Ever tried to calm a terrified 82-year-old?

Not to mention a mirroring-prone Velcro dog who reacts to his grandma’s panic and fretting by whining and going into a wheezing or coughing episode (because you have to keep these dogs calm so their tracheas remain clear)? Shoot! (I actually called his vet to see if we should bring him for a follow-up, but after talking to us and listening to him on the phone, Dr. Komkov said I could bring him at 7:30 AM Monday when she comes in and she’d take a quick look, because he sounded like he just had ‘roid rage and shallow/rapid closed-mouth breathing as a result, not some serious problem. She is a wonderful person. She can look at him before we leave on the TRIP FROM . . . um . . . Paradise? Whatever. My mother needs to be seen and sedated, as well, but we’ll have to make do with plying her with Valium. (not really) (well, we DO have a script for it)

My hip/back seized up all night. Must remember to get Arnica gel tomorrow to load into purse and tote. It’s stress. What stress? The roof (we are having it done later in the month), the various cars, the trippe, the need for LSD and hemlock . . . no, I’m not stressed at all, but thanx 4 asking!

What’s more, this morning we headed over to the Kia (not iKea) (not Key-Ah) dealership to see what might be done about The Sorento. Hubby’s beloved purple-mist Sorento is six years old and is loaded with all the features he never used but loved to know were there. Unfortunately, it’s also four-wheel-drive, and the differentials and so forth had not been maintained and greased, so they were grinding gears and eating themselves up. I nagged daily about getting it looked at after the problems with the ride started, so it is NOT MY FAULT. However, the repair bill stood at $2780 this morning, and they said they needed a transfer box now. This is a $5K part new, and they found one at a junkyard (!) that had 85K miles on it they could get for $1200. (O YAY SAVMONY) Labor was $650. No guarantee that after this nothing more would be found.

So . . . we went to see if they would consider a trade-in. They were very accommodating (no cars were selling, I suppose) and after test-driving a couple of cars, Hubby decided he wanted a new brown Sportage. It’s a smaller car and gets better mileage, but this one has a built-in GPS and satellite radio. After quite a bit of discussion back and forth with the finance people and so forth (we got our repair bill forgiven, which was the main point of all this!), he drove home his new car! New payments of EVEN MORE for 72 months! I try not to think about that part!

As we walked outside to transfer the ham radio plates, ham radio antenna, multitudinous books on Java and such, and other gadgets from the old to the new car, a mighty cold wind whipped up. I thought we’d been transported to Chicago on the shore of the lake for a minute there. It was SO COLD that I dug out both cardigans out of the Ford (they will never get that van away from me, never) and put them on, and then took my old stretched-out pink-gray hoodie to hubby, who was freezing as he unscrewed the ham radio license plates. It was so cold that he wore pink!! It didn’t look bad. Regis Philbin wears pink shirts. Shut up. But anyway, IT WAS COLD. The wind must have been 30MPH. It kept slamming car doors on people.

He really does like the new car, but this is too much change at once. We got home and I cooked leftover-hash and tried to clean the kitchen so it would be clean when we get home a week from today (AAARGHH). We made a run to the store for a new lamp timer, as one of the ones we used last time is nowhere to be found, and got a long-sleeved sweater for Mama. (I meant to get her a cashmere or two at Kohl’s on the big shopping day, but I failed.) The Devil has hidden my good black pants and I am about to go off to freezing America’s Heartland with two pairs of black leggings, a very snug pair of houndstooth pants, and two long gray skirts. WHERE HAVE YOU PUT MY GOOD PANTS, DEVIL?!?! Yeah, I know, if you told it would ruin the fun.

Mama doesn’t want to go, but I told her that she’s in this one to have fun. I really think we can have a good time. When we get dumped in Wichita, I will have her making Christmas cards (already have the supplies) with rubber stamps and so forth, and watching DVDs (picked up a couple of series the other day), and perhaps even seeing a few sights. We can relax and just meet some new people. I mean, what’s the w–oops, never mind jinxing ourselves. She is always terrified she or the dog will have a choke/cough attack and be far away from their genius doctors. (Ours is Dr. Bell, who is miffed at me for letting hubby miss an appt. last week and canceling my own last week . . . it will take a lot of Scooby-Doos to get back in his good graces . . . Teddy dog’s is Dr. Komkov, whom Mama always calls “Dr. Kumquat,” and I live in fear that she’ll call her that, sigh) I contend that they’re basically in good shape and under proper treatment, and surely we can survive a few days away and on the road.

