Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cat anthology



I recently found out, quite by accident, that one of my cat stories was accepted in an anthology book. This was news to me because I hadn’t received an acceptance letter or a disclaimer.

Upon further investigation, it turned out that this was a story I submitted in 2015. When I asked for more information the publisher of the book was rather vague.

What struck me as odd was that I didn’t receive a free copy of the book. The person who published the book told me that, because this book was for the benefit of shelter cats, none of the contributors received anything. At most, contributors could get a free ebook.

This is my opinion is not good business. Yes, to supply every contributor with a real book would require an investment, but $100 investment is sure to pay off. After all, contributing writers would want to show off their work, thus generating sales.

In comparison, just to name a few …

When I contributed to Chicken Soup for the Soul I received 10 free copies.

When I contributed to Green Prints I received two free copies.

When I contributed to The Spirit of St. Louis I received one free copy

Don't get me wrong, it’s not the free copy I’m after, or money from sales, as an animal lover I’m quite willing to do my bit for the adoption of shelter animals, but if one is going to start a project to help them, be professional about it.

For starters, have the courtesy of notifying contributors that their story is accepted and supply them with at least one free book. That one free book might generate ten or more sales.

When I looked up the cat organization proceeds of the book would be donated to, they made no mention of the book. This struck me as odd too.

You would expect that if you were to receive money from a book sale, you would put that book on the homepage of your website along with a link where it could be purchased. You would also write a blog post about it, thanking the publisher and the writers for their effort. As any good marketer will tell you, sales depend on exposure.

Finally, I found it strange that the person lives in Las Vegas but promised the proceeds of her book to a cat organization in Florida. This makes no sense to me.

Once a year I act as a fundraiser for the Toronto Cat Rescue. I live in Toronto so I support this local cat shelter organization. I approach just about everyone to make a donation. Some of my friends, who are scattered in various parts of the world, are nice and send a donation, others decline stating that they support a local organization. Which is their good right. While I appreciate their support, I can understand why someone in Paris prefers to support Parisian animals vs. Toronto animals.

As it turned out, the publisher stated that she would remove my story as she didn’t want to do business with me. Business? What is her concept of business? We were not in business,
to begin with. Business is when money changes hands and that was, or wouldn’t be, the case. This was for charity and where it comes to charity it’s not about the individual, it's about the cause.

Forgive me for being skeptical, but when I hear the word "charity" I'm instantly suspicious. I've seen too much charity fraud to blindly trust anyone.












Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mammograms - friend or foe


For the past few days, I’ve been avoiding the homepage of Facebook. Lately, there always seems to be something in the news or a post of a member that tick me off. Since I have to cut down on stress I decided to avoid Facebook.

Unfortunately, while checking Facebook’s home page to see if any of my friends have birthdays, I noticed a post of a woman who stated that she was having her boobage squashed. She was referring to a mammogram.

Her word usage ruffled my feathers. Why couldn’t she just say “I’m having a mammogram” or if she had to be graphic “I’m having my breasts squashed”. Why call breasts boobage?

It ticks me off when grown women use words such as boobage, boobies, etc. Are they women or are they big children who don’t dare to use the word breasts?

It makes me wonder how they refer to their husband’s penis. Do they call the organ a pippi? And what kind of a name do they assign to their vagina?

I was silly enough to join the conversation and stumbled across some disturbing statements. Trying to help I put in my two cents, but this was not well received.

After leaving the conversation I did some research and found that on the subjects of mammograms medical opinions are divided. Some doctors are in favor of mammograms as it is a way for early breast cancer detection, others consider the risk of radiation too high and advice to avoid mammograms.

As a general rule, women between the ages of 35 and 50 should have a mammogram once a year, while women over the age of 50 every two years. If a woman has concerns between mammograms, she can have a manual exam or an ultrasound.

If a lump gets detected, standard procedure is to do a biopsy. Three samples are removed from the lump, send to the lab and within a matter of days, the results show whether the lump is benign or malignant.

While mammograms do expose patients to a certain amount of radiation, early breast cancer detection is key for survival. So every woman should decide for herself … will she have an annual mammogram and have the benefit of catching a cancerous lump early, when treatment is simple, and live; or avoid the exam and risk that by the time a cancerous lump is found, it’s too late to do something about it.


