Wednesday, December 29, 2010

E-book Pricing

I received a Kindle for my birthday in October, 2010, so I can't claim any real knowledge of how e-books are priced, except from what I have observed in about ten weeks.

I have watched the prices of top sellers coming from the "traditional" publishers, i.e. the big houses that reside in New York, and the new releases appear to be $14.99, $12.99 for an e-book. Often that is not much less than the Amazon discounted price for the paperback version.

I subscribe to a couple of blogs that publish daily lists of e-books that can be purchased for less than $5, and often for less or even for free. (My favorite is Sometimes the low price is temporary, sometimes a pre-order. I got Jackie Collins' "A Santangelo Story" as a pre-order for free. Often the bargains come from independent publishers, or direct from published authors with a back-catalog of unpublished work. In recent weeks I have seen some price wars among the big publishers. You might find some $5 bargains in e-books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

According to Amazon's Russ Pham, Amazon has tried to set a standard of $9.99 or lower, but this "infuriated a number of established publishers, who feared that digital sales would undercut the lucrative hardcover market."

This reminds me a lot of the pricing for digital photo prints ten years ago when we first started using digital cameras. If you wanted prints from Kodak or Wolf Camera they charged enough to recoup the cost of the film you didn't buy. But then after online photo processors like Shutterfly and Snapfish got into the mix, prices dropped significantly. Now Kodakgallery charges 10 cents per print if you wait for a holiday special.

Just as with digital photos, where we snap hundreds more photos...I used to take one roll of 35MM photos on a week's vacation, now I'm likely to take 300 photos. I don't print them all, but I probably print 100. It seems to me that publishers can make a whole lot more from e-books than from printed. No paper cost, no printing cost, no warehousing, no shipping cost. Since October, I have spent $100 on 35 e-books; 23 of them were $5 or less.

I never make predictions, but I do believe that by June, 2011, we will see a big change in the pricing of e-books. And publishers will see a bigger profit than any previous year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Getting to Happy

Getting to HappyGetting to Happy by Terry McMillan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read Getting to Happy because it's our Book Club selection for January. I suppose we chose it because we wanted to see if it would be another "watershed moment" for women to talk about. Ms. McMillan starts in her Author's Note with a reminder that the movie Waiting to Exhale was not the same as the book. My initial feeling was that maybe I should go back and reread that book from 15 years ago. I still have it on my shelf...pocketbook edition with really small font. My Kindle has me spoiled with my choice of font size, so that book went back on the shelf.

I don't remember the details of Waiting to Exhale, book or movie. I read the book, and I saw the movie with two girlfriends, and I remember the occasion. We shrugged and went out for pizza afterward. I bought the soundtrack, and still play it from time to time. Good music by a variety of great artists. I remember the scenes from the movie where the songs were played...Mary J. Blige singing, "I should have left your ass a long time ago," and Patti LaBelle singing "My Love, Sweet Love." The music made a bigger impression on me than the screenplay.

All that to say that I'm not a great fan of Terry McMillan. This "sequel" to Waiting to Exhale was equally ho-hum. I got the feeling she just threw it together since her personal life has been keeping her in the tabloid news.

The four parallel stories of the same four women from "Exhale" would have been an easy read if not for the whiplash effect of changing tense and person. Most chapters are first person, present tense. "I'm driving my car to the casino." And sometimes she doesn't identify who is talking for several paragraphs, and only by way context with characters. OK, Sparrow is here, so it's Robin speaking. Then some chapters are third person past tense. "Gloria was in the backyard pulling weeds." There may be a reason for doing this, but it was lost on me.

I was glad when it was over. The ending fell flat for me. The four women drifted through three-quarters of the book until they decided to pull it together..."Let's meditate."

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Christmas Vest

Did I have a Christmas vest?
One with a big tree on the back?
I'm pretty sure I bought one,
Or did I forget it on the rack?

I remember looking through those sweaters
But I thought them way too much.
I thought a vest would better suit me,
better fit my style and such.

I searched through all the closets,
Couldn't find it anywhere.
Even asked my dear Tinker,
And all he did was stare.

Yes, I remember when you wore one.
It seemed pretty nice to me.
The one with all the decorations,
And on the back, a Christmas tree.

I know I get forgetful
Even absent-minded sometimes.
And I was thnking maybe I never bought it
Even if it fits the rhymes.

Well I searched again last evening
High up on the closet shelf
And like it heard me calling
That thing fell down by itself.

So I'll wear my Christmas weskit
With the big tree on the back,
And wonder how it did inspire
My couplet-worthy knack.

©2010 by Sarah Gordon Weathersby

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How do you prepare for your own death?

Crossing OceansCrossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's a sad coincidence that I finished reading this book the same day that Elizabeth Edwards died. The heroine of this book had less time than Mrs Edwards to prepare. She had been diagnosed with cancer, and given less than a year to live. Jenny Lucas returned home to the father she had not spoken to in almost six years, and to the ex-boyfriend who didn't know he had fathered a little girl now five years old.

I bought this book because blogged that the Kindle download was free for a short time. I looked a few days later and the price had returned to $9.59. I tend not to have a great deal of commitment for a book I get for free. If I put out my good money I will almost always hang in there to the bitter end. I almost gave up on Crossing Oceans before the third chapter. Jenny Lucas had already laid out her future, but she remained a bratty child with a chip on her shoulder. I didn't know if I cared enough about Jenny to see how she would end.

But as the other players in her life were introduced I found people that I could care about, especially that little girl Isabella. It became a real tearjerker.

The most intriguing part of the story, the part that offended some readers who wrote reviews on Amazon, was the "Christian" element. I put that in quotes because depending on how you are raised in your faith, we who call ourselves Christians can have very different views of the hereafter. While my view is very different from Jenny's expectation of death, I could see that it gave her a great deal of peace to "know" what to expect. Reading her story gave me a sense of peace, only because Jenny found peace. Jenny prepared Isabella through trial and error until she could die in peace.

I never would have found this book if not for DailyCheapreads. I give it four stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I pay attention to what other people are reading. When my husband and I travel I take note of people reading in airports, on the pool deck on cruise ships, around the pool in Vegas. The last couple of years, Stieg Larsson's books have been everywhere. But I had the impression that those books were dark, violent, mysteries. I swore off James Patterson for that kind of mystery.

But then I saw a piece on CBS Sunday Morning show, and I got intrigued by the author's life and death. Stieg Larsson churned out several novels as a hobby before he died of a heart attack at age 50. He never saw his works published and become international bestsellers.

When my daughter started reading them, I told her how I expected them to be violent. She had the same feeling about James Patterson, but she said "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" just had the one rape scene that was kind of the motivation for the rest of the story. By then I had my Kindle, and the Kindle version cost only $5.21. (I don't know how some Kindle books get deep discounts and some are stuck at a price higher than the paperback version, but that's another discussion.)

So I bought it, and I was hooked. The characters drew me in, with their separate stories that converged as I expected. I was most intrigued by Lisbeth Salander, the misfit, antisocial savant who hacks her way via the internet to helping solve the mystery. Then I read somewhere that the Swedish tile for this book is "Men who Hate Women," but it was too late to turn back; I was hooked.

Larsson's style is so fast paced, I sometimes wondered if my eyes could fly across the page fast enough to keep up. The ending is dark and disturbing, but I'm so caught up in the characters that I have to go on the next book of what the publisher is calling The Millenium Series. Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander continue solving mysteries in the next one. I give this one four stars.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Great Pat Down

Thanksgiving is over, and we didn't travel this weekend. When we did travel on November 13, that was my first experience with the full body scan at RDU airport.

Dear hubby had a hip replacement a couple of years ago, and he has gotten in the habit of requesting a "male assist" as soon as we get to the security checkpoint. He leaves me to keep up with his carry-on backpack and shoes while they pat him down. I have my own backpack with my assorted electronic gadgets, medications and "jewels"....important stuff. So I have my own shoes, backpack, and mini-PC to keep up with as well.

