Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Going Out With a Bang

Photo Credit:  Girard Hottleman

When I’m a really old lady I’m going to hand out dental floss and sunscreen to kids and say, “This is what happens if you don’t use this stuff.”  I am making a list of things to do when I’m old. I have my bucket list, now I need my going out with a bang list. Before I started to write full-time and gave up TV, I used to watch a show on PBS called “Waiting for God”. It took place in a nursing home. I absolutely loved it, and I only hope that someday when I’m in a nursing home, I have the opportunity to steal a helicopter. Shoot, I’d like to do it now, only I don’t want to write in jail. Or ICU. 


Thing is you can get away with more when you’re 98. Once when I lived in Texas an old lady got chased by the police. When she finally pulled over, she sat in her car in the middle of the front seat with her arms outstretched and a finger on each door lock. I don’t know how they finally got her out. What could they do? Face it, after gravity has had its way with you, what can the cops possibly do?
One quite elderly gentleman stood in the doctor’s office and looked over his bill, shaking his head. “That doctor only spent two minutes with me. I’m not paying this!  I’ll give you ten dollars.”  He plunked the money on the counter and walked out. I fell in love with him. And I heard that he refused to pay full price for a Christmas tree once, and did the same thing, hauling a tree away for $10. You know dang well we all want to do that stuff sometimes. 

My good buddy Comrade has lived a much longer timeline than I have, but we get on like ham and cheese. Comrade never goes to the doctor. Once she stepped on a piece of plate glass and cut her heel off. I mean OFF. She pushed it back on and tied a bandana around it and it grew back on. I needed a prescription for smelling salts for just hearing the story. There have been times we’re heading out the door to an event and Comrade will dash into the loo to be sick, seconds later she’s trotting out the door. She simply refuses to cooperate with illness. 

Since I’m a runner-writer, I spend inordinate amounts of time sitting and moving only my fingers, followed by sprints of wild girly running. The complications are probably obvious. So I’m a fan of massage and physical therapy. Comrade considers practitioners of both these arts as a cross between voodoo and science fiction.
Once we had a conversation where she said, “I’m probably just going to drop dead one day, because I never go to the doctor for anything.”  I considered that briefly and piped up, “Well, the first part is inevitable.”  She explained, “You go to the doctor, so you’ll probably know it’s coming. Mine will be a surprise.”  I thought about that and wondered, “Which way do you suppose is better?”  “My point is that you will live longer, because the doctors will make you.”  We debated this for awhile and I pointed out, “You know what Comrade? Even if that is true for the average person, what if you subtract the time spent waiting in the doctor’s office? And the time spent working to pay for the doctor’s bill and the prescriptions? Do you think that might even it out?”  She considered that and thought maybe it did.

When I asked Comrade what she’d put on her going out with a bang list she considered it and said, “If I could have anything, I’d like to relive a day from my childhood.”  This caught my interest. “What day?” I asked. She shrugged, “Any day, it doesn’t matter. They were all good.”  Oh my gosh, how amazing is that? See why she’s my Comrade? Then she piped up, “And I would like to go to Greece. I always wanted to kiss a Greek guy.”  Of course I then wanted to take Comrade to Greece, but she’s all worried about going to prison in a foreign country. Obviously it is too soon to start on her going out with a bang list.
So what would you put on your going out with a bang list? This isn’t the bucket list. This is after you’ve finished up that bucket list and you’re still here and you can do whatever the heck you want. This is when earthly consequences have lost their power over you. This is when you get to make the rules, cause what are they gonna do? Sick gravity on you? What would you really enjoy doing? 
***

Yes I'm giving away Epic Slinky Dogs. Please follow my blog and leave a comment if you're interested. Make it easy for me to find you! I'd like to give Slinky to a home that doesn't have one yet, so if you'd like one, be sure to let me know!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

La Cucaracha


It almost made me leave the state. The Realtor narrated the features of the house, opening closet doors for me. “WHAT is that?” I interrupted, pointing at the gigantic dead insect lying on the floor inside. She peeked at it, “A cricket.”  Look, I’ve seen crickets before, that sucker could wear baby shoes. They say everything is bigger in Texas. It sounded good when applied to sky, glasses of iced-tea, and closet space. Not so much in the exoskeleton-wearing world of insects.

