I made a mistake that I need to correct: I assumed the flowers we got after my mother-in-law's death (see my last post) were from both the Sheriff Department and the Fire Department, mostly because we have employees of one that are members of the other, and vice-versa. But the day after I posted about the flowers from the Noble County Sheriff Department, we got this beautiful plant from the Albion Fire Department:

 

 

My wife told me mum's the word, so we had an hour of silence before she explained that she thinks these flowers are mums. I know what you're thinking: How will I keep them alive? I dunno. Luck? Miracle?

 

I was going to go up to the fire meeting tonight but we're both still feeling crappy, so I want to extend my thanks to all the firefighters here. It's nice to be thought of by both these great groups of people.

Thanks to my coworkers at the Noble County Sheriff Department and my family at the Albion Fire Department, who had these flowers delivered after Emily and I finally stayed in one place long enough to receive them.

 

The color's a little off in the photo, due to the burgundy suitcase it's sitting on. Actually, our whole house is a cluttered mess right now; but Emily and I both had to go back to work immediately after returning from Missouri, so we're just too exhausted to care.

I don't remember if I mentioned it, but we'd already scheduled two weeks in September for a vacation before Emily's mom passed away. Turned out to be even worse than last September's vacation, with the totaled car and injuries and everything. Maybe we should try for a different month next year?

I normally try hard not to complain too much. Complaining is like trying to talk about politics: It's pointless and just annoys everyone else. Although I often fail, in recent years I've tried to be either positive, funny, or quiet. I used to have a reputation for turning the things that go wrong in my life into humor columns, but I can't anymore because ... well, I'd getting ahead of myself.

But please indulge me, just this once.

Because it's been a really, really bad month.

Actually, the really bad month started last month, as my fourteen regular readers already know. Just before we left for Missouri to see the total solar eclipse, my wife and I learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. We did indeed get to see the eclipse, but that was, pardon me for saying, eclipsed by our worry over Jean Stroud's medical condition. We spent most of that week taking her to various medical places, and were there when she started chemo.

Then we came back to Indiana so that Emily and I could do our jobs, only to rush back over Labor Day weekend when things took a very rapid, very unexpected turn for the worse. It turns out her cancer had progressed much further than any of us realized, and she passed away while we were driving somewhere through west central Indiana.

Honestly, that's not something I'm ready to talk about yet.

Now, I could probably turn everything else that happened in September into a humor column, because it was all small stuff of the type we're not supposed to sweat. But when you're already in a state of shock, and the stuff just keeps on happening, one after another, it just can't be made funny.

I should consider us lucky we didn't get into an accident, like we did last September. That ended in splints, X-rays, and car shopping. I'd thought it as bad as a vacation could get, until this September. This one turned into the vacation they schedule in Hell, and what follows is just a sample.

But no accident, although we had a close encounter with a coyote. We drove some five thousand miles over the course of four weeks, most of it in the last couple of weeks. And we drove most of it while sick.

Emily got it first. Nothing accompanies settling your mother's affairs like a bad head cold. We made two trips to and from to arrange and hold a memorial, and to take care of a thousand details, most of which had to be done by Emily as the only child. Those trips were done with frequent Kleenex breaks. I did my best to be a supportive spouse, until I was also felled by little warrior germs that set up shop in my sinuses, then invaded my lungs.

All that driving. After it was over, the chiropractor could identify the model and make of our car by the bends in my spine. By the way, I've made that 500 mile trip for a decade, and have seriously never seen as much road construction along the route.

In the middle of it, we had to come back to Indiana because we'd previously signed up for an author appearance and didn't want to be no-shows. That was on a Friday, and Emily took advantage to work her saddle barn job on Saturday and Sunday before we headed back south. Believe me, she made more money there than we did as authors.

In fact, my author aspirations took quite a hit during September. We sold only a few books that Friday (although we handed out some business cards and bookmarks, which often lead to sales). A few days later I got my publisher's first sales report on my newest novel, Radio Red. Between its release in April and the end of June, the sales made me ... cry. It's the worse opening of my nine books.

Oh, and the newspaper that ran my column stopped publishing, so I no longer have a home for "Slightly Off the Mark".

