Monthly Archives: June 2011

What a day!

Ever have one of those days when you drag yourself out of bed and just know it’s going to be one of those days? A day when you have a list as long as your arm of things you’d like to accomplish? And you know when you crawl back into bed that night, the list isn’t going to be a whole lot shorter than when you started working on it?

Today has some serious potential to turn into one of those days…

So much potential, in fact, that I’m not even sure I’m going to start working on that list.

I probably will though. It’s just a matter of time before my brain accepts the fact that it’s not going to get anymore sleep, but right now it just wants to get up close and personal with my pillow…and stay there awhile. Maybe until tomorrow morning.

Okay…

So now it’s several hours later. I somehow managed to not go back to bed. In fact, I managed to make it to the pool, do my compete workout, in addition to adding a couple more exercises, and made a quick trip to the store for a few things I really needed at home. No, I didn’t get done as much as I’d have liked, but I didn’t completely wimp out either.

Still I know I’m too tired to do anything important, such as editing. Not that I didn’t consider giving it a go, but I’m smart enough to know that I don’t enjoy that job-and I certainly don’t want to do it twice! Definitely want to be wide awake when I’m doing that.

While debating whether I should or not, I remembered something interesting I learned in my junior high school writing class. I don’t know why I thought of it right then. It’s just the way my mind works sometimes.

I seriously thought the teacher was nuts when she instructed each student in the class to walk up to the blackboard, one at a time, and write a word that could be used in place of the word, ‘said.’ And no one could use a word that had already been written.

Each one of us went up a few times and that board was filled with dozens upon dozens of ‘said substitutes.’

I suppose what brought it to mind is that, while rearranging my office this past weekend, I had to empty my file cabinet before it could be moved. And I saw the folder of my lists.

Yes, I have 4 1/2 pages (4 columns each) of alternate words for said. A very long, handwritten, alphabetized list that I wrote years ago. I’d forgotten I even had it. And don’t even know if I’ll ever use it again. I mean, Google is just so convenient! But I will hold onto it because it brings back some pretty nice memories.

I’d say that it brings back some not so nice memories, too, but you know what? Even writing my stories using a pen and notebook, then later on a typewriter, it was still a lot of fun. Maybe not the methods so much, but the creation of them was something I’ve always loved. And obviously still do.

So a note to you writers out there. Make your own list. Even if you never use it, it will make you aware of all the possibilities. It will also help you to avoid being repetitive in your writing. I mean, really, how many times can you use ‘said’ in your manuscript?

A lot if you’re not careful. So try to come up with at least one hundred substitutes. Sound overwhelming and impossible? Trust me, it’s not. Use an online thesaurus to help if you need to have your memory jogged.

***Just re-reading today’s blog to check for errors, I see that ‘lists’ seemed to be a theme for the day. I’d forgotten that I mentioned one when I started this earlier this morning.

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Hypothyroidism

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a couple of months ago and, while it’s a pain in the neck…in so many ways…it’s also been an opportunity to learn some interesting facts. Unfortunately many of those facts have been more than a little disturbing.

Have a headache? Take a couple of aspirin and the headache is gone (in most cases). Infection? Antibiotics will almost always take care of it. Broken leg? Six weeks in a cast and you’re good to go.

Problems with your thyroid? You’d think you could pop a pill and not have to worry about it. But that’s rarely the case, from what my research is showing. Doctors don’t seem to have much of a clue, so it’s mostly trial and error-with the thyroid patient in the position of an unlucky, frustrated guinea pig.

So when the suggestion was made to write a book about the experiences of real people dealing with thyroid issues I thought I’d really love to be involved in that.

If you have been diagnosed with hpyo- or hyperthyroidism, please send your story to me, using the contact link on this website. Stories may be edited for length if there is enough interest, resulting in an overabundance of submissions.

And so no one has to worry that I’m doing this for self-serving purposes, profits earned from the sale of the book would be donated to some sort of thyroid charity. I’m open to suggestions on where that money should go.

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“How I spent my weekend”

I started a project on Friday. It seemed like a pretty straightforward task, though not a particularly easy one. Rearrange and organize my office. Then tear out the icky beige carpet, exposing tile that should never have been covered in the first place. Why?

Well, for several reasons. First, it’s a whole lot of fun, I’m finding, to send my desk chair flying (with me in it, of course), from one side of the room to the other. Not that I actually knew about this benefit when I decided things had to be changed. It was just a very happy surprise. Not to mention the fact that this ability is coming in handy when I realize that something that needs to be on one set of shelves is on the other set. Zoom!

