Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A bit too exciting for my taste

I had a hard time finding my "work-groove" this morning, and spent an inappropriate amount of time dilly-dallying around on Facebook, playing with the dogs, and making coffee. Right before eleven I decided that I had to buckle down and do something. No work means no pay, which makes Maria a sad girl, lol.

I was formatting a blog post about the benefits of Tourmaline hairdryers (long story) when a siren made me look out the window. Bradenton is filled with old people and there are sirens all the time from emergency vehicles and ambulances. This one sounded close, and I kept peeking out to see what type of car it would be.

An ordinary gray car drove past and turned in on the road across from ours. Two police cars with blinking lights followed. Then, two more, and two more, and two more. I stopped counting at fifteen.

That never happened before. The most exciting thing along our street is normally the neighbor's dog getting out of the yard and going walkabout.

When officers bounced out of the cars with drawn guns and police dogs I finally closed my gaping mouth. They have big guns! There were at least fifteen police cars between our house and the potential threat, but it still seemed prudent to lock the doors and tell the dogs to go lie down.

The neighbors ventured outside - one guy came right out of the shower with a towel around his waist. I thought, "No way, indoors might not be safe if there's a shoot-out, but it's sure safer than outside."

Since hubs got sick he's almost always home, but not today, so I called him and reported all the excitement. By the time I thought to pull out my camera about ten of the police cars had already left.



Later in the day, after all the cops left, the local newspaper updated its website. Allegedly, three men kidnapped a guy in the parking lot of our nearby Walmart. They took him to a place on a street a couple of blocks away from here and beat him up, but he managed to escape - despite them trying to shoot him.

Police officers saw the suspects' car five blocks from my house and chased it here where they could trap it. Right outside my window.

I do hope these men had a previous relation so bad guys aren't just kidnapping random people at Walmart!

Not much getting done around here today - I keep peeking out the window, expecting more stuff to happen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Undercover is a winner!

There is a wonderful screenwriting contest called the WILDsound festival. It is the coolest thing ever, because winners get their script read by professional actors.

I tried with Kidnapped, but the judges thought the script moves too slow. Go figure - I've gotten so much criticism saying it moves too fast. They sent a list with constructive points to look at in the screenplay, and I put all that to the side for another day. I need to tweak it so I can submit it again - I really want to hear it read - but I'm too scattered to take on something big right now.

Anyway, I submitted the first ten pages of my screenplay for Undercover to their "first scene" contest and forced myself to forget about it, so I wouldn't be too disappointed when I didn't win.

Undercover did really well! The judges said, "An extremely strong opening to a first scene. It has everything: Mystery, Drama, Romance, Friendship, Intrigue, Foreign Relations... And asks key questions that are relevant to today's world without being too preachy about it."

Yay!

The first scene has been read, and Undercover has its own page here. And, I have an interview page here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Close to going Viking #frustration

I'll have to back up a bit for this post to make sense. I'm sure some of you have heard it before, so skip the first couple of paragraphs, LOL.

A couple of months ago my husband fell ill and eventually had to succumb to going to the hospital. To make a long story short, he has a big tumor, and ever since then we've bounced between healthcare providers like balls in a pinball machine. It's tough, and poses many challenges.  Like, I had to quit my job, because I couldn't make the schedule work out.

Going from full time employed to self-employed virtually overnight was scary, but I was confident I could pull it off. Right now I work more than ever before and make less money, but I'm happy. I like working from home, surrounded by my doggies, and I'm glad life pushed me to really do it.

The problem is, hubs refuses to go to his appointments on his own, which I understand. He's not feeling well, and dealing with all this takes a healthy person and more. I can't make the healthcare providers understand that in order to make money - which pays for health insurance, amongst other things - I have to work. That implies being able to plan my days.

I have a schedule. It starts at 7:30 AM every day around the week, and I know exactly what I need to do every half hour of the day to make everything come together.

Healthcare providers set appointments, and naturally, I plan around them.

Cancer center number one - the one that gives chemo - has done good with scheduling for a while.

