Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life is but a ... what?

When I came back from Maui last week, all was smooth sailing. Other than the usual small screaming occupants of nearby seats, the flight was fine. DH was rather miserable, as he'd begun to show signs of coming down with a cold on our last day, but I was only sunburnt and tired -- or so I thought. It was nearly midnight when we rolled off the plane, so we spent the night at a tacky no-tell-motel before making the 3-hour drive home from the airport. We picked up our doggies from the kennel en route, and went home to collapse until the next morning, when DH, looking more than a little worse for the wear, left for Houston.

It was early, still, and I was really tired, so I decided to go back to bed for a few minutes before starting the tedious job of plowing through my stacked-up inbox. I woke up hours later, with my throat on fire, and a whole bunch of new bones that had grown in broken. I thought, "Damn; I'm getting a cold too." That was my last clear thought for 5 or 6 days.

At first, I couldn't get out of bed. Later, I probably shouldn't have got out of bed. After several hours of alternating between sweating and shivering, I took my temperature – 103 F. It may have gone higher, but I mislaid the thermometer (I don't remember going into the guest room, but that's where I found the thermometer last night...).

One day – it may have been Wednesday – I woke up thinking I was still in Maui. I spotted Pippin, my furry white gremlin-dog, curled up next to me on the pillow. "Pippin!" I asked, "How did you get here?" Unfortunately, Pippin doesn't quite speak English, so all he could do was nuzzle my ear relentlessly until I put on my glasses and saw the grey skies weeping rain outside the window. Argghhh!

It's just as well DH was out of town because I would have driven him crazy with my whingeing. I was utterly flummoxed by the appearance of new and painful body parts that hitherto hadn't existed. (The outside edges of your hands can hurt? WTF?)

I had a previously scheduled doctor's appointment near the end of the week. It was meant to be for getting the results of the various tests my doctor has run on me since my thyroid went extra-haywire back in June. I considered canceling because I felt too ill to drive, but I have to admit that even half-delirious, I wanted to know whether he still suspected I had a brain tumour (well, a pituitary tumour, but as far as I'm concerned, if it's inside your skull it counts as brain!), so I went.

I do not have a brain tumour.

I have, as originally suspected, Hashimoto's thyroiditis. I also have the flu.

I have shiny new prescriptions for thyroid medication and cough syrup.

I have both immense relief and great joy.

I do not have a brain tumour!

DH says my flu is the karmic price I paid for being in paradise for a week and telling everyone about it. I suppose he could be right, but being delirious in exchange for a few extra days of sunshine without the prices of the Four Seasons (or a brain tumour) seems like a pretty nice deal.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Road Not Taken

There is a famous road in Maui -- the Road to Hana -- that has inspired raptures over its natural beauty and a variety of t-shirts ("I survived the road to Hana"). The road is, apparently, the most popular tourist attraction in Maui.

We rented a car so that DH could go surfing (bet he wishes he'd reapplied sunscreen -- 2nd degree burns on the backs of his legs are not going to make for a pleasant flight home) -- and we decided to spend yesterday, our last full day here, doing a bit of the sightseeing we've otherwise avoided.

We could have driven the road to Hana, and joined the legions of tourists who "survived" the hairpin turns and won the right to view magical waterfalls and secluded beaches, and to buy the all-important t-shirt proclaiming our victory. We didn't do that, though. We took the road to Lahaina instead.

I don't really know why I wanted to see Lahaina, but I suspect it had something to do with distant memories of James Michener's "Hawaii" which I read in high school. Whatever the reason, Lahaina seemed far more "magical" than anything on the road to Hana could have -- because Lahaina is nearly a double of the place I live now, Coupeville. Seriously.

I know it shouldn't be surprising -- although Lahaina is larger, and sunnier, and Hawaiian (duh) -- both towns were built around the same time, by the same types of whaling-sailing-settlers, and strolling down Front street in either of these towns gives you a remarkably similar view ... during the summer. And now I have another place to dream of when I'm stuck in the bleak tableau of a Washington winter. That's the best souvenir (along with the Hawaiian Hello Kitty, of course) -- and I'm glad to have it since we're flying home to a winter storm this afternoon.

