Friday, April 27, 2012

You Need a License

The other day, the desktop computer died. So Cal and I took it to a repair shop. Thankfully, it was a quick, fairly cheap fix. But while we were there, the manager got a phone call from an unhappy customer. By the end of the conversation, I was glad I didn’t have his job. Here’s how it went:

Tech store manager: Uh huh. I see. So you can’t get online. Have you checked the Ethernet cable?

Pause. (During which non-tech savvy person talks and the tech store manager takes our computer apart.)

TM: It’s the cable that looks like a phone cord, but a little bigger. Make sure it’s plugged into the computer.

Pause. (Tech guy works on our computer while murmuring helpful “Uh huhs” to the non-tech person.)

TM: So what’s on the computer screen?

Pause. (Tech guy removes our power converter and points out capacitor problem.)

TM: Um, yeah, so that’s the Microsoft home page. You’re actually online.

Pause. (TM continues to murmur “uh huhs” as he installs a new power converter.)

TM: When your computer was repaired the software lost your homepage. Can you tell me what your homepage was? (Brief pause.) You can’t. Okay. Well, it’s probably still under your favorites. Can you find your “Favorites?”

Short Pause. (TM begins plugging in the wires of our new power converter.)

TM: The favorites button should be a star on the bar near the top of your screen.

Pause. (TM, having now fixed our computer, attaches the case while murmuring “Keep looking along the bar at the top.”)

TM: Really, it’s there. Keep looking.

Pause. (TM runs our credit card.)

TM, his voice so even that you know frustration is seeping out of his pores: Okay. Well, why don’t you bring the computer back in and I’ll find your homepage for you.

Pause. (TM hands us our receipt.)

TM: Okay, I’ll see you then. (Hangs up the phone.)

Me: Uh, do you get a lot of calls like that?

TM: All day long.

Me: Wow. I’m really sorry.

TM: (His eyes wild.) I think before someone can buy a laptop or a desktop, they ought to be required to get a license—a computer operator’s license. 

Me: Oh, yes. (I nod, agreeing and wondering if I would pass such a test. Probably not.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lucky Seven

The other day, the lovely Laurel Garver of Laurel’s Leaves tagged me with the Lucky Seven meme. To fulfill the meme, I have to post a section of my current WIP. For this blog, I chose to post from my literary/upmarket women’s/historical  fiction Dark Mercy, which I call The Platypus.  The tag requires the author to post from p.77, seven lines down. But when I looked that section up, I discovered that it's a birthing scene.  And since I have several blog readers who are quite young and the scene is somewhat graphic, I decided to post a section a few pages earlier leading up to the birth scene.  So this is from p.70, seven lines down:

She staggered to the drapes and peeked into the streets, but they were empty. Was that good or bad? She made her way to the stairs, grasping the back of the couch as a contraction wrapped its iron fingers around her spine. Her legs quivered. She moaned and grasped the silk upholstery so hard that her nails cut into the fabric. Her fingers curled with pain and tore the fabric into ribbons.

One by one, the painful talons slackened, but she knew that they’d return and with more virulence. A few hours ago, she’d woken with pain in her back. She’d tried laying on her side and then her back. But like hunger, the pains got worse. Then the vomiting began. She called the doctor, but he wasn’t there. He had left during in the night and hadn’t come back. His wife warned, “Even if he gets home, I don’t think he will come—who knows where the fighting is or if it’s safe to travel.” When she couldn’t endure the pain any longer, she called Lianda. She knew Lianda would come.

The final requirement of the Lucky Seven is to tag another seven writers. (I can’t wait to read their excerpts. I can’t remember who’s already been tagged—so if you’re getting tagged twice, sorry.)

1.    1.  Melissa Pearl
2.    2.  Anne Riley
3.    3.  AB Keuser
4.    4.  Misha Gericke
5.    5.  Lydia Kang
6.    6.  Krispy/Alz
7.    7.  Theresa Milstein

Also, as a treat I’ve also decided to post from the sequel to Screwing Up Time on my Screwing Up Time blog. So click over if you’d like to read that.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Eccentrics

Last week, Cal and I went to the Chemistry Awards Banquet. Luke was receiving some awards and invited us to come. (Actually, we heard from someone else that he was getting awards and insisted on coming. But he was glad to have us come.) If you’ve never been to a get-together with a bunch of chemists, let’s just say it was an experience. We met interesting people.

First, we met girl who’s Luke’s physical chemistry lab partner. She was pretty normally dressed except for the Spock ears that were decorated with a big silk flower that matched her dress. She was very sweet. There was the guy in the white sport coat with a very fancy camera taking pictures of everything and everyone. I asked Luke if he was the official photographer. Luke said, “No. He just likes taking pictures.”

