Thursday, November 29, 2007

What did we do before cell phones?

I'm one of the last of the people I know to get a cell phone. I finally got one last June and honestly, if my company didn't pay for it I would probably still not have one. I haven't used it very often although it's been nice to have it when I did use it.

It's one of those super mulit-purpose phones that does everything but the dishes and vacuuming. It does e-mail from business, home, Yahoo and g-mail, surfs the intenet, organizes my calendar, keeps track of my address book, tells me who called and provides my with voice messages when people leave them, plays games, takes pictures, syncs with my GPS and computer and sends me reminders of things I need to do.

I say IT because I still don't know how to do all those things on my own. Occasionally one of the younger people in my office will stop by and give me a brief lesson on the finer points of cell phoning. The things I can actually do by myself are quite handy.

It still has my original message, "Hi it's me. Leave me a message and if I can figure out how to use this thing I'll call you back." Since I still haven't figured out how to use all the features, this seems to be an honest message and I'll keep it for another few months - or possibly years.

I'm becoming somewhat attached to my little cell phone although not as much as those who can't seem to function without them - you know, those who talk and text while they aren't paying attention to their driving, or their children, or to their own privacy while they're giving their account numbers out over their phones in crowded places. I'd ask what they're thinking, but obviously they aren't.

I went without a cell phone for 58 years and actually survived. I'm not sure some people I know could do that.

If you didn't have a cell phone, would you be able to function?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Time to blog about something other than my dogs.

Maya Reynolds did a wonderful post that included an excerpt on writing by John D. MacDonald. These 2 paragraphs are my favorite:

Compulsive diligence is almost enough. But not quite. You have to have a taste for words. Gluttony. You have to want to roll in them. You have to read millions of them written by other people.

You read everything with grinding envy or weary contempt. You save the most contempt for the people who conceal ineptitude with long words, Germanic sentence structure, obtrusive symbols, and no sense of story, pace or character.

I love Jason Evan’s short fiction contests because they allow quick tastes of many different genres and writing styles. My favorite this time was easily Just Another Monday Morning in Hell by Angelique H. Caffrey. It was easy to read and funny – a true short story. I didn’t need a dictionary to understand any of the words and excessive use of a thesaurus wasn’t evident. The writing was crisp and to the point and it all made sense.

Some of the entries didn’t make sense to me. Perhaps if the authors had another 250 or more words to provide additional details it would have helped, but that would have defeated the purpose of the 250 word limit.

Some of the writing was so flowery and long worded it made me wonder if there was any story at all or if the author was just trying to impress us with their vocabulary.

What I liked were the stories that were like Angelique’s – easy to read, easy to understand and interesting. It didn’t matter which genre they represented. What mattered was the writing. Some of them were very well thought out and Jason’s picks reflected this.

Part of this was inspired by Bernita’s post about language. She recommended reading your writing aloud and since I’ve always done this, I thought it was a brilliant suggestion. If you read aloud and it doesn’t make sense or sound like something someone would actually say, you may need to do some editing – or just use my failsafe method – highlight, delete and start again.

Lottery, Look Me in the Eye, Bad Girl, Evermore – all good examples of interesting, easy to read, well paced books in totally different genres. None of them required excessive adjectives of multiple syllables to make them good. In fact, Lottery was one of the simplest yet most moving novels I’ve read in a long time.

So, the point is if people are reading your works with contempt for the long words, Germanic sentence structure, obtrusive symbols, and no sense of story, pace or character, perhaps you should just simplify.

What have you read lately that’s simple yet effective?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Eight years ago next month, my dog Happy had a severe seizure. She was 12 ½ years old and had heart problems. Until then, they had been well controlled with medication. She had an occasional seizure, but they were usually very mild and she was able to shake them off quickly.

This seizure happened about 4:30 in the morning and was unlike any others. She had difficulty recovering from it and seemed to be extremely disoriented. I held her until about 7 then got dressed and immediately drove her to the vet. We were there when he opened and he saw us immediately.