They're really sweet, but changed the appointments at least three times every day until I lost the Swedish polish and told them this would have to stop. Since then they've been really good until today. If they start all that again I might have to remind them how much trouble they cause, but I'd really rather not, because they're awesome. The doctor is so nice, the nurses are fabulous, and the front desk girls are fantastic.

Cancer center number two gives radiation treatments and we have to go there every day. They're also awesome, but they don't get it at all.

The first day we sat foot in the clinic - and waited for well over three hours which has caused me to live on toast for the past week due to loss of income - I told everyone that we need appointments in the afternoon. Preferably after four. Everyone nodded and pretended that they understood.

Reason? We have to be there every day for seven weeks. Driving there, waiting, the procedure, and driving home takes at least an hour. I can't afford to lose 35 hours more of income than I already have through sitting in waiting rooms. If I do, we'll lose the house.

I'm not joking. I'm a lone provider for two adults and four dogs. We have hospital bills for almost $60,000. I need to work to pay the mortgage, keep the power on, keep the phones working, and all other good stuff a household needs - like food.

Every day, they give us an appointment for the next day at a decent time, and every day they change it. Every day, they seem equally shocked when I say no.

I've tried to explain that if they reschedule with us, I'll have to reschedule everything with all my clients, which means that they have to reschedule, and it's a never ending domino effect.

I explain this every day. I'm starting to think I accidentally speak Swedish.

Check this out. Tuesday morning last week they had us come in at 6:30 in the morning. That was going to be a one-time thing only, and we had a time set for late in the afternoon Wednesday. As I sat there watching the sun rise, the nurse came out and said, "I'll need to change your appointment tomorrow. How about 10:30?"

I said, "No. I'm going to St Pete's for a meeting tomorrow morning. We need a time in the afternoon. Like the one we already have at 4:30."

She said, "I understand. How long will you be gone?"

"I don't know for sure, but I don't count on being back before lunch."

"So you can't do eleven?"

"No, I'm going to St Pete's, and I won't be back until after lunch." I feel like a parrot - I say the same thing over and over and over again, every day, and they still don't listen.

"Okay, I'll let you keep your appointment. I guess we'll have to move someone else."

The next day, they started calling hubs, trying to change the appointment to the morning. He explained that I was away at a meeting and he couldn't come. The same person called several times within a few minutes. Because if I'm expected back after lunch I will surely come home between 9:30, 9:32, 9:35 and 9:40...

I came back around one, and we went in at the time we originally had.

This continued through the week. Thursday night I wrote the clinic an e-mail. The only answer was to call hubs and change the Friday 4:30 appointment to 12:30. I said no, but it was still 12:30, because suddenly every other appointment - including ours - was impossible.

I'd had it. I was so mad when I came in I was about to storm past the reception desk and find someone responsible for all this crap.

They saw the crazy-woman glow in my eyes and the horns about to grow out on my head and ran for reinforcements. An experienced nurse came to the waiting room, sat down, listened patiently, nodded, and said,  "So how about right after one?"

I said "No" and explained it all again. She tried to counter and I said, "I'm sorry, but there's too much at stake here for me to be able to care about that."

I save up the type of work I can do in the waiting room in the afternoon. The parts of the job that include communicating with people needs to happen when they're available.

The other people in the waiting room chimed in, "C'mon, she has to work, give her a late appointment."

Faced with overwhelming and probably surprising opposition, she disappeared off and came back with a note. "Monday through Wednesday next week, we'll get you a 4:30 appointment. After that you will have a standing time at 4:15 every day. We will not change this."

I was really happy all weekend. I felt like a boulder lifted from my chest. Silly naive Maria, believing what people tell her, after all these years...

Yesterday, a new nurse came out and wanted to change today's appointment from 4:30 to earlier in the day. I said no, and explained the whole thing again. We ended up settling for 4:15.

Today, another new nurse came out. She said, "I have an appointment for you tomorrow at 3:30."

I said, "We already have an appointment for tomorrow at 4:30."

"Yes, well, now it's at 3:30."

"We can't come at 3:30."

