Tuesday, November 3, 2020

IWSG: Writing Therapy

                       



It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support GroupBe sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

November Optional Question: Albert Camus once said, "The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself." Flannery O'Connor said, "I write to discover what I know." Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

I finally gathered up the courage to start writing in 2011 when our boys were off at college and law school. What began as a blog to share humorous stories about my life as an empty nester, became a scrapbook of wonderful family memories, and opened doors to becoming a journalist.

Soon the focus of the empty nest changed when my beautiful rebellious mom reluctantly moved into an assisted living facility. Her home of 46 years had multi-levels, so it was too difficult for her to navigate the stairs in a walker. Though we toured several pretty places, my young, hip septuagenarian mom had the same complaint, "There are too many old people here." 

Mom became the star of so many of my stories that she told me, " You're lucky I'm your mother; otherwise, I'd sue you for stealing all my best lines."

Writing about my mom was also therapeutic for me. Instead of pulling my hair out from her many falls and hospitalizations which later led to her inevitable move into a nursing home, we managed to always find the humor in every situation. And she took great joy in reading the comments from her many dedicated fans. I couldn't possibly have asked for a better muse, and nearly two years later, I still miss my mom dearly.

In 2015, I began writing for a daily local news website which featured a weekend print edition. I always wanted to write professionally, and believe the experience I gained through blogging and the IWSG, led to helping me achieve this goal. 

Though I learned a great deal about local schools and city news, I especially enjoyed writing human interest stories. Whether interviewing individuals  from 12 to 100, I tried to treat each story as a personal gift. 

One of my favorite interviews was a darling couple about to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary. When asked the secret of a successful marriage, the charming husband replied in two words, "Yes, dear." 

His wife had a wonderful sense of humor too, and they couldn't have been more appreciative. When I dropped off extra print copies of their newspaper article, she told me about all the positive feedback they received from the beauty shop, grocery store and even the gas station.

 Because they were "instant celebrities," they were now being approached by neighbors who never spoke to them before. She even joked about moving, as the women were getting a little too friendly with her 97-year-old husband. 

Then she took me aside and expressed how much my interview meant to them, since most of their family lived out of state, and many of their friends had passed away. Their humorous love story made her feel young again. I couldn't help but tear up, as we hugged and said our goodbyes.

Some of my other news stories were about Holocaust survivors, shelters for  abused women and children, and many health issues from preventing injuries to overcoming debilitating illnesses. I'll always be grateful to my encouraging editor who patiently guided me along the way.

My goal was to write news stories that were both informative and entertaining when possible. Though my blog stories have often missed the mark on both counts, I hope to at least provide a distraction during these turbulent times.



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

IWSG: A Frightful Visit To The ER

                                     


It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support GroupBe sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                             
                        A Frightful Visit To The ER

It all began just days after my husband's successful knee replacement surgery. While he was racing around on his walker, I felt like I had just gotten off of a horse

Though I hated to bother my out-of-state kidney transplant team on Labor Day weekend, I feared without a medication adjustment, I wouldn't be able to continue to care for my strong and selfless hubby. 

After describing my symptoms, the transplant nurse urged me to head over to the emergency room. 

I told her that I couldn't possibly leave my husband unattended shortly after his surgery, and there was no way of knowing how long the wait would be in the ER. But the nurse apologetically explained that she couldn't prescribe anything without examining me, and didn't want to take any chances since my immune system had already been compromised from a serious intestinal infection last June.

Fortunately, both my considerate brother and devoted son graciously offered to hubby-sit while I drove myself to the ER. Thank goodness for cell phones, as I texted with friends to help pass the time. 

I knew it would be a long wait, but the staff would not let me leave the building to walk around outside. So I did laps inside the hospital until I got reprimanded for walking a short distance from the crowded ER to the empty lobby.

Three hours later, I was placed into an examining room. It took longer for me to change into my hospital gown than it did for the doctor to provide a humiliating diagnosis. 

He tried to ease my embarrassment by explaining that this painful condition resulted from having a compromised immune system along with being a complete nervous wreck. Well, he was two for two, but I couldn't help thinking he was being a bit rash.

Though I attempted to assure the doctor that I like Princess Di was a "woman with a history, but not a past," he quickly left to call my transplant doctor to discuss treatment. 

While I was awaiting the doctor's return, I called Hubby to fill him in, but no one answered. Surely, the poor boy was worried sick about me, so I called my brother to find out what was going on. 

