With Cats, You Can Never Give Up Hope

A couple of weeks ago, one of my cats, Amy, who’s light gray with some tabby markings and beautiful blue eyes, started acting funny: she was stumbling around, unable to get her balance, and her eyes were moving rapidly from side to side. I told Mary, “I think Amy’s having a stroke.” Of course, this happened minutes after the vet’s office closed. So we put her in the basement, where she climbed behind some tables and stayed for the rest of the night.

We thought we were going to lose her, or have to have her put to sleep. I mean, she’s not an old cat, but not young, either, and we’ve seen cats go downhill in a hurry before. Mary said she would take Amy to the vet the next morning, and I started saying goodbye in my head.

The next morning, Mary woke me up. “I think Amy’s going to be okay,” she said, and shared an article she found online about feline vestibular disease, where the cat’s vestibular system (based in the inner ear, same as ours) is out of whack. It described Amy’s symptoms almost exactly, with loss of balance and coordination, her eyes moving from side to side rapidly, and her head tipping off to one side. Amy was fine when we found her in the basement, and Mary put her in the carrier and took her to the vet.

Mary’s gone for over an hour (the vet is five minutes away) and when she finally called, she told me that she’s in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s and she’s bringing home Egg McMuffins. We have a tradition in our house where, when we lose a cat, we have a breakfast brunch of Egg McMuffins, so of course I figured that Amy wasn’t coming home. When I tried to ask Mary what had been wrong, she hung up on me.

Anyway, I’m walking around the house, hugging the other cats and letting them know the bad news, when Mary comes home carrying a bag of Egg McMuffins and Amy. When I expressed relief that the kitty was still alive.

Mary gives me a funny look. “Why did you think she was gone?”

“Because you’re bringing home Egg McMuffins.” She had forgotten about the tradition. Evidently, just as she was talking to me, she had just pulled up to the window to pay, and had to get off the phone. We were raised in the days when that was considered good manners, not weird.

Turns out that Mary was right in her diagnosis, Amy had contracted feline vestibular disease, but she was going to be all right. Her head might be tipped off to one side permanently; I think it’ll just make her more adorable than she already is.

Mary kept her in our isolation room (an unused bedroom) for the last two weeks, and she just made it out yesterday. Her head is tipped to one side, and she still has a little trouble with her balance, but she’s just as pretty and as goofy as she ever was, and she missed me almost as much as I missed her.

So, I learned that, with cats, you can never give up hope. Things that look serious or fatal can actually be not that big of a deal. Amy will likely stumble a little and her head might be permanently crooked, but she’s still alive and in good health. Kind of like me, all these years after the stroke.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

Free Graphics

The first Labor Day strip for the comic “Garfield” featured this poem…

Labor Day, Schmabor Day,
What a dumb day!
You hire a guy,
Then send him away
To celebrate work
By playing all day!

Labor Day isn’t until Monday, of course, but the Labor Day weekend started today. It’s the last weekend of summer; any kids who haven’t started school already will be going back this week, and even though the autumnal equinox isn’t for another three weeks, for all intents and purposes summer is over.

autumn leaves

Back when I was growing up, Labor Day meant one thing: SCHOOL STARTS ON WEDNESDAY.


I didn’t really hate school when I was a kid. At the same time, I wasn’t really thrilled about going back after three months off. And I hated going back-to-school shopping. It was a real pain in the ass.

There wasn’t a whole lot of deciding what clothes to buy, because we went to a Catholic school. The uniform never changed: light blue short-sleeved cut-and-sewn shirt, navy blue tie, navy blue slacks, black or brown leather oxfords or loafers, and a navy blue blazer. The shirt, tie, and slacks were not negotiable, but the nuns would accept just about any sportcoat. We got hand-me-down sportcoats from my mother’s cousin (who was a couple of years older than I) and her stepbrother (ditto), both of whom seemed to get two or three new sportcoats a year and pass the old ones on to us. Usually the hand-me-down jacket I wore one year would fit my brother Jim the next and my brother Kip the year after that, so that was taken care of.

A week before school started, Mom would tell us to dig out our school clothes from the year before and try them on. Needless to say, none of them fit. So we’d go out and show Mom, who would have us trade clothes and see if they fit. That never worked. Kip and I were on the heavy side, while Jim was always slender, so if my old slacks fit him lengthwise, they were huge on him widthwise.

