Vacation Shaming

Five am is an ungodly hour to wake up for the daily grind, but here I am, nonetheless. I make my morning oatmeal, which I am eating for “health reasons”. Does anyone really like oatmeal? I follow the microwave cooking instructions to a tee, and this happens…

OATMEAL

I don’t have time for this BS because I hit the snooze button a few too many times this morning. The sticky mess is now stuck to everything, the mug, the microwave, and me!

Is this really my life?

I accidentally touch my hair before washing my hands, and am now frantically searching myself for any remnants of oatmeal. I think about Billy Schwartz from the second grade. He showed up to school with a speck of “oatmeal” on his chin. Someone shouted, “Ewww! Billy has a booger!” Poor Billy was forever after labeled “Billy Booger”. Lucky for Billy, his Dad was transferred before third grade, and his family moved to South Carolina.

I toss a bunch of food items into a bag and call it “lunch” before sprinting to my car. I cannot be late for work. My boss has a thing about tardiness. I’m an Office Manager for a medical practice. It is not my dream job, but I was lucky to find it. I gave up my Sales and Marketing career years ago to stay home, and raise my two children; a decision I don’t ever regret until I look at my bank statement.

I look down at the gas gage and see that I am on “E”. I shout a few curse words to no one, and speed off to the gas station. Now I will definitely be late, and that means the entire day will go downhill from there.

My job is OK. I get wear scrubs. This is a big plus. But, I also get to listen to patients complain, and sometimes get agitated about the limits of their insurance plan, demanding to know why it doesn’t cover hardly anything. I agree. It is a problem. Most patients forget everything I tell them prior to their procedure. I see their eyes glaze over while I explain how insurance benefits work. There are limitations, and in-network versus out of network coverage amounts. There are percentages, deductibles and maximums. It’s confusing. Despite the fact that money is extracted from our paychecks every week to pay for insurance, insurance really does not cover a whole heck of a lot. The average person is terrified, and overwhelmed by the whole thing. I want to say, “You should write to your Congressman and let him know how you feel. Maybe then Congress would then get off of their butts, and fix our broken system.” Instead I say, “I am so sorry that your service was not covered. How would you like to pay for this?” I am also the collections department.

On the way to work I am stuck behind a minivan with an OBX sticker on the back. This makes me think of Billy Booger again. I wonder what Billy is doing now? I wonder if he still lives in the Carolina’s. Why don’t I live in the Carolina’s? I find myself suddenly jealous of Billy. I’ve spent the summer avoiding everyone I know just so I don’t have to listen to their fabulous vacation stories. I am also ducking social media to avoid seeing their happy vacation photos with palm trees and captions like “Best vacation ever!” Vacation shaming should be illegal. My hot, sweaty “vacation” week was spent moving my eighty-six-year-old mother into assisted living for the second time. She WAS living with me, AND she has dementia (more on this next time), so her new living arrangement is a blessing. Plus, I spent my vacation money paying a bunch of medical bills.

OBX (code for obnoxious)

I want to pass the van with OBX sticker, because I’m sick of looking at it, but I’m trapped in the endless Northern Virginia traffic!!! What is with the sticker shaming? I don’t care how many stick people, stick dogs, and stick cats you have in your family! And now the runner’s mileage stickers are all the rage: 13.1 and, 26.2!!! So what? If I don’t run marathons I’m not good enough???

I need a bumper sticker that says: “ You win! You’re better than me! Can we please move on now?”

I consider rear-ending the minivan just to crumple that OBX sticker a little bit. Some small, sane, section of my brain tells me that these thoughts are not normal. I decide that Northern Virginia is full of people who are full of themselves, and vow to move to another state as soon as possible!

I get to work, and my first patient has a billing question. No one ever wants to pay their medical bills. I get this. I push them to back of my bill pile as well. Mind you, not five minutes earlier, this same patient was going on and on about the two weeks he spent with his family in Machu Picchu over the summer. Now he’s telling me he that he wasn’t “prepared” to pay his bill, and we will have to send him a statement.

