Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Can't See (very well)

Something happens when you reach your forties. The print in books starts to shrink. The same thing happens to the print in menus, newspapers and magazines. The first time I noticed this,  I blamed the book. I adjusted my computer and Kindle so the font was huge. When reading magazines, I tried moving the page farther from my face but my arms didn’t reach that far. “You’re getting old,” my husband told me, kindly, as we sat in a local Olive Garden and he watched me move the menu back and forth.  
            “That’s ridiculous,” I said, handing him the menu. “Can you read me all the chicken dishes?”

            On the way home we stopped at the drugstore. I bought three pairs of reading glasses. Blue frames for home, tricolor for work, and a pink pair to keep in my purse for those pesky menus. I didn’t like them, but I got used to them. The problem was, I spend my days reading small print and at the same time supervising groups of children. I needed to be able to look at print and look out at the kids and see everything clearly. With the reading glasses on,  the print looked fine, but the kids were blurry. And removing and replacing the glasses all day was giving me a headache. 

            I called my eye doctor. “Time for bifocals,” he said. “Make an appointment.”
            I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was fourteen years old. I was not going to wear glasses again, especially given my extra-strength prescription. “No bifocals,” I told him. “Don’t you make bifocal contacts?”

            He outlined my choices. I could wear one contact that would see far and one that would see near. Apparently your eyes learn to adjust so each eye knows what to do. I wasn’t sure my eyes were that smart. Or, for a great deal more money, I could order bifocal contact lenses. They’re weighted, so the lower part sees near and the upper part sees far and your eyes just figure it out. “Sounds perfect,” I said, and ordered a pair. 

            Two weeks later I drove home wearing my new contacts. I walked in the door and grabbed a book. A regular book, not my large-font Kindle. I could read it! I opened the newspaper and scanned the notoriously small-print comics. I could read them too! I was in heaven. The next day, however, driving to work, I realized I couldn’t see any street signs until I was practically sitting on them. Not so good. And three days later the new lens scratched my cornea. Back to the eye doctor.  We ordered a new pair with a slightly different prescription. Now I could see far, but when I tried to read a book I was back to reading glasses. “Don’t worry,” my doctor told me. “This is very typical. It usually takes several tries before we get it exactly right.”

            It’s been three months. I’m on pair number four. They’re still not perfect, but close. I can read menus, magazines and books. If I squint, I can almost read the comics. And my students and the street signs are in focus. Now, if I could just remember where I put my Kindle, I’d be fine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Run Away Home

Exciting news! My young adult novel, Run Away Home, is now up on Kindle! 

Although I am still hoping to someday have it published and available in hard copy, I decided to take the plunge and put out a digital version. 

Run Away Home is the story of sixteen year old Alissa who has bounced between foster homes and her drug-addicted mother for years. When her brother, Trent, learns that their mom is about to be released from prison and wants them back, they decide upon a plan of action that will take them from Bakersfield to Seattle in search of the father neither of them remembers. Faced with the possibility of a future without her brother’s protection, Alissa is willing to do almost anything to avoid landing in her abusive mother’s care again. As they make their way north, Alissa knows that even one slip-up might mean the difference between finding a safe home or ending up back in the system. Frightening situations, new friends and unexpected betrayals force Alissa to grapple with the unintended consequences of her decisions and ultimately compel her to decide whether to blindly follow her brother or find a way to break the bonds of her past. Run Away Home is the captivating story of a teen girl’s search for belonging that stretches our understanding of what it means to be part of a family.

Tomorrow, 4/18/2012, this book will be available FREE for the Kindle! Let me know what you think!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Gift Certificate

Last spring I attended a school auction. You know…. the kind with tastefully displayed items spread out on tables with bid sheets attached. The “live” part of the auction featured items way out of my price range….vacation rentals, stadium box seats, and the ever popular, “Principal for a Day”. But the silent auction….well, there were a few things that caught my eye. I bid on a pretty necklace, a dinner for two at a local restaurant, and then I paused. The local humane society had donated a free pet. We didn’t actually need a new pet. But our Bichon Frise, Lucky, was fourteen years old and diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, arthritis, and cancer. We knew he had less than six months to live. And no one else had bid on this item. So, without over-thinking it, I signed my bid number and walked away. 

