The February Report

Well, as it turned out, my February progress was actually worse than January’s.  And since I didn’t get much of any of my 2015 goals started in January, that must mean I was actually going backward last month!

Actually, February was slightly better… with emphasis on the “slightly.”  I did manage to finally get rid of that awful respiratory thing that was kicking my butt, but only long enough to over-extend my generosity yet again, bite off more than I can chew with no idea of how to back out gracefully, and find myself sick once more!

So, as it turns out, I’ve been losing at least one out of every three meals a day for the past two weeks, and have developed a horrible croupy sounding cough that is only getting worse.  (Which is why I end up puking when a coughing jag comes on, usually at night time.)  Yuck!

Worse yet, a couple of weeks ago, I injured my back and was unable to move for several days, at least not without excruciating pain.  Thankfully that’s almost back to normal now, but the coughing has me tense all over and sore everywhere.

So, my writing has gone nowhere, my editing is non-existent right now, my running goals have not budged, and though I have managed to make a little more money than I usually see this time of year, I physically feel like crap, and worse yet, I feel guilty that I am never home to blog with you all!  I hope you’ll hang in there with me while I get it together.

Time to talk:  So how are you doing on your new year’s goals?  Have you ever been sick, recovered, then gotten sick again in less than two months?  How have you backed out of a commitment when you realized you couldn’t handle it all plus your own life?

Mother – Part Two

Today, we learn the fate of our friends introduced to you in yesterday’s Micro-Fiction Monday.

*     *     *

“MOTHER”
Part Two
By: Rachel A. Carrera

Later that afternoon, as Mother napped, Nikki reviewed the nanny cam footage of the previous night.  As soon as Mother’s show ended, she started calling.  That’s three calls in five minutes.  I turned off my phone by then.  A few minutes later, Mother was still calling.  I can’t believe this.  She’s blowing up the phone line trying to reach me.  Finally, Mother took a hammer from the kitchen drawer and actually hit herself in the wrist.  Nikki gasped.  “How could she do this to herself?  How could she do this to me?”  Her hands shook as she stopped the video.  “She never fell at all.”

She jumped when her phone rang.  She looked at the number.  “It’s Jason.  I can’t deal with him now.  I need to figure out what to do about Mother.  She’ll never let me be happy and live my own life.  I feel like I’m being held hostage.”

“Nikki!  I need help getting out of bed!”

Nikki huffed.  “I’ll be right there, Mother.”  She sighed and rolled her eyes.  This just stinks.

As Mother watched Nikki prepare dinner, she smiled.  “Isn’t this nice, just the two of us?”

Nikki bit her lip.  “Yeah.  It’s going to be just the two of us for quite a while.  You’ve chased another one off, Mother.”

Mother furrowed her brow.  “What?  What are you talking about?”

Nikki spun around, her face red.  “I’m talking about how manipulative you are!  Ever since I moved back home, you haven’t let me have one date without calling to get me to come home early.  It’s like you want me all to yourself.  Don’t you want me to be happy?”

Mother stuck her nose in the air.  “Well, I didn’t realize you were so miserable here with me.”

Nikki squeezed her eyes shut.  “Don’t give me that martyr routine, Mother.  I videotaped you last night.  You injured your wrist on purpose!  How could you?”

Mother blushed and looked down.  “Please push me to my bedroom.  I’m not hungry anymore.”

Nikki scowled.  “So you refuse to even discuss this?”

Mother put her hand to her head.  “Please get one of my headache pills.  I feel a migraine coming on.”

Nikki sighed and swiped her hands over her face.  “Fine, Mother.  You win.”  She got the pills and a glass of water, then helped Mother to bed.  As she got ready for bed herself, she checked her voicemail.  Jason called eight times.  Oh, I wish things could have been different.  He’s really a special guy.

She soon fell asleep.  Her sleep was fitful, and she was plagued with nightmares.  Shortly after dawn, she woke up and went to the bathroom.  She rummaged through the medicine cabinet looking for some aspirin, and an idea occurred to her.  That’s it.  Seven years is long enough.  I can’t take this anymore.  Why should I have to give up my own life completely to care for an invalid?  She found a bottle of Vicodin and a bottle of OxyContin, and emptied the bottles into a tissue.  She took them to the kitchen and ground the pills into powder, then dumped the powder into Mother’s tea kettle.  I love you, Mother, but I have to live my own life.  I’m sorry.  Her thoughts were soon interrupted.

“Nikki, I need help going to the bathroom!”

Nikki sighed.  “Yes, Mother.”  After she helped Mother dress, she brushed Mother’s hair.  “I have to go into work today and pick up the files I’ll need to work at home.  I hope you’ll be okay for a few hours alone.”

