Category Archives: Writer’s Block Blog

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Visit, Part Two.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Visit


~ Part Two ~

After my BFF’s tests were completed in Houston, we headed back to her house in El Paso, and the next day I came home to the California Central Coast. While I was out of town, our drought-ravaged area was deluged with days of fast and furious rain. My husband called me one night while I was in Houston to tell me our backyard had turned into a lake that threatened to flow into the house. He tried to sound calm, but I knew he was a nervous-wreck. Luckily, the drains could do their job when the rain slowed down. As I write this, there’s people on my roof repairing the storm damage.

A few days after my homecoming, Houston was slammed by a tornado. The cancer center was not damaged, but Nina and I are grateful to have missed the storm!

Good News!!! 

Nina had a virtual visit with her cancer doc in Houston, and her tests confirmed what Dr. Lee had suspected on our first visit with him. Her Multiple Myeloma is actually “Smoldering Multiple Myeloma.” This is an early form of Multiple Myeloma. With luck, it may never spark into full-blown MM.

At the time of her original diagnosis, Nina thought she had two to five years. She kept trying to get into remission, and it wasn’t working. She was living a secluded life and was unable to travel. She did infusions and many other cancer drugs for nearly two years. One of them damn near killed her one night. Now, she is off all the drugs. Including infusions! She will get regular blood work done, and if there are any changes, they will treat it as needed.

Now she is free to live her life! First, there will be trips to visit grandkids. Then a trip to visit me!


In my kitchen – 1966. 15 years-old. I’m the looney-looking one with braces.

The takeaway from this experience, at least for me, is to get a second opinion. Nina’s El Paso Oncologist is a wonderful doctor, but she is not a Multiple Myeloma specialist. There are over 200 types of cancer—breast cancer, colorectal, bladder, leukemia, colon cancer, etc. The average oncologist sees about twenty patients per day. So, it makes sense that after you get a cancer diagnosis; you see an oncologist specializing in that cancer. Nina’s Houston doctor and staff only deal with Multiple Myeloma. 

Here we are a few years ago on our way to American Idol.
But that’s a story for another day.
Yup – we are not natural blonds!
Recently, Nina (left) grew out her natural hair color.
A gorgeous Platinum silver.


One last note…

Folks in Texas are incredibly kind, polite, and wonderful. I have never met so many friendly people. For example: When we went to the Houston Airport to return home, our cab driver, after we’d paid and tipped him, grabbed all our luggage and ran it into the airport to the check-in desk and hugged us goodbye. 


 

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Visit

I’m in Houston with my long-time BFF, Nina. The purpose of the trip is to get a second opinion on Nina’s cancer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She’s had Multiple Myeloma for about a year-and-a-half, and although her “numbers” are pretty good, she’s having difficulties with some of the new medications they’ve put her onWe spent yesterday at the cancer center doing tests and talking to the doctors. We left the center feeling optimistic and elated. No — we don’t have any new information about her disease yet. But the entire staff at Anderson, from the shuttle bus drivers to the doctors, is terrific. Friendly, helpful, caring, funny, polite, loving.

I can say the same about The Hilton Houston Plaza/Medical Center staff. And the guests, too. Most are here for the same reason we are. Every guest I talk to is friendly — ready to share a smile, a laugh, a story.

Today will be a quiet day. Nina has to do a 24-hour-you-know-what-collection. So I will venture out for some supplies: oat milk creamer, fruit, wine for me, plus goodies for both of us. Then I’ll catch up on work, watch a movie with Nina and try the yoga app on my phone that has been gathering “techie-dust” for a while.

Usually, when I travel, I have a long list of restaurants and historical sites to check out. But this is a business trip. And the business we are in is to beat cancer.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a comprehensive cancer center in Houston, Texas. It is the largest cancer center in the U.S. and one of the country’s original three comprehensive cancer centers. It is both a degree-granting academic institution and a cancer treatment and research center located at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. It is affiliated with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. According to Newsweek, MD Anderson Cancer Center is considered the best hospital in the world for oncology and related cancer treatment. — Wikipedia

DateLine: “A Walk in the Rain.”

DateLine: “A Walk in the Rain.”

If you watch the ABC crime drama series Alaska Daily starring Hilary Swank — this might interest you …
I’ve got a “flu-or-something bug” and I’m doing something I normally don’t do that’s making my dog, Emma, very happy. I’m watching TV in the daytime. That means it’s couch-snuggle time all day long.

