Archive for the ‘From Stress To Humor’ Category

United Breaks Guitars…Israel Shoots Them

May 8, 2010

United Airlines has taken a lot of heat in the past year over their Customer Service policies…or the lack thereof.  They’ve been the brunt of some recent jokes on late-night T.V., and it prompted me to revisit a hilarious music video on YouTube called “United Breaks Guitars,” by Dave Carroll. 

On July 5, 2009, Dave Carroll posted a music video on YouTube.  It was a song he wrote about an unpleasant experience with United Airlines.  Their employees were throwing his band’s guitars around on the tarmac, while he watched in horror through his little window on the airplane.  His Taylor guitar sustained $1,200 in damages.  Tired of dealing with United’s uncaring response for months on end, Dave chose to present a light-hearted approach in dealing with the situation.  As of this writing, his initial video has had 8,499,994 views.  Millions of people now sympathize with Dave.  More importantly, millions of people now know Dave, and his heart-felt style of music.

I’m reminded of something my son experienced in Isreal.  He’s taking graduate studies there.  Before going to Israel, he took up the oud, a middle eastern guitar-like instrument.  On one of his first days there, he brought his instrument to the campus.  He asked a random person if they thought it would be OK if he left his oud in its case in a main room of the school.  They said, “I think so.”

So he left it and went to class.  Moments later, security officers interrupted his class.

“Did anyone leave an instrument in the lobby?”

 My son acknowledged.  They pulled him from class, questioned him, then directed him to take his instrument off campus.

He found out he was most fortunate that day.  Usually, when Israeli security officials find a package, bag, or case all by its lonesome, they cordon off the area, and evacuate everyone from the area/building.  Then they proceed to…I kid you not…shoot the object, to set off any intended explosion.

Good for Israel…but bad for my son’s instrument.

When he told me all about this experience, I said, “Man, you should write a song.  Call it ‘Israel Shoots Guitars.’  You can video an old guitar case getting blown up!”  He laughed, but didn’t bite.  Israel is way too serious for jokes like that.  And who can blame them?  There’s a world of hurt going on in that part of the world…for both sides. 

We’re just glad they didn’t shoot this particular guitar!

Whiteflies Must Die

April 30, 2010

I’ve been happily inspecting my vegetable garden each morning.  My Master Gardener instructor said he keeps insecticide sprays to a minimum.  For the most part, he just finds the bad bugs and squishes them.

I was happily inspecting, because I wasn’t finding anything.  But, as fate would have it, the day before a five-day business trip with my husband, I found scores of little white critters under the leaves of my bell pepper plants.  I squished, and squished, and squished some more.  It was mass murder…genocide.  But I kept finding more of those tiny, white critters.

I went inside and did a Google search.  Who would have known that whiteflies are a problem with bell peppers?  I read about all the insecticides you can battle them with, but I really didn’t want to do that to my vegetable plants.  I found another solution…marigolds.  Apparently, whiteflies can’t stand the smell of them.

I called my husband immediately, who was in town, tying up some loose ends before we left on our trip.

“Honey, can you pick up about six marigold plants in town, before you head home?”


“Our pepper plants have whiteflies, but they hate the smell of marigolds.  I need marigolds!”

“So you want me to get some mean-looking ones?”

“Exactly.  This is war.”

He brought back the little potted, golden warriors, and I placed them strategically between my bell pepper plants.  We headed down the Florida gulf coast…farther and farther away from my endangered vegetable garden.

Will they be OK?

Our son just called me.  A thunderstorm with torrential downpours is pounding on my garden.  No matter that the garage is flooded and the skylights are leaking. 

Will my garden survive?

Even more troubling is the thought that those pesky little whiteflies have amassed themselves under the leaves of my bell pepper plants, and will be somewhat shielded from the storm.  Worse yet, the pelting rain will probably keep the malicious marigold scent from deterring the whiteflies.

Will my garden survive the storm?  And if so, will it survive the whiteflies?

In the past, I remember worrying on the few occasions when we left our young children in the care of others.  Later on, I worried about leaving our pets.  Now, the garden has added a whole new arena of worry.

If my garden is still standing upon my return, all I can say is, “Whiteflies, prepare to die!”

The Unnecessary Stress We Put Ourselves Through

April 24, 2010

A few days ago, I had a friend over to the house for the first time.  We happen to live on a lake, and she commented on how nice it would be to have the volunteers in her organization over for a picnic.

Without thinking, I said, “Sure!  Let’s do it!”  I was thinking 30 people, tops.

After she left, I started thinking over the logistics.  She had given me a list of about 60 people in the organization, saying only half the people usually show up anyway.