At the dinner, we sat at a table with a couple of professors and their wives. As we got to know each other, they asked about our other kids. And they found out that Ariel is a junior majoring in math, that Jacob will be starting college in the fall majoring in engineering. Luke added that he’s grooming Matthew to be a chem major. Luke’s prof told Luke that he gets a finder’s fee if he convinces Matthew to major in chemistry. Then, of course, the profs wanted to know what Cal and I studied in college. We told them—English Lit and Sociology. They blinked. A long pause ensued. Then, a throat was cleared and one of the wives said, “Um, I guess it must be in the genes somewhere.” Yep, must be. At that point, everyone ate their cake.

After the meal, the awards were given out, and Luke received several awards, which was very fun for us. Then, they announced a scholarship and called Luke’s name. His head jerked up. He didn’t know he was getting a scholarship. That was even more fun. And it was weird/fun hearing Luke’s professor talk about him. Weird because it’s a complete stranger who knows our son so well. And he discussed Luke’s research habits. I remember the words “the most persistent” being used. We see that personality trait at home too, but we called it “stubborn as a mule.” But, apparently it’s a good thing in the lab.

On the way home, Cal said, “I had a great time, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever met a group of more eccentric people.” I agreed. But now we understand why Luke used to meticulously organize his sock drawer when he was two years old. He was born a chemist. We just didn’t know it yet.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stress Cleaning

It’s exam time at our home. My college juniors are taking finals. I remember finals. (And I remember the professors, who on the last day of class, assigned papers due the day of our class final—I’m sure Dante would have reserved a place for them in his Inferno.) At any rate, the stress level in our house has risen. Ariel copes by studying until her eyes melt. Luke copes by watching the Yankees. I’m not sure how it helps. Does dialoguing on Raul Ibanez’s on base percentage distract you from the upcoming American Chemical Society’s exam for Physical Chemistry? (During the discussion, Matt reminds us that 82.01% of statistics are made up.)

I realize a lot of people take study breaks and watch television. This makes no sense to me. When I was in college, neither I nor any of my roommates watched TV. Of course, we didn’t have one in our apartment, so that makes a difference. We were a bunch of stress cleaners—so we’d burn off our nervous anxiety with work. It went something like this. I had an exam in Elizabethan literature and I had to memorize 50 sonnets—yes, 50. So I’d take a break and scrub the shower with a toothbrush. Death to mold and mildew. My roommate needed a break from Boolean Algebra—she mopped the bathroom and kitchen floors on her hands and knees. Another roommate had a nasty Econ exam, she vacuumed the floors, dusted every surface, and scrubbed the counters. Roommate #4 bleached everything. By the end of finals, our apartment was so clean you could eat off the floor. Probably even the toilet lid (though that’s too gross to contemplate), though all the bleach and ammonia might make your eyes water or poison you.

Why can’t my kids be stress cleaners? All I’m asking for is one, maybe two, stress cleaners. I’d really like that. What about you readers? What crazy things do you do to cope with stress?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Face Blindness, Or, How I Could Help Sherlock Holmes

In the last month or so, there have been more TV specials on face blindness. (If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’m face blind.) Sadly, I missed these specials. But I did stream part of one yesterday.

In the 60 Minutes episode, a blond-haired female reporter (I have no idea if I’ve ever seen her before) was interviewing a man with face blindness. He told her that he once apologized to a man before he realized the man was himself in a mirror. My kids gasped when I told them the story. And then, they marveled and made comments that at least I’m not that bad. (There are varying degrees of face blindness, and I’m not bad.) That was before the kids realized that I told them that story for a reason. Don’t get me wrong, I have never apologized to myself in a mirror. But I have been in a public place with lots of people and mirrored walls, and I’ve seen a face that seems familiar and a second or two later realize, “Oh, that’s me.”

But before you think, “Oh, that’s pathetic,” (yeah, I admit it is a little pathetic) remember that I’ve developed skills that you probably haven’t. I can pick people out based on the sound of their voice, the cut of their hair, and the way they move. So I was taken aback when we watched the Sherlock Holmes, part II movie. In the movie, Dr. Watson and a woman must find the woman’s brother before he sets off a bomb. But the problem is that the woman’s brother has changed his face with plastic surgery! So—oh my gosh—they can’t tell which man he is. I thought this was stupid. Easy-peasey. Even if we assume that he dyed his hair and cut it in some new style, all the sister had to do was look for his ears, his hairline, and the way he stands and moves. After all, this was her brother, not a stranger or someone she’d met only a couple of times. If he were my brother/parent/child, I could’ve picked him out in a minute or less.