I only hope.

Pray for us!! We don’t leave until Monday, but there is still the finding of pants and packing of misc. to do. And the mental preparedness. Om . . . om . . . oy!!

The birds get ready for a storm

Some of us are just born happy little travelers


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate!

The Macy’s parade was good this year, but did anyone else notice that the first three performances were from musicals that were originally done in the sixties (How to Succeed in Business….), eighties (Sister Act), and seventies (the one that Bette Midler was remaking–I’ve forgotten which one it is, but they used 70s disco songs)? The old stuff is being revived because they know the stuff they’re thinking up now is too derivative and yucky? Perhaps. I thought the Harry Potter actor was cute, but didn’t really have the voice to pull off “Brotherhood of Man.” Or maybe it’s just that I will never accept anyone but Robert Morse in the lead role. (grin) Loved the balloons and the BANDS! And the baritone player who won the Bob Hope scholarship! Baritone players usually get overlooked and seldom get any recognition, so that’s cool.

We took Teddy dog to the vet yesterday to make sure he had every shot or whatever he needed for the trip. Turns out he DOES have a sinus infection, as Mama has been claiming, and the doctor gave him a shot of antibiotics, a steroid, and a muscle relaxant/calm-down shot to relax the trachea and help end the irritation (the same cocktail he had before). We got his cough syrup refilled, too. We got a printout verifying that he is current on his rabies shot, and we decided against a kennel cough booster because he could catch kennel cough from that . . . we’ll just keep him out of gatherings of dogs on the trip. (Kennel cough is so hard on him. The antibiotics should last two weeks. The injectable form is WONDERFUL.) However, this time the muscle relaxant really did a number on him. His eyes were dilated and he was “duh” from 3 PM yesterday to this morning. He got much better by 10 PM last night, but until then he was Velcro dog. Confused, not understanding why he was weak and couldn’t think straight. Poor baby! He wasn’t sure he could swallow, so he didn’t eat until 9 PM. He’s fine today, but is still confused as to why he’s so wired (the steroids). Man . . . I’d hate to have to take those drugs myself!

Mama is still worried sick about being away from her doctor and that something will “happen to” us. There is no one who has room/inclination to take her in, and no one we trust to come here, and she can’t stay by herself, so she HAS to go if I do. Hubby wants me to drive part of the time to spare his energy, and I want to go. I feel guilty for “making” her go, and I know it is selfish of me to say that I want to go at all. But I don’t think it’s entirely fair that I miss every opportunity to travel or get away with hubby because of her comfort level. We’ll have her oxygen concentrator, oxygen, nebulizer, walker, cane, and meds. I’m not going to do anything bad to her up there–and we’ll rent a little car so I can drive us around to see a few sights. I know Wichita is not Key West or Carmel, but hey. I roll with the punches that Life throws.

I hate cooking. But I had to today. Ham, yam, and SPAM. (Liar! No SPAM.) Exhausted now. zzzzz

Now we’re going to watch the REAL Miracle on 34th Street–the original. Man, I hate that woman Maureen O’Hara plays. A real piece of work, she is. Until the end, when she pretends to become better. But women like that never do. Just look at my female relatives–just as bad as ever, but pretending to be nice because now they LOOK grandmotherly and can get away with murder. (GRIN)

Royalties! I WIL B RYCHE! wait and see

For your amusement, my statement from Amazon’s CreateSpace division showing how much I’ve made and how many copies I’ve sold over the past couple of months.

Total Royalties 3 Books $3.86

April, Maybe June Amazon site 1 $1.90
Camille’s Travels Amazon site 2 $1.96


This doesn’t count the four author copies I’ve ordered of each book. I’m going to wave them around while we’re on our trip up the I35W corridor and see if anyone wants to look.

