Friday, September 26, 2014

FRIDAY PHOTOBLOG: The Best Time of the Year

I haven't done one of these in a while. Not being a photographer, I don't have as many to post as my photoblogger friends, nor are mine as good as theirs (not even close). But since autumn is my favorite season and it's just begin, I thought I'd share photos from last autumn, some taken by me, some by Collin....

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Minion Mayhem!

Those of you who know me well--or have seen my Facebook page--know of my special fondness for all things Minion. So, since it's been a rough couple of weeks, I'm turning my blog over to my favorite little yellow guys for today with some images from their Facebook page. 

Take it away, Minions!

 Oops! Kevin!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"I'm Going to be Late...There's a Moose at My Door...."

Yesterday was The Big Day. For those of you who didn't think I had a brain in my head, I give you, in living brain!

Pretty cool, huh?

After I endured twenty hours without sleep, Carolyn and I were off to St. Louis University Hospital for my tests. I was prepared. I hate hospital gowns, so I chose clothing that was comfortable and without snaps, buttons, zippers or anything else that might be problematic for a test that's done with magnets. 

I took along a towel and a small bottle of shampoo to wash my hair after the EEG, which uses a gooey substance to attach the electrodes to the scalp. I'd just gotten my hair cut and figured that would make the electrode attachment easier. I wanted the tests to be done as quickly as possible--Carolyn and I were going to the IHOP where Collin works for lunch afterward.

Upon arrival, they took one look at my cane and put this cute little yellow band on my wrist:

Then they brought me a wheelchair.

My EEG was done by a very entertaining technician named Charles, who told me about his experiences moving around the country. He'd lived in Alaska for a time and said it was not at all unusual to see moose walking down the streets. (Anyone who saw William's photoblog yesterday saw how majestic a full-grown male moose looks.) Well, the hospital where Charles worked had a large atrium full of greenery at the entrance. One day, a hungry moose entered the hospital through the electronic doors, had lunch in the atrium, then left!

He said he once had to call in to inform his employers he would be late--because there was a moose at his door who refused to leave! He said a 150-pound man versus a 1500-moose just wasn't going to happen!

Carolyn, in a waiting room next to the lab, was trying to figure out why I was laughing. I do enjoy a good moose tale.

After my EEG was done, I went into the bathroom, washed my hair, and was immediately taken to the MRI department. I assured the young woman from patient transport that my hair would be dry before the next test even got started--and it was. It's short, it's baby-fine--and it dries fast. No blow dryer needed.

There's a huge sign on the door to the MRI lab: red and white, reading "DANGER." That's comforting. The machine itself is called Oasis. It's anything but an oasis.

I was told I wouldn't be able to see the images while it was in progress, but I could have a CD to take home once it was done. I didn't get a copy of my EEG. Charles said it would be about 150 pages. I never thought to ask for a computer file...maybe my doctor will give me one.

I'm extremely claustrophobic, so rather than knock me out, Dr. Yi Pan, my neurologist, ordered an open MRI. I was in the hands of the skilled (and extremely patient) Lisa and Kim, who got me positioned on the table, made sure I was comfortable, and explained the procedure to me. It would take about twenty-five minutes and would be very, very, very, VERY noisy. If I moved or stopped the procedure for any reason, they would have to start all over again. I was determined that wasn't going to happen. Once would be quite enough, thank you very much!

A mask-like device was placed over my face and earplugs in my ears. The mask, I was told, would take the pictures of my brain. Then, they placed something in my hand that felt like a joystick. It was a call button. I was to press it if I needed help. 


And the procedure began, alternately sounding like a jackhammer, a siren and a tornado. I lost track of how many times I came close to pushing the call button, either deliberately or by accident due to the tremor in my right hand. I went from frantic prayers to recalling the plots of every Robin Cook novel I've ever read and every B-horror movie with a hospital setting I've ever seen. The curse of an active imagination is that worst-case scenarios abound. A feeling of pressure in my abdomen had me thinking my internal organs were about to be ripped from my body....

I'm too young to die...oh, wait a minute. Too late to use that excuse.

What's that brushing against my cheek? Can I scratch it?

Don't fall asleep.

A nap might make this go faster. Go to sleep.

God, get me out of this and I promise to always behave myself. Yes, I know You've heard that one before. But this time I really mean it. Oh, that's right--You've heard THAT before, too.

Push the button...don't push the button...don't want to have to do this twice. It would really suck to push the button and find out I was only two minutes away from being finished....