My brother said my husband didn't bring his phone with him on their walk. This was the farthest he had walked since his surgery. 

Apparently while I was on the verge of being branded with the Scarlet Letter, my husband was holding court on a bench outside our apartment building, as some of the neighbors stopped to admire his new knee along with his sheer bravery. I could hear him laughing in the background; clearly having the time of his life.

After waiting almost another hour, the ER doctor returned to announce there was nothing they could do for now, but the pain would subside on its own in a few days. While I was doing the walk of shame out of the ER, I could've sworn one of the technicians winked at me.

During the drive home, a dear friend called to see how I was doing. I told her that it was all a terribly humiliating waste of time, but she didn't seem to believe me. I finally mustered the courage to say my disgraceful diagnosis out loud, as a train thunderously whistled down the tracks.

Then she blurted out, "What do you mean you have burps? And why would you have to change into a hospital gown for that?"

Later when I jokingly asked my husband for a list of partners he's had throughout our 33 year marriage, he replied, "Got a pen?"



Wishing everyone in blogland, a safe and happy Halloween!  In the meantime, please wear your masks in public, and don't forget to get a flu shot!


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

ISWG: Slumming It In College

                      

                                       

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support GroupBe sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.


I wrote this story in 2012 BC (Before Covid). Though I can't possibly imagine what parents and students are currently going through during the Coronavirus pandemic on college campuses across the country and around the world, I wish everyone a safe and healthy school year. 

In the meantime, here's a look at this neurotic mother's worst fears during what now seems like a much simpler time.

                                                               

                              Slumming It In College

(boisedailyphoto.com)


Last weekend our boys left for school. While our older son set off for his third year of law school, we drove our youngest for his third year of college. Both boys completed their physicals, were updated on all of their shots, had their teeth cleaned, hair combed and were good to go. Their clothes were washed and pressed, and they were starting off on the right foot. Unfortunately, our younger son's left foot got stuck in it when we arrived.


He was moving into an older house with three other boys, and I thought I was prepared for the worst. The rent was too good to be true, and I strongly recommended that he find another place last spring. My husband agreed, but he assured us that this was a great house conveniently located near the campus. It pains me to write these words, but we sort of trusted him.

It was raining when we pulled up to the wood shack, so the muddy walkway only added to the ambiance. We walked into the kitchen with a flickering ceiling fixture, and a sunken floor made of mismatched tiles with large gaps throughout. There were missing electrical outlet covers, missing sections of dry wall, and huge holes in the ceilings. All of these slight imperfections were found in the kitchen and living room. I was afraid of what else was lurking in this four bedroom house, and never made it further than our son's bedroom.

He lived in a fraternity house his sophomore year, and spent freshmen year in a dorm. I remember how we helped him set up his room each year, but this time I was afraid to even touch anything. He was offended when I said that his happy home resembled a crack house, and looked to his father for support. My husband calmly likened it to a slum. He tried comforting me by reminding me how our older son almost lived in a converted garage when he was an undergraduate. To this day, we're not sure if we talked him out of it, or if he was just relieved to get a better offer.

After the screaming subsided, my son told me that I was a snob. He went on to say that this house wasn't good enough for me. I told him that this house wasn't good enough for any human being, and that he didn't need to be in a place that wasn't safe to live in. To accentuate my point, as our son's foot gently brushed the top of the stairway, we watched the metal threshold come tumbling down.

Another pleasant thought occurred to me. Because our son is the first one in the house to turn twenty-one, I was wondering if he would be held responsible if there were an accident. For example, if an underage girl is over-served, and stumbled over a large rat at a party in their basement, would our son be carted away? Our older son alerted me by text that the owner would be responsible. 

The next day, my husband and son went to talk to the landlord. His office said that they would be happy to make any repairs and even offered to replace the dilapidated kitchen floor. They claimed that the house had already been painted. My husband asked how they could've painted over areas with missing drywall. Of course they blamed this on the hooligans who rented the house last year. 

When we said our goodbyes, my son smiled and assured me that he would be okay. He told me that I should stop being such a negative person, and focus on the positives.

 I hugged him tightly, as I did a mental count of all his fingers and toes. Then I took a deep breath and said, "Well, at least you're only about a block away from the hospital." 


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

IWSG: Neighborhood Watch


                                             

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support GroupBe sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.
  