The moral of the story is if your ever need to find a bomber who’s had plastic surgery, pray that he has a face blind relative.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What I Learned From JK Rowling

I’m sure everyone has heard the news that JK Rowling is coming out with a new book. This time, she’s writing in a different genre—this book is geared toward adults. And I have to say that I’m impressed by her bravery.

Publishing this novel must be a terrifying thing. She’s writing in a new genre, with a new voice, and for a different audience. She knows that whatever she writes will inevitably be compared to the Harry Potter books, which is like comparing apples and oranges. The HP phenomena was the result her skills as writer combining with the perfect books and a ripening audience that was hungry for something new and different. Don’t get me wrong, I know it took a lot of hard work by her, her publishers, marketing people, etc. But market timing was critical. No one can fairly compare the success of this book with the HP books. But they will. And that’s why I think she’s brave. It’s like if Pat Benetar decided to sing opera. I picked Pat Benetar as an example because she’s one of the few pop/rock singers who was reputed to have the voice range and strength to sing opera. But making the transition from top forty singer to opera…wow. That’s what I think Rowling is doing.

Obviously, Rowling can’t be doing this for the money. She doesn’t need it. And she must know that there are some reviewer/critics waiting to diss her book. In spite of all that, she’s got a new book coming out. I suspect that she’s doing this because like the rest of writers, she loves to tell people a story. And that encourages me to be brave too.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's Never Good When the Mail Comes Early

Yesterday, the mail came early. It was not a good thing. There was a letter from my health insurance company in the stack of mail. I swallowed, took a breath, whispered a prayer that it wasn’t bad news, and opened the letter.

Of course, it was bad news. About three paragraphs into the letter, my insurance company announced they weren’t going to cover my recent surgery. My blood ran cold. Blue Cross claimed that there hadn’t been proper prior authorization. Now I broke out in a hot sweat. What had I missed? I’d made phone calls—I talked to the insurance company, the doctor’s office, I even talked to the hospital intake staff and each one verified that I was good to go. And now the insurance company said I wasn’t. (If I’d been five, I would’ve shouted, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”)

I called the insurance company. A woman answered. I explained that I’d gotten a letter saying that Blue Cross refused to cover my surgery. Actually, it never said that. It only said that it refused to cover a recent procedure—I only guessed it was my surgery because of a date in the corner.

The “helpful” agent at Blue Cross reminded me that I signed paperwork before surgery making myself financially obligated should there be any payment problem. She asked me if I remembered that. “Um, yeah,” I said. This wasn’t going the way I’d hoped. So I explained my situation—that I’d double-checked everything. She put me on hold so she could read a copy of the letter that had been sent to me. I waited a long time.

When she came back, she said, “That was a very confusing letter. (Uh, yeah.) But one of your procedures wasn’t preauthorized, so we won’t cover it.”

I was stymied. I did sign paperwork right before I was wheeled into surgery. Maybe I shouldn’t have signed it? Maybe the “happy juice” they put in my IV made me lose my vigilance.

But the doctor didn’t know what I’d need until he started the surgery. I explained this to the BC agent. She murmured that it was too bad—to be fair, I think she was sincere. Sort of. She informed me that I could appeal Blue Cross’s decision. Blue Cross’s letter also told me that I could appeal. It also mentioned my right to consult a lawyer for help in crafting the appeal. (Gulp.)

Then, the agent mentioned that the doctor’s office could appeal because it was actually their fault because the missing paperwork could only be filed by the doctor’s office anyway. I had a moment of sunshine—I didn’t screw this up. It wasn’t my fault. We might have medical debt for the rest of our lives, but at least it wasn’t my fault. Still, I wasn’t sure when the doctor’s office was supposed to do this. I asked her, politely, if Blue Cross required doctors to call during the middle of surgeries to get prior approval if things turned out differently than expected. (I can see an interesting comedy skit developing from this.). She merely restated that either doctor’s office or I could appeal. Then, she said, “Have a nice day.”

So I called the doctor’s office, which, of course, was closed on Wednesdays. I left a message. I called again Thursday. They didn’t pick up. I left another message. Just when I thought that they might be avoiding me, the doctor’s office called. The woman in charge of billing talked to me. You know, sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone who knows what’s really going on and actually cares about you. She assured me that I had no financial obligations in this case. That the hospital blew it by not filing the paperwork and that she had been on them since the Friday afternoon when my surgery happened. (I’m guessing that the billing people were too eager to start their weekend.) She assured me that she’d deal with the insurance company—she explained how they work, which is not too different than what you see in The Incredibles. Finally, she assured me that she would take care of everything. I could almost hear her cracking her knuckles. And she even promised to call me when she had everything “taken care of.”