Think about something else. Anything else.

If I don't finish, I won't get the CD. No photos of my brain for our Christmas cards this year. I really want that CD.

At least this is more interesting that the dumb soap opera I'd be watching if I were at home. 

Start plotting the next novel...and hope you can remember what you come up with by the time you can write it all down.

Push the freakin' button!!!

Just as I was about to give in to panic and push the button,the machine stopped. Lisa and Kim came back into the room and rescued me. I was wobbly when I first stood up, so getting back into the wheelchair was, in my opinion, a great idea. A few more minutes to wait for my CD, and I was done. Yay!

I haven't touched alcohol in years, but I felt like I was drunk. I still do. I got some rest, got some sleep last night (though not enough), but I'm still not back to normal. It may take a few days, I don't know. I hope it only takes a few days. 

Last night, Collin opened the files on the CD and we got a look at my brain for the first time. In spite of having spent a lot of time looking at "abnormal" MRI brain scans online, I still don't have a clue what to watch for on my own. It looks pretty normal, actually. Since we still haven't figured out how to save individual images, I had to settle to photographing a few with my phone for use here.

I haven't heard from my doctor yet. I got a message in My Chart (SLU's online medical chart) this morning. Excited, thinking it was my test results, I couldn't wait to open it.

It was a flu vaccine reminder. Rats!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11--Thirteen Years Later

Who doesn't remember where they were on that Tuesday morning in 2001? Collin and I talked about it this morning before he left for work. He was working at Grone's Cafeteria in Webster Groves. He'd just left for work. I was getting ready to go to the library, watching the Today show, when Katie Couric and Matt Lauer stopped what they were doing on the air to bring a news bulletin: a plane had hit the north Tower of the World Trade Center.

It took me back to a night in November 1985. I was in New York for my first meeting with my editor and publisher at Berkley. They'd just bought my first novel that spring. My agent, her assistant and I had dinner at Windows on the World. I was disappointed because I'd wanted to go there for the view, but that night, the fig was so thick, it looked like a pea-green screen had enclosed the building. "We hold our breath when this happens," our waiter commented. "We've had a few near-misses with small aircraft."

Being a writer, the ideas were already churning around in my head...including a scenario that had appeared on the short-lived X-Files spinoff, The Lone Gunmen.

I remember where I was when I heard the news that the Pentagon had been hit...when a group of brave passengers about United Airlines flight 93 had overtaken their hijackers and prevented even more loss of life by bringing their plane down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.... I remember watching the towers fall on a small battery-powered TV in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Thirteen years later, Osama bin Laden is dead...but the war on terrorism continues. What will it take to bring these monsters down? How many lives will be lost? My dad used to say a war would never be fought on US soil. I wonder what he would have said that morning?

Here are some images I found on Facebook, last night and this morning....

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

If the World Should Stop Revolving....

That's a line from a song, If by Bread. Odd name for a group, but then, a lot of groups in the 60s and 70s had odd names. The rest of the line is "spinning slowly down to die." Scary thought, isn't it--the world dying?

I've always loved disaster movies--I think it started with When Worlds Collide (1951), about a team of scientists who discovered a new earthlike planet, revolving around a star on a collision course with Earth--and their plan to save mankind from extinction. Though the special effects are cheesy by today's standards, the image of our planet being destroyed is downright creepy.

The end-of-world theme has been a popular one in films: 2012, Armageddon, Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, just to name a few. The History Channel's series, The Universe, has featured possible world-ending scenarios in some of their episodes.

A few years ago, my son Collin decided to make it the subject of his first novel, ELE (Extinction Level Event). He'd planned to publish it in 2012. He hadn't counted on the Murphy's Law of first novels: they almost always take longer than expected. So while it's not yet published, he hasn't given up on it. (I told him if he doesn't finish it, I will!) 

Last Saturday, I found a National Geographic documentary on Netflix titled Evacuate Earth. (It's also currently available on You Tube.) It's a mix of scientific fact and fictional what-if, involving a supernova that took place 60,000 years ago and the resulting neutron star, headed for our solar system. Humanity has 75 years to come up with a way to save itself. 

My first thought was: "75 years? I wouldn't be around in 75 years. Collin wouldn't be around in 75 years. Or maybe he would. People are living longer these days. And he might have children...grandchildren...."

