Book Talk / The Book Nook & Java Shop

I had fun last night.

I was invited to do a talk about my books at the Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague, Michigan.  If you aren’t familiar with the Book Nook, it’s a great bookstore with lots of books, a coffee station, a bar, comfortable seating, and even a stage for authors, folk singers, and other performers.

I was very pleased to have been invited.  I’ve heard wonderful things about the Book Nook, and it gave me a chance to meet Bryan, the store owner.

Last night I had a chance to talk about my writing and my books.  It was a fun reminder of how I got started on this path of writing.  But you know what really thrilled me?  It was seeing how many people actually stopped by to see me.  I even met people I’d never met before except through email.  That has to be one of the most interesting things about writing: you get to meet people you’d never have met otherwise.  And I love it.

One of my good friends took pictures of me when it was my turn to talk.  (Thanks, Liz & Wes.)  You made me look good!


That’s a big relief!

For those of you following the saga of my broken leg, I have an update for you.

medical-errors-cartoonIt has been 15 months since I broke my leg.

It happened on the first day of our vacation in Rome.  I have tried not to be critical of the healthcare I received in Italy, but, honestly, there were a few problems.  And, contrary to what some of you have suggested, my biggest problem was NOT a lack of internet access.  However, I won’t bore you with that.

The break was fixed with a rod inserted inside my tibia and held in place with two sets of screws.  Unfortunately, the screws were not positioned properly and for six months, the edges of the broken bone were held too far apart by the rod to heal.

The solution?  Remove one set of screws, so the bone edges could come closer together.  We did that in April 2013.  In the recovery room, I asked my doc if I needed to take any special precautions.  “No.  Use it.  Abuse it.  No problems,” he said.

It didn’t work out that way.

The rod was too long and the gap between my broken bone was still too great to allow the bone edges to come together.  Further, with the screws gone, the bone was no longer held in place.  I could no longer walk without crutches.

second-opinion-cartoonThis produced an interesting problem.  With every step, my weight went into the rod, which was bolted to the upper part of my leg.  Since the bone edges still weren’t touching, the rod ground it’s way down through the inside of my tibia.  In June, when looking at the x-rays, I noticed the rod was about to break through into my ankle joint.

The solution?  I changed doctors.

I spoke with several physicans about what to do when we have a non-union after so much time.  Most of them suggested the entire operation be redone.  This time, they would take out the rod, use a ‘scratcher’ inside my leg bone to make it bleed, and then put in a bigger rod.  I really didn’t want to do that again.

ist2_4605577-cartoon-doctorMy new doctor suggested that instead of redoing everything, we might try removing the last set of screws (the one that holds the rod tight to leg bone above the break.  He said the tibia in that region is softer than the ankle, and the rod will be able to move up toward the knee instead of down into the ankle.  I agreed and in July, we removed the last of the screws.

In October we did more x-rays.  To my relief, the rod was no longer moving downward.  To my disappointment, the bone edges, although now in good proximity to each other, were not showing signs of bone growth.  Admittedly, until July, the bones were never close enough to have done much.  However, in three months, we should have seen something.  To make things worse, I actually have a ‘butterfly fracture’ which involves more separation of the bones and is much harder to heal.

1787890-71808-set-of-different-radiation-signs-over-whiteWe agreed to give it another three months.  During that time, I asked for a ‘bone stimulator’.  This device uses electrical pulses and magnetic fields to wake up your body and get it to start generating bone matter.  (I’m glad I don’t plan on fathering any more children.)  My doc wrote the prescription and my insurance paid for it.

In the last three months, I used it every day.  I have also been walking on Marge’s new treadmill to further stimulate the bone growth.

Today was the big day.  Would the x-rays show that my bones were finally healing?  Or was it time to admit failure and schedule the surgery?

The answer is:  bone growth demonstrated.  No surgery needed.  Keep doing what you’re doing, he said.  Come back in 4 months.  Stay away from doctors in the meanwhile.

Mission AccomplishedOkay, okay.  Don’t give me a hard time for saying, “Mission Accomplished.”  I know it ain’t.  But it feels like I just passed a big hurdle and from now on, it’s much smaller steps.

Big Day.

Big Relief.

For those of you who have put up with me (and still have a few more months of having to do so), I thank you…


Valentine’s Day Operation

Well, on Valentine’s Day, I went back under the knife.

screwsMy surgeon decided to remove two of the three screws that are holding my leg together.  Apparently, they were not holding it quite right, so the edges of the broken tibia were too far apart to heal properly.

