Fractured Facade

"A fathers death...a daughter's life...a sociopath's vendetta...FRACTURED FACADE ...a novel written as memoir. Only $4.99 and available exclusively on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited members read for free! Click here for direct link.


THE VALENTINE'S DAY CURSE -- A Short Story, Free everywhere...except on Amazon (boo! hiss!) where it's $.99 to buy! Click here for direct link! Let them know it's free at these stores and they may price match it! Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books...more to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bella in the Snow

It's going to be in the high 60's today in Roanoke -- a perfect day to have my roof repaired. Too bad it won't be happening today.

These shots were from a couple of days ago. Bella loves the snow. She loves eating it, licking it, burying her face in it, burying her chews in it, leaping over it, and running through it. Look at that face.

Enjoy the week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

All's Well That Ends Well

I have to give the crew from Florida kudos as once they began working they didn't stop until everything was up and running, and that included me! Bella kept an eye on them the whole time.

I was relieved when I hit the master switch that everything seemed to be okay. They encountered a couple of problems like the guides they used to secure the new pole were too long for Virginia soil. They're used to pounding them in sand where they can go down eight feet deep. Here in Roanoke rocks stopped it at about three feet. When the rep from Appalachian Power came to my house to give me the bad news that I was responsible for replacing the mast, I showed it to him. He said once the earth warmed up they would "see what they could do."

By the time they were finished, the only things left were the downed tree, the cones & the mystery jug, which is still there.

It's become a game of chicken in this house...who's going to blink first and actually walk it to the trash can???

Meanwhile I am still waiting to get an estimate from the roofer and electrician. Maybe I need to hire workers from Florida to get things done. The neighbor called me to thank us for our hospitality and wanted to check on the name of the wine. She actually remembered it! When she said she wanted to buy a bottle for my husband, I told her it wasn't necessary. She called a couple of hours later and said she expected to get a bill from our shop for getting her car out. Again, I told her that wasn't going to happen. She's a very sweet lady, and I plan to invite her over for coffee, and make an effort to become a friend that she can call on.

It took Roanoke County six days to chip up the tree, and once they did I found out I now have a better view of the mountains from my front window.

Other than my roof and mast having to be repaired, I guess I could say all's well that ends well. Too bad another system is moving in today. College classes have been cancelled before the first snowflake has fallen. Makes no sense to me as their students do not arrive by school bus. One thing is certain...the supermarkets will be crowded, and there will be the usual shortage of eggs, bread and milk, because everyone knows hens stop laying eggs and cows stop producing milk when it snows!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cold Heart

After a good night's sleep I was in a much better mood Saturday morning. Our guest reported that she had slept very well. The only problem she had was finding her missing sock that Bella had hid. By the time I had put up coffee, my husband had found it under the chaise. Our guest did not want anything for breakfast and thanked us for letting her stay. She said she had things to do and needed to get home so my husband walked her back to her house.

When he returned I thanked him for his hospitality. He replied, "Well, I would hope that if I wasn't around, someone here would do the same thing for you." I found that very funny because I couldn't think of one single person I would feel comfortable calling to ask if I could spend the night at their house. My neighbor has lived here her whole life, is very active in her church, and has friends and family all around, yet she too apparently had no one she could call. That's very sad, and I wonder if it's the times we live in, or, where we live.

Frankly, too many native Virginians I've met have caused me to characterize them as a "cold lot." I figured their indifferent nature was just directed towards me because I was an "Eyetalian" Yankee, but now seeing what this native Virginian who has lived in the same house over 50 years had just experienced, I'm thinking maybe it's not just me. And then my husband reminded me of what had happened to his elderly friend around Christmas. The 80-year-old had lost power for five days, and not once did any of his daughters check up on him. He spent every night sleeping at his shop on a couch where he had a wood-burning stove and shower. For the record, we did invite him to sleep in our spare room but he wouldn't. I'm not looking to disparage the entire Irish/Scotch heritage of this area, but many of the ones I've met are waaaay different than the Italian/Jewish heritage folks of the place where I grew up. I can tell you Italian or Jewish son or daughter would EVER let his mother or father sleep in a cold, powerless house, even if they "hated" them. It's just not the right thing to do. I pray my children would never leave me out in the cold.

In any event, Saturday morning brought the next hurdle. Where would we take showers? My daughter was practically crawling out of her skin after missing one day of clean hair. She wouldn't dream of using a dry shampoo and she had work later that morning. Now, the 80-year-old friend of my husband, is one of those guys who would give you the shirt off his back, and he offered his shop shower to us. My daughter took him up on his offer. An older friend of mine also e-mailed me and offered her shower, but I felt funny. You know, maybe it's just the younger generation of Southerners that have grown cold, because come to think of it, the "older" ones we have become friends with have been the most accommodating and friendly to us throughout the years we've lived here. Hmmmmm.

After the girl and my husband left, I decided to take a shower right here. I figured there was probably some hot, or at least warm water left in the heater, so maybe if I was really fast it wouldn't be freezing cold. I turned the hot water knob to max and waited to see what came out. As I had hoped, it was not cold, but warm. I jumped in and quickly went to work. By the time the conditioner was being rinsed out the water had turned cold. All in all, not as bad as it could have been, but I knew that was my last shot at a shower home.

Finally a crew showed up outside my door. I was thrilled to say the least. They were from Florida and really nice guys. They asked to see where the electric wires were connected to my home and I showed them the mast. A rep from Appalachian Power was with them, and although he said they're not supposed to go onto the roof, they did. It was then I found out that my new roof had been damaged. The pole had lifted some of it off when it bent and dislodged.

