Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hard Day's Work

There are days when nothing gets done. Nothing. And yet at the end of the day, it feels like I've run a marathon. I wonder why that is?

Isn't it strange how you can feel more tired from doing nothing than on those days you seem to be going, going, going? I also find that certain activities just plain wear me out. What would those be, you say?

Eating. I get up in the morning, take my meds, drink three glasses of water, have some hot herbal tea, check my e-mail and eat breakfast. By the time I finish eating, I'm ready for a nap. Same thing goes for lunch and dinner. Why is eating so exhausting? It must be all that work I do consuming those calories in cream of wheat and yogurt and toast.

Reading. I wonder how many calories you burn while reading a book? Every three or four chapters I have to rest my eyes. After my twenty-to-thirty minute "rest", then I can go back to reading the book. Of course, if it's an exciting action adventure, I might only make it through two chapters before resting.

Watching someone else work. I have no idea why it should be so, but watching someone else work is almost as exhausting as doing the work yourself. My daughter occasionally gets into one of these cleaning fits and by the time she finishes, I'm exhausted. She just seems to be energized. Why would that be?

What are the non-work things that exhaust you?


Friday, February 26, 2010

No Joke!

Part of the retirement process is filling out hundreds of forms. Forms. Forms. More forms. Making decisions and filling out more forms. If we were paid by the form, we'd be rich enough to retire. Oh, I forgot...that's why we're filling out forms!

Forms are not enough, though. You have to have supporting documentation. It's not enough that you worked for a company for thirty nine years. Now you have to prove who you are. And that you're married. And who your spouse is.

So. Birth certificates and marriage certificates are required to accompany the stack of forms. Um, we don't have more than one so we had to order extra certified copies.

When you live outside the state you were born in and you need your birth certificate or marriage certificate stat, you pay big time. There's an online company, VitaCheck that handles all the middleman stuff such as accepting the payment via credit card. And believe me, they make it pay--for them.

We ordered five birth certificates for the house hunk and five marriage certificates both from Illinois. Total cost? Ninety dollars. We shrugged and figured that was it for the time being. Then when we started filling out the pension papers, we discovered that my birth certificate was required.

Now I was born in Arizona. And Arizona has this peculiar requirement for ordering a birth certificate. You have to provide proof of identity. This requires a signed form, accompanied by a copy of your driver's license, then scanned into the computer and uploaded to the site. All right. I did that. And then paid forty-eight dollars for two birth certificates.

This morning UPS called. They have a delivery from VitaCheck that they will only deliver if someone is home to sign the delivery slip. Yep, that would be my Arizona birth certificates.

It's a sad day when it's almost cheaper to go pick up the birth certificates in person! And trust me. If we're ever in the area, we'll make sure we stop in at the Vital Records office long enough to pick up some extra copies. Who knows what else we'll need them for?

So after an investment of one hundred and fifty dollars, we're ready to finish filing the papers. Someday, our first pension check will arrive. Someday...

On a different note, today is my last day at Whipped Cream Reviews. Today I'm writing about friendship. Take a moment and drop by to add your thoughts!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Things to do today...

On this day...
Keep a promise.
Search out a forgotten friend.
Encourage someone.
Mend a quarrel.
Forget an old grudge.
Fight for a principle.
Express your gratitude.
Overcome an old fear.
Take two minutes to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Tell someone you love them.
Tell them again.
And again.



All week I'm over at Whipped Cream Reviews! Please drop by and say Hi! anny

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Busy!

Have you ever noticed that you can be walking around or doing the dishes or folding laundry and no one says a word to you--not even to acknowledge you're alive--yet the minute you sit down with a book, everyone in the apartment has something they urgently need to discuss with you? Why is that?

You can spend the morning playing games on the computer and no one needs your input, but the minute you open up your work in progress three people have questions that must be immediately answered. Why is that?

You sit down to lunch and the phone rings. It hasn't made a peep all morning. Why is that? Bad timing? What?