Hmmm.  Who would want to go to a picnic alone?  We need to invite each person and a guest.

I called my friend.  “Do many of these people have young children?”

“Oh, yes,” she said.

The numbers multiplied in my head.  Visions of setting up a picnic for 150 people in our small yard raced through my head.  A tent.  Chairs.  And a small septic system.  I almost started hyperventilating.

I remembered the last time we had a big group of people at our home, just a little over 30.  Our septic system couldn’t handle it.  As people were leaving, I cringed with embarrassment as they sloshed through water on the sidewalk.  Our front yard was flooded, from overtaxing a septic system surrounded by towering trees…and a massive snarl of clogging roots.

I worked myself into a frenzied, wound-up ball of stress.  I got myself into a pickle, and I had to get myself out.

I thought about a park across the lake…perhaps a solution.  I drove over, looked it over, and took pictures.

I went back home and designed an invitation flyer, with beautiful photos of the park.  I sent it to my friend, with a list of all the reasons why having the event at our home would be a bad idea, and how much better it would be to have it at the park.

My stress began to ease a bit.  Perhaps this could be the solution to getting myself out of a pickle!

I spoke with my friend the next day.  She realized she had too much going on to organize another event.  We decided to save it for another day.  At the park, that is.

Halleluiah!  All things do work together for good…

Don’t get me wrong, we do love having people over.  But I’ll love it a heck of a lot more when our county decides to hook us up, and to put an end to this septic system…and all the unnecessary stress I put myself through over it!

And perhaps next time I’ll have the presence of mind to think things through, before putting myself through unnecessary, hyperventilating stress!

A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous

April 17, 2010

I wanted to plant a garden this year, but needed something to help me believe that yes, I can have a successful garden in this bug-infested, sweltering, southern climate.  So I signed up for a one-hour class for six weeks called…get this…Gardening For Seniors.  (OK, so we have a lot of snowbirds here each winter.) 

I started thinking…hmmm…maybe I can do this gardening thing.  But I needed more information.  You know…if a little is good, then a lot is better!  So I signed up for a ten-week Master Gardener Class.  We meet once a week, for a full day…that’s eight hours…and we’re now in the 7th week.  

The classes are packed with information, one PowerPoint presentation after another, all day long.  No breaks, except for lunch.  I must admit, as the afternoon hours wear on, I get antsy.  I start wiggling my pen, tapping my feet, and then I start rocking.  But I’m not in a rocking chair…only a cold, hard metal folding chair. 

Let me out of here! 

Don’t get me wrong.  The class is great.  But a body can just take so much of sitting still in the same place, hour after hour. 

Let’s see…so far we’ve learned about Plant Science, soils, new plants, grafting, vegetables, herbs, diseases, landscaping, insects (the beneficials and the bad guys), pesticides and labels (very important, if you like staying alive), fruits, pruning, palms, native shrubs, trees, ground covers, bulbs, perennials, annuals, and native trees. 

Hour after hour, presentation after presentation, things start to blur together.  And that’s when a little knowledge can be dangerous.  Take, for instance, the orange tree I gave to my neighbor.  I told him, “You need to prune it like an inverted umbrella, so the sun can get to all of it.” 

Thankfully, the tree is too young for pruning, so he didn’t act on my erroneous advice.  We then learned in class about citrus trees, and I realized I gave my neighbor instructions for pruning an apple or peach tree.  So I had to tell him to prune it kind of like a triangle, so the sun could get to all of it, but keep the top pruned so it doesn’t get any higher than six feet.  You don’t want to climb a ladder to pick oranges…it’s too dangerous.  Better to keep the tree short, so you can reach the fruit. 

But I still got mixed up in the middle of all the presentations about fruit trees.  I raised my hand and said, “So when I go home today I need to pick all the flowers off my little orange tree…” 

“No, you don’t,” said the instructor. 

I responded with the blank, deer-in-the-headlights stare. 

“Leave your orange tree alone,” said the instructor.  “You pick the flowers off young apple and pear trees, so they won’t produce the first couple of years, and can then bear more fruit later on.” 

Whew, that was close.  I almost aborted a season’s worth of oranges.  Like I said, a little knowledge can be dangerous. 

In four weeks I should be graduating as a Master Gardener.  By then I hope I’ll have learned my lesson well.  When asked a gardening question, I’ll have to be willing to reign in my tongue and say… 

“I don’t know.  But I’ll be happy to look that up for you!”

