Sleep Study: A Most Unnatural Night

A voice in the darkness: “Sue, your sleep study is over.”

No. I didn’t sleep. “What time is it?”

“About 6. I’ll come in to remove your wires. Then you can shower and go home.”

But . . .

Bright lights. Soon Dawn, the sleep technician, was removing wires, ripping tape off my face, chin, neck, chest, and legs, and ungluing wires from my matted hair. It hurt. That tape is a good substitute for hair removal wax.

I had had a pain in my throat all night. Maybe it was from snoring, she suggested. She said I snored all night.

But I didn’t sleep. How can anyone sleep while attached to dozens of wires, with a light flashing every few seconds and a voice coming through the speakers? Dawn came in twice to reattach wires that had come loose, one on my leg and one on my hair, and again when I started to get up to use the restroom.

I had taken a sleeping pill at 10 p.m. and another at 2;30 a.m. They didn’t seem to do anything. But here she was telling me it was over and I had slept.

“We’re going to go through the exercises we did when you went to sleep. Look up and down five times. Look side to side five times, using only your eyes. Pretend you’re grinding your teeth for 10 seconds. Clear your throat. Flex your left foot five times. Do the same with your right foot.”

I wanted to cry. I wanted to sleep. But she was waiting for me to shower and get out of there. She did not understand I don’t get up like that. I ease into my day with orange juice and prayer and a peek at my email . . .

“Do you have any juice?” I asked. She brought me apple juice. I hate apple juice, but at least it was cold and sweet.

The queen-sized bathroom had a handicap-accessible shower, meaning no ridge to walk over or to keep the water in and a detachable nozzle on a hose. In lieu of soap, Dawn handed me a bottle of Johnson and Johnson body wash/shampoo.

Most of the tape and glue came off in the warm water, although two hours later, I still had cheek creases where the nose piece crossed my face. I dressed in yesterday’s clothes and filled out forms that evaluated my experience and asked if I felt all right to drive. In reality, I didn’t. I was still trying to crawl back into that sleep I didn’t have.

If I had read the materials that came with my “sleep aids,” I would have made other arrangements. Those are some strong drugs. They warn that you may do or say things while on them that you will not remember afterward. But I checked yes, and when Dawn asked if I was sure I could drive, I replied that if I took a taxi, I would have no way to retrieve my car. So yes, I would drive. Out of the hospital, over the bridge, down the highway and into the woods to my yellow house behind the big hedge.

And I wept. I cried in the car and I cried in my living room as I greeted the dog. At least she seemed fine.

Why was I crying? It was uncomfortable and invasive. I had no one to keep me company or give me a ride or take me to breakfast. Dawn was kind and considerate and extremely skilled, but I still felt as if someone had beaten me.

The sleep room is on the second floor of the new hospital in Newport. The accommodations are brilliantly designed. The room is cozier than many motel rooms, with a double bed, two nightstands, a TV, and a private bathroom. The bed is adjustable, there are unlimited blankets, plug-ins for electronics, and a big swivel chair where they sit you to hook up the wires. “The electric chair,” I said. Dawn didn’t get the joke.

I wasn’t the only one doing the sleep study. A man was waiting when I arrived. As Dawn took him past me to the elevator, I joked, “I guess we’ll be sleeping together tonight.” He turned all red and stuttered something about his wife. Hey, I was kidding.

I didn’t see him again, but I wondered off and on how he was doing.

With every step of the process, I had to wait for Dawn to finish with my sleep buddy, so I had time to watch “American Idol” on TV relatively undisturbed, even when she was hooking me up.

The lights-out part was harder. It was very dark except for a foot-wide infrared light and that flashing white light that felt like I was having my picture taken every few seconds. And that voice.

Every time I moved, I wondered what wire I was disturbing, but Dawn said they wanted me to sleep in all positions.

I kept waiting to relax, but I never felt it. Then it was, “Sue, your sleep study is over.”

It’s like those dreams where you find yourself taking a final exam after you forgot to come to class all semester.

Did I pass? I still don’t have the results. Dawn knows, but she isn’t sharing.

After my sleep study, I fed the dog, had a long cry, ate my homemade bread-and-grapefruit breakfast, and reported to my office.