I don't know what ticks me off more, women who use baby talk or women who stick their heads in the sand.







Monday, January 16, 2017

Nearly run over and yelled at


When I first started to drive a car, my dad told me that avoiding accidents not only depended on my safe driving, but also on keeping my wits about me and foreseeing mistakes other drivers were about to make.

As it turns out, it’s not only important for a driver of a car to stay alert, the same goes for a pedestrian. Take Saturday morning for instance, when I was nearly knocked down by a car not once but three times and yelled at in the process.

The first time was in parking lot, where a car reversed out of a parking bay. I guess a Mercedes doesn’t come equipped with a rearview mirror, or those driving a Mercedes think they are lord and master of the road. 
Not only did the driver not apologize for nearly bumping me out of the way, she had the nerve to yell at me that I should watch out where I was going.

A short distance further an SUV was blocking the pedestrian path by a gas station. While he waited to slip into traffic, I went around the car to continue my walk. At the very moment that I was behind the SUV, the driver decided to reverse. Once again I was able to jump out of his way. This driver too yelled at me for being careless.

A little further still, I waited for the traffic lights to turn green before crossed the street. When it did, and I stepped off the curb, a car nearly ran me over and I got yelled at for a third time.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t drivers be on the lookout for pedestrians? Isn’t that why all cars come equipped with rearview and side mirrors? And since when is it no longer safe for pedestrians to cross the street when the traffic light is green?


I guess it’s true what they say about traffic lights and their meaning: red … stop, green … go, orange … go like hell.



Monday, January 9, 2017

Light up or shut up!


What is it with people writing the biggest nonsense on Facebook? I can understand that people post an announcement, something good, something bad, something funny or share pictures of events, pets, or kids. But some people write nonsense such as “Went for a walk”, “I’m waiting for the bus”, or “My neighbors just came home”. Who gives a crap?

Earlier today I read a post of someone who said ... I want a smoke so badly”. Apparently, this person gave up smoking two months ago and now she’s having cravings. A string of comments followed. Naturally, I wondered … how does posting this on Facebook help with a craving. Does writing this post help to make the craving go away? Does reading the comments make it any better? If you really need help, call the hotline for quitters.

Everyone is apparently so supportive of those who quit smoking, but what they don’t say is how they replaced one addiction with another. I know quite a few quitters and they literally don’t stop stuffing their faces with everything they can get their hands on. Hence the enormous weight gain.

Quitters don’t want others to know this. They stand on their pedestal and announce for all to hear that they quit smoking, but they hide the fact that from morning ‘till night they eat, eat, eat. And if you think they snack on celery sticks and carrots, think again. They snack on sweets, chocolates, potato chips, pretzels … they become addicted to junk food. They don’t share that with the world, though. No, they hide this little tidbit, otherwise, their ex-smoker halo would disappear.

So my message to ex-smokers … quit whining. LIGHT UP OR SHUT UP! 










Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A cure for insomnia?



People who can’t sleep will try just about anything to catch those elusive zzzzzz’s. I should know, falling asleep is a major problem for me and over the years I’ve tried it all: chamomile tea, counting sheep, meditation, lavender oil, lavender mist … nothing helps.

So when I learned of a sound machine that produces relaxing sounds I thought I should look into it. I researched the machine online and found that sound machines come in various sizes and prize ranges. Nearly all of them come with the following:

Ocean waves
Summer night
Rain
Thunder
White noise, and
A babbling brook

In all honesty, I wasn’t crazy about any of these sounds.
Ocean waves, a babbling brook or rain or anything to do with water is out of the question as it’s only a matter of time before I have to go to the bathroom.

Thunder … no, thank you. I very much suspect that bolts of thunder will keep me awake rather than put me to sleep.

Since I didn’t know what white noise is I had to go and look it up. Apparently, white noise is celestial sounds. I looked, or rather listened to a video online and it sounded like the space shuttle taking off.

As for summer night noises, I had to look that up to and it turned out that summer night noises involves birds, owls and crickets. I don’t have a problem with birds and owls, but crickets … no, I’m not a fan of those critters.

Eventually my research led me to relaxing music and that, by far, is the best choice. A word of caution though, during a time of depression this type of music should be avoided as it tends to make one rather melancholic.

