Another Germ – A Poem by Stevie Turner

It’s been a winter of nasty germs this year.  I should know – I’ve had three since Christmas.  In the midst of my misery I came up with this poem…


Cough and sneeze,

Hack and bark,

Wandering about at night

Trying to breathe, in the dark.


Steaming, steaming,

Vaporiser peeling

Wallpaper from the wall.

Eyes and nose streaming.


Throat gives a gasp,

Voice gives a rasp,

Basket full of tissues,

Serious sinus issues.


Off to see the doctor,

Shakes her head as though I’m off my rocker.

Antibiotics are not desirous,

I’ve just got a virus.


“Plenty of fluids

And keep up with the steam,

Go to bed,

Perchance to dream”.


“Try and sleep?

You must be joking!”

My ears are stabbing,

I cough ‘till I’m choking.


“Look at my eyes

They’re as red as my throat!”

I look like Old Nick

In a green Puffa coat.


“Hmm…perhaps a little inflamed,

Take these once a day,

Two to start with,

They’ll take the germ away.”


Thank God for that,

Balm on troubled waters,

In three days

My germ has altered.


The eyes are white

The ears don’t stab,

I look all right,

And I feel fab!


Come and find me on one of the following links.  I’d love to meet you!







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I Stayed Up All Night Writing This

Posted by M. K. Waller

[Forgive me. This post is longer than I intended, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I had no idea I’m so enlightened. If you stop reading before the end, I’ll forgive you. But you’ll miss the good part.]

My husband once told me that when I tell stories, I should start with the headline. So here it is.


My CT scan twelve months after completing radiation treatments was clear.

The first time I posted about having cancer, I said I would write about the experience. I am a writer, I said, so I will write, or words to that effect.

The statement dripped with drama. You can practically hear the rolling r‘s: I will wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite.

Such overstatement is normal. We newbie writers are always trying to reassure ourselves. We’re just starting out, we haven’t published much (or anything at all), we don’t make a living from writing* (we may make nothing at all), we ‘re not confident in our abilities, and–let’s face it–much of what we write stinks (and we don’t know it stinks until a member of a critique group tells us).

Established writers encourage us: If you write, you are a writer. Believe it. Say you’re a writer.

We believe it until someone asks what we do. Then we either clam up; shuffle our feet, look at the floor, and mumble, I’m a wmbrl; or declare, too loudly, I’m a WRITER. Then we blush and shuffle our feet. 

After publishing the aforementioned post, I re-read it, then blushed and shuffled my feet. I’m been shuffling ever since.

But moving on:

When I said I would write, I probably had the idea I would learn secrets of the universe and share them in capital letters and red ink.

But I’ve had no mystical experiences. Altogether, it’s been mostly humdrum. But I’ve learned a few things about myself, and about life in general, and I’ll share those:

  • Chemotherapy isn’t the same for everyone. I went around saying the side effects were mild.  When I’d been off the evil drug for a month or two, I realized I had felt pretty rotten. Still, I was lucky. It wasn’t that bad. Surgery wasn’t difficult either. Radiation was nothing: I showed up for twenty consecutive days, let the techs admire my cute socks, and went home. That was it. Lucky.
  • Being complimented on my taste in socks makes me feel good. The radiation techs liked the ninjas and the cats wearing glasses the best. The oncologist asked what the ninjas were; I had to tell him I didn’t know. One of the techs told me. I don’t know why the oncologist was looking at my socks.
  • Phase I


  • I have no vanity. Hats and turbans were hot. I tossed them, went around bald, and discovered my head, just like Hercule Poirot’s, is egg-shaped.
  • It’s possible to survive for months on Rice Krispies, as long as you don’t run out of sugar.
  • If you don’t drink enough water, you keel over in the oncologist’s office, where you went just to check that great big lymph node that popped up under your jaw, and end up in the hospital. If your temperature doesn’t go down, the night nurse comes in and jerks your three blankets off, and you spend the night under a thin little sheet, slowly turning into an icicle, but your temperature goes down. (That’s opposite to the way my mother did it, but whatever.) They call in a specialist in communicable diseases who orders tests, and when you ask the nurse what they found, she comes bopping in about midnight and says, “Guess what! You have the common cold.” And she’s so sweet and so cute, you feel bad about nearly (deliberately) knocking her off the bed while she was trying to do that nasal swab.
  • Airports have wheelchairs. Thinking you can get from gate to gate without one is dumb. Don’t try it.
  • Phase II

    Chemo brain is real. At present I am dumb as dirt, and not in the way mentioned above. I picked up a brochure about chemo brain at the clinic and, I am proud to say, was able to read (most of) it with my forty-five-year-old Spanish. Because I knew what it said before I picked it up: It’s real, don’t worry, talk to your family/friends/counselor/minister/doctor/whoever and tell them to get used to it, make a habit of writing-things-down-putting-your-keys-in-the-same-place-when-you’re-not-using-them-everything-you-ought-to-be-doing-now-anyway, and it’ll go away, maybe. I may have missed a couple of points. If I ever want to know what they are, I’ll google.