Finally conceding that we all needed new slacks, we would get in the car and go to Sears. The letter we got from school would tell us where to get the clothes, but Mom never went to those places. Sears had the Toughskins, the slacks with reinforced knees that weren’t supposed to tear. And of course, a couple of us had to have husky sizes, and they were stiff and baggy and always seemed to be too long. We went one at a time, so when I was done I had to wait while the other two got fitted. And there was always a lot of grumbling and complaining, not just from Mom but from the three of us. Then we’d have to go buy shoes, always one of my least favorite things to do. The shoes were stiff and tight, and by the time you got them broken in, it was time to buy new ones.

After I would get home, I’d lay my new clothes out on the bed and sit there looking at them. Yep, summer was coming to a close.

So, enjoy the weekend and the rest of summer.

Ten TV Shows I’d Like To See Again


I saw this on L. G. Keltner’s blog on Tuesday morning. It was a reply to the “Express Yourself” weekly meme (click the link for further details). Here’s the challenge:

Name ONE cancelled/retired TV show you’d love to see back on with new episodes.

The thing that tripped me up was the “one” part. I couldn’t come up with just one. I thought, “I can think of at least ten.” And that’s what I did.

Two of the shows are spinoffs that never made it to the air except for the episodes on their parent shows that introduced them; the other eight are shows that I wish had continued.

  1. Sunset Division: This was to have been a spinoff of Crossing Jordan, featuring Jerry O’Connell as Detective Woody Hoyt. There was an episode of Crossing Jordan that showed us what the spinoff would look like. When I saw it, I thought, “Yeah, that would be something I’d like to see,” and when I heard NBC was going to show it, I was looking forward to it. Then it never made the air. Just damn.

  2. NCIS: Red: Another show that was to have been a spinoff, this one from NCIS. It was previewed in a two-part episode on NCIS: Los Angeles. It would have starred John Corbett, from Northern Exposure and the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and centered around the NCIS Red Team, a group of agents who lived and worked together out of a mobile unit, traveling around the country solving cases. It was another case where I liked the preview and was looking forward to the show, which never came.

  3. Crossing Jordan: This ran for six years, was moved around NBC’s schedule several times, had a cast that changed constantly, and several recurring story lines (particularly the mystery of who killed Jordan’s mother) were never resolved sufficiently. But it was a good show, with an excellent cast, and I would have liked to have seen the loose ends tied up a little better than they were.

  4. Cybill: This show ran for three years (1995-1998) and starred Cybill Shepherd as an aging actress, Christine Baranski as her best friend Maryann, Alicia Witt as Cybill’s daughter Zoey, and Alan Rosenberg as Ira, one of Cybill’s ex-husbands. I remember laughing like an idiot at the show, which I saw in reruns a few years after the original run. It would be difficult if not impossible to reassemble the cast, but I wish there had been more episodes.

  5. The Pretender: This show and the next one were dumped by NBC when the networks decided that they would show reruns and magazine shows on Saturday night, because after all, no one watches TV on Saturday night besides old folks, right? This show starred Michael T. Weiss as a man who can assume anyone’s identity and master any skill who has escaped from a government agency and is running around the country taking on jobs and helping people, all while being under constant surveillance by the agency he escaped from, in particular Miss Parker, played by Andrea Parker. The show just ended and vanished from the schedule without so much as a by-your-leave. Hmph.

  6. Profiler: A victim of the same purge as The Pretender, this show starred Ally Walker as Dr. Sam Waters, a profiler for the Violent Crimes Task Force, an independent agency that helps the FBI, ATF, and other governmental agencies. She’s paired with Agent Bailey Malone, played by Robert Davi. Throughout the series, she’s pursued by a criminal who calls himself Jack of All Trades, played by Dennis Christopher. Ally left after the third season and was replaced by Jamie Luner playing Rachel Burke. The show went downhill after that. It might have gotten better if it were allowed to continue….

  7. Burn Notice: This show came to a good completion with disgraced CIA operative Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) and his gun-runner girlfriend Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar) presumed dead and escaping to a cold climate, where they plan on raising his nephew. The final episode ended with Michael’s friends Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Jesse (Coby Bell) at the funeral, where they “buried” Michael and Fiona, then Sam turning to Jesse and saying, “I got a buddy who needs some help. Interested?” and Jesse saying “Let’s go see him.” It leaves me with hope that maybe a spinoff will ensue. USA Network, are you listening?