I'm not sure we'll ever come back here, but this time, I am sure we've taken the right road.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

De Rerum Natura - On the Nature of Things

Another day; another cabana -- this one facing the deep blue sea. I've been watching an outrigger, manned by a group of inept oarsmen, as it tracks in random patterns along the shore. DH is down there somewhere with flippers and a snorkel, but I'm too far from the crest of the hill to see the beach. In addition to my laptop, I have a cup of tea, a copy of the Wall Street Journal, and "The Whole World Over" by Julia Glass. In the last 15 minutes, someone has brought me a drinks menu, a lunch menu, and a spa menu -- a Pacific Mango foot massage is sounding pretty enticing just now. The sun is behind me, and I can feel my back turning lobster in spite of the 50 SPF I put on when I came out this morning, so I am all set to ponder one of the great questions of life: how in the hell did I get to be this old without a proper appreciation of the joys of a holiday in paradise?


It's not as if I've never been to a beach or to a nice hotel -- au contraire -- I've been to many and I've enjoyed the experiences. The difference between those trips and this one appears to be that the others were sort of ... incidental. DH had a conference in Orlando, so we went to Disney World; he had a conference in Point Clear, Alabama, so we went to Destin; he had a business meeting in Paris, so we sampled the pleasures of the Champs d'Elyssee and the Georges V. When we lived in Seattle before, Cannon Beach and Santa Barbara were easy trips down the coast. My cousin got married in Annapolis, and we stopped off in Washington DC for a few days. In fact, the only trips we took that were truly intentional were two trips to England, both of which were on my initiative, and one weekend in Breckenridge so DH could ski on his 40th birthday.

Most everyone we know takes vacations like the one we're having now, but we never did. And the reason why? Me. I am the reason why we never made a point of having fun. Oh wait -- we did have fun; we just didn't make a point of it -- because ... because ... because ... oh hell; I don't know why, but now that I know it, it bears considering. Mai tais are very helpful when consideration is required, so I am fortunate to have one right here when I need it.

It is an odd thing to suddenly realise that you've been going along in your life, doing things you've wanted to do, or you've thought needed doing, but taking a pass on other things that would have enriched the rest. And for no obvious reason! I love the beach -- always have done -- I grew up spending summers on the beach in Florida and the sea and sand hold nothing but positive memories for me. But although DH always wanted to plan beach vacations, I would hold out for English castles or places like The Greenbrier or the Biltmore. Our friends went to Mexico, the Carribean, Hawaii, and on cruises, but we stuck to our incidental trips or stayed home because I was too picky about where we would go. I nearly even derailed this holiday by fixating on the Jamaica Inn. Only God knows why because the flights would have been three times as long and this is the height of the hurricane season in the Carribean. And I have never been to either Jamaica or Hawaii, so why on earth would I be so convinced that the Jamaica Inn would be better than the Four Seasons Maui? DUH!

I suspect the underlying reason for my idiocy (aside from just being an idiot, which I don't deny) is an unconscious echo of the attitudes I frequently hear about popular fiction. i.e., that it's trashy, a guilty pleasure, dumbed down, not real literature, the literary equivalent of McDonald's -- junk for the masses. But how utterly stupid. I *am* the masses! I love to read ... everything. And really, how do you tell the difference? I was in Borders the other day and I noticed a lot of books with pink covers and titles like "This is Not Chick Lit" and "The Starter Wife" were shelved in the "Literature" section along with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Philippa Gregory and Sharon K. Penman's books were in the Romance section.

Well screw that. My new resolution is that from now on, I'm going to go to the beach; I'm going to read whatever the hell I want (no matter what section it's shelved in); and I'm going to work very hard to overcome the limitations of a closed mind. I may even go to McDonald's once in a while. And I'm going to enjoy it, dammit.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Better Late Than Never

When we were little girls, my cousin Christy told me that if we went to heaven, we'd get to wear Christian Dior nighties and eat birthday cake every day. I was willing to concede that Christy was prettier than me and better at ballet, but back then, I wasn't willing to concede that she was smarter than me too. So I adopted the superior attitude of almost-thirteen-year-old girls every where and scoffed at her.

"How ridiculous," I sniffed. "One day maybe, but every day? That would be stultifying."


It was still dark this morning when I awakened, miraculously hangover-free in spite of last night's champagne. DH was sleeping, so I went out to the terrace off the sitting room with the dessert I didn't finish last night. I ate chocolate cake, listened to the waves, and looked out at the dark water below. In a little while, DH joined me, bringing a cup of strong tea and the rest of the baguette we bought at Pike Place Market. The breeze was cool, but my frilly little robe was just the right weight.

The water turned gold first, and then the sky, and then the cabanas around the pool. And I realised there was something I needed to do.

