moles

I have skin cancer.

Not really, or that I know of, but that’s what I declared to HK last night. I was getting out of the shower I noticed these new “thingy’s,” little growths, like the thousands of moles that cover my body. (OK, not thousands, maybe, but lots-and that’s not counting the 30 or so that doctor’ have already removed.)

“Go to the dermatologist,” he advised. But then we remembered. We don’t have health insurance anymore. Well, we do, but only for catastrophes. Like a chainsaw severing the wrong trunk.  Or having your head bashed in by a demolition ball. New moles don’t count.

Last year, HK voluntarily left his job. With his resignation, we were “given” an extra month of our existing health care coverage. So we visited every possible specialist we could, making sure there would be no surprises. Everything looked tip-top, although due to past “procedures,” my coverage costs were considerably higher than HK’s. I had orthoscopic surgery on my shoulder.  (Even though my 3 months of physical therapy was finished already.)  I had seen an opthamologist for “dry-eye”. I had dandruff. Holy shit!  I thought getting all this stuff out of the way would save us some cash!

I had seen something in the paper about free skin-cancer screening, so I googled it and called. They had booked up in the first hour. I called a few other places, and they were either full or  only for minorities. (Is that even legal?) So I’ve decided to just go ahead and see my doctor, even though she books up many, many months in advance, and I’ll be charged, like, a gazillion dollars.

Why is it that when we don’t have things like, say, insurance, that our health takes a turn for the worse?  In the year since losing full coverage, I’ve had more health issues than in the last 5 years combined. I guess age could possibly have something to do with it, but hell. I’m not that old!

So whaddya do? Do you pay major big bucks for comprehensive coverage and total piece of mind but much leaner pockets, or do you rely on the fact that, up until this point you’ve been reasonably healthy, and hope to stay that way? I’m going with the second option for now. I’m really just glad I have a choice. Many, many Americans don’t.

In the meantime, I’ll practice prevention.  I’ll apply sunscreen regularly. I’ll exercise more. I’ll brush and floss religiously. And I’ll go have these little “thingy’s” on my body checked out.  I’ll just forgo those strappy little sandals I’ve been saving for.

Erma Bombeck

I just spent a fabulous 3 days in Dayton, Ohio (yes, it’s possible to have a fabulous time there.)  I attended my first ever Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, a bi-annual coming-together of humor writers.

Attendees run the gamut of published authors, screen-writers, bloggers, social media fanatics and those who were just dipping their toe in the stream of writing.  There was a fantastic line up of presenters and speakers, including, but certainly not limited to:

W. Bruce Cameron-author of my favoritest-ever (yes, that’s my word) book, “A Dog’s Purpose.” (Which, by the way, will be made into a movie soon.)

Craig Wilson-USA Today feature writer and author of “It’s the Little Things: An Appreciation of Life’s Simple Pleasures.”

Adriana Trigiani-writer for The Cosby Show and A Different World, and author of “Lucia, Lucia” and “Big Stone Gap” which was where Adriana and I both began our lives.

Irene Beckerman– whose writing career began at the age of 60 (Oh, thank you, Irene- there is STILL hope for me!)

Alan Zweibel, one of the original writer’s for “Saturday Night Live.” He also wrote  for “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and the movie “North”, among others.

Dave Fox-author of Globejotting and Getting Lost, and who I consider responsible for my enthusiasm about writing humor. I’ve taken 2 of Dave’s online humor-writing classes, and he encouraged me to go to the EBWW conference.

There were many more inspirational presenters at the conference, and, perhaps most inspirational of all was Erma’s family. Each family member read one of their favorite columns written by Erma, and gave us a piece of their own life with the woman we all consider “Mom.”

The presenters were unique, but the message was the same. Keep writing. Do what you love. Persevere.  “Overnight success is a myth, so don’t give up!”  That is exactly what I needed to hear. Muchas Gracias!

My roommate, Angela, was a former classmate in Dave’s online humor classes, and, although we were virtual strangers, we at least had a clue that we would get along.  She knew my penchant for wine and dropping the “F” bomb, and still agreed to let me room with her.

One problem.

Angela is a “low talker.”  (Remember Seinfield’s Puffy-Shirt episode?)

I am deaf.

No, not totally deaf, but I struggle to hear, much less understand, anything quieter than a passing fire truck or dynamite blast.  I have no idea what I nodded and smiled about for the first hour in our room, but after showing her my hearing aids and asking her to please yell at me, we hit it off. We’re even talking about taking a trip to Asia next year.

Polly arrived 8 ½ months pregnant, but other than that she seemed normal.

Then the truth came out.

Polly is a Mormon.