Still, I haven’t done any publicity, so it’s a wonder that anyone found these. I want to thank the people who ordered them! It gives me hope that someone out there might hear my barbaric yawp.

Mama doesn’t want to hear my barbaric yawp. I was trying to explain to her how fortifying it was to have heard a few comments today from a friend who read the books, and she said, “Don’t talk to me about your books. God! Bring me a diet Coke! I’m so dry!” Conversation around here constantly reaches intellectual highs, I tell you what.

I also got my free business cards and postcards from VistaPrint, and I have to say they are really nice. She said she couldn’t even read them because the type is fairly small . . . but that’s a business card for you. *I* think they’re subtle and nice. I’m frankly tired of hard-sell stuff, and I wanted to make something that was a soft-sell. Or is that a soft-shoe? (Cross right behind left, up on toes, spin! Jazz hands!) Hubby glanced at them and grunted before returning his attention to the episode of “Family Guy” that has Frank Sinatra, Jr. in it. (One of their best efforts.)

Really, though, I find it amazing that I can upload formatted Word documents or PDF files to the CreateSpace system and get them spiffed up using an online “helper” routine, and then submit them to the live people who approve such things (looking mostly to block porn and REALLY illiterate spewings, but not editors–which is a good thing for those of us who don’t want to argue), and within a couple of weeks have a book up for sale online. When I was a child, the EDITOR and PUBLISHING HOUSE seemed like demigods, and they moved very slowly to make their pronouncements. Then the slackers grew up, decided that “all the cool kids are writing books and WE WILL PUBLISH THEM NOW,” and made this happen. It’s totally mind-boggling to an old Boomer like me. I keep looking around to see when they’re going to come for me and make me stop doing it. Really, with the exceptions of those mysteries that I still have out with agents, I think this is the way for me to get my work read by the small audience that appreciates it and finds it readable.

It’s not going to make anyone any money. But, as I’ve often told y’all in these very “pages,” I am not in it for money. I no longer know exactly what I’m in it FOR, but when I hear that someone has read the book(s) and has actually finished them, it does something to me. A good something.

I suppose that is what I’m in it for, after all.

Oh, and the TV producer called and left two messages today! She is being reasonable to assume that most normal people would jump at the chance to do a couple of segments about wrapping gifts on the early morning TV show. But after the way everyone has told me that I will “embarrass the family and humiliate myself forever” and “in so doing will make myself completely un-marketable should I actually have a New York-bought book to pimp someday on TV,” I really don’t want to do it. We caught this morning’s segment (the one I managed to turn down earlier) on the noon news. They got a good-looking young thing to compete against their reporter in a speed-wrapping contest at the Galleria. I’m glad I didn’t try to do THAT, as I’m more of an artistic wrapper than a speedoo. No magic tips were forthcoming, except that you can wrap a bottle of wine in a dishtowel and it counts as two presents. I don’t think I could have done better.

The fam is right in saying that I am not very presentable on TV. I’d need a new outfit and to get my nails done and do something with myself. That takes time! Right now I’m exhausted preparing for this trip, doing NaNo desultorily, formatting the various novels for CreateSpace, trying to get the roof fixed (still getting bids and working with the insurance and contractors), getting the feast ready for Thanksgiving, cleaning ALL THE THINGS twice, and trying to get Mama’s car out from under the complaints of the city (the code inspector person wants to come out and have us prove that it moves backward and forward under its own power; this is the result of calls made to the city from a new neighbor behind us who has not seen Mama drive it this past summer, but she HAS been in the hospital, you know. This is a 1985 Lincoln Town Car that is in great shape, but is now covered with leaves and has been parked next to the driveway in the back all summer while she has been indisposed. I agreed to charge up the battery over the weekend and have Mr. City Code Enforcer stand in front of it on Monday so I can show him that it moves forward. *roar* This is yet another irritant!)