  8. CSI: NY: Of the three iterations of the CSI: franchise, the one where I could relate to the characters the best and didn’t end up hating by the end of the run. Gary Sinise was superb as Mac Taylor, a former Marine whose wife was killed in the destruction of the World Trade Center. But then, he’s superb in just about everything. You got a better sense of who the characters were. You saw them off the job as well as on it, saw the relationships between the characters develop, saw them involved in personal issues, and when one member of the permanent cast left, the character that replaced their character blended well with the others. the cases were interesting, the settings diverse, and it was the only show in the franchise that was located in a city with four seasons. I want to spend more time with these characters.

  9. Life Goes On: Another show with excellent characters, and the first to feature a character wth Down Syndrome, I’d love to see more episodes of it. Life was hard for all of the Thachers, but they made it through, and there were more than a few laughs along the way, but never at the expense of anyone.

  10. NYPD Blue: Again, another strong cast that survived the departures of members and the arrivals of their replacements. The one constant was Detective Andy Sipowicz, played by Dennis Franz. By the end of the series, he was widowed, his partner had died, and he wws left to raise a child as a single father, and while the rough edges were smoothed, they were still there. He might have been the central character, but the other cops and support staff were just as important, and their interactions with each other were what you would expect from New York City detectives. It was a show that could have gone on forever, and I wish it had, or at least for a few more seasons.

I can think of many more shows, but these are the ten I’m going with. Which ones would you like to see?

Odds and Ends, Part 2

Yeah, okay… I was trying something HTML-wise, and hit “Publish” instead of “Preview.” Oops. Anyway…

See you tomorrow!

Odds and ends


  • Kristen Lamb once again hits it out of the park with “How to Become a Lean, Mean Writing MACHINE.” Since I began blogging every day, I look at these entries as my daily column, and I’ve learned that “getting it perfect” is nowhere near as important as “getting it done.” Kristen tells us “blogging is the new journalism,” and goes on to explain why.
  • Today’s WordPress Daily Post asks, “As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?”

    I wasn’t particularly happy about going back to school, but I wouldn’t say anxious, either. I had four First Days of School where I was excited: starting high school, starting at a new high school, starting college, and starting at a new college. The rest of them were “eh, first day of school.”

    The one year it was interesting was third grade: Dad would take his vacation the week before Labor Day, and we’d go to Wisconsin for the week. Well, that year they decided to start school the last week of August. Dad had a hard enough time getting vacation that week, and we had already put a deposit on a vacation house, so he decided that we would just start after Labor Day and the nuns would just have to suck it. The nun I had was not happy that they let my father get away with that, and I remember being picked up by the ear and told as much for some minor infraction of classroom decorum. Mom was never shy about calling and giving the principal a piece of her mind, when the occasion called for it, and that occasion did. We had no further trouble with that nun that year, but I did have a contretemps with the principal later that year that resulted in lacerations to my cheek.

    Now that I’m older and living in the south, I’m happy for the end of summer, although it stays hot and humid until about mid-October.

Two for Tuesday: Blondie

Mary and I were at the grocery store last Wednesday (our local Kroger considers everyone over 55 to be a senior citizen and gives us five percent off). While we were shopping, what should come on the piped-in music but Blondie doing “One Way or Another.” I guess the Baby Boomers really are retiring now.

Blondie is the name of the band, of course, and not just a clever name for Debbie Harry, lead singer and frontwoman for the band. She and guitarist Chris Stein founded the band in 1974 (forty years already? Doesn’t seem possible) and they became popular in Europe and Australia, but were considered an underground band in the US until the release of Parallel Lines, their third album, in 1978. They enjoyed mainstream success after that, but tensions in the band, brought to a head by Stein contracting pemphigus, a life-threatening autoimmune disease that causes blisters to form on the skin, caused a splitup in 1982. The band reunited in 1996, and has released four albums since then, the most recent being this year’s Ghosts of Download. Of course, they have a website, Blondie.net.

First up today is “Call Me,” their 1980 hit that was the theme song from American Gigolo starring Richard Gere. It reached #1 in the US, Canada and the UK, certified gold in the US, platinum in Canada, and silver in the UK.

Second is “One Way or Another,” from 1978’s Parallel Lines. It made it to #24 in the US, #7 in Canada, and #98 in the UK in 1979.

Blondie, your Two for Tuesday, August 26, 2014.