She looked at me as if I sprouted antennae.

"But, we have so many empty spots in the middle of the day, and we have to fill them. Can you come earlier?"

"No. I have planned my day around being here at 4:30. He has another doctor's appointment in the morning, and I have a meeting between two and four.

She still didn't get it. "But, I'm giving you this appointment at 3:30."

"Yeah, in that case we'll be late."

"How late?"

"Probably around 4:30. I'm not sure how long my meeting will take, but I counted on it lasting until four."

It still didn't sink in. She said, "Our managers look at the schedule, and they see all these openings in the middle of the day, and we have to fill them."

By now I'm starting to think I'm surrounded by kind and pleasant idiots. These people are the nicest you can imagine, but they clearly don't understand English.

I said, "I'm sorry to have to say this, but your scheduling issues aren't my problem."

She recovered quickly, and said in a cheerful voice, "So we'll see you at 3:30 tomorrow."

"No you won't. I have a meeting. I have to work. If I can't work I can't pay his health insurance, and no one here gets paid."

That one usually works. She said, "So, when do you think you'll be here?"

"I'd say around 4:30."

"Okay, I'll keep this time for you at 3:30, and we'll wait for him. Some patients are really serious and we try to take them in late in the day in case it takes longer, so everyone else won't have to wait. Especially on Thursdays, but tomorrow isn't Thursday, so we should be able to get him in."

I thought,  "So why are you changing the appointment in the first place, when you know we won't be here until 4:30, which was our original time?"

The problem clearly needed another approach. I held up the computer and explained what I do for a living. I showed the blog posts I'd written while waiting, and showed that company's app on my cell phone. I explained how I have customers I need to talk to at particular times every day, and how I have a break around four every day. I explained - again - the domino effect of changing appointments.

She nodded and said, "Okay. I'll try to get you a steady appointment, so you can come in at the same time every day."

"They gave us that on Friday. It was supposed to be 4:30 Monday through Wednesday this week, and after that 4:15 every day."

"Yeah, that's not gonna work. When is a good time for you?"

It's a good thing these people are so nice and friendly. It keeps me from snapping.

I took a deep breath and said, "In the afternoon. Some time after four is best, like 4:15, when our appointment is."

"I can get you any time in the mornings. I can get you in early, so you don't have to worry about this the rest of the day."

She's doing her best, I get it, but it still doesn't work.

"No, as I mentioned, I have a lot to do in the mornings. As long as he needs me to take him here we will come as late in the day as possible."

She attempted to explain their scheduling problem with a lot of gaps during the day again. It's a valiant effort, but it doesn't change the fact: as long as he needs me to take him, we can't come in the middle of the day.

I said, "I'm sorry, but that's still not my problem. I have other problems of my own, like supporting my family."

"So, we'll see you at 3:30 tomorrow."

Yeah, whatever...

I have to see this from the comical side, but even when doing so it's still frustrating.

It reminds me of these commercials, "Nine months? I can have a healthcare career in only nine months?"

Friday, July 18, 2014

Frog adventures

Mornings aren't my thing, and it takes a while for me to open my eyes and actually see something. Isn't it strange how you go to bed awake and wake up super tired? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Anyway, it took a few minutes to spot the very large frog on the living room floor.

It was huge, and looked dead. No movement, closed eyes, entangled in dog hair... It looked almost collapsed, if that makes any sense, and I worried that one of the dogs might have found it first and chewed on it. I know some Florida toads are poisonous. When it comes to frogs, no idea. And how the heck did it get in here?

I tipped our spare food bowl over it, so the doggies wouldn't get the idea to taste dead frog, and proceeded with their morning routine.

But, what should I do with it? It was beautiful, and it deserved a proper frog burial. Where could I bury it where the dogs wouldn't dig it up? Had it come to the house to die, or did something inside kill it?

The froggie would have to wait. I needed doggies to do their outside stuff, have breakfast, and settle down enough to be locked in my office. Some things are just easier to deal with if there aren't four curious dogs helping. LOL!