We picked up a trickle charger for the car this evening. I also managed to snatch a Flip Video camera out of the returns bin on sale, but it is psychotic and cannot function properly. I can see why the original purchaser returned it. First it said it had 20 videos that weren’t playable. Then when I plugged it into SuperBrain desktop here, it loaded the FlipShare software but complained that the device driver couldn’t be updated. It then announced that it had successfully deleted the 20 videos of zero length. I took it off the computer to see if it felt more cooperative. The camera came on and pretended to be recording, but the counter never moved, meaning it wasn’t really recording, and the only way to turn it off was to take the batteries out. (Did you know that when you take the batteries out of something that’s powered on, you can often see a spark and get a tiny shock? I’m sure some people really get off on it.) None of the buttons would work after I put new batteries in–it just showed the preview screen without offering to record or play back. Anyway, I’m taking that one back in the morning. The clerk said I had a 48-hour window for returning it, and said he was sure they wouldn’t sell something that didn’t work. Wrong! This device is subtle, though, as it does seem to come on and looks as if it might work now and then, but doesn’t.

The Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper contest will be on Dec. 2 this year. I wish it were available on a cable channel or online. It’s really a lot of fun and a great honor to participate in. You should enter the contest next year! (I can’t, as former finalists can’t compete again.) I really like the Scotch Brand Cutter thingie. I hate scissors and it is easy to make straight lines with it, as long as your wrapping paper is not the super-cheapie stuff. I also like their tape. I am very loyal in buying only Scotch Tape because I had such a ball at their expense. Try that cutter–all plastic, no metal, no sharp points, only cuts paper–and see if you don’t like it a lot. It’s only a couple of dollars at your nearest store! End of unpaid tribute.

Carry on!

At the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper Contest in 2008. The only time I actually did speed-wrap things. I was pooped!

In Which I Almost Get On Television Again

Yesterday whilst I was in the throes of scribbling on that story I said would be up for free download at Amazon Shorts for Christmas, the phone rang. As is my wont, I yelled for my mother to pick it up. Then I realized it was probably her calling for me to come take away her breakfast dishes, so I paused the story and stomped through to the other end of the house to give her a tongue-lashing.

Startling me by stepping out of the bathroom in the hall, she held out the portable phone. “Public relations, for you.”

“What? Who is it?” I snarled. Probably someone trying to get me to buy a publicity package or promo package for my books. I get a lot of those.

“It’s a public relations woman. Be nice! Take it!”

I took the phone and glanced at the Caller ID. HUNTER PR, it said, with a 212 area code.

I knew instantly who that was. “Hello,” I said suavely.

“Hi! This is [can’t remember her name now–Sara?] at Hunter Public Relations. How are you?”

“Wonderful! You’re the people who handled my appearance at the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper Contest in New York a couple of years ago. I remember that so fondly, and everything went so well. What can I do for you?” (Note that I did not say “do you for,” which is lucky, because almost everyone in Texas says it that way)

“We have a Dallas TV station that wants a short segment on tricks of gift wrapping for the morning show, and we want you to show them your special tricks! You were so good in our test interviews on video. Would you be available?”

Would I ever! I could hold up copies of my books, too, in my introduction, and wow could that be neat.

“Of course! I’d love to do it! Now, there are a couple of days I’ll be out of town–from the 28th of this month to December 2nd or 3rd–but otherwise, great!” Don’t know why these words came out of my trap.

“Oh, no! It’s on December 2nd! That’s this year’s contest date.”


“Oh, no! The arrangements are all made.”

“Where are you going? Is it a vacation?”

“It’s a business trip that I’m going on with my husband. But it’s not to Disneyland–it’s to Wichita, Kansas.”

Merry laughter and disbelief from the New York end.

“I know. Isn’t it ridiculous? But I’m going to scatter book promotion all along the I-35 corridor. That’s one reason we’re going.”

“Well, that’s great. Maybe they’d move the segment to the fifth of December–you said you’d be back by then?”

I assured her I would and gave her my e-mail address and new cell phone number. We parted on regretful terms with her saying that perhaps they’d still be able to use me.

When I hung up, I was still kind of gobsmacked. It is very flattering that they remembered me, thought I was television-positive, and asked me to do it. I really would love to do it, with reservations as listed later, but I am committed to going on the trip at this point. Wish I had been more “awake” when I talked to her. I was still mostly in the world of the story and only far enough out to deal with Mama’s needs and the dog’s needs and whoever might be at the door and so forth. Writers will know what I’m talking about. Others should imagine being interrupted in mid-coitus or mid-drug-deal as a similar state of mind. Not a New York State Of Mind at all.