I’m from rural Appalachia. I’ve never met a real Mormon in person. My exposure lies in the endless TV ads that have ambushed us every 5 minutes, ever since Mitt Romney began his bid for president. You’ve probably seen them: Drug addicts, ex-convicts, Walmart greeters…  Each commercial ends in “I am a Mormon.

Maybe they should get Polly on that ad, saying she’s a Mom and a writer. It would have laid my fears to rest, for sure.

The bottom line is this. Last weekend I was exposed to some of the funniest, funnest, coolest and genuinely warmest people I’ve ever met. Thank you, Erma, for your gift.

The Cracker Queen

This weekend I attended an excellent and entertaining workshop presented by the Atlanta Writer’s Club. I’ve been working on a couple of writing projects for awhile, now, and seem to have hit a wall.  Lauretta Hannon (The Cracker Queen) spoke on the importance of platform for writers. She kept us on our toes with crucial tips to getting ourselves “out-there.”  I totally love that Lauretta, like myself, is a “Whup-Ass Southern Woman”.  The “anti-Southern Belle”.  I am looking forward to reading her book “The Cracker Queen”.

2 hours into the workshop, our break was announced. Immediately,  100 women ran to get in line for the 2 stalls in the bathroom. Thankfully, I’m retaining water, (another symptom of Mental Pause,) so I wasn’t so desperate to pee just then.  So I took the opportunity to buy a book and get it signed. While in the book line, I had a brief conversation with a nice 70-something gent about the book he is writing.  Then I  got in the (now shorter) bathroom line.

As soon as I came out of the bathroom,  the man approached me.

“Would you like to go out with me sometime?” he asked.

Shit! 

“Well, I’m married,” I replied.

He looked at my hand.  “You are? I don’t guess that would sit too well with your husband,”  he replied.

I held up my naked ring finger. “Oh, well, see, I don’t have my wedding band on because I’ve gained so much weight, I don’t know if it’s water or age or what, I had to take it off and I just can’t get it back on and it cuts off my circulation and I’d hate to lose that finger and all, I tried to get it re-sized but it was too expensive so I probably should just lose weight but it’s really hard…

I have no idea the purpose of that aimless babble. We both stood there for an awkward moment before the lights flashed, marking the end of the break.

I dashed back to my seat and pretended to scrutinize my notes.

I felt bad for him, sort of. I mean, he put himself  “out there,” which, I bet, is really hard to do. Especially when you’re, um, old.  Then again, good for him. I admire his balls. You know what I mean.

After the conference, I ran into him in the doorway.

“Good Luck,” I smiled, not sure if I meant with his book or finding a date.

On the drive home, I thought about the day. The workshop. The man. The necessity to “put ourselves out there” in order to achieve what we want. I vowed to make more of an effort, even at the risk of rejection, to accomplish my goals. Yep, starting now, I’m gonna put myself out there. Thanks, Lauretta. Thanks, Mr. Man.

pollen on carIt’s springtime in Atlanta, although it really feels more like Summer! Along with the warm sunshine and clear blue skies, the pollen has also made a madcap entrance here in the South.

spring flowers

The forecasters have announced that nearly everything from foliage to pollen to bird migration has occurred about a month early this year. We have experienced the warmest spring ever on record.  And I have seen those signs first hand.

Typically, late March to early April brings the return of the Great Blue Herons to Lake Lanier. They spend weeks building their nests atop the pine trees on what HK and I call Heron Island. Then, around the middle to end of April, the babies hatch. It is such a joy to watch them grow in fledglings and test their wings before continuing on the journey North.

This year, however, two oddities have occurred. First, very few arrived. Maybe a quarter to a third of the typical flock. Studying the tops of the trees for signs of nests, we realized that the density of the trees on Heron Island has thinned substantially. This is possibly due to a growing infestation of pine bark beetles, which can eventually cull large swaths of pine forest.

Second, the Herons arrived early. Really early, and have already hatched their babies. Some have already left, which usually happens in June.

What is migrating right now are the crowds of locals to our favorite Atlanta park, Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta. We took a fun bike ride the other day and loved seeing all the folks taking advantage of all the beauty of an Atlanta Spring day.

Atlanta Botanical garden

Atlanta Piedmont Park

I hope that all of you are enjoying Spring, and whatever it brings.

There’s nothing like a good picture book. Well, except oysters. And red boots. But other than that, I love sitting down and reading a few words and looking at great illustrations. I’m not sure if you know this, but I am working on several picture books right now. Mostly books about dogs, since that is my real passion.

On Wednesdays, I read at the local library for preschool kids. The child librarian, Madigan Mcgillicuddy (isn’t that the perfect name for a child librarian???) has set up a wonderful program with lots of cool things going on over at the Ponce Branch of Atlanta Fulton public Library.