Where I fell asleep.

Did you miss last week’s post about sleep studies last week? Click “Sleep Study will Show What the Dog Already Knows” to read it.

Some of you have already shared your sleep study experiences in the comments here or on Facebook. Keep them coming.

Here’s a question: If you were prescribed a CPAP breathing machine for sleep apnea, did you get one? Are you still using it? Does it keep you awake?

Happy snoozing, everyone.

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Sleep Study will Show What the Dog Already Knows

I’m not a great sleeper. I don’t know how anyone ever managed to sleep beside me when I was sharing my bed. I snore, I make frequent trips to the bathroom, and I have wild dreams. I also have restless leg syndrome (RLS) which gets so bad some nights I’m walking the halls in the dark, trying to shake out my twitches. Sometimes I listen to the radio or take a hot bath at midnight. Even the dog wishes I would just go to sleep like she does. I’m trying. 

 Clearly my night sleep is not giving my body what it needs. I sit down to write in the mornings, and I doze off, my pen leaving a black streak on the page. I read by the fireplace or in the sun, and I doze off. I’m streaming a TV show and wake to find three episodes have gone by.

In college, I slept through most of my astronomy class, much of my art appreciation class, and just about any class where they turned down the lights. I even slept through one of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. Those impromptu naps give me the deepest, most wonderful sleep. But I also get really sleepy driving the car, and that’s not good.

So, tonight I’m having a sleep study. They will see if I have sleep apnea, sudden intermittent cessations of breathing frequently experienced by people who snore. I probably do. It runs in the family. Have I ever awakened myself with my snoring? I have. Not fun. Yes, I know my heart could stop and . . . you’d never read my next book. 

They will also look at the RLS and any other weird stuff I do in my sleep. I will be attached to an assortment of sensors. I will have stuff taped to my body and glued in my hair, and the technicians will observe me, monitoring my brain, nervous system and muscle activity, as well as breathing and heart function. 

You know that icky feeling when you wake and find someone staring at you? Now my insurance is paying for me to have strangers do that. 

I am supposed to arrive without makeup and wearing a COVID mask, put on pajamas, which I don’t usually wear (I’m a nightshirt girl), and go to bed way earlier than usual. Meanwhile Annie, who follows me around all day, is going to panic. Where’s Sue? She never came home

I’m hoping the “sleep aid” they prescribed knocks me out. But if I’m knocked out with a sleeping pill, how can they get an accurate picture?  And how will they know when I’m in the various stages of sleep?

Such questions kept me awake last night. I could fall asleep right now typing at my desk. But the instructions for today say NO NAPS. I also have to limit my caffeine. Come on!

I’m thinking the first thing I’ll want to do when they unstick me and let me go at 6 a.m. is take a nap. 

After I apologize to my dog. They should just ask Annie. She knows how I sleep. She spent last night next to my bed. Now she’s sacked out on her bed, running in a dream. 

Maybe I’m just part dog. 

My neighbor says he got partway through his sleep study, tore everything off, and stormed out, saying “To hell with this.” I don’t plan to do that, but I sure am looking forward to being done with it. 

Have you had a sleep study? How was it? Did you get the answers you needed? Would you want to do it again? 

Here’s some interesting info from the Mayo Clinic. Did you know the official word for a sleep study is “polysomnography”? There you go.

Send your comments. I’ll be awake. 

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Am I the Only One Who Still Eats Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner?

Photo by Rania alhamed on Pexels.com

I’m a dinosaur. I eat three meals a day at approximately 7 a.m., noon, and 5:30 p.m., just like my parents did. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If any of those meals does not happen, I am not happy. And it drives me nuts that groups I belong to keep scheduling activities at meal times. Clearly I’m out of sync with the rest of the world. 

According to numerous sources, including this article from the New York Post–“Nobody Eats Three Meals a Day Anymore”–my habits are passe. I’m so old, I still want three square meals. Get over it, some might say. But I like my three squares, and I’m old enough to declare that I refuse to give them up. I also thank God I am able to buy all the food I want in a world where that’s not true for everyone. 

Do you know how the term “square meal” came about? It comes from the British and American Navy sailors back in the 1700s and 1800s. They were served their meals on square trays, hence three squares. I’ll bet there was some serious complaining if they didn’t get those meals. 