Eventually I got used to the ginormous crickets, they’re almost seasonal, and they go towards the light. So they’re predictable, but if you leave the porch light on and open your front door at the wrong time, the body mass of crickets in the entryway may outweigh yours. I did scream a lot the first year I lived there. And the ants made me cry, they wanted to eat my children and like most extra-legged fauna on the planet, I’m allergic to them. Still it was the cockroaches that made me the fearless insect-raising, spider-bashing shieldmaiden that I am today.

“What’s that sound?” I asked Hubby, waking him because obviously he couldn’t hear it while asleep. “Nuffin” came the standard middle-of-the-night reply. “Listen!” I demanded, trying to place the strange ‘scrit-scrit’ echoing down the hall. It sounded vaguely familiar. Braving night investigation, I made my way down the hall to the bathroom. It’s the tub drain, the sound it makes when it’s opening and closing. Flick on the light and a three inch cockroach shoves the drain lid OPEN and scuttles into the tub. My screams woke Dear Hubby all the way up. Stress test.

“I think there’s a baby bird in the kitchen,” I said, hugging Dear Hubby hello. “Something’s been flying around in there.”  It lands on my hand, which is – unfortunately for him – wrapped around his neck, because it isn’t a bird. The cockroaches have evolved, they have wings now. I bolt taking hubby’s head with me for a moment. Then race to the sink to contemplate amputation of my hand, but settle on washing it, scrubbing frantically, and crying. All this sunshine, all these bugs - who needs this cuh-rap?  Hubby recovers from the partial be-heading and goes ninja all over fly-boy. Life is good again. Texas iced-teas have real slices of lemon and free refills and Hubby has my back.


Until the night I’m changing a diaper on my sweet little baby and a squadron infiltrates. One lands on the baby. Oh no you didn’t. I flick it off with a container of wipees and juice it against the wall with said container. Bring. It. On.


Then I’m at a gift shop picking out birthday cards. There’s a basket of colorful rubbery insects on the counter, butterflies and grasshoppers, and one of the rubbery bugs looks exactly like La Cucaracha. Exactly, I can barely stand to pick it up. I poke at it with the card just to be sure he isn't faking me out. Not real. It is awesome. I tuck it in the birthday card when I send it. The recipient regales me with tales of La Cucaracha’s exploits. Tossed on the carpet when company comes, a friend actually grabs a tissue and politely picks it up and puts it in the trash. Recipient puts it in the shower with her hubby. Yes, these are the kinds of friends I have. I love them. Except when they stick it in the shower when I visit. Why is that part never as funny?  Know what I mean?  Ever live someplace where the size of the bugs is dinner party conversation?  Have a good creepy crawly story to share?
***

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt
As usual I'm giving away an Epic Slinky Dog. They just make the world a funer place. Please follow my blog and leave a comment if you're interested. Make it easy for me to find you! I'd like to give Slinky to a home that doesn't have one yet, so if you need one, be sure to let me know!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dumb Things I Did in Las Vegas

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt


What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas if you’re a blogger, especially if you use that fact as an excuse to fly your freak flag a bit. If you like to gamble, you might think it is dumb that I didn’t. All those miles of casinos were just in my way. Granted the bulk of the dumb things might have happened anywhere. Like going to Starbucks too much to drink decaf espresso, buying a sparkly new key-chain every day, or worse, staring at a giant poster of a certain show and interrupting your husband to shout, “Heeey!  We should go see a show!”   


I didn’t go!  I didn’t really want to even. Not really. Shut up, I went to a Titanic exhibit. There was a real iceberg, it was cold, and I bought Titanic luggage tags which I thought were funny. There was no thunder.

After walking an enormous conference my legs felt like numb stumps, so I decided to try an Aqua Massage

I didn’t even care that it was in the busy corridor connecting two hotels. A massage sounded so good. From the outside it looked like a carwash, from the inside it felt like a rubber coffin inside a carwash. The problem was that apparently I’m claustrophobic inside rubber coffins, that, and I didn’t take my shoes off like you’re supposed to. Trapped inside with alternating jets of water either blasting or vibrating hard, I told myself I was enjoying it and I tried to take my shoes off. You can’t maneuver in there, not with the water attacking you, but my shoes were just flip-flops. Normally I can tug them off with my toes, except I caught a foot cramp. You know the kind that you need to jump up and down on to alleviate?  That kind. So while the water was battering me mercilessly, and my flip-flops were moving around beneath the rubber matting, spanking me, I was trying my best to put weight on a cramping foot. It was very low-grade torture. Yes I could have hit the panic button, but I’m no quitter. I may have been the only one who didn’t like that thing.