Although they checked the wires to the box and said they hadn't been pulled out, I was told I would have to get the mast replaced. They didn't know if the wires were pinched inside or what. I asked if Appalachian Power was responsible and I got a "maybe" but more likely "no." They said I would probably have to get a licensed electrician, but for now they would try to hook me up "as is." There was the possibility that there was a problem, and I would be the one house without electricity. It seems I'm first on the electric line, and last on the mail line. They wouldn't know until they were done and would hang by the meter to see what happened when I switched my main back on.

I pleaded with them to please try and get me up and running, and I offered them coffee. It was cold out there! The rep said my husband, who had spoken to them before going to work, and I, were the nicest folks they had met over the last couple of days. I said I could only imagine. He said I couldn't imagine. I called my husband and told him he might want to line up an electrician, just in case.

About an hour later, around noon, I heard a knock on the door and saw a guy with a heavy duty vest standing there. "Are you the electrician? That was fast!" I said happily. "No, I'm X's son. How's my mom doing?" "She did fine. She slept well, had a cup of coffee and then my husband walked her home." "She's home now?! Well, she doesn't have power!" I wanted to say, No shit, Sherlock! Are you for real? but said, "Ummm, yeah, neither do we." "Well, what is she going to do?" "What is she going to do? Well, I hope what you're going to do is take your mother home with you." I put my hand on my hip and stared him down. He was silent and then asked, "When is the power going to be fixed?" I wanted to say, How the fuck should I know? Instead I said, "Well for the rest of the block, hopefully within a couple of  days." He looked like he was going to shit a pill so I said, "I really don't know. We still don't know about my house as my mast got damaged." And I made him go outside to look at the roof.

He still wasn't "getting it" and said, "I guess she'll just stay here." Now I was getting angry. "Maybe you don't understand me. We do not have power either. We have a generator that is giving me a couple of lamps and a tv, but other than my bedroom fireplace, no heat or hot water. I understand you do have power. Don't you think your mother should stay with you?" "I don't have an extra bed." "Neither do I. I brought a chaise lounge into my bedroom for your mother, and had my son sleep at a friend's house." I was tempted to show him the damage it had caused, but it wouldn't have affected him in the least. Still he wouldn't take her in, and said, "Maybe she should get a hotel room. Do you know when the power is coming back on?" He was really pissing me off now.

Before I could ungrit my teeth, he then said his mother has "issues" and should be in a home. "She doesn't even eat anymore." "Oh really? Well, she ate fine here. She had dinner, dessert and wine. She didn't want breakfast, but did have coffee." "I was speaking with X (a neighbor of his mother) and she deals with elderly people and agreed with me, but I know my mother is going to give me a hard time." "I don't know what to tell you. We had very nice conversations last night. She's a lovely woman. Maybe she can live with you, or you can hire someone for her." "I don't trust her by herself." And then he just stares at me like he expects me to offer to watch his mother! I was going to get nasty, but instead I said, "Look you can leave your number, and God forbid I see something that's not right with your mom I'll call you. I already gave your mother my number." So he writes his number down. After he hands it to me, I said, "And I really hope you do the right thing by her and make sure she's in a warm bed tonight. I gotta go."

I had to be hard on him, and truth be told, if we didn't have power later that night and she was stuck in her house, I would have insisted on her spending the night again, but I didn't want to tell him that. I had hoped to stir something in him, but I don't think I got through his cold heart. I understand that when an older person starts to develop mental issues it's hard on the family, but that's their job. They have to take care of their elders. You can't just throw them to the side because it's inconvenient for you. And who wants to be put into a home? No one I know of, but if it has to be that way, you better make damn sure to visit them often. When my father was alive he made me swear I would never do that to him. And I wouldn't. It was agreed that when he got to the point where he couldn't take care of himself he would come live with us. We had the room all ready for him. Unfortunately, we never got there. If you read my book, you know why. What I wouldn't give to provide a warm bed and hot meal for him. After my neighbor's son left, I sat on the cold couch cradling Bella, and weeped, not just for myself, but for society as well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Friday Night's For Fighting

By the second night, life without power was beginning to get old, mostly because I was so freaking cold! It was then that we realized we had a gas fireplace in our bedroom that probably would work with a match. I can't remember the last time we used it. It's very close to the bed so I'm always afraid we'll catch fire. Besides, I usually sleep with a fan blowing on me even in the dead of winter.

We opened up the glass doors that we had wedged shut with a piece of wood to stop the rattling on windy nights, and got rid of the ancient spider webs. We tried using a match but it wouldn't light. We could hear the sound of gas coming out, but I guess we couldn't find the right point to ignite it. My husband said he would work on it some more once he got the generator up and running again. I asked him to run an extension into our bedroom so I could watch tv from bed. I had faith in him that he would get the fireplace working and planned to have the kids sleep on an air mattress on the floor in our room. Their rooms are always cold to begin with, and after stepping into them that night I realized I probably could have kept my milk colder in there instead of having it buried outside in the snow.

My husband started the generator up and then had the bright idea of running an extension cord to the refrigerator in the sun room. What would be the worst that could happen? It wasn't like we would blow a fuse or anything. We hadn't seen any action outside all day; the tree, the pole and the wires were still there and I was starting to think this power outage might go on for days. Once again, the only things that moved were the orange cones.