It took me about an hour to realize that she didn’t suggest taping the segment in advance and then showing it on the 2nd. Most TV stations do that. This is an all-live “Good Morning Texas” show, but surely they have that capability. I called back but didn’t get her–I left a message with their reception desk who wasn’t sure which of their reps had called me. Probably just as well if they find someone better.

Because here’s what they want. (I know this from last year’s experience and from all the newspaper interviews I did the year before, when we did the contest.) They will ask, “What are your secrets? Where is the magic?”

And there ARE no secrets. At the risk of sounding like one of those published writers who says there are not secrets . . . in the case of gift-wrapping, there really aren’t any. I can’t tell you any way to get good at it without a lot of practice. I started doing it when I was in fourth grade and wanted to wrap the presents I had picked out. My first efforts looked like it. I became interested in wrapping things to look like other things, and it ballooned from there. You know, like wrapping a frying pan to look like a fried egg, and so forth.

But they will want SECRETS. Fast and quick ways to do the impossible! Four special spells to construct a tribal lay that really gets you laid! And so forth.

There are a few tips I always give. I’ll work up a post about those with some photos if I have time before I go on the trip, or soon afterwards if I get too overwhelmed. The tips, though, are NOT what they want to hear. They’re just mundane common sense things. The newspaper reporter who wrote up my initial trip to the contest for the Morning News was really frustrated and didn’t use any of them, instead making it a human interest story. “My editor wants the tricks,” he complained. Too bad I could not pull one out of my, um, hat. But anyway.

O’course you all know you should use double-sided tape. That’s half the battle right there. You can get a wrist-mounted gizmo from Scotch Brand that dispenses precut strips of double-sided tape, and once you get used to it, it’s kind of cool. Awkward at first to pick the stuff off your wrist (it’s a dispenser with an elastic bracelet attached.) Instead of scissors, use one of the plastic cutter things, like the one Scotch Brand sells. It’s tough to get the tear started on cheap paper, but it works well once you get the hang of it. Cheap paper, by the way, is awful. Use expensive stuff, the thicker stuff they sell at Hallmark shops, or door foil. That is a big factor in the appearance and durability of your package. Your corners should be crisp, and they can’t be with slippery, thin paper. The corners of the box will poke through and ruin your wrapping project. Just use the nicer paper once and you’ll see what I mean. Carpenters don’t say “measure twice, cut once” for no reason.

Also, think of alternatives to those premade bows. Even using two premade bows makes a nicer package. You can use a cookie-cutter and printed recipe card, tie those to curly ribbon, and tie the curly ribbon to your regular ribbon. One year I used wooden sled miniatures that I got from a mail-order catalog and wrote giftees’ names in gold paint pen, and that was a hit. They worked as personalized ornaments for years after that. Anyhow, stuff like that makes your package stand out. It makes the recipient happy. And that was the point of the gift, wasn’t it?

Anyway . . . I’m disappointed now that I won’t be doing it, but then again I won’t have to stand there and tell them there are not any shortcuts to becoming good. I won’t have to worry about stammering or my teeth or looking fat or being an idiot on TV. I’ll just relax and hope that the Universe awards the appearance to someone who’s prepared and happy to do it.

Meantime . . . we still get to go to Kansas. . . . Yay?

Eric Idle Chimes In on Shakespeare

The other day, someone said that Nathanial Hawthorne had written the immortal line, “You write with ease to show your breeding/But easy writing’s cursed hard reading.” Some other liar claimed it was Alexander Pope. It’s a great line, of course. The only problem is that it’s a quotation from Richard Brinsley Sheridan, author of “School for Scandal” (a Restoration comedy that we studied, believe it or not, in Drama Major Studies under Mrs. Margaret Robison. Along with “She Conks to Stupor,” er, I mean, “She Stoops to Conquer.”)

Just goes to show you how eager folks are to attribute someone’s good lines to someone else.

Eric Idle does a send-up of the latest Shakespeare deniers:

Eric Idle on Shakespeare in The New Yorker

Trip of a Lifetime–um, not exactly

But at least we’ll be getting out of the house, eh?

