Saturday, October 31, 2009

Procrastinators Unite...Tomorrow!

When the laundry is piling up and the bills need to be paid, and there's no motivation to start either, what do I do? I create a cover for my novel. This one is my third, and most favorite, attempt so far.

From what I understand about publishers, they have an underground syndicate of cover masters who do not want authors to interfere with the artistic process of cover design. This is probably because they know what's best, or at least think they do.

As one who reads a lot, I usually don't take covers too seriously, especially if I already know the book is going to deliver. But if I'm strolling Borders without a specific mission, you can bet that I'm picking up books with covers that draw my attention. Case and point. While browsing online for books on Shelfari, one book immediately caught my eye. Robert Olen Butler's Hell has a cover that screams for attention...
How does one ignore that cover? I have not yet read it, but since his Pulitzer Prize-winning Good Scent From a Strange Mountain is on my top-ten favorite books, I will be reading this one after I finish the three other books I am currently reading, which are going to be shelved during November as I NaNoWriMo myself into oblivion and beyond.

So now I've got two hours before I start writing my new novel to decide if I will fold the heap of laundry on my sofa or pay the neglected bills that are sitting right here in front of me. Maybe I'll make that important decision tomorrow. Maybe not.

Nota Bene: Bum-bye means "later on some other day...bye and bye"

Friday, October 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Begins 24 Hours From Right Now!

Tonight I attended the Honolulu regional kick-off party for this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) craze. Held at Zippy’s on King Street, the eclectic gathering totaled over 30 brave participants committed to writing toward a goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.

This will be my (gasp) seventh attempt to break the 50k and become a “Winner” as deemed by founder Chris Baty and his impressive team of dedicated novel-generators. While I’ve never been crowned "Winner" yet, the fruit of my NaNo labor consists of four novels in various states of completion, the most recent also serving as a portion of my MFA thesis. At 49,000 words currently, this baby is just a few words away from an agent’s desk.

My NaNo nerves this year are at an all-time high as I am using the upcoming month of madness to pen/pound out a historical fiction piece that I’m being commissioned to write. It’s an epic plotline based on a true story of fleeing Romania during WWII. I’ve been researching for this since May of ‘08. I can even speak a few important sentences in Romanian, like, Am de fucut niste comparaturi, which means, I need to do some shopping. I also have a handful of Romanian recipes to try in order to get a literal taste of the land. And the music, it’s well, how do you say, so Romanian.

Now not only am I taking on the challenge myself, but for the past five years I have been inflicting NaNoWriMo on my English students. This year, all 119 of them are signed on with the young writer program and are (for the most part) psyched (scared out of their minds) to begin this Sunday. I listened to their plot ideas today in class, and wow, I’m so impressed with the wild outpouring of genuine creativity. Their minimum word count requirement for an A is 10,000 words, but every year I have at least one student who breaks the 50k. The record, held by current sophomore Kyle Park, stands at 63k words of sheer brilliance.

The kick-off party served its purpose. Our two delightful ML’s (Municipal Liaisons) are brand new to the state—one from somewhere in the south and the other from Long Island, New York—but they are raring to launch our mid-Pacific state into NaNo-land. We will be having word wars against Los Angeles and Long Island, two high-volume cities in previous years, as well as some other city I cannot recall at the moment. It will be exciting to see how we tally up at the end of the month.

In the meantime, I’m wondering how my blog will fare during my 30-day pilgrimage to NaNo-land. Given the collaborative nature of my Romanian mission, I probably won’t be putting up any significant excerpts, but I may resort to posting interesting pictures of my month-long journey, ie: This is me tearing out my hair strand by strand on November 29 with 8,888 words to reach the goal by midnight.

Let the madness begin!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chunky Monkey

Let me keep this short and sweet.

I'm not sure what compelled me to buy this one-pinter of Ben & Jerry's tonight. I never buy ice cream for myself. Ever. But it was late. I was tired, and it looked so innocent just sitting there in the cold. It was lonely.