Have you seen an Oxygen Bar?  I passed these things all over Vegas, and I admit I was intrigued by the colorful bubbly contraptions. Maybe they're everywhere, remember I spend most of my time holed up writing. People stood around them, with plastic tubes rammed up their noses, and it didn’t look like fun. But after surviving the Aqua Massage I was offered a deal on the Oxygen Bar, only $10 for air. The whole idea of breathing in aromatherapy-scented straight-up oxygen seemed ridiculous, so of course I had to try it. Hey I don’t gamble, I don’t drink, I couldn’t afford sky-diving - you make do with what you have. 
Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt
There were several machines to choose from, each had different flavors. I started with the mints, and soon plugged into exotic fruits. Sitting at a bar with a pink plastic tube up my nose felt about as stupid as I’d thought it would. I tried some mouth breathing to avoid the flavored air at first, but finally decided to cooperate to see if it really gave me more energy. I was exhausted from a day at the conference, so I was hopeful it would work. I went straight to dinner after the oxygen, and I had more energy after that, but I didn’t notice any difference I could be certain came from the oxygen. Also couldn’t get that fruity air taste out of my lungs for awhile.

We’re not going to count the photo op I took Epic Slinky Dog on as a dumb thing. It was fun, and I just avoided eye contact with people. Besides, it surely wasn’t the oddest thing anyone saw that day. Vegas. Dumb was everywhere. Did you notice Slinky in the top photo with the Egyptian dog Anubis?  All in all probably the dumbest thing I did in Vegas was to ignore the sunshine beckoning, and spend my spare time editing a novel in my hotel room. That and I may have possibly taken my part-time vegetarian self out for a hamburger. How about you?  What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in Vegas?  Or anywhere for that matter?  Something fun, folks, this isn’t a confessional. I’m not a Priest, and I may or may not use your story in a novel, but I’m all ears. Especially if you went to Thunder Down Under. Dish.
***
As always I’m giving out Epic Slinky Dogs. I just ask that you follow my blog and leave a comment if you’d like one. Let’s make it someone who hasn’t won one yet. Easy breezy, isn’t it?  

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

International CES

Ner ner ner ner, outside the hotel window
Photo Credit:  Bailey Karfelt


Let’s skip over why this fiction writer was at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas wearing an engineer badge, and just get to the good stuff. There was plenty of shtuff, but let's keep an open mind. The massage section intrigued, and was my favorite - a veritable gymnasium of back rubbing possibility! 

HealthmateForever makes a device that looks like an iPod, only instead of headphones you attach electrodes to your back and it generates low frequency bioelectrical pulses. Am pretty sure I had similar treatment to this once in Physical Therapy. I saw knock-offs of this product around Las Vegas, but the salesman insisted HealthmateForever is the only one with FDA approval. You can control the speed, and type of shock. It felt like various electrical zaps, painless though sometimes uncomfortable. Some people adored it. I would much prefer having my back rubbed by hands. Though, after sitting through a sales pitch for fifteen minutes while wearing it, I have to admit that I dragged my bag through the conference the rest of the day and my shoulders didn’t cramp up. Possibly a coincidence, can’t say for sure. It’s out of my price range, besides I’d give it a week before I lost the wire connector or washed the electrodes.

A robo-massager
Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt

There were rows of massage recliners, very cushy and inviting given the million square feet I was traipsing. Sadly with 150,000 attendees, there were long lines and a scrum whenever one opened up, so I didn’t get to try it. Though I had a vision of it too, broken, in the corner of my living room, one visit from my friendly neighborhood giant and that puppy wouldn’t be rubbing anyone’s back. Besides, I prefer Robbie, my massage therapist. Someone who responds to, “Is that all you got?”  There were also helmets that gave some type of head massage. They looked very Jetsons meets Total Recall, and I envisioned a vibrating head and biting my tongue.


Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt

The brain wave sensors came next. Yep, a headband you can wear at home while it senses your brain’s activity. I quizzed a woman working the Muse Brain Wave Sensor Band booth. Why do you want your brain waves sensed? The reply is it can tell you when you're stressed. And you can see how your brain is working and know if it is working efficiently. (I think we can all answer these questions right off, for free.)  It can improve your focus. (I like to focus on bits of several things at once. I’m doing it on purpose.)  You can connect Muse to your Bluetooth and track your results. Is this something you'd do? I do not want to have to do paperwork or keep stats on my brain. But in the future, I am told, we will be able to play games or operate appliances using this technology. I already use my brain to play games, and my arms too (mad skills, right here), and if my appliances were to ever do what I’m thinking – there would be random explosions happening throughout my house. Just today, look what my dryer did to me. I’m simply not cut out for housework I tell you. I wish that sucker HAD known what I was thinking, but don’t worry, I told it.

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt
My favorite brainwave detector headband had cat ears on top of it. They moved to show people how you were feeling. I didn’t get to try it on, and I really wanted to see what position they moved into for “feeling like an ass with cat ears on my head”.

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt

The robotic section included plenty of furry electronic pets, considered therapeutic. Robo Seal  because I suppose a real seal wouldn’t be nearly as clean for a nursing home. The Dancing Robots were interesting, the technology intriguing. I’m sure great things will be engineered with it. In the meantime I’d rather scratch a live stinky dog, or dance with real people. How do you feel about robotic pets, and Dancing Robots?

In the realm of household appliances, there were devices that clean your windows and those little vacuums that trip around your house vacuuming all day long. I asked, “What about the socks on the floor?” and was told to pick them up first. Well, sheesh, can’t we get one of those dancing robots to pick up socks?  Do you have any use for an automatic vacuum that will kill itself choking on a sock? 

Then there is the hapifork . It’s an electronic fork that criticizes your eating habits. It’s based on the eat-slower, eat-less, feel-fuller philosophy. Personally I can take an hour to eat my morning bowl of oatmeal, so I don’t think that is my problem. Unless hapifork is used on chocolate, soda, and cookies, I just don’t see how it can work. Though some friends asked what hapifork does to you for being bad, now there is an interesting idea. Maybe next year one of the dancing robots will chase you with it. What do you think about that idea?

My favorite gadget is practical. Liquipel - is a coating that will waterproof your electronics. Worst gadget?  Hah, you be the judge.


Photo Credit:  Bailey Karfelt

Click to judge -> CES Unveiled (Call of the Weird) Video

There were absolutely NO hover suitcases, and not even a whiff of a Stargate, and I cannot tell you how disappointed I was in that. If you could have any gadget you can dream up, what would it be?  


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Norman Bates

Photo Credit:  Norman Bates by Stephanie Karfelt
 

Once Upon a Time a little girl’s stupid parents promised to get her a cat if she would move to Iceland. At the time they promised this, Angel’s tiny fingers were clutching the door jamb of her lovely house in a sunny land.
            “You will like Iceland,” they lied, “it snows there, all the way up to the windowsills!”  (This is a lie, because it actually snows up to the rooftops in Iceland*.) 
            Angel wasn’t buying it, so they threw in the cat deal.

            At the SPCA Angel picked out a kitten with several extra toes on each paw. She felt sorry for it. She didn’t understand about inbreeding. Neither did she connect the tiny black and white kitten to its feral mother, yowling and slamming her body against a nearby cage. Angel named the kitten Oreo, because it was black and white. (Nor did Angel understand politically incorrect.)

            Oreo did not understand the refrigerator door rule. You know the one. Where a person pushes the door shut, while walking away, unaware that the kitten scuttled across the floor to peep inside. He crawled under the couch, where Angel’s stupid parents assumed he would be transported to kitten heaven. No such luck, fortunately that did not happen. Instead he darted out demanding blood sacrifices for the offense, and stealing entire loaves of bread to consume with primitive growls of joy.

Scary little Oreo, tiny kitten that he was, got to go outside because he stood at the door and spoke in a deep man voice and said, “OUT, OUUUUUT, OUUUUUUUUUT,” over and over. Until Angel’s parents were a little afraid not to allow it. So they allowed it and hoped for the best, which may not mean what you think it means, but dang if he didn’t come back. Every time.

