Tag Archives: A Fine Mess

Influenza Season – Should We Be Worried?

Unless you’re me, probably not.

Why? Because I spent countless hours researching the 1918 influenza pandemic in order to write Enza. And it’s because of that book that I tend to get a little nervous during flu season. Especially when reports are telling us that it’s worse, and starting earlier than normal.

I’m going to steal a couple of quotes from a blog I wrote last spring, titled The Spanish Influenza Pandemic, so you can see why I might worry about it more than most people.

“Estimates for the death toll, worldwide, range between twenty to forty million and fifty to one-hundred million, depending on the source…Stanford.edu states, “More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.”  And they’re the ones estimating the lower numbers.

“To put all of this in perspective, a number of sources claim that, “If 1918-19 mortality data are extrapolated to the current U.S. population, 1.7 million people could die, half of them between the ages of 18 and 40. Globally,those same estimates yield 180-360 million deaths…”

Fast forward to present day

According to an article on the CDC website, 17,000 – 52,000 (an average of 36,000) died during each flu season from 1990 -1999.  With the population being en excess of 217 million in the United States this year, some might say that even the 52k estimate is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who live here.

If my calculations are correct, and my math skills do leave a little to be desired, the odds are 1/6,096.  (Just a FYI, according to National Geographic, we each have a better chance of being struck by lightening. It’s true. Over the course of our lifetimes, there’s a 1/3,000 chance that it could happen. I didn’t know this until a few minutes ago, and I’m not especially thrilled to find the odds are that good)

Could a pandemic like the one that happened in 1918 happen today? Who knows? Hopefully not. But I’m sure they didn’t think it could happen then either. Certainly WW1 helped facilitate the spread of the Spanish Flu, thanks to soldiers being transported like cattle on ships.

Except today, not only do we have ships, we have planes. According to CNN, “…there are roughly 10 million flights per year in the U.S. alone…” Who knows how many individual passengers that translates to? Not me, but I’m betting it’s a whole lot more than ten million.

Am I trying to scare you with this post? Not really. Just make you more aware of our history, and the fact that probably haven’t seen the last of plagues and pandemics just because we live in the modern age.

To anyone who thinks we’re past those kinds of tragedies, I have a couple of things to say about that. Antibiotic resistant bacteria and ‘superbugs.’ I won’t go into those details, but if you have some spare time, you might read the article.

So be careful. Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, try to stay away from people who are sick. My kids and I are taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 every day (along with a little calcium and fat for better absorption). You’d be surprised at what that can do for your health.


On a brighter note, the first issue of my newsletter…with the first installment of Holding On To Yesterday…was sent out on Monday. If you’d like to sign up for it, just click here, fill out your email address, and then confirm that you’d like to receive it when you get the email asking you whether you really want it or not.




Filed under Influenza

Holding On To Yesterday

As promised, here is the first scene of my new novelette, Holding On To Yesterday, part one in the Wishes In Time series. If you like what you read here, and would like the rest of the story before it’s published in book form, all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by clicking on this link. There will be at least two more novelettes for this particular story, and possibly four. With each new one, I will only post the first scene on this blog, as well as my other one, with the rest to follow for subscribers only.

Because of the timing, installments will be emailed on 1/14, 1/28, 2/11 and 2/25, with publication scheduled for March 4. Hope you enjoy the story. :)