My grandfather’s commonplace book

My mother and her sisters considered their father, my grandfather Hicks, as inscrutable as the Sphinx. They never could figure him out. If they could, they would realize there was really nothing to figure out. He was born in the first decade of the twentieth century, and he was a man of his time: soft-spoken, introverted, well-educated, highly intelligent, erudite, etc. As such, he rarely showed his feelings and didn’t talk to them as much as he did to my uncle, his only son.

About twenty years ago, I was visiting Mom, and after our usual greetings, she said, “I have to show you something.” She left the room and returned with a banker’s box. She explained that her father had given it to her. Inside the box were press clippings he had collected in his coaching days, mementos of events he had attended, pictures, that kind of stuff. She reached into the box and took out a thin, black leather-bound book, like a ledger. “You have to see this.” No doubt afraid that I would spill something on it, tear one of its pages, set it on fire, or write all over it with a Magic Marker (as I had, when I was a kid, to one of his other books), she held it on her lap and made me look over her shoulder.

From what I could see, the book was filled with quotations, aphorisms, passages from books he had read, general thoughts, and notes to himself, all in his measured penmanship. I didn’t get to read it that closely, so I have no idea exactly what was in it, but clearly Mom was impressed, because it was obvious that her father was a man of high intelligence and learning, and bemoaned the fact that she and her siblings were such “mutts.” She then closed the book, tucked it back into the banker’s box, and spirited it away, putting it wherever it was she put things that she didn’t want anybody getting their hands on. She had the secret to her father, and wasn’t about to let it slip out of her hands.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Over this weekend, I learned that a book like my grandfather’s ledger was a commonplace book. It’s nothing more than a place to record the types of things that my grandfather had. At one time, everyone kept them; they were invaluable study aids, a good place to jot down things the owner wanted to remember, a private repository of all of the things that mean something to the person keeping it. Up until then, I never knew anyone who had one of those, probably because it’s not the sort of thing you share with the world. Mom, Dad, and “Tex” (her second husband) didn’t keep one, at least not that I’m aware of, nor did anyone else in my family, and in seventeen years of private and public education no one ever mentioned it or encouraged us to keep one.

Damn. I would have liked to have thought of doing that. I mean, I’ve kept journals and notebooks of work-related information, but never considered having a notebook of just information that I wanted to carry through life with me.

Well, no time like the present. There’s no reason I have to keep a commonplace book using pen and paper, despite admonitions in articles I’ve read online that I “really should” (Julia Cameron also advises that “morning pages” should be written longhand; I use 750 Words and get just as much out of the exercise), so I’ve started a notebook in Evernote for the job. And all the quotes, affirmations, reading notes, basically anything that I want to capture and remember, will go in there. Who knows where this could lead?

Oh, a couple of other things:

After Mom died, we were cleaning out the house to sell it, and found the box. We had dinner with Hicks the next day, and I returned the box to him. He said, “I gave that box to your mother to get it out of my house. Was there anything in there you wanted?” So I went into the box to look for the book, and it wasn’t there. Mom had passed it on to one of her sisters. A few days later, we found a Marshall Field’s box with Etaba Doyle’s (Mom’s grandfather) stuff in it. I brought it home and it’s in a plastic box in my closet. If they want the stuff, I’ll trade them for the book.

My grandfather died on December 20, 2001, and all of the grandsons that could make it served as pallbearers. At the end of the funeral Mass, my uncle got up and told all of us, primarily his sisters, that in the conversations he had with his father, Hicks had talked a lot about his children and grandchildren, and you could tell that he was very proud of us and considered us, his family, his greatest accomplishment. He finished his talk with “And he wanted you to know, that even though he called us a bunch of lard-heads, that he loved us very much.” My cousins and I laughed like idiots at that one. None of us ever had any doubt. Like I said, there was nothing to figure out.

Do you keep a commonplace book? How long have you kept it?

#ROW80: Marching right along…

Click on the picture to link to the website!
Click on the picture to link to the website!

I’ve had another successful week here. In fact, I think what I should do now is come up with something new. Details below…

And that’s all the news from this end. Hope everyone else is doing well. Straight ahead!

Free Scrivener Webinar!

Say you have Scrivener (like me). And say that you use it, but aren’t getting the most from it (again, like me).

Well, this morning I learned about this class…


This Thursday at 4 PM Eastern Daylight time, Joseph Michael, “the world’s greatest Scrivener coach,” will be presenting his class, “How to Use Scrivener to Effortlessly Write, Organize, and Export Your Book Into Various Formats For Printing, Editing, Publishing, and More!” as a FREE WEBINAR! It’ll be hosted by K. M. Weiland, author of the Amazon bestsellers Structuring Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel, as well as a number of fiction books that you can see on her website. She also hosts the blog Helping Writers Become Authors and sends out a killer newsletter, both of which I subscribe to. K. M. just started using Scrivener herself, and says that the webinar helped her.