Apparently, the operation didn’t go as smoothly as they would have liked because my doctor didn’t have the right attachment for them.  If you look closely, you will see they require an allen wrench to remove, but I guess American surgeons don’t buy their surgery components at Ace Hardware.  It’s a good thing I was unconscious at the time.  I don’t think anyone wants to hear their doctor saying *&%#@#$% in the middle of your operation.

They gave me the two screws as a souvenir (or consolation prize?).

My son-in-law, Ryan, pointed out these are self-tapping screws, typically used on sheet metal.  But apparently, in Italy, they use them on bones too.

I made a mistake posting news of my operation on Facebook.  So, almost any joke you want to make around me on the subject of loose screws is going to have to be a repeat.  I even got into the action by saying:

  • Steve:  They took out 2/3 of them.  That means I only have one screw left in me.  Marge says it better be a really good one.
  • Marge:  I don’t know why he is saving that last screw….not getting any younger here!


The Short List

I love to travel.  I have two travel buddies (Jeff and Marge), and I have taken vacations with each of them for many years.  Jeff likes to travel to third-world countries, stay in the local hotels, ride the local buses, and mingle with the locals.  And he tolerates reasonably well my need to visit any and all ancient ruins in the area.  Marge likes to travel also, but she has much higher standards for the places she stays and how she gets around.  Between the two of them, I get to see everything from the soft underbelly to the upper crust.  Great trips.

What is on my short list of travel destinations?

  • Australia.  I haven’t met an Australian I didn’t like.  They are a fun-loving bunch, and I want to see them up close.  And they have an amazing country.  Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, Sydney, Melbourne, and more are on the short list.  We will also make sure we include a zoo so we can see some of those cool marsupials.
  • Japan.  I really want to see Tokyo and Kyoto and some other places.  We will probably do a tour package so we can see everything on one tour.  Then, if we like it enough, we can go back for more.
  • Egypt.  Jeff and I have been there, but Marge hasn’t (and she doesn’t let me forget it).  So Cairo and the pyramids for Marge and the Upper Kingdom for me.  We are looking into river cruises.  I am a tad concerned about the unrest in Egypt, but day excursions from the river boat seem like pretty low risk.
  • Northern Greece.  I have been to awesome places in Greece (Athens, Sparta, Delos, Delphi, Olympia, etc.), but never got to Northern Greece.  Up there, I want to see the land of Alexander the Great.  I have seen so many of his landmarks, I want to see where it all started.
  • Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands.  We meet nice people from these countries on our travels all the time.  I have never been there, and they seem like places you should see at least once before you die.

There are lots of other places to see.  Sometimes it is just a single place that interests me.  For example:

  • Machu Picchu, Peru.  The ruins there are very interesting.  I also feel like I need to see more things south of the Equator.
  • Crete.  I have been there a couple times, but didn’t get to see the cave where legend says Zeus was born.  I would love to visit it.
  • Troy.  I didn’t get to see the ancient site of Troy when we were in Turkey.  The roads were impassable because of snowfall, and I couldn’t find anyone who would take us there.
  • Moscow.  If for no other reason than being the capital of the “Evil Empire” that threatened us with nuclear annihilation.  I don’t know how much traveling around Russia I want to do, but I could be persuaded to explore deeper.
  • Alaska.  Although I hate the cold weather, I have heard wonderful things about Alaskan cruises for many years.  The scenery is supposed to be amazing.  This might be a trip I take with dad, who seems more interested in this one than either Marge or Jeff.

Yes, I know there are amazing places right here in the good old USA.  One thing about foreign travel is most of the places I go are not handicap-accessible.  So I figure I better get to see all these places while I have the ability and the energy to do so.  If/when I slow down and have problems with travel, there will still be lots of places here that I can see.


25 Things About Me

Several years ago, I was asked to describe “25 Things About Me” in an email and send it to a group of friends who had shared their lists with me.  I was delighted to read what my friends had written about themselves.  I felt like I got to know them better.  I never found the time to do my own list, but now I do.  So with apologies for being so late to respond, this is my list.  If you like this, I hope you will take the time to share your own list of “25 Things About Me” with me.

1.  I was born in Portland, Maine but grew up in Muskegon, Michigan.  My father worked for the paper mill and was transferred to Muskegon when I was 5.

2.  In high school, I wrestled in the 145 pound weight class.  I probably should have been at 165, but my friend Jim Krizan had that spot and the guy in the 154 slot (Bunny Lytle) was too tough for me to beat.  So I lost the weight necessary to get down to 145.  I remember during one of my extreme diets, I was so hungry I swallowed my toothpaste.

3.  My interest in computers started in 1980 when I signed up for a Radio Shack class.  I bought my first Apple computer that year.  I don’t have any idea how many computers I have owned since, but I am sure it has been over 25.  We have 6 now (plus two iPads and an iPhone).