Mother smiled.  “You’re a good daughter.  Don’t worry about me.  I’ll be fine.”

On her way out the door, Nikki put the phone high up on top of a curio cabinet where Mother couldn’t reach it to call for help.  “Goodbye, Mother.”

*     *     *

A couple of hours later, Mother’s doorbell rang.

Mother looked toward the door. “Who is it?”

“Ma’am, it’s Jason Marchette.  I’m Nikki’s boyfriend.  Can we talk?”

Mother smiled.  “Come on in, son.  I can’t get to the door.”

When Jason came in, he smiled and took off his coat.  “Do you mind if we talk for a while, Mrs. Nesbitt?”

Mother smiled.  “No, I’d love the company.  In fact, if you don’t mind, why don’t you push me to the kitchen, and put my kettle on to boil.  We’ll have some tea.”

Jason complied.  As they waited for the water to boil, he sat across from Mother.  “Mrs. Nesbitt, I love your daughter more than anything.  I was planning on asking her to marry me.  I want you to know that if she agrees, I’ll always have a place for you in our home.  I know you must get lonely here all by yourself.”

The tea kettle whistled, and Mother looked to the stove.  “Can you please grab us a couple of teabags?  The cups are above the sink.”

Jason prepared two cups and poured the water from the kettle.  He sat back down and smiled.  “So what do you think?”  He sipped his tea.

Mother nodded.  “Jason, I think you’re a fine young man.  Nikki’s lucky to have you.  I know you must think I’ve been an awful burden these past couple of months that you’ve been dating, but I really didn’t mean to be.  I was so lonely after Nikki’s father died and she left home.  And then when I had my accident, I guess I just felt good and sorry for myself.”  She sighed.  “I know Nikki’s been frustrated with me, but she’s a good daughter, and I know she’ll be a good wife.  The truth is, I’m afraid I’ve prevented her from finding any happiness.  I’ve been selfish.  She told me as much last night, and she was right.  In fact, before you came here today, I was planning on killing myself so that she could be free to date and have her own life.  It’s not fair that she’s had to give up so much to take care of a lonely old woman.”

Jason made a gurgling noise as he fell to the floor.  His empty cup fell from his hand.

Mother gasped and knocked over her teacup.  “Mr. Marchette!  Mr. Marchette, what’s wrong?”

Jason’s eyes rolled back in his head as he started convulsing.

Mother’s eyes grew large.  “Oh, no!  Where’s my phone?”  She painstakingly rolled over to the base of her phone and pushed the locator button.  She heard the ring come from the top of her curio cabinet.  She looked up and saw the phone antenna sticking over the edge.  Her head turned as she heard a wheeze.

Jason gasped one last time for air as his convulsions stopped.  His beautiful blue eyes stared blankly at the ceiling, and his body was still.

*     *     *

THE END

Time to talk:  If you were Jason, would you have insisted on meeting Mother before now?  If you were Nikki, would you have moved out of Mother’s house before things went this far?

Happy Birthday Theodore Geisel & Desi Arnaz!

Today marks the birthday of two wonderful authors who I absolutely adore.  The first is Theodore Geisel.  Theodore Geisel, born on March 2, 1904, was better known to his fans as Dr. Seuss.  He published forty-six children’s books under this pen name.

It is a little known fact that we have apparently been pronouncing his name wrong all these years!  As a matter of fact, Seuss rhymes with voice not goose… because he didn’t want to be confused with Mother Goose.  One of his friends even wrote a poem to help people remember:

You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice.

Mr. Geisel was unusual for a writer in that he preferred to be paid after his work was complete rather than in advance.  Furthermore, he was a perfectionist, and often took as long as a year to complete a single book, frequently discarding up to ninety-five percent of it as he went along.

Mr. Geisel died or oral cancer on September 24, 1991, at his home in La Jolla, California, at the age of 87.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Another author’s birthday we celebrate today is that of Desi Arnaz.  Yes, I’m talking about the actor, musician and producer who was married to Lucille Ball.  Oh, you didn’t know he was an author?  Yes, he penned his autobiography, simply entitled A Book, which was published in 1976.  It was an immediate success.

In 1974, when he agreed to write his memoirs, his family and friends were shocked, as he never even enjoyed writing a letter.  When the outline for A Book was planned, Desi found that he had enough material to fill two books.  The first went through 1960, when he and Lucille Ball divorced.  However when it became time for the second book to be written, which was to be entitled Another Book, Desi decided that he enjoyed living life more than writing about it.