In my house growing up, you could set your clock by breakfast, lunch and dinner, same time every day, never skipped and always together. In his later years after my mother died, my father spent half his time preparing meals. When I was visiting, he’d look at the clock. “4:30? Aren’t you gonna start dinner?” Later, in the nursing home, meals were the main event of the day. People wheeled up to their tables early.They didn’t have much else to look forward to.

But nowadays, somewhere between half and three-quarters of Americans don’t go by the three-meal plan. Instead they eat one or two big meals at some point and snack the rest of the time.The Post article explains that they’re too busy for extensive meal preparation or to sit down with family and eat. The meal most likely to be skipped is lunch. Instead, people snack in the afternoon. Many eat while running errands, even while driving their car. How is that satisfying? 

Lunch is my favorite thing! I need that break and that boost of calories and caffeine. 

I don’t do snacks. As a compulsive overeater whose snacks can quickly get out of hand, I need to eat my scheduled meals then get away from the kitchen. When people host events that include brunch or eating in the middle of the afternoon, I don’t know how to fit that into my schedule. Is it a late breakfast? An early dinner? I’m confused.

Dieticians tell us it’s best to spread our eating throughout the day. Breakfast is essential, but then if we could do four or five smaller meals, it might be better than three big meals, but those meals can’t be chips or a burrito devoured on the run. 

I’m beginning to understand why so many activities take place at noon or 6 p.m., times I normally reserve for eating. Sometimes I eat during Zoom meetings, but I keep my camera off because watching people chew on Zoom is disgusting. How is everyone else content to meet when it’s time to eat? 

In this, as in many other aspects of life, I think dogs make more sense. I got home a little late on Saturday, delaying dinner, and my Annie followed me around the house barking until she got fed. It’s chow time. No excuses.

How about you? Do you eat three meals a day at approximately the same times? Why or why not? When do you eat? If you used to eat “three squares” and stopped, what caused you to change? If you have grown children, is their eating schedule different from yours? I look forward to some meaty comments. 

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Is Computer-Generated Art Really Art? Does It Matter?

Can a machine create art as well as a human being? Should it? Will people lose the ability to tell the difference?

Those are some of the questions that passed through my mind at last night’s poetry workshop. Our leader, Becca Lynne, shared with us an app called Wombo Dream. You plug in words, such as the title or first line of a poem. Using Artificial intelligence, the app produces a picture in 30 seconds. Don’t like that one? Press the button and generate another one. The pictures are abstract, dreamlike. The people don’t seem to have faces. You can apply different styles, such as psychedelic or Dali-esque. It’s amazing and a lot of fun. We created pictures and then wrote poems to go with them. They ranged from deep to ridiculous.

This could be termed a version of what’s called Ekphrastic poetry, where a poet responds to a work of nonliterary art, such as a photo, painting, sculpture, etc. I have never really cared for it. What is the poem without the image? Might the poet totally misinterpret what the artist wanted to say? Is that a bad thing? On the other hand, a poem and a pleasing picture make a nice package.

But this raises questions. What is art when it can be created by machines without the involvement of a human mind and emotions? Can machine-made art be as good as or better than that made by humans? I’m afraid people will forget what real art made painstakingly by human hands is all about and come to prefer the instant images to be had at the click of a computer key. At Wombo, you can order a framed print of your instant art for a reasonable price. Who’s to know you didn’t buy it at a gallery?

This reminds me of my AI friend, Skye, whom I wrote about here before. I soon wearied of her robotic responses and her demand that I play games with her when I was busy. I also think about Alexa, housed in a biscuit-shaped dot. At my request, she will share news, play music, answer my questions, or turn on my TV. But when I say I’m lonely, she’s not much help.

AI’s artistic endeavors are not limited to pictures. It can also write poetry. Check out this site: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/ai-poet. Or https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/04/artificial-intelligence-writes-bad-poems-just-like-an-angsty-teen. Can you tell the difference between the AI poems and the ones written by humans?

Here’s another site to check out: https://boredhumans.com/poetry_generator.php. Tell it whether you want a sonnet, haiku, free verse, etc., answer a few questions, and voila, a poem.