Thank you, insurance-billing-lady!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


April is Autism Awareness Month. I think I have mentioned it on the blog before, but I haven’t talked about it much because it’s my son’s story not mine. But I think other people could use the encouragement to perseverance of knowing Matt’s story. Our son Matthew is autistic. He was diagnosed when he was two years old. The doctor told my husband and I that our son might eventually learn to talk. Then, he handed us the card of a support group and told us to come back in six months.

The next years were hard. Our son didn’t sleep. Okay, he did sleep some—3 hours out of every 24. He sent the rest of the nights screaming. Cal and I took turns sleeping and rocking a child who tried to throw himself out of our arms. I discovered that if you miss enough sleep over enough days, you will have visual hallucinations.

The other kids learned to sleep through the screaming. They learned that Matt would be walking and fall over asleep. And where he fell, there he slept. And no one, on threat of death, would walk through the room where Matt was sleeping.

But as Matt’s occupational therapist once said, “Everything went right for Matthew.” He got an early diagnosis back when most autistic kids didn’t get a final diagnosis until they were five—and the brain was set. We started Matt on the Autism Diet, which had a huge impact on his communication abilities. Matt had an amazing occupational therapist who believed there was a way to “save” these kids, back when one no believed they could be helped. She explained why he banged his head against the wall, why he did rhythmic screaming, and why he’d flap his hands and spin and spin and spin. She taught him to put his hands out when he fell so he wouldn’t land on his face. He helped him strengthen the muscles in his mouth and tongue so he could talk clearly. And she taught us how to touch and comfort him without causing him pain.

And then, she gave all of us work to do. Cal, the kids, and I all worked with Matt—every waking hour. Jake’s job was to keep Matt from slipping into his own world, to force Matt to participate in the real world and interact with people. (If you know Jacob, you know that this is the perfect job for him—he’s, uh, tenacious.) The occupational therapist told us that Jacob was God’s gift to Matthew.

And God blessed everything we did, all the years of Matthew’s hard work and ours. Matt’s almost sixteen now. And he’s as “normal” as the rest of us. In fact, in what seems to me to be the ultimate irony, Matthew loves acting and last year played Puck in our local Shakespeare troupe's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Our goal was that Matt would be eccentric. And there aren’t many eccentricities he has left. Does he still have some things he struggles with? Yes. But so do I.

Yesterday, I read an article in USA Today about the latest autism research, particularly the work of Dr. Geraldine Dawson, whose research into the genetic links of autism we have been a part of. A new day is dawning for autistic people. They are amazing individuals with tremendous gifts. And I am so thankful that they now have a future that’s looking brighter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Giddy Trepidation

This morning I have a giddy trepidation. I’m going to start my next edit of the sequel to Screwing Up Time. I'm giddy because I’m about to start an edit that will make the novel closer to the ideal that exists in my mind. And trepidacious because I know I won’t achieve that ideal. Not to mention the fact that I’m trying to learn to use the new version of MS Word and failing miserably.

After I downloaded my documents into the new computer/Word, they weren’t there. Tech guru found them and moved them for me. And I have now been tutored in the proper method of moving files. But I’m not sure that I remember, even after doing it once or twice—tech guru is a follower of the “teach a man to fish policy” of computer literacy. But then tech guru showed me there were multiple ways to accomplish the assigning-the-document-to-the-correct-place task, now I’m confused. I’m claiming my stupidity is post-general-anesthesia confusion. Yeah, I know that was more than a week ago. But that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. However, this morning I somehow deleted all the page breaks in a 200,000 word document—thankfully not the sequel. And the tech guru who is currently at home can’t figure out what I did. This does not bode well. (Not to mention the fact, the dictionary in Word doesn’t recognize “trepidacious,” and I’m pretty sure I spelled it correctly.)  However, I’m assured by the tech guru that I will come to appreciate the new version of Word….I hope so. Otherwise, I’ll be transitioning from giddy trepidation to gnashing of teeth.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Not My Regularly Scheduled Blog Post

Today I don't have a regular post. Sorry. My new computer came--yay! But getting all my data transferred is way more complicated than I thought. (Thanks, computer-savvy minions, for all your help!)

In the meantime, I was interviewed by Kevin Domenic at the the Searching for Heroes blog. Check it out.

One more bit of information:  I got good news yesterday on my biopsy. Yay.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Am Patient. Sort Of.