I haven't quite figured out why it works, but it's as inevitable as the sunrise. I've learned to plan on it. Answer the questions, finish the discussions, take care of the phone call and then get back to whatever I was doing because none of them are going away. But I find it interesting that it always seems to work that way. What about you? How do you handle it?

All week I'm in the Spotlight over at Whipped Cream Reviews. Drop by and check it out!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sleeping Mode

Zzzzzz. Apparently, I'm still in sleeping mode. Haven't slept this much...since I don't know when. Anyway, I get up. Have my meds and breakfast. And take a nap.

Sometimes I think about one of my wips, but when I open them up, there just isn't anything going on in my head. It's still on nap time. Not even planning seems to be in the cards. Feel like I'm not exactly the sharpest crayon in the box.

After my nap, I shower. Have lunch. And take a nap.

Wake up. Check my e-mail. Read a couple blogs. Talk to my grandchildren when they come home from school. By six o'clock it's time for another nap. Dinner happens somewhere in there. Jeopardy. Wheel of Fortune.

And it's time for bed.

It's supposed to get better. In the meantime, I have a cast-iron reason to sleep around the clock, so hey! Take what you can get, I say. And enjoy it while it's here. I'm sure I'll get back to the too-long days with not enough sleep soon enough.

Off to take that nap.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday!

Yesterday my dad turned EIGHTY! Happy Birthday, Dad! I really, really, really didn't forget! Honest!


Friday, February 19, 2010

Scent of Home

We don't often talk about the importance of scents in setting a scene. Oh, some writers might mention the heroine's perfume. Or the scents from candles in the bedroom. But what about the other aspects of life?

In my childhood, the scent of the Old Spice my grandfather wore was deeply comforting. That was the signal that all was well with my life. The scent of lavender on sheets and quilts wasn't just aromatherapy. It was the smell of home. The scents of the sweetpeas and four-o'clocks outside my open window curled through the air in summer.

In winter, the steaming pot of pinto beans and sage and cornbread in the oven are a comfort like no other. The mouth waters in anticipation as incredible smells mingle in the kitchen.

When I was sick with a cold back when I was a kid, the odor of the menthol ointment smeared on my chest and under my nose was the signal that I would finally be able to sleep. Funny...I still take comfort in that same scent when I'm sick.

So much of our lives are defined by scents from the very beginning. Well before we can see, we can identify our mothers by smell. And somewhere along the line, this most important sense aids us in making decisions as we go through life.

Have you ever met someone you couldn't quite like? And you couldn't figure out why?'s something in the air--something you aren't even aware of. Yet, the subtle sense is telling you things about the other person.

Perhaps we need to add a few more smells to our stories...


Thursday, February 18, 2010


No, not the kind you wear in your hair. This kind. You know that very strange Olympic sport? The one that's a cross between bowling and shuffleboard? Yep, that one.

From the first time I saw curling on television I was fascinated with the minds that conceived such an interesting game. Of course, I could say the same for some of the other very strange competitions in winter sports. Of all of them, the biathalon makes the most sense to me.

The other thing I find intensely interesting on earth do people find their way to the odder sports? Do they just wake up one day and say, "I believe I'll take up bobsledding?"

I don't know. But for two weeks every four years we watch and marvel at the incredible variety of winter sports.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cabin Fever

The last day the kids went to school was Friday, February 5th. Of the twelve days since then, there have been four possible days that the kids could play outside. That leaves eight days--eight days of unplanned, restricted activity. Cabin fever doesn't begin to describe it.

When the ticker line for school closings started scrolling across the TV screen, there was a state-wide parental groan. "NO!" But it turned out it wasn't so bad. Two hour delays for the rest of the week.

It's difficult when kids are home for even a couple of days. Usually parents fall back on the standbys of mall walking or a trip to McD's. But when the snow is higher than the car fenders, those options are out. That's when tempers flare and the movies are pulled out.