  • Chemo hair is curly. I knew it would be curlier than before, but it is c u r l y. I’m tempted to get it buzzed off again.
  • TRIGGER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES: When a twelve-year-old flat-chested surgeon you have to see because your surgeon went on vacation–my doctors always go on vacation–insists you must wear a sports bra and says, “We’re going to get you out of that pretty lacy bra,” do not hold back. Tell her that pretty lacy bra is made of cast iron, and that all the bras you’ve ever had since like 1962 have been made of cast iron, and that sports bras might as well be made of spider webs, and she can take a long walk off a short pier. You’ll feel a lot better if you say that. I would have felt a lot better if I had.
  • The kindness of strangers is real. When they see a woman with no hair, they understand what’s going on. Women wearing turbans whisper, “Good luck.” People smile. If you wobble a bit, they run to prop you up and offer to help you get wherever you’re going. I didn’t have to take them up on the offers–my wobbling, like my reaction to chemo, was mild–but I appreciated every one of them. Mr. Rogers’ mother told him when things got scary, to “look for the helpers.” She was right. They’re out there.
  • In addition to boosting your immune system, a smile can lift your spirits. It’s good for your doctors, nurses, and everyone else in the clinic as well. Oncologists don’t have it easy. They need all the support they can get.
  • Phase Now

    According to my radiation oncologist, cancer is now a chronic disease. But in one way it’s the same as it was when I was a child: It’s kept under wraps. The word isn’t whispered as it was then, but it isn’t spoken too loudly. That’s one reason I didn’t cover my head. The topic needs to be brought out into the open. People need to see.

  • On the other hand, a little denial can be a good thing. And it can be balanced with acceptance.
  • I didn’t fall apart when told my prognosis, including the average length of survival. I’d always wondered what I would do under those circumstances, and now I know. That time, at least.

Most important, and over and over, I learned that David is good. Not a good husband, or a good man, but good. I knew it when I married him. Every day, he proves me right.

Finally, I learned something else I already knew: There isn’t enough time. We all know it, but the knowledge carries more weight for some of us than for others.

I think of Andrew Marvell:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime….
   But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

And of Keats:

When I have fears that I may cease to be 
   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain, 
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery, 
   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain; 
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face, 
   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, 
And think that I may never live to trace 
   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance; 
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, 
   That I shall never look upon thee more, 
Never have relish in the faery power 
   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore 
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think 
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

My brain isn’t teeming, and certainly not at the level of a Keats, but I would like to write more than I have. I’d like to do a number of things I won’t have time–would never have had time–to do. Time’s winged chariot is following close. Still, I commit the crime of wasting what I should spend. The post I wrote last month about playing Candy Crush is not fiction. But…

The next CT scan comes in March. Till then, I’ll write what I can, do what I can, and say what Anne Lamott calls little beggy prayers.

The Usual

In other words, I’ll go on with life as usual.





“Statue of Angelina Eberly” by Kit O’Connell is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.

The Usual photograph is detail from a statue of Angelina Eberly, the “Savior of Austin,” that stands at the corner of 6th Street and Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. In 1842, following the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston sent Texas Rangers to Austin to remove the government archives to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed (and very near the town of Houston). Houston claimed Austin was too vulnerable to Indian attack for the documents to be safe there.

Angelina and other residents of Austin, the capital of the Republic of Texas, claimed Houston was stealing the records because he wanted to make the city of Houston the capital. Angelina knew Sam Houston didn’t like Austin; he made no secret of his dislike, and while president of the Republic, had lived at her inn instead of at the official residence. The fact that the Rangers came under cover of darkness gave more credence to the her view.

When Angelina heard the Texas Rangers up to no good, she hurried to 6th and Congress and fired off the town cannon. She missed the Rangers but blew the side off the General Land Office building. Noise from the cannon alerted the populace, who came running and scared off the Rangers.

Thanks to Angelina Eberly, Austin remained the capital of the Republic of Texas, and is  capital of the State of Texas to this day.

The statue of Angelina Eberly was sculpted by cartoonist Pat Oliphant. The accompanying plaque attributes Austin’s continued status as Texas’ most premier city to Angelina’s combination of “vigilance and hot temper.”


*Stephen King makes a living by writing. Danielle Steel makes a living by writing. Mary Higgins Clark makes a living by writing. Agatha Christie made a whale of a living by writing. Other writers either have a day job or have won the lottery.


Literature does have its purpose. If you doubt it, see my post on Telling the Truth, Mainly: “A Mind Unhinged.” It isn’t as long as this one.

John Keats, “When I have fears”

Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”


I am a writer and I wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite. My short stories appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology, Murder on Wheels; in the anthology Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse; and in the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 issue of the online magazine Mysterical-E (which I like to think of as the one with the dog on the cover). Another of my stories will appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ second anthology, Lone Star Lawless, coming soon from Wildside Press. I at Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers.

Of J. C. Penney, Robert Redford, and a Return to Civilized Dining






Posted by Kathy Waller


Writing this post won’t be easy.

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Ernest pinning down left arm

Sixteen pounds of Ernest lies across my right forearm, pinning it to the arm of the recliner. He’s on his side, positioned so he can turn his head and, with a moonstruck expression, gaze upside-down  into my eyes and/or reach across to pat my chest. At present, he’s making biscuits on my upper arm and, head thrown back, pushing with his chin at the mouse, which will soon fall to the floor. It doesn’t matter. With my arm weighed down, my fingers are the only movable part of that appendage, and they’re typing as fast as my brain can make up words. The mouse is purely decorative. I’m surprised to have gotten a whole paragraph down.

Well, no, not really surprised. We do this all the time. I say, “We’ve talked about this. You can’t lie on my arm when I’m using the laptop. So move.” He turns his head, gives me the coy But-I-wuv-you look, and thinks something like, Not on your old lady’s corset cover. I’ll move when I’m good and ready.

He’s good and ready when David brings bacon and eggs, or, rather, bacon and egg. David, bless him, has been providing chair service since I started chemo. I spent six months eating mostly Rice Krispies, because they tasted like what they were; David spent the same six months eating fruit and vegetables and ravioli out of cans, and Pita Pockets out of the freezer. I felt bad about letting him eat such shabby  meals until I realized he likes them. He’s just been polite enough (for twelve years) not to mention he prefers tinned pears to fresh.