The documentary covers how humanity might react to the prospect of the world ending...possible ways to save mankind from extinction...who would be chosen to be saved, since obviously evacuating the entire population wouldn't be possible...where the survivors might go and how they might get there...and how they might respond psychologically to losing friends, family and the only world they've ever known.

Cutting NASA's budget was a big mistake. Huge....

Friday, August 29, 2014

Black Market Renter Referral Bonuses for Sale!

Our apartment community has an incentive program. Refer new tenants and once they move in, the tenant making the referral gets $200 off their next month's rent. It's a good program. Or it would be, if the tenants were being honest. I like to think most of them are, but I have yet to meet any of those honest souls.

When we moved in, we were referred by a friend and co-worker of Collin's who pitched the place by saying, "If they'll rent to me, they'll rent to anybody." Seriously, it's a great place. When it comes to "location, location, location," they got it right. A number of troublesome neighbors aside, it's almost perfect.

The day we were approved, we gave the property manager the name of the tenant who referred us so she'd get her bonus. It never occurred to us to even try to sell the referral to her or anyone else. We just did it because it was due her. It was the right thing to do.

A co-worker moved in a short time later. He offered to sell his referral form to Collin for $100--and asked Collin to help him move in. Collin said, "I'll do it for $100." The guy refused. He wanted free help. He didn't get it...and Collin didn't get the referral. But at least he was open about it, unlike those that followed.

Not long after that, Collin recommended it to another co-worker. But he wasn't the only one who had, and he lost out on the bonus. 

A couple of years ago, he made another recommendation to another co-worker. She told him she'd be sure and give him the referral form as soon as she got it, which would have been the day she moved in. Days passed. She kept putting him off. Finally, she did a complete about-face. She got angry. She told him she didn't even know he lived here. She even unfriended him on Facebook. Collin was blindsided...but cynic that I am, I knew where she was coming from. He hadn't offered her any money. Because he hadn't, she wasn't going to let him get anything, either. 

Apparently, not many of Collin's co-workers understand that a renter referral bonus is a reward to the tenant who brought in new business--the new tenant isn't supposed to share in it.

I told him he should stop referring his co-workers, but in the past month, we went through the bullshit once again. This time, the co-worker was someone he considered trustworthy. She was planning to move in on the 26th. Right up to the last minute, she assured him he was going to get her referral. I tried not to be negative, but I had my doubts. Wasn't it Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result? I guess I'm not nuts, after all!

Sure enough, I got a text from him when he got off work yesterday. He was angry (and Collin is extremely slow to anger, unlike his hotheaded mother). I asked him why, but I already knew the answer.

He said he wasn't getting the referral. Again. She was apologetic, of course, but it was out of her hands. She told him another co-worker who also lived here had convinced the property manager to not run a credit check on her, so the manager gave the other co-worker the bonus. (Yes, I know it makes no sense.) This woman, who had lost her job at the previous restaurant where she and Collin had both worked because a co-worker had lied about her, was herself lying about someone else. Had her story been believable and told to someone who didn't know the manager and the procedure for getting approved, she could have caused the manager a lot of trouble.

In short, she not only lied to Collin, she insulted him by expecting him to believe that lameass story. Had he not been so angry, I would have laughed. Nobody was going to believe that garbage. I knew what had happened. The other tenant/co-worker had bought the referral.

I wonder if the property owners know how many bonuses they've paid to tenants who didn't really earn them....


For those of you who are following the latest installments of my memoir and Sam's Story, I'll have new posts up late today or sometime tomorrow. We just installed a new modem last night, so I'm at least a day behind on everything! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Mixed Bag

I had something else planned for today, but things happen, you know?

Last week, so many of my fellow bloggers were posting tributes to Robin Williams in the wake of his untimely death...I wanted to do a tribute as well, but it seemed to me that everyone else had already said everything I wanted to say. But today, I came across this story on Facebook, and thought I would share it with those of you who don't do Facebook....

A Little Known Robin Williams Story:

“Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close e
nough that his office sent over his rider.

For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. This is where rocks bands list their requirement for green M&Ms (which is actually a surprisingly smart thing to do).

This is also where a famous environmentalist requires a large gas-guzzling private jet to fly to the event city, but then requires an electric or hybrid car to take said environmentalist to the event venue when in view of the public.

When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work.

I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back.

I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions.

He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.”


(This was originally posted at

And on a lighter note, I found this, also on Facebook, and thought of my friend Gayle at Two Square Black Dogs, a fellow Godzilla fan:

And a reminder that I have new excerpts posted from my memoir and from Sam's Story....