Removing the bowl, I tried to push my super-cool hot-pink dustpan under the frog. It opened its eyes, looked like, "What the hell are you doing?" and jumped away to the kitchen.

I'm not afraid of frogs, they're really cute, but it startled me and I yelped. I hate that I do that - I sound like a huge wuss - but the sound just comes out without any conscious decision.

Naturally, that woke hubs. He probably thought I was being murdered or something.

He said, "What are you doing?"

My answer came out in one long breath. It's a miracle the man makes any sense out of anything I say. "There's this really big frog and I thought he was dead so I was taking him out but he's alive and jumped away and I caught him and he's really big and beautiful and I don't know what to do."

Hubs said, "I see. How did you catch him?"

He was, of course, smart enough to push a thin piece of cardboard under the bowl so we could carry froggie outside. We put him on a chair so he wouldn't have to battle the fire ants on the ground, and once he realized he was free and outside, he jumped away.

Hubs also solved the mystery of froggie's origin. He said, "I thought I saw something jump in here last night." The poor thing probably spent the night under the sofa or something. I hope he makes it. I should have taken a photo of him, but I didn't think of that.

That was my morning. How 'bout you? Did you have any adventures?

Monday, July 7, 2014

King's by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

I wrote about Vampires Need Not Apply and the Accidentally Yours series by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff the other day. She has a grip on me; after I read all those books I looked at my iPad, expecting it to automatically fill up with new excellent reads to entertain me. It didn't. The absence of something great to read created a void in my life, and I had to fill it with something.

Enter The King Trilogy, also by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff. There are currently two books available: King's, and King for a Day, and I'm waiting eagerly for the third to be released.

The main character, Mia, is a young woman whose life is shattered when her brother is reported kidnapped in Mexico. When she seeks help, she accidentally stumbles into an agency that helps immigrants locate relatives. They can't help her, but the receptionist slips her a note and tells her King can find anything or anyone, at a price. In her desperation Mia agrees - even though the price is steep.

Pamfiloff's characters jumps off the pages and pulls you in. Mia is - in my opinion - an ungrateful and angry girl. It doesn't matter what people do for her; she will never be happy. Others risk their lives for her, save her when she gets herself into trouble, and she keeps yelling insults at them.

She is also unreasonably attached to her family and sounds as if she might be nine years old instead of twenty-something. Despite this, the men in the book seem willing to do anything to appease her. I had to keep reading to see if she would ever become nicer.

King is an enigma. Pamfiloff drops clues to his true nature through the books, but it still took me quite a while to figure him out. He's an interesting character and I sort of wish I had invented him.

Page-turner? Yes. Unfortunately, the last book isn't published yet. I need to know what will happen and how everything will end. Please, hurry up with the writing! =D


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vampires need not apply, by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Vampires Need Not Apply belongs to a series called "Accidentally Yours" by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff. I got the book at the RT conference in May and thought, "Vampires... Another book about vampires. Can't people think of anything else?" Bad attitude on my part, I know, LOL. I started reading it anyway, and I'm so happy I did. This is an excellent book.

Ixtab is the Goddess of suicide. Her job is to take darkness and depression out of good people, and to send the truly bad over the edge so the world gets rid of them. Not a pleasant job, especially since everyone who accidentally bumps into her is filled by an irresistible urge to kill themselves.

The situation doesn't get better by feeling responsible for the death of her one true love. When she meets scientist Antonio Acero, he is a dead ringer for her lost beloved, but everything goes wrong, and to make matters even worse, his cat bumps into her and jumps out a window.

The book is laugh out loud funny, dramatic, sexy, and nearly impossible to put down. The characters are endearing, silly, and hilarious, and Pamfiloff has created a believable backstory and setting.

After reading this I bought the other books in the series. They are also good, but do quite a bit of jumping between first and third person, which throws me out of the story. If you can live with the first/third POV hopping, I would warmly recommend them, because they are also hilarious. Just be prepared to set off a few days to reading, because reading one makes you want more.

Vampires Need Not Apply is consistent third person - it is a long and hilarious adventure - and it's one of the best books I've read for a long time.