Ernest is polite enough to raise himself up off my arm when I jiggle it sufficiently, but then he lies back down. While I eat, he watches and waits for crumbs to fall. If I were eating a biscuit, a muffin–anything that tends to shed–he would be crawling across me, snuffling my shirt. An iota of carbohydrate is enough to justify trawling.

Crumbs don’t fall. After David removes the tray, Ernest removes himself to the back of the recliner, above my head. That’s his new favorite place. Stationed there, he can sleep, pat my head, run his claws through my hair, occasionally kick me with a strong hind leg.

I slept late this morning, caught up in a dream I still can’t shake. I was sitting on a bench outside a new J. C. Penney store, waiting for a train (the tracks ran right by the front door), and Robert Redford, who had performed at the grand opening, was sitting beside me. The actress who had appeared with him sat on my other side. The actress said something to Redford about the skit they’d just performed, and he shot back a deadpan response.

Up to that point, I’d been pretending they weren’t there, as is polite when one finds oneself sitting between celebrities one doesn’t know personally,  but his response was so funny that I clapped my hands over my face and guffawed. The actress said something else, and this time his reply was even funnier than before, and I guffawed even louder.

It was a dream, so whatever happened next made no sense. I did wonder how J. C. Penney managed to talk Robert Redford into opening a store. As to why I dreamed about Penney’s: Yesterday David told me that after a thirty-year hiatus, the company is again selling appliances. I have no idea why I dreamed the store doubled as a depot. I don’t know why I dreamed about Robert Redford, either. But who needs a reason?


After a brief pause, we return, my laptop and I in the recliner, Ernest on the chair back above my head. I’ve just been through the dry run for my first radiation treatment tomorrow. The most recent PET scan showed cancer in one lymph node, but no evidence of metastasis from it. Lesions are gone from the lungs. At this time, only the positive node will be treated. I was once told to anticipate results from all diagnostic tests would be better than expected. These results were exactly that. Peace of mind is no longer an option, but my expectations remain high.

Infusions continue, but the evil drug, the one officially classified as chemotherapy, was withdrawn nine weeks ago. Until it was stopped, I had no idea how rotten the previous months had been. Still, the side-effects I experienced were relatively mild–the side-effect of a positive attitude, perhaps. I feel better now, stronger, more interested in pushing a cart through the grocery store.

I’m not interested in cooking. Several weeks ago I made half a pot roast–I wore out after preparing the carrots, so David had to deal with the potatoes and onions–that turned out to be simply wretched. Last week I bought a chicken whose disposition is still hypothetical. The doctor told me radiation will probably make me feel very tired. I’ll wait to see what happens before taking back the kitchen.

But at some point, I’ll have to do the right thing. I’ll return to cooking. David and I will return to civilized dining. And deprived of chair service, Ernest will continue cutting off circulation to my fingers, making biscuits on my arm, running his claws through my hair, and kicking me with his strong hind leg–but with no hope at all of crumbs.

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Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at Austin Mystery Writers.
Her short stories appear in Mysterical-E
and in Austin Mystery Writers’
crime fiction anthology, MOW cover - amazon pix
She is working on a mystery novel.

The Friends in our Gut

Nevaby Neva Bodin

Gut bacteria. Something most of us try not to think about. But, is it thinking about us?

A person has an average of ten trillion cells that make us “shape up” into a person. About ten times that many bacteria live in our digestive system, mostly in the intestine.

Studies are linking depression, anxiety, allergies and illness to the types and numbers of our gut bacteria. Also, Type I diabetes, obesity and many auto-immune diseases may be linked to the type or lack of bacteria present in a person. One article I read even suggested autism may be a result of lack of the right gut bacteria or intestinal flora. Now I read an article saying memory seems affected by antibiotics killing off these helpful microorganisms.

When we are born, we are bacteria free. Natural births, where babies pass through the birth canal, start our bacteria farm. Breast milk adds some new breeds of bacteria. It has long been known that babies born by C-Section do not have the same immune response as those born without. As humans grow, contact with dirt, pets, and our world in general adds more bacteria. The majority of our immune cells live in the intestine.

Wow—just think of the possible sci-fi stories that could be created around the preservatives in food mutating a bacteria that creates a super-monster individual? (Sorry, off the subject, but a mutant brain cell fired there—probably triggered by one of my bacteria.)

I think we were created with things we need to be healthy and wise, I’m not sure about the wealthy part unless you define wealth as non-monetary. Since we are created bacteria free, a clean slate so to speak, our environment has a lot to do with what we can digest and how we react to it.

I grew up on a farm. We drank raw milk, as it’s now called. I prefer “natural” milk. We hand milked and so bits of dust (won’t say from where) landed in the pail. When done, it was strained by a special filter put in the strainer of the milk separator. (We sold cream for grocery money.) The milk came out white, so it was “clean” and we drank it. I do not believe that filter caught any bacteria. What if those bacteria, which came from the cow, actually helped digest the milk that also came from that cow? I met a young person who was allergic to pasteurized milk, but not raw milk one day.
Our water came from a hand dug well with a wooden casing. (I also read an article recently in a science magazine saying bacteria that can kill some of our heartiest microorganisms making us sick have been discovered in dirt.) We all drank from a communal dipper in a pail of water that stood by the basin of water which we all washed our hands in. Obviously, the bacteria in everyone in our family was related.