Mea Culpa, Christy.

You are prettier than me, and better at ballet, and you are -- yes -- a lot smarter than me too. It only took me thirty
years to see it.

I suppose one of these days I'm going to have to try on a Christian Dior nightie. In the meantime, I guess I'll have to
make do with Juicy Couture and a mai tai.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bookworld: Another One Bites the Dust

Publishers' Weekly reports on the latest distributor to go belly up:

“If I can avoid it, I won’t declare bankruptcy,” Ronald Ted Smith, founder of the now defunct BookWorld Companies, told PW yesterday afternoon, noting that a filing would likely tie up publishers’ inventory for years and possibly force some out of business.

To prevent that from happening to BookWorld’s 100-plus clients, Smith enabled AtlasBooks, a division of BookMasters, to gain entry to BookWorld’s former warehouse in LaVergne, Tenn. But even with returned inventory, publishers are still at risk of being forced to close. They will likely lose all their receivables, which are currently being funneled to the Florida bank that supplied a $1 million line of credit to BookWorld. The bank hired former BookWorld CFO and president Wilfrid Niquette to facilitate collection of those monies.

Read the rest...

Distributors are important for getting books into stores, but dealings with them are definitely a double-edged sword for small publishers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Book Review: A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick

I will probably do an in-depth review of this at some point in the future, but for now, I need to say only one thing:

This is the best book I've ever read.

All hail Elizabeth Chadwick, Master of the Historical Fiction Universe.

Product details (available from amazon.co.uk)
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (28 Sep 2007)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1847440517
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847440518

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I've been remiss in posting lately, mainly because I've been sick as a dog since I got back from Houston two weeks ago. At first, the problem was a relatively minor cold, but this last week has been due to my thyroid, which has gone so far off the chart with weirdness that I'm having to entirely forgo the thyroid medication I've depended on for the last 18 years -- until my doctor can figure out what is wrong. There is no other way to say it: this sucks. When your thyroid is trying to die as mine has been for lo these many years, thyroid medication is pretty much the only thing that stands between you and a coma. It takes, however, a LONG time to get to the point of the Big Sleep (Nanci and Tammy; if you're reading this, I left off gratuitous quote marks just for you.), so I am not in any danger without my thyroid medication; I'm just miserable. It feels rather like the worst hangover EVER, but with no relief in sight -- at least none promised until I get the results from my next blood test (a week from tomorrow).

My tale of woe is compounded by the never-ending gloom of icy freezing rain sluicing down my windows for days now. The newspaper says this is because the first storm of the winter has arrived more than a month early. Thank you Mother Nature. Oh, and my DH is in Chicago, visiting his family without me. (That's probably a good thing because in my current state of mind, staying away from my outlaws is also probably preventing me from a murder rap.)

I think I hit the low point when I decided to have steak and candy for dinner. Yes; I really did. I was actually pleased that I had enough energy to heat up leftover steak -- and the candy was the only side dish that didn't require cooking. :g

Wallowing only makes me feel worse, so I decided it was time to stage a turnaround, and I reviewed the strategies I could use to feel better. There really aren't that many when you're stuck in the house alone except for equally housebound animals, missing your DH, and feeling like crap. Apparently, a few cells are still firing somewhere in my feeble hypothyroid brain, though, because I realised there was one surefire thing I could do to cheer up.

I gave my husband part of his anniversary present early (our anniversary is 16 October). I've been working on this present for close to a year -- it's a huge photo book with highlights of our twenty years together. He knows about it because the artwork has been so labor-intensive, it would have been impossible to keep it a secret. But he hasn't really seen it yet. So, inspired by the gorgeous trailer Elizabeth Chadwick did for her new book, I used the artwork from DH's gift to make my own trailer -- and I emailed him the URL so he could go ahead and look at it.

And now I am happy -- his reaction was beyond my wildest dreams. After he was finished being all choked up, he said such sweet things that it would transform the ugliest frog into Cinderella (Mixed metaphors? Sue me!). And the best thing is that my trailer reminded me of all the times life has handed me lemons and I've made lemonade.

I'm sure no one outside of the few family members who stop by will be interested, but the trailer is online for the next day or two at my website plus "/fun/scrapbooksmall.htm" -- and y'all had better not make fun of all that Big Hair! (Also note, it's a huge file with music -- needs broadband.)

Have a happy day.

T- aka the Doubtful Muse.