Movies only last so long. I can now quote every line for Shrek, Atlantis, Transformers, Star Trek... yeah, you get it.

Today the kids go back to school. And when the last one is on the bus, parents and caregivers all over the area will breathe a deep sigh, hoist their cups of java, and toast the plow drivers far and wide. Peace at last.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Promo in Odd Places

Life is funny. Intentions are so much tissue paper when you're sick. My daughter, granddaughters and I had planned a glamour girls night last week on Super Bowl Sunday while the guys were down at my neighbors watching the game. Alas, both my daughter and I were suffering with sick bellyaches. So the normal waxing of chins/coloring of hair didn't happen.

Then I went off to the hospital and that's all she wrote. By the time I spent a week there I was beginning to look like a beatnik George Carlin. Just stop a moment and savor that image. Pony tail. Gray beard. Wonderful.

Nevertheless, when various people asked me what I did for a living I blurted out that I wrote erotic romances. That was usually a big conversation stopper. For a moment. And then there were the inevitable questions.

For real? How did you get started? How many books do you have? How long have you been writing?

One doctor--the cardiologist--came back to my room because he tried to Google me and couldn't find me. He was spelling my name with an "ie" instead of "y". I was on the phone with my neighbor at the time so heard her running commentary about selling books on my death bed while I found one of my cards to give to the good doctor.

Additional fascination came when flowers and a balloon bouquet arrived from various author friends--literally from around the world. You know in conversation your nurse or aide says something like "pretty flowers". You say they came from "so-and-so in Australia" or "so-and-so in Texas and Michigan" and you're off and running because there's intense interest right there. More than once I mentioned the bookcase I have on my website with links to my author friends.

Promo is where you are. I seldom worry about making an opportunity because people are naturally curious. If you mention that you write, they want to know about it.

Now having said that...I certainly imagine that all romance authors took a big hit on the glamour scale after they dealt with me! Tough to envision me in a pink feathered boa and high heels...


Monday, February 15, 2010

Lost Week

A week ago the Super Bowl was just over. Winners were celebrating. Losers were commiserating. And life was going on. In the past week the Olympics started, a new Afghan offensive was launched, a blizzard visited much of the East coast dumping copious amounts of snow on the countryside, and in upstate New York a young man loosely connected to my family was murdered.

All of that occurred at a distance for me, though. I had my own crisis to deal with, much of the time without my family at hand because of that previously mentioned blizzard.

On Monday, after suffering all night with abdominal pain, I went off to see my doctor who promptly sent me to the hospital for a cat scan and evaluation. She truly expected it to be a diagnosis of appendicitis. The answer that came back wasn't that simple. As I sat in the ER, a doctor gravely explained my diagnosis and options. I had a serious abscess in my colon. The first step would be massive doses of IV antibiotics. If that didn't work, then they would try surgery with the real possibility of a colostomy.

And just that quickly my life narrowed down to the world contained in my hospital room. Funny how you adapt to new circumstances when your life is at stake.

The hunk made it back to the hospital with some of my essentials right before the storm. I think it's telling that my computer wasn't one of them. Urging him to get home before the snow hit, I sent him off and settled down to sleep through the next three days, distantly aware of the outside world. Inside my room where the nurses and aides came and went with brisk efficiency, where doctors appeared in a bewildering array, where I struggled to get comfortable in a very uncomfortable bed, life out there stopped.

As I think of the last week, there are a series of snapshots of the people who worked to keep me going.

The surgeon who drove into the storm--sliding his car in a snow bank and finishing the journey in a police car--so he would be there if things went bad and I had to be rushed into surgery.

Towanda, the aide who held my dignity in gentle hands as she cleaned me from waist to ankles after I had an accident at six AM, repeatedly assuring me that "these things happen".

The wonderful technicians, Rose and Lauren, who performed the same service after a truly awful test that combined an enema with an x-ray. They even gifted me with a plastic pool that I sat in on the wheel chair on my way back to my room--just in case. They called it the Barbie pool.