            Sure enough, I won. I tucked the gift certificate away in a drawer and forgot about it. Fast forward eight months. Lucky had passed away and my husband started making noises about getting another dog. I wasn’t super excited about the prospect now that I knew what life could be like without a dog in the house. No rushing home at the end of the day to let him out. No stuffing pills into foods designed to trick him into swallowing medicine without a fuss. No standing outside in the pouring rain or freezing snow, waiting for him to decide which location was best for doing his business. In short, I was enjoying life without the responsibility of a dog. But my husband doesn’t feel a house is a home without one. So eventually I capitulated. We were busy running errands when I said the fateful words, “Do you want to stop by the animal shelter?” 

            No answer needed; I turned right instead of left and within ten minutes we were pulling into the parking lot. “Now remember,” I said. “The gift certificate is at home. So we can’t actually buy a pet today. We’re just looking.”

            So we looked. We wandered up and down, past the cages holding one or two dogs. It was winter and the temperature was close to freezing. The kennels were heated, but just barely. My feet were cold and my hands felt like ice pops. Having recently said goodbye to our beloved nineteen pound Lucky, neither one of us wanted a large dog. Not to mention, we’d been spoiled by so many years of living with a dog that didn’t shed. Most of the dogs were large dogs and the rest were Chihuahuas. I hadn’t seen any that that really grabbed my attention, and I wandered away from my husband and back towards the main (heated) building where the cats were housed. “What about this one?” he called from the far end of the aisle. I walked back in his direction. Two small dogs lay huddled together in the last cage on the end. I pulled the description card from above the kennel and read it out loud. 

            “Louie. Eight years old. Yorkshire Terrier.” I looked down at the little dog and then at my husband. “He’s eight years old.”
            My husband nodded. “We wouldn’t have to worry about housebreaking him. Or racing home to let him out.”
            “Maybe not. But he’s old.”
“But look how cute he is. Come on, let’s at least take him out of the cage and see what he’s like.”
I went back to the building to get someone to help us, leaving my husband crouching next to the cage, trying unsuccessfully to get the dog’s attention. 

We took the five pound senior citizen to the play area where he crouched, shivering, on my husband’s lap and shook with either nerves or the cold. My husband covered him with his jacket and smiled hopefully at me.
“He has no fur,” I pointed out.
“But he’s wearing a sweater. It’ll be fine.”
“Oh, all right. We can go in and ask about him.” We relinquished the dog to the kennel attendant and went back inside the main building to wait our turn for processing. Once we were seated at the counter, the dark-haired shelter clerk pulled out a file that was at least half an inch thick. 

“Hmmm,” she said, paging through it. “You’ve picked an interesting one.”
I kicked my husband and scowled. He ignored me and the clerk began reading from the top sheet. “Let’s see. He was adopted from here three years ago and recently relinquished again. He has allergies and a skin condition, we just pulled sixteen teeth because of severe decay, he’s on medication and a special diet and both need to be continued.” I raised my eyebrows and sighed. Lucky all over again. “Oh, and it says here that he has bathroom issues.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Sounds like he’s not quite housebroken,” she said, not meeting my gaze. She handed the paperwork over to us. “Here, why don’t you look through this and I’ll give you a few minutes to talk it over,” she said, wisely moving away from us and handing the folder to my husband. I grabbed the folder and began thumbing through the pages that had been filled out by his previous owner. 

“He’s lived in three homes,” I said. “There must be a reason no one keeps him.” I kept reading down the form. Question #7 stopped me cold. What do you like best about the dog? The answer was scrawled rapidly in dark blue ink. Nothing.
My husband put his hand out and took the paperwork. He looked at me and I could see the familiar expression cross his face. It’s the look he gets when he knows he’s going to win an argument. “If we don’t take him, no one else will.”

I went back after work the next day. Gift certificate in my purse, laundry basket lined with a clean towel on the front seat next to me. Louie rode home with me, through the dark and cold of an early winter’s evening. We stopped at the local Petco to buy him a sweater and some toys. He promptly pooped on the floor. “You’re not off to a great start,” I told him sternly. He stared up at me, all dark eyes and perky ears, waiting to see what I would do. Sighing, I scooped him into my arms and carried him back out to the car to begin our journey home. 

Louie has lived with us for five months. He still needs a special diet and medicine that I hide in little pieces of chicken, and has weird bumpy things all over his back. But his fur comes in thicker every day, and he only rarely has accidents in the house. He has learned to ask to go outside and he sleeps snuggled up on our bed. On cold nights he burrows his way under the covers and presses against me, my very own hot water bottle. He follows me around the house and bites my ankles when I leave. Fortunately, with only three teeth, he can’t do much damage. What do I like about this dog? Everything.