I actually walked away from it once, thinking to myself, What kind of woman would buy something called "Chunky Monkey"? Geez! So I went back to see if it was still there, and since it was, I assumed it was meant to be mine--all mine. The nutrition facts say it has only 290 calories--for 1/2 cup. Truth be told, there are four servings in that pint-sized cup. That's 290 x 4=1160 calories! It would take a solid hour and a half of serious sweat to burn that off.

So I brought it home. Everyone was already sleeping. There'd be no threats to share. After letting it thaw a little, I ate half the pint: 580 calories. The other half is right here next to me, but it's going to spend the night in my freezer (behind the frozen okra).

So I'm going to bed now. Tomorrow night I'll be at the gym for an hour and a half, grappling with my chunky-monkey hips and thighs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sky Anxiety

Last weekend my son Ryan piloted a four-seater airplane under the supervision of his girlfriend's father who flies for Hawaiian Airlines. After a full day of soaring over the islands, Ryan was able to successfully take off and land the plane on his own. The thrill of it confirmed his desire to consider a potential career in the sky.

Ryan has always loved flying--with or without an airplane. The proof is in the pictures. If there's a pool to dive into, Ryan will look for a rooftop to launch off from.

If there are waves on the South Shore, Ryan will figure out how to defy them.

He even invents his own airborne methods to enable optimum thrills.

I have to believe Ryan inherited this love of air from me. As a gymnast in high school, my favorite apparatus was the uneven parallel bars. The slow-motion delays in mid-air before sticking a dismount always delivered an adrenaline surge beyond words. Sure, the ever-present fear of landing on anything besides feet threatened to steal my focus, but even after several bad falls and a broken tailbone, the quest to become airborne prevailed.

Unlike Ryan, however, I don't think I would get the same high in the cockpit. I love traveling by air. I even pursued a career as a flight attendant out of high school. But somewhere along the way, I have developed an annoying aircraft phobia. It's not the fear of crashing that haunts me as I can always rationalize that driving on a freeway is far more dangerous. My fear is more irrational, more agoraphobic than the common complaint of passengers feeling too confined. Unlike most air travelers, I actually enjoy the enclosed feeling in the aircraft. It's a camaraderie of sorts to me. Like we're all on one big happy journey over the clouds together. September 11 put a damper on this pie-in-the-sky mentality of mine, but not entirely.

It wasn't until a really long trek from Honolulu to St. Louis that I contracted my first in-flight case of agoraphobia. I remember settling in with a good book and a NY Times crossword puzzle. I read for a solid two hours then gave in to the drowsy hum of the plane's engine and slept just long enough to start dreaming. That's when the plane turned into a sickening carnival ride. The flight attendant announced that due to a [diabolical] storm system, we would be experiencing [death-defying and tumultuous] turbulence for a little while. Try three hours.

Trying to reason with my inner flight attendant, I reminded her that we wanted to do this for a living, but she shouted back to me as I looked out the window that we were suspended by absolutely the middle of the entire sky. This clammy epiphany made me uncomfortable. It was like the feeling I once had playing outfield in a softball game. It's hard to explain, but it's like being trapped in a wide open space.

Using the crossword puzzle as a distraction, I racked my brain to complete half of it, which I now regret as the jarring motion, combined with the straining eye work of the puzzle, spun me ad nauseam into a dizzying state. I put the puzzle away, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply. This helped, but not enough when someone behind me hurled. I was next in what would become a domino-effect of puking passengers.

As soon as we landed, we had to rush to catch the next plane to Orlando. Wishing for a set of sea legs, I pitched and reeled my way into a shop and bought a pack of Dramamine. I took four then boarded the next plane.

All I remember from that flight is the older man next to me. He was wearing a turban, and I woke up twice with my head on his shoulder. When we landed in Orlando, I tried to gather myself and apologize to the man with a soft shoulder. In his melodic New Delhi accent he told me it was no problem and that he had a daughter about my age. I was hoping I didn't slobber all over him or snore, but decided not to ask.