Murdoch, the young man who wheeled me back and forth to the test. He told me I was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Knowing very well, I was a true thing of beauty, I asked him why. And he said, "You're smiling. I wasn't so happy this morning, but you're smiling. I'm gonna go home to count my blessings."

Konstantino, my young nurse who came in on the night shift. We talked about how he liked America. Then he slyly shared the fact that his mother-in-law who still lived in the Philippines had arrived a little over two weeks ago for a visit--because she was curious about snow. We had a belly laugh about that while thinking she must have her curiosity well satisfied with fifty-plus inches of the white stuff on the ground!

When a state of emergency was declared in Baltimore (and NO ONE was permitted on the roads) the hospital staff bedded down on army cots, rotating through shifts as necessary. In difficult circumstances, it's easy to lose tempers, but everyone I dealt with was kind and patient. My hat is off to them.

Late Friday afternoon my surgeon came in and asked if I would like to go home. You may imagine how excited I was to get back to my family and my own bed. It turned out it wasn't going to be quite that easy. I had one more IV antibiotic to take--and it was the four hour one. So I didn't get home until nine PM. But I was home!

There are still challenges. I have a yeast infection in my mouth. My "diet" is severely restricted. I sleep all the time. And I'm on two oral antibiotics. It was a pretty scary week. But the sun is shining. And the snow is very slowly melting. And I can take a shower whenever I want to...

I have a raft of wonderful friends and family who kept my spirits up, calling me from across the country and around the world, because they knew the house hunk couldn't possibly be there. They sent flowers and balloons and encouraging messages that my daughter read to me over the phone. Two friends who concluded a missing blog meant I was in trouble called my house in alarm. I want to thank every one of you. You don't know what your loving attentions meant.

Life is good.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Anny will not be blogging for the rest of the week due to being hospitalized. If you would like to send her a message please put it in the comments so I can read them to her over the phone.
- J (Anny’s Daughter)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Reading for a Snowy Saturday!

Blizzard January 5-6, 2010. Parking lot early on Saturday morning. Still snowing...
"I know it is still early, but this book is the funniest I've read so far this year and probably will remain at the top of the list until next year. I laughed all the way through.

Drusilla is asked to take care of her niece's goldfish while the little girl is away and the fish winds up dying. Afraid of hurting her young niece's feelings Drusilla goes on a quest to find a new fish that looks exactly the same, only to find that someone else was purchasing the exact one she wanted.

The rest of the book is a comedy come to life with lots of great sex in the middle. As Drusilla gets to know Cormack, the man who also wants to purchase the fish, and their relationship sores. Kudos to Amarinda, who is a fabulous writer of books, and blogs alike."~~Romance Book Scene, Roni

"Inspiration comes to us in the strangest ways. Although I never met Lara Punches, her love of life and all creatures great and small inspired me to write this book. Some people, without knowing it, shed light and wisdom in simple, quiet ways and lead others on to achieve. Thank you, Lara," was the dedication that Amarinda wrote in her new book "Pet Me".

Lara was the daughter of Martha Punches, a staff member in charge of Ellora’s Cave/Cerridwen Press customer service, Amarinda's publisher. When Lara died early last year there was a lot of talk on the web about her passing and about the wonderful young woman Lara was. Several
Ellora’s Cave/Cerridwen Press authors have dedicated their books to Lara this year as a way of honoring her and her family and helping her family pay for the hospital bills.

Besides all those wonderful reasons, it's a great story. On this snowy, cold day it's the perfect book to curl up with and keep warm. Click on the book cover to buy. Click on the pale green words to read the rest of the review!

Oh, yeah. It's still snowing here in Baltimore! Twenty inches and counting!


Friday, February 5, 2010

The Great Blizzard of 1967

Today supposedly the blizzard to end all blizzards will arrive in our area. Forecasters are declaring an expectation of 18-30" in some places. Bah. Let me tell you a little story...