I try a little medical bill shaming and say, “You’ll have to bring your vacation pictures next time.”

“Oh, I will!” he says, no shame, “Peru was amazing!”

I give up!

I ask my next patient if she had a nice summer, and she tells me it was a lot of work, and that she and her husband stayed in Virginia.

“Really?” I ask, suddenly hopeful. Someone else’s summer sucked as much as mine!

“Yes, we had to go down to Virginia Beach. We’re updating our beach house there, and we had to supervise the contractors. Renovating is such a nightmare! Oh, buy the way I think you have something on your shirt,” she says.

I make a mental note to stop asking patients about summer, and go to the bathroom to look in the mirror. There’s a glob of something on my scrub top. It looks like a wad of boogers. Freaking oatmeal! I wash it off to the best of my ability, and now I have a big wet mark on the front of my shirt above my left breast. I think of Billy Booger again. I should really look him up on Facebook. I just need to wait until October when the vacation shaming has fully run its course. I’m thinking I’ll have some time then before it all begins again on winter break.

Happy Monday all! I hope reading about my life makes your life seem a little better!

 

 

I don’t kill Orchids….

My 1st Orchid

My father was a Professor of Horticulture, but I have a black thumb. My family jokes about my keen ability to kill plants, flowers, and sometimes shrubs. It always ends the same way with me saying: “I just don’t know what happened.”

The innocent plant was fine one day, and then suddenly it wasn’t.

Plants are not really all that complicated. They require water, and a certain amount of sunlight. Somehow, I mange to screw this up, either by over watering, or by under watering, or by allowing too much sun, or too little. So maybe for me, it is not so simple after all. I have had moderate success with a few cactus. But any houseplant unlucky enough, to come and live with me, does not do so for long.

I believe that the quality I lack, and that most plant lovers possess, is patience. You cannot hurry nature. Nature moves at it’s own pace.

A friend of mine grows Orchids. For years I had been in awe of her amazing green thumb, and certain that these exquisite, delicate flowers, were surely beyond the limited nurturing capability of someone like me. Then, a coworker, (who obviously did not know me well), gave me an Orchid as a gift.

I panicked! I tried to give it away, but there were no takers. Then, I read the instructions. I was careful. I treated the flower like the fragile thing I believed it to be. I was diligent. Attentive. Patient.

And it bloomed! Even better it remained in bloom for weeks. I could not believe how simple it was to care for.  I gave it ice cubes, not water. I let it sit in a sunny window. Sometimes, I forgot the ice cubes. This was wintertime, so sometimes the sun stayed away for days. Still, it bloomed! Such a remarkable plant, I thought, that blooms at random times of the year.

And then, one day, this happened:

 

One at a time, the flowers went limp and fell to the floor. I had murdered the beautiful foliage, after all.

I was saddened, but did not have the heart to throw it away. This once living thing had brought me such joy! I let it sit in a corner, on the windowsill. I dropped an ice cube into the pot whenever the spirit moved me. I went on to kill other plants, like Poinsettias, and Easter Lily’s.

Several months later, something miraculous happened. It bloomed! I had brought it back to life…or at least nature had. My new discovery: Orchids go dormant, and then they have a blooming phase. This cycle continues as long as you take care of the plant.

Do not let anyone fool you, if I can grow Orchids, anyone can!

Here are some great resources should you decide to grow an Orchid of your own:

How to Care for Orchids

How to Trigger Reblooming of Your Orchid

Thanks for reading, and keep writing!

Top Five Things I Can Never Bloody Well Find In My Own House!

Got children? Then you know what I’m griping about.

From the moment my two, sweet, bundles of joy were born it was clear nothing was mine anymore. I can tell you that as they grow older the issue only magnifies. For the most part, as parents we resign ourselves to this. We embrace sacrifice. It’s a big part of the job. Although, I would be remiss not to admit that sometimes, I’m driven slightly mad by the smallest of missing things.