He said we could bring her out of it with medication and keep her comfortable, but she would have more seizures and they would be worse each time. He said she would suffer. The decision was obvious and by 11 she was gone.

I cried all the way home and frequently for the next few weeks afterwards. It was quick and done. I didn’t have time to think about it or prepare. All the pain came after the event.

With Rosie, I learned in September that she had bladder cancer and would die within 3 to 6 months. There was time to plan, prepare and pre-mourn. Then at the beginning of November we discovered the lymphoma and the time was shortened dramatically.

When it became obvious it was time to let Rosie go I was prepared. It’s not that I wanted to let her go, but I had come to terms with the inevitability of her death and didn’t want her to suffer. On that Thursday morning leaving for work I knew it was time and she was ready. When I got home, she wagged her tail at me for the first time in several days. I scooped her up and headed straight for the vet before I changed my mind. She rode on my lap and it was obvious she was uncomfortable from the cancer. I cried all the way.

The receptionist knew why we were there the minute she saw us and immediately put us into an empty exam room. The vet walked in seconds later and we discussed the procedure. First, what to do with her afterwards – cremation and a nice blue urn for my mantle.

All the paperwork was signed and he explained there would be two shots. The first would calm her down and relax her and the second would put her down. He gave her the first shot and said it would take about 5 minutes then left.

Since I walked out my door at home, Rosie had been in my arms. I held her, talked to her and cried. It was the right thing to do, but it was unbearably painful. By the time the vet returned she was a lump in my arms. We put her on a big fluffy towel on the table and I held her head, the tech held her body and the vet administered the final shot. It was over within a minute. They left and I stayed with her for a few minutes. As I left the receptionist told me how sorry she was and not to worry about paying right then because they would bill me.

So, Happy went quickly and unexpectedly. Rosie went slowly with plenty of notice. Which way was worst? When Rosie was dying over the last few months, I thought that was the worst, but it’s been a lot easier to move ahead since she died than it was when Happy did. It took weeks to find peace when Happy died, but I felt a sense of peace as soon as Rosie died. Pre-mourning versus mourning. Both hurt like hell and in the end, the result is the same. But they are different.

I cried for weeks after Happy died, but have only been teary-eyed intermittently since Rosie – until this Saturday when I received a sympathy card from the vet’s office. Everyone there – including the 4 vets – not only signed it they also each wrote a note. After reading that yesterday I cried like a baby.

I haven’t been able to write for days and decided not to force myself. Like with Rosie, I figured I would know when it was time. I've kept busy cleaning and reorganizing the house and taking extra good care of Belle who still can't quite figure out where Rosie is.

Today it's time to move on. Today I can write.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!








Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Time out!

Anti-Wife is going through a bit of a slump. She'll be back on track in a few days.
Thanks for your patience and for all the wonderful e-mails and comments. They have really helped.

Thursday, November 15, 2007



August 26, 1993 - November 15, 2007

It was time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I’ve always respected and admired people who act as caretakers for those who are dying. If it’s not your profession, it’s one of the most emotionally and mentally draining things you can do if you love the person for whom you’re caring.

I would never equate losing my dog Rosie with losing a person, but the process is similar. On September 29th I blogged about the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I seem to be wavering between the last 2 stages now.

I know she’s dying. No denial.

Any anger comes from the frustration I feel with myself for sometimes just wanting it to be over.

No bargaining anymore.

Here are the definitions of the other 2 stages and my comments on where I am.

Depression: Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate. We worry about the cost of treatment and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have neglected others. This phase may be eased by a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to say farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.

I’m very sad, but have no regret. I worry about the cost of treatment. I have definitely neglected my friends because I’m reluctant to leave her and can’t afford to board her very often. I’m going to visit some friends on Saturday for an early Thanksgiving dinner and will have to spend the night. I hate to leave her though I know my neighbors will take very good care of her for the few hours I’m away. Preparation to separate and to say farewell – can we ever really be prepared? I am definitely depressed.