You can't believe how stupid some people can be when they see orange cones. Rather than think, "Hmmm, there must be a reason they're here blocking the road" they prefer to either a) get out of their car and move them, b) go around them, or c) go through them.

While my husband set out to perform the task of trying to make things cold in the refrigerator and hot in the bedroom, I threw on my mega bathrobe and slippers and snuck outside to grab a smoke. I watched one pick-up truck come all the way up to one set of the cones and just sit there pondering what to do. He decided to go around them and went right up to the tree and then just sat there. What did he think, if he put it in four wheel drive he might make it over??? I just laughed to myself as he finally backed up down the block.

Then I heard something even more absurd, the whirring of wheels coming up the hill. I saw the lights first and called to my husband, "You're not going to believe this, but some moron is trying to make it past the cones and up the hill!" He replied, "This is how we weed out the herd." After the wheels stopped spinning, I assumed they had gotten free and went back down the hill. As I was about to go inside I saw an elderly woman just standing in the middle of the chaos of wires, and then get down on her hands and knees. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but I ran to the street anyway.

I noticed it was an elderly neighbor of mine who lived a couple of houses away. We had spoken about 15 years ago when we were adversaries. I stopped a cell phone tower from being put up on her church's property which was next to the elementary school. After that we nodded to each other in the past, and she always compliments my husband on his Christmas lights, but that's been about it. When I reached her she seemed disoriented, and was carrying a bag from Food Lion and her pocketbook. I told her to stop what she was doing and to give me her hand. I pointed to the wires which she was about to get entangled in. She hadn't seen them. I asked her what she was doing out there and she told me she went to the store. I asked her didn't she know that a tree has been down two days here? She said she forgot. It was then I saw a car sideways in the road lodged up against the root ball of the tree.

"Is that your car?" I asked. She replied yes. "Didn't you see the cones and tape blocking the road?" She said there weren't any. There were. She just had plowed through them. I took her bags from her and told her to hold my hand while we navigated through the wires and tree limbs and up the icy road. Slippers do not do well on ice. When we got to her house she couldn't find her keys in the darkened driveway. I had my mini flashlight with me and held it for her while he searched her pocketbook until she found them. We went inside and I told her to put the lights on. She then told me she had no power. I was surprised because I had heard that side of the street was fine.

She thanked me and said she could find her way inside as she knew every inch of her house even in the dark. I wouldn't let her go in by herself and asked her where her flashlights were. She said they were in the bag I was carrying. When I looked in the bag the only thing there was a gallon of ice cream. I showed her and she asked me, "Where is my flashlight?" I suggested it might still be in the car. That's when she remembered about the car. "What am I going to do about my car? I have to call the police." I used my mini flashlight to help her find candles. She found one and we lit it with my lighter. Her house was very cold too.

She asked what the number for 911 was and after I told her she dialed it on her yellow rotary phone. Haven't seen one of those in years! As she was explaining to the dispatcher the situation, she kept saying she didn't know about the tree, and the dispatcher is trying to tell her that they can't personally inform every person. They were going back and forth until I finally asked her to hand me the phone so I could explain the situation better. As I suspected, the police couldn't do anything about her car. If they sent a wrecker it would cost her a couple of hundred dollars, and until it was moved no restoration work could begin. I told the dispatcher that I would handle this.

The neighbor was quite distraught at this point. She didn't know what to do. I told her to sit down and let me call my husband. As soon as he picked up the phone he started yelling at me, "Where the hell are you? I've been calling your name up and down the streets! I thought you were lying in a ditch somewhere. You're in your robe and slippers." I told him to calm down and briefly filled him in. I then asked if he could please try to get her car out of the ditch and off the road. We went back to my house.

I handed my husband the keys and he told me he got the fireplace working. Thank God! My feet were wet and freezing. I couldn't wait to get into my pajamas and go to bed. We stood there and watched as my husband expertly rocked the car out of danger and onto the road. He slid down the hill and drove the car around the corner and into her driveway. As he was getting out of the car, I see another car pull up behind him and yell to him, "Who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you doing with that car?" Oh shit, here we go. My husband gets out and says, "Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?" Oh shit, here we go. I turn to the neighbor and ask her, "Do you know that guy?" "That's my son," she says. I scream, "It's her son, it's her son!" before anything could happen. Mr. Pleasant turns and sees me hobbling in a bathrobe down the road with his mother on my arm.

"Your mom got stuck and my husband helped her get unstuck," I say. He looked like he wanted to beat the shit out of his mom. "Mom, what are you doing out driving?" "I didn't know the road was blocked." "Yes, you did! You told me this morning!!!" I didn't want to get in the middle of this so I start to make my exit, telling him, "everything is fine, she's okay, there's no damage to the car, take it easy," and head back to my house.

Ah yes, the fireplace is blazing! I took off my wet slippers and placed them near the flames. Before I could even change into warm dry clothes my husband comes in and says, "She's spending the night with us." "What?" "I told her she could sleep here tonight." "I thought her son was here to take her to his house." "No, she asked him if she could sleep at his house and he said, and I quote, "No Mom, I'm not prepared for that. I don't have an extra bed." "Are you fucking kidding me?" "No, I'm not. We can't let her stay in that house tonight. We got the fireplace going. She could stay in here."

For a brief second I was pissed at my husband, not because he did the right thing by inviting her over, but because he didn't turn to her son and say something like, "How can you not let your mother stay in your home where you have power, heat, and food? If you don't want her sleeping on your couch, how dare you not at least offer a hotel room for her instead of handing her off to total strangers?" Did he not get a look at the psycho wearing slippers and a bathrobe traipsing down the icy, slushy road?