Web Cam Tells All

March 13, 2010

I was getting ready to call my brother in California today on Skype, and went into Options in the program, to make sure my sound and camera settings were right.  The video settings allow you to see yourself…and the room you’re in. 

I guess we all have some kind of threshold for chaos.  Some people have absolutely no tolerance for disorder, while others have no concept of disorder.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  Today my web cam revealed that I had reached…and perhaps gone a little beyond…my threshold for chaos. 

Oh, my.  I’ve got some organizing to do. 

Organization has an evil cousin, called Procrastination.  This evil cousin is like the little cartoon devil standing on your shoulder, whispering in your ear:

No, you don’t have time to clean up that mess today.  Wait till you have more time.  After all, you can still find everything, right? 

When I listen to that little guy, my husband makes fun of me, calling my desk “an archeological dig.”  Oddly enough, I can still find everything.  When my brother from Arizona was visiting a few months ago, I brought him into my office to show him something on my computer.  He didn’t hear a word I was saying.  After an awkward silence…that’s about 15 seconds max for those of us from New York…my brother said, “I don’t know how you get anything done with your desk like that.” 

“Like what?” 

“That,” he said, pointing to my archeological dig.  He obviously has no tolerance for disorder.  And to think that we’re from the same gene pool!  

Sometimes that little Procrastination devil is yelling so loud in one ear that I can’t hear the little angel, Organization, in the other.  She’s so quiet, and speaks so patiently: 

You know very well that it will only take about 20 minutes to clean up that mess.  It’s never a major project to clean it up.  The major project is always wrestling with my evil cousin.  He taunts you for days…weeks…when all you need to do is set aside 20 minutes now to clean it up. 

I think she’s teamed up with my web cam and Skype to urge me to action. 

Now I’m looking at an organized desk and office…and my brother in California isn’t home.  Oh well, if only my brother in Arizona could see me now.  He needs to get Skype.

This Bod Ain’t What It Used To Be

February 16, 2010

This past Sunday my husband, Steve, and I went for a Valentine’s Day hike at Torreya State Park.  Nowadays we give little thought to a day’s hike, compared to our meticulously planned backpacking ventures on the Appalachian Trail several years ago.  Every meal would be planned and packed, every day’s hike mapped out toward a specific campsite, and each item weighed after passing the test, “Do I really need this?  Will I survive without it?”

But such wasn’t the case on Sunday.

“Should we go for a hike?” asked Steve.

“Sure, let’s go.”

After ten minutes of gathering water bottles, protein bars and a couple small packs, we started the sixty-mile drive to Torreya.  It was a beautiful, cool sunny day, perfect for hiking.

When we arrived, Steve started digging through things in the back seat.

“I could swear my hiking boots were in this pack,” he said.

“So what are you going to do?”

“I guess I’ll have to hike in my crocs.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’ll be OK.”

As soon as we started the descent on the trail, I remembered what I forgot.

“Oh no!  I don’t have my hiking poles!”

“Should we forget it?”

“No, I’ll be OK.  I just need to find a stick.”

So Steve endured sloshing through the muddy areas in his airy crocs, while I pounded along with a flimsy stick, a far cry from my ergonomically designed antishock Leki poles. 

We fussed over the length of the hike. 

“Good thing it’s only five miles,” said Steve.

“It’s seven.”

“No it’s not.”

“Yes it is.”

I guess it’s nice to have someone to argue with, especially on Valentine’s Day.  Just for the record, the park’s web site says it’s a 7.2-mile hike.  (I love it when I’m right.)  We did take a cut-off path toward the end, though, to avoid the flooded section a ranger warned us about.  I’d say we probably hiked six miles, but Steve insists it was only five.

Monday morning, my calves said it was six.  I was pretty sore from all the climbs and descents, something we don’t get too much of in Florida.  I like to get some exercise each day, but I didn’t feel up for a walk/run. 

So I put on some work gloves and attacked a project that had been staring at me for weeks.  I want to plant a garden this Spring, and we only have one patch of ground that gets a decent amount of sunlight.  There were two bent-over, sun-hogging small trees that had to go.  I spoke with Steve a few times about using the chainsaw to take them down.

“I wish you wouldn’t.  Wait till I get to it,” he said.

Yeah, right.  I knew I’d have to tackle it if it was going to get done.  But I felt guilty about using the chainsaw against his wishes.  Heck, what if I sliced my leg or something stupid like that?  There are few things worse than painful “I told you so’s.”

I grabbed the ax and went at it with gusto.  Down came the trees, with my heart racing.

Good cardio.