Acceptance: Some people never reach this stage. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. They resist the inevitable and deny the opportunity to make peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Though depressed, I have accepted the inevitable. She is going to die – soon. The lumps from the lymphoma are getting bigger and more numerous. I can’t rub her head anymore because they are so sensitive. As I rub her tummy and back, new bumps appear and grow almost overnight. Withdrawn and calm – yes.

I’m rational and logical. It’s how I deal with life. It’s how I’m dealing with Rosie’s death even though it hurts and the waiting sucks.

My friend Barb’s husband has been dying for 4 years. He’s had one cancer after the other and is now down to 105 pounds. I’ve tried to be supportive and helpful to her, but don’t feel I ever truly understood how wearing it is until now. In the last couple of months she's finally started to move towards acceptance.

Knowing how difficult this is for me with my sweet dog, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for her and those who are going or have been through this process with a person they love.

I am in awe of them.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In search of a good laugh

Sometimes you need a little levity to help you relax and breathe. A friend sent this to me and I thought it was too good not to share.

One day, in line at the company cafeteria, Joe says to Mike behind him, 'My elbow hurts like hell. I guess I'd better see a doctor.'

'Listen, you don't have to spend that kind of money,' Mike replies. 'There's a diagnostic computer down at Wal-Mart. Just give it a urine sample and the computer will tell you what's wrong and what to do about it. It takes ten seconds and costs ten dollars . . A lot cheaper than a doctor.'

So, Joe deposits a urine sample in a small jar and takes it to Wal-Mart. He deposits ten dollars, and the computer lights up and asks for the urine sample. He pours the sample into the slot and waits..

Ten seconds later, the computer ejects a printout: 'You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water and avoid heavy activity. It will improve in two weeks. Thank you for shopping @ Wal-Mart.'

That evening, while thinking how amazing this new technology was, Joe began wondering if the computer could be fooled. He mixed some tap water, a stool sample from his dog, urine samples from his wife and daughter, and a sperm sample for good measure.

Joe hurries back to Wal-Mart, eager to check the results. He deposits ten dollars, pours in his concoction, and awaits the results. The computer prints the following:

1. Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. (Aisle 9)
2. Your dog has ringworm. Bathe him with anti-fungal shampoo. (Aisle 7)
3. Your daughter has a cocaine habit. Get her into rehab.
4. Your wife is pregnant. Twins. They aren't yours. Get a lawyer.
5 If you don't stop playing with yourself, your elbow will never get better!

Thank you for shopping @ Wal-Mart

Friday, November 9, 2007

Watching and waiting

When you’re in charge of the entire conference including air travel, hotel reservations, meeting requirements, PowerPoint presentations, meals and entertainment, no matter how beautiful the environment or how well things go, the thing you look forward to most is going home.

We arrived at the Lihue airport with plenty of time to catch our flight. There were weather issues around Hawaii and our flight was 45 minutes late taking off. We were assured we would have plenty of time to make our flight in Honolulu. If you consider running to your gate to find the plane already loading plenty of time, they were correct.

Six hours later we stood at the baggage claim realizing we made the plane but our luggage didn’t. It was 11:30 pm in Seattle and my pillow was calling so I filled out the forms, caught the shuttle and happily spent the night in my own bed.

Knowing my girls were getting baths first thing Monday morning, I called the vets and asked them to call me when they were ready for pick up. About 10 I received the call with news that the Dr. wanted to talk to me. That’s never a good thing to hear when you have a sick dog, so off I went.

First they brought Belle and she and I were very happy to see one another. Then the vet himself brought in Rosie. She seemed a bit out of it and he showed me large bumps on several spots on her body. He recommended a biopsy and I decided to just leave her there and get it done. I would pick her up after work and would hear the results within 3 to 5 days.

We three spent that night together as a happy family and they even ‘helped’ me unpack when my luggage arrived at 7 pm. Could it have been the Hawaiian doggie treats?