Mr. Arnaz was born on March 2, 1917 in Cuba, and died of lung cancer at the age of 69, on December 2, 1986, in Del Mar, California.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Arnaz!

Time to talk:  What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book?  What is your favorite Desi Arnaz role?  Do you have a favorite I Love Lucy episode?

Mother – Part One

It’s time for another Micro-Fiction Monday.  Because today’s story is a little longer than normal, I’ll be dividing it in two.  You can find Part Two here tomorrow.  Now don’t be afraid…  This is only fiction…

*     *     *

“MOTHER”
Part One
By: Rachel A. Carrera

Nikki smiled as she sipped her wine.  I can’t believe I’m actually on a fifth date with Jason and Mother hasn’t chased him away yet.  She looked across the table.  His cerulean blue eyes are perfect.  Just then, her cellphone rang.  She grimaced.  Great.  It’s starting already.  She looked at her phone.  “Excuse me.  Hello.  …Yes, Mother.  …Yeah, I told you when I left that Jason and I would be out late.  …Yes, I know, but…  …But…”  She sighed.  “Okay.  I’ll get there as soon as I can.  Bye.”  She frowned as she disconnected the call.

Jason smiled.  “Is everything okay?”

Tears welled in her eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I need to get home.  My mother’s afraid all by herself.  She thinks she hears noises.”

He nodded.  “I understand.  It can’t be easy for her being in a wheelchair.”

She dabbed her eyes with a linen napkin.  “I know.  It’s not easy for me caring for an invalid, either.  I had my own life when I lived in Manhattan, but after her accident seven years ago, I felt so guilty about her living alone, I came back here to Syracuse to take care of her.”

He stood and helped her with her coat.  He smiled.  “Well, it’s lucky for me that you are such a loyal daughter.  Otherwise, we may never have met.”  They walked toward the door.

She took a deep breath.  “I’m the lucky one.  I’m lucky that you’ve stuck around as long as you have.  Mother’s usually chased every other guy away by the third date.  She wants me all to herself.”

He held the car door open for her.  “She’s just lonely.  I’m sure she wants you to be happy.”  He got in the car and started driving.

She sighed.  He has no idea just how controlling Mother can be.

He walked her to the door of her house and kissed her, then tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.  “Do you want to go to a movie tomorrow?”

She smiled.  “I’d love to.”

He nodded.  “I’ll call you.  Goodbye.”  He turned and jogged back to his car.

She walked inside.  “Mother, I’m home.  You can relax now.”

Mother smiled and wheeled her chair up to the kitchen table.  “Good.  I’ve just put the kettle on to boil.  We can have some tea and play gin rummy.”

Nikki scowled.  “You want to play cards?  I thought you were frightened.”

Mother nodded.  “Well, I feel safe now that you’re here, dear.”

*     *     *

A month later, as Nikki and Jason started their third frame of bowling, her cellphone rang.  She rolled her eyes.  “Ugh.  I’m sure it’s Mother with another excuse to get me home.  I’m not going to take the call.”

Jason furrowed his brow.  “Honey, you should take it.”

She shook her head and hit the ignore button on her phone.  “No.  She’s interrupted every single date we’ve ever had.  I can’t believe you’ve put up with it for this long.  She’s driving me crazy.”

Moments later, her phone rang again.  She rolled her eyes and hit ignore.

Jason shook his head.  “You really should take that.  It might be an emergency.”

She turned off the phone.  “It’s not.  You know, a few days ago, I borrowed a friend’s nanny cam and set it up in my living room.  Last night, I watched all the footage.  Mother watches TV as soon as we leave.  And as soon as a show comes on that she doesn’t like, she wheels over to the phone and makes up excuses to call me so I’ll come home.  I’m not falling for it.”

He sighed.  “I just don’t want you to do something you might regret.  We can always have a date at your house so she feels included.  Or we can bring her along sometimes.”

She put her hands in the air.  “No way.  Don’t give her any ideas.  Besides, I was thinking that tonight, we might go back to your place.”  She batted her eyelashes.

He raised his eyebrows.  “Oh, really?  Hmm, now there’s a good idea.”  He kissed her and stood to bowl.

*     *     *

The following morning, as Nikki pulled into her driveway, she gasped when she saw a driver helping Mother out of a cab and into her wheelchair.  She ran to the taxi.  “What’s going on?”

Mother held up a bandaged wrist.  “I fell out of my chair last night and sprained my wrist.  I thought it was broken.  I tried to call you, but when you didn’t answer, I called an ambulance.”

Nikki gasped.  “What?  Oh, Mother, I’m so sorry.  My phone battery must have died.”  She pushed Mother toward the house.