I pruned off the branches and made several trips hauling them and the long trunks to the backyard by the campfire/burn pile.  Then I noticed the area Steve cleared of all the thick vines by the lake’s edge.  Now there was nothing between us and the gators.  What if they decided to climb up into the back yard…on an evening when I decided to walk out into the pitch-black darkness to stargaze on the dock?  Not a pretty mind picture, getting a gator mad by stepping on its snout.

I grabbed every long, thick branch and trunk I could find, and built a little gator barrier. 

OK, so maybe it won’t stop them.  But at least it will discourage them a little.

While placing down the last tree trunk, I tripped on a vine, banged my left shin against the gator barrier, and pulled the muscles in my torso and right calf—my sore right calf. 


My pulled calf muscle demanded the most attention, so I leaned against the branches to stretch it out, trying to ignore the spiking pains in my shin and torso.  I moaned and groaned, till the calf muscle relaxed. 

Where’s a video camera at times like this?

I hobbled into the house, grabbed the boo-boo bag (yes, the boo-boo bag), filled it with ice, propped up my leg, and pressed the bag on the purple-blue mound on my shin.


This morning my calves said it was a 15-mile hike Sunday.  Sure, it wasn’t, but that’s still what they told me.  On top of that, I guess the hacking of the ax was too much for my wrist.  The slightest movement caused unsettling pangs of pain.  I hobbled around on my sore calves, hunting for the wrist brace. 

Days like these are poignant reminders of our fleeting mortality.

Lord, I’ll be happy to trade this body in for a new one, on that glorious day when I see your face.  Please make it about thirty years old, and a slim 120 pounds!

The Great Escape

December 1, 2009

I succeeded with NaNoWriMo, writing a 50k-word novel in 30 days.  Woo-hoo!  Didn’t think I could do it, but lots of friends cheering me on sure helped.  Today I thought I’d finish up the story about my hospital stay this past summer …

Getting Out Of A Hospital Ain’t Easy

Please, somebody, save me from myself.  If I’m ever in a hospital again, and there isn’t anything too terribly wrong with me, I hope my head clears long enough so I can run for the nearest exit.  If I hear the words, “We’d like to keep you overnight for observation,” I pray to God there will be someone with me with enough bravado to yank me by the collar and drag me out.  I want to hear my friend’s cry of victory calling back as the doors open, “We’ll see you in the morning!”

But such was not my fortune at a recent hospital encounter up in New York.  What is it about health care professionals that lull us into the submissive fetal position, bobbing our heads, muttering “Yes, OK.”  Is it the white smock adorned with a stethoscope?  Or is it the way they clutch your file like a top-secret government project … and don’t dare let you see?  I admit, I caved and said, “Yes, OK.”

I’ve already written about my overnight experience with “the Borg,” and how I was almost completely assimilated like my poor roommate, DeeDee.  But now I must tell you about my escape, for that’s truly what it turned out to be.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I know that hospitals do a lot of good and do save lives.  It’s just that mine didn’t need saving at this particular time.  So my story comes from the perspective of someone just making sure there wasn’t something seriously wrong … and truly, I thank God for the care and attention I received from the good health care professionals … just to make sure I was OK.  Still, it wasn’t a picnic.  As with any challenging experience, if I can’t find something humorous in it, I’m a complaining, miserable wreck.  So here’s my story … told in a spirit of reverence, but with a little … shall I say … fun-spirited irreverence?

Now, if there’s anything a hospital is really good at, it’s making you wait around for the next thing to happen … the kinds of things they promise they’re going to do to you, only they neglect to tell you when.  So you wait and wait, and wait some more.

First thing in the morning, they attempt to give me a heart attack on a treadmill.  I kid you not.  Funny thing is, I was in there for chest pains.  Who thinks up this stuff?  Let’s see, she’s having chest pains, so let’s take it up a notch and see how much her ticker can take before she yells “Uncle!”

No, I take that back.  It wasn’t first thing in the morning.  It was after a lot of waiting around.  Some guy in blue scrubs comes into my room with a wheelchair.

“Can you unhook me from this I.V.?” I ask him.  “It really hurts.”  I think back to all the pain I endured through the night, because a nurse put the Heparin Lock right into the inside crook of my elbow.  I later ask another nurse who comes into the room to move it or remove it and she replies, “Just don’t bend your arm and you’ll be fine.”  Hello!  What do you want to do when they tell you not to bend your arm?  Bend it, of course.  And I’m supposed to tell my arm to stay straight while I sleep, right?

Then when I finally fall asleep, I’m awakened by two people talking over my bed.  They turn on the bright fluorescent light and start grabbing the wires that are snapped to my body, and hooking them up to this big machine they just wheeled in.  The first thing I hear is a woman’s voice saying to her fellow nurse, “Oh gee, look where they put her Hep-Lock.”