            It soon became apparent that the not so sweet little inbred kitten was in fact, a serial killer. Woodland creatures (and some neighbors) far and wide feared him. The body count rose, but in the spirit of Hannibal Lector, Oreo did not waste his victims. Angel averted her eyes to the carnage, but didn’t protest when her parents renamed her kitten Norman Bates after the dude in Psycho. Norm liked to greet children at the front door and chase them through the house, he really liked if they screamed, and gave them plenty of reason to do so. Angel took to wearing socks on her arms to protect herself. The neighborhood children enjoyed playing blood-tag with Norman, and no one sued when the cat tagged them out. They were afraid to. Norm knew where they lived.
 
Photo Credit:  Norman Bates by Stephanie Karfelt
 
            In an attempt to keep skin on their daughter and her friends, the stupid parents had the cat declawed, but his nails grew back. Not all twenty-eight of them, but enough to keep the residents of Iceland on their toes. The plan was to keep Norm inside after the failed declawing, but the household became afraid to walk in the dark with the cat inside. Nights were filled with running and screaming (both feline and human) and rescues where several family members had to pry Norman off a screaming victim were common. Stray cats tormented from outside, causing Norman to launch himself against the windows bellowing, “Goooooo hooooooome!  Goooooo!  Gooooo!”  And one night he woke Angel’s mother by standing on her chest and speaking in a low reasonable tone, “Let. Me. Ouuuut.”  So out he went again, the scourge of the countryside. So remember this, if you’re ever hiking in Iceland, for the love of light, wear socks on your arms.

***

*Location may have been altered in the hopes that if Norman reads this, he won’t know it is about him and come after me. The rest of the story is true.

Do you have a scary cat story?  Or any cat story you’d like to share?  An Epic Slinky Dog (the antithesis to Norman) will be awarded to the best cat tale.

(And if you enjoyed Norman’s story, you can vote for it at   The Realm of DM Kilgore .)
What is an Epic Slinky Dog you may ask? Just about the sweetest blog giveaway EVER. Check him out.
 
Photo Credit:  Kathryn Books
 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dear John

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Karfelt

Dear Ghirardelli Dark (with a Touch of Seasalt),

You know how I feel about you, and you use it against me. Perhaps that is my fault. If I were stronger maybe we could have a healthy relationship. I hope you’ll understand though, that the time has come for us to part ways. I’m just not the kind of girl who can be satisfied with weekends and holidays. It’s an all or nothing thing for me. I can’t participate in a relationship where we meet up now and then. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those times. It was just never enough for me, and it left me depressed. I always wanted more.

Please know I don’t blame you. You tried to meet my needs, I admit that. But my obsession isn’t healthy. I wanted you every day, morning, noon, and night. The worst of it is, I don’t like to share, and I’ve seen you around. Please don’t deny it. You know one woman is never going to be enough for you.

It’s not you, it’s me. We’re like Sid and Nancy together, and I gotta tell ya Sid, I don’t like what you do to me. I saw what you did to the clothes in my closet, and I don’t know how you can live with yourself. Today I was forced to buy a pair of emergency dress pants to tide me over, until I can repair the damage you’ve done. So I’m telling you straight out, stay out of my life. Please don’t take it personally. I think Whitney said it best, I-ee-I-ee-I Will Always Love You. And it’s a small world after all, so I’m sure you’ll see me from time to time. Ignore the lust in my eyes, and don’t protest when I follow the sage advice of Dionne Warwick, and Just Walk on By.

Love,

Stephanie

***
Anyone else have an unhealthy relationship with chocolate?  The above photo is a shot of my emergency chocolate stash.  Right?  Pretty lush?  I'm giving it away, I have to.  If you're interested, leave me a comment and tell me about your relationship with chocolate.  I only have one emergency stash - and I will warn you right now, some of that chocolate has been opened and consumed.  Not much, but some.  But hey, it's free, and awesome.  As always I'm giving away Epic Slinky Dogs too.  I request that you follow my blog (by clicking on "Join this Site" over there -->) and leave a comment to be eligible for a giveaway.  (And if you gave me some of that amazing chocolate for Christmas, I'm sorry, it hurts me more than it hurts you, so put your name in the running and maybe get it back.)