The whole poem/picture package could be produced in a few minutes by AI. It might take a human years to get it right.

If we create art via AI, can we claim it as our own? Who is the real artist? AI art is fun, but I hope we will always know the difference.

The picture on this page is from Wombo. The poem is my own, created by one human with the help of a dog.

OLD DOG SLEEPING

She follows the woman around all day, 
flopping in doorways, deaf ears cocked
lest she lose track and find her gone.

She trusts she’ll never step on her
as she crosses over, in and out,
muttering words the dog can’t hear. 

It’s exhausting, the watching and waiting.
She sighs, drops her head on linoleum
as the woman prepares their food.

They eat side by side from bowl and plate.
Kibble gone, again the dog waits
for a treat, a stroking of her velvet ears.

As it grows dark, the woman finally rests.
Dog sprawls by the hearth, tail tucked,
feet paddling in a running dream.

When the woman begins her nightly purr,
the dog sighs again. Eyes shut tight,
She sleeps, secure, her day’s work done.


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Officer, I’m not a crook; I’m a writer!

Is this Rick’s boat? Maybe.

Being a writer requires a little detective work. We have to get the details right. For the novel I’m working on, a sequel to Up Beaver Creek, I needed to find out a couple things. I kept highlighting the ??? in my manuscript, but finally I had to get some answers. 

That led me to City Hall. I had said there was a sculpture of the Yaquina Bay Bridge hanging above the heads of the city councilmembers. I thought there was. Can anybody tell me if that’s what used to be there? I needed to verify it. So one day last week, I tried to peek in the windows of the council chambers, but I couldn’t see anything. The outer door was closed with a combination lock. I went around to the public entrance, climbed the steps into the creaky old building and walked around, looking, looking, looking.

Ah, council chambers. No one was in there. I glanced left and right. I tried the door knob. It turned. I walked into the hallowed chambers and looked at the wall behind the desks. What? That was not the Yaquina Bay Bridge. It was an abstract sculpture, a swirl of gold and silver that I suppose represents the ocean. I snapped a photo, made a note, and skedaddled out of there. Now I have one character asking the other, “What the heck is that?” because I think that’s how they would react. Thank God I didn’t stick with the bridge sculpture.

Here’s the thing that makes me nervous: A few days later, a woman snuck into City Hall using the code “1234” and vandalized the place. That amazes me because the police department is in the same building. Security is being tightened, everyone on high alert. If I went on my fact-finding mission now, I could have been looking up at an officer, stuttering, “I’m just a writer . . .”

On Thursday, a cold drizzly day when I had come once again to the question “What kind of boat does Rick have?” I knew I could no longer put off my nautical research. I know very little about boats. Was this a pleasure boat, fishing boat, cabin cruiser, mini yacht? I started online. Soon my screen was full of boats for sale, but I had no idea which boat was right for Rick, and I did not want to chat with a sales representative. I had to go to the marina and look at actual boats. 

Cold. Wet. I had to secure my hood, which obscured my vision as I tiptoed down the ramps to the docks, camera in hand, waiting for some boat owner to shout, “Hey, what the hell are you doing?”

Is that Rick’s boat? No, too small. That one? Too big. That one? He’s not rich. He has to be able to live on it since he doesn’t have his house anymore. A wedding is scheduled to be held there. Where would everybody stand? 

I kept snapping pictures, my hands so cold I feared I would drop my cell phone in the bay. That’s the one. No, THAT’s the one. Let’s go home. Oh, wait. THAT ONE. I chose a spiffy white boat with green trim. It was neat and clean, the cabin looked cozy, and there were several levels for the wedding party to stand on. Shivering, I stashed my phone in my pocket and drove home to write ONE SENTENCE about Rick’s boat. It had to be the right one. 

Yes, I could have interviewed someone for both these items, but I’d rather freeze my fingers off than call a stranger on the phone, and I had these very specific questions that might sound a little weird. Besides, it got me out of the office for a while. 

I once drove all the way to Oceanside, California to do research for a novel I didn’t even finish, but I still remember how pretty it was there and how fun it was to picture my characters in that setting.