You know just what to say to put a girl into the right frame of mind, lady. Now I know that I’m suffering unnecessarily at the hands of someone’s poor judgment.  Not a comforting thought at two in the morning in a hospital bed.

As they get their readings and write more on my secret chart, I wonder how anyone ever gets better in a hospital.  No wonder they sedate people so they can sleep.  There’s no other way it’s going to happen.

So now it’s morning and we’re back to the guy in blue scrubs with the wheelchair.  He unhooks me from the I.V. stand.

“Can you take out this Hep-Lock?  It really hurts.”

“No, I can’t do that.  Let me go get a nurse.”

He leaves the room.  I’m sitting on the bed waiting.  And waiting.  He finally returns.

“No, you need to keep that in.  Let’s get you in this wheelchair so I can take you for your stress test.”

Reluctantly, I submit and bob my head, “Yes, OK.”

He wheels me down to the elevator and then to another hall.

“Just wait there,” he says as he parks me against a wall.  “I’ll be right back.”

As if I have any other option than to wait?  Let’s see, if I make a break for it, I can wheel my way to the cafeteria and see if they have any real coffee down there. When you’re in the hospital for chest pains, no way are they going to give you anything but decaf.  Never mind the splitting headache that ensues because of your caffeine addiction.

But I set aside these rambling thoughts and submissively wait.

The guy in blue scrubs finally returns.  He takes me to another elevator and down another hall.  We arrive at the door to a room and he says, “Here ya go.  They’ll take it from here.”

Before I can utter the obvious, “Who?” he’s gone.  I’m alone, with not so much as an old, outdated tattered magazine to pass the time, and I wait.

After a while, a nurse wheels me into the room.

“Can you remove this Hep-Lock?” I ask.

“Sure, honey.  But I need to put another one into your hand.”

Score! Anything is better than keeping that needle in my arm.

She takes all my vitals, snaps more wires to me, tells me to sit on the table and—you guessed it—wait.  My eye catches a couple magazines under a stand.  Neither is what I’d call my cup of tea, but I choose the high-end, hotsy-totsy home décor magazine over golf.  I’m mindlessly pouring over really bizarre furniture and interior design, reading about the artsy homeowners … and waiting.

The nurse returns with a doctor, who instructs me to walk as fast as I can, for as long as I can.  They will gradually make the treadmill go faster, with an increasing incline.  No sweat, I can do this.

After a few minutes of trying to act like it isn’t killing me, I ask, “So how long do you want me to do this?”

“At least twelve minutes, but fifteen would be better.”

Better for who? My heart’s pounding, my hands are sweating, and I can’t hide my heavy breathing anymore.  I strain to compose myself and ask them to stop at twelve.  If I’m going to have a heart attack, right now would be the time.

But no, now’s the time for the nuclear injection.  You heard that right.  They inject it into my hand and tell me to keep walking at top speed uphill.  One minute of radioactive fluid coursing through my popping, throbbing veins.  Can this be healthy?

The nurse helps me back into the wheelchair, and rolls me to the room next door.  What now? You guessed it again … wait.

A technician eventually emerges and wheels me over to an extraordinarily large machine.

“All right,” he says, “just step up onto this table.”

“All the way up there?”  It’s only about six feet off the floor.  Not an easy feat, especially after a night of sleep-deprivation, and lethargically lying in a bed or sitting in a wheel chair.  I muster up the strength and climb the contraption.

“OK,” he says.  “Now lie down and hold onto these bars, but keep your elbows in so they don’t get hit.”

Get hit?  What on earth is going on?  Nobody told me about this!  What the heck is happening?

Before I know it, the table is moving backward, and I’m desperately trying not to let my elbows get hit … on what, I don’t know.  I’m going into a small tunnel.

“Now don’t move.”

Move?  Are you kidding?  Where could I possibly go?

I don’t know what they’re doing to me, but I want it to be over—real soon.

After another round of sliding out, turning, and going back into the tunnel, I’m about ready for my hospital bed.  Anything is better than this.  I’m finally allowed to climb down from the table and back into the wheelchair.  I glance over at what the technician is looking at on a screen.  How cool!  That’s my heart—in full, living color. Now that’s something I’d like to stay around and look at.  But no, the guy in blue scrubs whisks me out of the room, into the hall, and then leaves me.  Gee, buddy, couldn’t you at least let me do my waiting in there with the cool video? Happily, I find my magazine tucked into the wheelchair.  I’ve read just about every word in it, but it’s better than sitting and staring at blank, white walls.

