Archive for April 2012

Last Man Standing

April 29, 2012

My life is like bowling. I'm the last pin standing...

It’s happened.

That situation that I feared developing.

Some of us may have a couple of possible scenarios that fall in this category. Most of us hope such a situation never pops up. We might work very hard to control our environment and our lives to avoid such situations.

However, we know that we can only do so much in manipulating events because outside events often interfere. Things we can’t foresee or control screw things up.

Being able to mess things up for my characters is one of the elements I enjoy in my writing life. I have the control, and believe me, it’s quite enjoyable to make my characters miserable or dealing with things, at least until I give them their happy endings.

And I do that because I can. I’m a writer.

But this isn’t about writing. But my life/the part I can’t control.

Saturday morning at 4:30 before my alarm went off at 5:00, my hubby woke me with an apology. Then he told me he was leaving me in a lurch. In a lurch?!

First I thought he was having another heart issue or worse–a stroke. I became totally alert.

Well his choice of wording wasn’t the greatest (after all it was 4:30 and the sun wasn’t even a glimmer on the eastern horizon yet). And he is a man. And men can sometimes be the worst of patients because their ailments are always the worst of all. Just ask them if they haven’t told you at least once already.

So, what was the problem? He’d gotten up to use the bathroom and let Oreo out as she thought that was a good idea and somehow hurt/strained his back.

Our blossoming trees look like late May instead of April

He couldn’t possibly do anything as he hurt so very much. (We’re facing 72 hours of care for our son this week. That takes both of us at times.)

Now since I had to get to our disabled son’s area on a different floor to relieve the nurse on duty, I quickly dressed, placed everything my hubby would need close at hand for him, rearranged his pillows and put one under his knees like nurses would always do whenever I was in the hospital for my back surgeries, and told him I’d check on him as soon as I could.

So there it was. One of my greatest fears–I was the last man standing in our home–and facing a totally paralyzed son on one level and my husband hurting on another on another floor–2 levels about my son.

I was facing caring for my son for the day alone. I always need help in moving him, doing some of his necessary cares, and getting him ready for the day–or night.

Well, just like my characters, I couldn’t spend the next fourteen hours crying in my coffee over a twist in my carefully planned day. I coped and figured out what to do.

Fortunately, the weather was miserable yesterday (this didn’t help my pain level any–but that’s another post). This meant I was able to find a helpful neighbor who was available to help me move my son. Had the day been lovely, that wouldn’t have happened as she and her friends had plans.

So that writer who is writing my life story was smart enough to provide details that allowed me to survive my worst fear.

Had I given up, I’d have given my life’s writer a writing block. Heaven forbid I’d do such a thing.

This is why I love spring

Well, today I’m still the last person standing in this household. And getting grumpier.

Oh, and hubby? Well, no one’s ever had such pain before, but at least today I only have one floor between down-for-the-count family members/patients instead of two levels. (Meaning hubby managed to get out of bed today. 😉 )

So what’s a fear you’ve had to handle when faced? Or have you been very lucky so far?

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When Eagles Come Visiting

April 22, 2012

A symbol of our country

Yesterday Oreo wanted to go out on the balcony which overlooks the lake. She likes to watch whatever is going on in what she considers her territory. Since it was Saturday and our neighbors had company for various reasons, Oreo was definitely on patrol.

Once I opened the balcony door I looked to the south and spotted two very large birds standing on one of our complex’s piers. This isn’t unusual especially if the day is sunny and nice which it was. However, the size and shape of these birds were not the ones we usually see–various kinds of ducks, geese, some kingfishers, gulls, and every once in a while a hawk or falcon.

But these didn’t appear to be any of those.

So of course I grabbed the binoculars and took a closer look.

At the same time, those two birds had gotten Oreo’s attention. She was in full alert stance. (Now this demeanor can be difficult for her since she’s only about 10 pounds and looks to sweet to ever be in ferocious guard dog mode. Of course, I’m a bit prejudiced about that.)

Ever vigilant--Oreo

She had good reason to be alert.

Those two birds were mature bald eagles. At their size they could easily latch onto Oreo and take her off somewhere as an appetizer.

Fortunately, yesterday they were too busy watching for unwary fish. Anyway, I brought Oreo back into the house and exchanged my binoculars for my camera. Of course, while I was taking the two photos with this post, I was wishing I had a really powerful telephoto lens but I don’t. However, I did get a photo moment to remember.