  1. Scotch Tape: I don’t mean just at Christmastime, when there is never any tape left, and I’m certain I’m contributing to the soaring stock prices of CVS and 3M. I mean every other day of the year. I search the junk drawer, I rifle through the office – no tape. I finally find a wad of it wrapped around a piece of red construction paper with little sparkle hearts stuck to the outside – under my daughter’s bed.
  2. A Pen That Writes: There are pens everywhere in the house and each one has exactly enough ink to write the first letter of the item that I’m desperate to add to the shopping list. The rest of the letters are written in invisible ink. I’m sure that I’ll remember what I was trying to write once I get to the market – not so much. Picture a middle-aged housewife standing in the center of the canned goods aisle, cursing at a mostly blank piece of paper.
  3. Toilet Paper: There is nothing more infuriating than being stranded on the potty, and then noticing the empty brown cardboard roll. The more I buy, the more they use. I wonder if I am really raising two baby elephants, because the size of their behinds are grossly out of proportion with the amount of toilet tissue used.
  4. A Brush: I love that my daughter has long, golden locks that she brushes all on her own now. I don’t love using the ‘free comb’ leftover from school picture day to try to make sense of my hair. I know for a fact, that there are at least five brushes in the house because I purchased them all. What I don’t know is where on earth they went. One guess is under the seat of my car, a place I cannot go easily without risking throwing out my lower back.
  5. The Good Snacks: I know, I ask too much to even fantasize that I should share in the good snacks…even the few that I hide. That’s right, I just admitted it, and if you’re honest, you’ve done it too. Squirreling away food is an all time parenting low, but I never claimed perfection. Snack stashing is futile anyway. No matter where I conceal them, they are always eventually found, and not by me. My parental brain is so scrambled most of the time, I forget my hiding spots. The worst is ‘the look’ and the comments when they discover the treats, “Wow, Mommy! Seriously! You hid these?”

My own mother raised six children and is a saint by comparison to me. Although, I do remember her having occasional outbursts of, “Don’t touch my things!” It was usually over something small, and seemingly insignificant like a safety-pin. My siblings and I would look at each other and shrug, “What’s her problem?” I know it took awhile, but I get it now, Mom, and someday so will my kids.

Like thrills, chills and dark humor? My Amazon U.K. e-book Promo begins Saturday 10/18-10/25: “Secret Agent of God”

Also available for readers in the U.S.A., not on sale but still a bargain: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Agent-God-Eileen-Slovak-ebook/dp/B00IDEI76Y/ref=tmm_kin_title_popover?ie=UTF8&qid=1413385183&sr=8-1Got

Book Review: “Easy Like Sunday Mourning (A Page Turners Novel)” by Jennie Marts

I had a perfect mother’s day weekend, and hope you did as well!

For starters, I finished reading a fabulous book: “Easy Like Sunday Mourning (A Page Turners Novel)” by Jennie Marts. Style-wise, Marts’ women’s fiction reads like a cross between a Janet Evanovich and a Sue Grafton novel.

Jennie Marts witty, and face-paced novel, truly is a page turner. Humorous and engaging, I fully enjoyed my moments of escape, tucked away with this ‘cozy mystery’. Marts is a talented writer who will keep you guessing ‘who done it?’ right up until the end.

Of particular note, I hope to see more of the “Page Turner book club” in future books, especially the character Edna, who is a both a hoot and a holler. Finally, I will never again look at a ‘porta potty’ without giggling!

I just picked up Marts’ first novel: Another Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got No Body (A Page Turners Novel) by Jennie Marts, anticipating another great read.

For more on author Jennie Marts, see her author page on Amazon.com: Jennie Marts, author

To see my review on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/910871894

and on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/review/R85RGY3R8XGAW/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00HUTZLG2

 

 

 

A. Sex, Money and Sleep

Q. Name three things couples fight about.

Do I have your attention?

What is all the fighting about? Most would agree the problem is a matter of not enough.