                                          
                               Neighborhood Watch


Ted Abel was known for being a good neighbor who enjoyed history, The Chicago White Sox, cycling, classical music and pickle ball. He could often be seen strolling hand in hand with his wife of 40 years down their quiet wooded street.

The Abels tried on several occasions to be friendly with their next door neighbors, the Cains, but the wife was more interested in sun bathing and six packs (tin not skin) than any form of socializing. The husband usually kept to himself.

Consequently, their paths would soon cross again, and Ted's life would never be the same.

Fast forward to early June when many thought the pandemic was slowing down and several states were optimistically moving into Phase 3. Ah, the good old days.

Shortly thereafter, Ted's landscaper found him climbing down a tree with a nervous cat in tow. The landscaper warned him that someone was throwing yard waste into his backyard, Outraged, but playing it cool for the cat's sake, Ted was determined to keep his fly dumping degenerate neighbor from disgracing his yard again.

He quickly went next door to confront Cain, but was rudely greeted by his wife. Ted tried to divert his eyes, as Cain's wife was sunbathing in a bikini that was stretched out in all the wrong places.

"Is your husband home?"

Her whole body creaked, as she struggled to free her entangled thong bikini from the lounge chair slats.

"He's busy working. What do you want?"

Ted calmly explained that if her husband dumped his yard waste in their backyard again, the landscaper was going to add it to his bill. 

This set Mrs. Cain into a rage. How dare Ted accuse her husband of any wrong doing. At first she threatened to blow Ted up, but then decided it would be a better idea to shoot him in the face. Yes, she never liked his face anyway.

Remarkably, Ted remained composed when he asked her if they had any firearms in their home. But his delusional neighbor wasn't listening. She just rambled on about how much she hated Ted and his excuse for a wife.

"You two definitely deserve each other. Your wife is a vile woman."

Awakened from the one woman shouting match, Cain stormed out of his house.

After Ted filled him in about the yard waste fiasco followed by his wife's threats to shoot him, he casually asked if Cain had any guns in their home. When Cain refused to answer, Ted said he had no choice but to call the police.

Cain just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Do what you gotta do."

The next day, two police officers escorted Ted to the house of Cain where they  spoke to the couple on their front porch. Ted almost didn't recognize Mrs. Cain, as she wasn't dressed like a retired stripper. The Cains politely denied any confrontation with Ted, and the police went on their way.

Ted couldn't believe that the police weren't taking her threats seriously. When he asked why they didn't investigate further, the officers explained that they couldn’t legally search or even ask the couple if they owned a gun.

In an ill attempt to set Ted's mind at ease, the officers added they were going to file a police report. Ted wanted to say how the report would really come in handy when he's shot to death by a screaming bikini wearing gun moll, but he thanked them anyway. 

Later that night, Ted told his wife every sordid detail about his life threatening confrontation with the Cains, as well as, the futile follow-up with the police. Upon hearing the news, his wife's face drained of color, and she couldn't speak. 

Ted tried to put on a brave face while reassuring her that she needn't worry, as he  was getting his affairs in order, so she would be well taken care of in the event of his sudden demise.

Within minutes, his wife miraculously rose to announce that they needed to notify the family. She went into the den to call their eldest daughter and Ted quickly followed.

After repeating the story verbatim to their daughter, Ted couldn't believe his ears when he realized what most upset his wife.

"Yes, she did threaten to shoot Daddy in the face, but can you believe that no good former street walker had the nerve to call your mother a 'vile woman?'"



Tuesday, May 5, 2020

IWSG: Going To The Dogs on Mother's Day


                                                   


It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support GroupBe sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.


                      Going To The Dogs On Mother's Day
                                           
I woke up with a fright. My wildly overgrown hair looked like I spent a little too much time in the spin cycle, just days before I'd be reunited with my boys for a social distancing walk on Mother's Day.

Unfortunately, all hair and nail salons in Illinois will remain closed until at least the end of May, so I had to find an alternative plan. That's when I read that dog grooming services were now officially open. As I took a good hard look in the mirror at my unruly hair, pale blotchy skin, and overgrown toenails, I decided if it's good enough for the dogs...

I couldn't believe my eyes when I found a highly rated mobile dog grooming service specializing in elderly dogs that would come directly to our apartment building. I scrambled to make an appointment, and found a last minute cancellation.