Before I entered the scan machine, they reminded me to take everything out of my pocket. I had a tube of Chapstick that had to go on the conveyor belt. I forgot I was wearing my money belt. It's not like I have big bucks, but I get nervous if I have more than $40 in my purse. When I travel, I stash the rest of my cash under my clothes.

After the scanner detected stuff under my clothes, I volunteered to take the money belt off, as I did on a trip through Heathrow airport a few years ago. But the female attendant, said no she would just pat me down. UGH. She really was very polite, and did it quickly, touching my underwire bra with the back of her hand, while I was trying to keep an eye on our stuff going down the conveyor belt. Then she had to dig into the front of my jeans to feel my money pouch....hmmm. But it was so quick, I was just glad to get out of there with all our stuff.

I know there have been lots of complaints across the country about TSA inspectors doing some really invasive feeling, and requiring passengers to remove prostheses, but my experience wasn't much worse than the old security inspection. I'm willing to give up some privacy for the sake of security.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To Love a Stallion

To Love A Stallion (Kimani Romance)To Love A Stallion by Deborah Fletcher Mello

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I met Deborah Mello at a Black History Month event earlier this year. Several of us black authors were hawking our books. She bought mine, and I bought one of hers. When I asked which one she would recommend that I read first, she started talking about the Stallion brothers as if they were her own children. There was that look of loving pride on her face when she talked about them. Then she said I should start with To Love a Stallion.

What I didn't tell her was that I had only read maybe five romance books in the last 25 years. I used to read Jacqueline Susann and Danielle Steel until they got to be too predictable and I quit cold turkey. The few romances I have read recently were book club recommendations or were written by an author I knew or had met.

My Stallion brother was a pleasant surprise. Of course a romance novel has to follow certain prescription. Girl meets boy and in spite of their initial conflict we know they will end up together. Marah Briscoe and John Stallion start out with conflict, then they get together, and break up, and get back together. Then there is something else to keep them apart. There are some surprises, even with the prescribed formula. Ms. Mello interweaves the history of black cowboys and the care and breeding of thoroughbreds against a backdrop of western life, where you wouldn't expect to see black people.

There are no trite details of luxury cars, lushly decorated houses, and perfectly matching shoes and underwear. The details are rich, varied, and imaginative. There is even a twist in the erotica, in that John Stallion always uses a condom. I'll have to read another of Deborah Mello's Stallion series, maybe Matthew, Mark, or Luke. I give John 4 stars.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Water Rising

Black Water RisingBlack Water Rising by Attica Locke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somehow I thought this book was a mystery. But the real mystery is Jay Porter...why he doesn't connect with his wife whom he loves, who loves him, and on whom he hangs his whole future.

There is that mysterious rescue of a woman from drowning in the bayou; a young man gets beat up by union guys who supposedly support the strike; oil seepage in the back yard of a kook who did a a one-man march on Washington; why is somebody following Jay or is he just paranoid from his "militant" days in the 70's.

But somehow I connected with Jay because I lived through the turbulent 60's and 70's. Although I never had a platform, my husband and I associated with people who were known as "militant," we had our phone bugged, and I often found myself spouting the rhetoric, "by any means necessary." (Ms. Locke uses the term "militant" only once in the whole book, in referring to Stokely Carmichael.)

Jay Porter was like so many people I knew from "The Movement," so I couldn't put this book down. I was transported back in time to those days when we had to be doing something relevant. It was a troubling story that will stay with me for a long time.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 5, 2010

For Colored Girls...

If anybody went to see "For Colored Girls" expecting to see Madea, they were sadly disappointed. I have to give Tyler Perry his "propers." He made millions giving (some) people what they want, now he's giving the people what he thinks they need. The credits for the movie list Tyler Perry as screen writer....based on the play by Ntozake Shange "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf."

I never had the opportunity to see Ntozake Shange's choreopoem, as it is called, performed, but I have read the 20 poems that make up the performance. In the original, seven women are known by the colors of the rainbow that they represent. TP uses the words of those poems and assembles them into a story, adding transitional scenes and men who don't appear at all in the original. They are the men whom the women are talking about, or talking to in the original.

I thought the screenplay was well constructed, sometimes moving quickly from one issue to the next, so there was no point where the story dragged. The scenes are emotionally draining, covering the worst experiences women can live through. The poem about rape was originally performed by several women, in the movie it becomes a monologue by the victim in closeup. (Spoiler alert!) This was an outstanding performance by Anika Noni Rose. I also loved Loretta Divine, Kimberly Elise, and Thandie Newton.

I have seen mixed reviews for "For Colored Girls." I give it four stars. I think it's Oscar material for somebody in the cast. I would vote for Anika Noni Rose.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first heard about this book, I felt some apprehension about reading it as I often do with books about black people, written by a white person. I tried to avoid it, but then the nice (white) ladies in my exercise class started buzzing about it, so I knew I had to read it. Then my book club made it our selection for November.

I will say that I enjoyed the book, loved the characters, especially Minny and Celia. I laughed and cried and got anxious along with Skeeter and Aibilene when their book came out. It's a story of bravery of a group of women in Mississippi in the 60's, from different backgrounds coming together to bring about a change.

BUT...and this is where my apprehension comes in as with many books about black people written by white people...sometimes the heroine is too wise, too perfect, and the white people in the story are one extreme or the other, either too patronizing or too evil. The black person's whole purpose in the story becomes solving the life issues of the white heroine.

The black hero/heroine starts to fit the stereotype of the "Mystical Magical Negro" that Spike Lee talked about in his lectures on film. Aibilene becomes another Boatwright sister from the Secret Life of Bees. You have to also consider Sydney Poitier's character in the Defiant Ones, Michael Clarke Duncan's character in the Green Mile, Whoopi Goldberg's character in Ghost. There are many others.

OK, it makes a good story, enjoyable cinema. When they make The Help into a movie, it will provide work for a lot of black actors. And I'll be there in the theater opening week, booing and hissing Hilly Holbrook.

I was going to excuse Kathryn Stockett's patronizing until I read her Postscript. She said she wished she had asked her family's maid before she died what it was like to be black in Mississippi. I remember the 60's when I attended a mostly white college in New Jersey after growing up in the Jim Crow South. One of my classmates asked me what it was like to be black. My response was, "Compared to what?"

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How many Degrees of Separation before you don't give

It always warms my heart when I see the kindness of friends on the internet. People I never met in person will respond to a need from someone they know only through me.

We saw an outpouring of help for our friends in New Orleans, just because they needed help. When I made an appeal for a kidney donor for a young man I never met, the response came from a friend of Rose's sister's daughter. (How many degrees is that?) And some of my friends who don't know Pat, responded with YU-GI-OH cards for her grandson in Hospice.

I'm asking again. My friend Deb Zacher is my muscle coach, the one I call Brunhilda, as in "that woman hurt me." Her friend Brenda Brown needs a cancer treatment that her insurance won't approve. Read Deb's blog here and do what internet friends do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Day for Good Karma

Did you ever feel like you were overdue for something good to happen. It's been one of those years for me.

Today was going to be my "Day Off." I had no appointments, so Sweetie and I planned to go to the State Fair. But Tuesday, I learned I had to take my sister to the Dentist. My 84-year-old sister and her 91-year-old husband moved to Raleigh to a retirement home earlier this year, largely due to my insistence. So guess who gets to take them to their appointments.

So I scheduled it as early as feasible to allow the old folks to have breakfast and be ready for me to pick them up. The dentist is five minutes from their retirement home, but the office is on the second floor with stairs on the outside of the building. I usually park in a handicapped space at the foot of the ramp, so my sister can use her walker. Brother-in-law, who is less steady on his feet, but refuses to use a cane or walker, would probably try the stairs, but it would take half an hour. I have a placard for handicapped parking that I only use when transporting them. This time I forgot to hang it on my mirror.