The whole situation had me stressed out, and when the pain started heading up from my jaw to the top of my head I realized I was probably clenching my teeth too hard. Serenity now...serenity now! Mr. Pleasant walked his mom almost to our door then bee-lined out of there. She thanked us for letting her stay, and I told her it was no problem. I asked if she was hungry and she said she was. I hadn't planned on cooking, but things change and I couldn't very well serve her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so I took out a package of shrimps that were almost defrosted anyway, along with some hash browns and whipped up something quickly. It was horrible but she said she liked it and even asked for seconds. I gave her cold apple pie and offered her a glass of wine, which she really seemed to be most thankful for. "My friends don't drink, but I like to have wine." When she asked for a second one, my husband was quick to pour, but I was worried if maybe she was on some sort of medicine or something that would interact with the wine. She said she wasn't. She asked for the name of the wine and when I offered to write it down she said she would remember it. She couldn't remember a tree had fallen across the road but the name of the wine she would remember?

I wanted to find our more why her son wouldn't let her stay in his warm house so I asked her a couple of questions. I thought maybe he was married and the wife didn't like her. No, he was divorced and lived by himself in a large condo that wasn't affected by the storm. I didn't want her to feel bad so didn't ask anything else about him. She said she was tired and just wanted to lay down. I couldn't imagine her lying on the floor of a blow up mattress so instead we moved a chaise lounge from the sun room into our bedroom. It was a little larger than the doorway so we ripped off a chunk of wood as we tried to make it fit. I positioned it far enough from the flames so she wouldn't fall off of it and into the fire. I gave her a couple of pillows and blankets and off to the land of nod she went.

So much for watching tv from bed that night. I called my son and suggested he stay at a friend's house after work. His room was an icicle. When my daughter got home I told her she was sleeping with us in our room. It took a lot of convincing, but after she got a Charley horse in her frost-filled room she agreed. The look on her face as she passed a sleeping stranger on a chaise in my bedroom was priceless.

My bones have never ached more than that night. I always thought the cold didn't affect RA but after the pain I felt, I think it does. The fireplace was great and it wasn't long before I was able to move my legs and hands again. Bella jumped into bed with the three of us and it was quite cozy and warm. In fact, at one point I had kicked the covers off because I was too warm, and if we hadn't had a house guest, I would have probably shut the fireplace off. I hoped my snoring wouldn't scare our guest!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Friday Morn

On Friday morning I could feel the drop of temperature as soon as I shed my Mets blanket and warm puppy. The icy tiles on my bedroom floor commanded I reach for a pair of thick woolen socks. The plush bathrobe I've never used before that morning, became a fleecy toy for Bella to try to grab off of me.

The college classes were cancelled and both kids didn't have to be at work until late afternoon. My husband would go back to the shop when he was satisfied we were all settled. As he went outdoors to see what progress had been made I got to making us breakfast. I found my old perculator coffee pot and blazed up the stove top. The warmth of the flames, the smell of the coffee, and the perking of the pot was comforting.

When we first decided to buy a house in Virginia there were four things that were deal-breakers for me -- No well water, no septic tank, garbage pick-up, and a gas stove top. All I needed was a wooden match to light the gas. It reminded me of my childhood. For a brief second I felt like I was in my grandmother's apartment on Story Street in Brooklyn. I could hear her strike the match, the flame catching, and the exhale of her breath to extinguish it. I could smell the sulfur and see the black vapor trail ascend. And in what seemed like forever, the small cold kitchen became warm with the smell of fresh coffee.

I took out a frying pan and brushed it with olive oil. One one side was two pieces of bread and on the other a fried egg. When my husband came in, I proudly served it to him. See, I am a pioneer woman. He then reminded me the generator was on and I could have plugged in the griddle and coffee pot. Never mind that...I didn't need no stinking generator.

He then reported that other than the cones being knocked over, everything looked the same outside. Even the mystery jug was still there. After breakfast he went outside to shovel the driveway. He had parked in front of the house but we still had three other vehicles stuck in the driveway. I was worried about him driving over the cables but he said the rubber tires would insulate him if there was a problem. He drove both kids' cars out and parked them behind his. I wasn't going anywhere so mine remained. My husband would report on the condition of the roads to see if they were clear enough for the kids to drive.

Before he left, he showed my son how to use the generator. It would run until the boy went to work, then he would he shut it off. Even though I was assured "nothing will happen, it will just run out of gas" I still didn't feel comfortable with it running while I was by myself. Even the three fire extinguishers I had in arm's reach didn't alleviate my concerns. So, until that time of plunging back into the dark ages, I would make use of the luxury by watching some DVD's I had taken out of the library.

A couple of times I had to stop myself from going over to my lap top and check my email. Duh, I had no internet. I realized then that I was a creature of habit. Yet, at the same time, I welcomed the break. The resarch I had begun would continue the old-fashioned way, sans internet, -- with films,  books, and audio tapes. The first film I watched was "The Little Colonel." Don't hate me, but Shirley Temple sorta annoys the crap outta me. After watching it I thought that depiction was probably not the best source to get a "real feel" of the south in the 1800's. I did however, really enjoy the dancing sequences. Luckily I had other dvd's, documentaries, that spoke in the vernacular of the day and provided a more realistic glimpse of that time.