“Most of our resident gut bacteria are real workhorses. Some aid in digestion and produce enzymes to break down foods. Others make vitamins, like B12 and K, and other vital compounds, such as the feel-good chemical serotonin. A few help keep the intestinal lining impenetrable. Some gut bacteria help regulate metabolism. And others boost immunity and fight pathogens.” Good Gut Bacteria Could Transform Your Health

By Gretel H. Schueller, “The Wild World Within,” July/August 2014

Now we eat food with preservatives, wash with antibacterial soap, are encouraged to disinfect everything in our reach with disinfectant wipes, drink water fraught with bacteria killing chemicals, and give our young children antibiotics as they grow.

How do we get healthy bacteria growing in our digestive system? A new age of taking probiotics seems to have emerged. I have seen people helped with these additives. I have a friend who was told to take them for the rest of his life after sections of color were removed because of cancer. They surely rectify some of the damage we’ve done to our little friends in our gut.

But, fructan and cellulose fibers, found in raw fruits and vegetables help cultivate healthy bacteria according to the aforementioned article. Jeff Leach, written about in the article, says the toughest parts are the best and touts a Leek as a great example for changing to healthy bacteria. Heat destroys fiber.

We are what we eat.






Posted by Kathy Waller
Very long, but sort of necessary

 On January 29, I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Two kinds of cancer are present, not a common occurrence. One kind is aggressive but easier to treat than the other, which is slow-growing. There is a lesion in each lung. One was biopsied, so we know which kind it is. My oncologist said there’s no reason to think the lesion in the other lung is the same kind, but since that lesion wasn’t been biopsied, we don’t know. The radiologist preferred not to biopsy it because it’s near the heart. Sticking needles near the heart isn’t a preferred protocol.

Before I go further, I must say this: Please don’t say you’re sorry. I don’t feel ill. I have no symptoms except one lump I can feel. I’m sorry–really, really sorry, big-time sorry–I’m in this fix, but I already know you’re sorry, too, so it’s okay not to say it. Hearing it can be a bit of a downer. 

I announced the diagnosis to a friend over lunch. We discussed the situation from all sides. Before we parted, she said, “You know this is an opportunity to write.” I said, Yes, I’d already thought of that.

Newbie writers repeatedly ask themselves–and each other–When can I call myself a ***writer*** without feeling like a fraud?

Answer: When no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, or what you’re feeling, you think, I can write about this.

From now on, when people ask what I do, or what I am, I shall say, in a firm and forthright manner, as if they’d better believe it or else, I am a writer.

I responded to the diagnosis with a combination of O God and Okaaaayyyyy…. The oncologist spoke of palliative care and statistics. I despise the word palliative, and the statistics were mind-boggling, and not in a good way. But I told David I’m going to fight, and he said he was, too. I said I was going to be happy while I fought. He said, “That’s what fighting is.” I’ve never heard a better definition.

When a navigator (survivor) from the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) called to introduce herself, I told her I hadn’t read the stack of literature the surgeon had given me–a looseleaf notebook, a spiral notebook, and a passel of booklets–because after glancing over a couple of pages, I decided I didn’t need that much information. I said I guessed I was in denial. She said a little denial can be a good thing.

I dumped the stack of paper in David’s lap and invited him to read it. He did. He’s a good person. A brick, if I may use an old-fashioned word that sounds funny now but in this case isn’t. He takes copious notes, asks questions, knows what meds and chemo drugs I take, records appointments on his calendar, remembers what other questions we need to ask, and and and…. He can recite most of the info from memory.

I’ve vowed several times to step up and take more responsibility for the fight. To date, I’ve learned which anti-nausea pill to take first and which to take if the first one hasn’t worked. I know chemo #4 is scheduled for April 15, too, plus a few other random facts.

On the not-denial side–and to date–for a few days after a chemo infusion, I feel kind of meh but generally okay. However, I become fatigued easily. But I forget about the fatigue and do too much and then pay for it. The oncologist said, “Yeah, everybody does that.” The first time, I paid with a day in bed. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I stayed up half the night, three nights in a row, trying to write three hundred words for a guest blog, and paid for over-reach by thinking, What if the chemo doesn’t work?

The good old What if?

The thought had already crossed my mind, of course, but this time it was accompanied by the line from It’s Always Something, Gilda Radner’s account of  her experience with ovarian cancer:

I had wanted to wrap this book up in a neat little package. I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I’ve not read the book, but a long time ago, I read that sentence, and it stuck.

The BCRC navigator called again to see how I was getting along. We I met for iced tea and conversation, and I unloaded a couple of million words on her and said I would attend a meeting of a group the oncologist had strongly recommended (twice already). I perked up some more. But then came the third visit with oncologist. He ordered a CT scan to check progress, as in, Is the chemo working?–and the possibility of No surfaced again. After a while, No morphed from possibility to probability. Then it began to feel like a prediction. More sighing, combined with an undeclared expectation of the worst.

But I knew that surgical oncologist Dr. Bernie Siegal says cancer patients must tell the truth, that if you go around claiming, I’m fine, just fine, your subconscious, which takes words literally, will believe you, and won’t tell your body it must fight. He recommends using a grading system: When you feel like C-minus, admit it. So I told people who asked, and some who didn’t, that I was a D-minus: scared to death.

Anyway. I had the CT scan yesterday afternoon. The oncologist had stressed that he wanted me to have the results by the second day at the latest–I like him a lot–so if we hadn’t heard by then, to call his office.

Later I realized that when you have a scan on Thursday, the second day is Monday, which leaves a weekend of not knowing in the middle.

But. Here’s where things get better.