What I missed however was getting a shot of them flying very low and close to our balcony. I watched them entranced from inside through our large picture window. I could clearly see their feathers delineated. They were that close and that low.

Their wind spread was enormous.

They flew into the small grove of tall trees just to the north of our building.

Now I know I’m not seeing things when every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of a huge shadow of a bird but never see the bird. I think they’ve been around here for a while though I don’t know that they’ll stay. But actually seeing those two raptors yesterday, up close and personal, seemed like a gift since I’m used to seeing bald eagles in Alaska, sometimes on travels in our western mountain ranges, and in far northern Wisconsin where my sister has a summer place on a lake.

Oh, for a better lens...

Perhaps these two are taking a weekend away from home, hitting the city life for a taste of lake trout, coho or perch instead of rainbow trout, or grayling or Alaskan salmon varieties.

Maybe they will soon be heading back to wherever they came from. If they don’t, I’ll need to be even more vigilant when Oreo goes outside.

But I’ll still always remember Saturday’s sighting of the eagles. Wouldn’t you?

Not my photo, but this was what I spotted from my balcony

Destruction Runs Amok

April 15, 2012

Where did my grass go?

Havoc and butchery surround me!

This mayhem makes me grumpier than usual, and I’ve been very grumpy lately.

That emotional state happens when too many obstacles I can’t push out of my way keep me from my daily and weekly goals. From what I want to happen–like hit my target 6 month and yearly goals.

Okay, you might say, especially those of you who know me personally, you tend to be grumpy quite a bit.

Well, yes I am. But then maybe that’s the Maxine coming out in me. After all I’m on that banana peel ride to the hereafter so I’ve got to get those goals accomplished in a timely manner. Right???

This is what I see and hear from my office window.

Okay, here’s my current problem. Did you see that first photo I posted? Well, that’s my beautiful front yard. Yeah, you got it–there’s not much of beauty there. Not anymore. Starting last Monday morning we’ve had these huge trucks, bobcats, earthmovers, whatevers, churning up my hill as they destroy my view and my peace and quiet!

And if you think I’m cantankerous? Well, Oreo, you know her–my fluffy four-pawed black and white puppy–well, she’s particularly perturbed. Here private bathroom and sniffing garden is now obliterated. Gone. Not a sniff left to check much less a blade of grass to pee upon. Consequently, she’s grouchy and whiny which makes for two unhappy females in the house. Not only do we have to soothe her feelings–this takes time you understand–but we also have to take time to take her places to do her business.

And that takes up more time because this puppy is very particular about where she puts her butt. Like she must feel comfortable with the facilities, recognize the sniffable aromas at its disposal, be familiar with the environment. Oreo’s a very discerning puppy when it comes to bathroom routines.

The end of round round--much more to go

But at least Oreo doesn’t have to clean up the dust, debris and mud which gets tracked into the house constantly. How could it not since those previously mentioned trucks come within 2 feet of my lovely front door. (I’ve given up trying to keep it sparkling until this mess is GONE!) And clean windows to enjoy the view? Forgetaboutit

While last week all the tearing up of grass and soil just meant dust, last night we had rain. More is on the way this afternoon and tonight. So that means mud–serious mud right outside my front door. 😦

Perhaps I might feel a tad better if all these guys working so hard at ruining my environment were fabulous hunks. But they aren’t. They just work hard which is good, I guess, except what they do isn’t quiet work. And I’m writing, right? I need peaceful, pleasant surroundings to do this, especially since this book is not suspense. Maybe I’ll have to kill off some character in the book in a gruesome manner just because my writing life has been compromised. I wonder if that’s a legal defense…

Now you might be wondering why this chaotic mess is happening?

If not by land, then by lake...

Answer–landscaping, retaining walls, yada, yada, yada. (I think it’s just because the world is out to get me–and my Oreo)

Perhaps, if you’ve managed to hang with me through this rant, you might be wondering how long with this construction/destruction last? Like maybe another week?

Too long–that’s my answer. At least 6 – 8 weeks and then it’ll take several more weeks for new grass to really catch hold. I expect I won’t have a lovely view again until next year. If I’m luck, but if I were lucky, I’d have had a peaceful week, right?

But you can bet I’ll keep you posted. And if this incredibly lovely story I’ve been working on turns into a serial killer on the loose tale with body counts rising daily, don’t blame me. Blame it on the landscapers.