The guy in blue returns and takes me back to my room.  Ah, breakfast is on my night stand.  Scrambled eggs, toast and a fresh apple.  Not too shabby, for hospital food.

After finishing up, I wait—for what I haven’t a clue.

Finally a pretty, tall Physician’s Assistant shows up.  “Everything looks fine,” she says cheerfully.

“So can I go home?”

“I don’t see why not.  We just need to wait for the doctor’s final OK to let you go.”

Yes!  I’m outa here!

I excitedly get up off the bed and get my clothes out of the closet.  Finally, I can get dressed.  But not so fast.  They’ve hooked me back up to that darn I.V. stand.  How can I possibly get dressed attached to that thing?

I sit and wait.  I don’t bother watching T.V. because I find daytime programming about as exciting as throwing up.  They charge extra for using the T.V. anyway.

After a lot of waiting, my doctor arrives.  “Yes,” he says, “you’re good to go.”

“Can you unhook me from this I.V.?”

“I’ll send the nurse in for that.”

I wait some more … and more.

The nurse pokes her head in and I’m quick to the draw.

“The doctor said I can leave.  Can you take out this I.V.?”

“I’ll have to check on that.  I’ll be right back.”

Like I haven’t heard that before.

She finally comes back, unhooks me and removes the Hep-Lock.  Yes!

I grab my clothes and get dressed in the bathroom, thrilled to be free at last.  I walk out into the hall.
“Excuse me?” asks a nurse.  “Where are you going?”

“The doctor said everything is fine and I can go home.”

“But we need to release you,” she explains.

“OK, then release me.”

“You need to wait here,” she says as she walks away.

Why do I have to wait? I want to go home!

I grab my cell phone and call the airport.  Yes, there’s a flight out this afternoon.  I can make it.  I call my sister-in-law and ask her to pick me up.

I walk over to the door of my room and stand there, waiting.  Anyone who walks by, I look them straight in the eye with a pathetic, longing look.

A guy walks by and asks, “May I help you?”

“Yes!  I need to fly back home to Florida, and I don’t know what I’m waiting for.”

“Just a second,” he says.  “I’ll go see what’s happening.”

I wait.  He returns.

“The nurse will be with you in a little while to release you,” he says.

“Well I hope it’s soon.  I need to be at the airport to catch a flight.”

“The nurse is eating lunch,” he explains, “but I’ll see if I can get her.”

I wait some more.

She shows up clutching one of those top-secret clipboards.  I meekly apologize for taking her from her lunch, but explain that I’ve got to leave for the airport.

She gives me departure instructions, like getting some prescriptions filled and having a follow-up visit with a doctor in Florida.

“Where are you going now?” she questions me.

“Down to the gift shop to meet my sister-in-law.”

“She’s on her way right now to pick you up?” she asks incredulously.

What is this lady’s problem?  Why do I feel like I’m making a prison break?

“Yes, she is,” I answer.

“Well, you’re supposed to wait for a wheelchair.  Can you make it down there OK?”

“Sure,” I answer calmly, while inside I’m screaming, “Yes, a thousand times YES!”

I walk toward the elevator, feeling like I’ve been released on parole.  I make it down to the gift shop and out the door.

I did it!  I escaped!  God bless hospitals, but keep me away from them!

You Will Be Assimilated – Part 2

November 19, 2009

After hours in a hospital for chest pains while visiting family up north … and hours of being stuck with needles, hooked up to machines with tentacles attached to my body … and feeling as helpless as Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard when the Borg had captured and assimilated him …

Now it’s time to sleep.  Yeah, right.  I’ve got a roommate.  I haven’t seen her yet, because there’s a curtain between us.  Through all the commotion between her and the nursing staff, though, I learn her name is DeeDee, and I think she’s an older woman.

Every time she gets up to go to the bathroom, which is often, she sets off an alarm—a long, shrill beeeeeeeep! They (the Borg) keep coming in and telling her that she has to press the call button when she needs to go, so they can unplug her.  Yes, unplug her.  Like a regular plug and outlet.  She has been assimilated far worse than me.

But DeeDee heeds not their warnings … throughout the night.  At first I think she’s senile, but then I begin to consider … maybe DeeDee is just trying to assert herself in the Borg collective.  If I have to get up and go to the bathroom, then by golly, I’m going to go, and I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission!

She gets up, struggles with her I.V. stand, crashing it into everything between her bed and the bathroom.  I pray she doesn’t have a driver’s license.  She tugs at the electric cord restraining her, pulling it across my bed until she yanks it out of the wall.  Yes, DeeDee is pretty cool.  And since the moment she’s lifted off the rigged bed, we’re subjected to the beeeeeeep!