Usually when I’m under the weather, I watch lightweight stuff — like Hallmark Mysteries and old movies. Something cozy to snooze through. But I had several DateLine NBC shows recorded, so that’s what I’m watching.
The episode I just finished is “A Walk in the Rain.” Season 31, episode 5. If you’re watching the ABC drama, Alaska Daily, this DateLine episode will interest you. It’s about the disappearance and murder of a 19-year-old Alaska Native woman in August 2003 in Nome, Alaska.

This led me to learn that thousands of Indigenous women from several states, including Alaska, are missing. Yet, we never hear about these women on the news. Why is that? I realize not all missing persons can be featured on the network news. But, still, there usually isn’t even a whisper about missing Native American women. Not even on the local news in their states.

When Gabby Petito went missing last year, it was on the news throughout her harrowing ordeal. Her end was tragic, but at least her folks know what happened — instead of waiting and hoping until the end of their days.

If you’re interested, the two-hour DateLine episode is available to watch “On Demand.”

Dateline debuted on March 31, 1992, initially airing only on Tuesdays, with Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley serving as its co-anchors.

Current Anchor: Lester Holt (September 23, 2011–present)

Citizen’s Arrest

Citizen’s Arrest!

The other day, I turned left and wound up behind a big pickup truck. The kind that granny would need a ladder to climb into. I’m a granny, so I mean me!

At first, we were traveling at the posted speed limit. 45 MP.
Then 40.
Then 35.
30.
25.
Dead stop, even though there was no stop sign.

My first thought was the driver needed help. Maybe they were sick, having a heart attack (been there and done that!) or a stroke (yup, done that a few times, too—I’m such a fun person!), so I pulled alongside, ready to jump out and save his life.

He was alive and well and staring at his phone, oblivious to his surroundings. Now I was cranky. I honked a long, angry honk, and he never looked away from his phone.

Do you ever wish you could roll down your car window and slap a siren on the roof? I sooo wanted to give him a ticket! Those of s certain age (old) may have seen the famous and funny scene from the Andy Griffith show where Gomer Pyle makes a “citizen’s arrest.”

Moonlighting

Back in the 80s, Moonlighting was one of my favorite shows.

A former high fashion model and a wisecracking detective partner to run the Blue Moon Detective Agency. Soon barbs are being lobbied and attraction is being denied as the two crack cases together. The popular series revived Shepherd’s career and launched Willis’s.The show ran on ABC from March 3, 1985 to May 14, 1989.

Why was the TV show Moonlighting Cancelled? Bruce Willis, fresh from his Die Hard success, wanted to make more films. Cybill Shepherd, having just given birth to twins, had grown tired of the long, grueling production days and was ready for the series to end. – Wikipedia.

So why am I doing a blog post on a show that went off the air decades ago?

I’m writing the sixth book in the Murder Blog Mysteries, and Katy is working as a temp employee at a detective agency. She’s doing boring stakeouts, so she loads her tablet with her mother’s all-time favorite private detective show, Moonlighting,  that aired before Katy was born.

That led me to want to watch the show again—so I checked Netflix and Prime. No luck. I learned the show has never streamed because of contract issues with the popular music used on the show. A few minutes after I read that, I came across a tweet on Twitter that said the show would start streaming soon. What a coincidence!

And then I remembered a personal experience from way back
in the
Moonlighting days that relates to the show. 

I was living in Alaska with my husband, Mike, and two kids during the height of the show’s success. I needed a break from the weather and the long dark winter, so I flew to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit my BFF, Nina, in Menlo Park—just a hop, skip, and a jump from where we both grew up.

From there, we drove down to Beverly Hills/Hollywood to spend a few days enjoying good food, window shopping, and visiting iconic Hollywood-Golden-Era establishments like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre*, and the Polo Lounge. Sadly, The Brown Derby (where the Cobb Salad was invented) had closed the year before.

The Polo Lounge

The Brown Derby in the 1940s

The hotel that Nina booked us into was in the heart of Hollywood. Unfortunately, this was before Yelp, so she had no idea that it was a “hooker” No-Tell Hotel. Definitely not a place for two young mommies. So we checked out, did not get a refund, and hightailed it to The Beverly Hilton. At the time, it was owned by Merv Griffin. The manager took pity on us and gave us a charming room for a very reasonable rate.

But what does this have to do with Moonlighting?