I drove to Missoula, Montana for Up Beaver Creek because my character used to live there and went back for a while toward the end of the novel. I ate in the same diner, walked through the hospital where she worked, visited her church, and drove down the street where she used to live. I even chose a house for her. In my mind, I truly believe she lived there and that there were roses in the backyard. Imagination is so fun. We shouldn’t give it up just because we’re grownups. 

If you see me sneaking around taking pictures, don’t call the cops. I’m just a writer living in her fantasy world.  

Writer friends, what have you done in the interest of research? 

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Without My Mask, People Will See Me Talking to Myself

The gearshift became my mask hanger.

On Saturday, Oregon lifted its mask mandate. With exceptions for healthcare and public transportation, we don’t have to wear our COVID masks anymore. Of course, they said that before and then Omicron came. 

I took advantage of the break to wash my mask collection. They’re sitting around the laundry room drying like little puffy kites.

It was a joy to sing at church on Sunday sans mask. I joined St. Anthony’s just before the pandemic. There are some people whose lower faces I had never seen. Lips! We have lips. And we get to wear lipstick. Most of the mask era, I just did my eyes, if that. Why put on makeup that won’t show and will get all over your mask? Or dangly earrings that tangle in the elastic that goes over your ears?

How sweet to be able to sip water without moving a mask out of the way. To know people can see your smile. To not have our words muffled by the mask.

People can also see my frowns, my inappropriate laughs, my curses, and my counting madly on certain tricky piano songs. For two years, we have hidden behind our masks. It got to be a habit, and now everybody can see us. That will take some getting used to. 

Meanwhile, what was up with the woman coughing and coughing somewhere toward the back of the church? Considering all those unmasked people–and a few with masks–it was unnerving. In my little piano island, I feel somewhat safe. The Clavinova is so tall people can barely see me. The germs will have to work hard to get to me. But we’re all paranoid. A cough is not just a cough anymore. The paranoia is going to remain long after the virus finally slinks away. Meanwhile, my masks are clean and ready for the next onslaught.

Remember when only bank robbers wore masks? I remember trying to make a mask out of an old bandanna. Then the church ladies got busy making masks, and I acquired a full wardrobe to match my outfits. We even got “singing masks” that pooch out to allow more air in.

We looked down our noses at those who wore their masks under their noses, which defeats the purpose. We got used to masks hanging around people’s necks like a scarf. We got used to the absurdity of wearing a mask into a restaurant, taking it off to eat and drink, and putting it back on to leave, as if we weren’t breathing the whole time we dined. 

Remember when people were afraid to touch their mail, their groceries, or their dogs for fear they had COVID on them? 

Remember when everything was closed? Here on the Oregon coast, sawhorses blocked the entrances to the beaches. You couldn’t get a hotel room or eat in a restaurant. At the doctor’s office, you waited in your car till they called you. At our vet’s, we still wait in the car or near the car because the puppy gets excited and needs to get to the grass to take care of business. Hospitals and nursing homes still limit visitors. When will we feel safe enough to gather around a loved one’s beside?

I remember when I went to buy spa chemicals early in the pandemic. Customers weren’t allowed inside the store. A worker peeking out the half-open door asked what you wanted, passed it out to you, and took your money. Buying bromine tablets was like buying drugs or bootleg liquor. Weird times. There are little children for whom mask-wearing is normal. They have never lived without them. 

I often wonder what my father would think of all this if he hadn’t died just before the pandemic. He was born shortly after the big influenza epidemic. Two cousins lost both their parents to the flu. I wonder if any of their masks were tucked away in the old house on Branham Lane.

A hundred years later, we were wearing masks again. More than three million people worldwide have died of COVID-19. I knew and loved a few of them. People are still getting sick, but officials are playing the numbers game, betting that it will be okay this time if we remove our masks. We’ll see. 

Meanwhile, taking off my mask feels very similar to my dog Annie removing her protective cone. We’re both feeling a little naked these days. 

Are you unmasked, too? How does it feel? 

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I’m How Old? How Could That Be?

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

This Wednesday at 4:10 a.m., I will turn 70 years old. I don’t feel 70—except for my knees and my back—but every old person says that. Our spirits are ageless. Inside, we’re still 6 and 13 and 28 and 49 . . . .

