Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Lesson

Hope your October is in full swing and all the horrors are of the silly variety. It has been a typical damp, dreary week here on the Coast of Illinois. Perfect for hanging cobwebs and searching frantically for full size candy bars for the neighborhood trick or treaters. Do you know how ridiculously difficult it is to find anything other than 'fun size' candy bars? Not sold separately?
It is not easy.
But not impossible. (Thank you Target.)

So, with that non-paid promotion out of the way...

This weeks 'scary' photo is AMAZINGLY real! I spotted this on a railroad overpass on the Coast of Illinois. I have no idea what is is an advertisement for. Or possibly a warning about...But either way. It can't be good for anyone...
I am pretty sure there is a cream for that....
This weeks 'scary' story is STRICTLY fiction. It is the product of just enough knowledge and just enough lack of sleep, and maybe one too many Stephen King novels. It was written in response to a 100 word challenge. In the present version there are about 144 words. The original version was just a little too spare.  It is also dedicated to all my friends in the medical field.

The Lesson

Bright lights illuminate a cold, barren room. Two figures huddle over a workspace. One the teacher. The other the student. But there is a third person in the room...

“Administer the drug. Classification?”
             “Depolarizing neuromuscular blocker?”
“You know the big words. But what does it do?”
              “Paralyzes the muscles?”
“Correct. Watch as it circulates. Receptors are confused by the drug’s action. What will happen?”

As if in response, limbs secured to the table jerk violently against leather straps.

                 “Is it painful?”
“Of course, intense spasms cause muscle pain. Give more. His pain will not lessen until the muscles become flaccid. Diaphragm now, he is unable to breath…suffocating, unless we allow the medication to wear off. Larger doses will cause…?”
                 “Cardiac arrest?”
                 “Can he hear us?’
“Yes…just look into his eyes...”

Come back next week, if you dare.....for a TRUE ghost story...
If scary is not your thing - check out the links at right  for posts from some of my favorite bloggers. And please come back in November when the Coast of Illinois returns to its usual, semi-ridiculous format.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Happy Octobooooooo......

Well, it's that time again. 
The air is brisk, pumpkins are on the doorstep, my kleenex box is decorated with an adorable owl in a pile of leaves.
It's October.
And here, on the Coast of Illinois, that means...da.da.duuuuummmmm.....
it's scary story time! 
Last year we followed the antics of some friends as they waited for the birth of a new baby. (click here for the beginning of that series and follow the subsequent links on each installment.)
This year I will haunt you with a variety of short stories, designed to give me the chills and hopefully you too!
(And, if scary is not your style, no worries. Check out some of the awesome links to the right. And come back in November for more stories from the Coast...of Illinois....)

One Hundred Eyelashes

I am sleeping and in my dream I sleep. I am curled tightly on my side, my eyes closed but behind the eyelids I can see the door. I feel a noise, the sound of one hundred eyelashes closed in a box, under the bed. They flutter gently and I open my eyes. The doorway is defined by dark gray lines. A light from somewhere else brightens the doorway very faintly and an image is there with the blink of my eyes.
He is tall, nearly filling the door frame yet light still pours around him and into the room. Or does it pour through? He stands still, questioning, and I know it is time but I am not ready. His image flickers and wavers towards me like an old cellophane movie on a reeled projector. I squeeze my eyes shut tight but he is behind them so what really does it matter? With my eyes closed he seems solid and even more real. He speaks then, as if to coax me to open my eyes.
“It’s time to leave.” His voice is the melody of those fluttering eyelashes and sounds as translucent as his image in the door frame. “You have been waiting. You can’t deny that.”
I never know when he will arrive. I notice him first as a shadow from the corner of my dreams. Off to one side, he observes. Gradually, his image gains substance as my resolve thins.
I refuse to answer and peek from barely opened lids. His featureless face is directly in front of me and I squeeze my eyes shut again, but too late. Behind my eyelids his face evolves with sunken sockets, a thin nose, a harsh mouth that opens with a gash and just as quickly, it is gone and he is translucent.
“What are you afraid of?” he asks although he knows the answer. “You’re not afraid of me. What is it?”
A shiver overtakes me and I feel the first droplets of perspiration on my brow. I am cold and hot and weak and stiff as I answer with a throat so dry my voice is barely heard above the opening flutter of eyelashes, “I am afraid to learn what I am capable of.”
My demon laughs then and my eyes fly open. Briefly, in the doorway, is an image lit from behind. I have never allowed him access here, outside my dreaming eyes. In a flickering, wavering moment I understand. He is loose now. And all I can hear is the sound of one hundred eyelashes in a box under the bed as they flutter.
I am dreaming and in my nightmare I am Awake.