I consider myself a patient person. And I am really patient. Unless I’m provoked. Then, not so much. Of course, the definition of patience probably includes “even when provoked.” I like to forget about that part.
As a writer, I’m even more convinced that I’m a patient person—after all, writers can submit something and wait six months or more for a response. You see, I am patient.
But then the provocations happened. My computer is dying, so last week I ordered a new one (Costco had an amazing sale). And I didn’t find out until after I ordered it that it would take 10 to 15 days until arrival. But since my old computer is still working, most of the time, I tried to be grateful and tracked my computer via FedEx across China. (Which means, it was probably made by oppressed people in unsafe working conditions. Gulp.) Yesterday my computer made it to Alaska—now it’s on the same continent as I am!
So I felt like I was doing pretty well in the patience department. Until yesterday evening.
Multiple times before and right after my surgery, my doctor told me that I’d have all the biopsy reports on Tuesday. Great. I marveled at how quick it would be—surgery late Friday afternoon, results on Tuesday. I even Googled response times for this type of biopsy and discovered that a week was quick. I wasn’t going to have to wait a week. Yay! I could handle a couple of days. So I didn’t worry. I waited. And if I’m honest, I spent most of the time asleep. Who knew you could sleep 12.5 hours out of 16 without the help of medicine?
So Tuesday came. I made sure my cell phone was fully charged and the volume was turned up. I ordered the minions to pick up the home phone if it rang—they like to ignore the phone. (What is it with young people these days—they don’t like to talk on the phone? They only communicate through emails and texting.)  Fully armed with all possible communication devices, I waited. All day. At four o’clock, I called the office. I got the answering machine. Apparently, they don’t answer the phone after 4pm. And the recording announced that any messages will wait to the next business day. Oh, and by the way, they don’t work on Wednesdays. You know how they say when someone’s angry they see red? I think I saw pink.
In case, the doctor is confused, here’s some advice. You don’t say, “I’ll get the results to you on Tuesday” and then not call. Especially when post-surgery, the doctor discusses your problem and says to you, the patient, “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
You don’t say, “I’ll have someone from the office call and schedule your post-op visit for next week so you can be cleared for regular activities,” and then not have anyone call.
In all fairness, they probably didn’t call because the results weren’t back. I know when I worked as a cytogenetic tech while I was in college, anything that came in Friday afternoon waited until Monday. Not necessarily because we were lazy or were eating cake (though someone always brought cake, cookies, etc., on Fridays), but mostly because we were trying to get all the stuff that was already late finished before the weekend.
So I’m waiting. I no longer see pink. I’m having fun watching my computer travel from Anchorage to Memphis. And I’ve got my doctor’s office phone number ready and waiting. Because Thursday at 9:00am when the office is opened, I’m going to be their first phone call.  

Monday, April 2, 2012


After the craziness of pre-op, I wondered what surgery would by like. It was totally different. I have only nice things to say about the staff at Parkridge East. I don’t even have a bruise where the nurse put in the IV, and I was even dehydrated. (I’ve been known to have my whole arm bruise when I’ve gotten an IV before.)

After the surgery, the codeine was lovely. That night, my wonderful husband set the alarm to go off every 4 hours, so he could give me another dose of pain killers. (Yeah, he’s a keeper.)

The weird thing is that I had a very vivid dream during the surgery. Or maybe it was during recovery. I didn’t think you were supposed to have REM sleep with surgery.

There’s also one more important thing I discovered. When the anesthesiologist noticed that I was a migraine sufferer, she left and came back with a patch of scopolamine. According to her, migraine sufferers have a lot more problems with post-surgical nausea. So the patch deals with that. And I must say, the patch was amazing. I didn’t get a hint of nausea. I’m so thankful.

The only bad thing is that I lost my voice. Which isn’t such a big deal. Except that I got a phone call from American Express. Someone was making fraudulent charges on my credit card. Some loser/thief was charging hundreds of dollars of perfume, etc., on my credit card. I was very pleased the AmEx called me and told me that they were suspicious. Obviously, they know I’m not a big perfume user—in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever bought perfume. But the craziest thing was that I had to talk to a woman from India or Pakistan about the problem. Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with a woman with a heavy accent while you have post-surgery laryngitis? It doesn’t go so well. There are a lot of “pardons” and “could you repeat that please.” But in the end, we solved the problem, And since it was AmEx, I’m not responsible for any of the faux charges.  Yay, AmEx!!!

At some point, it would be great if some member of the gov’t would do something about all the identity theft.

PS For all that are interested, I should get the results of my biopsy on Tuesday.

PPS If any of you would like to read the Amazon Experts Reviews on my novel, which so far has made it to the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, here's a link.