At 6:30 the following night he called. The news wasn’t good. Not only does she have bladder cancer, she also has lymphatic cancer. Our 3 to 5 months turned into 2 to 4 weeks. He gave me several options for treatment in hopes of prolonging her life by a month or two. But my response was, “No. We’re done. No more tests, treatments or medications. Leave her in peace. When she starts to suffer, I’ll bring her in and we’ll let her go.”

He didn’t even try to argue with me. He knew it was the right thing to do, but as a medical professional it was his responsibility to give me all the options.

So now I sit on death watch. I observe her every movement, watch to see if she’s eating, pooping, peeing and listen to her for signs of breathing difficulties. I hold her and love her and attempt to make her final days as comfortable as possible.

My last dog went very quickly. She had a seizure about 4 am. We were on the vet’s doorstep at 8 am and she was gone by 11 am. It was over and done, I mourned and moved on. It hurt like hell, but it was fast.

This is so much worse. I learned she was dying at the end of September. Since then I’ve cried periodically, and had intermittent headaches and body aches related to the stress. I fight to hold myself together; to not tell people how petty and ridiculous some of their whines are.

I don’t want her to die, but I want this to be over.

Is that selfish?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What did we do before.....

I've been thinking about how things were before technology overtook our lives. How did we ever survive without cell phones, I-pods, GPS systems, HDTV, or TV? How did we manage with less than 100 channels from which to choose?

So, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to discuss what we did before......

Today, I pose the question: What did we do before television?

If you're old enough to remember what it was like, tell me what you did. If you've never lived without TV, tell me what you think people did.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New contest!!

Jason Evans is running another short fiction contest. Check it out on his blog at:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

And the Winner Is.................

Cyn said:
The entries were all great, honestly. I vote for annon, however. I liked the "twist" in the end. The reveal that it is a 43 year old man's mom who is running circles around him. That is great showing, not telling.

Mary Witzl said:
The Anonymous Writer's mother/son pair are a wonderful surprise because the reader is so certain they are a married couple.

This is really difficult for me because we had 3 good entries. Yes, only 3. I wrote the Anonymous entry hoping to inspire you and Cyn hit on exactly what I wanted to see in each entry – SHOW, DON’T TELL!

I said to create a character between 55 and 70, and the first thing you all did was TELL me how old they were. Depending on the reader, that can create a first impression difficult to overcome. That was my main objection to the 3. Here are my opinions on them.

I like that June cares about herself and how she looks, keeps herself fit, has a career that keeps her busy and doesn’t feel compelled to provide babysitting services to her grandchildren at every opportunity. You were about 100 words over the 250 limit and I feel you tried too hard to overcome the fact she was 65 and a grandmother of 3. I wish you had started out telling us about her busy career and walking 50 blocks a day and then moved into the other facts.

You didn’t need to tell us John was 70. Placing him in the Korean War as a gangly boy gives us his approximate age. The trophy wife thing was a bit of overkill. The second paragraph was very descriptive and having him take flying lessons at his age is a very nice touch. I might have ended it by having the pilot say something like, “What a great birthday present to yourself.”

Church Lady;
If you hadn’t told me Joyce’s age in your intro, I never would have known. I like that she had a non-traditional job. My only concern is that you never showed in any way that she was 62. There was nothing to hint at her age and that was what the exercise was about. Overall though a good job

I liked each entry and appreciate you all for making the effort. However, I feel Church Lady came closest to what I was trying to demonstrate.

Congratulations Chris. Send me an e-mail and we’ll get your gift certificate to you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The entries

Here are the 4 entries. Tell me which one you like best and why.