The raindrops pelting his face felt like the stings from a thousand ravenous fire ants as Kyle clawed his way across the spongy, water-soaked ground. A gale force wind pushed against him almost as though it were a living thing, determined to keep them apart, and yet he pressed on, inch by hard won inch.
  Still, he couldn’t get close enough to save her. He never got close enough. All he could do was watch, helpless, as she lay there dying, impaled by an impossibly huge tree limb. Its branches and leaves covered her like a shroud, leaving only her face, and one lifeless hand exposed.
  “You killed us.” Rather than being drowned out by the hellacious storm, Maggie’s soft accusation drifted across the distance, echoing in his head, cutting his heart in two. Blue eyes, filled with sadness, locked with his as she watched him fighting against the elements, determined to change the outcome this time.
  “No! I didn’t mean to,” Kyle cried, his hands fisting in the grass. Tears streamed down his face as he tried to explain, to make her understand. “I couldn’t get there in time, Mags. I was too late. I’m sorry! I’m so sorry.”
  “If you had ever wanted us, we’d have been home where we belonged. We’d be there with you now. Our daughter would be two years old.”
  Kyle had never understood why she always talked about a baby, but this was the first time she’d identified it as a girl. Why did she think they had a daughter? Because she’d desperately wanted to start a family? Because he hadn’t been ready, and he’d robbed her of the one thing she’d desired most? The pain that squeezed his chest felt like it might crush him. Thinking of a child in generic terms had somehow made it not as bad as it could have been. But – a daughter?
  Would she have had Maggie’s silky straight chestnut hair? Or would it be more like his, sandy blond with a tendency to curl? Her blue eyes, or his brown? If they’d had a daughter, she would be walking by now, maybe even talking so he could understand her.
  If he hadn’t killed Maggie. Killed her dream.
  The vision before him changed slightly. Instead of just Maggie lying there, he could see a pair of tiny legs sticking out, the head and torso hidden beneath a canopy of leaves. In a sick way it reminded him of the witch killed by a house in the movie about little people and a dancing scarecrow.
  Only it was his family who had been crushed by a falling limb during the storm. The family he could have had, only he’d hurt and chased them away because he hadn’t cared enough to make them his own. Freedom had mattered more to him in that one crucial moment than anything else. Even though he’d realized less than a day later that he’d been wrong, it had been too late. Before he could get to her, to tell her that she was his everything, to beg her to forgive him, she was gone.
  “Think about us,” Maggie whispered, as the vision wavered and began to fade.
  “No! Don’t leave,” he begged, reaching out to try and stop her. “Maggie, stay with me.”


Filed under Romance, Uncategorized

Superhuman Power

It’s been a long couple of months, and I can’t remember where I read it, but someone asked, ‘If you could have a superpower, what would it be.’I replied that I’d want super speed because if I could get everything I need to do done fast, it would be like adding hours to my day.

I guess it keeps coming to mind because the past couple of months have been crazy. First the writing challenge in November, with Christmas – and all that entails – hot on its heels…followed by the cold, or whatever this is, that I came down with Christmas night. I’m starting to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, but boy has it worn me out. I haven’t been getting to my favorite blogs like I should. Writing has been minimal. And my house? I’m pretty sure could be declared a disaster zone (maybe I’d qualify for federal relief?). So yeah, super speed  would come in handy right now.

Oh how I wish I could figure out a way to get it. It would be nice to catch up on at least some of the things on my to-do list.

Just think, I could run (literally) to the store, finish my shopping, and be home with everything put away long before I could ever drive the five miles to get there…one way.

There would be no need for a snow blower, just a well made shovel. The treadmill? Valuable floor space could be reclaimed since I could just run to Brazil and back in a minute or two. And what about housework?

Certainly there are things that super speed couldn’t help. After all, cakes would still take about forty minutes to bake, laundry would remain a day-long chore (though folding/hanging/putting away would be a breeze), and I doubt there’s a way to get adequate rest without sleeping six to eight hours a night.

There are other things I’m not sure about either…like speed typing. Would my brain be able to keep up with my fingers? And what about the keyboard? They’re probably not made to type a million words a minute. Would I be burning them out, one right after another?

In many ways, it wouldn’t benefit me at all. But when I think of all the time saved from cleaning and errands…yeah. That would be my super power of choice.

What would yours be? Why? Please feel free to share your reasons in the comments section below.


Don’t forget to check out the first scene in my Wishes in Time novelette series, Holding On To Yesterday, Part One, on my other blog – Pretty Much Perfect Heroes. If you’d like to read the rest of the story before it’s published on March 4, 2013, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.


Filed under Life

A Blank Slate

Happy 2013 everyone! Where did the last year go? And how did it go so quickly?!

I’ve often wondered why our perception of time changes so dramatically from when we were kids. And then I realized it was because when we were little, and in school, we were always looking forward to something. The more we looked forward to it, the slower time seemed to pass.

As an adult, at least for me, I’ve realized I don’t really look forward to anything like I did back then. Sure, I’ll mark events on my calendar, and I’ll really look forward to enjoying them…but except for a quick glance, every now and again, I don’t think about them much. Life, after all, gets in the way. Every minute of every day when you’re a grownup.

I’m sure most kids look forward to the first day of school every year. But within about ten days, they’re anticipating the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. And hot on its heels is the two week break at Christmas. Then the next decent vacation is around Easter…until summer finally rolls around again.

Those are the things we lived for when we were kids. Our lives revolved around one vacation or another…and we looked forward to them with excitement, anticipation, and usually desperation…because no matter how great that first day of school was…school pretty much sucked. I mean really, it did. We had to get up early every day, sit through mind numbing classes for hours…when all we wanted to do was be outside playing. Or sleeping in.