There was also the fact that after three years, it just kind of needed to be tackled. Dust, chaos, stuff that accumulates before you realize how bad it’s piled up. ‘Stuff’ being, specifically, paperwork.

I hate paperwork. I don’t like filing it. I don’t like sorting it. I don’t like looking at it. I need a secretary to deal with it for me, but that’s probably not gonna happen. And so I’m stuck with it. But, from the looks of things, I’ll be able to procrastinate and put it off for another three years or so.

The main reason I wanted to get my office rearranged and in order, though, was to free up a significant amount of floor space.

Why?

So I could start Pilates again. 

I have a love/hate relationship with Pilates. The program is very effective at getting you in shape. It’s also guaranteed to make you wish for some major pain killers, a hot tub and full body massages from a strong, good looking guy named Antonio. But I feel that my ‘get in shape’ campaign will work better if I add this nifty program to it, so I’m going to suck it up and just do it.

When I first started Pilates, I was a little leery. For one thing, I was still in physical therapy for injuries received in an accident (red light runner hit me). At the time, I still had trouble doing anything, much less anything that required me to get on the floor.

But, I was assured, I would be able to perform the exercises on a mat. That made me feel better, imaging the mats we used in my high school gymnastics classes. No, it wasn’t like a mattress, but they weren’t too bad, if memory served.

Oh, but nope. Pilates mats are a little different. In fact, to call a Pilates mat a mat is like comparing a biscuit to a tortilla. A Pilates mat is basically nothing more than a really long, very thin placemat. Probably about as padded and comfortable as one, too.

Still, I’m excited to get started again. There are a few exercises on my ‘Pilates For Dummies’ CD that I won’t be trying, because winding up in a body cast isn’t really high on my, ‘things I absolutely want to do,’ list, but most of it look good.

I’d say fun. But… Well, you know… It’s just…not.

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Misadventures In Home Ownership, Part 1

When I first started blogging, I had so few readers that I’ve decided to recycle some of the ones I wrote back then. Here’s the first in a three-part series, originally published on June 24, 2011. Hope you enjoy it.

After far too many years of renting, I have had some very eye-opening experiences over the past few months as a first time home owner. I’ve also discovered that some of these experiences are, well, something less than pleasant.

The most notable example having begun, and note that I said begun, not happened, on a Thursday night, as I was packing to leave for a three day weekend in Mackinaw City..

Or not.

Because, without the slightest bit of warning, the toilet in the main bathroom started backing up. Into the bathtub. Which was, to put it mildly…disgusting.

Thinking someone must have used just a little too much toilet paper (I‘m not classy enough to say bathroom tissue). I think to myself, ‘One of the kids can take care of that, and I’ll just keep packing.’ But I shortly after they started to plunge, I heard gurgling from my kitchen.

Aghast at the thought of some of that stuff backing up in my sink, the sink I wash my dishes in, I immediately grabbed the plunger that I keep in the kitchen and did some plunging of my own. Ah, togetherness…

During the short breaks to rest our arms, I was pouring baking soda and vinegar down the drains like mad.

Well…

Around two-thirty in the morning, after nearly four hours of trying to clear the drains, I realized that we can kiss the trip goodbye because, Houston, we’ve got a problem.

So instead of loading the van, first thing the next morning I called a friend who also lives in the country and explained what was going on. She thought it sounded like the septic tank needed to be pumped out. Great. We’re going to have to pay to have other people’s waste cleaned out of our tank. Even better, we bought that waste the day we bought the house.  Talk about a superfluous purchase!

So I whip out the phone book and discover that we have only two companies in the area that are into the most awful job I can conceive of. My hope was to get someone out right away in an effort to salvage most of the weekend.

The first woman was one of the nicest I’ve ever talked to. In fact, she was incredibly pleasant when she said they could squeeze us in sometime Tuesday morning.

I quickly started counting on my fingers because, having stayed up half the night dealing with the stuff nightmares are made of, I was more than a little punchy. Hmm. Four days away.

Given that we’ve got eau de latrine wafting through the house, courtesy of the cesspool in the bathtub, I’m thinking that Tuesday morning just wasn’t going to work for me.

So I quickly thanked her and called the other company. They only charged ten dollars more than their competition, and could be here that very afternoon.