After I had been sitting in the waiting room, while Sis was in with the dentist about 15 minutes, a woman comes into the office, looks around, and asks me, "Did you park in the handicapped space down there?" I say yes, and she says, "You forgot to put your placard in the window. You need to go get it...quickly." So I go immediately and hang the sign on my mirror. Within less than a minute, a police car comes cruising through the parking lot, stops behind my car, checks the handicapped placard, and moves on down to the middle of the next section, where he stops.

When I go back to the waiting room, the dentists' receptionist tells me what happened. Someone in the one of the offices near where I parked called the police, but one of her co-workers heard the conversation and came to tell me. Apparently she has helped others like this before.

My first thought was, "What busy-body has time to call the police when there are plenty other empty handicapped spots available?" Then I thanked God for the other busy-body who took the time to run and tell me. Then I had to wonder if the local police don't have anything better to do. When we finished the appointment, the police car was still there, and stayed while I helped my old folks into the car, and exited the parking lot in the other direction.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Second Chance at Happiness

Second Chance At HappinessSecond Chance At Happiness by Sherry McFarland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sherry McFarland tells a good story. It's a little bit "School Daze," a little bit "Why Did I Get Married,"... HBCU gets married. It kept me turning pages until the shocker in the middle of the book.

The story took me back to a more carefree time in my life with an ensemble of characters I liked, even the flawed ones. I found it elegant the way Sherry bridged the gap between "Urban Fiction" and "Christian Romance" without being raunchy or preachy.

A first person fictional narrative can be tricky. How does the narrator reveal the things she isn't supposed to know? Sherry does it by switching narrators. It would be smoother if she did it without repeating everything. Still, I laughed, cried, and had my heart lifted with the life of Nina Simone.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!!

Happy Birthday to ME!!! I never thought I would live to see 65. Thank you Lord for all you've done for me!!

As you see, I am wearing my Birthday Suit! Age has its privileges, and an old broad like me ought to be able to do anything she wants on her birthday.

At the beginning of the year, I said I was going gray. It was my intention to be there in time for my new Driver License. In North Carolina we renew every 5 years on the 5-multiple birthday. So it's official!!

And how am I going to spend my day....a mammogram and a bone density scan....WHOOPEEE!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network

The year was 1986. (Mark Zuckerberg was two years old.) I was honored to be sent by my company to CADRE, the National ADR Users Group meeting. ADR was swallowed up by a bigger database company a few years later, but at the time, I considered myself the data bigot, the one in charge of relational database design. I had come up through the ranks as a programmer, my coding days were over, but I was still, the super-geek, super-geek. (Apologies to Rick James.)

The keynote speaker at CADRE that year was Bill Gates, a senior citizen at age 30, and he talked about his new operating system, Windows. The audience was other main-frame geeks like me, who were fascinated with the future of PC development as described by Gates. We had not even heard of the internet yet. I remember Bill Gates was a nerd, but he had a certain charm, a self-deprecating humor, that kept his audience enthralled with his vision of the world to come.

Fast-forward to 2004, the Harvard dorm room of Mark Zuckerberg. If you believe the movie which claims to be fiction, he's the ultimate nerd with no social skills, no scruples, no morals, and after building a site with 500 million users, has no friends.

I thought I was going to get a nap during the's been one of those weeks when I couldn't get a nap. But it kept my attention every minute. And who else was in the Friday matinee, but other old geeks, probable Facebook members like me. I suppose some might have been wondering how they missed the chance to be a billionaire.

If you've seen the trailers, you know the movie chronicles the building of Facebook, intertwined with the depositions of the lawsuits that follow. Did he really stiff his best friend, his only friend, who put up the start-up money? They settled the lawsuit with an undisclosed amount. And did he really print those business cards? (Apologies again to Rick James)

I've seen a few interviews with Zuckerberg, and Jesse Eisenberg who plays him, has him nailed...the obsessive talking, the fidgeting, the lack of

Justin Timberlake was impressive as a sleazy Sean Parker, the founder of Napster.

I give the movie three stars.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Just Want to be Loved...

It's an exciting time to be an author these days, especially if you're internet savvy. And if you are willing to take that leap, you can self-publish works that might be otherwise difficult to get into print.

I enjoy short stories, but I don't remember the last time I read one before today. I used to subscribe to piles of magazines and read the stories in the New Yorker, or even Playboy (mee???). I had to get more frugal with retirement, and my magazine reading has become mostly limited whatever might be in the doctors' office.

But today, this fun little book arrived, and it was perfect for the end of a hectic day. Soyon Im explores the wonder of internet relationships in "" Her prose gives me the light and airy feeling of a walk through lotus petals, with the side-jab humor of a Seoul thing. The story takes us through the ups and downs of losing your heart in instant messaging. It was easy to identify with her character Sunghee.

David Massengill completes the book with an offering of flash fiction and a short-short story. "The Little Man" almost had me checking under the bed for the ghost. And even though we know where the story is going, it still gave me the creeps along the way. And with "No Mas, Mi Amor," he shows his talent for developing a personality conflict within a short conversation.

I loved it. I give it four stars.

I would be remiss if I didn't include a tribute to Betty Boop.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Birthday Sale

It's the big one, Elizabeth. Sarah is having the big birthday this year. To celebrate, we're having a sale. You can purchase your autographed copy of Motherless Child - stories from a life for $14.00 now through the end of October, 2010, or while supplies last. From Amazon Seller, "saraphen" (that's me). Click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Joplin's Ghost

Joplin's GhostJoplin's Ghost by Tananarive Due

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading this book. I was probably pouting about having to wait for another one of the Blood Brothers series, and nearly missed a national treasure.

I loved this book!! The "Ghost" thing may have kept me away for a while. And maybe it did take me a few dozen pages to stop checking under the bed for the ghost.

I love the way Ms. Due intertwines the historical life of Scott Joplin with the fictional life of an up-and-coming R&B singer who finds herself possessed by Joplin's Ghost. She easily makes the transition back and forth between the life of a black musician 100 years ago, and the R&B/pop/hip-hop scene of today, with the dangers of syphilis years ago and gang violence today.

By the time I finished the book, I felt like I knew the real Scott Joplin, and I wondered if it isn't also Ms. Due who is possessed by his ghost. Joplin lives on through this book.

This is a must-read. I give it five stars.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Don't Do Self-Help

I say that at the risk of offending those who do. Let's just say, I'm beyond being helped. There was a time when I would buy the latest non-fiction best seller, which might likely be a self-help book. In my years of working, I enjoyed going to hear the motivational speakers, and I attended the motivational seminars. When I reached the point when I had a budget, I would make sure my staff went to hear the latest from Zig Ziglar, Steve Forbes and the like.

I would go, and get all inspired to change my outlook. I would buy the book, the tapes, the videos. But somewhere along the line, I would open that box of tapes, and ask myself, "what was it all about in the first place." At my age, memory is short, inspiration is fleeting, and my outlook these days is staying alive.

I don't attend the annual "Women's Empowerment Seminar." If anybody asks, I say, "I have all the power I can stand." This is not to belittle those who love to attend the motivational meetings. I would have been there with you 20 years ago.

The latest Motivational tour is coming to Raleigh this month, and will feature, "Live and in Person."

* General Colin Powell: Legendary Soldier-Statesman
* Steve Forbes: President and CEO of Forbes, Inc.
* Dr. Robert Schuller: America’s Best Inspirational Speaker
* Lou Holtz: Renowned Notre Dame Head Coach
* Brian Tracy: America’s Top Authority on Selling
* Zig Ziglar: America’s #1 Motivator
* Rudy Giuliani: America’s Mayor

That's straight from the flyer. (Would I make up "America's Mayor?") Can't you just imagine the testosterone in that venue!! And I'm as old as some of those guys. What can they tell me about my life?

You can take your entire office for $39!! You can be sure there will be books and videos to buy.

Call me cynical, or just old and grumpy. It's no longer about achievement, titles, money or material things. When it comes down to it, the only help I need is here: Psalm 121:2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sarah's Rules for Living

My long-time internet friends have seen this for at least ten years. It's worth repeating from time to time.