Once I was assured the rest of the roads were fine to travel, I bid a "be careful out there" to the kids. My son killed the generator and I then turned to my books. I nestled into my recliner with a fleece throw tucked under me. Bella perched on the arm rest to my right and the light from the window to my left shone for a good two hours before I had to reach for the oil lamps. Oil lamps, best invention ever. They're better than candles, better than a flashlight. And they look so damn cool too. My biggest worry was that Bella would leap from my chair to the sofa and possibly hit the table or knock down the lamp and bring the house down in flames. I read by lamplight for hours until after seven when my husband got home. I also wrote seven pages of notes, and pray I could understand my handwriting when it comes time to decipher them.

Before I go any further, I forgot to mention two other things that needed to be addressed because of the black-out. I had a full dirty dishwashing load, but no running hot water to clean them. I took my huge macaroni pot and boiled water. Then I filled the sink with the hot water, detergent, and dirty dishes and glasses. The pots that were dirty I added water in them, threw in some detergent and heated it on the stove. I rinsed in cold water and everything worked out well, but it was then decided we would only use disposable dishes and utensils.

I also remembered I had a washing machine full of clean, wet, uniforms from the day before. Nothing worse than the smell of clothes left too long in a washing machine. Luckily I remembered before that happened, so I was able to hang everything up to dry. A full load of towels were in the dryer. I didn't imagine we would get much use of those because nobody wanted to take a cold shower. We all agreed we could get by one day without a shower and would address the issue if it arose.

By far the best part of the day was watching Bella experience her first snow.

She licked it, chewed it, buried her nose in it, sprung like a gazelle through it, rolled in it, but she wouldn't pee on it. At first she wouldn't sit on it, but once she did, I believe the snow felt good on her bottom.

She started to act "better" than she has been. Her tail was no longer a constant threat. Every once in a while it would jolt her, but not every time she moved. She's so cute.

Now that the kids are no longer kids and have responsibilities, they have joined the ranks of my husband with the complaint snow is no longer fun for them. Luckily I have Bella to remind me of the joys of nature.

All in all, a day without power wasn't really that bad. And then came the evening...

Monday, January 21, 2013

First Night Without Power

While the kids were scrambling around the house searching for, then gathering and lighting candles and flashlights, I called Roanoke County police to let them know there was a tree and pole down, blocking the road. I stressed the importance of getting some sort of road block sign up as there were electrical cables in the snow, cars were still trying to get up the hill, and one vehicle had wires draped across it. You can see the abandoned car's lights on the left.

Next I called Appalachian Power to let them know what was going on. My last call was to my husband. The day before he had fired up the generator and discovered it wasn't working. We had never used it, but decided last year to buy one, "just in case." Luckily for us he fixed it that very morning, but it was still at the shop. Everything was fine in Salem, but once I told him what was going on in the County he quickly closed the shop and loaded the generator.

It just so happened that many of my Christmas gifts to the family was based upon dealing with a "disaster." Oh, how they laughed at me when they opened their tarps, oil lanterns, car power chargers, flashlights, batteries, hand warmers, blankets, and gas cans. Who was laughing now???

As I assessed the situation outside, a neighbor told me it was just our side of the street that was left without power. One by one I heard the generators fire up all around me. I also heard the whirring of wheels as cars realized they could not get up the hill and attempted to make a U-turn on the ice. You would think they would have noticed one vehicle already stranded with wires on top of it. But they didn't.

It took a couple of hours before the Fire Dept. showed up and placed orange cones at the bottom of the hill, the top of the hill, and at the two streets that fed into the blocked road. I figured we would be a top priority, not only because there were wires everywhere, but the road was blocked and there was the elementary school at the foot of the hill. My daughter then reminded me that Monday was a holiday, and Friday the County schools had been already called closed. I didn't know about Bella, as she was confused by the darkness and scurrying, but I figured we humans would be okay and could handle a couple of days without power.

My husband finally made it home after stopping at the supermarket for survival supplies -- soda, wine and matches. The generator was not an industrial strength one, but would be good enough to supply us with some lights and a television. We couldn't hook it up to the heater as that went through our fuse box. He and my son went to work on getting it running. 75-foot industrial orange-colored extension cords snaked throughout the house. Eureka! It worked!

The next order of business was trying to save what food we could in the freezer and refrigerator. We got a couple of coolers out of the shed and filled it up with all the ice from the freezer. My one command was, "Save the Breakstone Butter!" I still had three tubs that my brother had brought down from Brooklyn and no way was I losing that. We hoped that as long as we didn't open up the freezer or fridge the stuff would last until morning, at which time my husband would pack it up and bring it to the shop's refrigerator.

Meanwhile, the fallen tree was creating a hazard as folks would go up to it to see what a fallen tree looks like. If I happened to be outside grabbing a smoke and I saw someone getting too close I would warn them about the wires. Frankly, I didn't know if they were live or what, but I didn't want to see anyone stepping on one to find out. I noticed someone had even buried a big jug of brown liquid in the snow next to my mailbox. I didn't know what the heck it was -- gas, apple pie, iced tea? I left it there in case they returned to gaze some more at the fallen tree.

