Bullet Train Joyride

Can’t stop! Having surgery soon!

You ever feel like you’re on a train that’s going too fast, but then you look at the control room and the engineer who keeps the accelerator on is you, and the brakeman who refuses to slow down is you, and the coal-shoveler is you, and you all realize you should probably slow down but you’re all so busy doing your jobs that slowing down makes no sense?

This is my life right now. My kids are starting school next month, which means shelling out SO MUCH MONEY because they’ve outgrown their pants, shoes, school supplies, and coats. I’m juggling notes from my critique buddies (aka beta readers) for Bai Treason so I can wrap it up and send it to my publisher with a bow on top. I’m also plotting out and researching my next project, which will not be a Bai book so it might just have a non-punny title (right now I’m leaning toward Tranquility Land).

Why am I in such a rush? Why is everything so urgent? Why is the bullet train that is my life careening around corners and blasting through level crossings? Surgeries. Two of them.

All summer, I’ve blissfully denied that I’m having surgery soon because the first one isn’t happening until September and hey, that’s a whole season away. Ages away!

Now, however, September is breathing down my neck. It’s running its back-to-school fingers through my hair and whispering sweet shopping lists in my ear and suddenly I’m very aware of the fact that all of this will come crashing to a halt soon.

I’m not one of those people who has surgery and then moves on like nothing happened. It’s extremely disruptive for me. Pain, pain meds, nausea from pain meds, physical therapy, the unavoidable torture that is crutches, it’s all disruptive. My first surgery, in September, should mess things up for a week or so, and then things will hopefully go back to normal.

The surgery at the end of October, however, is a big one. A doozy, you could say. That one will keep me on crutches for six to eight weeks. I’ll lose all my muscle tone in my left leg again and have to learn how to walk for the second time in as many years. It’s going to be a challenge, and you can trust me on this because I’ve already done it.

So I guess you could say the reason my bullet train life is speeding out of control is because I know my awesome, reckless train has to pull in for some scheduled maintenance soon so I’m getting some joyriding in while I can.

The only thing I can do is hope this scheduled maintenance keeps me on the rails for a long time. Fingers crossed.

This is What Comes of Leaving the House

This dog has nothing to do with this post, I just like how annoyed he seems by what he has to put up with.

I was invited to a cocktail party Saturday by some of the wonderful people I met at ThrillerFest last week, and it was hands down my most interesting evening of the week. Now, Wes has been gone since early Tuesday morning, so my bar for interesting is set pretty low these days, but even by normal standards it was noteworthy.

To start the evening off, I did my hair and makeup alone but when it was time to get dressed my five year old daughter took over. When I told her I was going to a grown-up party, she considered all my dresses before selecting the black and white tea-length dress I bought on a whim last month. It was a little dressy for the occasion, but I went with it because 1) I’m not arguing fashion with my daughter and 2) she was so enthusiastic about her sartorial victory, only a monster would have taken that away from her.

I drove Wes’s Mustang out to Seattle for the party, which is always a dicey proposition when I’m feeling pretty because I get kind of cocky when I feel pretty and my driving reflects that. I’m telling you, you haven’t truly passed someone until you’ve passed them in a Mustang. I had my sunglasses on, my Girl Power playlist going, and I was feeling good.

I parked in an adjacent neighborhood to where the party was because I knew I could find parking there and then just took an Uber the rest of the way. My first driver was a 23-year old Chinese-American man who regaled me with stories about his mother’s intimidation techniques. When I told him about Bai, my character, and how a reviewer had recently commented that it seemed unlikely to him that Bai’s parents would disapprove of his chosen profession, my Uber driver laughed and said I’d nailed it.

Gotta admit, that felt pretty good.

The party itself was a lot of fun. Great food, killer view, and I was surrounded by stage actors and the people who love them. Actors make for very diverting company, it turns out.

My Uber driver for the ride home was a guy who’d moved here from Palestine six years ago. He holds a Master’s degree in comparative literature and says driving for Uber is the price he pays for picking that field of study. He also expounded on his views of the Israel/Palestine dispute, which I didn’t feel qualified to comment on so I just listened instead.

Do you see what comes of leaving the house, intrepid readers? You meet interesting people and get to do interesting things.

Empty Robot Promises

The story I’m about to tell you is kind of weird. Kind of like when I got pulled over for being a tired driver and a passing car full of hot-boxers made the officer question whether my husband is a drug dealer. Except, this story doesn’t involve drugs. That I know of.

The scene is a parking garage beneath the medical office where I’ve just received a shot of synthetic joint fluid. My knee is sore and all I want to do is go home. I take my parking ticket to the lobby of the building, where one of those automated machines is supposed to take my money and validate my ticket so I can leave the parking garage.

Bummer for me, the machine isn’t working. The credit card processor is offline, so I’m advised by the repair man to just pay the lady in the kiosk on my way out of the garage.

I limp my way to my car and drive up to the exit only to see that there is no lady in the kiosk. There is, however, a guy in front of me in line who is likewise waiting for the nonexistent lady to let us out. While we wait, car after car queues up behind us until there is a line of idling cars stretching down the parking lot exit ramp as far as I can see.

At this point, it’s been five minutes and still no lady. I turn off my car and start reading an article on my phone. The guy in front of me pushes the Call for Help button on the malfunctioning ticket validator and a loud alert starts booming out of a small speaker: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.

I roll up my window and keep reading. It has now been ten minutes. Still, the voice booms: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Over and over again like the waves of a tension headache.