They finally come in and admonish her, “You can’t just get up.  You need to press the call button.”

“What call button?” she asks for the umpteenth time in her sweet little voice.

“Right here.”

“Oh, O.K.  Thank you.”

A few minutes later, beeeeeeep! They decide to leave her light on.  I put earplugs in, but the fluorescent light is blinding.  This can’t be happening!  I need a sleep mask. I try to rig something with the hospital socks, then remember I have a safety pin in my purse, along with a large cloth for cleaning my glasses.  Perfect.

I toss and turn.  She’s snoring.  How will I ever get any sleep?  This I.V. hurts, I keep getting tangled in the oxygen tube, and I’ve got this portable contraption with several wires snapped to my body.  I’m so frustrated I’m about to explode.  But then I start thinking about how funny this all is.  This is great material! So I get up and start writing it all down.  Can’t sleep anyway.

I start getting chest pains again.  Maybe it’ll go away.  No, maybe they should monitor this.  I press the call button.  They come … they turn on my bright fluorescent light, haul in the monster Borg machine, snap me in and do an EKG.  It’s my turn to cause a commotion, DeeDee. They leave.

It’s 3am, and somehow, I’ve got to get some sleep.  Then something clicks inside me.  I can do this.  I’ve backpacked the Appalachian Trail, and slept on the hard ground with clothes for a pillow.  Surely I can manage with this hard bed and plastic pillow.

I’ll just pretend I’m camping … with the Borg.

Did I Find Her, Or Did She Find Me?

November 14, 2009

DogIt was cool and sunny this morning…perfect walking weather.

About three quarters of a mile from home I heard a growl.

Oh, Lord, I forgot to pray for a safe walk. There are lots of loose dogs where I live.  Sometimes I remember to carry something that could be used for protection, like a heavy flashlight.  But today I was empty handed.

I looked to my right toward the growl and saw a large brown dog running toward me.  Frantic thoughts raced through my mind.  Don’t make eye contact.  Ignore it.  Look for a large stick.

I did all three.  There was no large stick to be found.  The dog kept circling me.  Please go away!

It kept walking in front of me, behind me and beside me.  Its size was most intimidating.  It was a female, and looked quite overfed.  No collar.  Did someone abandon her?

After another quarter mile I determined she wasn’t a threat.  I turned around to walk home.  She turned around, too.  Oh no, she’s following me.

As she trotted down the center of the road beside me, a truck came up behind us and had to slow down till she got off the road.  The driver gave me a dirty look.  As if this is my dog!

A few minutes later the dog growled and charged an older woman sweeping her driveway.  The lady ran for cover, and the dog came back to continue following me.  Sorry, but it’s not my dog!

As we approached a busy road I had to cross, I wondered if she’d get hit.  As fate would have it, traffic parted for both of us to cross safely.

Half way down my driveway, I opened our shed and found a little camping pot.  I filled it with water from the hose across from the shed.  She lapped at the water with gusto, occasionally looking up at me with a Thank You smile.

I walked inside my front door and closed it.  Ten minutes later I opened the door a crack to find her big nose nudging its way in.  I shut the door.  An hour later, same scenario.

I had to get ready to go to a NaNoWriMo write-in.  As I drove away I hoped she’d tire and go home, wherever that was.

Five hours later I returned to find her sitting in the dark at my front door.  There was also a yellow lab wearing a collar in the front yard.

What the heck?

I pressed the garage opener and drove in.  I pressed it again to close the door quickly.  The light started flashing and the door refused to move.  The two large dogs were in our garage.

Whatever you do, don’t jump on my car and scratch it.

I walked from the garage to the kitchen.  I opened our front door, and called, “Come here!”  They ran to the front door.  I shut it and ran to press the button to close the garage door.  But they were too quick.  The light started flashing again and the two dogs were inside the garage.

“Steph, I need your help,” I told my daughter who was preparing supper in the kitchen.  “I’ll go to the front door and call them.  When they come, I need you to shut the garage door.”  It worked.  The front door and garage door were shut, and both dogs were outside.

“Did anyone feed these dogs?” I asked.  My husband and daughter shook their heads.  “Where did the yellow one come from?”

“I went for a walk to lure the dog away,” said my husband.  “When she was far enough ahead, I started walking backward, and then ran all the way home.  Somewhere along the line the yellow dog joined in the fun.”

We all had a good laugh.

A few hours later I opened the front door a crack.  The yellow lab with the collar was gone, but the brown lab was still there.  You have to admire such persistence.