At least that gave us a little time to watch TV. With a planned vacation, we'd set the DVR to record the shows starting up in September, and had hours of unwatched shows already recorded. Emily was at work when that last straw went dark and permanently dead, falling on my last nerve. She missed the horror-movie screaming noises that came from ... someone ... after the good people at Mediacom said they'd speed a technician our way in only a week or so.

All minor stuff, really. TV shows? You can catch up with them online. Poor book sales? My next novel is just around the corner. Illnesses pass, spines recover, and our car gets really good gas mileage. The dog slept for about twelve hours straight after we returned the last time, but now he's good as new.

It's just that stuff builds up, sometimes.

I don't know. Maybe the hardest thing after the memorial was cleaning out Jean's storage unit. Not because of the 90+ degree heat, dust, and spiders, but because you're suddenly going through memories at a time when it's most painful. We had to start three times, and in the end brought some boxes home into the air conditioning to be looked after later.

They say you have to go through bad times to appreciate the good times, and if that's so I'm feeling pretty darned appreciative. So, okay ... rough month. But if you've been watching the news at all, you know that everyone's been having a pretty rough month. Now and then we all need to vent a little.

117 people came to our annual family gathering Saturday at the home of the ever-welcoming cousin Mike Triplett, who encourages the invasion every year. Emily and I were only able to stay a couple of hours due to work schedules, but boy ... those were a tasty couple of hours. Thanks to cousin Vickie Martin for letting me use a few of her photos for a post.

 

That's my dad, Delbert Hunter, along with his sisters Ruby and Dorothy. There were nine siblings in all, which helps explain the large number of descendants.

 

 

I had to add this photo of my brother, because it's like pulling beard hairs to get one where he's not making a Jerry Lewis face. Jeff's still working full time despite going through chemo--that's one tough guy. (Latest test results were very encouraging!) His long-suffering wife is on the right ... well, any married Hunter man has a long-suffering wife.

 

 

 

Speaking of long-suffering wives, there's mine. She's asking Dad if I've always been this way. He's answering, "Yes".

 

There was chicken. But right over at the next table there was fudge. Faced with a difficult decision, I chose to overeat. By the way, my wife bought me that shirt.

 

There are about a million more pictures over at Mike's Facebook page, and Vickie's, and about a dozen others, which is why I didn't bother to take any myself. Emily only had one day off out of six in a row, so I decided to be lazy on her behalf.

We should all see each other way more than once a year, of course.


Tags:

Meet Lilianna Judith Mapes, my first granddaughter:

 

Tags:
 I can't say I had the perfect birthday: Emily worked part of the day and I ran some errands, including getting some maintenance done on the car. However, we had fried chicken and chocolate ice cream, and if that doesn't make for a good day, what does? Also, I introduced Emily to Smoky and The Bandit ... and since she liked it, I guess I'll keep her.

 

We also had the grand-twins over during my days off, watched Lego Batman, cooked hotdogs over a fire, and slept. The only way it could have been better would be if I'd gotten some writing time in, but sometimes the days are just full.

 

Thanks for all your birthday wishes! I'm of an age where birthdays are a mixed blessing: You don't really want to admit to getting older, but it's nice to be thought of.

 

Oh, and the twins got to go swimming. I supervised with the camera.

Yeah, life. It's a thing, ain't it? You're rolling along, way too busy, doing too much of what you don't really want to do and not enough of what you do.

Then, one day, you find out you're going to be a grandparent, for the third time.

Well, that's the way it happened to me, anyway.

In the great tradition of our family birthdays being either in mid-summer or in December, my daughter Jillian is due to give birth around December 11th (Jill--it's Jill now, not Jillian--was born on the 27th). I've known for awhile, although shockingly not as long as Jill did. She posted the news on Facebook in June, but I think a lot of people missed that.

I assume that if it's a boy, the first name will be Mark, and if it's a girl the first name will be the feminine version, which is Marka. But I suppose I should actually talk that over with Jill and Doug, and be satisfied if they merely gave him/her the middle name of Mark or, um, Markma. Or, okay, they could use my middle name Richard, which has the feminine version of Ricarda. Or she could name him Hunter, but then he'd have a cousin also named Hunter, and I'd have two grandkids named Hunter, and you'd never know for sure who's being yelled at. Probably me.