In the midst of all of that were the biggies though. Waiting to be a teenager. Waiting for our driver’s license. Waiting to graduate, to get our first job, to have our first drink, or date. All we really wanted was to grow up and do whatever we pleased. To not have someone always telling us what we could and could not do.


As adults, life is usually living the same day over and over and over again. Sure we do our best to enjoy it, and schedule things to make it more fun, but unless we were to keep a diary that listed those ‘different’ things, one day is pretty much a clone of the one that came before it, and the one that will follow after.

And I think that’s why time takes on the weird effect of dragging along like a snail…thanks to the boredom of every day being basically the same, to turning around a few times throughout the course of a year and wondering how we got from January to May, or July to September, way too fast.

Every year for the past few years I’ve resolved to stop doing that. To figure out a few things that will slow time down for me a little bit. And every year I’ve fallen far short of that goal.

But I’m determined that this year is going to be different. I will figure out a few events…special events…I want to do. Things I can look forward to. Maybe make one of those ‘wish’ boards with pictures to represent what it is I want to do. And then hang it where I can see it several times a day to remind me.

Yes, I have some major goals for my family, home, and writing…but I need to plan things that will bring out the impatient kid in me again. Things that have me chomping at the bit because I can hardly wait for whatever it is to get here.

I really think that’s the key to breaking out of the boring box of ‘sameness’ I’ve locked myself in.

So welcome, 2013. We have a blank slate…and we’re going to make this the best year ever, you and I.

I know I’ve shared the following song before, but it’s so very appropriate, and really expresses the way I tend to feel at the beginning of a new year. ‘Another blink of the eye.’ Yeah. That’s how fast 2012 raced by…


Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter. I’ll be posting the first scene from my new novella on Monday, January 7, 2007 on my new, strictly for writing, blog…Pretty Much Perfect Heroes. Only subscribers will get the rest of the story in their inbox.


Filed under Life

Poisoned Cats and Liquid Charcoal

Yes, it’s that time again. What time might that be? Well…it’s rerun season on television, so I decided to do a little rerunning of my own. This post was ‘originally aired’ on November 18, 2011. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! (I refuse to say I enjoyed the experience, because I did not)


With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve been lamenting the fact that I haven’t been able to have a Poinsettia plant in my house for almost a decade. With a few cats in the house, it’s just not worth the potential problems. Problems I have firsthand knowledge of. This incident just happened to occur in the spring, rather than at Christmas.

A few years ago I bought my first-and only­-Easter Lily to give to my mom when she came over for supper the next day. Around midnight my daughter came out to my office and said she caught Sophie, our diva cat, munching on the plant. Did she ruin it? Nope. She didn’t eat much. Whew!


Meet Sophie. I would not find this position comfortable, but apparently she does!

A little while later my daughter came out of her room and said she got a little worried and Googled ‘cats and Easter Lilies’…to find they were even more toxic than Poinsettias.  Great.  Just great.  No one ever told me that lilies could hurt cats.  So then we both Googled madly to see what we should do about this.

Take her to a vet right away.

Yeah, right, it’s one o’clock Easter morning.  The only option was an emergency animal clinic, located on a college campus, about thirty miles away.  So off we go.  Oh happy day.

Long story short, fifteen hundred dollars for a three day stay wasn’t in my budget, so we were sent home with a bottle of liquid charcoal and told to give it to Sophie three times a day.  Just use the syringe and shoot it down the back of her throat if she wouldn’t take it in food.

Um…okay…us and what army?  I wasn’t born yesterday.  This had catastrophe written all over it.  Probably the sort that involves a whole lot of stitches.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of shooting charcoal, just know that you’re going to have to get really skilled at it in a big hurry…because there’s no way an animal is going to eat any food with that stuff mixed in.  You’re also going to need to recruit at least two other people to help because wrapping the cat in towels and doing it yourself is pretty much impossible.  In fact, it doesn’t work all that well even with help.

So in case you ever need to know, these are the required steps…

Everyone involved  needs to put on clothes they don’t mind throwing away. Liquid charcoal stains really bad and I ruined a nice shirt learning this particular lesson.  One person quickly wraps the cat in a couple of old, thick towels, the second will, even more quickly, hold the cat’s head stationary while trying to pry its mouth open (that job really sucks…I suggest wearing glass-cutters gloves), and the third, with the syringe prepared ahead of time, shoves it in the cat’s mouth and squeezes fast.