1. Remember where you came from.

2. Don’t do something once that you don’t expect to do forever. (There’s no such thing as just this once.--As in, letting the 2-year-old sleep in your bed.---As in, caving in to the church-lady.----As in, trying something freaky!!>>OOPS!!)

3. Don’t put your business in the street. (Catfights do nothing for your image.)

4. Don’t settle for less than being adored.

5. Leave with the one who brought you. (When my big brother told me this one, he meant “the party,” but it applies just as well to life.)

6. Your ancestors didn’t survive the Middle-Passage for you to go out and mess up. (When I used to say this to my kids, it always came out wrong, "Your ancestors didn’t die in the Middle-Passage for you to go out and mess up").

7. Don’t wait for life to happen to you. (The door won’t open if you don’t knock, or have the key.)

8. Spend more for housing than for your car.

9. Friends are God’s love in the flesh. Don’t let him down.

10. Hang up and drive.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Do we have to eat to entertain?

Do you feel obligated to feed anyone who comes to visit you at your house? When you're not having a party, didn't invite them, but they just stopped by. Maybe they called first...people don't just drop in like they did in the Olden Days when I was a child. Do you feed them?

When I was a child, people did just drop in. Mostly it would be Sunday afternoon, or just about any afternoon in the summertime. We didn't know they were coming, they just stopped by for a visit.

I know Mother always felt obligated to offer them something to drink. "Would you like some ice tea?" before they could sit down. If they said yes, or even said, "Could I just have some ice water?" Mother would go fix something to eat. If we had some cake or cookies, she would get out the glass dishes and serve them dessert. It often happened that there was nothing left of the cake or cookies, since there were so many of us children in the house, so she might send one of us out the back door to the corner store to find something to "serve."

And of course we were sometimes the ones dropping in. I remember my brother George would sometimes take me with him to visit his girlfriend Shirley. I was about 4 years old, so he would have been about 15. I never knew why he would ask me to come. It could have been any number of reasons.

1) He was too nervous to go alone.

2) He was using my cuteness factor to ensure that Shirley would let him in.

3) Shirley always served something if he brought me along.<<<<-------

Of course that was the reason I went along. Shirley always served Burry's Fudgetown cookies. She put a bunch on a plate and I could eat them all by myself without having to share with my sister Toni.

I tried to break the cycle of feeding the drop-in guest. Of course, these days people don't drop in unannounced the way we used to. We can stop in at the Goodberry's or Starbucks when we need an afternoon sugar fix.

P.S. George and Shirley recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What had happened wuz....or how I got suckered

It was no ordinary day. I got up, showered and dressed, and didn't have breakfast. I was fasting until my 9:30 doctor's appointment. I did have a big glass of water so my veins would perk up for all the blood work.

After the annual physical and bloodwrok, I was feeling rather puny, and boogeyed on down to the nearest McCafe to try the latest new thing from Mickey Dee's...a banana-strawberry smoothie. It tasted great and was just the thing on a hot NC morning. Then I started wondering what was in that pink sweet concoction.

I had a few errands to run, but when I got home I decided to Google the nutritional content of that thing. The site I found, didn't say which size smoothie they tested (I had a small one) to get 292 calories. So I clicked on a link that said "McDonalds - Official Site." This was where the SUCKER Punch started. The link went through some google-ads machinations before landing on this page. I should have been more observant...the URL was blah and my McAfee Site Advisor was bright yellow...WARNING!!

But I was distracted by the "FREE McDonald's Arch Cards." I know McDonalds is very generous with those cards at some venues...or maybe I can blame it on the brain freeze and high fructose corn syrup.

I'm usually the one who helps people get out of the mess they get into by clicking on some dumb interent link, but there I went...

I filled out the Name Address and phone number stuff, then they wanted my cell phone number. Brain was still frozen. Then they sent me a confirmation text message, all while asking me more questions online. Next thing I knew I had signed up for Unlimited ringtones for $19.99 per month!!! ARGHHHH!!! YIKES. This is the stuff that happens to teenagers not paying attention.

Finally my brain thawed out. I closed all the internet windows and called my cell phone provider. Thank God for good Customer Support. They got me out of that mess. The charge had already posted to my account. They took it off and put a purchase blocker on my phone. I never in my right mind buy anything through my phone.

No more McD's Banana-Berry Smoothees for me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Catchall Simile

When did AS HELL get to be the simile for all time?

According to Bossip Alicia Keys was in Central Park this morning, looking as pregnant as hell???

Gorgeous as hell? Hungry as hell? Hot as hell....that one I'll take. But cold as hell???

This comes from published writers. I won't name names. Can somebody give me some better similes than hell?

I thought Alicia looked radiant with her baby-bump.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Daddy Read to Me

I didn't have Dr. Seuss, or any other kid's books, but my Daddy read to me. By today's standards, you might call him a house-husband. He was a priest, and he was home with me during the day while Mother taught school. Daddy did the laundry, and cooked dinner during the week.

I come from a reading family, so I would sit myself in Daddy's lap while he read the newspaper, and he would read to me. He read me the headlines, and the "funny paper." Mostly he read "Henry" to me, since Henry didn't have words, and together we would figure out what Henry was doing that would merit his being in the Funnies.

When my sister Toni went off the first grade, I discovered "Dick and Jane" and read all the old primary readers my brothers had discarded in the attic. I read to Daddy and he read to me.

When my siblings got married, he was the officiating priest for almost all of their weddings. When I got married in 1968, I asked Daddy to give me away. That was the only time I remember seeing him "dressed up" and not wearing clerics. Daddy retired that year, and passed away in September, 1968.

Sunday is Father's Day. It would also be Daddy's birthday. He used to say he was born in 1900. He didn't have a birth certificate, because in some parts of the South in those days, they didn't have birth certificates for black people. When Daddy applied for Medicare in 1965, they had to search the Census records to prove he was old enough for Medicare. Daddy was listed as a child in the 1900 census. So we concluded that Daddy was probably born around 1898. He would be 112 on Sunday.

My Daddy read to me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Heir to the Summer Blockbuster

Will Smith owned the slot for the summer blockbuster since "Independence Day" the summer of 1996. As long as he was the favorite goofy hero, he had the summer locked up. After he slid into the dark side with "I am Legend" and "Seven Pounds" he relinquished the summer.

Now that spot belongs to his son Jaden, in "Karate Kid." My sons were big fans of the 1984 release of "Karate Kid." But this latest release speaks to a new generation of urban youth who have a greater degree of martial arts exposure than the kids of 30 years ago. The international element keeps it from being just another black movie. If you can buy the premise of a single black Mom being transferred from Detroit to Beijing to work for an auto manufacturer, you can believe the frumping-down of Taraji P. Henson as the Mom (even a hottie has to work).

Jaden is a natural, and young enough not to appear weak when hiding from the bullies. I loved the interplay with Jackie Chan.

The movie is rated PG. The fight scenes are not bloody, but there was enough punching to make me hide my eyes a few times. The audience when we saw it at noon today was mostly white parents and kids around Jaden's age. The local Karate School used the opportunity for a promotion, with flyers and passes for a month of free lessons. The ticket sellers were even dressed in robes.

I'm awaiting the reports from my green-belted grandgems when they see it. I give it four stars. (I didn't fall asleep at all.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

From Cape Town with Love

Nothing but a potty break could pull me away in the last 100 pages.

From Cape Town with Love, the third Tennyson Hardwick novel is the most suspenseful yet. I was all set to complain about the S&M episode (bondage is a real turn-off for me) but all of that fell by the wayside when it came down to the story, just as the previous two novels in the series got the sex out of the way fairly early in the book. In spite of "Ten's" flaws, lack of control, and attempts to bargain with God, he is the hero we want him to be. I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know how Ten would solve the kidnapping.