If all goes well, we’ll be traveling part of the way with my husband on a business trip. He’s going to Denver on Nov. 30-Dec.2, and he’s going to drive. (He can’t fly because he has a deformity in his ear canals that means they don’t drain properly, and he has a doctor’s letter stating that he’ll lose part of his hearing if he flies again, and thus the company would be liable. They INSIST that he travel, so he’s going by car.) He’s authorized to rent a van. So Mama, the dog, and I are going to hitch along as far as . . . yes, halfway along . . . you’ll never guess where!

Originally, he was told to take the route through Amarillo and then up through the Raton Pass. He planned for us to stay in Colorado Springs and explore some of the fun sights while he went on to Denver. But as it turns out, Colorado Springs is even higher up than Denver at over 5100 feet above sea level. And the Raton Pass itself is at 8000 feet!

The reason this is a deal-breaker is that my mother is 82 and has COPD/asthma/a pacemaker. In Amarillo, at 3000 ft above sea level, my mother-in-law (who also had lung issues) had to put on her portable oxygen. She could do very little moving around when they went up into the mountains. The COPD advice line tells me that at 3000 ft, the oxygen available will be 80-90% of what it is here in Dallas at around 650 ft. At 5000 ft, it would be less than 50% of the oxygen that we get here. She already has problems getting short of breath and so forth, and so she can’t go there and stay comfortably. She doesn’t have a portable oxygen generator and doesn’t want to carry oxygen tanks and be scared all the time. She’s even afraid to stop in Amarillo, even though I did find a great B&B on the rim of the Palo Duro Canyon that would allow us to have our dog in the cabin and has a kitchenette AND was going to give us a rate of $110 a night, less than anywhere but a Super 8 Motel. Aaaarghh!

But just when everyone was wailing and fighting, I pointed out that the default route that Yahoo and Google Maps come up with for Dallas to Denver is not even that way in the first place. They show the route going straight up through Oklahoma City up to Salina, Kansas, and turning left. The drive is only a little longer, although quite featureless when compared to the mountain passes and the scenery. But!

Hubby says he doesn’t care about scenery. He only wants to get there and get back safely. He wants me to spell him driving for the first half of the trip and be available should he have any issues. So he says he’s fine with this.

The halfway point in the drive is Salina, Kansas, but we’ve decided to stop in (wait for it) Wichita. There’s a great all-suites hotel there that takes dogs, has cable TV, is nonsmoking, and has first-floor king suites. The cost is going to be $60 a night if I can get them to honor the offer that is on the gowichita website on the front page as a winter special! Otherwise, it’ll be $89 a night, but that’s still good. The city may not be the sexiest ever, but I think the pollution levels will be lower, and it’ll be a great experiment for finding out just how much of my mother’s lung problems are caused by the pollution and pollen here. There are some Christmas lights displays and an event at their arboretum I’d like us to see, and they have an “old town” with historic buildings, plus a River Walk. There are a couple of diners there that have been featured on the TV Food Network. It should be relaxing. I will have my laptop and wi-fi, plus my iPod and a few books I’ve been meaning to finish. I might do a geocache or two.

So! We’ll leave on the 28th and get all set up there. Then Hubby will leave for the other nine hours of his drive on the morning of the 29th. He’ll spend that night and the following two days doing meetings and meet-and-greet events with his company’s people who work in Denver, staying at their corporate hotel fave. (We pay for our own hotel and food, but his time in Denver is on the company.) Then he’ll head back to us on Dec 2 and spend a night there with us before driving back. We’d like to take a side trip on the way back to somewhere fun. No rattlesnake farms!

I’m going to have my camera and he’ll have his, so we can always document anything we find to do that is fun. Maybe the world’s largest ball of string is nearby. I could be photographed dwarfing it!

Anyone have any experience traveling or living in the Wichita area? I have friends who live in Manhattan, Kansas, but they work full-time and it looks like somewhat of a drive for us all to meet halfway. We’ll be renting the smallest car from Enterprise for our three days of abandonment, so we can get around a bit. If you live in the area, give me a holler and perhaps we can meet at the Diner.