So ever since that harrowing ordeal, I have flown with trace elements of fear wrangling in the back of my thoughts. And now with the vision of my crazed son taking off into the wild blue yonder, I have to completely regather my senses and try to think happy thoughts.

Look! It's a bird...It's a plane...No, it's Flyin' Ryan!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Royal Night With Maunalua

Tonight I became a princess as an evening production at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki proved itself the most regal setting in Hawaii's musical kingdom. In the most vintage of Hawaii's settings, I was serenaded by not only one handsome prince, but by the three handsome and seriously talented princes of Maunalua.

Maunalua has put the Hawaii back into Hawaiian music. Comprised of lead singer (and my so-called long-lost Portagee cousin) Bobby Moderow Jr; bassist/vocalist Kahi Kaonohi; and guitarist/ukuleleist/vocalist Richard Gideon, Maunalua has won three Na Hoku Awards (the Hawaiian equivalent of the Grammy), and this past January, they jammed at the inauguration luau for our first "local boy" President, Barack Obama.

Held in the nostalgic Monarch Room of the newly refurbished Royal Hawaiian Hotel, this one-hour performance begins with the traditional blowing of the conch shell and a bone-chilling oli (chanted greeting). The stage is set to look like a typical Hawaiian home out in the country, complete with flower-bedecked front porch and corrugated tin roof.

Bobby first takes his spot on the front steps and plays solo as if warming up for an upcoming luau. Kahi and Richard join him on the porch and banter with each other local style before they launch into their first song. From this point, everything seems suitably impromptu as hula dancers join in and the jesting between songs continues. The vocal harmonies and leo ki'eki'e (falsetto), blend so perfectly that the three voices become one.

The songs range from traditional Hawaiian to a rendition of the Crosby, Stills & Nash song, Teach Your Children. Two Shadows, written by Bobby Moderow Jr, has me hoping for more original pieces in the future.

Next Thursday at 7 pm will be the last of Maunalua's nine appearances at the Monarch Room as part of the Curators of Hawaiian Music Concert Series. Contact me if you're interested in going as Bobby gave me the thumbs up to comp "Tenney's Twenty".

My hope is that the Royal Hawaiian Hotel staff will in the near future bring Maunalua back to the Monarch Room as a permanent fixture.

(The Royal Hawaii at dusk, snapped w/ my iphone from the parking garage)

(one of the magestic hallways at the Royal)

Richard Gideon , Bobby Moderow, (me), and Kahi Kaonohi

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jesus Does Not Love You and I

That's right. He loves you and me--even when we screw up our pronouns.

But I'm not as forgiving. I have sat in many a church service, wedding, and funeral and have heard the most sincere orators flub it all up: God just wants to bless you and I...He loves you and I...I ask that you pray for my wife and I. No! No! No!

Somehow, perhaps out of a deep-seated fear of not being proper enough, people have resorted to using "you and I" no matter where it shows up in a sentence. This is a mortal sin in the literary world, a sin so bad that it will make those of us who know the rule (or in my case, teach the rule), cringe in our pews.

The rule is simple. If you were to take out the "you and" or "my wife and" from the above sentences, you would be left with the following: Jesus loves I...God just wants to bless I...I ask that you pray for I.

See the problem? The logical solution is to replace the "I" with "me": Jesus loves you and me...God wants to bless you and me...I ask that you pray for my wife and me.

The only time "You and I" is used is when it comes before the main verb of the sentence. Again, this is pure logic: Jenni and I love Jesus...You and I have been blessed...My wife and I will pray for you. Go ahead and take out the "Jenni and", "You and", and "My wife and"...see what's left? This is why it is never acceptable to say Me and Jesus have a good thing going on; or Me and my friends love Jesus. Unless you're an unschooled caveman, you would never say, Me love Jesus.