One night, Nina and I went to the late show at The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. That’s when established, famous comedians would try out new material. Some had jokes written on a legal pad, and if it bombed, they tore it off, crumbled it, and tossed it aside. Plus, the earlier evening performers sat in the audience and gave advice and encouragement. And a few rude insults.

It was well past midnight when we left the club to walk back to our car. Picture this:
Two lovely young women are strolling along Sunset Boulevard in the wee hours of the morning. Laughing. Talking. A couple of idiot tourists not paying any attention to our surroundings.

A shiny black sporty car (can’t remember the make) pulls up along the curb and rolls down the window. The driver leans across the passenger seat and says, “Ladies. This is not a safe place to walk at this time of night.”

It was Bruce Willis.

I said, ‘We’re going to our car.”
Bruce continued, “Where’s your car?
Nina backed away, thinking he might be an axe murderer. I pointed in the direction where her car was parked—a few blocks away. 
He said, “Let me give you a ride to your car.”
“No, thank you,” said Nina, backing further away.
I stepped close to her, whispering, “Nina! That’s Bruce Willis!”
“Whose that?”
“He stars in Moonlighting!”
“What’s that?”
“The show with Cybill Shepherd. You know! It’s really popular. Mike and I watch it all the time.”
Nina had no clue who Bruce Willis was because she and her husband (ex) only watched Star Trek shows back then.
Note: I double-checked this with her just now in case my memory was exaggerating the Star Trek thing. It was true. However, she was usually reading and not paying much attention.

So we didn’t get in Bruce’s car. And looking back, Nina was right not to get into a stranger’s car. So, guess what Bruce did?

He drove alongside us and ensured we got safely into our car.
After our Hollywood adventure, Nina started watching the show. 

Side note: Nina and I have been best friends since 7th grade. And to this day, we have never gotten into a stranger’s car. 

*Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: Years later, I was invited to a red carpet premier at the theater. And that’s a story for another day.

 

A Funny Future Scene

Don’t be surprised if this silly scene
from my life winds up in a future book.

Yesterday, I was leaving the house for an appointment. I’d settled into my car in the driveway and was about to start it when I noticed the veggies in the raised garden beyond the driveway looked limp. So I got out to water them.

As I was watering, I stumbled. Then, during what felt like a slow-motion fall, I tried to stop the tumble by grabbing the planter’s edge. That’s when I dropped the hose, which spun around and sprayed me — head to toe: hair, face, clothes.

I landed on my bum but could not reach the hose—so the drenching continued. Then I felt tickles on my legs. The water had disturbed an ant colony, and they were climbing up my legs, under my pants—millions of them.

While this was happening, my apple watch wanted to know if I needed emergency services. I was in an awkward, tangled position and would have loved some help getting back on my feet, but it wasn’t an emergency—so the ants kept marching while the water kept spraying.

Needless to say, I was late for my appointment.

My Author YouTube Channel

I’ve been working on my Author YouTube Channel.

So far, it’s a mish-mash of this-and-that. Family, friends, things I find amusing.

Movie trailers from films I’ve enjoyed through the years — Alfred Hitchcock, Low Budget, Quirky ….  I will be loading lots more when time allows. I’d love to hear your suggestions for must-see movies!

As of this posting, I have 2 Subscribers! Woo-Hoo!! When I get 100, YouTube will take me more seriously and give me customization options — like adding better descriptions to the videos.

 




Audible!

Audible Books – Here We Come!


As I write this post,

a remarkable woman is narrating
Dead Girls Don’t Blog!

I listened to many auditions before
finding the right voice for
The Murder Blog Mysteries.

And my close friends all agreed.
Jennifer is the right voice for Katy and company.


  • 2022 Audie Winner – Thriller/Suspense
  • Earphones Award Winner – AudioFile Magazine
  • 2022 American Library Association YALSA Top-Ten Winner – Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults
  • 2021 Independent Audiobook Awards Finalist – Best Mystery
  • 2020 SOVAS Voice Arts Award Nominee – Best Fantasy Audiobook
  • 2020 Independent Audiobook Awards Two-Time Finalist – Best Anthology, Best Nonfiction
  • A symphony Cellist


The Audible version will be available in late spring.
I’m so excited!


 

A Worrywort’s Emergency Car Kit

An icy traffic nightmare happened recently in Virginia following a winter storm.
Hundreds of motorists were stuck in the snow for more than 15 hours along a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 after a crash involving six tractor-trailers.