All we have to do is dig up the access hole and remove the lid.

Umm…

What’s an access hole?

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Misadventures in homeownership, part 2

She was a big help there. Somewhere in the yard was a septic tank. And on the top of the tank was a lid. A lid that we’d have to find, expose and remove.

Yeah right. Like that information was in the reams of papers we signed when we bought the house. Not!

She suggested I make a trip to the county office. They’re supposed to have inspection records of things such as where your septic tank might be found. And sure enough, they did have the exact information I needed. They were even kind enough to print a diagram for me.

Are we in business or what!

We immediately headed for the hardware store to buy a dirt shovel, because sure as shooting the snow shovel wouldn’t be much help.

Turns out the dirt shovel wasn’t a whole lot of help either.

Apparently this house sits on some pretty hard dirt. More like clay. Or a combination of super glue, concrete and clay. All we could do was chip away at it. Actually the kids chipped away at it. I chipped twice and gave up.

My daughter thought it was great fun. The rest of us, on the other hand were fully aware that it wasn’t. But I guess like beauty, fun is in the eye of the beholder. And my eye didn’t behold it as even remotely close to fun.

After two and a half hours of my family taking turns, I ran back to town for a second shovel. The only progress at that point was a three foot square, ten inch deep hole. With no sign of the tank at all. At that rate I was afraid it would be about six months before we could schedule the appointment!

But the second shovel helped the whole process along and, after another couple of hours, there it was! The access hole.

Our elation quickly turned to dismay when we discovered that not only was it a thick concrete lid, the only handle, and I’m being very generous calling it a handle, was this curved, tiny, narrow metal thing. So narrow that the only way you could have worked two fingers in it side-by-side was if you happened to be that stretchy guy from the Fantastic Four. Or Casper. There was no way any of us would be able to grab it.

One brilliant suggestion was to rent a crane to get it off. I thought that might be overkill.

Finally we tried the claw part of the hammer, and the tip of one side fit in the small opening, only the lid wouldn’t budge. Some gentle tapping around the edge was all it took and voilà! The lid was removed.

Whoa!

I’d been in a few outhouses as a kid. A lot of roadside parks had them back then. And for those of you thinking that must have been around the turn of the last century, trust me, they’re still out there. And they will always smell bad. Really bad.

A septic tank with its lid off smells a lot worse though.

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Misadventures in Home ownership, part 3

I quickly called the second cleaning service back to let them know we finally got the lid off and they could come anytime. Uh-huh. Given it was now late afternoon, we’d have to wait until the next morning, sometime before noon.

It would only cost us another fifty bucks because the next morning happened to fall on a Saturday and weekend rates would go into effect then. Yippee.

The woman instructed us to put the lid most of the way back on. Not only would it prevent someone from accidentally falling in during the night (now there’s a peachy thought!), but it might also enable us to successfully flush the toilet until their guy arrived.

Didn‘t help even a little bit.  But at least no one fell in…

You can imagine that we were extremely relieved when the guy from the septic company finally finally arrived the next day. Barely before noon.

I knew right off that the young man wasn’t getting paid enough. It was right there to see, in the black stuffall over his clothes and skin.

Personally, I’d have liked to have driven somewhere far, far away, but bright girl that I am, I thought I’d play the nice, interested homeowner and stand on the porch while our tank was being sucked clean. Or as clean as a septic tank can get, which isn’t very clean at all.

Turns out the porch wasn’t the best place to be.

Actually, I’m not sure that Ohio would have been far enough away once he stuck the hose down in the hole and turned the suction switch on.

I can’t even begin to describe the stink that assaulted my nose.

And this guy was bent directly over the hole, without benefit of a gas mask or oxygen tank or anythingelse to filter the noxious odor that probably offended people for miles.

Still trying to fulfill my duties as the property owner, I tried to tough it out, slapping my hand over my nose and mouth. That might have been effective had I been holding a washcloth doused in Lysol. As it was, I could have inhaled my hand all the way up to my wrist and it wouldn’t have helped.

Apparently the septic tank man must have noticed because I saw him grinning from ear-to-ear. Most likely because I looked like an idiot.

I then tried pulling the neck of my tee shirt up thinking that my perfume might mask the odor a little but, wonder of wonders, that didn’t help either. That’s when I gave up trying to be a good homeowner and quickly fled into the house.

