session–Dialogue that sparkles.  Good session, but again some things I’ve heard before and a few things I hadn’t.  It was worth sitting through.  While I was in that session, my roommate went to Susan Meier’s session—Can this manuscript be saved?  I get to see her notes later.  While still others attended Nate Hardy’s—Marketing made easy: success strategies for writers.  There are times that you wish you could split into three and go to all the sessions that hour.

     The last block of sessions for the day ran from 2:45 to 3:45.  My roommate went to Catherine Mclean’s—the character onion.  Several of us went to CJ Lyons—Kills, Chills, and Thrills session.  She’s a dynamite speaker.  To touch on a bit of what she taught us.  There was the Thriller Spectrum.  Mystery=who…set in the past, solving something that has already happened.  Suspense=why…the present, here and now, it’s visceral and psychological.  Thriller=how…the future, stopping something—a headlong flight into the future.  She went into high concept.  What happens next, hook, unique concept, and universal icon.  The other session during the hour was given by Esi Sogah—a day in the life of an editor.

     We had enough time for some socializing before a glance at a watch had us dashing to our rooms to change for dinner and the keynote address by Lisa Scottoline.  I wasn’t going to miss that for anything.  Having Lisa Scottoline as the keynote speaker, was the pivotal point that made me determined to get to the Pittsburgh conference this year. 

     For a lesser speaker I would’ve skipped Pittsburgh and waited until next year’s Lancaster conference.  I’d have bought the lap top I wanted.  However, to hear her speak, meet her, and come home with two books signed by her, I’m glad I went.  Unless I hit the lottery, it’ll be two more years of saving before I can buy that lap top, but it was worth it.

An owl’s view of a writers’ conference


     I am an owl.  I am NOT a lark.  Thursday night I was wide awake at 2 a.m…  Everyone else had already gone to bed hours before or was drifting off to his or her rooms to sleep. 

     I had no need for an alarm clock.  There was no need for a rooster to crow.  I didn’t need to have an operator call me.  My roommate is a lark and is up before 6 a.m.  With her and with Dave, a few doors away, there was no way I was going to oversleep.  Each morning he would rap on our door at 6a.m., “Are you up?”

     I’d crack the door, peer out, and find him standing there with coffee mug in hand, ready to dash out for the first smoke of the day.  I’d mumble, “We’re up.  We’re up.”

     Friday morning I stumbled around, managed to shower and dress reasonably well.  (At least nothing was inside out and I did remember to put on my shoes.)  We then headed downstairs to meet the rest of our group in the lobby.  I hit the Starbucks stand for a tall, strong coffee and joined Dave outside for a smoke.  (One of these days I’ll manage to quit so please don’t harp on me.  My doctor doesn’t.  He understands.)

     At breakfast when the waitress asked what we wanted to drink Dave and I responded with, “Coffee and please leave the pot.”  We sounded as if we’d rehearsed it.  Each day after that, she didn’t ask she just left the pot.

     Our first session began at 9:15 and went to 10:15.  We had three choices.  Orientation/Q&A, Don Helin’s Series Characters—love ‘em or leave ‘em, or CJ Lyons’—Break free from the slush pile.  Since I’m writing a series mystery, I went to Don’s session.  Some of what he discussed I knew but then there were some points that I didn’t.  I always learn something new, now if I can only read my notes

     Bought some more coffee and my brain began to function nominally.  Glad I took notes in that last session.

     From 10:30 to 11:30, the three sessions offered were Lori Morris—Building your foundation: grammar, Nancy Martin—perfecting your elevator pitch.  (I have mine down to four sentences.)  And Matt Holiday—25 things to keep in mind when sending anything to an editor.

     More coffee.  Bought tickets for the Chinese auction in the hospitality suite and socialized until we dashed out to lunch.  Subway, cheap, fast, and not far away from the hotel.  More coffee and another smoke.

     I’ll let you ruminate on our morning and will return with the rest of ‘day one of the conference’ tomorrow.