Anyway, I was over at Madigan’s blog, and saw this post on “Where the Wild Things Are” narrated by Christopher Walken. Have a watch. Since it is mostly pictures, he describes them in his own words.  It’s funny.  Really funny.

“Just wait–one day you’ll wake up, and out of the blue you’ll be fat and foggy-menopause sucks!”

“Not me”, I assured my jaded friends and family. I would never allow that to happen to me. Never.

Fast forward. I woke up this morning. I am fat. And foggy.  Hello MentalPause.

I’ve been denying my weight gain as “water retention” for too long now. Or blaming it on my new-ish mac-daddy, super-powered clothes dryer.  It dries my clothes a little too well. OK, a lot too well. So I’ve finally started hang-drying my jeans, but, damn, this Georgia heat still shrinks them up too much!

And my bathroom scale is old. Really old, and I am sure that the dust accumulation in the whatchamacallit, innards, has added at least a couple of pounds to it’s readings. They do that. It’s a gimmick invented by the scale-makers, I’m sure, to get us middle-agers to upgrade to the fancier, more expensive model. The one that speaks out loud like those fancy-schmancy GPS thingy’s. “Looking good, gorgeous, now go out and buy yourself a new pair of jeans”. Yeah. Right.  But instead of going to the boutique that only sells jeans in European sizes, of which I have never figured out which size I am, I must now go to Chico’s, the store for the cruise-ship traveler/modern woman wannabe. They have devised a way for even the most pleasingly plump to avoid the dreaded XXL of stretch-pants. Chico’s cleverly sizes their wears from 00-4.  Yep, the old size 22 is the new size 4!

The fogginess that comes along with MentalPause (MP) is another “gift” to the middle-aged woman. If  “brainfart” is a word, then I am the gassiest, fartingest one around. I come downstairs in the morning and can’t find my reading glasses to see the newspaper (another gift from the MP gods-failing vision.) I go back upstairs to look for my bedtime reading glasses (I try to keep several pairs stashed around the house) and find them in the bathroom. Back downstairs, HK points out that my morning glasses are on my head. I take a sip of coffee, then go back upstairs to put last night’s washing in the dryer (except the jeans). There are still clothes in the dryer from a few days ago, that I forgot to promptly remove as the labels advise, so I will have extra ironing this week. I come down and go back up when I think I forgot to turn the dryer on. (You’d think I’d actually be losing weight from all the stairs I climb every day.)

Today’s paper has the food section in it. The Shrimp and Grits recipe looks delish. I go to get my shopping list, which I can’t find, so I start a new one. Shrimp. Chicken broth. Grits. Do we have plenty of coffee?  I go to look. Oh, there’s the Tikka Masala sauce I meant to make last month. Add Chicken to the list.  I’m hungry, but we don’t have any cereal, so I have a couple of prunes and a piece of chocolate. Add chocolate to the list. Shoot, I forgot to take Roxie to the groomer this morning. Call to make another appointment.

All of this forgetting/remembering makes me grumpy. Oops- forgot my antidepressant. Oh, it looks like I need a refill on my cholesterol meds. God, these calcium pills are huge. Almost out of Vitamin E-better put it on my list. WHERE’S THE FREAKING LIST????

menopause meds, pills, prescriptions

After starting a third grocery list, it’s time to walk the dogs, work out and get my day started, since it’s nearly noon. By 2:00, I’m at the store. Shit. Forgot my grocery bags. Grabbing a cart, I hit the vegetable aisle. Now, where’s my list? I call HK to see if he can find my lists and tell me what we need. He’s not answering his phone. I wing it from memory, knowing full-well that I’ll be making another trip to the store if not today, then tomorrow. I see a neighbor in the condiments aisle, but I can’t for the life of me remember his name, so I avoid any possible encounter. (I hope we don’t need ketchup.) The cashier asks ifI qualify for the senior discount. If she actually thinks I look even close to 63, then, by god, yes-give me the discount.

By the time I get home, I’m ready for a nap. Did I mention another effect of MP?  Tiredness. Daytime-not nighttime- tiredness. During the night, I find it difficult, at best, to get to sleep without a little help from Ambien. When I do finally get to sleep, I often wake up swimming in a pool of sweat, and have to change into dry pajamas.  After changing, it’s hard to get back to sleep. I am not a daytime napper, though, as I consider it a huge waste of my valuable time, so I sit, finally, at my computer and stare at the screen. What was I going to work on today?  After commenting on friend’s facebook pages, adding a few images to my Pinterest board and forwarding emails, I study the recipe for Tikka Masala. Damn-I forgot to buy chicken. We have soup and sandwiches for dinner.

After a few hours of catching up on Downton Abbey and Survivor, I’m ready for bed. Where are my glasses?  Good night, MentalPause.  See you in the morning.