 

#1 Sex

It is interesting that man and woman ever managed to procreate. For women, intimacy in the relationship is a physical manifestation of our emotional state. For men it is a physical act bringing about an emotional state. Do you see the difference? So how do you bridge this gap? The easiest way for men to get what they want is to give us what we want, emotionally. First, men would have to know what that is and women refuse to tell them because we think they really ought to know already, right?

Confused? I am not surprised.

Here are a few hints for men: It may involve listening. It may involve role reversal. On the other hand, it may involve role-play.

Now women cannot expect men to take on all the responsibility for this task on their own. For women, connecting with men may involve less talking. It may involve role reversal. On the other hand, it may involve role-play.

Then there is the problem of the other two things that we argue about getting in the way of #1.

 

#2 Money

A former employer of mine once said, “Money is only a worry for the middle class, because the poor don’t have any and the rich have more than they need.” He, of course, was wealthy. I was middle class. He was also a jerk, right?

Although, he may have been correct. For the middle class ‘striving to do better’ has become our mantra, even if we never feel as though we are making any headway. In the US, we worry about our lackluster economy. We wring our hands while watching our elected officials throw our money away with both fists. Food and gas prices soar, while salaries shrink. We feel, in a word, hopeless. It is difficult enough to support oneself in this environment but then add-on a spouse or a family and the stress multiplies.

We have only two options: spend less $ or make more $. Well, there are only so many hours in the day. With all of this weighing on the mind, how does a person ever get any…?

 

#3 Sleep?

Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. According to the experts at Webmd, getting less than this can cause a “sleep debt” which leads to impaired functioning, memory loss and/or lowered immunity.

What if you are working two jobs to secure more (#2) money? When do you sleep? What if your spouse is the cause of your sleep problems because he or she tosses and turns or snores all night long? When you are so exhausted, so worn out, how do you ever find the time or the desire for…?

#1 Sex!

Here we are right back where we started! Get some sleep folks! Guaranteed you will feel a whole bunch better.

 

Some good sources for Sex, Money, Sleep:

http://psychcentral.com/lib/sexuality-and-marital-intimacy/00012148

http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/24/news/economy/middle-class-economy/

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/video/sleep-personality

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements

 

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Kindle Promotion, 3/14-3/21

Hello all! Just a brief note of shameless self promotion!

I’m offering a special kindle/ e-book price on my new thriller. Just click the link below or the photo of the book on this page.

Secret Agent of God

The sale begins tomorrow for one week only, March 14th-March 21st. 

 

Tagline:

Kidnapped by terrorists for her prophetic visions, one woman needs to use her strange power to prevent hundreds of deaths—including her own.

 

Editors Comments:

Eileen Slovak blends the dangerous world of terrorism with the paranormal in a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller. Janice’s visions will have horrific consequences unless she learns to be a Secret Agent of God.

 

Book Reviews:

**** “An impressive first from début author, Slovak, with characters to root for and original, unforeseen twists. The unlikely heroine, a young mom with an unusual gift/curse, is extraordinary and relatable, all at once. I see this book in your near future!” -M.D. Taverner, author of Willow Bend: A Mara Hiddenbridge Mystery

 

***** “I would consider it a spiritual book as well 🙂 loved the main character Janice. I could relate to her in so many ways. A must read !!! Never a dull moment in this book! Hoping the author comes out with a second book about Janice. I want to know more about her next chapter in life! GREAT BOOK!” -Renee Stone

Some Valentine’s Day Advice for Men

This one’s for the guys…and here’s why…

In a few short days, it will be Valentine’s Day. It’s that special day when women’s hearts swoon in anticipation of the thoughtful, romantic, elaborate plans thoughtfully made by their beloved.

Now let’s be honest…despite the fact that the ‘big day’ is less than a week away, most of you men have no idea what to get for your wives or girlfriends.

What? Some of you are offended? I realize there may be that random male freak of nature out there who has a beautiful night of passion planned. You sir, have my sincere apologies. Feel free to move on to other blogs. To the other 99.9%…as it’s generally understood, admit you’re clueless and read on.