(This first appeared in 2010 on 69 Flavors of Paranoia. Sadly, the site is on hiatus, but that shouldn't stop you from knocking around in the corridors, just watch out for the basement...)

Monday, September 29, 2014

I Guess I Answered My Own Question...

Please be sure to check out my guest post at Adventures of the Empty Nesters site! Plus travel stories, puppy tails and the inevitability of change.

I admit it.
I routinely skip over the terrorist news stories, the local shootings, the sports team scandals.
News that is sensationalized is not for me.
George Clooney's wedding is making me smile.

It is also making me ask: Why not me, George? Why?

Is it because I found your breakthrough performance on Facts of Life rather forced and silly?
Is it because you were always outside the top three on my 'list' behind a rotation of Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig? (Keep in mind George, that while you remained in spots four or five, Misters Connery and Ford eventually fell off the top to be replaced by Johnny Depp and that long haired guy who played the Bedouin in The Mummy. You have always been a firm four or five.)
Is it because I was already married?

I have always defended you, George. Defended you to my friends who felt you were a womanizer. Defended you to those who felt you were dating women entirely too young. Defended you to my daughter when she mistakenly thought you were a good twenty years too old for ME. (We are a mere six weeks apart, George. Six weeks and one state apart, George.)

Sure, my taste in celebrity has been described as ...quirky....
Hadji from Johnny Quest
Woody Allen in Annie Hall
Gene Wilder in Silver Streak
Look at what these men and cartoon boy have in common – a gently, wounded spirit determined to do what is best and right for the world. (okay...maybe I was more enamored of Woody's relationship with Annie Hall....and Annie's style...)
But I digress...

You should be proud to be included in this list George.
You support your causes, not with ridiculous instagram photos but with honest, educated speeches. You may date younger woman, but honestly, they were all quite beautiful and your relationships appeared to be one at a time and not a macrame plant hanger of models and b-list actresses.

So I raise my cup of coffee to you and your new bride Amal.
May you have many, many happily married years.

And you are still a solid four on my list.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yoga Anywhere...Almost...

I have been doing yoga on and off for approximately forty years. Initially, I yoga-ed along with Lillis on PBS. It wasn't long until I ventured off on my own with a yoga book, complete with photo instruction for such advance poses as LION and AID FOR STOMACH DIGESTION.
I didn't have a formal lesson until somewhere around 2005.
This is nothing to be proud of...
Currently my professional instruction is intermittent. I tend to depend on an AM Yoga DVD. The instructor, who totally rocks a terrifying speedo, lulls me into a pleasant stretch from his beach in Hawaii. And I am very content to do Mountain Pose and Cow Stretch in the comfort of my jammies on my living room floor.

Until this weekend.

Fueled by a recent segment of celebrities posting pictures of themselves doing yoga ANYWHERE and the undeniable desire to make a fool of myself...
I give you:
  Sun Salutation
on a moving boat
without a life vest
and only a cell phone camera
and not a smart phone
and definitely not one with an airbrush app.
unless your home IS a sailboat
and you have super good balance
and can swim.
 Vertical Boob Plank
This is very dangerous. Do not attempt in sports bra, cami or if you are less than a C-cup.

Stripper Pole

Not to be confused with the beginner move Balancing Mast.
 Which may or may not be a sailing porn site. 
I don't know.
Perturbed Wife.
Flowing into Annoyed Husband and ending in Swimming Plank.