So how was your week? Cheer me up by giving me a hint. Thanks…

The way things used to be...

Golden Eggs and Easter Memories

April 7, 2012

Where's the golden egg?

One Easter several years ago when my nieces and nephews were between the ages of 3 – 7 and my youngest son was maybe nearing 10, my siblings and their families would always gather and have an egg/candy hunt for the kids. We are a very large family when we are together, things get boisterous, food gets shared, and memories are created.

Those Easter gatherings prompted my idea for this excerpt from my single title romance Seasons of Wine and Love. My heroine Gabrielle comes from a very small family who didn’t celebrate holidays much. Tony, the hero, comes from a very large family which believes celebrating as a family with traditions created over the years is as vital to living as wine and work. To get more backstory on Tony and Gabrielle check here.

I loved writing this scene. Every time I read it, I love it more. So please enjoy my calorie-free Easter treat for you.

The Golden Egg Scene:

Tony’s family. So many people all rushing toward her.

Even their talk coming here didn’t prepare Gabrielle for such effusive greetings or the large number of family members. People swirled around her. At least six different conversations were going on at one time. But it worked. After about twenty minutes, Tony’s mother Emma commandeered her family for the annual family egg hunt–exactly like Tony described–a general does the troops.

Tony’s father Dom handed her a basket.

“I’ll help you,” Tony whispered in her ear. “You have a big disadvantage, not knowing the hunt rules or the property.”

“From that gleam in your eye, I’ll have to negotiate for that knowledge.” Thoughts of how negotiation could happen flushed her cheeks. She felt that heat and couldn’t blame it on the sunshine.

“You have little faith. I’m honorable and only trying to help. Let’s go!” He grabbed her hand and headed for the far side of the yard. Only Emma, Dom, baby Mandy, and the oldest of the aunts and uncles remained on the porch.

Everywhere Gabrielle looked, Riccinis crawled over the terrain, checking behind fence posts, under clumps of flowers and shrubs, inside empty pots waiting for planting. Moving a distance from the others, Tony drew her behind some oleander bushes, snitched a more than friendly kiss, and pulled out an egg nestled inside the branches of a nearby azalea.

“This one’s yours,” he told her. “It’s pink.”

Then they were off again. Down near the fence rows, Gabrielle found two eggs; she split the find with Tony, and found herself panting with excitement, looking for more eggs.

Near an old well, Tony lifted the bucket on its rope and found two more; he shared the loot. “Now we’re even,” she teased and looked around at the competition.

“Who’s counting?” he retorted and pecked her cheek. He ambled away.

“Hey, wait a minute! I see something.” She began climbing up the nearby pepper tree, heedless of stains to her slacks while Tony stood below and watched.

“I don’t believe what I’m seeing. You ever climbed a tree before?”

“Nope, but you’re too heavy for this tree.” He shouted directions. She’d gain a few inches, then slide down again.

“Nice moves,” he teased. “Dig your toes in more.”

“Shut up! That’s not easy wearing these sandals. Why didn’t you warn me?”

“And miss the show? No way…”

Finally, she reached the fork of the tree trunk and spotted what had caught her attention. She reached up to a dense clump of leafy branches. “Tony, I found something! A golden egg–” Needing her hands to descend the tree, she debated where to put the egg.

“Throw it down here.”

“I…don’t think so. You sound too anxious.” After another moment, as much to catch her breath as to think through the problem, she lifted her sweater and slipped the captured egg inside her bra. Then she picked and slid her way down the tree.

“How I wish I’d had a camera. That’s was some awesome sight, seeing shinny up a tree. I’ll never forget it.”

Once on solid earth, she punched him on the shoulder. “That’s for enjoying the show.” She pulled the egg from her sweater–then lifted her golden reward for his inspection.

“You found the golden egg. Well, that’s it, Gaby. The hunt’s over for us. The kids can find the rest.” He pulled her closer to him. “Do I get this one? Or at least half?” He bent and rubbed her nose with his, Eskimo-style. She planted a quick kiss on his chin. But clutched the egg, not relinquishing her find to him.

“Hey, it’s not every day I climb a tree and find an egg. This one’s all mine. Besides, how do you split an egg?” Her grin split her flushed face.

Tony looked flummoxed. “Okay. Be that way. See if I care.” He paused, quirked an eyebrow. “You ought to climb trees more often, Gaby. Watching that was pure pleasure. Your legs wrapped around that old tree trunk? Sheesh, I envied that tree. So I got my share.”