So anyway, Jill's life is essentially over--and she's started a new one. Way different, but in its own way just as fun, more exciting, and crazy expensive. The next generation is well on its way.

Jill practices her baby cuddling skills with the closest nephew, who survived and just turned nine.

Emily and I helped celebrate Hunter and Brayden's 9th birthday Friday with a pool party, which is pretty much the only way to do an outdoor kid's birthday party in June.

 

That's Hunter on top and Brayden on the bottom, despite the fact that Brayden is taller (for the moment).

 

Did I mention the pool part?

 

When you're about to turn nine, opening presents is a group activity. There were adults there too, but our group activity was hamburgers and German potato salad.

 

 

It's always better with ... Batman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus video! If it works.

 

Emily and I gave them a telescope -- always good to keep your eyes on the stars.

Well done and lots of love to my older brother Jeff, who got through his first day of chemo for lung cancer today. Also to his wife Cathy, who's always there for him ... my prayers go to both of them as they start down a long, difficult road to wellness.
ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Default)
( Apr. 2nd, 2017 01:34 pm)
My sister-in-law's words:
 
Jeff's tests came back that it is cancer. They are doing genetic testing on samples to see if there is weakness in  cancer. If they find one , they will do targeted chemo. Which doc said is better to fight it. If not  will do regular chemo. He is taking it all in stride. He says he gonna kick cancers butt!!! Prayers are still appreciated.
 
So, now the fight begins. 
ozma914: (ozma914)
( Mar. 27th, 2017 02:43 am)
So, kind of an up and down week last week, largely down. While I was getting interviewed Friday morning for the TV news, my brother Jeff was getting a lung biopsy. (Emily and I drove down just after the filming finished.) The results of the biopsy aren't in yet, and he's getting a brain scan Monday; but the doctors seem to think his cancer is back, and he's in stage four.

At least his lung didn't collapse, as it did with his previous biopsy about a year ago. But it sounds like he's in for a lot of chemo, which isn't a pleasant prospect under the best of circumstances. Jeff is in good spirits--much better than I am, truth be told--which is just the way he tends to tackle things.

If you're the praying type, this would be a really good time for the prayer warriors to go on the offense. And hey, if you're the good thoughts/vibes type, that would also be welcome. We'll keep everyone updated as we get news.
ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Default)
( Feb. 14th, 2017 12:15 am)

On Valentine's Day, it's always good to remember your Valentine, by which I mean the love of your life, by which I'm talking to you, guys. I'm not suggesting women never forget romantic dates ... I mean, there's no such thing as never. But let's face it: Chances are pretty good that anyone raiding the store on February 14th for candy, flowers, or lingerie is likely to be a panicked male.

By the way, guys: Admit to yourself that lingerie is almost always a gift for you, not her.

An important question to ask yourself is: "Would my life be better or worse without this person in my life?" If the answer is better, you need to do some hard thinking. If the answer is worse, then the chances are good you're taking that person for granted. That's human nature.

When I met my wife I was alone, lonely, aimless, and bankrupt. How did she cure me? Let me count the ways:

Working backward, Emily is cheap. This can be a complaint, but to me it's a compliment: She doesn't like to spend money. I don't have money. It's a match made in banking. When I say, "I don't feel like cooking--let's get takeout", her response is, "I don't feel like spending money--I'll cook". And everything's fine, as long as I do the dishes.

Which I do. Why? Because the other night, instead of letting me get KFC, she made these baked chicken thighs that are so good angels smelled them and started crying. I was so happy I did the dishes, and also the laundry, and shampooed the carpets.

It goes without saying that I'm no longer alone and lonely. I'm the kind of person who doesn't mind spending time alone, but that only goes so far. Did you know that watching TV is actually more fun with someone else? You did? Okay, did you know that reading books is more fun when you can discuss them with a loved one? You didn't? Ha!

She talked me into getting a dog. Seven years I'd gone without a dog. How did I stand it?