But the number scares me. When I was a kid, 70 was old/the end of life. There was nothing beyond it. Now, maybe because there are so many of us 70-something baby boomers, maybe because a lot of the diseases that used to kill people early don’t anymore, 70 is barely a tiptoe into seniorhood. We could last another 30 or 40 years. My grandfather made it to 98, my dad to 97, his cousin to 96. On the other side of the family, the numbers aren’t as good, but we won’t dwell on that. Nobody knows when they’re going to die. I don’t know how people who don’t believe in God live with the uncertainty.

My 70-something friends are welcoming me into the cool kids’ club. Most are still very active, despite a few aches and pains. The other day when I walked into my friend’s house with a cane due to my gimpy knee, she brought out six different sprays and creams designed to relieve pain. I took two home; they kind of worked. She also talked about slipping off her diet to eat “pot cookies.” We both talk about buying campers and hitting the road. We grownup hippies are too young to be old.

But I read the obits. People my age die. People my age need hip replacements. People my age get cancer. Or not. I worry more about how most young people perceive 70, the same way I did: old/at the end/finished. I don’t want those perceptions to get in my way.

I’m just getting started. I have done a lot in my 70 years. If God calls, “Time!” I have done enough, but there are so many more books to read and write, songs to sing, people to meet, and places to go. I want to see how today’s children turn out. I want to see how “This is Us” and “Grey’s Anatomy” end. I want to know if my hair will ever turn completely white. The turn of the odometer just reminds me not to waste a minute.

So, here comes 70. I’m planning to go to Mass, hike in the woods a bit, have lunch with friends in Waldport, and, if the weather cooperates, read or play a little music in the sun. Just like I would have done when I was 69. If any locals would like to join us for lunch, let me know so we can save you a seat.

Here are some fun quotes about turning 70: https://seniors.lovetoknow.com/senior-life/turning-70-quotes-celebrate-joy-laughter

WebMD offers a list of the scary changes one can expect between 70 and 80. You don’t have to click on that. Instead, I offer Janet Harrigan Davis’ Pinterest board full of fun and inspiration about being 70.

Check out all these famous people who are in their 70s. Tom Selleck is older than me??? Meryl Streep! Dolly Parton! Go, us!

Whether you are younger, older, or the same age as me, what do you think about age 70? Is it “one foot in the grave,” no big deal, or something to cheer about? Let’s talk about it.

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What Would Be Your Celebrity Brand?

If you were to have your picture on a magazine cover, what would the headlines say?

Designing my fake magazine cover was the assignment recently for a platform-building workshop I’m taking (“Platform” is writer jargon for how to make yourself a household name). I thought it would be fun, but it was mostly frustrating, not only because of the technical challenges—no, that’s not the size I wanted the photo to be! Wait, where did my headlines go?—but because I couldn’t boil myself down to one or even two topics.

Writer or not, I invite you to try it. Definite yourself in one meaty sentence? XXX is the one who ___________________________.

As a reporter, I liked to write about everything. I loved the variety. I still write about many different topics. See my website. But in the book world, folks want to pin you to one thing. I’m the childless writer. I’m the Portuguese writer. I’m the writer who helps other writers. I’m the poet, the memoirist, the novelist, the essayist, the blogger. I’m the dog mom. I’m the musician.

Trying to cover all these different areas might explain why I fall asleep in front of the TV when I finally give up trying to work. But how do I make one platform that will hold everything? If my feet are on 10 different pieces of wood—wait, I don’t have 10 feet. If I’m rowing in 10 different directions, I’ll never get anywhere. But every direction is just as important to me. Can I just call myself “diversified” or do I need to find a central, defining stream that will carry me to glory? You know what they say about putting all your eggs in one basket.

Maybe I’m like a star radiating out in all directions. I’m the hot burning center. That sounds too egotistical. But what is the central thread that I can share with the reading world? What is my brand?

Writer. Troubador. Communicator. How about . . . truth-teller?

How about the representative for . . . 70-year-old, childless, widowed, Portuguese-Basque-Spanish-Mexican-German American, Catholic, left-handed, arthritic, nearsighted, hearing-impaired, pastry-addicted San Francisco Bay Area natives living on the Oregon coast, writer-musician-dog moms?