Back in my day, of course the forecasting was a bit iffier. On January 24, 1967, it was a balmy 60 F degrees in Chicago. The forecast for the 26th (mid-year graduation day for Chicago high schools) was possibly light snow up to four inches. Now in Chicago, that wasn't anything to even notice. Four inches? Bah.

On the morning of the 26th, I dressed and headed off to school. Strictly speaking there was no school that day as it was a combined teacher in-service day and graduation day. But the choir sang at the graduation so I went in to set up the chairs on the risers. It was snowing at a moderate rate.

My parents weren't going to be home that evening after the graduation so I made arrangements to stay with a friend across the street from the school.

At school, the choir officers--President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary (that was me!)--trooped down to the auditorium to set up the chairs. The AV guys were down there setting up the PA system. Officers from the orchestra were setting up in the pit. It was a noisy, bustling scene.

Around noon we went back up to the choir room to get our coats. Our intent was to walk the three blocks up to a popular kosher hot dog stand and buy lunch. Polite kids that we were, we asked our choir teacher if she wanted anything. And she was the one who suggested we look out the window before embarking on our trip.

There was already about a foot of snow on the ground!

After some consultation, the guys decided they would go as we girls were all dressed in skirts. Slacks were not permitted until two years later. So in my day, we generally froze while walking to school. There was no bus system other than the CTA buses.

The guys waded through the snow to fetch lunch. The owners of the stand were getting ready to close up and go home so they packed everything they had left and sent it with the guys in case anyone else was hungry.

By three o'clock, there were serious issues on the streets. Most of the smaller streets were already impassable. Many of the main streets were rapidly getting there. And the freeways were a giant parking lot of abandoned cars.

I made my way across the street to my friend's house. Her mom made sure I had a hot dinner. We watched the spotty coverage on the television until the power went out. Then her father walked me back across the street to the school.

Just about half of the choir, orchestra, and graduating students were able to make it to the school. Some of the choir and orchestra students were stuck for hours on the elevated train. There were some teachers stuck overnight at the school. Buses, trains, cars all were unable to drive as the snow steadily deepened.

The next day when it finally stopped, the official measurement was 29 inches of snow. In the middle of the street where I lived, we had 32 inches. For the first time in living memory, the schools closed for weather. I didn't make it home until four days later.

Then began the great dig out. There were snow tunnels everywhere. Kids were playing on top of the cars. A deep freeze came down out of Canada and froze the snow so hard it was like concrete.

My middle brother chose that week to run away. The cops picked up him and his friend walking down the center of the closed Interstate.

Two of the pictures above are from that blizzard. Funny, but after living through that, somehow the rest of the storms don't seem so impressive. Who knows? Maybe today's storm will impress the heck out of me. I'll let you know how it measures up!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Side Effects...

Until my daughter's family came to stay, I seldom watched television, usually reserving my TV time for things like the Olympics and such. It's been a while since I watched commercials.

First of all. Commercials for sanitary products, feminine hygiene, erectile dysfunction? Why? It would be bad enough if such commercials were late at night after kids were in bed. But during the so-called family hours? Ick.

Second of all. Who in their right mind would ever take medication again after watching the commercials? Or doesn't anyone pay any attention to the long list of side effects the spokespersons rattled off during the commercial. The are bizarro. Many of them list death in the possible side effects. Ummm, why? Why would anyone take the medicine?

"If you take this medicine, you make cease to breath, throw up, have diarrhea, go blind, become impotent, and develop a rash..."

"Oh, yeah, you might also start to see strange pink shaded visions."

And if you notice, the medicine people are all earnest and concerned until they get to that point and then they get all chirpy and smiley. That smile worries me. That's the kind of smile psychopaths get right before they brain you with an axe.

And the topper? They tell you if you can't afford your medication, they can help. Well, if you're so anxious for us to take your pills, why don't you make them cheaper to begin with!!!