Since we met, I've published nine books (well, nine as of March 7th), plus pieces in three anthologies. Before we met, I published ... zero. Coincidence? Heck, no. Yes, I've had encouragement from others, but she did more than that: She pushed me. No excuses--do the writing, polish the writing, sell the writing. Not to mention half the books are self-published, and there's no way I had the design and computer talents to pull those off myself.

And finally, she gets me. Sure, women often try to change men, usually for the better. Her work on me has been superficial (and boy, did I need it). She didn't try to turn me into a different person--she accepts me as I am, moles and all. (We get moles in my family. No, not in the yard.) She not only accepts me, but she understands the why of me. And yet, she stayed with me anyway.

Basically ... Emily's awesome. So this Valentine's Day, which is today, I'm going to appreciate her.

Wait. It's today?

Ah, jeez, I gotta get to the store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
( Feb. 13th, 2017 11:50 am)

My grandson Hunter got to visit the ER over the weekend, with a fine and extra-special case of gastroenteritis. Apparently he felt his tonsillectomy from a couple of weeks ago just wasn't enough contact with medical professionals.

If you're thinking, as I did, "aw, just a bad case of stomach flu", look it up and be scared. I know I am.

I dropped off a care package of Pedialite, Gatorade, and crackers, and discovered that I can hold my breath for exactly four minutes and fourteen seconds when properly motivated. That's how long it took to open the back door, throw the bags into my daughter's kitchen, and jump off the porch into the car. 

But in all seriousness, take the time to throw some good thoughts/prayers/vibes their way--the family's had a really rough winter, and it's not over yet.
Winter almost beat the Hunter family Christmas celebration. Almost. But in the end we celebrated, if only a month or so late.

First there was illness. Then work schedules. Then more illness. Then weather. Illness. A tonsillectomy. (I realize that fits under illness, but still.) Then work schedules again. Okay, a lot of illness: flu, bronchitis, tonsillitis, a stomach bug, friggin' scarlet fever. Seriously? I thought the last person who caught scarlet fever was Charles Darwin. Luckily he survived, what with him being the fittest and all.

Some of this was with my oldest daughter's family: Two eight-year-olds collect germs the way I collected publisher rejection slips. I think my youngest daughter only got sick once during that period; my wife and I collected five illnesses between the two of us, trading them back and forth like Pokemon cards.

But finally our schedule was cleared, our lungs cleared, and the roads cleared: We would meet at my oldest daughter's house to celebrate Christmas on Sunday, January 29th. Enough time had passed that one of my grandkids asked if we were celebrating last Christmas, or next Christmas. But at least the unusual warm weather made the trip seem like smooth sailing.

I walked out that day to load presents in the car, and discovered we'd been rewarded with a white Christmas.

Well, it didn't seem too bad, not really. I mean, not for northern Indiana in January. I even shot a fun video of it, then went inside to get another load. When I walked outside again, a blizzard had hit. I've taken to calling it the Blizzard of Ours, because it seemed to be times for right when we were about to drive twelve miles.

It was a snow squall, really--it didn't last long. After that it was just heavy snow, compared to zero visibility and seeing (or rather hearing) houses blow by. At least, I think it was a house. I haven't checked to see if the neighbor's garage is still there.

But you know what? We were having by-gosh Christmas, and no more delays! The happy ending is that we made the drive safely, successfully dodging the guy who did not successfully make his turn in front of us. We all emerged unscathed, and I got new fur-lined house slippers, which every successful and unsuccessful writer should own.

And the best part is, we also made it home safely, leaving my daughter and son-in-law to deal with the present we got the twins: a home kit to make your very own volcano.

Looks like they're in for rough weather.

Prayers and/or healing vibes requested for my Grandmother Nannie Bricker, who fell yesterday morning and has a compression fracture in her back. Painful, but not that serious--if you're not 94 years old. At the moment she's in room 213 at Parkview Noble Hospital, but I'm not sure how things will progress from here.

 

Rough day, yesterday, especially with half the family still sick. Basically the perfect ending to what was, with a few exceptions, a pretty sucky year.
ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Relay For Life)
( Nov. 27th, 2016 04:13 pm)
 

My Uncle Paul Hunter passed away yesterday; he had been under treatment for cancer in the hospital at the University of Kentucky, which coincidentally is where he attended college. Prayers would be appreciated for my Aunt Jewell, their kids, and all the family.