After the cat spews half of it back out on your throw-away clothes and towels, you have to do it again because clearly she didn’t get the full dose.  You’ll try to convince yourself that the other half made all the way to her stomach, except you can’t be entirely certain.  Liquid charcoal, splattered all over three people…and the floor…looks like an awful lot of charcoal.  (should have mentioned that you might want to use some sort of drop cloth…it will come off a tiled floor eventually but if it gets on carpet, you’ll be sorry)

Now the real fun begins, because this time it takes at least two people to rewrap the cat.  She’s not stupid.  In fact, she knows exactly why you’re wrapping her up this time…and she will resist.  With unparallelled determination.


Before the second person removes their hands from the towels to grab hold of the head again, everyone will need to take a deep, relaxing breath.  It helps to picture Clark Kent or Edward Cullen moving at the speed of light as you repeat the process.  Twice as fast as you did it the first time.

Don’t worry about the charcoal shower.  Your clothes are already trashed so this deluge isn’t going to ruin them anymore than they’re already ruined.


Now that you know the proper technique for charcoal shooting, remember it.  You’ll be repeating this twice more the first day, then three times a day for the next two days.  Hopefully you were wise enough to just set your newly blackened clothes aside to slip into for each session or you may need to replace your wardrobe.  Nine outfits will empty nearly everyone’s closets and drawers.

And don’t worry about the cat.  It may take a couple of weeks, but eventually she’ll stop trying to claw you to shreds anytime you get within twenty feet of her.  Just make sure you keep all towels out of her sight for awhile.


Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter (just click on the tab above), and stop by and visit my new blog…dedicated to ‘pretty much perfect heroes.’

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Filed under Just for fun

Dear Santa…

Bad Santa

…I’m all done trying to be good. Seriously. When I was a kid, I got most everything I wanted, and we both know I didn’t have mile-long lists either. But this whole grownup Christmas list stuff sucks.

Five things, Santa. Five items on my Christmas list…and you didn’t come through on a single one of them. Getting a little old are we, big guy? Is the magic not working like it used to in the good old days? And just so you have an entire year’s notice this time…here it is…again.

First… One alien abduction. You know who needs the lifetime vacation in outer space, so I won’t post the name publicly. Wouldn’t want to give them any advance warning spoil the surprise.

Second, and this could probably count as one…count ‘em one…lumped together as one gift. I’m going to say it r.e.a.l.l.y slow so that you don’t have any trouble getting it through that thick skull of yours there’s no misunderstanding.

Jeffrey. Dean. Morgan.

Bruce. Willis.

Robert. Downey. Junior.

The. Guy. From. P.S. I. Love. You. And don’t give me any flack about this one. It’s the guy with the accent. Not Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He was using a fake accent in the movie. The one I want is the guy with the real Scottish accent who just used a fake Irish accent.

Got it now? It’s pretty simple, so don’t screw up again. You’re starting to annoy me.

***Photo Credit: Lynn Kelley (insulting graffiti…um…hmm…I couldn’t really say)

Yay! This was my 300th post!  :)


Filed under Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good nap…

…ummm…. Oops.

Okay, so the tryptophan got the best of me just now. And much as I’d like to give in and see if visions of sugar plums dance in my head, I refuse to give in and be like a guy  the half of the population who settles in for a long winter’s nap after eating a turkey dinner.

For me, though, it didn’t ‘feel’ like Christmas. I’ve heard that from a lot of people this year. People who I imagine are a lot like me. We’re from Michigan, and  Christmas in Michigan means…snow.

I guess that means it’s time for a Christmas do-over. Yup. I’ve done it before, and I’m doing it again. Sometime between mid-January and the end of February…after we get a decent snowfall…Christmas is going to have an encore in my house.

More decorations, more baking, more movies, books and music. And maybe a few gifts. But that’s not the important part. It’s the feeling that seems to go hand-in-hand with…snow. And I miss that feeling, so I’m going to find it before winter is over.

If you’re from a state that’s known for white Christmases, does it affect your mood when it’s brownish green instead?





Filed under Christmas

A Little Newsletter Experiment

Okay…so I think I’ve figured the whole newsletter sign up thing out. I’m going to have to direct you to the ‘Newsletter‘ tab above. Please click on the link there, then fill in your email address (the only required information). You will receive an email asking you to confirm that you wish to receive the newsletter…and that’s all there is to that.  :)

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Filed under Newsletter

Change of Plans

I know I said I would have the novelette series and newsletter ready to go before December 25 but… It just hit me that I’m missing Christmas with my kids. And you know what? I have been busting my butt since the first of November and I’m just not going to do anymore. Well, not for the next week.