Sign up and you’ll get a couple of free bonuses: Joseph Michael’s e-book “How To Write Your Book In 30 Days” and a mindmap baseed on it, an MP3 of K. M.’s audio presentation “Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration,” and a free Scrivener template designed by Stuart Norfolk and based on her two books.

So, what are you waiting for? Click the picture above and I’ll see you Thursday!

The future of social media…?

While I can no longer receive the programming offered by WXIA (“11 Alive”), our local NBC affiliate (signal’s too weak), I still have their app on my phone, and they send me news updates, so I don’t miss their newscasts. In addition to the local news, weather, sports, and traffic, they also publish a lot of general-interest stories.

This week, there was a story from Julie Wolfe, one of WXIA’s reporters, that asks the musical question, “What will social networking look like in 2058?

The social media company Ku (and, God knows, we needed another social media company) anted to know the answer to that, so it looked at current trends and said, if those trends continued, by 2058 people would be posting to social media an average of a hundred times a day. That’s an average of a post every fourteen minutes and twelve seconds, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Without a break to go to the bathroom. Gotta go? Take your phone with you. (Apparently, there are those that do.)

This line got to me, though:

The poignant moments comes when the subject posts “Two polarizing fears: that everyone is watching, that no one is.”

Shades of Oscar Wilde….


The article goes on to say that the folks at Ku don’t think social media will grow at its current pace ad infinitum. Paul Curran, Community Manager for Ku, said this:

“We want to believe that with technological innovation, we will also grow in terms of social behavior. In some point down the line, perhaps we will understand that chasing our next social ‘rush’ is equal to taking another hit from a cigarette.”

There’s Oscar again…


You know? That might be it. All of this social media stuff started when smoking became such a social evil. I can remember the days when I’d meet friends and we’d talk, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes. That was our social networking. Now, if you’re going to have cigarettes and coffee, you better take your coffee to go and sit as far away from the front door of Starbucks as you can…

I know. I’m being facetious. I’m not sugesting that everyone go to a Starbucks and light up as a form of protest. Nor am I suggesting that we should all take up smoking, because that’ll improve our sociability.

But, you know what… maybe we need to put social media in its place. Mary and I were at Target the other day, and we were walking behind a woman who was walking like she was disabled, like I am. We walked around her when we could, and her disability was that she was trying to walk down the aisle and text at the same time. Another day, I saw a kid of about three run through the Target parking lot and almost get hit by a car. His mother was about twenty feet behind him, texting. Regardless of how many laws are put on the books prohibiting texting while driving, and how many PSA’s run on TV showing the last text messages from people who were texting while driving, people are still doing it.

Maybe we need to revisit the joys of being unavailable. Remember those days? If someone called you, and you weren’t home, the phone just rang until the caller figured, “well, guess they ain’t home,” hung up and called back later. If someone stopped by your house and you weren’t there, they moved on. Maybe they left a note, maybe not. If you were out of the house, say at a restaurant, and needed to use the phone, you found the pay phone (installed away from the dining room), called your party, and explained “I can’t talk long, I’m at a pay phone.” And, if the phone rang and you were in the bathroom, in bed, watching your favorite TV show, reading, or in the middle of cooking or eating dinner, you didn’t answer. There were no cellphones, text messages, email, social media, answering machines, caller ID, no other way to contact someone; you either called them or went to their house, and if they weren’t there or weren’t answering, well, tough bananas.


And maybe we need to get comfortable with the notion that we’re going to miss things, and that it’s okay and, if we really need to know, we’ll hear about it soon enough. Mom used to say that, no matter how you felt about something, six billion Chinese could care less. If that’s the case, maybe it’s really not that important.

The world of social media is the world of Truman Burbank. Do we really want to be part of it? Do we really need to keep up with the Kardashians?

Anyway, best of luck to Ku. It’s essentially Twitter except, instead of sending tweets, you send “Hey, Ku”s. For those of us in the writing business, it’s another place to make our presence known, another plank in the platform, as it were. So don’t forget.

I’d love to know your thoughts. What do you think about having another social media outlet? Do you know anyone who posts to social media a hundred times a day? Do you miss “not being there”?


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