The terrible traffic pileup got me thinking. Can you imagine sitting in your car, in the snow, all night long? Cold, hungry, in the dark, and no bathroom. Maybe there’re kids in the back seat. Or a cranky mother-in-law. And you’re trying to conserve gas by running the engine for brief spurts to warm the car.

This could happen to anyone. Maybe not the snow part, but getting trapped in standstill traffic can happen on any freeway at any time.

I was born and raised in Redwood City, CA. Our town’s motto was “Climate Best by Government Test.” We averaged 20 inches of rain per year, 0 snowfall, 255 days of sunshine. In my mid-twenties, my husband and I moved to Reno, Nevada, where we got our first taste of seasonal weather—boiling in the summer and frigid in the winter. From there, we moved to Vancouver, WA, and then on to Seattle. Next up: Greeley, CO. And finally, Alaska, where we stayed put for five years before heading south to the California Central Coast and 0 snowfall.

We moved into our home in Anchorage in the early summer. At our first neighborhood gathering, our new friends told us how to get our cars ready for winter. Many shared horror stories of getting stuck in snow banks, sliding off the road, and whiteouts. So, of course, I got freaked out and heeded their advice long before winter arrived.

Car Emergency Supplies that everyone should have
regardless of where you live.

  • Tea candles (those are the ones in a metal tin) and wooden matches
  • Tin cans to burn the candles in and radiate the heat. Light a couple and put them on your dashboard. I found 18-hour tea candles online
  • Snacks that won’t go bad sitting in an emergency kit. Peanut Butter, crackers, nuts, hard candy, etc.
  • Water
  • Emergency Mylar thermal blankets
  • Emergency urinals for women and men—available online. Don’t roll your eyes! You know you’ve wondered what folks do in these situations. Picture it: You’re surrounded by bumper-to-bumper traffic and you gotta pee. Bad enough for the men, but for the women? If anyone knows of a device to handle poo in the car, I’d love to hear about it. Not kidding!
  • Toilet paper and wet wipes
  • First Aid kit
  • Car Safety Hammer—an emergency escape tool with window breaker and seatbelt cutter
  • A fully charged separate power bank for cell phones
  • Jumper Cables and/or Car Jump Starter (make sure it is charged!)
  • Entertainment that does not require power
  • If you live where it snows, I’m sure you already keep a shovel and cat litter in your trunk

A couple of weeks ago, I drove to San Diego. It usually takes about five hours, which would have got me there in the late afternoon. This time it took over nine. I averaged four miles per hour for a couple of hours. Certainly not an emergency, but a reminder for me to be prepared. It got dark—I hate driving in the dark away from home; the traffic was bumper-to-bumper for miles and could have come to a standstill at any time for hours. My friend once sat on that same freeway for eleven hours.

I feel better for sharing this, although I’m sure many of you reading this are already prepared, so I just wasted a couple of minutes of your time. Oh! One more thing. I suggest keeping this kit inside the car and not in the trunk. And the Car Safety Hammer by the driver’s seat.

Additional suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Okay, Now I really do feel better.

FYI: My husband thinks I’m a worry-wort. When I met him I was twenty-three and carefree. I turned into a worrywort while raising kids.

 

Who remembers the Gas Shortages in the 1970s?

Who remembers the Gas Shortages in the 1970s?


Even though the current Colonial Pipeline shutdown is not a true gas shortage—it dredges up long forgotten memories of the early 70s gas shortage that affected the entire US and much of the world. That gas crisis resulted from an oil embargo imposed by members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) and led to fuel shortages and sky-high prices throughout much of the decade.

For a time, we could only get gas on even or odd days (your license plate number). The gas was rationed, and often, after sitting in your car for an hour or more—pushing your car forward so you weren’t running the motor, the pumps would empty before your turn. Gas prices went from about 50¢ a gallon to as high as $4 ($24 today) in some areas.

I didn’t have children back then, but just think what it was like for those parents with a car full of restless kids. Back then you couldn’t hand them a tablet and tell them to watch a Disney movie. 

Americans continue to rely heavily on foreign oil. The United States consumes about 20 million of the roughly 80 million barrels of oil consumed daily in the world, and three-fifths of that is imported. So we are always under the threat of embargos. And now hackers, too.

I’m no longer letting my tank get below half these days.
I’m a “half-tank-full” kind of girl now.


The folks who remember the 1970s gas shortage came from parents
who dealt with a far worse gas shortage that went on for years.
World War Two