I’m going to put up a few more decorations. I’m going to bake some cookies…even some gluten-free ones for me. I’m going to finish my shopping on Friday (God help me!!!), and wrap the gifts.

This should be a fun time, and I’m missing most of it. So I’m moving things back until after the first of the year.

I’ve also changed my mind about how the stories will come out. Newsletter subscribers will still get the story installments a week ahead of the blog readers but… I’m not going to post the final two. Nope. If people want to find out how the stories end, they’ll either have to subscribe to the newsletter, or wait until it comes out on Amazon and Smashwords, only they won’t be free.

So there you have it. And now I’m officially on vacation.  :)

And now, please pretend that I’m standing outside your door, that I can actually carry a tune for a minute, and I’m wishing you a very Merry Christmas…and singing carols. Here are my four favorite Christmas songs, in no particular order.

How cool! This was done in the city my dad lived in the last 19 years of his life.

Okay…I’m adding one more. Yes I like the song. A lot. But at this point, it’s more like a prayer. I live in Michigan for Pete’s sake!


Filed under Writing


“Did you hear about Connecticut?” was the first thing my daughter said to me today.

I had only just crawled out of bed and turned my computer on so no, I hadn’t heard anything. The first picture that came to mind was 9/11, because her tone of voice was similar to my sister’s when she finally got hold of me to tell me what had happened.

I felt fear begin to build as she stood there and opened her mouth to speak.

Is there some kind of movement going on that only people with twisted, sick minds are privy to? Are they looking for their fifteen minutes of fame? Just wanting to make national news? What is going on?

Twenty small children, and seven other people, gunned down by a freaking lunatic.

A movie theater massacre just months ago. Someone else trying to do the same at a mall not too long after that. The list of these tragedies is pretty much endless.


Some will cry out, saying it’s because people have guns, and we need to pass gun control lawsI disagree. If only law enforcement, criminals and crazies have guns, where does that leave the average citizen. Besides, the Constitution guarantees us the right to own firearms.

I saw a picture recently that I agree with. One man was holding a sign that said, “Guns kill people.” A heavyset man beside him held one that said, “Spoons made me fat.”

If I could, I’d reword the  one sign to read, “Idiots with guns kill people.”

And idiots, obviously, abound. But ban the guns and they’ll just find other ways to kill.

People think these kinds of atrocities are new. They’re not. In 1927, Andrew Kehoe, a school treasurer, set off several bombs in Bath Township in Michigan (known as the Bath School Disaster).

Forty-four people were killed, not including Kehoe, and fifty-eight were injured. Most of the victims were children, aged 7-11, making this “deadliest mass murder in a school in U.S. history and the third-deadliest non-military massacre in U.S. history, behind the Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11.

Except to detonate his ‘fragmentation-filled vehicle’, Kehoe didn’t use a gun. He somehow managed to find the ‘ingredients’ needed to make the bombs so he could murder all of these people…except his wife, and he simply beat her to death , before setting his farm buildings on fire.

The simple fact of the matter is, people kill people. If they don’t have guns, or bombs (which I understand aren’t that difficult to construct), they’ll come up with some other method because….

Anyone who is determined to commit a horrific act of violence will find a way.

For the families of the victims. And for me. Tuesday marked the second anniversary of the death of my oldest daughter, and it’s just been a really difficult week.


Just adding an interesting statistic here…

MADD reports that twenty-seven people die every day in accidents caused by drunk drivers (in the United States). Every day. How many do you think that adds up to in a year? I’ll save you the trouble of getting your calculators out. It’s 9,855.

Yup. Almost ten thousand people are being killed by cars and trucks every single year.

Therefore, I suggest we all start lobbying our government representatives to ban every car and truck on the road today. I mean really…it makes a lot of sense. After all, automobiles kill far more people than guns do.


I should have clarified that I was being a bit sarcastic above. Cars and trucks don’t kill people anymore than guns do. But in the wrong hands, they are weapons…every bit as much as guns.

See, the thing about guns is this. Those who go through the criminal background checks in order to purchase firearms are not the people we have to worry about. It’s the criminals, and the crazies who steal them that we have to fear. Because the people who go through legal channels aren’t purchasing their guns with the intent to kill anyone. They’re purchasing them with the intent to protect themselves, and their loved ones…if the need ever arises.

So there is a lot of truth to the saying, ‘take the guns away from law-abiding citizens, and the only people possessing them will be the criminals.’ Because you just know that the criminals aren’t going to give theirs up. And there isn’t enough law enforcement in the country to find them all.


Filed under Life