The oncologist called Thursday afternoon, not two hours after we left the imaging center. One lung lesion has almost “resolved,” the other has reduced in size by nearly half, one lymph node has reduced significantly. However, a lymph node near where the bronchial tubes branch off from the trachea has enlarged significantly. He said it could be just “reactive,” doing what lymph nodes normally do when you have, say, a cold–but not to count on that. We’ll follow it closely, see what it does, and if it doesn’t shrink, figure out what to do next.

In short, this is a mixed result, but the oncologist is pleased. What pleases him pleases me. So I’m pleased.

Backing up a bit, at our second visit, oncologist asked whether I had more questions. I said, “No.”

He said, “Okay. Well, your next question should be, ‘How will we know the chemo is working?'” I told him I’d assumed he’d get around when he was ready.

Now, Dear Reader, your next question should be, Why did it take you so long to write this post?

For a variety of reasons, I suppose. Because I’ve only now decided how to approach the topic. Because I wanted to hear some good news before writing. Because I wanted some grounding–I like certainty; even relative certainty–before writing.

Because I didn’t want to.

Because writing about any subject makes it real.

Years ago, I put off writing a letter because I’d have had to say in it that my father had died. I still haven’t written that letter. Writing it would have made the death real, and I preferred it stay as it was, hovering on the edge of reality.

Writing about Stage IV cancer would have made every detail, every statistic, real. I wasn’t ready for that.  Now it’s okay. It’s real, not like it was yesterday with No in the ascendant, but real with mixed but pleasing results.

Ending tacked on Tuesday night: That’s the post I wrote last Friday, or most of it. I started working on it during chemo infusion #3 and continued that evening and into the night. Chemo drugs seem to invigorate me. Sunday, however, the crash came. The “flu-like” symptoms the oncologist had been asking about finally hit. That lasted only thirty-six hours or so, and it could have been worse. However, it left me in a nasty mood from which I haven’t emerged.

Last Friday, this was a chirpy post about adventures in breast cancer. Tonight–or, as it will probably post tomorrow, the 30th, a day late–it’s a non-chirpy post written by someone who’s in a nasty, nasty mood. Because I took all the chirpy parts out.

I shouldn’t admit that. Even if it’s evident, I shouldn’t admit it. I should pretend to be chirpy. I really, really should. That’s what nice Southern girls are supposed to do. Chirp.

But I remember the name of the English honor society I joined in college: Sigma Tau Delta. Sincerity. Truth. Design.

And I think of Dr. Siegal: If you’re feeling D-minus, say you’re D-minus.

So what this post lacks in Design, it makes up for in Sincerity and Truth. Tonight, I’m D-minus.

Having said that, however, I think tomorrow I’ll be much improved.


Oh, all right. As long as I’m already late, I’ll mention one achievement: After watching selected videos on YouTube, I have learned to wrap a scarf into a turban. For one devoid of manual dexterity, that’s big. The first two times we appeared together in public, the turban stayed put, and I received compliments. During Friday’s chemo, filaments of fringe kept popping out. They looked like little bitty antennae.

Obviously, Friday’s edition was poorly engineered from the get-go, because as soon as I got home, one end slipped out and draped down the side of my face. Fringe crawled over in front of my glasses.

I reminded myself of Lord Byron in Albanian dress. Except Byron’s headgear probably isn’t called a turban.

And he’s absolutely gorgeous.

I look like I wrapped a scarf around my head, and shouldn’t have.

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Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers.





3,2,1 CONTACT!

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

This week I did something I thought I’d never do again. I had an eye exam and was fitted for contact lenses. I’ve tried them in the past with good luck, but just never followed through. I cannot seem to keep my glasses where I can find them. I spend a lot of my time each day searching the house for the last place I laid them down. I even have two pair with the same prescription, so either will work, but neither will come out of hiding.

I have a unique problem with my vision, which causes all this fuss. When wearing glasses, I have problems with my peripheral vision. The glasses frames are always in the way of my seeing things. I’ve tried every kind of frame, including the no-frame frame and my vision is much the same.IMG_4119-2

The last time I got new glasses (if you remember), I also got a concussion. Of course, that was in Mexico, where I walked everywhere, and I stumbled over a piece of sidewalk that had jutted up. That was four years ago. I haven’t had my eyes checked since. I know, I know. Bad girl. It wasn’t until lately that my vision worsened. I’d be working on the computer writing and my eyes would blur and ache. I had to take a lot of breaks. Hubby finally talked me into going for an exam and it turns out that the prescription I have worn since I was sixteen (that rarely changed) had changed quite a bitl19WPw3v

I had to make a decision. Did I want to try contact lenses again? Or did I want to try another frame with no frame? I used a new ophthalmologist who has a practice about nineteen miles from us. I was very impressed with the thorough exam he gave me. Afterward, he took a lot of time to chat with me about the options I had available. I’m not really sure why I scrapped the contact lens idea fifteen years or so ago, but I decided to try again. I am a perfect candidate for monovision. The doctor thought it the best way for me to go, especially since I’m on the computer so much and have the problem with peripheral vision. He fit me with a lens that very day. I go back this week to be sure the contacts are doing their job. He’ll check the fit and the vision. At that time he’ll tweak anything that needs to be changed.

This is day four with the contacts. So far, so good. Well, almost. This morning when I was putting in the first lens I lost it. I stood perfectly still, not wanting to step on it or ever be able to find it again. I looked all around the bathroom. No contact lens. I looked at my clothes; even shook them a little. No luck. Carefully, I knelt to the floor, where I gently swiped my hand in a back and forth motion, hoping to find it. Still no luck. I repeated this motion a couple of times more, then stood back up.file000256677703

“Great,” I thought. “Four days and I’ve already lost a lens. Guess I’ll have to go back to glasses. At least they’re bigger and a “little” easier to find.