When I was greeted by the Certified Canine Esthetician clad in a face mask, shield and gloves, she kept looking over my shoulder to see where my dog was. So I explained that I desperately needed her help, as I hadn't seen my boys on my birthday or Passover and was terrified of scaring them off on Mother's Day.

Upon closer examination, she yelled to the Portuguese Water Dog at the other end of the truck, "Sorry Ginger you'll have to wait. This gal clearly needs this more than you do."

First, she put me in a microbubble bath which is strong enough to remove skunk odors, but it was the reduced shedding factor that really sold me. Though we were six feet apart and separated by a clear shower curtain, I scrambled to get dressed, but I could've sworn I heard Ginger gag and giggle.

Next, the groomer brought out the shears to cut my hair. I tried to show her a pre-quarantine photo of when I resembled a human, but she wasn't interested. Then she told me to relax and offered me a cow ear chew to snack on. It wasn't bad.

Afterward, the groomer blowed-dry my hair, but there were no mirrors. As if reading my mind, she said, "You look gorgeous!"

When the groomer set out a water bowl with fresh lemons, I put my hand in to  soak for my manicure. But she quickly took it out of the bowl. "Bad girl! That water is for drinking not playing," she said in a stern voice.

After my shiny new manicure and pedicure, I grabbed my purse to pay the bill; however, the groomer commanded me to "stay" for one additional service. Then she gave me a squirt of minty mouth spray and a dental chew to freshen my breath.

Lastly, the groomer walked me over to a large mirror in the corner of the truck. Sure, I looked like a French Poodle, but I came in pale and pasty and walked out glowing with a shiny new coat.

I couldn't thank her enough and even splurged on a dog toy to reward Ginger for patiently waiting. Though she snarled at me, and tossed it into the microbubble bath, I think Ginger felt bad when it disintegrated before our eyes.

When I walked into our building, a flirty Bulldog kept following me around. At first I was flattered, until I realized that he most likely was attracted to my canine cologne.

Of course, my husband didn't say a word about my kennel clip, though he did compliment me on my minty fresh breath.

The next morning, I awoke refreshed and full of energy. But I couldn't figure out why I was curled up near my hubby at the foot of the bed with a rolled-up newspaper between my teeth.


Have a safe and Happy Mother's Day!


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

IWSG: The Quirks of Quarantine

                                                     


It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support GroupBe sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                            
                              The Quirks of Quarantine

Being under self-quarantine certainly gives a person plenty of time to think, especially during TV commercials. Unfortunately, many of my insights are soon forgotten in the time it takes  to find a pen, wipe it down, and sterilize my desk, counter-top, wall, or husband's back all before realizing I ran out of paper. Of course, my laptop is more efficient, but where's the fun in that?

Sadly, I've gotten used to being in isolation. I wouldn't necessarily call it my new normal, because it's more like my old abnormal. But while others are having trouble abiding with all of the necessary safety precautions, my husband has been enjoying social distancing from me a little too much. 

Though we share a small apartment, Hubby recently sent me an e-card for my birthday. Not only did it save him a trip to the store, it saved him the trouble of being in the same room with me.

Whether walking around the apartment building or venturing outside, I feel like I'm trapped in a Spaghetti Western. If I do happen upon another lone drifter in our deserted hallways, or ghost town sidewalks, it's as if we're about to face-off in a duel or gunfight. We each step back about six feet waiting for one to pass the other. Fortunately, no guns have been drawn, but I've taken to carrying toilet paper rolls as a peace offering.

Though my neighbors used to greet me with a kind word and a smile, everyone is so terrified of catching COVID-19, that they've even begun to avoid eye contact at all costs. Thus far, I haven't heard any evidence of contracting the virus through eye rolls, side-eye, or uncontrollable blinking, but this works to my advantage.

I no longer have to wear make-up, suck in my stomach, or wash my hair on a regular basis. I've considered brushing my teeth as an optional activity, but even that gets old after a few days.

The quarantine has forced me to get reacquainted with my kitchen, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I'm cooking more and eating more, which makes me a prime candidate for gaining the "quarantine 15." 

So I try to walk laps around our tiny apartment in between meals, snacks, desserts and thoughts about any of the above. I'm sure our neighbor below us is thrilled when I'm gracefully trotting around before midnight in a last minute attempt to reach my daily step goal. 

Sadly, I'll probably have to attend PTQD (Post Traumatic Quarantine Disorder) meetings when the stay-at-home order is lifted.