I have previously likened Tennyson Hardwick to Walter Mosley's Ezekiel Rawlins, brought into the twenty-first century. Just as Mosley uses the racial conflict in LA in the 1950's and 60's as a backdrop for murder mystery, Underwood, Due, and Barnes use Hollywood of the Obama years, the election and recession as a backdrop. Mosley gave us "colorful" titles for his Easy Rawlins series. The Tennyson Hardwick series has titles that play on classic movies from Bogart, Poitier, and Bond.

There are points when the 2010 pop culture becomes a little distracting, but who knows, fifty years may prove that Paris Hilton, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jack Bauer are as timeless as Loretta Young and Clark Gable after all.

I know Tananarive Due's writing for her tender characterizations that make for people that I care about. Even minor characters and immortals who leave a trail of murder over centuries are the ones I look forward to reading more about. I know Steven Barnes only through my subscription to his daily inspirational emails for aspiring writers. They are full of references to eastern meditation, and to martial arts discipline and training. The martial arts sequences in Cape Town were spell-binding.

Now I'm hopeful that the next Tennyson Hardwick installment will come soon, but not before the next installment of Ms. Due's Ethiopian immortals. The cameo appearance in Cape Town of an Ethiopian named Dawit was a nice tidbit for fans like me.

I give the book 4 1/2 stars.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vook You!!!??

That's my chair. My One Enormous Chair. You know the one, "Oh wouldn't it be loverly," chair. It kinda symbolizes how I like to read. I'm not always in that chair. Sometimes I'm in a pile of pillows on the bed, or on the sofa, or my new swoop chaise, or in a deck chair on a cruise...with a book, cosy and comfortable. When people have discussions about whether they like to read the book or see the movie first, some don't care one way or another. Some prefer the movie first. I prefer the book. The book lets me paint the scenes in my head, and usually gives me a more complete story. Sometimes the movie makes clear the things I didn't understand until I got to the last page of the book. You know when you get to the last page of a Toni Morrison novel, and you think, "OOOOH, so that's what that was about." The movie can save me from having to read that book again. I still have it on my list to read "Paradise" again. I don't see a movie forthcoming.

I'm a geek at heart, but I still love to feel the pages of a book. I'm starting to wrap my brain around the idea of an ebook. I don't have an eReader yet, but I'm working on it. (Kindle: hint! hint!) Bear with me, I'm working up to the vook thing.

When I first learned that my favorite author, Tananarive Due, and her husband, screen-writer Steven Barnes were collaborating with one of my all-time favorite hotties, Blair Underwood on a mystery book, I thought it would be a great idea. It took me a while to get on-board and buy "Casanegra," and by then they had published the second book in the series, "In the Night of the Heat." After reading, "Heat" I became a true fan, and bought Casanegra as well. They are both page-turners, but I liked "Heat" more. There was less of the "Die Hard" (You know how Bruce Willis is so beat up by the end of the movie, you wonder if he will live.) and more of the Walter Mosley, "Easy Rawlins' transported to the twenty-first Century. The third book in the Tennyson Hardwick series, "From Cape Town with Love" just hit the stores in May. I bought it and convinced my book club to make it our selection for the next meeting.

Since I'm a Facebook fan of (I "like") Blair Underwood, I get his promotional messages on my Facebook home page. He is now promoting the VOOK for the latest Tennyson Hardwick book. That's Vook as in Video-Book. I went to, clicked on the link for Blair Underwood, and got the sneak peek. I don't know if I want this. OK, it's enough that Blair is on the cover of the novels (" Blair Underwood Presents"), as the character Tennyson Hardwick. I'm OK with that. I have Blair in my head as Tennyson. But I had already visualized Chela and April and Dad in "Heat," only to add a different layer in Casanegra, so that in my mind April looked like Tananarive Due, not Taraji P. I'm not ready to see the movie at the same time that I'm reading the book. I feel like you're messing with my head, and even making casting decisions that may be changed when (not if) the book makes it to the big screen.

I'm all about expanding your audience, but it feels like dumbing down a good novel by adding video. And it raises the question of what is Blair's role in the collaboration. The copyright says "Copyright (c) 2010 by Trabajando, Inc., Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes." Is it Blair's role to get the book to the silver screen?

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Just Wright"

One "guy movie" deserves a "Chick flick." We saw Iron Man 2 last week, so this week it was my turn. Everybody loves Queen Latifah, even hubby who doesn't like rap. I didn't tell him until we were leaving the theater that Common is my favorite rap artist. The only rap CD I ever bought was "Be." Besides I like it when the authors of "Explicit Content" can get a PG rating for their movie.

If you saw the previews, you know what happens in "Just Wright." There were no surprises, except maybe Paula Patton's dumbing down. But she was convincing. Can somebody tell me what is a "god sister?"

Hubby liked the basketball scenes...lots of NBA players being themselves. I always like it when the big girl gets her man. Queen was her usual fun and sassy self.

The story dragged in spots....OK let's get to the part where she gets her man. But it was fun to watch. I give it two and a half stars.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bucket list item: Figure out Medicare

This is my year to go on Medicare. You would think that since I'm the youngest of seven siblings, I might benefit from my older siblings' knowledge of Medicare, but no. Something changes every year, and each of my siblings has had a different set of circumstances going in. Some Federal employees, some veterans, various combinations of health or prescription requirements. I'm having to figure out mine on my own.

The thing that is somewhat distressing is having to make decisions that will impact my health for years to come, at a point in my life when it is increasingly difficult to sort out all the "Parts" of Medicare. Fortunately, North Carolina and many States have agencies whose sole purpose in life is to help Seniors sort through the alphabet soup of Medicare. In NC it's called SHIIP, Seniors' Helath Insurance Information Program. They were the first ones I called. I told them that I retired from the State Government, and they told me Medicare would pay 80% of my health claims, and then the State would kick in. My coverage with the State would be 80% of the remainder. Then they reminded me that I would have to pay the State deductible first....currently $600 per year, plus co-insurance if applicable....HUH?

So I started digging through my handy "Official Government Handbook" on Medicare. They really ought to get some 70-year-olds to review the language in that thing. There's Part A, that many people get "Premium free," unless you're one of the people who has to pay for it. (What?)

"If you choose to buy Part A, you must also have Part B and pay monthly premiums for both." (Didn't I hear a bunch of tea party folks complaining being forced to pay for health insurance under the Obama plan?) I started wondering if you could opt out of Medicare...maybe if you're healthy you could wait until you get older and have more health costs. Nope, Nope, Nope.

"If you don't buy Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You will have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A but didn't join." GEEZ!! Why didn't my hubby tell me all this when he signed up. Well, hubby is a Federal retiree who came along during the Reagan years when Federal employees were not under Social Security. He wasn't even sure if he would be covered by Medicare. He is, and he is also covered by the same health plan he had when he worked. He had to change providers when he moved to North Carolina, but he still has the same coverage. He doesn't have to get into the alphabet soup.

So anyway, I started digging into the handbook to see if I could get some relief from that $600 deductible and co-insurance, and read about Parts A through D. I'm still trying to figure out if the Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) will help me. The good people at SHIIP told me that my State Insurance would continue to cover my prescription drugs, so I don't need Part D. (The only good thing so far) I tried calling AARP, since they sent me their brochure of Medicare supplement plans. Plans A through D (not to be confused with Parts A through D) and plans E through J. The AARP person said I could not get a supplement since I already have the State plan as a supplement; that would make me over-insured. I could drop the State plan, but then I would lose the prescription drug coverage (no premium) and would have to get a Part D.

OH LAWD!! I'm going to have to call somebody to talk me through Medicare Advantage. Meanwhile the vultures are calling. The list of people turning 65 must be on a hot bulletin board somewhere. I have an appointment with my State Farm guy tomorrow to talk about home and car coverage. He'll probably bring out the Medicare kit.