These are confusing times. We women send mixed signals. I truly sympathize with the complicated, modern male predicament.

Case in point…of course she wants chocolate! If she could, she would trade you in for your weight in chocolate. However, don’t you dare give her chocolate! Unless your wife/girlfriend has a freakishly high metabolism, this is the kiss of death! If you give her chocolate, you’re not getting any! And I don’t mean chocolate. Of course that won’t be shared either.

www.eileenslovak.com
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Before you judge us, there’s a reason why women love chocolate. It actually creates the same chemical reaction in the body as love. It’s not half bad as a substitute.

You may even escape unscathed, let’s just say, if you were to order chocolate from one of the best chocolatiers in the world…like Maison Du Chocolat in Paris  http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com.  A tiny, gorgeously wrapped box of minuscule, delectable, French chocolate heaven might impress your heart’s desire. Maybe you’ll be forgiven for the excess calories. Alas, it is getting late, even for express shipments from Paris.

Besides, do you really want to give her the substitute for love? Or do you want to give her love?

Why is Valentine’s Day so freaking important to women? What you have to understand is that this really has less to do with you, than you would think.

It’s a contest among women, the ‘who had the most romantic Valentine’s Day?’ contest. I blame Hollywood, but truly, it begins at work with the office flowers, the love bears, the fruit bouquets and goes downhill from there. Most of us women, don’t even want to participate in the Valentine’s Day office wars, but we have no real choice. If we slink to the back of the pack, they call us out.

“Hey, Sally. What did Jake get you for Valentine’s Day?”

Poor ‘big boned’ Sally, has two options here, to lie…or to tell the truth. Wouldn’t it be great, if just this once dear, sweet Sally had something amazing to tell? Something to make the anorexic Jennifer’s, and the bubbly Brittney’s and the saccharine Susie’s sing in unison, “AWWWWW!!!! That’s so sweet!”

Listen guy, you don’t have to be a super stud to pull this off.

OK, here’s the plan…you take that same box of Parisian or Belgian chocolates and lay them on a pillow…not just any pillow, but a pillow in a smarmy hotel…not just any hotel…but one with a Spa. If you’re broke, use points or make your own bedroom look like a spa. You pre-book Spa treatments for both of you, side by side. Her masseuse is a hot dude named Enrique and (I’m sparing you from a huge V-day fight right here) yours is a zaftig, German woman named Helga.

If you have children, YOU find and vet a suitable babysitter, plan a sleepover for the kids or even better, find a relative or trusted friend to watch the kiddos, because she won’t be able to relax if she’s worried about them.

OK. Honestly, I’m really only equipped to offer advice to the married men. We wives of multiple years, have dangerously low expectations.

Maybe your woman has a favorite singer, a favorite sports team, a favorite museum or a favorite Broadway show, whatever it is! Make it happen! Remember when you were dating? Remember how hard you tried? You know this woman better than anyone else and if you don’t, well, shame on you! Show her that knowledge. What blows her skirt up?

Maybe she really does love to play pool or air hockey and isn’t just faking it. You stage a tournament at ‘your place’. You let her win, but not obviously, so she can bellow, “I am the air hockey queen!” After which, you arrange to have her favorite song play. Better yet, you arrange to have your ‘couple’s song’ play. Even better, you find a decent singer to announce a dedication to her and have him sing the song. Best, you secretly take singing lessons and sing the song yourself. OK, that’s a bit Hollywood.  Then, you sweep her out to the dance floor and whisper something romantic in her ear. WIN, WIN!

You have a ‘light’ dinner DELIVERED and have champagne or her favorite wine, beer or soft drink on ice.

If you’re doing this at home, candles really are romantic. Do it! Just don’t burn the house down.

And…if you didn’t send them to the office, skip the bouquet of flowers, because one red rose or her favorite flower (bonus points!) given at the appropriate time is still really hot.