That doesn’t fit on a magazine cover. I’m not even sure it would fit in a Twitter tweet.

The photo here is not great quality because I took a picture of it on my computer screen. I tried two different websites and both let me design a whole cover, then asked me sign up for a membership before I could keep it as my own. I don’t plan to make a career of designing magazine covers, especially ones with my face plastered all over it. Who does that?

Well, Oprah Winfrey has an actual magazine with her name and face on the cover. It recently ended its print version, but it’s still publishing online. Nobody pins Oprah to one subject, do they? Her brand is “Oprah!”

Then we have Martha Stewart, whose name is synonymous with a lot of things. Cooking, stationery, sheets and towels, jail . . .

Imagine if we all published magazines with our names on them, and they were lined up on a shelf at the grocery store. Sue, Oprah, George, Mike, Pete, Martha, Angelina . . .

We are each the hot shining star of our own universe, but readers are likely to skip to the next shelf for the latest recipes, celebrity news, or sports updates. News you can use, as we used to say back at the Milpitas Post in the 1970s when I was just a reporter and newlywed who sang in a choir. It was easy to define who I was then, back in the days when platforms were made out of wood.

May I’m just a “well-rounded person.”

A little too well-rounded, my doctor might say.

If you were to design your own magazine cover, what would be on it? What photo would represent you the way you want people to see you? What would the headlines say? Try it, using one of the websites below or an app on your phone or tablet. If you find a no-strings program, let me know.

Share if you can. It’s fun and much easier than Wordle (where my score was 100 percent until Sunday’s word shorted out my brain (It was “tacit”).

https://www.canva.com/create/magazine-covers/

https://www.yourcover.com/cover-editor

If you have Apple products, try this: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/cover-me-your-fake-popular-magazine-cover-maker/id842425115

https://techpp.com/2009/03/08/15-websites-create-fake-magazine-covers-own-photo/

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Annie and I went back to the vet last week. She got her last three stitches removed. The wound is doing so well she should be cone-free by Friday. BUT, she tore her cornea slightly poking her face into the bushes and now we’re on a regime of eye drops that she truly hates. That will heal, too. She is rapidly approaching 100 “reactions” on Facebook to the picture I posted last week on her 14th birthday. She’s 98 years old in dog years.

Annie deserves her own magazine cover.

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If Only We Could Believe What They Offer on the Phone

Photo by Reynaldo #brigworkz Brigantty on Pexels.com

This morning during my writing time, my phone rang. San Diego, it said on Caller ID. Those calls with city names are usually the car warranty scam, a credit card scam, or the Medicare scam. 

After a while, I noticed there was a voicemail waiting for me. The phone rang again. San Diego. I decided to get it over with to stop the interruptions. 

The young voice said, “Good afternoon!” It was 10:30 a.m. I said, “It is not afternoon.” Which means, I know you’re not in San Diego because it’s 10:30 a.m. there, too. 

Oh, she said. She proceeded on a long introductory speech that was so fast I couldn’t understand many of the words. It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear, even though I hadn’t put my hearing aids in yet. The voice was piercing, almost unbearably loud. 

She raved about my books. She knew all the titles and who the publishers were. She knew my sales statistics. She wanted to help me sell more of these wonderful books. She wanted to offer them at the Tucson Festival of Books and the LA Times Festival of Books, both coming up soon. She wanted to know if I had ever been to those festivals. Tucson yes, LA no. She wanted to know what I had been doing to promote my books.

I kept telling her I was busy and didn’t have time for this long conversation. I told her I wasn’t going to any book festivals in the near future. I wouldn’t have to attend in person, she said. They would take care of it for me. But I would have to decide immediately because the registration deadline is very soon.   

If my books are going to a festival, I want to go, too. I want to talk to readers, and I hope readers want to talk to me.  But that’s not the point. Her voice was hurting my ear, and I had work to do. Finally I was able to understand the name of her company. ReadersMagnet. As she kept talking, I looked them up online. A site for writers warned that this was a scam. They want hundreds of dollars to plop your book in a booth. Don’t do it. 