Suddenly I looked up and there it was! Clinging for dear life to the bathroom mirror was my contact lens.

“Eureka!” I thought, as I gently pried it off and put it in the cleaning solution. After cleanng, it was easy to insert and my big adventure was over.

Even though I had this little mishap, it hasn’t curbed my enthusiasm for wearing contacts again. For four days I have seen clearly and my eyes have not ached.   I don’t get freaked out when I catch the frame of my glasses in my peripherial vision. I think It’ll take a little time to get used to, but once I do, I think it’ll be worth it.

Here are a few interesting facts about contacts I gleaned from the Wikipedia site:

  • A contact lens, or simply contact, is a thin lens placed directly on the surface of the eye.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci is often credited with introducing the idea of the contact lens in 1508.
  • In 1949 the first corneal lenses were developed. They sat on the cornea, as opposed to across the eye, and were able to be worn up to sixteen hours per day. These were the only lenses to have mass appeal through the 1960’s.
  • Contact lenses had to be redesigned to allow air to access the eye. In the 1960’s, gas permeable lenses were designed. They were referred to as “hard lenses.”
  • Monovision is the use of single vision lenses (one focal point per lens) to focus one eye for distance vision (typically, the person’s dominant eye) and the other eye for near work. The brain then learns to use this setup to see clearly at all distances. A technique called modified monovision uses multifocal lenses and also specializes one eye for distance and one eye for near, thus gaining the benefits of both systems. Alternatively, a person may simply wear reading glasses over their distance contact lenses. Care is advised for persons with a previous history of strabismus and those with significant phorias, who are at risk of eye misalignment under monovision.

Do you wear either glasses or contact lenses?  I’d love to hear your experiences.  Maybe you even have some advice for me?Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer




Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders


Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer




Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)



13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing


13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook




You can also find L.Leander here:

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Always Beginning

Steph_2 copy (2)By Stephanie Stamm

I’ve posted elsewhere about my affair with the Marco Polo series on Netflix. Among the many things to enjoy about the series are the beautifully choreographed martial arts scenes—reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I have been practicing tai chi since September, and I can see similar moves in the fight scenes. They remind me that the peaceful tai chi I practice for health is a form of martial art. Watching the precisely executed moves of Hundred Eyes, the blind monk who is Marco’s instructor, or Jia Sidao, the Chancellor of the walled city of Xiangyang, I long for the skill acquired by long years of discipline and practice.

This move is called Creeping Low Like a Snake. I can’t begin to get this low yet. Perhaps with time and practice…

Of course, I am but a beginner, and that too is teaching me. When learning something new, you have to approach it with what Zen Buddhism calls “beginner’s mind,” that is, with an attitude of openness and curiosity, a lack of preconceptions, and an eagerness to learn. (Read more about beginner’s mind here.) With beginner’s mind, you can appreciate where you are in the process. It’s not about being right or wrong but about learning.

This move is called Single Whip. It’s repeated a lot in the series.

When we reached the first really complicated move in the tai chi series (there are 108 moves altogether, though some moves are repeated multiple times), I was bewildered. Class ended after the instructor’s demonstration and then our muddled attempt at the move. But the next week, I tried again, I asked questions, and by the end of class, I had grasped the basics, then after practicing at home, I could execute the move—in very beginner style. Now that move is one of my favorites. Still, I am only a beginner, so I know I have more to learn about it and its execution as my body becomes more adept at the practice of tai chi.

I have yet to learn the complete series, though I’ve made it to move 92. Within a week or two, I will have completed the beginning class and gotten through all 108 moves. Then I will continue to practice, moving to a continuing class, even perhaps returning to the beginning class. The moves are not something that are learned and done. Tai chi is a practice. There is no destination, just an ongoing journey.

Learning that in tai chi helps me apply it to my life.

So often we fear being beginners. We want to be experts, to be knowledgeable and accomplished. We attach our worth to our accomplishments, our work, our performance. But we never become accomplished at anything without first beginning—and then putting in many, many hours of practice. And we are not our accomplishments. We are the people who practice those things. Like tai chi or yoga, our work is always a kind of practice, one we stick with over time with discipline, so that we improve.


The concept of beginner’s mind teaches us the importance of remaining a kind of beginner, even as we improve at our practice, so that we can be patient with ourselves when we don’t get something “right” and be open to new learning and improvement.

What new thing have you learned that has made you appreciate being a beginner?


Woman Doing Tai chi from

The Tai chi master Yang Chengfu demonstrating the Single whip, via Wikimedia Commons

World Tai Chi Day by Brian Robinson, [CC BY 2.0 (, via Flickr


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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:




I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover


Post copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw








I confess to having a love/hate relationship with resources. They are a blessing or a curse to your writing. As I make this journey of being a writer, the use of resources is a must. Writing fiction as Angela Raines, the use of old newspapers, books, and diaries, add that note of authenticity to the stories of the Old West that I write.Writing nonfiction, especially the story of the early women doctors in Colorado, using resources can be a great headache.

For fiction, “At the End of the Santa Fe Trail”, by Sister Blandina Segale, 1850-1941, is a gem for events that occurred during the time of the western expansion as Sister Bandina makes her way alone from the mother house in Cincinnati, Ohio to Trinidad, Colorado and then onto  Santa Fe, New Mexico. Published in 1932, this wonderful book is composed of letters written by Sister Blandina to her sisters ‘The Sisters of Charity’ back east. A Google search of Images of Sister Blandina is quite fascinating.