(seriously, are my boobs really that huge? I may never wear that t-shirt again. Or always.)

Sun Salutation
Wide stance variation
because the boat was actually moving
pretty quickly.


DISCLAIMER: doing yoga on the bow of a moving sailboat is not sanctioned by the American Sailing Association, the Federal and State Park Departments, and everyone with the tiniest amount of good sense.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Take Five, People

I am preparing for the annual camping/sailboat outing which takes place 'out East'.
Or, Indiana.
I believe that after last year's camping infestation of college kids I swore I would never camp again. This may have been a rash statement, made in the throws of sleep deprivation.
Or, I will do anything for a 'mini-vacation'.
Or I have a very bad memory or how uncomfortable I was.
I don't ask anymore. I think it is the pre-Alzhiemers.

Consequently, my brain is not really wanting to focus on much of anything except how to pack three days worth of food into a cooler on ice without poisoning anyone.
So I thought in lieu of a new and entertaining post, I would take you all on a little mini-vacation of your own.

Welcome to the Sailboat Races!

Some of the racers preparing their boats.
 There is a scene in the movie Jaws where everyone is talking all East Coast and the only sounds you hear are the water lapping the shore and sails flapping. I had a very distinct feeling of being right in the middle of this scene while I watched the racers set up. I kept a very trained eye out for that enormous dorsal fin and that guy who likes to grate his fingers down the chalkboard in Chief Brody's office. Oh, and Richard Dreyfus.
More boats. And the tent? This is where the really loud HORN lives.
We were just observers on this particular race day. Hoping to get an idea of how the whole process works. The best I can tell, there is a configuration of buoys which you are expected to sail around.
BUT - you don't start sailing around these buoys until the person in the white tent (see above) sets out a series of flags and blasts an air horn into the peaceful calm at which point I jump and, if in the boat, most likely fall into the lake.

These boats are lined up and ready to race. Or, they are coming across the finish. I don't know. 

The boats are divided up into two categories. Larger, heavier boats and smaller, more petite boats. We would naturally fall into the larger heavier category. I feel slightly insulted. But, the larger heavier boats get to go first so NEENER to all you people who always picked me last in PE.
 I call this Boats. With dock.
Standing on the shore, watching as the various rigs floated away, the race began to look more like people having a lovely afternoon on the lake while I sweated and got bit by flies on the shore. There was no swooshing and near crashing like in America's Cup. Although I did watch one kid lean a little too far over the rail and slide - slow motion - into the lake. His buddy was in complete control of the boat and actually stopped immediately allowing for re-boarding with only a minimal amount of lost time.
Seriously. Beautiful.
We left for home before the races were over. But best as I could tell, we were the only losers, for not having taken our boat and entered too.
Oh well.
Next time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

And still we wait....

Three years ago, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack, a young acquaintance of mine wondered at the significance of ten years. Is the loss any smaller this year than last? Will it be less next year? The truth? No.
Let me be clear here. I did not lose anyone in the September 11, 2001 attack. I spent the day in the safety of my home, watching the devastation on television. But loss is tricky. My husband called me on his way home. He told me to go outside and listen. It was silent. The normal air traffic had stopped and we were surprised at how obviously normal that noise had been. I baked cookies for our kids. I worked that evening and I wanted their arrival home to feel normal.
I worked in an emergency department back then. None of us lost flesh and blood but we all lost family. All you had to do was look into the eyes of every fireman, EMS worker and police officer that came through our doors that night. We all saw the look of quiet anticipation on the faces of the emergency workers in New York – the chaos at Ground Zero, the IV bags spiked, the stretchers lined up – waiting for casualties that never arrived. But we went about our jobs that night as though nothing had happened; keeping the doubt, fear and questions pushed back for another time. And that connection, with those waiting- hoping to do their job as though nothing were different but never given the chance - changed me.
Loss is tricky. What we lost that day was the normalcy we had grown up with. The safety of being 'an American'. For our children, normal began on September 12, 2001. They will never know the 'normal' that we had. Suddenly phrases like 'home land security' and 'terrorist threat' became their norm. For our children, our country has always been at war.
But while we lost the definition of our 'normal', we did not lose our Freedom. Sure, we may have to practically strip down to board an airplane. But we are still Free to complain about it. We are Free to gather together to celebrate football and baseball and pop music stars who are suppose to be our next 'idol'. We are Free to question the banking industry and point fingers at our elected officials and say "What the Fuck?" And we are Free to come together and remember.
No, loss does not change with the number of years. But what is 'normal' most certainly does. And that is something we must never forget.