I was getting cold and tired of being the sheriff of Oak Grove so I didn't venture outdoors any more. We all settled down to watch the latest Harry Potter DVD, but I fell asleep. When I went into bed I couldn't stand the sound of the generator outside and asked my husband to make sure it was shut off when they finished. There was no reason to keep it on while we slept. The house wasn't that cold as the heat had been running all day so we got extra blankets and everyone slept in their own rooms. Bella warmed my feet. I figured we could handle one night of this.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

BOOM! and Then Blackness

On Thursday I had just taken three pans out of the oven when I noticed my cell-phone had one bar. As the kids sat down for dinner I said, "Check your phones. Make sure you have enough bars. I better charge mine because I think we're going to lose power." The moment I finished saying that we heard a large "BOOM!" and then blackness. Another large crackling sound immediately followed causing my son to say, "That's a gunshot." So what does he do? He runs outside to see what's going on. This is what he found...

To give you a better daylight view, this was the scene the following morning:

One of the large pine trees in the park across the street fell down taking the power lines, the electric pole in my yard, which snapped like a toothpick, and dislodged, bent and broke my rooftop pole, along with it.

The wires were hanging on my house and spread across the driveway, and up and down the street. As soon as my son reported the dangling wires, the first thing I did was navigate down the darkened basement stairs with my tiny flashlight and switch off the main electricity from the fuse box. Even though we had no power I just felt like this was something I should do that. I don't know why.

Now, it's dark when this happening, and as you can see from the first shot, there is ice and snow on the road and it's still coming down. Well, at the very moment this snapping of the wires occurs, a car is trying to make it up my hill. If I had a penny for every vehicle who tries to get up that hill in a storm and wipes out, I'd be rich! Not only does this vehicle wipe out, but the wires fall on top of her car.

My son sees the woman come out of her car and goes over to help her, but she totally ignores him. She's crying on her cellphone, as she tries to walk up the hill through the wires, and won't even acknowledge that the boy is standing out there with no coat on offering her his arm to help her navigate the wires that she doesn't see! He makes sure she clears the danger zone before coming back in the house.

She was the first of many who made us realize sometimes the worst comes out in people during a crisis.

To be continued...I've got a lot of laundry to do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Update on Bella

I'm starting to worry that Bella is permanently mentally scarred after her horrible grooming experience. It's been over five days and her actions have not improved and her behavior has actually gotten worse.

She pretty much prefers to stay on soft surfaces and will run like a flash to get from my bed, to her bed, to the couch, to the chaise, to her pillow, and makes a flying leap to get onto them. It's like she's trying to get to her destination before her tail gets there. As soon as her tail flicks her backside she turns around as if someone is touching her, and then tries to grab it. I keep telling her, "That's your tail silly!" but she's not "getting it."

She cries to be picked up and wants to be carried from place to place. She won't eat her food unless the bowl is placed on her chaise. Only then will she eat it as she's sitting on the chaise. Same with her water bowl. She won't play fetch. And that was her favorite thing in the world to do. She won't wake up the kids as she's done every single morning. That was her second favorite thing in the world to do.

I've spoken with the vet who said she's never heard of a dog being freaked out by her tail hitting bare flesh and thinks it's more likely she's probably irritated from razor burn. Or, the groomer nicked her somewhere. The vet said the only thing to do for her is give her a half Benadryl, but there was nothing I could put on her to soothe her skin.

When I called the groomer, Biscuits & Bubbles, to ask what the hell happened there, I was told she was "fine when she left." I asked what the hell they were thinking by shaving her to the bare skin halfway down her back and on her underside and on portions of her legs. They said it was a "sanitary cut" and that all "those dogs" get it. Huh? No, she did not get that the last time, and I asked for a puppy cut, not a "sanitary" one. I asked if she fell off the table onto her head or something. No. Since their policy is that the dogs "play" rather than be caged while they await their groom, I even asked if my baby was defiled. Her privates looked raw to me as if she could have been raped or if the razor nicked them. They thought that was funny. I didn't. They had no answers for me, nor an apology, and the girl that groomed her said I could put Cortaid on her to speed up the healing. Are they that clueless? Cortaid cannot be ingested and Bella would lick it right off!

I've heard dogs can't be "spiteful" but two things happened yesterday that makes me wonder. Bella's been very aggressive with my husband, and when he was teasing her with one of her toys, she jumped on his lap and peed on him! She's never done that before. And then when he went to go into bed later on he found a dump on his side of the bed. She has never done that either! He's the one that brought her to the groomer and I wonder if that's her way of getting back at him.

Meanwhile I'm at wit's end trying to figure out what to do to help her. I tried wrapping gauze around her tail and taping it so that it wouldn't hit her. She ripped it right off. I fear she's developing behavior that I will not be able to undo. She was "quirky" to begin with, but now she's downright disturbed. The only time she's "normal" is when she's lying in bed next to me. I think I'm going to go to the pet store later and see if there's something natural I can use on her, or maybe there's some sort of clothing or something I can wrap her backside in. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bella Gets Groomed

Bella went to the groomer yesterday. See that little yellow bow in her hair? That lasted about ten minutes.

From the moment she returned home, Bella kept rubbing her backside on the bedspread, couch, chaise, grass, and leaves. When she would walk, she would suddenly stop and look to her right backside as if something had bit her, or, something had touched her. I checked her thoroughly and didn't see anything. I thought perhaps it's her tail touching her and she doesn't realize it. Could she be that oblivious?

The groomers seemed to have had a heavy hand with the razor. Rather than comb out the matty hair on her hindquarters, they opted to give a poodle shave, right down to the bare skin. I had asked for the "puppy cut" but I doubt a scissor was used anywhere on her. Other than being shaved on her belly for her operation, this is the first time she has no fur, in a couple of places, especially on her backside. She doesn't seem to like it.