Now, for the love of Jesus and me, go and sin no more.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are—Hawaiian Style

Yesterday in the shower, I encountered a wild thing. A small wild thing, but a wild thing none-the-less. He first appeared next to my Aussie shampoo bottle, and since I don’t shower with my glasses on, I couldn’t tell right away if he was dead or alive. I jiggled the shampoo bottle and watched him wiggle top speed up the tiles until he came eye-to-eye with me. Even without my glasses, I could see his little reptilian chest pounding through his color-changing skin. I know if he could speak at this point, he’d be saying, “What! You no like geckos?” I wanted to tell him that I love geckos, especially the cute baby ones like himself and even though his enormous extended family that live behind the clock in my living room are not as cute, I’m still grateful to them for eating all the nasty cock-a-roaches that sneak in.

With my loofah hanging next to him, I wondered how I would remove it from the hook without once again terrifying my little shower friend. Like a speeding figure eight, he scurried back to the Aussie bottle. I lathered. I scrubbed. I rinsed, leaving the lizard alone, but the real drama began when I turned off the water and stepped out. Because it’s an old house, the drain takes its sweet time, leaving a few inches of water to slowly work its way down and out.

Towel-wrapped, I decided I needed to capture the little guy and set him free outside, fearing otherwise he’d become a play toy for our serial-killer cat, Blue (more on him in the future). I crouched down and cupped my hands around the lizard, but in a fitful rage he escaped through a crack between my two thumbs and plunged headfirst into the draining tub. Much to my surprise, he swam with Michael Phelps finesse. He even flipped himself upside-down twice in order to rest a second before flipping back over to finish his cross-tub journey.

Once to the other side, perhaps out of pure exhaustion, he couldn’t get himself attached to the slippery tub, so I intervened again and tried to scoop him out. This is when he released his wiggling tail into the water—a survival device—making it impossible for him to continue swimming. Panicked, I cupped the poor little tailless critter and tossed him onto the tile floor. His limp little body didn’t move, and I was sure he was tragically dead. I tapped him with my pinky finger, and he twitched. There was hope. I blew on him, tapped again, and off he went to the far corner of the bathroom.

Relieved, I left him alone…just long enough to grab my new iphone. He hadn’t moved much, but his eyes were wide open as I knelt in front of him to snap his mug shot. This time I could hear him telling me off. “Eh, what you doing now? My tail going take t’ree weeks for grow back laddat, and now you going take my pict-cha? You like me say Cheese, too?”

When I opened the bathroom door, my waterlogged friend stammered out into the hall, heading toward the sleeping cat.

I got dressed, dried my hair, and headed out to the movies to see “Where The Wild Things Are.” It was okay.

In bed last night I imagined being awakened by an angry tailless gecko. “I tell you where da kine, wild things stay,” he’d whisper. “I stay looking at one wild buggah right hea!”

Let the wild rumpus start!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Zaffron Tonight

Whenever an invitation from Zaffron proprietor Tai Khan comes our way, I fast after breakfast then head off at dinnertime for his Indian buffet in Downtown Honolulu. Tonight we dined with Tai, his wife Sheila, and friends Jason, Priya, and Stefan. The food as always delivered the best of North Indian flavors. The basmati rice topped with egg curry and spicy tomato chutney hit the epicurean spot, as did the keema beef curry, aloo sabzi, garbanzo beans, and fragrant biryani rice. The naan (white or wheat) was served steaming hot from their tandoor oven. I sampled the assortment of chutneys, and found the pineapple variety added the perfect punch to their tofu curry. As if that weren't enough, Tai and his wife Sheila reminded us to delve into the halwa for desert. Served piping hot, this semolina-based bowl of pure cardamom comfort, coupled with a second cup of homemade hot chai, lulled me into a blissful state of Indian La-La Land.

All the while, I'm sitting in front of a wall-to-wall Rajasthani horse mural on cloth, thinking to myself, I've got to find one of these on ebay...

Our dinner mates also lent to the magic. Jason and Priya, both scientists, gave us a taste of their technical lives as Priya described what exactly she does with computers, which unfortunately I cannot put into my own words...something to do's beyond me. Jason teaches nuclear physics at UH, so I didn't even attempt to go there with him.