 

My dad beat cancer a few years ago, and my brother this year, and I had a scare myself awhile back; but this time it was the disease that ultimately won. We can only grieve, remember, and work toward a cure.

 

When I was a kid, Paul and Jewell’s house was next to Mama and Papa’s, so they got a lot of spillover guests during family get-togethers—and with nine brothers and sisters in the family, the get-togethers could get pretty big. It was in a hollow in the area of Mousie, Kentucky; I haven’t visited for some time because I’ve heard the area has changed a great deal, and I’d rather remember it as it was.

 

I don’t recall now the name of the hollow or what road it’s on, but I remember sitting on my grandparents’ big front porch, looking down toward Paul and Jewell’s house and past it to the big mountain that rose in the distance—well, big to me, an Indiana boy.  It was uphill on either side, too, and to visit relatives you’d walk up the narrow road, past houses built in single file. Just about everybody had a big porch, and the adults would sit there, sometimes snipping green beans, while they got caught up. The kids would play in the yards, climb the hills, and watch for ticks.

 

It’s funny what you remember from your kid-hood. Even back then, I thought Paul and Jewell had infinite patience, for putting up with all the kids running in and out with what was no doubt not their indoor voices. There were probably a lot of balls and Frisbees stranded on their roof.

 

We all seemed so very alive back then.

 

If I have this right--and it is 4:30 in the morning, after all--that's my Aunt Ruby, Aunt Dorothy, my father Delbert, and Uncle Paul.

 

Emily and I hitched a ride with my oldest daughter's family for trick or treating around Albion.

 

My son-in-law was nice enough to drive, but he didn't talk much: Vince had a splitting headache.

 

My daughter Charis has always loved Halloween. Me, not so much since the doctor made me cut down on candy ... please don't tell him I collected a treat tax from the grand-twins.

 

That's Brayden on the left--what, you don't recognize him? and Hunter on the right. I asked Brayden why his character has an eye patch but doesn't use it, and he replied, "He does, sometimes". Maybe that's how he picks up girls.

 

I wonder if the grand-twins were nervous to have a zombie and vampire sitting behind them? That's not my costume, by the way: On my days off I always look like that.

 

ozma914: mustache Firefly (mustache)
( Jun. 29th, 2016 05:52 am)

Jeff tells me he has all his chest tubes out, and so is tube free and is now running and jumping and dashing around … well, he’s tube free. And he sure is happy about it.

He does have some rest and recovery to work on though. If you know Jeff, you understand why that’s work—I expect Cathy’s biggest need the next couple of weeks is going to be a supply of duct tape to keep him secured to a chair.
ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Relay For Life)
( Jun. 16th, 2016 12:09 am)

People have been asking, and I'm overdue to give an update on my brother Jeff's status:

On Tuesday he had surgery to repair the leak that developed around his chest tube. The surgeon, Dr. Greenlee, says the surgery was a success, but he did find cancer and removed the upper lobe of Jeff's lung, along with some lymph nodes. More samples were taken, so we're awaiting tests to confirm the diagnosis ... but I assume Greenlee wouldn't have taken that step if he wasn't already darned certain of the diagnosis. I also assume Jeff''s going to have to have some chemotherapy later on, but the next course of action on that front remains to be seen.

So he's back on a chest tube, as the rest of his lung settles into the resulting space. However, he was looking really good on Wednesday and was already up and walking around, as well as sitting in a recliner instead of being stuck in bed. It was some major-league surgery. As of this writing he was in room 2205 (entrance 10 at Parkview Regional Medical Center), but I don't know if and when they might transfer him to another room. We expect he'll be in the hospital another 4-6 days.

You’ll never guess what my youngest daughter, who’s get married, is getting. That’s right—married! You guessed!

Looks like it’s going to be a little over a year from now, during which time she’ll probably be engaged in engagement things. Congrats, Jill! I’m just as ready for this as I was for my oldest daughter’s wedding, so I’m not.

Here’s one of my favorite photos of her, although it’s about five years old now. That’s her nephew Hunter, by the way: No baby in any way has anything to do with this engagement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 

.

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