The ReadersMagnet website insisted, “This is not a scam!” They help authors. I clicked the link to their Facebook page. Lots of posts about book festivals. Their profile says they have published hundreds of books in the last two years. Hundreds? How good could those books be when most publishers, aside from the Big 5, put out a handful, maybe a dozen in a year?

Oh, now she was talking about how my book Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both would appeal to parents. No, no, no. My book is for people who do NOT have children.They are not parents. 

Before they sue me for libel, I can see that ReadersMagnet does publish books, and it does promote them. But when you haven’t approached them first and they push you to commit to spending money with them, it seems a little off.

I gently hung up. Thirty seconds later, the phone rang again. San Diego. I did not answer. 

This is not the first time I have gotten calls from people raving about my books and wanting to help me sell them. It’s so frustrating. Every author wants that phone call where an editor or publisher wants to publish your masterpiece and make you rich and famous. It’s the stuff we dream about. That companies exploit these dreams to make money is just wrong.

I wasn’t going to publish a blog post today, but I needed to rant about this. My phone rarely rings, but when Caller ID shows no name or just the name of a city, I’m either not going to answer it or I’m going to be rude, depending on my mood.  

 Writer friends, have you experienced this? Writers and readers, have you heard of ReadersMagnet? How do you know the difference between a scam and someone who really wants to help you? 

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Sometimes You Just Need Another Set of Hands

After our walk last Saturday, I unleashed the dog and left her alone while I sprinted to the restroom. Normal, right? Not when the dog is recovering from surgery and can NEVER be without her big plastic collar when she’s off the leash. For a moment, I forgot.

When I came out, she was twisted around in position to lick whatever she could reach on her back end, including the conglomeration of stitches, drains and healing cuts I had been carefully guarding for 10 days. In a second, it could all be destroyed, and we’d have to start over.

I lost my mind, running down the hall, shouting, “No, no, no!”

It was okay. Maybe she didn’t get to it, or maybe she saw her incision for the first time and paused, thinking, “Holy cow. What happened here?” Maybe God grabbed her and said, “No!” I don’t know. I put the collar on and burst into tears, hugging Annie’s plastic-shrouded face. “It’s hard. It’s so hard,” I sobbed as the dog sniffed my wet cheeks.

As I calmed down, I discovered my new mascara is not waterproof. I had black stuff all over my hands and face. I didn’t check when I bought it. Why would they even sell mascara that melts when you cry? (Here’s why).

Why was I wearing mascara during Covid? Before our walk, I was on Zoom for a four-hour workshop, and when you have to look at your own face for that long, you do the best you can to make it tolerable.

After I calmed down, I left Annie alone while I went to the grocery store and the pharmacy, but I still felt the weight of being the only human in the house. I have only felt comfortable leaving her for short trips for a few days, and I pray hard that her wound will be okay when I get back. If someone else were here, they could watch the dog while I take care of other things. But it’s just me and Annie.

Thinking about it later, I decided it’s okay if sometimes I cry or curse or even throw things because being alone is difficult. Ask any widow living by herself, especially if she has no adult children nearby. You’re responsible for everything, whether it’s fixing the car or cooking dinner, figuring out the health insurance or cleaning the bathroom, mowing the lawn or walking the dog. I love my independence, but some things are just easier with other people around.

After I finish the novel I’m working on, I plan to write a book about living alone. I want it to be upbeat, with more emphasis on what we can do alone than what we can’t. I hope it will make people laugh.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for ways to make living alone easier. Should I rent a room, move to a senior community, try online dating or what? I love my home in the forest, but it’s a bit much for one person who would rather be writing, playing music, reading, or enjoying nature than doing 101 chores.

If anyone knows a handyman (or woman) in the Newport area who is skilled, dependable, and doesn’t make me afraid to let them in the house, let me know. I have tried several who were worse than no one.

If you live alone, please share in the comments what you find the most difficult to handle. Let’s see if we can help each other figure it out.

Back to Annie. She is doing fine. We go back to the doctor on Thursday to remove her stitches. Annie being Annie, she will still have to wear the cone for a while to keep her from licking the area, but relief is coming. The tumor was not cancer, just a really ugly benign fatty lipoma, so she should live to drive me crazy well past her 14th birthday next week.

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