(Priya and Jason)

Tai Khan is originally from Fiji and plays soccer with my husband. He gets to wear the gold shorts as he is past the age of 60, which I find hard to believe when watching him play. When his soccer buddy Stefan showed up, the conversation quickly turned into a mixed plate of soccer, rugby, and global warming. I had to snap a shot of the three of them and their matching hairdos...

(Tai, Noel, and Stefan)

We continued on for three hours, enjoying the food, the company, and the homey atmosphere. Noah felt so at home that he gave up on us and retreated to his sleeping quarters...

Since Tai's wife Sheila is also a teacher, we relished in the idea of Fall break. And somehow when the conversation turned to the eating of bats as an Asian delicacy, we both agreed that no matter how tasty they might be, we would have to pass. Even though I'm known as the one who will try anything once, bats would have to be one of those rare exceptions.

(Tai, me, and Sheila)

If you live in Hawaii and want to eat some real, down-home Indian food, get on over to Zaffron on the corner of King and Smith Street. Get there after 6:30 so you can park free on King and not get towed. When you go there, tell them Deb Tenney sent you.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Now I Lay (or Lie) Me Down to Sleep?

If you have an aversion to grammar lessons, then don't read this. But if you have always wondered about the "lay/lie" dilemma and want to start using these two devilish words correctly, then take a deep breath and continue reading.

Disclaimer: I am not a big bad grammar snob, in fact, I make all sorts of mistakes, especially when speaking to important people (or at least to people who thrust their importance at me). It's only because I have taught grammar for fifteen years to resistant teenagers that I feel entitled to offer, sacrificially, what I do know about this mean and scary subject.

So here it is, plain and simple.

means to place and must have a noun connected to it. Example:

The chicken lays an egg.

If you want to use it in the past tense, then simply change it to laid. Example:

Yesterday, the chicken laid an egg.

Other examples of lay used correctly:

The student lays her books on the table.

I need to lay this tile in the bathroom.

INCORRECT: (but this is how everyone says it...)

I need to lay down.

I laid down yesterday.

See, there's no specific thing to place anywhere?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, let's deal with lie, which means to recline. Example:

I must lie down.

Changing it to the PAST TENSE is where we all start to go astray. Example:

Yesterday, I lay down under the tree.

Last month, the protesters lay across the road.

If you listen carefully, you'll hear this grammar blunder in many popular songs, which always bums me out if I happen to like the song.

Bonnie Raitt did it: Lay down with me/tell me no lies/just hold me close/and don't patronize me...

Chasing Cars did it in their ethereal "Snow Patrol": If I lay here/If I just lay here/would you lie with me/and just forget the world? (notice lie is correct)

A few years ago, one brilliant student of mine posed the million-dollar question:

"What about the verb "to lie" when you're talking about telling a lie?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"In the past tense, we don't say, 'I lay about my age last weekend to get into an R-rated movie.'" He continued, "Shouldn't we then be able to say, 'I lied down under the mango tree last night'"?
"No," I answered."
"Why?" he persisted.
"I don't know...I just work here," I told him and moved on to a feisty rant about why English teachers are all nuts.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Italian Job and Then Some

Yes, I drive a Mini Cooper, but no, this is not going to be a post about how wonderful it is to zoom around Hawaii in the cutest car ever made. No, this post is a tribute to all the jobs I’ve held over the past twenty-nine years. Yes, I started young.

Job #1: At fourteen-and-a-half years old, I received my first bona-fide paycheck from Los Alamitos Fish and Chip. Owned and operated by an ambitious Vietnamese family, LA Fish and Chip offered all the expected London fare with a South East Asian twist. My job was to fry up the orders in the back kitchen as they were shouted at me. The language barrier caused the most grief as I tried in earnest to decipher what exactly it was that I was supposed to prepare. Let’s say someone ordered one fish and chips, one shrimp/no chips, and two fish with extra chips—it sounded like this: One feesh cheep, one sheep no cheep, two feesh eshra cheep. Now say it really fast—a few dozen times, and there you have it. Thank God for Farrah, their four year old daughter, who would stand next to me and interpret.