Ello said...
Sixty-five year old June Park is the mother of two grown women and a grandmother of three. Her shoulder length hair dyed black to match the color of he youth and still wearing the same makeup style that she had been using for twenty years. Her daughters always complained she wore too much foundation, but they didn't have a blotchy complexion. Their clear skinned complexions were the product of good healthy living in the states, June envied her daughters their beautiful skin. She slipped into her size four Ann Taylot suit and smiled at the thought that she was thinner than both her daughters. Sometimes she would tease her oldest girl about how much thinner she was. Once she had to borrow a pair of her pants and she had mocked her by pulling out the size ten waistband and commenting that she could fit another person in there with her. Boy did her daughter hate that! But she did it for her own good, it was her way of trying to convince her to lose weight. Stepping out into the living room, she saw her husband sitting on the couch. His hair had gone all white and he refused to dye it. Their girls thought it looked great, very distinguished, but it bothered June, wondering if it made her look older just by being with him. No, of course not. She still looked young. She took great care of her body. She walked fifty city blocks every single day. Her life as a NY city realtor meant alot of canvassing of the city. It kept her fit, and thin. She loved her grandkids, but thanked her stars that they lived four states away from her. Whenever she missed them, she'd go visit, but it was more like once every other month or so. She loved them, but she couldn't fathom a life of being just a grandma. No she was too busy. Life had gotten more interesting now that she had become successful later in life. Life was good, better than it had ever been before and she would enjoy every moment of it.

Church Lady said...
Here's a quickie draft, about 62 year-old Joyce:

"Who do you want? Raynar or Shamu?" the stable boy asked.

"Shamu. But I'll get him. He's still out in the ring." Joyce buckled her riding helmet and jogged over to the ring.

"Tch, tch, tch," Joyce called, and Shamu trotted toward her. She held a carrot and watched horse slobber gather around the bit.

"Miss Joyce?" A twelve-year old girl stretched her arm to pet Shamu.

"Is it about the dressage competition?""Yeah."

"If you can get your diagonals done today, you can sign up."

"Thanks! I've been practicing in my head all night. I know I can do it."

"I know you can too." Joyce climbed through a gap in the fence and checked Shamu's tack. "Are you ready?"

"Am I riding Shamu today?" The girl felt shy around such a forward horse.

Joyce nodded and motioned toward the saddle.

"You're the best riding instructor, ever!" The girl climbed into the saddle and began her stretches.

Anonymous said...

“We’re halfway,” Ann said.

“I’ll never make it.” Jim was ready to quit, but he couldn’t let Ann beat him. It would be humiliating and she’d never let him forget. He kept reminding himself, I’m 43. I’ve trained for the last 6 months. I can do this

Jim wondered how she could be in such great shape. She wasn’t even winded. “Why did I let you talk me into this? This is a really stupid idea,” he said.

Ann laughed and ran a little circle around him. “Don’t be such a wimp. You were 30 pounds overweight and had trouble breathing walking up a flight of stairs. All you did was sit at your desk all day then go home and park yourself in your recliner, watch TV, eat and drink beer. I just wanted to inspire you to get off your ass and get back into shape.”

“So, you thought running a marathon was the best way? Couldn’t we have done Yoga or something less stressful?”

“In your condition anything was stressful. Listening to you complain for the last 6 months hasn’t exactly been a pleasure, but unlike you I stayed focused on the goal instead of the immediate discomfort.”

“Sometimes I hate you,” Jim said.

“Sometimes I hate you too.”

“No you don’t. You always love me.”

“So you think,” Ann laughed.

Jim looked at the woman running next to him and though how very lucky he was to have a mother who cared so much about him.

Precie said...

On the eve of his 70th birthday, John and his 55-yr-old wife (his "trophy wife" they both liked to say) took a moment to assess his life as they waited for the plane to arrive.

He'd come a long way from that gangly boy who'd been shipped to Korea to fight the Communists. He'd come a long way from the world-weary too-soon-experienced young man who worked his way through law school while raising a growing family. He'd come a long way from interrogating drunks in Bourbon Street backrooms as an FBI agent.

His recent physical proved he was healthier than the stepdaughter 1/3rd his age. And, though not fleet of foot, he could outwalk anyone he knew.

He watched the small plane touch the ground and taxi to within a few yards. The pilot walked over to him and said, "Now that you've gone through all the class instruction, just give me a few minutes to refuel the plane, and we'll be ready for your first flying lesson."