I went out and pet her.  She leaned into me, as if trying to stay warm in the cool, night air.  She smiled with her eyes, tongue swaying to the side of her mouth.  She was getting to me.

“Steve,” I called to my husband after going back inside.  “Should we feed her?”

He smiled.  “I think so.”

We had some leftover beef stew.  I know you’re not supposed to feed a pet scraps, but that was all we had.  I scooped it into a bowl and took it outside.  She lapped it up, stopping every few seconds to look up at me with her Thank You smile.

She is not coming into this house.  I repeat, she is not coming into this house.

I couldn’t help thinking, Did I find her, or did she find me?  Do I have “wus” written all over my face?

You Will Be Assimilated, Part 1

November 12, 2009
CampingBorg small

You Will Be Assimilated…

We’ve been enjoying house guests, so I’m furiously writing to catch up to my word count for  I’ve committed to writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.  I thought I’d include some posts about an experience I had this past June.  Enjoy, and have a great day!

Camping With The Borg, Part 1

A Lighter Look At An Awful Hospital Stay

Are I.V.’s supposed to be painful?  This one sure is, and I see blood in the tube.  Is that normal? Such are the thoughts that plague my mind in this hospital.

How did I get here, you ask?  Well, a few days ago I flew to New York to attend a writer’s conference.  Toward the end of the day, I started getting sharp chest pains … the scary kind.

“Zinora,” I say as I turn toward my sister-in-law seated beside me, “I’m having chest pains.  Can you find me some aspirin?”

She promptly rises and brings me back some.  After swallowing, I say, “Can you take me to the hospital?”  I’m scared.

We get to the car, and Zinora calls to tell Bob, my younger brother, on the car speakerphone.

“But I was going to cook up some shrimp scampi,” he says.  “How ‘bout I just cook up the shrimp scampi for you?”

Zinora and I are incredulous.

“Bob,” says Zinora, “Jude’s havin’ a heart attack, and all you can think about is shrimp scampi?”

“How ya feelin’, Jude?” he asks.  “Don’t you want some shrimp scampi first?”

I’m clutching the tightening in my chest, but I’m smiling.

“Forget the stupid shrimp scampi, Bob,” says Zinora.  “We’re going to the hospital.”

But now I’m feeling better.  Why the heck do I want to go to the hospital?

“Zinora, let’s just go back to your place,” I say.

“Are you sure, Jude?”


She obliges, and calls to tell Bob we’re headed home.  Here’s the kicker.  When we get back to the house, there’s no shrimp scampi.  So Zinora has to make it.

We have a great, fun visit for a few days, and then they take me to the airport.  I’m waiting at the gate, and the chest pain returns.  It doesn’t go away.  No way am I going to fly! I hurry back to the ticket counter, bursting into tears on the way.

“I have to cancel my flight.  I’m having chest pains and have to go to the hospital,” I sob to the attendant.

I call Bob and Zinora, who come back to take me to Nyack Hospital.  We go to the Emergency Room, tell them I have chest pains, and they immediately take me back to a bed.  They put tape stickers all over me and hook me up to an EKG machine, with wires attached to the stickers.

Blood pressure, temperature, blood drawn, then a chest x-ray.

In the middle of all this, I see a lady across from me, crying with her head in her hands, looking very worried.  I can’t move, but I scribble a note and ask Zinora to give it to her.

“Hi.  My name’s Judy, and I’m praying for you.”

She looks at me and smiles.

Once I’m free of the machine, I ask Zinora to go home with Bob.  Then I go over to talk to the lady, whose name is Tara.  She’s ten weeks pregnant, and cramping.  She’s scared she’ll lose the baby—her fourth.  We have a good conversation—she tells me about her boyfriend and kids and abusive ex-husband.  She really wants this baby.  I point out to her that since the staff has been in no rush to do anything with her, maybe that’s a good sign.  We hope so.  We pray.  They finally roll Tara away for a sonogram, and take me for a chest x-ray.

After a long while, a Physician’s Assistant stops by to tell me nothing looks out of the ordinary, but they want to keep me overnight, and do a stress test in the morning.

I’m admitted and wheeled to a room.  A nurse comes in and tapes different stickers all over me.  These things have snaps.

Their EKG machine looks even more monstrous than the one in the ER, with wire tentacles all over the place.  They snap me in, and I begin to empathize with Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, when the Borg captured and assimilated him.

A helpless victim to all this sticking, poking and “snapping in,” my mind is living Jean-Luc’s predicament.  “You will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile.”

…to be continued

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