Another great gem is “Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps” by Sandra Dallas; Photographs by Kendal Atchison. Published in the 1980’s, it is a wealth of tidbits about the time in Colorado, from 1859-1920, when Colorado was the place to be to find gold and silver.

The remains of an old cabin at Dyersville, Colorado. Founded and named for ‘Father Dyer’ a traveling itinerant Methodist preacher.

To write the book on early Colorado women doctors before 1900 is another completely different challenge when it comes to resources. Books like “Medicine in the Old West: a History, 1850-1900” by Jeremy Agnew, published in 2010, offer glimpses of how medicine was used and viewed during the time, but talks little of women physicians except to say they had a difficult time. (Although he does speak of a woman physician in Pueblo, Colorado briefly.) Even the primary source I have on Colorado Women Doctors, “Women Physicians of Colorado”, by Mary De Mund, published in 1976 has errors due to the lack of resources when it was written. Some women doctors, who died before licensing in the state began, are harder to locate. Newspapers have been a good resource as has, but even those can be a minefield. If a woman married, or didn’t advertise, many times they just don’t want to be found. Male and female names that are similar or have changed use with the sex over the years, further complicates the search. Beverly is now a female name, but in the 1800’s it was strictly a male name. Emley B. Queal, while listed in the women physicians of Colorado is actually a male who graduated from Harvard, but was a physician.

Here in Colorado Springs, I have access to cemetery records and the headstones of those buried here. That makes finding these women easier. For those in the rest of the state, well let’s just say there will be many a day spent traveling and ‘camping’ out at local libraries and newspaper offices.  In the meantime, I will leave you with a couple of ‘findings’ on these women you may find interesting.

Dr. Agnes Winzell is listed as graduating from the Nashville College of Eclectic Therapeutics in Indiana in 1897 and receiving her Colorado license, #2966, in 1899. However she shows up in the 1892 Seattle, Washington city directory as Mrs. Agnes Winzell, physician, 27 Douthitt Bldg.

Dr. Edith Root was the first woman to receive a Colorado license. In 1881, the first year Colorado started licensing physicians, Dr. Root applied and received her license #89. She was forty years old at that time. However she is listed in the 1878 Denver city directory as a physician, at 359 Larimer.

So you see, while research is quite fun, in fact I love it, it takes more than one source and many an hour reading unlikely books, newspapers and of course countless hours on the computer. No wonder I have this love/hate relationship with Cursed Recources. So until next time, see you in the research section.


home for his heart angela rainesHOME FOR HIS HEART
also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.


Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

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Not worth the salt!

For CCThis post is by Nancy Jardine

Who would have thought it! Salt isn’t all that good for me.

When I was born, way back in history (i.e. the early 1950s) nobody told me that I shouldn’t eat too much salt. They didn’t tell my mother, either, so salt was added in cooking to make what wasn’t a particularly tasty meal more palatable.

saltWe were, however, a family who almost never added salt to our food at the table so our salt intake was a proportionally reasonable amount. The dreaded chips (i.e. French Fries) were the exception, but they weren’t a food on our plates all that often. Deep fat frying wasn’t my mum’s favourite cooking method.

In my part of Glasgow, Scotland, take-out meals were non existent apart from the ubiquitous British ‘Fish ‘n Chip’ shops. Our nearest Fish ‘n Chip shop was 5 miles away. With no family car at our disposal, it meant that it was only on a rare occasion that I had fish and chips from the chip shop. My mum cooked fish  (though not deep fried) every Friday, since the Fishmongers Mobile Van always had the freshest on Fridays  – so fish was a regular in our diet with a little salt added before the cooking. However, I always had chips (oh dear!  with salt added) after my Monday night swimming classes, along with a huge pickled onion, eaten while I waited for the bus to go home from the swimming pool.

image acquired from for my use
image acquired from for my use

So, what’s happening to me right now? With a 3 year old toddler, and a baby of almost 9 months in my house 24/7, we have gone almost SALT FREE! For the last few months, since my grandson has been eating solid food, we rarely add sodium chloride (salt) to cooked food. We aren’t adding salt to boiled vegetables and meats but we are adding more herbs and spices which make things taste very good. That means Riley gets the benefit of eating what the rest of us do (no expensive baby products) and it’s actually healthier for all of us.

NB. I confess to being the one who still adds just a tiny smidgen of salt at the table- but only occasionally on French fries…and I might manage to stop this habit in about another 60 years.

However, the use of salt got me thinking. When I first started to research my current favourite time period of Celtic/ Roman Britain, I was quite surprised to find out that salt was very important to the first Celtic peoples of Europe. For the first Celts of the Hallstatt region of Austria, salt was a valuable trading commodity and, in some cases, it was more important than precious metals like gold and silver. Yes- they could have prestige in wearing a fabulous golden torque or silver armband fashioned by the very best Celtic smith, but if their food was bad and ‘off’ then they might be dead before they got the chance to parade around in their  fine jewellery.

Salt is one of the oldest and most commonly used methods of food seasonings, and salting of food is an important process in preserving food. It was a highly prized and expensive commodity till a few centuries ago when new production methods were introduced to make it a commercially viable and readily available and cheaper product.

The Celtic Hallstatt salt mines in Austria are said to be the oldest known salt mines in the world and were first mined in approximately 800BC. By 400 BC, the people of the area were transitioning from using pickaxes and shovels to the practice of open pan mining – an easier method. salt mine Germany

This photo from Wikimedia Commons is taken in a German museum and depicts the situation for the earliest salt mining methods.

By the first millennia BC, the Hallstatt Celts were trading salt with Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for things like wine and other luxuries they couldn’t make themselves.