I want more!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My new obsession: Royale

Today is a big day for me: I've given in to vanity. I've never owned a flat iron. Ever. One of my friends used one on my hair once and I thought it was pretty neat, but I never got around to buying one. Why would I? My hair is so straight I struggle with it every morning to get some volume. Why would I want to get it straighter?

If you're rolling on the floor laughing right now, all I can say to my defense is that I was a teenager in the 1980s. Back then, hair was supposed to be large and curly. Mine succumbed to perms and excessive amounts of hairspray, and still insisted on being straight.

Yes, I've lived under a rock since then. I'm a writer. I don't know what goes on in the real world around me. LOL!

Anyway, a few weeks ago I visited a company not far from here that makes hair straighteners, curlers, hair dryers, and other fun stuff. As I waited in the lobby, I couldn't help but watching the commercial video; the TV was right there.

I had no idea hair straighteners could curl hair, or that a flat iron would make it softer and shinier. To make the temptation worse, they come in all forms of fun colors and patterns. I wanted one. Seeing the price of $350, not so much. Not even Santa would bring me one of those, and it's half a year until Christmas, lol.

Last week a little bird told me about the site ceramicflatiron.com. All of a sudden, one of these miracle inventions could be bought for $30 instead of over $300. I think the computer clicked on "add to cart" on its own.

Today, the FedEx truck arrived with a box. My photo doesn't do it justice; this is a very nice box.


I was a little concerned that it says "classic green" because I ordered the bright and happy summer green, but it's okay, because it held the right color.


This flat iron has completely ceramic plates, on/off button, and temperature setting from 176 F to 450 F. It also runs on both 110 and 240 V, so if I ever go back home it will still work.

In the box came a DVD with instruction video, and some brochures. They have curling irons with zebra and giraffe print. These are also for sale on ceramicflatiron.com, and I might have to get one. Yes, I'm like a magpie, and these are shiny objects!


Naturally, I ripped it out of the box and scurried to the bathroom to try. Since I never used a flat iron before I was a bit clumsy, but I love it.

My hair is so stubborn that I can't curl it with a regular hair curler, even on max heat. It remains straight. I went to the salon and got a perm once. Could just as well have thrown the money in the river; my hair was curly for about a week, and after that it was back to straight.

I tried the flat iron on about 300 F, and it worked. I can curl my hair with it, and make the edges bend the way I want - which is the opposite way of what the hair wants.

Now I want a flat iron holder and/or a heat mat, so I have somewhere to put the thing when I'm done playing. They have a pink leopard heat mat. I know it wouldn't match green, but I like it, and I'm eccentric, so who cares. Right!

I also want a purple leopard hair curler and a red hairdryer. Hubs used my hairdryer for something a couple of years ago and broke it, so we haven't had one for ages. Hmm, I'd better get to work to finance this shopping spree.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

This TV commercial changed my life

After reading a headline like that you might think it's about a new diet, a miracle skin cure, or a new and previously undiscovered way to make money. Nope.

The commercial shows an elderly woman who proudly shares her photos on her wall - her living room wall - and the part that has etched its way into my memory comes right at the end.

The older woman says, "I unfriend you."

Her friend says, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works."


When I first saw it I thought it was kind of funny. They've been playing it a lot on the TV channels we watch, and it's still funny.

The thing is, every time someone says something really strange to me now I hear, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works" in my head. You'd be surprised at how many times it happens every day.

I tend to assume that my measurement for what's self-evident or common sense applies to everyone, but that's not true. Something that comes easy to me can be difficult to someone else, and something that's easy to that person can be impossible for me.

My brain knows this, but emotionally it's still easy to fall into a line of thinking where, "it's so easy, doesn't everyone know this?"

Of course they don't.

People aren't born with the knowledge of how a website works, how to use social media, how to edit images or video, or the importance of building a brand. I'm certainly not born with the knowledge of how to fix my drain, or how to repair hub's car.

Knowing this doesn't change the fact; every time someone says something that's counter-intuitive to my version of reality I hear, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works." It's pretty hilarious!