Getting old sucks!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2

Hammercy. I thought I had fallen into a testosterone pit. We went to the 12:30 showing. (After the 12:00, and before the 1:00, 1:30, 3:00, 3:30....) I think I was one of five women in the theater. First we had to see the previews of coming guy movies, "The A-Team," "Prince of Persia," "Robin Hood." Shrek got in there too, and next year's Spielberg movie. After all that action, the guys were really stoked. (Where do all these guys come from for a matinee on a Friday? I heard one say, "one of the advantages of being self-employed")

If you saw the first Iron Man, this one is more of the same, but more action, more villains, even Mickey Rourke as a Russian Physicist. And Samuel L Jackson is back. I'll have to update my Sam Jackson hair chart. This time he's bald with an eye patch. Robert Downey Jr as himself, same self-indulgent playboy, with the same arrogant sexual innuendos. Good guy fun. His side-kick "Rhodey" is played by Don Cheadle this time, taking over Terrence Howard's role - because, you know, they look so much alike. (stole that line from our local critic, Craig Lindsey, click here.)

I enjoyed it. I caught a snooze in there when they went into too much techno-babble. I give it three stars.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Amazon vs North Carolina

We all know State governments are hurting for revenue these days. I can't blame them for looking for some Mother-Lode of unpaid taxes. Those of us who shop online know the major online retailers who don't also have a brick and mortar store somewhere usually let us off without charging sales taxes. Amazon is very likely the biggest fish out there. I have shopped on Amazon for over 10 years. (Yikes!) And now time is coming to pay up.

Amazon has already provided the NC Department of Revenue the list of customers and what they paid Amazon since 2003. I shop frequently on Amazon, and I have no problem with that. I expect they will send me a bill for back sales taxes. The books and assorted stuff that I have bought wouldn't surprise anybody reading this, and would not raise any eyebrows anywhere.

The flak around the internet is about a potential witch-hunt by every state needing additional tax funds, and the violation of First Amendment rights by any State seeking a list of the items purchased by every Amazon customer living in the State. So Amazon is suing to keep that list of items private.

I haven't seen any article that mentions the issue of public information. I won't claim to be an expert on the Public Information Laws, but my prior responsibility as custodian of data within the State of NC tells me that any data collected by any State agency, unless it is exempt by law (Health records, certain personnel records, and a few other exemptions), is public information.

Even before every agency had a website for delivery of commonly requested public information, they had to deliver, or provide to anybody who made a proper request. The requester might have to pay a fee to cover the cost of collection and delivery, but if it's public, any John or Jane Doe (or more likely News Reporter) could ask and expect to receive. In an election year you can count on the local News and Disturber doing an Exposé of certain elected or appointed officials based on public information such as telephone calls and trip expense reports. Now the DOR wants to collect more information about the citizenry's buying habits even when bought with personal funds and used on personal time. Let's many prospective Grand Jury members purchased "The Politician," the John Edwards exposé.

When the DOR sends me the bill for back sales tax, they don't have to cross-reference what I bought. I can look at my Amazon order history and confirm my own purchases for myself. OOPS, I just checked....there goes my 2009 tax refund, they haven't sent me yet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jeans That Fit

This is a topic that most women can relate to. Especially black women. It has certainly been one of my life-long challenges to find a pair of jeans that will cover my butt and also fit my waistline. I don't do low-riders, and I don't work as a plumber.

When I find a pair that fit, I usually try to buy more than one, same size, different color. That's another challenge. Then comes the issue of having the jeans keep their fit. A little bit of weight gain in the wrong place can relegate those great jeans to the back of the closet. Weight loss is less of a problem, but women don't like baggy jeans. And if you wash (and heaven forbid, dry) those jeans that fit, you can find yourself lying out on the bed with a pair of pliers trying to zip them up.

I got excited when Cookie Johnson was on Oprah introducing her line of jeans designed for the black female figure. But then she introduced the price too. You can purchase those wonderful figure-hugging jeans at Nordstroms and Nieman Marcus starting around $110 per pair. I also found them online today at Zappos in the same price range. That's at least twice what I want to pay for a pair of jeans.

Undeterred, I still continued my search. In October, I found what appeared to the perfect jeans online at Coldwater Creek (Natural Waist Curvy Bootcut Jeans). It was during one of their big sales, and the jeans cost $22.49. I didn't dare buy more than one, for fear they would fit. Coldwater Creek delivers quickly, and I tried those jeans as soon as they arrived. Perfect fit!!!

Then I remembered what one of Oprah's advisers had said about maintaining jeans that fit. He said, "Don't wash them. Freeze them." I remembered Oprah's mouth dropped open when he said it. He assured her that the freezing kills any funkiness on the jeans. She still looked skeptical, and I doubt that Oprah would even consider freezing her jeans. But I tried it. After I wore those jeans twice, I put them in a zip-loc bag and put them in the freezer for a couple of weeks. The next time I wanted to wear them, I pulled them out, hung them up long enough for them to get to room temperature, and wore them.

Now it's the end of April and I still haven't washed those jeans. I haven't spilled anything on them or worn them in mud or rain, or bathroom accident. They still smell fresh out of the freezer.

I have been back to Coldwater Creek several times trying to buy more of those same jeans, and the price was back up to $59.95 (OK, I'm cheap)....until today, I found them for $29.99 at their Outlet store. I tried buying two, but they only had one in my size....ARGHHH. After I get the new one, I'll take a chance and wash that first pair. But I'll freeze those new ones.

So if you see me wearing jeans that really look good, don't be coming up behind me with that Jill Scott, "Raheem...sniff, sniff."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Troubling the Waters

I blogged before (here) about going to Labadee for the Beach Party on our Cruise. We went last week on the Celebrity Solstice, cruising the Caribbean. The final port was Labadee, Haiti.

I decided I wouldn't feel guilty about being there, even knowing that just over the mountain, there are people still without a roof over their heads in Port-au-Prince. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships stop at Labadee every week, and since the earthquake, have brought emergency supplies with every visit.

Since we had been there before, we knew to expect a large space for the local artisans to sell their wares. Hubby came prepared to "stimulate the economy," buying wooden carved stuff, and wicker woven stuff, and assorted objets d'art.

I was fine hanging out on the beach for a while, but the winds were high, and the shore was rocky. I had a hard time keeping my hot dog and ribs from blowing off the plate. I started feeling troubled. The spirits were calling me.

It was the same dizzy claustrophobia (even in an open space) I had in the slave dungeons at Elmina Castle, in Ghana. The spirits of the dead were calling me from under the rubble on the other side of the island. Will our dead ever rest in peace?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Going Gray

I got my first gray hair when I was in my thirties. It was one of those spirally kind of hairs that stuck out above my forehead. The solution was simple; pluck it out. There's an old wives tale that says if you pluck one gray hair, more will grow back in it's place. That same lonely one kept coming back for a while. It took a few years for more to sprout around my head in spotty clusters. By the time I was forty, I was using "Loving Care," to cover the gray. It was a semi-permanent product that was supposed to last through 8-12 shampoos. You can still find it on the Clairol web-site, but it's hard to find in stores.

Those semi-permanent solutions, coat the hair with a lacquer that adds body and shine. As my hair grew out, the ends of my hair were getting a heavier layer of that laquer and shine. I found that I was using "Loving Care" more for the body and shine than from the gray coverage. Since I kept covering, I wasn't keeping count of the gray hair.

Then about ten years ago, the gray started showing more and more, around my face. I started combing my hair forward, wearing bangs to hide that gray that wouldn't cooperate with the "Loving Care." By then I quit doing my hair myself, and depended on my stylist to keep it colored and shaped. I brag about Wallace Sellars giving the best haircut in town. And I gave him carte blanche on color selection for my hair. It was truly a case of "Only My Hair Dresser Knows For Sure."

I reached critical mass about two years ago. Enough gray that I knew a decision would have to come soon. I had just published my book with a picture of me on the back, sporting a full head of dark hair. I decided I wanted to look like the photo for at least another year.