Not only is relaxing music the better choice for me, it’s also more suitable for my cats. When I tried out various videos yesterday and clicked on ‘Bird songs’, Mickey, who had been sleeping, was instantly on high alert.






Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in review



Happy New Year everyone. 2016 is finally over and 2017 has just began. Did you make any resolutions? I didn’t because resolutions rarely stick. On January 1st we all have good intentions but by the end of the month, by the end of the week or even on January 2nd those plans are abandoned.

I did, however, hear an appealing statement. I watched the movie “New Year’s Eve” on New Year’s Eve and there someone said ... “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” … well, I knew what I would do, do you? I’m going to finish a manuscript. It’s been a year in the making, every day (or just about) I plan to write, but too many distractions get in the way. So, this year I plan on getting less distracted, write more and type the words “The End” on that manuscript.

Personally, I’m not the least bit sorry to see the end 2016. It was a bad year, the worst ever. Let me give you a quick run through …

January

Dieter (my son) was arrested for assaulting a subway station official. All that happened was that Dieter’s shoulder bumped into the guy’s shoulder, but he made a big deal about it and thus Dieter got arrested and charged.

February

Chanel, our 13-year-old cat got sick and was diagnosed with kidney disease. She was put on a special diet, she got a little better, but we knew she lived on borrowed time.

March

Chanel passed away, or as I like to think of it, crossed Rainbow Bridge.

April

Nothing happened, or if it did, I’ve forgotten.

May

The charges against Dieter were dropped. After the assault charges we went through months of anxiety and had to fork out $5,000 on a retainer fee for a lawyer, but when the case went to court, the subway station official had a change of heart of dropped the charges.

Also in May I had a bit of an accident. A tin of pineapple fell on my foot. It hurt like hell and it took weeks to heal but fortunately nothing was broken.

June

Shortly after an annual mammogram, I received a call that a lump was found in my right breast. More anxiety as I first had to wait for the biopsy and then the result of the lab. When I eventually got the results I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

July

I had surgery. The lump was cut out and some lymph nodes were removed to determine if the cancer had spread. Fortunately, that was not the case.

August

Charlotte had to be taken to the vet. She was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. She got antibiotics and soon got better.

September

I started radiation. Every day, for 16 days, I had to go to the Princess Margaret hospital for treatment.

October

I finished the radiation treatment and was officially declared as a cancer survivor.

November

I developed a boil. It started out as something barely bigger than a pimple, but it grew to the size of a cherry. When it didn’t go away by itself as hoped I had to go see a doctor. He suggested antibiotics or surgery. Since I’m a big believer of cutting things out that don’t belong in a body, I opted for surgery. The doctor warned me that the anesthetic would be very painful. This sounded strange to me as an anesthetic usually don’t hurt, but in this case, it did. Holy crap did it hurt, it was like to boil caught fire. After that it was smooth sailing, the surgery was completely painless.

Also in November I lost two friends. The first due to a difference of opinion, the second after my Facebook account was hacked.

December

An uneventful month, just the way I like it.

And so now it’s January 1st. Do you wonder what the year has in store for us? All we can basically do is keep breathing in and out and hope for the best.



Sunday, December 25, 2016

The greatest gift of them all


Christmas Eve, the most magical night of the year, and the night my family and I had been preparing for and eagerly anticipating for weeks.   

We had braved the elements and trudged through snow and ice to find the perfect presents. 
We dragged bags and boxes home and painstakingly wrapped each gift in glossy paper, decorating it with a name tag and colourful ribbons and bows.

We went in search of the perfect Christmas tree, and then spent hours decorating it with colourful lights, delicate glass painted balls and silver tinsel.  We festooned the house with additional red and golden balls, candles and holly.  In front of the tree a pile of presents were waiting to be opened.  On the one side of the tree a nativity scene was displayed, complete with angels and miniature barn animals.  My mom and I went grocery shopping for our family of four and several invited guests.

And now, now the night was finally here.  I remember wearing my best dress, then looking around the living room and thinking how everything looked so beautiful and festive.  The lights had been turned down; soft music was playing; candles were flickering and the Christmas tree twinkled in all its splendour in front of the window.