Job #2: I have no idea what it was called, but it was a ritzy ice-cream parlor in Seal Beach, praised for their fine espressos and lattes. The owner was rarely ever there, and I worked alone most of the time. The five-mile bike ride, the loneliness, the forearm cramps from scooping ice cream, and the wrist burns from the milk steamer made me almost miss the feesh, cheep, and sheep job.

Job #3: Mr. T’s Auto Parts. I delivered auto parts every Saturday morning in a bright yellow Volkswagen Rabbit diesel truck all over the backstreets of Long Beach, Compton, Lynwood, and Watts (remember now, this is before the security of cell phones). At first I felt like a pony-tailed bimbo, but once I got my bearings (and ball-bearings) straightened out, I whipped around town dropping off axles and pistons and rack n’ pinions to macho mechanics who grew to respect me for my expert knowledge of gaskets and heads and hoses and fuses.

(this is not the actual truck, but it looked exactly like it)

Job #4: Le Polynesia. For ten years, I had the privilege of being a performer with this crème de le Polynesian crème of a dance troupe. We frequented yacht clubs, restaurants, and conventions as well as benefit shows for hospitals, veterans, and community fund raisers. Under the faithful instruction and leadership of Jr. and Ilima Montgomery, we were taught to preserve the languages and authentic dance forms of Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Samoa. My most embarrassing moment on stage caught me with a huge chunk of my Tahitian skirt missing as I turbo-danced in front of a rowdy group of military dudes. Thankfully this happened before Youtube.
Linda, Claudia, Darlene, Renee, (me), & Guy
The Dynamic Duo: (me) & Claudia

Job #5: Bookstore clerk at Cypress College. Not fun.

Job #6: Ricabob’s Restaurant. Located directly across the street from the Los Alamitos Horse Race Track, this place taught me how to carry a lot of food on one arm and how to say no to wealthy gamblers with impossible promises. I also learned how to spill a Bloody Mary on Evel Knievel’s lap.

Job #7: Marri’s Pizza. My true Italian job, this was the real McCoy, New York pizza joint, and by far, the scariest of all my jobs. The mostaccioli, served flambé, singed my long hair more than once, and the proposals were, how do you say—adangeroso!

Job #8: Disneyland. During my five years at the “Happiest Place On Earth,” I sold skulls and snakes in Adventureland, Daniel Boone hats and rifles in Frontierland, light sabers in Tomorrowland, and Matson shiploads of stuffed Mickey’s and Minnie’s everywhere else. I also personalized hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those felted mouse-ear hats. My biggest challenge was trying to fit names like “Sharayahkenika” or “Mahealaninuikealoha” in the small space on the back of those popular hats. My last two years as lead/scheduler on the east side of Main Street taught me to appreciate people who never called in sick, especially the magicians. Let’s just say, I don’t do magic—at least not on purpose.

Job #9: Travelodge—across the street from Disneyland. I worked there while simultaneously working at Disney, mainly because I needed a place to stay for a while. The funny part was driving a huge shuttle bus full of tourists to Disney, only to have them see me later in the evening, working in the park, thinking I had a twin shuttle-driving sister.

Job #10: Aloha Animal Hospital. My first job in Hawaii, where I sat behind a receptionist counter, checking in a menagerie of wealthy animals with hangnails and chipped teeth. It was there that I fell head-over-heels in love with Sam, the Newfoundlander with enormous webbed feet and enough drool to create a slip n’ slide for all the dainty-footed Pomeranians and Pekinese puff balls.

(this is not Sam, but he looked exactly like this bad boy)

Job #11: Liberty House (now unfortunately Macy’s). I managed the Christmas department while six months pregnant for my first son and continued working/waddling there until I birthed my ten-pound wonder boy, Ryan (thank God for c-sections!)

Job #12: Private nanny. ‘Nough said.

Job #13: Preschool assistant. Ditto.

Job #14: Writer for University of Hawaii’s OPELE office (see my earlier blog post Angel in the Infield).

Job #15: English teacher—15 years and counting. Almost 1,600 students later, I can still say it’s the best job ever!