Then came 2010. The mail started coming in January, from Humana, from Blue Cross Blue Shield, from AARP. Doom and gloom reminders that this is the year I have to think about choosing a Medicare supplement. ARGH!!! I'm old!! When the guy at the fast food restaurant asks, "Do you mind if I ask how old you are?" It is not a prelude to a compliment on my ageless beauty. NOOOOO!! It's a setup for a reminder about the Senior Discount!! DAMN!!

So this is the year I quit coloring my hair. I didn't expect it to be such a hard thing to do. I have friends who let theirs grow out about an inch, and then go to a barber to cut it down. YIKES!! I have had short hair from time to time, but never that drastic.

I decided to entrust these tresses to Wallace. Yesterday he applied an awful-smelling liquid to my hair, let it sit for over 30 minutes, and shampooed it out. My hair was lighter, but still not down to the gray. We agreed we would try again in a week. Meanwhile he applied a rinse so I wouldn't look to rainbow-ish about the head. The result was honey-blonde....shades of Beyonce. I may need a hat for Easter.

I dreamed all night I had green hair. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Yall.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"I have this one body, this one life"...

...So said Sally Field in her advertisement for Boniva. Now I'm saying the same thing in rejecting my current osteoporosis treatment.

I blogged about my comparative analysis of osteo drugs in August 2008 after my second bone scan showed that I had osteopenia. I jokingly called it Oscar de la Peña. It's no joking matter anymore. I didn't choose Fosamax because of reflux concerns. Now we know that long-term use of Fosamax has caused bone breakage in a significant number of women.

In doing my comparative analysis back then, I made a spreadsheet to line up all the side effects. Then I chose to go with Evista, which is not in the same class of drug with Fosomax. And then I forgot all the side effects of Evista...until Fosomax made the evening and morning news for several days in a row. That news made me go digging again into the small print side-effects for Evista.

The Good News:

  • Evista lowers the risk of breast cancer.
  • It lowers total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. It does not affect HDL ("good") cholesterol or triglyceride levels. (And I thought my good numbers were due to my use of Benecol)

The Bad News:

  • Signs of a blood clot in the leg, such as pain in the calf, leg cramps, and leg or foot swelling
  • Signs of a blood clot in the lung, such as shortness of breath, sharp chest pain, or coughing up blood
  • Signs of a stroke, such as vision or speech changes, weakness or numbness in an arm or leg, and a severe headache
  • Sudden loss of vision or vision changes, which can be a sign of a blood clot in the eye

Then I remembered that I talked to my primary physician about the risk since my family has a history of heart disease, including peripheral artery disease. He pointed out that deep-vein thrombosis is not the same as PAD. What we didn't talk about was the risk of stroke. And since I didn't know of any blood relative who had had a stroke, I didn't worry about that side effect, and started taking Evista.

The New News:

  • I now have a primary relative who has had mini-strokes.
  • I have experienced some vision changes, flashing floaters that lasted for a few hours.

I have for a long time used my sister to fortell my future. It's like a flash-forward to see myself dealing with the effects of mini-stroke. My sister has had no incidence of bone breakage, and she doesn't take an osteoporosis drug.

I have decided to take the natural route. I have quit my Evista, without consulting my doctor. I have boosted my Calcium intake...again.

More Good News:

I'm physically stronger. For the last year I have kept to a routine of strength training. Thanks to the crew at Rex Wellness, my arms, legs, core are all stronger. Thanks Deb, Sue, Marci, and Tricia. (And my role model, Michelle Obama)

I'll do another bone scan this year after a few months off Evista, to see if I can stay on track.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Read an E-book Week at Smashwords

You can purchase my e-book half-price this week only! That's $4.00 for the digital version of Motherless Child - stories from a life. Click here.

Don't have an e-reader? You can get a PC- or MAC-based one for free here

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Librarians are the best!!

I learned early in life that Librarians are good people. A librarian saved me from my mean and evil second-grade teacher who happened to be her sister. Then she opened up the vault, what seemed like access to unlimited books.

When I started promoting my book, I found suggestions from all kinds of sources. One smart blogger said to follow the advice of Willie Sutton the bank robber. When asked why he robbed banks, he said, "because that's where the money is." So I should sell my books to libraries, because that's where the books are. That might seem counter-intuitive as a way of making money since people read library books for free. But libraries buy more than one copy and when those are worn out, they buy more.

Getting my foot in the door with the library was another matter. But at the same time I was hunting down local book clubs. When I found two local black book clubs at branches of the public library, I struck gold, in the person of the librarian. It was her practice to select books for the book club, and purchase them for the library. She liked my book and went to her board with the request to purchase six books. She told me later what she was always up against. There were board members who mumbled, "They don't return those books." Which was contrary to the other one who said, "They don't read."

That wonderful librarian stood her ground and got those books. I won't name names, for fear of getting her in trouble. You never know what might come up in a Google search.

After her book club finished reading my book, the six books were distributed across the system. I check periodically to see if they are getting checked out. Yes they are, and they are being returned...sometimes late, but returned nonetheless. And those two librarians also make sure local black authors are invited to the annual Black History Month event, and given the space to sign books.

I also managed to get my hometown librarian to purchase a couple of books. When I grew up in Petersburg, the public library was segregated. Today the head of the Petersburg Library system is a black man.

So next time you see a librarian, give her/him a big hug for all they do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Worst Typo Ever?

I subscribe to a number of blogs, and a few that suggest blog topics on a weekly basis. This is the first one to catch my attention in a long time, not because of the typo, but because it sent me off down memory lane.

When I moved back to the south in 1975, my first job was with the power company. I interviewed with about 10 other companies before the power company, and encountered the kind of racism I would have expected in the 1950's. The power company was trying to improve their numbers around that time, and a manager even told me they could count me in two EEO categories, black and female. "Too bad you're not a disabled Viet Nam vet, too." (No lie.)

I had five years of programmer/analyst experience before that, and I was assigned to a team that maintained an old mainframe system. When I finally went to discuss my dead-end with the section manager, he already had me lined up for a development team using a "new technology." And so began my relationship with Watts Fearrington. We all thought it was funny that a boss in the power company would have the name Watts. Watts was a classic old southern gentleman, with a way of expressing himself that reminded me of Yogi Berra. When he told me about my new assignment, he said I needed to "Jump in head first with both feet."

Several years later, Watts had been promoted, but was still my boss at a higher level. When I needed a manager's recommendation for my application to graduate school, I made my request of Watts. Watts was flattered that I asked him, and sent me a draft of the letter he would send out. He wrote a full-page glowing recommendation, and mentioned the several "new technology" projects I had worked on over the years. And then in describing me he said I was "contentious." I knew he meant "conscientious," but how in the world was I going to get him to correct that without offending him? Fortunately, I had a good rapport with his secretary. And since the letter would be going out on company letterhead, he would have to give it to her to print. I gave her a very discrete call and she took care of it.

Watts retired before I left the power company. The last time I saw his name was in his obituary a few years ago.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For My President

I bet Michelle knows the words:

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing
by James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies;
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun
Of our new day begun,
Let us march on! Till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet, with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered;
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by thy might
Led us into the light:
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;
Shadowed beneath thy hand
May we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

Monday, February 8, 2010


The doctor showed them the big yellow sign, meant to stop the staff in their tracks. This one said "Do Not Resuscitate." She asked my sister and brother-in-law if that was their desire. I thought they already had a "Living Will" but it turns out the attorney back home said to wait until they get to North Carolina, since the legalese would be different. But they responded, "Yes, that's what we want."

The thought of it cut me like knife. I needed clarification, just to be sure. "You mean, if they find you with your heart stopped, you don't want them to use those paddles to get you going again?" "That's right."

I told the doctor, we needed to discuss this further. I discussed it with their daughter who is snow-bound up north. She said to ask him separately what he would want for her Mom. She would abide by their decision.