We all know what it is to earn a salary for the work we do every month but many may not know that the word originates from the Latin word salarium. This word meant the amount of salt ‘nominally’ paid to soldiers of the Ancient Roman Army of the Republic, the practice continuing into the army of the Ancient Roman Empire. 

It was one of those catch 22 situations. Meats and fish needed to be salted to preserve it. Soldiers needed to eat the healthiest possible food. The Ancient Roman Army officials were very sneaky in that they made their soldiers effectively work to be healthy!

Not worth the salt meant (it’s believed) that a soldier wasn’t pulling his weight and didn’t deserve his pay. It’s worth noting that there was a ‘paymaster’ in the Roman Army who totted up the annual amount owed to a soldier. From that money ‘held’ for them by the ‘paymaster’ the soldier then had to pay for his own food (including salt) and his own equipment. It was worth working hard because it meant a soldier was able to eat as well as possible. It goes without saying that if a soldier’s equipment was torn, worn, or sub-standard in some way then money was ‘docked’ from his held amount in order for him to purchase the replacements.soldier's kit Over the term of 25 years served (sometimes less depending on the type of soldier and his function in the army) a recruit might manage to save a little from his salarium to ‘bank’ each year. By then, after being ‘cashiered’ the soldier might have a reasonable amount which would allow them to run a small plot of land for a potential family- him not being allowed to officially marry till after serving his term. (This rule of ‘no marriage allowed’ eventually changed by around the third century AD) I guess a soldier who didn’t actually like too much salt might have been able to save more – but I’ve no evidence for this!

I blogged about the Roman Soldier’s kit in 2013- if interested click HERE to read about it.

The word salad also comes from the same Latin root, the derivation meaning the ‘salt added to fresh leafy greens and vegetables’ which accompanied a meal in Ancient Rome.

Salt continued to be a valuable trading item and was partly the reason for those first ‘Hallstatt Austrian’ Celts to migrate and barter salt all around Europe. Some of these original Celts eventually ended up in Britain, their descendants likely to have been the forebears of the Celts in my (fictitious) Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures.

There are a number of ancient salt mining sites across Europe but the Celts I’ve **just finished**(yipee-the manuscript has gone to my editor!)  writing about in ‘The Taexali Game’ (my time travel novel for the younger end of the YA market) would have hated being sent to any of the salt mines of the Roman Empire. In this latest novel, some of my Celtic Taexali people of north-east Scotland are bartered off as slaves in a major treaty with the Roman Emperor Severus in AD 210. If those slaves were sent to a salt mine, their life expectancy was drastically reduced. Dehydration from being in the ‘salted’ atmosphere was disastrous.

It’s sad to say that even in the 20th century AD prisoners were sent to salt mines in Russia and Germany to serve out their time. Nasty business, I think.

Salt is still a valuable commodity, but of course we can acquire it by many methods nowadays, our latest technology much kinder to those who work in the industry.

The big question I’ll leave you with is… Do you still like to salt your food?

Have a lovely weekend…and enjoy whatever is on your plate!

Nancy Jardine writes Historical Adventures and Contemporary Mysteries with different degrees of romance in them. She will soon (come 2015) be publishing Time-Travel action adventures for the YA market.

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Life in all its colours gets in the way.

For CCThis post is by Nancy Jardine

Sometimes you just can’t write.

Usually, I make a great effort to ensure my posts for this blog are published live on time, but I send my apologies for the lateness of this one. Truth to tell, I haven’t been consulting my diary much lately and for long periods I’ve not even been near it, nor my laptop. I’m of the old school where I prefer to use one of the large ‘physical’ desk diaries which displays a week spread over two pages – I’ve just never quite got into the hang of using an electronic one on my laptop. 10870651_s

The days of the last few weeks have been one massive blur, and I’ve pretty well lost count. With no diary to hand, some days I’ve not had a clue of what I’ve had planned. You can imagine my horror when I saw today that I should have posted something yesterday! My Wrangler posts are usually roughly plotted out a few days ahead of schedule, but clearly not this time.

Is there anyone reading this post who also relies on a desk diary, like I do?

Recently, I’ve been away from home quite a lot. I’ve been to London and then to Madeira, both occasions of great happiness and enjoyment for me. However, in between times, I’ve also been visiting relatives who live a 300 mile round trip away. That has meant overnight stays. Overnight stays with no diary to hand and when writing has taken a back seat to pressing family matters.

I’m part of a close extended family and we tend to rally round when there is someone sick. Whether the person is at home, or in the hospital, there’s always some practical task which can be done to help around the household, as well as visiting the patient. My brother-in-law has been through the most awful chemo therapy and it has taken its toll; he’s currently in and out of hospital like a yo-yo. Cancer is no respecter of timing, as you’ll see in a moment.

We also tend to congregate when a new baby arrives on the scene. New life is so precious and is well cherished. It’s lovely for the new mum to show off her new baby and to receive good wishes and gifts. Seeing my great-nephew just hours after he was born, was a joy I’m glad I didn’t miss. He’s a little cutie.

When both of the above situations occur at the same time within the same branch of a family, it’s a situation I’d rather not wish on anyone. It was very poignant and heartbreaking to visit the sick patient immediately after seeing the baby. Especially so the next day when he was too ill to hold the baby for very long;  his first grandchild.

On another positive note, though, a family member who lives in California is visiting Scotland just now – so time has also been spent getting updates on my American relatives.

Life in all its colours. Some writers might manage to make some sort of story out of such a situation but at the moment I can’t get beyond the practicalities. My diary dates have not been as pressing as that family contact.

Can you see yourself using a similar plot situation in a novel? It’s too close to home for me but I have read stories that have had comparable themes.

Nancy’s Novels are available from:

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