 The following essay was written five years ago on October 25, 2009. A few days prior, I found myself on a different part of the Mississippi River coast and quite by accident was witness to the scene above. I don't know why I happened to be there at that moment in time. I am not a particularly 'political' person. I did not lose anyone in 9/11. But as an ER nurse I felt a painful connection to those in service in New York and Washington DC. I guess THE COSMOS is throwing me a hint, but I am not good at guessing games.  I do know those images will stay with me forever and there was something calming for me to see the people waiting for the ship.There was an overwhelming spirit of America. But there was also an overwhelming spirit and desire for peace. 
And still we wait.....


The rocks on the shore of the Mississippi are damp and the path is precarious. The atmosphere meets the muddy water and shrouds the banks in fog. The humidity of the October morning has dampened my clothing and my mood.

Stretching out for at least one mile, the riverbank is lined with people. Some are sitting on rocks or grass. Some stand. One man, dressed in the Stars and Stripes and waving a huge flag has taken the anchor position in the crowd. 


We are all waiting for the US New York to float past us on its way to New York City for commissioning. The warship has left the shipyard where it grew from the melted remains of the Twin Towers and our naive country’s sense of safety.

We all wait, straining our eyes across the foggy river that defines this part of the United States and I consider my place here.

I sat in the CafĂ© du Monde, the evening before, surrounded by family and friends. We talked and laughed; attended by a Chinese man who barely spoke English. We read aloud our writings – poems of life, stories of love and protests of war. We read aloud for ourselves but not unnoticed by those around us. And I wondered, just what does the Chinese waiter think.

We are here, reading aloud in a public place, presenting our opinions and the response is laughter, and smiles and applause. In his country such a display holds the possibility of prison, torture and death.

We wait for the ship. Peacefully gathered. Civilians and police mingle and the atmosphere is celebratory but it is also bittersweet. Waiting.

I remember an image from the early hours after the Towers fell. Hospital workers in ER bays, IV’s spiked and empty stretchers – waiting. The distressed faces of the staff haunt me. They reflected the reality – those stretchers would remain empty. Would it have been better to have had them full?

Silently, the US New York slips through the fog and collectively the crowd is on its feet. Flags are waving and a band plays in the distance. I am overwhelmed with pride. We never catch a clear image of the ship. The fog on the river shrouds it behind a veil. 
If you look closely towards the back you can see the crew waving. Ghostly, huh?

As the ship makes its way around a bend I see the silhouettes of the crew. They stand aft, waving back towards the shore. A chill runs through me as I feel the souls of those that are gone. Do the people here on the banks feel it? They must, the banks are silent. Does the crew feel it?

And I wonder, was a warship really the best thing to come of all that loss?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

And Just as Quickly...

It was just a week ago...

Temperature in the 90's. Humidity in the 200's.
Lounging in a friend's pool.
The unofficial last day of summer.

And today?
Temperature in the 70's. Humidity? What's humidity?
We spent last night with friends, under the stars, with music and laughter.

A portion of Soulard Market under a beautiful September sky.

Sharing a moment of life.

Once again, I must ask you to take a moment.
Recognize the briefness of these experiences.

The little one I mentioned last week has moved on from her earthly life, to one without the boundaries a fragile body bond her to.
Miss Layla, I am so happy I had the chance to meet you.
Four years should never be a lifetime. 
From the 2013 Heart Association Heart Walk. Please support your local Heart Association.