She warmed once again at his words. “You’re mother would be ashamed at your thoughts.”

He moved closer to her and extended his hand. “Don’t think so. She’d be figuring maybe I might be adding to the family dynasty with thoughts like that.”

“Behave. We’re not even dating.”

“We are now.”

“We’re mature…”

“All the more reason Mom would think we should be getting down to business. Now, about this golden egg.” He pulled her into his arms.

“I’m not sharing, and I suspect this golden egg might be special.”

“Not that special.” At that moment, Jenny arrived near the well.

Still encircled in Tony’s arms, Gabrielle called out, “Hey Jenny! Should I give Tony my golden egg?”

“Not on your life, Gaby. I don’t know what my favorite brother’s been telling you, but the golden egg wins the biggest prize. Once you’ve found that, you quit looking.” Tony took a dramatic fall to the ground, grabbing his chest as if pierced by a dueler’s sword.

“Done in by my own sister….”

Gabrielle stuck her egg in her bra again and picked up the others Tony lay flopping on the ground like a netted fish. She flicked his imaginary prints from her sweater’s arms. “Well, Jenny, since the hunt’s over and the villain’s playing dead. Shall we head back to the house–and the riches? Imagine. Tony was trying to trick me.” She clucked her tongue. So did Jenny. To add the last insult, Gabrielle stepped over him, still prone at her feet and laughing.

She linked her arm with Jenny’s and flung her final shot over her shoulder. “It was a battle well and worthy fought, Tony. But to the victor—that would be me–the spoils.” She giggled and sashayed away from him. “I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun.”

Seasons of Wine and Love

Mental Photo Ops

April 1, 2012

A breaking dawn this past week

My mind wandered for a few moments this past week. Okay, don’t verbalize what you’re thinking… 🙂

But in that moment what popped into my head was a mental picture. You know what I mean, don’t you? Those pictures permanently etched on our inner eyelids. And yes, while I think of the best way to introduce a new scene into a new chapter for my current novel, I close my eyes and let my mind wander.

This time, however, I didn’t come up with the best detail to start my new scene, but I did pause and consider those Kodak moments permanently etched in our minds. The one that came to mind was the first moment I saw my son Jimbo just a few hours before he died. He looked at peace. And dead. I can’t describe that look in any less blunt language. For all intents and purposes, he was–as his doctors carefully explained his condition to me.

They wouldn’t have had to. It was very clear to me.

No camera was there to record that moment–not that I wanted it recorded. But that mental camera of mine took its best shot anyway–and saved it. At the oddest moments that scene pops into my mind just like unexpected photos show up in odd places at times, such as in a sock drawer or in an old envelope.

A brief upper edge of dawn

I thought about other mental photo ops I have gathered. My father-in-law’s face when he gazed upon my newborn oldest son–and the man’s first grandchild. That was a good photo memory.

The little carrel in the graduate library top floor where I wrote the first draft of my dissertation. Never did get a real photo of that.

The split second moment in a temporary hospital morgue when the sheet was pulled back on a corpse and I had to identify my second son John.

The inner eyelid snapshot of my hubby’s car, the driver’s side door wide open, our garage door up and the front door to our home wide open as I drove up. That was the day our youngest son fell down the stairs, broke his neck, and would never use stairs again. A momentous event, actually a catastrophic one for our whole family, and one we have lived with daily for the past 17 3/4 years.

My mother’s last breath with my niece, my sisters and I surrounding her as that final tortured breath left her body and the best of Mom joined all those she loved who died before her. Only the negative in my mind remains of that indelible picture.

Here comes the sun...

So I thought about those mental photo ops I carry with me and the fact that once in a while they pop up. I realized most of those moments are not happy ones for me. Those happy ones I’ve managed to capture for real. And frame them, display them, think and talk of them often.

Shaking my head at those thoughts, the perfect idea to begin that new scene slipped into my brain. When I finished it a few hours later, I sat back in my office chair and smiled. I loved what I’d written in that new scene. It wasn’t a sad scene, but it had the elements to make it powerful for my potential readers.

Plus I’d come up with the topic for today’s post. 🙂

So tell me, please. Are your inner eyelid photos more happy or sad in their number?

Or don’t you have any such images?

Pink dawn light on waves with green grass--spring