She has been laying around and not her usual self. When I crinkle a paper wrapping, she doesn't come running to see what I have. When I eat, she's not at my feet hoping I'll drop something. Her dog food sat all morning without even being sniffed. Very unusual.

The more I watched her, the more I thought, "I think it is her tail hitting her bare flesh and tickling her." I tried to stop the tail from grazing her backside by first braiding the extra fur and then securing it with the rubber band bow she had on top of her head. I think it would have worked had she not ripped it out immediately. I tried three times. After the third time when she tried to eat the bow, I gave up.

Worried about her not eating, dog food that is, I carried her to her dish. As she stood there, I held her tail off of her, and she finally began to eat. This is what you have to do when you have a special dog. As soon as I dropped it, she'd stop and begin acting skittishly again. As she was eating I noticed a black dot on her. I thought I saw it move, so with my left hand holding the tail up, I took my right hand and moved the little bit of fur left on her back to see if I did indeed see something. Sure enough, there was a teeny tiny tick! Luckily it hadn't attached to her, so I grabbed it with my nails and crushed it in the garbage disposal.

The weird thing is that today is the first time I have ever put a flea and tick collar on her. She has been on the very expensive monthly Trelexis, which does not even repel or kill ticks. I found that out a couple of months ago when she had to have a tick removed by the vet.  Although I had one pill left, something told me to put the collar on her instead. It was probably the warm weather and the possum, squirrel, chipmunk, cat, and skunk that have visited her yard lately. I'm sure they all carry fleas and ticks. I even argued with my husband this morning because he was against me using the collar, saying she was too young. I told him not to worry as it was a puppy flea collar and she was well above the weight requirements. I think the tick didn't attach to her because of the collar. Guess who was right again?

Anyway, I thought maybe that's why she was acting weird...she had a tick stuck to her. But, after removal of the tick and a thorough examination to make sure there are no others on her, she is still acting weird. I hope nothing too traumatic happened yesterday, and that it's just her not realizing it's her tail touching her.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Smart is Your Dog?

I didn't need a book to tell me that my Malti-Zhu is not considered one of the brightest dogs around, but it did reinforce what I had already discovered -- Corgis are smart and Shih-Tzu's, not so much. My daughter had given me "Understanding Your Dog" for Christmas which I found to be very informative. Although I was using it as research for an upcoming story, I also found that our newest edition to the family behaves pretty much the way the book says she'd behave. Well, they didn't specifically mention Malti-Zhu's, but did mention Shih-Tzu's, which is a breed in the bottom 10 of intelligence.

According to the book, "Breeds in the bottom 10 often require up to 100 repetitions to understand a new command and will obey a known cue the first time it is given only 25% of the time. Even if they know how to sit, they may need to hear the word four or five times before they plop their rear ends down." Now, I didn't know this, but can attest to the truth of it. When I take Bella out I say about 15-xxx times, "Go ahead, go do it, be good girl, c'mon, do it, do it, do it! You want a treat? Then you have to make pee-pee. C'mon, do it, do it, do it." Eventually she does "do it" all the while looking at me and lifting her leg. Yes, she is a female, but she lifts her leg. When she's done she'll come running, "Look what I did, lookie at me, aren't you proud, now where's that freaking treat?"

The book mentioned a few ways to figure our how smart your own dog is:

"The Towel Test" -- When your dog is lying down, drape a large bath towel over his head and time how long it takes for him to lose the towel. Smart dogs master this in less than 15 seconds while slow learners can take more than 30 seconds. I tried it with Bella. If I didn't physically remove the towel, she would still be under it.

"The Bucket Test" -- Line up three lightweight buckets. Show your dog his favorite treat and let him watch you place it under one of the buckets. Divert his attention away from the buckets for a few seconds and then ask him to find it. A smart dog makes a beeline for the correct bucket while slow learners may knock over the other two before finally finding the prize. I tried it with Bella. She didn't knock over any of the buckets and began looking for the treat in another room! So, I tried it again without the "distraction" part. Still, she couldn't find the treat until her back leg accidentally knocked over the correct one.

"The Leash Test" -- Pick a time that you do not customarily walk your dog. Without saying anything, pick up the leash and your house keys in full view of the dog. A smart dog associates the leash and keys with a walk and becomes excited at the prospect of going out. A not so bright one will need to hear "Want to go for a walk" before jumping for joy. I tried it with Bella. Fail, but in all fairness that's because Bella has never gone for a walk on the leash. Why? Because she freezes in whatever position she's in when I put one on her. It's like her feet are cemented in the ground. I can tempt her with treats, balls, toys, even paper towel rolls, and she will not budge. Clearly, if she moves with the leash on her she will die immediately.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a dumb dog. I love my dumb dog because the one thing she "gets" besides whacking her empty dog dish against the wall or my head to tell me she's hungry, even if it's the middle of the night, is how to show love, which is way more important than the number of brain cells she possesses. Besides a bottle of wine, there is nothing that calms me down more than hugging that little baby girl or being smothered with her kisses.

When my daughter (who is second in line in Bella's world) is feeling down, all she needs to do is pick up Bella, "this little girl makes me feel so much better."

My husband is third in line, and Bella gets all crazy and happy when he comes through the door...her chew toy is home! Even if he goes out to just throw garbage and comes right back in, it's like he's been gone for days. "You're back! I've been waiting so long! Let me show you how much I love you...give me that hand so I can chew on it!"