I wasn’t getting paid to breathe that kind of pollution. In fact, I was paying big bucks so that he could have that privilege!

Anyway…

The job is finally finished, lid back on the tank (oh thank God!), and the guy, with his nasty, black stained hands, says hang on, I’ll get your receipt.

What?

You’re going to touch my receipt with those hands…and you seriously think I’m going to take it?

But I did, briefly thinking I might take it to town and have it laminated so I could put it in my file box. Then I realized that would be a pretty rotten thing to do to anyone who used the machine after me, so I decided the canceled check would be all the proof I’d need and pitched the receipt in the trash.

And then it was time to flush the toilet and sanitize the bathtub. Oh yay.  Can’t tell you how thrilled I was to tackle that job…

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Something I did awhile back

Until the focused changed from writing to writing contests, I belonged to a writer’s group for a couple of years.  In fact, I was voted president the second year, amazingly enough. One of our assignments was to take a classic story and rewrite it.  This is what I chose to go with…

     Grumbling to himself, Papa Bear dragged his feet as he followed behind his wife and young son.  High cholesterol indeed!  Just because he was big boned (and quite a hunk, even if he did say so himself), didn’t mean for one moment that he needed to change his lifestyle.  Especially not on a perfectly good Sunday morning when he should be kicked back in his recliner reading the current issue of Hunting For Humans.

     But no….  Thanks to one of her busy-body friends, Mama now spent her time nagging him to take these miserable, early morning walks and cooking up low fat meals that tasted more like something he wouldn’t want to step in much less eat!

    “Time to head on back,” she announced, deciding that breakfast should have cooled enough by now. 

            Oh goody.  Porridge with skim milk.  Not even so much as a dab of butter to add a little flavor either.  Papa kicked at a stone in agitation. 

            Recalling a recent letter from Cousin Yogi, he thought there were definitely advantages to living in the wild.  But then Yogi was smarter than the average bear.  He, at least, had the good sense to remain a bachelor.  No interfering female insisting on houses and diets and exercise for him!  No, the lucky stiff had it made!

            “Look, Papa!” Baby gasped, pointing a claw toward their house.

            “I see,” Papa told him, clamping a paw over his snout.  “Hush.”

            The back door was wide open and he knew it had been latched it when they left.  Someone was…or had been in their house!  He crept cautiously inside, Mama and Baby hot on his heels.  Papa stopped abruptly and pointed to the bowls. 

          “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” he said, eyeing the bowl in disappointment. It was still pretty full from the looks of things.            

            “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” Mama told him.  Her bowl, as well, had hardly been touched.

            “Well someone has been eating my porridge,” Baby cried out, lifting the bowl and spoon to show them, “and they ate it all up!”

            “Must be nice!” Papa grumbled.  Mama fixed him with a stern glare, as the cub hurried to the other room.  Papa hightailed it after him.  Not so much because he feared for his offspring’s safety but because he feared another nagging session about the sacrifices she was making for the sake of his health.

            “Someone’s been sitting in my chair,” Papa said, stopping at the sight of muddy footprints in the huge seat of his recliner.

            “Someone’s been sitting in my chair,” Mama whined, because whoever sat there had mussed the pretty arm covers.

            “Someone’s been sitting in my chair,” Baby wailed, pointing to the floor.  “And they broke it all to pieces!”

            “Well, don’t get any ideas about sitting in mine,” Papa told him.  He had every intention of taking a well deserved nap once this mystery was cleared up.

            When junior tried to take off first this time Papa managed to grab him by the scruff of the neck and push him into the safety of Mama’s big, hairy arms.  This time the three marched quietly upstairs to see if their visitor had  completed the tour of their home.

            Uh-huh.

            “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,” Papa sighed, picking a strand of blond hair off his pillow.

            “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,” Mama said, hurrying to straighten the coverlet.

            “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,” Baby shouted, jumping up and down, pointing frantically at a human intruder.  “And there she is!”

            At the commotion the girl woke with a start and cried out in alarm.  She made a dash toward the window but Papa quickly stepped between her and the escape route.  Standing there with his paws on his hips he grinned a suspicious grin and shook his head.

            “Not so fast, young lady.”

            “Please, sir, you’re not going to hurt me are you?” the girl asked fearfully.

            “That depends on what you do in the next two seconds.”

            “I don’t know what you mean.”

            “You march yourself right back down those stairs and finish that porridge!  The stuff in the biggest bowl!”

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