Job #16: Curriculum writer for Ohana Learning Foundation. Earned loads of money creating on-line lesson plans during my maternity leave for son #2. In spite of the generous non-fiction income, I'm sticking with the poor folks of fiction.

It’s been a wild ride, that’s for sure, but worth every clocked-in hour of it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Six months ago tonight... the critical care unit at Honolulu’s Straub Medical Center, I didn’t know if I’d wake up the next morning here or on the other side of eternity. The day before, I left work early and drove myself to the ER because I had a sinking suspicion that something sinister had invaded my lungs. I even told my general practitioner that it felt like a baseball was rolling around in my left lung. She didn’t seem too concerned but told me, since I had a minor blood clot in my leg a few years back, to get a nuclear scan…just in case.

Good thing I did because it was during that radioactive scanning session that I suddenly lost the ability to breathe properly. Flat on my back, I lay there in the basement of the hospital, unable to notify the nuclear tech girl that I was in trouble. Strangely, I didn’t panic, but I did pray. It was the Monday before Good Friday, and I likened my discomfort to what I imagined the Lord went through while suffocating on the cross. When I silently asked what I should do, I saw Him (like a vision) there on the cross, twisting his upper body to breathe. So I did the same thing. Without much wiggle-room, I twisted as much as I could within the strict confines of the scanning machine. Nuclear Girl alerted me to remain still, and I tried to wave my hand at her. To my surprise, the twisting worked. Air was able to siphon into my lungs with each painful twist.

I must not have looked too well because when Nuclear Girl finally approached me, she instantly lugged me onto a wheelchair and whisked me down a long hallway, up an elevator, down another long hall and straightway into the ER. The pain in my chest was insurmountable, and the only way I could get air in was to continue using the Jesus-twist. Before I could blink twice, my clothes were being ripped (literally) off my body. I could almost hear my mom’s voice from Heaven saying, See? I told you for wear nice- kine panties ‘cause you nevah know when someone going see dem, laddat! Unfortunately, I could not remember which undergarments I had put on that morning. Being that it was a school day, I’m assuming they were suitable for a medical audience.

The next eight hours in the ER are more like vague snippets of a House episode. None of the ER doctors seemed to know what to make of me, this outwardly healthy-looking girl who couldn’t breathe; but when the blood/oxygen-level machine revealed that I was going down fast, chaos took over. It was at this point that I remember an ambulance medic bursting into my little curtained abode with an enormous hypodermic needle. As he shot me in the upper arm, I heard someone’s cell phone ringing with the Indiana Jones theme song, which somehow comforted me. Within a minute or so after my knight-and-shining ambulance medic’s shot, I was able to take in more air with less pain. This was a good thing, as I needed to make a few phone calls.

At some point, a nuclear specialist stood above me and told me I had a pulmonary embolism, and that it was very serious. A whole team of random people joined us and began asking me questions. Do you want a priest or a chaplain?...Do you have a living will?...Can we phone anyone for you?

To these questions, I answered respectively: No. No. Yes, I need to call my sub. We’re supposed to start Shakespeare tomorrow…oh and my husband…and Tina, my unofficial secretary who knows how to contact aliens on Uranus. The living-will lady came back at some point to pursue the issue. Look, I told her, all I have is a Mini Cooper, so just make sure my 19 year-old doesn’t get that because he can’t drive a stick. She left without another word.

The specialist came back and told me I had a 50/50 chance to survive this—that basically if the blood-thinners don’t thin fast enough, I’m doomed. At that point, I think my family had joined me, along with Tina, who assured me I was being covered in prayer by everyone she could contact. I pictured the Uranus dwellers on bended knee for me and again, felt comforted.