Unfortunately for my son, Bella still thinks he is an evil stranger that comes to our house every evening with the sole purpose of killing mommy. "Who are you? Get out of here! What is that thing on your chin? You must be the biggest dog ever. I'm going to bark at you and scare you until you look at me, then I will hide behind mommy. A treat? You think I'm taking a treat from you? Do you think I was born yesterday?! Clearly, you're trying to poison me!!! that a French fry you're eating? Sure, I'll take that, and another one, and another one. What? There's no more??? Who are you? Why are you here? You're going to kill mommmy!!!!"

At least she knows what "It's bath time Bella!" means...

Well, sorta...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Service is Key

It seems like every other day I hear about a local business going under. Cue all the folks bemoaning the loss of their favorite restaurant/store/business, etc. coupled by the bemoaning of others who have never visited said establishment, but are "sad" they are now unable to. The first thought that pops to mind is, "Well, maybe if you had frequented said business they wouldn't be going under." I'll place some of the blame on the public, whose loyalty is nowhere that of my dog's, but not all the blame rests with them.

Far too often in an attempt to cut costs and boost profits the wrong method is used by the business. For instance, if your museum is failing because of low attendance, you do not raise the admission price. If your restaurant is suffering from lack of customers, you should not raise the prices, and, at the same time, substitute inferior products while slashing portion sizes. Besides blaming the bad economy, and I realize it does suck, maybe the owners should also look to their service staff who may be driving folks away. I know a couple of joints I will no longer eat at, not because of their food, but because of how slooooooow and incompetent their staff can be.

Service is key. Recently I decided to no longer advertise with a local company that has had my business for fifteen years. Why? Besides the medium probably not being that effective anyway, I based my decision on the lack of service I have received. I gave them a chance last year, even though I was going to opt out then because I thought the direction they were going was ridiculous. But, my loyalty allowed me to listen to the salesperson's plea. I gave in. Like my dog, I am loyal.

We spoke about the ad I would take, and I reiterated how I was not interested in a "profile." A picture of me, along with the name of the church I attend (I rarely attend anywhere), the charities I support (I don't need to btoot my own horn), how long I've lived here, blah, blah, blah, is not going to bring me business. And if that's what a client wants to know before coming to my business, then frankly, I don't need them as a client. So, with that in mind I handed over my business card and said all I wanted was an ad of that. No problem.

When I finally received a proof it was a big problem. It wasn't what I wanted. I was assured it would be fixed, and it was. The next problem arose when delivery came around. My "ad" wasn't placed under the proper heading, probably because the proper heading had been eliminated, and a bunch of companies were lumped under a more generic title. My "ad" was at the back of the "barrage" of other companies, mostly profiles. It's been my experience over the last 15 years, and come to think of it, my whole life, that the letter "A" is at the beginning of the alphabet, not at the end. Apparently, alphabetizing was no longer being utilized in said book. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I thought the book looked amateurish, and worse, was not useful to a potential customer.

I called the salesperson. That was back in July or August. Well, I finally heard from her, two days ago, via email to let me know that "it's that time of the year again to renew." She began the email with "I think I owe you an apology as I do recall receiving a message a bit ago about the xxxxx, receiving the copy and not being pleased with something. If you'd like to buzz me next Monday afternoon or Tuesday, I'll be available to review the concerns." Oh, you think you owe me an apology?

The rest of the email was spent trying to get me to buy more ads, as well as a new "offering" to have them design a website for me, so I can spend even more money on their digital advertising. Guess what? Ummm, no. I'm not spending another penny with you. In fact, I'm not returning your email or your phone calls. Fifteen years should have stood for something, but apparently you don't give a shit about me or my business, so why I should I give a shit about yours?

So there you have it. Would it have made a difference if the salesperson returned my call 6 months ago? Maybe it would have. Service is key, and without it, you don't have me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Favorite Gift

I started off the new year the best way...with a phone call from a high school friend. I haven't spoken to Irene in a while, but I knew who she was at the first hello. From that point on, it was like we had just hung out yesterday. That's the beauty of being a Brooklyn-bred girl, the passage of time has little do with the original friendship bond. No matter how many years pass between us, no time has passed at all.

It doesn't matter that we've both been divorced a couple of times, had some kids, moved from New York to different states -- she Jersey, me Virginia -- and lost our girlie figures. Once two friends from Brooklyn reconnect, it's like we've stood still in time. Irene and I are still the seniors in New Utrecht High School,  only now we have grown-up problems, not boy problems.

After we "tsked tsked" about our and our loved ones various poor medical conditions, we came to the "what are you doing now?" stage. When I told her I had published two books, she asked if one of them was my Shoe Story. "My Shoe Story? "Yea, the story you said you were going to write for a children's book. I loved that story. You used to tell me it all the time."

Every now and then I get bits and flashes of past ideas, but my memory is pretty much fried. I have to depend on the kindness of others to fill in the gaping holes of my past. Sometimes, it's not pretty. Anyway, as my friend filled me in on the details of My Shoe Story, I suddenly remembered it. Holy shit, how could I have forgotten it? It is a great story.

Maybe I'll see Irene the next time I'm in Brooklyn when she's also there looking in on her mom. I hope so. We could reminisce about the time we were on the bike path near the Verrazano Bridge and stumbled upon the Saturday Night Fever shoot. How silly we acted as we tried to get into the shot. Whose idea was it to jump the benches? Probably mine.

And, I really want to thank and hug her for remembering My Shoe Story. What a great gift. No offense to anyone who reads this, and who gave me a gift, but, this was my favorite one.