Though I miss my boys terribly, I'm proud of how seriously they're taking COVID-19, and how hard they've been working to help others. Our older son learned to create face masks on his 3-D printer, and offered to give them to us, and his doctor friends since hospitals are in such short supply. Unfortunately, the face masks are not considered hospital grade at this time, but may be helpful to others at risk.

Our younger son has also been providing a useful service by Skyping with clients of all ages to lift their spirits, as well as their gluteus maximus through strength training.

I also miss my brother who in addition to picking up prescriptions and groceries for his neighbors, is frequently offering to run errands for us. But my husband has taken to avoiding crowds by shopping during the early senior hours. Though I tease Hubby a lot, there's no one else I'd rather be quarantined with, and I'm truly grateful for him.

Yesterday, was a good day, as my husband finally tracked down some much needed sanitizing wipes and paper towels. The paper towels might also come in handy to keep the peace in our hallways.

Stay safe and healthy, my friends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

IWSG: A Pain In The As...king

                                                   

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support GroupBe sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                            A Pain In The As...king

BOLO Alert: My husband has a cough and cold. But it's not an ordinary cough and cold, because my husband has it. What makes it even more horrific is that his endless suffering is just weeks before his knee replacement surgery.

The other night I found Hubby napping in front of the blaring TV, so I turned down the volume. He awoke shortly, changed chairs and turned the volume way up to generously share his program with the majority of neighbors on our floor and the floor below. 

When the phone rang, I had to quarantine myself in our bedroom with the door closed in order to hear the other voice on the line. This  took away from my laundry time, as I would have to enter a dangerous hearing zone that would make even the calmest dogs go absolutely mad. 

After the call ended, I decided to take my life into my own hands by re-entering the mutant hearing zone to find my husband was once again sound asleep. When I told him how the blaring TV was affecting my hearing he replied, "I can't worry about that right now, as I have to focus on my upcoming knee replacement surgery."

The other day, I went to the doctor to be treated for a sore throat, cold and slight cough. Fortunately, I knew right away that it wasn't the Coronavirus, as I was fever-free, but I didn't want to take a chance on being sick for my husband's upcoming surgery.

The nurse was having difficulty swabbing the back of my throat during the strep test, so I offered to grab hold of my tongue while she went in with the swab.

After after several failed attempts, I finally held my tongue down long enough for her to get a culture. When I apologized for being such a difficult patient, the nurse said it wasn't my fault that the lab ran out of tongue depressors. 

Needless to say, I went home with neither prescription nor pride in tact. 

The next day, my husband's cough soared from a one to a two on a scale of 10, so he saw the same NP (nurse practitioner) in our doctors' office. Before he left, I reminded him to tell her that we were both at a children's birthday party where many of the guests later came down with either colds or the flu.  

Then he walked out muttering (in between exaggerated coughs), "Julie, thanks for giving me this generous gift before my surgery."

Apparently, Hubby accomplished a lot more during his office visit. He explained that the NP swabbed him for the flu, and if the results were positive, she would call in a prescription for him and a preventative dosage for me with approval from my kidney transplant doctors. 

I couldn't believe that I wasn't tested for the flu, but my husband was not surprised. According to the NP, I did not have flu-like symptoms. I only had a sore throat, runny nose and slight cough, while Hubby had a terrible cough, runny nose and felt (here's the operative word)...ACHY.

A few expletives later, I offered to pick up some soup, and other favorite items at the deli, along with his pending prescription, but Hubby wanted to go instead. I argued that he was far too sickly to venture out again, but he insisted.

Then the NP called and said he didn't have the flu, but she'd still give him a prescription to make him more comfortable. Now I was really angry. Shouldn't I be at my full strength to take care of her favorite patient after his surgery? 

After throwing back a cool glass of chocolate milk, I calmly offered once again to make a deli and drugstore run, so this poor suffering man could crawl under the covers to begin the healing process. 

Finally, my husband told me the real reason why he needed to run those errands. Apparently, he had a taste for the deli's special tuna salad, but their tomatoes left a lot to be desired. Rather than settle for a less than perfect sandwich, he preferred making an additional stop at an upscale grocery store to personally select an exquisitely firm tomato. Of course, I couldn't be trusted with this important task.

In the end, the NP also prescribed something for me, but it's not strong enough to numb my new pain.