Most importantly, give her a totally, unique gift. This is where, if you can’t afford diamonds (because diamonds truly are forever!), you can still make a big score. A friend of mine told me her husband had a bracelet handmade for her out of recycled typewriter keys. It spelled out the acronym of their favorite romantic saying, ILUTD, “I love you to death”. Even I was like, “What??? Who does that?”

I know. It’s some tough competition. But, I have faith in you. Man-up and do this thing right.

The bottom line is…surprise her, rock her world! Do all of the planning and the thinking, just for just one night. Because she’s F***ing tired of taking care of everybody and every detail. I promise, you’ll get what we all know you really want and she’ll love you for it!

Guest Post: Seumas Gallacher

…if yeez can HEAR yer writing, yer on the right (sound) track…

…a true story I heard a few years ago concerned a six-year-old girl appearing as a key witness for the defence in a court case in the USA… the prosecuting lawyer sought to demonstrate to the jury that the child was incapable of recognizing fact from fantasy… he asked if the girl had a pet dog, to which she answered ‘yes’… he asked the dog’s name… she said ‘Pongo’… he continued, ‘do you speak to Pongo?’… she replied, ‘yes’… then he said , ‘…and does Pongo talk to you?’… she responded, ‘yes, of course Pongo talks to me’… the lawyer smirked, pleased to have shown the young lady as living in fantasy land… he asked the follow-up question, ‘…and just what does Pongo talk to you about?…’ she floored him and brought the court to a standstill in mirth with her response… ‘well, I don’t know, silly, he talks doggy talk!’…  the defence prospered… y’see it’s all about what yeez hear when yeez write, and more importantly, what yer readers hear when they read yer masterpieces… dialogue is universally accepted as a multi-purpose element of any quill-scraper’s craft… it imparts information… it breaks up narrative passage when required… the choice of WURDS in the character dialogue, used properly, tells the reader about mood, attitude, sometimes even intelligence levels of the cast… a sometimes welcome ploy is to use dialogue to break grammatical rules… and what author doesn’t relish that?… anything written within quotation marks is fair play… vernacular, double negatives, ‘plants’ in the plot for later denouement… oh, dialogue ye make the WURLD the scribbler’s oyster… speech also helps to differentiate players in yer plots… even without the ascription of ‘said’ WURDS… readers can pick up immediately who’s talking, and to whom… so, next time sumb’dy asks yeez, ‘…do yer characters talk?’  yeez can say, ‘…of course they do, they talk character talk, silly…’ … no more need be said… a-hem…

Books by Seumas Gallacher
Books by Seumas Gallacher

 

Blog                : seumasgallacher.com

Twitter                        : @seumasgallacher

Facebook         : http://www.facebook.com/seumasgallacher

Email               : seumasgallacher@yahoo.com

Blog Favorites

fork-in-the-road
fork-in-the-road

 

This week while I decide which direction to go in next, (thinking travel notes based on three years in Italy), I decided to just read everyone else’s blog in blogs I follow and list my weekly favorites to share with all you.

For incredible, ongoing inspiration, I like…

Bucket List Publications:

http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/life-is-an-adventure-surf-lessons-in-fiji/

For just plain fun cooking blogs:  Sharky Oven Gloves

http://sharkyovengloves.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/white-chocolate-sloe-gin-cupcakes/

And, because I could not decide:  The Sassy Swan  http://thesassyswan.wordpress.com/author/thesassyswan/

For passionate activism:  Lateral Love Australia www.lateralloveaustralia.wordpress.com

For consistently excellent, purposeful and thought-provoking writing:  The Living Notebook

http://thelivingnotebook.com/2012/11/30/day-30-the-proof/

For amazing and moving photographs:  Canadian Hiking Photography http://hikingphoto.com/

Because it is such a great idea and makes me smile:

Jump For Joy http://jumpforjoyphotoproject.wordpress.com/

Finally for ‘Chick Humor’ at its best:  Keeping It Real

http://keepingitrealmom.com/2012/11/28/no-consensus-in-the-dressing-room/

I hope you like these blogs.  Please feel free to recommend some of your favorites; I am always looking for good reads.