Mother nodded.  “Mmm hmm.  Well, at least you’re here with me now.  The doctor says I’ll need round-the-clock care until this heals.”

Nikki gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes closed.  “Yes, Mother.”

When they got inside, Mother sighed.  “Why don’t you make us some tea, and we’ll play cards?”

Nikki forced a smile.  “Yes, Mother.  But I’ve got a call to make first.”  She went to the kitchen and put the kettle on to boil.  Then she dialed Jason.  He’s in the middle of a golf game.   I’ll get his voicemail.  It’ll be better this way.  She listened for the prompt.  “Hi, Jason, it’s Nikki.  Look, my mother’s had an accident, and I won’t be able to leave her.  In fact, I’m going to have to arrange with my boss to let me work at home for the next several weeks.  So, we might as well call it quits.  I really had fun with you, and I care for you, but I can’t ask you to wait for me.  It’s just better this way.  I’ll always treasure the time we had.  Goodbye.”  Tears welled in her eyes as she hung up the phone.

Mother’s voice interrupted her thoughts.  “Don’t forget the cards.”

Nikki wiped her eyes.  “I won’t.”

*     *     *

Time to talk:  Have you ever had someone interfere with a date?  Have you ever had to deal with a controlling person?

More on Autism – The Unfamiliar

First of all, I apologize for being late in the day with my Autism post this month, but in the immortal words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

A couple of months ago, Ali Isaac commented, “I’d be interested to know how Autism affects children’s reactions to the unfamiliar, with regard to places, people, objects etc.” 

Any parent of an Autistic child can tell you, this type of scenario almost never turns out good.  It’s been my experience that bringing my Autistic son into a new setting almost always induced a meltdown.  It was worse when it was a public place, such as a store or restaurant.  It was for that reason, that I almost always left him at home when I had to run errands or dined out.  I did this for his sanity, my sanity, and to be courteous to other shoppers, patrons, and diners of whatever establishment I might find myself in.

Even with my own Autism as an adult, I prefer staying home to going to wide open spaces for reasons that other people just don’t seem to get.  I believe the wide open spaces of a store or restaurant do not feel as secure as the safety of home or a familiar surrounding.

Keep in mind that an Autistic person has heightened sensitivity to things such as smell, sight and sound.  As such, there are many more noises in a public place that someone without Autism might not even notice.  For example, the fluorescent lights may emit a high-pitched buzz.  There are generally an inordinate amount of voices talking at the same time.  Even if there is a small group of people across the room, they voices sound as if they are standing right next to me.  A couple of years ago, I was at a book signing in a small bookstore, and though I was near the end of the line, it eventually felt as if everyone was standing next to me screaming.  It was way too loud for that small shop, and the noise bothered me greatly.

The fluorescent lighting in public places often produces different colors than what we naturally know.  A great example is that just yesterday, I was in Target and found a lovely berry-colored eye shadow.  But when I got it home and looked at it again in my bathroom light, it was not berry at all, but was actually brown!  Just think how different an Autistic child’s own mother must look under those type of lights.

Even the temperature in a store or restaurant is often different than what is at home.  You might not even notice it, but to a child with Autism, it makes all the difference in the world in their comfort zone.

If you’ve ever seen a dog’s nose start twitching after a new scent is introduced, then you can imagine what taking an Autistic person to a new place smells like to them.  Even with a cold, I can smell certain smells long before I am even in the same room with them.  Recently, I went to a friend’s house, and before I got out of the car, I wrinkled my nose and said, “I smell celery.”  My sister, Michelle, and I got out and went to the door, and the smell only got stronger.  I’m sure I was making a face by then.  By the time our friend came to the door and Michelle told her why I was covering my nose, the friend noted that only the day before she had planted celery in her garden off to the side.

That said, just imagine the various smells that you might take for granted that an Autistic person might notice in a public place.  There are not only the numerous smells of soap, deodorant, perfume and shampoo on the people walking around, but also some not nice smells such as bodily functions, sweat, etc.  Yuck!  On top of that, there is usually the smell of food, beverages, machinery and other things going on in certain public places.  For example, whenever I go to Denny’s, I can’t use their paper place mat, because the smell of the ink on it overwhelms me.

If the strange place involves a restaurant, add to that the taste of the food is different than what is served at home, there may be certain foods touching on the plate that will be a problem, or there may be garnishment such as parsley that could evoke a bad response.