In the dining room the table was set for dinner.  Mom’s beautiful china and crystal glasses sparkled on a white damask table cloth.  Silver candelabras, set among holly were waiting to be lit.  Delicious smells came wafting out of the kitchen, where my mother was preparing pot roast, carrots, peas and sautéed potatoes. 
“Can I help, Mom?” I asked.
“Everything is done and warming in the ovens” Mom smiled.  “I’ll go and get changed now.”  She took off her apron and wiped her hands.   “When your father arrives tell him to get dressed right away.  Should Paula, Hector, Francois and Lillian arrive, show them into the living room and offer them a glass of wine.  I won’t be long.” Paula and Hector and Francois and Lillian were friends of the family, each couple bringing their two sons.

Within minutes Mom was back down again, resplendent in a new wine red cocktail dress, a triple string of pears gleaming at her throat. 

When the phone rang, Mom, in a rustle of skirts, hurried to the entrance hall.  “If that’s your father telling me he’ll be late I’ll wring his neck,” she called over her shoulder.  “He promised he would finish early today.”  When she came back into the living room she seemed upset.
“Was that dad?” I asked.    
“Yes, he’s been delayed in Brussels,” she said.  “He’ll be home as soon as possible.”

Paula and Hector with their sons Gerrit and Gino were the first to arrive.  While Mom was busy hanging up coats and tucking away scarves and gloves, my brother came home.  “Dad home yet?” he asked. 
“Not yet,” Mom said.  “He’s delayed, but he’ll be here shortly.”
“Where is he?” my brother asked.
“He’s in Brussels.” 
My brother pulled a face.  “In that case it could take a while Mom,” he said.  “It took me half an hour to get across town.  If he’s coming from Brussels it will take him at least an hour if not more.  The roads are full of black ice.”

While Mom busied herself with drinks and snacks for the guests, the doorbell rang.  Francois, Lillian and their sons Patrick and Bart had arrived.  “Oh but it’s nasty out there,” Francois commented, stepping into warmth of the living room.  “We almost changed our minds about coming.  The roads are slippery, it started snowing, and it could turn into a blizzard.”

Snow on Christmas Eve!  I grew even more excited because, in my eleven years of life, I had never seen a white Christmas.  While everyone gathered in the living room I stood in front of the window facing the garden.  It was indeed snowing.  In the light of the moon I saw millions of big flakes come tumbling down, transforming the bleak winter scene into something magical and serene. 

Yet somehow this charming landscape didn’t excite me as much as it did other times.   The excitement I felt earlier at the thought of a white Christmas began to fade.  My dad was out there somewhere, trying to get home.  My brother had mentioned black ice and Francois predicted a blizzard.  Black ice covered with snow would make driving even more dangerous.

“Perhaps we should start dinner,” my mom suggested an hour later.  Her suggestion was greeted with little enthusiasm.  Everyone agreed that we would wait until Dad got home.  Another hour later, there was little or no conversation.  Dad hadn’t made it home yet, and although nobody said so, we all suspected that something had happened.

The shrill sound of the phone broke the silence, and my mom rushed to the entrance hall to answer the call.  When she came back she didn’t have to say anything, we could see something was wrong.  “That was the police,” she announced.  “There’s been an accident.”

Mom related that someone had called for help when they had seen a car skid off the highway, tumble down the embankment and hit a tree.  Dad, and his colleague Ben had been taken to the hospital.  In that moment Christmas instantly lost its shine.  Dinner was forgotten, the tree and other decorations became invisible, and presents were no longer important.  All I could think about was ‘Please let my dad be okay.’

I thought about this over and over again as I sat in front of the nativity scene alone in the dark.
I don’t know why I stayed there.  There was no real reason for it, but being in the company of these serene looking holy people and angels somehow made me feel better.

I woke up from a light being switched on in the living room and my mom and dad walking in.
Dad had a bandaged wrist and a band-aid on his forehead.  “You’re okay,” I said, flinging myself at him.  “If you ask me it’s a miracle,” my mom said.  “Skidding off a highway, then rolling down a hill and hitting a tree.  Yet, there’s hardly a scratch on him.”

In that moment I didn’t care if I never got another Christmas present.  I had just received the greatest gift of them all.