After I was deemed stable enough to be moved, I was delivered to the ICU for a sleepless night of constant attention. My personal nurse catered to me as if I were his favorite movie star. He checked on me constantly, and when he finished his middle-of-the-night rounds, he gave me a five-star foot and neck massage. I wanted to sleep, but I didn’t. What if I didn’t wake up here? What would happen to Noah? He’s only eight. Ryan will be okay. Husband even better. But Noah, my little guy, he needs me. And I need him to need me. I stayed awake by choice and watched the morning sneak in. The woman in the room next to me didn’t make it, and I had to listen to the family weep, the quiet voices, and then the rolling away of her bed.

The pain subsided quite a bit, so they upgraded me to critical care. I got a new room with a nicer view. My room had quickly become a forest of flowers from students and friends. The dozen yellow tulips from my faithful Vicki all mysteriously turned with bended stems to face me that night. At first I thought it was perhaps because of all the nuclear radiation within me, but then reasoned it must be because of the light glowing from behind my bed.

That same day, a new, super-specialist gave me the specific details of my condition. Wide-eyed, she explained that I had not just one blood clot, but several in both lungs, the largest consuming 30% of my left lung—baseball sized. She educated me on the ins and outs of blood clots, but I couldn’t process it all because I was TIRED! All I remember now is the way she explained that these clots had to travel through my heart first and then build up over time, like snowballs. It all started to make sense as I remembered how weary I’d been feeling over the past year. She also told me it would take at least a few months for the clots to reabsorb into my lungs.

The white areas show oxygen intake.
The black areas are the sinister clots (there's the mondo baseball one above)

So that was on the 7th of April. I remained there until the 13th. Two weeks after that I went in for a new scan, and to everyone's surprise, my lungs were clot-free. The super-specialist deemed it an "unexplainable and extraordinary case." The source of the clots still remains a mystery. I’m still on Coumadin, the main ingredient to poison rats, which means I still can’t shave my legs (Veet works best, but it’s expensive and it stinks).

Tonight, after my hip-hop class, I worked out…harder than normal. The guy on the treadmill in front of me wore a shirt that said, “Carpe Diem.” I spiked up my elliptical trainer to the highest level and thought to myself between deep breaths, You got that right. And I will continue to carpe as many diems as possible.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Corporate Thugs, Oh My!

Up the street from where I work, over a dozen businesses will be bulldozed next month to make way for a new Walgreens, and while I’m not the activist type by nature, I am tempted to prostrate myself in the parking lot or go on a Gandhi-esque hunger strike in order to keep Walgreens and their big, bad corporate thugs from disturbing our quaint little Nuuanu Shopping Plaza.

Radio Shack, Subway, TCBY, Supercuts, and Dominoes Pizza will probably relocate without much grief, but the rest—the family-owned small businesses—will most likely fall into the growing pit of mom-and-pop-shop fatalities. The Hungry Lion restaurant with its ancient banyan tree growing out of its rooftop will stay, as will the beloved Bangkok Chef—the unanimously best-rated Thai food joint on the island.

Unfortunately Huckleberry Farms, a down-home, grass-rootsy health-food establishment didn’t make the cut. I have frequented this operation for over fifteen years, enjoying the country-bumpkin feeling it offered, not to mention the hearty homemade soups, sandwiches, and Greek salads. The thought of not being able to run into Huck’s to grab some fresh herbs and couscous leaves me with an unexpected surge of insecurity and loss.

I’ll especially miss the expert consultants who have been able to tell me which natural remedy works best for upset stomachs, migraine headaches, insomnia, and just about any other plague that strikes. I remember being advised to try gingko to cure writer’s block, which either worked, or at least I believed it worked, as I finished writing my third (still unpublished) novel. Will the new Whole Foods establishment across town be able to fill this void? I doubt it. Down to Earth across from U. H. is more likely to get my business, but their spacey New Age spin sometimes gives me the willies.

I went to Huck’s after work this evening, and when I wrote my last check to this humble little store, I noticed everyone wandering about the half-empty aisles with that detached gaze often seen at funerals. From my car, I took a picture, and my eight year-old son asked me why they were going out of business. “Thugs,” I told him. “Big, bad, Walgreen thugs.” I know he didn’t totally understand, but his reply was profound.

“Well, I’m never going there,” he said. “Nobody should.”