When an Autistic person, particularly a child experiences too much sensory overload, they become overwhelmed and this usually results in a meltdown.  When Jeremy was little and we’d go to a restaurant, he would inevitably end up crawling under the table and hiding, standing on his head in the chair, and eventually crying and yelling before the end of the meal.  Please note that an Autistic meltdown is much worse than a regular, run of the mill temper tantrum.  It is louder, and more emotionally draining on the child, and lasts much longer than a tantrum.  Additionally, a child having a tantrum will usually stop if you don’t give them an audience, because they want to get their own way.  A child having an Autistic meltdown will continue even if they are alone in the room, because they cannot process their sensory overload and they are overwhelmed.

So, Ali, I hope I’ve answered your question to your satisfaction.  For those of you who don’t know, Ali has the most adorable daughter, Carys, who has special needs, and Ali blogs about her from time to time.  I think Ali is the most amazing mom and spokesperson for her beautiful little angel.  Be sure to hop on over to her blog, and tell her I sent you.

I’ll be back the first Sunday next month with more on Autism, and I’ll (hopefully) be back tomorrow with more regularly scheduled posts.

The Great American Novel

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was a kid that grew up in my grandparents’ house.  My grandparents were well-meaning, yet they were half a century older than me, and they both grew up in the Great Depression.  As such, we frequently saw things very differently.  One frequent source of our contention was when I wanted a new toy.

Now, don’t get me wrong… my grandparents had money.  Granddaddy was a very wise investor in the stock market, and his investments paid off quite handsomely.  However, though he was the sole breadwinner, he was not the one in charge of buying me anything.

Grandma had no problem spending money on something in which she saw value.  For example, at twelve years old, she did not buy me Maybelline eye shadow or Wet ‘n Wild nail polish.  So, she took me right down to the department store’s Estee Lauder counter and bought me only the best.  But, by golly, if I wanted a new Barbie doll, she would wave her hand and dismiss me with, “Bosh!  You don’t need a new one.  There’s a whole trunk full of your mother’s Barbie dolls up in the attic.”  So, I often had to play with twenty year old toys when all my friends who had new ones.  As such, I never really liked playing Barbies.  I mean, come on!  If all your friends had Surfing or Skating Barbie and Ken, whose knees and arms bent and who had good hair, would you want to be the weird kid who brought 1962 Barbie and Ken to the party?

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ll share with you a story about how I imagined I would write stories.  As you already know if you’ve followed my blog for long, among other things, I loved to write stories when I was a kid.  One of my other favorite pastimes was climbing trees.  (Sadly, I was not allowed to build a treehouse, which for me would have been a dream come true.)  Then summer when I was eight-years old, I attempted to combine these two passions.  I considered myself quite lucky one day when I found an old cigar box.  I knew what I needed to do.  I nailed that box high up in my favorite climbing tree.  I loaded the box with loose leaf paper and pencils, and I imagined that I would spend hours in said tree, writing The Great American Novel.  I just knew that with that perfect setting, my heart would pour out through my pencil and bleed onto the paper, and people would come from miles around to read my work.

What I did not count on, was the host of problems that ensued.  I did not bring, nor did I own a clipboard.  I was not allowed to take my books outside.  And I couldn’t think of anything else flat to use as a lap desk.  Ergo, when I attempted to write by pressing my paper against the tree, as you can imagine, the bark of the tree made for a bumpy surface, and my writing was quite illegible.  I was frustrated to say the least.  At the end of my first day writing in my “aerial office,” I left with a mass of crumbled paper and ideas that still swirled in my head as I couldn’t get them out on paper.

The other thing I didn’t count on was the Florida weather.  Overnight, it rained, and by the time I got outside to play the next day, my paper and cigar box were ruined.  My dreams were shattered!

I thought I would never have something as cool as my “aerial office” again in which I could write my heart out.  However, that Christmas, Santa Claus (who I’m sure was inspired by my Granddaddy who was a lot wiser to my desires than my Grandma, as long as they were educational) brought me my very own toy typewriter!  Not only was this good for writing stories, but it also worked well for playing office.  Of course, when I was busy playing outside, Grandma decided to use it to type out her recipe cards!

You’ve all heard me mention my toy typewriter before.  Sadly, once I got my first real manual typewriter (pictured in my header above) for the Christmas when I turned eleven, Grandma put my toy typewriter up in the attic, then sometime later, she gave it to Goodwill.  (Apparently she had no problem saving ancient Barbies, but two year old typewriters had to go!)  At any rate, I recently found a duplicate of my old toy typewriter on eBay, and I purchased it.  Yay, me!

Time to talk:  Do you type with the correct fingers?  Have you ever used a manual typewriter or even an electric one?  Would you allow your granddaughter to build a treehouse in your tree?