Behind us, horns are honking and people are starting to yell. The guy behind me uses his truck to hop the curb and drive around the metal arm trapping us in the garage, sideswiping his mirror against a dumpster on his way out.

Fifteen minutes have passed. Horns are more persistent, almost loud enough to drown out PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Still no kiosk lady. My ears hurt.

Tired of sitting there with my sore knee, I start calling everyone I can think of who might be able to let us out. I call the front desk of the medical office I was just seen in, and they give me the number for building security and promise to do whatever else they can. I call building security and let them know we’re trapped. I call the main hospital security desk and bring them in as well.

Twenty minutes have passed, and I’m about to call the National Guard when a building security guys walks in and surveys the scene with shock. While he fiddles about with the validating machine (useless), the kiosk lady finally returns with a carrier full of Starbucks drinks in one hand and a rolled-up magazine in her other hand. She is likewise shocked and asks the guy in front of me why we didn’t just pay at the lobby. I’m surprised he doesn’t shoot her.

After he’s let loose, I roll up and she tries to charge me extra for the time I spent sitting in front of her extra kiosk. I let her know in no uncertain terms that I will only be paying the amount I would have paid had I not gotten trapped in this stupid garage. She huffs but capitulates, likely because she can sense she’ll find little no mercy among the dozens of motorists who have been held captive to her coffee break.

Finally free, I zoom home with my ears still ringing with the empty promise of a robotic voice screaming PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.

I hear it in my dreams, sometimes. It’s the haunting sound of futility, the embodiment of knowing you’re trapped by a thin metal arm all because you’re not willing to scratch up the front of your car in an effort to escape.

If given another twenty minutes of that racket, I might have.

Handling the Unexpected

So Monday was interesting…

It was the kids’ first day back to real life after the holidays and, much to my surprise, I managed to clear out the cobwebs and get everyone out the door on time. After dropping my son off at school, I was driving my daughter to music class when traffic slowed to a crawl. There was a car accident up ahead, and everyone was slowing down to pass with care.

I resisted the urge to rubberneck when it was my turn to pass the nasty wreck and was happily on my way down the hill when my car started acting a little…funny. Like, wobbly and pulling to one side and is that a weird flupping sound I hear coming from my car? And oh, hey, there’s the tire pressure indicator light on my dashboard! Fantastic.

Before I even finished pulling into a parking lot off the busy road, I called Wes and, when he answered, I said, “Feel like teaching your wife how to change a tire today?”

Wes changing tireWhile I waited for Wes to saddle up his trusty Camry and ride to my rescue, I pulled out ye olde owner’s manual and got as much stuff ready for the tire change as I could. By the time Wes rolled up, I had the tools out and just needed his help undoing a wing bolt so we could liberate the donut spare from its hiding place in the most inaccessible reaches of my rather capacious car.

Now, I should mention that the weather was terrible on Monday. The temperature was in the low 40’s, it was pouring rain, and there were strong, steady winds that blew rain into our faces almost the entire time.

So there we were, two goofballs with a two-year old and a flat tire. It took us about forty-five minutes start to finish, and I dare say we did a darn good job. Good enough to get me to the tire shop less than a mile away, at least, where I had the frustrating honor of shelling out $350 on tires that I’ll only be driving on for three more months until my lease runs out in April. Boo.

The good news is, we had a blast. Sure, we were soaked through practically to the bone by the time we were done, my hands are all scratched up from the cruddy jack lever, and I’m still annoyed at the unanticipated expense, but you guys? We frigging HANDLED that flat tire. And I was able to lift it into the back of my car without help, which I feel pretty proud of.

Maybe next time I’ll manage to pull over to a spot that has a wide awning, space heaters, and a waiter who brings me hot chocolate while I change my tire. That’d be just about perfect.


Pie for Absolutely No Reason

Usually, we’re a two Thanksgiving dinner family. We host a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house for my side of the family, and then have dinner with Wes’s family on Thanksgiving day. We’ve always been quite fortunate that my family is not particular when it comes to which exact date we get together to feast. So long as I save my mom a turkey leg and my step dad brings sweet potato pie, we all get along just fine regardless of what day of the week it is.

This year, however, my mom and step dad are on an RV trip until next May so no pre-Thanksgiving feast for us this year. That means I have a curious excess of holiday energy prior to the big day. Normally, I’m so tired from grocery shopping, meal planning, house cleaning, cooking, baking, hosting, cleaning dishes, and cleaning the house again I have very little to put into Thanksgiving day proper. Not a big deal, usually, because my mother in law cooks most everything and I just have to show up and wash dishes. Easy peasy.

So here we are, the day before Thanksgiving 2014 and I’m not sick of my kitchen yet. So what do I do? Bake a pie from scratch for absolutely no reason at all. Pumpkin pie, in case you’re curious. Why for no reason? Well, my mother in law, the inarguable Queen of Perfect Pies, is baking a pumpkin pie for dessert tomorrow. My pie is GUARANTEED to be less delicious than hers, and yet? I felt like baking pie while I baked rolls today so I threw a pie together for no reason.

But then, because no Erika Tries to Cook story would be complete without some kind of failure, this happened:

The last ingredient, by the way? Was sour cream. The pie crust turned out okay in texture, I think, but was extra sticky and difficult to wrestle into the pie tin. And who knows how it’ll taste? But, you know, the pie looks like a pie and I’m sure it’ll taste like a pie. Maybe just a sort of Russian-y hybrid pie because of all the extra sour cream.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Here’s wishing you hot food, sober relatives, and non-weird pie!