I told someone yesterday that I would go ski-diving on my 80th birthday. While I don't want to be kept alive by extraordinary means (I'm saying this today at age 64), as long as there is some joy left, I want to hang in there. Maybe I'll see things differently if and when I reach 80 years. I hope not.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Labadee - Do or Don't

Is it insensitive to go on vacation when other people in the world are suffering? Is Hawaii OK when people in Port-au-Prince are living among the rubble of an earthquake. What about a day at the beach just 60 miles away from Port-au-Prince.

My husband and I travel a lot. We cruise two or more times every year. We book next year's cruise while aboard this year's cruise, earning discounts and on-board credit. When we first started cruising the Caribbean it was common for cruise lines to have a beach party day at a "Private Island" somewhere in the Bahamas. For Royal Caribbean and Celebrity the "Private Island" is not an Island, but a private beach known as Labadee on the northern peninsula of Haiti.

We booked a Caribbean cruise for April, 2010 last year, long before the earthquake in Haiti. The seven-day cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice includes a day in Labadee.

The internet buzz about Labadee started immediately after the earthquake, because Royal Caribbean and Celebrity both stop at Labadee. Between the USA Today travel site and the Cruise Critic forums, the comments have become heated on both sides of the argument. Click here for article.

We have been to Labadee several times before. It is usually a good day at the beach. Will we get off the ship in April? We'll think about it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Text Driving - the redux

The Hubbub over text driving is getting louder by the day. If you saw Oprah's show yesterday, you should be convinced to put down that cellphone while driving.

I dug up this blog that I saved from Yahoo 360 before it went belly-up. It includes the comments. Fortunately some of the guilty parties are identified as "Yahoo-User" if they left Yahoo (deleted? and maybe returned later) I wonder how many of you have changed your ways.

I used to text only at red-lights, and maybe read some while driving. Ain't doing that anymore.

TITLE: Text Driving
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:06:08
STATUS: publish
Typing in traffic could be happening in the driving lane next to you.

Drivers who take their eyes off the road to text and e-mail, keying in messages into cell phones, PDAs and BlackBerrys while racing down the road, are indulging a dangerous habit.

One April 2006 study found that 80 percent of crashes, and 65 percent of near crashes, are caused by distractions -- from putting on makeup to writing and eating. And teens say that texting is their No. 1 driving distraction, according to another 2006 study from Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

Now, some states are cracking down on the problem.

Next week, Washington will become the first state to ban "driving while texting." At least three states and the District of Columbia already ban using cell phones without hands-free devices.

We don't know anybody who does that do we, Jana?
AUTHOR: Tucker
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:10:06
(Bashfully comes forward). I only did one time. Please don't take the car away
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:13:11
I just can drive keeping my eyes wide driving for everyone including me here.

So texting is not a options just like talking on the cell is not.
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:20:50! I would never do that. Nuh uhn...not me.

*tiptoeing away quietly)
AUTHOR: MrsCreoleJ
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:24:45
I don't do the text; just talk on my cell..LOL

But they really need to ban here in Louisiana.

I'm still up; I';; be like a walking zombie to work...My Lord!

AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:25:52
Uuuh...well...uuuh...yeah i do, but I keep my eyes on the road, mostly. I do try to wait til I get to a red light and then type away, but uuuh...well...sometimes...ya know?!
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:26:04
I'm guilty - I text drive all the time
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:31:07
I don't know how to do it, I like what Samuel Jackson called on Boondocks.
AUTHOR: saraphen
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:33:31
I'm surprised at the number of confessions!!! I need to put my habit back on...LOL

@BDCC...what did Samuel Jackson call on Boondocks?
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:38:42
*no comment*
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:41:20
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 13:04:46
I rarely text from my cell phone. I mean, it was have to be under extreme circumstances for me to text someone.
AUTHOR: LadyPurple ஐValஐ
DATE: 05/08/2007 14:08:29
All I can say is be careful if you do ("if" or "until" they change the law). I don't do it myself and don't agree with driving while on a cell phone at all (unless the device is in the ear). I've seen many people almosst hit either me or other pedestrians (especially in parking lots while TRYING to park a car) and on the cell phone at the same time. Someone almost ran over me, Mom and James 3 weekends ago cause she was on the cell phone and trying to park her HUGE SUV! I think "multi-tasking" as they call it is very dangerous. So to text is JUST as bad. NOTE: I have a right to express my own opinion (But what it really boils down to is that I truly feel for the safety of everyone --- those in the car and those outside of it (that's my concern). But that doesn't mean I'm against anyone here doing what they do. My prayer is that you'll be protected as you continue on....the way you are.....until.....change takes place. Again, be alert everyone.
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 14:34:25 didn't!....I only text at stop lights...LOL.

I was wondering why you and Tinker looked so scared while I was driving....ROTFLMYAO
AUTHOR: TINKERTOY .. the 1 & only original
DATE: 05/08/2007 16:02:20
I am absolutely not guilty ... I have hardly had my cell phone on since I was in Chicago .. and don't know how to send a text message.
AUTHOR: CynthiaღMarie
DATE: 05/08/2007 16:19:42
i can barely text while standing still.... i have a friend that eats a bowl of cereal and puts on mascara while driving.
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 16:21:17
I cannot think of anything that would be so important that I would have to be distracted while driving to text someone. I am guilty of talking on my cell while driving, so that's not too bad is it?????
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 16:33:01
I don't text while driving but I will eat while driving and that's bad!!
AUTHOR: §implyShe
DATE: 05/08/2007 17:28:59
Over in Singapore, it's a ban on the use of cell while driving, and that includes texting. It's too dangerous, not only to self but also to the general public.
AUTHOR: SloMoshun
DATE: 05/08/2007 18:02:47
I wouldn't even want to take that chance!!!... It's already like driving for the guy in front of you, in back of you an on both sides of you in addition to operating your own vehicle.. I couldn't add texting or makeup to that equation... LOL!!!
AUTHOR: TheszEyz
DATE: 05/08/2007 18:48:13
Now, these are the folks that should, as Bella used to do, have pennies thrown at them driving down the road. You know, trying to text and drive, and the next thing you know, you've killed a family of four; driving texters are murderers awaiting their assignment from satan. Yeah, I said it! I think this is one of the most inconsiderate things a person can do while driving. As if they are free from causing, or, being harmed.
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 19:24:29
I just learned how to text so I know I will not be doing it while driving.....
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 19:59:16
I can only drive while driving :D LOL!! anything else and you're askin' for trouble :)
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/08/2007 22:45:52
Not me... I only shoot pictures while driving....

Just kidding!

AUTHOR: MzVirtue™**ReLoaded**
DATE: 05/09/2007 01:49:30
*tap *tap (Is this thing on?) Uhm, I used to be guilty of it. I would make sure no cars were close and use redlights... this isn't being recorded is it?... but I have thought it over and understand the implications...*drops mic *hangs head in shame and walks out the comment box...

AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/09/2007 05:52:46
I don't do much texting at all. But I saw one hellacious car accident on the way home last night. As a matter of fact, I was only about 1 minute away from being the car right behind it. I see a lot of people texting on the highway, it wouldn't surprise me if this person was aslo.
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/10/2007 09:17:32
Here we have DWT (driving while texting) Its the law and $500 fine if caught texting. Now that's one time I will call the tips hotline. I don't even use my cell unless I use my bluetooth while driving. Great Post!
DATE: 05/10/2007 20:55:41
(clearing throat)...Ummm I pull over first...yea, thats it!

Seriously, I try not to, but am like Cheri and do try to rush thru at stop lights....they need to be more aggressive with selling those "hands free" devices...and make em' cheaper too!
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/11/2007 04:29:17
I hope NC will soon make demands!
AUTHOR: Bevnee
DATE: 05/11/2007 06:58:24
No I wouldn't do that, but I see so many everyday that do. And you know it's very scary. This is a great post. Thanks.
AUTHOR: A Yahoo! user
DATE: 05/11/2007 19:13:09
hmmmmm......*lookin around for ms julie*.....

she is definitely....GUILTY!!......

yes i'm rattin u