I've come to the conclusion that our youngsters are maturing faster because of the hormones in the food and water. How do we know what's in our food and water? Really? And if the stuff in our food could affect our kids, then how do we know it's not affecting us? Think about it. We're having an obesity epidemic. And significant numbers of women over forty have thyroid problems. And another significant number are suffering from other hormone problems. What's up with that?

It's no wonder we can't figure out what's wrong. I think I would have to quit taking every bit of my medication before a blood test would give accurate results. Boo hiss!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Snow * * * * *

It's snowing. Again. It's supposed to snow again on Friday. And next week. This is the time of year when people start reaching their snow limit. You know--that time when they declare they can't take it any more?

The thing is--why? I get the general messiness of it all. The solution would seem to be just stay home. In the last years of my husbands employment, he deliberately kept back a few vacation days just so he could stay home. After all, the kids end up with snow days. Someone should stay home with them.

Do I sound simplistic? Actually, I've been there. I had four kids. Some days it wasn't practical to stay home, but most of the time it seemed to me more important to be safely home with the kids than risking my life on the road.

But if it isn't practical, then make sure you have the car snow proofed. Blanket, extra socks and shoes, hats and gloves, bottles of water, food bars, shovel and salt. Take your time driving. Better to arrive late than not at all.

If you're home, open all the curtains and blinds. Make a pot of soup. Maybe make fresh bread or cookies. Put on some music. Turn on the lights. Play a game with the kids. Invite the neighbor over for coffee or hot chocolate.

So much of SADS is not only the lack of light, but the isolation. What is it about a gray day that makes us curl up and withdraw? That's the very time we need to cozy up with a friend or loved one and enjoy their company.

And remember that all the snow that falls in the winter will be the very thing that decks our spring in color and scent.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Details, details.

Yesterday I spent the day doing research. Research is kind of like going down the rabbit hole. One fact leads to another totally unrelated fact and soon you're researching weird things way out in the swamp where you had no intention of going.

I suppose that's why it's called surfing. You're reading an article that mentions some other facet of your subject and includes a link so you just can't resist clicking...and you're off and running.

Anyway, today I researched locks and dams. The watery kind. On the Monongahela River. I had nooooo clue that the river from Pittsburgh to the West Virginia line is a long string of locks and dams. Now if my hero travels that river, he's going to have to deal with the locks and dams--or he's going to have to hop out of the river periodically and port around the locks or dams. That's a good thing to know.

Unless your book is set in a totally imaginary setting, then the devil is in the details. Which way does the river flow? That will determine which way the water flows over the dams. How many locks are there? Where are they located? Those are things the author needs to know, even if they don't mention them in the book.

One of my critique partners read my current work in progress and pointed out a deficit in the writing. In twenty-seven thousand words, I really had not explained, described, or introduced the hero. Oh, I used his name, but not how he came by it. I described him in a cursory fashion. But I didn't give the reader a single clue about his character or personality or what events shaped his life. Nothing at all about those things that made him who he was.

When I started exploring my hero, I found I didn't know much about him either. So I'll be spending this week getting to know him. So far, he's a pretty nifty person to know. He's strong and gentle, responsible and afraid, laughs easily and is willing to cry. Who knows what else I'll find out about him?

As I peel back the layers, new avenues of research will open up and I'll be haring off, trying to discover which facts are important and which ones aren't. When I start writing next week, I'll have most of the background in place. And then, it will be BICHOK until I finish the book.

Details. Details.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Friend Found

For several years I've posted a Christmas story about a friend who blessed my family on a lonely Christmas Eve. If you want to read the story you can find it here.

Over the years I lost touch with my friend, Linda. Though I searched diligently, I just couldn't seem to make a connection. Then this year on Christmas Eve, I typed her name in on Facebook. Boy was I shocked when I realized I was looking at my friend!

It took a few more days to make that solid connection. Last Friday I called her and we had a long conversation on the telephone. Wow. In a lot of ways, it was as though we talked just the week before. Funny how that happens sometimes, isn't it?

So this Christmas I celebrated a friend lost--and found.