4.  Investing has been a serious hobby for me for a long time.  After I retired, I realized there was no more income coming in.  That is when it became serious.  I have written many computer programs to help me buy and sell stocks every day.

5.  Technology has always fascinated me.  And, yes, back in high school, I was one of the kids with the pocket protector and a slide rule poking out of his pocket.  Of course, my dad is an engineer, so I come by it honestly.

6.  I had the first motor bike in my high school.  It was a little Honda 50, and I loved it.  It caught on and soon all my friends had them:  Jeff, Dewey, Dick, Jim, John, and more.  And, the fact that they were serious “chick magnets” added no less to their appeal.

7.  The four BEST pieces of technology I own:  my computer, my iPhone/iPad, my Garmin GPS, and my TIVO.  Nothing else even comes close.

8.  My favorite books are swords and sorcery.  I do read the occasional thrillers, adventure stories, murder mysteries, and horror books.  And before I retired, I made sure every 3rd book was what I called a “good-for-me” book (typically a book on management, marketing, sales, corporate culture, quality assurance systems, etc.).

9.  Marge and I will celebrate our 42nd anniversary this year (2012).  I remember my grandparents and then my parents celebrating their 50th.  It looks like one of those is in our future too!

10.  I have collected sand/dirt from places I visit.  Some of the places:  Stonehenge, Roman Colosseum, the Sphinx, the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, etc.  My favorite places to collect the dirt are ancient and mysterious places.  I have a psychic friend who says she can “sense” all kinds of things from the sand/dirt in my little jars.  I was very impressed with her demonstration.

11.  My friend Jeff introduced me to some serious traveling.  Since then, we have visited places I had only dreamed of:  India, Nepal, Egypt, Greece, Thailand, Hong Kong, Turkey, Singapore, Brazil, and more.  Thanks, Jeff!

12.  Water is very important to me.  One of the hard things about living in Flint was the lack of water.  Our retirement condo is between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake, and I get to see the water every day.

13.  Marge and I have been looking for a place to spend more time in the winter.  So far we have checked San Diego, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Tampa, Marco Island, Naples, and Miami.  We plan to explore the area north of Miami next.  I think we are getting closer to what we want.

14.  I loved every job I ever had.  I have no idea why.  Different people, different duties, different places.  I’ve been a paperboy, a typist, a dishwasher, a janitor, a window washer, a sheet metal helper, a truck driver, a waiter, a shipping and receiving clerk, a gas station attendant, a machine shop worker, and more.

15.  I usually go to bed around 12:30-1:30 am and get up around 8:45 am.  I am not now and never have been a morning person.

16.  After graduating from college, I got my “dream job” as a counselor, helping people.  The first few months were a terrifying time when I realized 1) college hadn’t prepared me for counseling, and 2) as a 22-year old kid, I wasn’t sure I had anything I could offer someone with real adult problems.  Fortunately, I had great co-workers, and they helped me grow into the job.

17.  I am a vitamin junkie.  I take a handful of pills every day.  Mostly they are nootropics, which are supposed to enhance my memory and mental functioning, and anti-oxidants which slow the aging process.  If I don’t live forever, I am going to be so disappointed.

18.  I used to build rockets when I was a kid.  With very few exceptions, they all exploded.  My mom used to refer to them as “sticks of dynamite with fins glued on.”

19.  Worst car buying decision I ever made:  1970 Barracuda.  I bought it because I thought the turn signals were cool.  Paid the asking price for it.  Never even took it for a test drive.  Best car buying decision I ever made:  1973 Matador.  I researched Consumer Reports, compared lots of cars, carefully examined features, took test drives, and even negotiated a much better price.

20.  Deep inside, I still think of myself as a kid.  It is only that damn mirror and the occasional ache and pain that keeps threatening my Peter Pan delusion.

21.  I really like retirement.  But I hate how little I seem to accomplish.  If I work at it, though, I am sure I can get over it.

22.  My only recurring dream is a flying dream.  Whenever I have one, I am happy for days.

23.  I don’t like spicy foods.  I will just have my taco chips plain, thank you.

24.  I became a Psych major mostly because I didn’t want to work as hard as the math and science majors.  I sometimes wonder how things might be different if I had been willing to study harder in college.  I’m sure I would have ended up in some sort of management position, regardless of where I had started out.

25.  Whenever I feel the need to get organized, I stop by the library for the day.  I have always associated libraries with studying and being in one eliminates the distractions and keeps me focused.

Whew.  That’s 25.  Thank you for indulging me.

Now, will you share some of yours with me?