My Novels

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Living Dangerously & Not Knowing It

I like to think I'm one of those people who tries to avoid problems, whether it's being frugal, saving for the future, keeping fit, eating healthy, being careful when doing anything that has risks, and always having my car serviced on time.

A couple weeks ago, I had my car serviced -- oil changed, a new fuel filter, tires rotated, and new brake pads put on at the suggestion of the mechanic at Express Oil Change. I'm a regular customer, never had any problems, have found their work trustworthy.

However, yesterday I had a truly scary experience with my car. I had taken the dogs to the nearby wooded park for their walk, which was fine, then returned to the car. When I tried to start it, there was the sound of the battery working, but the car wouldn't start. I smelled gas, thought I'd flooded it (something most drivers are familiar with), but did think the gas smell was awfully strong. Since it was so hot, I let the dogs out and we went back into the wooded area. I had my cell, and called AAA, thank goodness. The representative had a bit of trouble figuring out exactly what to tell the tow truck for location, since there is no physical address for that little park. However, there's a Walgreen's within sight, so she took that address and noted that I was at the nearby park.

Did I mention it was HOT? For a short walk, even in the early afternoon, the wooded park is great -- there's usually a breeze stirring and since the trail is completely shaded, it's nice almost anytime of the day. At any rate, the longer I had to stay there, the more uncomfortable I became; I didn't have any bottled water with me, but did have some for the dogs which I gave them. They seemed to be coping better than I was, because I was sweating and beginning to worry the tow truck might not locate us. Not another person was anywhere near, no one drove up to walk, so I was totally alone.

Of course, my sister/bro-in-law who live fairly close are in Florida this week on vacation, which meant I was pretty much stranded.

After about thirty-five minutes, I was about ready to walk over to Walgreen's and buy some bottled water...but the tow truck arrived. Once the guys checked my car, they asked if I'd run over something -- or into a ditch. I said no, but I'd had the car serviced/worked on just a couple weeks ago. One of the guys laid down and looked underneath the car, and discovered the problem: the fuel line had fallen off! Every time I had hit the gas peddle, gas was spurting out from under the car! They inspected it, said that it looked like the techs had not tightened the clamp enough on the gas line after replacing the fuel filter. And further, both were looking alarmed, upset and told me I was lucky the line hadn't fallen off while driving down the street -- because had that happened, a spark could have caused an explosion/fire! In other words, I could have been killed!

They said we should take the car back to Express Oil Change, and have them repair it -- free, of course. So that is what we did -- and by the time we got there (about 3 miles) I was very angry as well as shaken. I didn't care how I looked, hair plastered to my head with sweat, and told the techs exactly what had happened, the tow truck driver confirming it. Those techs were instantly aware of how dangerous it had been, looked almost freaked out! Said they'd get right on it, should be fixed shortly.

I took the dogs into the cramped waiting area, which was at least air conditioned with a water fountain, and announced to everyone waiting for their car to be worked on what had happened. I mean, here I had the dogs with me, and looked like a maniac, sweat-soaked hair, red-faced. I guess they would have thought I was nuts, looking like I did AND having two dogs with me there! However funny it all looked, no one was laughing when they found out what had occurred. Two of the women were quite alarmed.

We sat there about another hour, and finally the car was ready. The manager asked, "How can we make this up to you?"

I was considering asking them to fill my car up, since I didn't know how much gas had leaked out. But when I started the car, it looked like I'd only lost about 1/4 tank, and didn't really need any. The manager ended up giving me a bunch of "discount" coupons for oil change, tire rotations, etc. Frankly, I doubt I'll go back to that particular place, but there is another Express Oil Change in town too.

I was sure glad to pull into my driveway. And honestly, I was just too upset to make the long trip to my sister's house 70 miles away today. I called her, explained what happened...and she understood. I would have been imagining every little odd sound to be something wrong with the car, had I undertaken that trip. Also, this kind of heat (95+ every day) makes it dangerous to break down and have to wait on the roadside for assistance.

I will give a shout out to AAA -- the tow cost me NOTHING. It's well worth the yearly fee, and anyone who drives (especially women) should have AAA; it's truly a good roadside service.

Today the Internet has been down since noon. I called my service provider, and they said they were working on it. Who knows when it'll be back up? I will post this when possible.

In the meantime, today I have felt drained from that length of time in the heat yesterday. I have stayed indoors, managed to do some housework (mopped/waxed floors) and may do some batch cooking shortly.

And that's it for now.

Friday, July 23, 2010


No joking, it's verrrrrrrrry hot here in the South. Don't believe me, here's a photo of the temperature gauge on my back porch (click to enlarge)

Looks like either 101 or 100!

I went to the park around ten, walked the dogs in the wooded area. Also picked up a Redbox movie, "The Hurt Locker." It's been out for some time, had rave reviews/awards, about time I watched it tonight.

Summer in the South, everything slows down to a crawl. After five on weekdays, nothing is is deserted, no cars, no one walking or biking. The air seems to stagnate, not even a breeze, suffocating.

I bike in early morning, and the park is mostly shaded. My back yard will have to be mowed tomorrow morning, but I'll do it very early, stay hydrated.

From near noon till sunset, it's just unbearably uncomfortable to get outdoors. Air conditioning in this weather is a necessity, and almost no one is without it. The stray cats retreat to their special hiding places, under houses, in deep shaded grassy spots and only come out near dark for the can food I feed.

I'm absorbed with a writing project, and the heat gives me an excuse to hunker down and WRITE!

However, I did want to write this brief post as a record of the extreme heat wave we're having here. We've had 95+ temperatures for over a week now, culminating in 100+ for the past two days!

Now back to the work-in-progress...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Walking, Biking & Lawn mowing

What do all three have in common? GREAT exercise!

I know some people hate any kind of exercise that actually works up a sweat, gets the heart racing, requires serious exertion...but I've always enjoyed it. Really.

When I was in my teens, I loved to bike, practically lived on my bike except when bad weather prevented it. During my 20s/30s, I always enjoyed a variety of activities for getting exercise. I usually walked, gardened, biked and did an exercise routine of Calisthenics, stretching, bending, etc. at least five times a week. I'd love to say I was so dedicated because I wanted to be healthy, but in fact, I wanted to stay slim.

Or at least that was what I told myself, and it worked. I weigh the same today as I did in high school.

However, eventually when I couldn't exercise, I'd miss it terribly. Nothing compares to the great feeling of your body getting a thorough workout; there is a deep relaxation that comes afterward, a sense of total calm.

In my 40s I started jogging/running, and did that for several years till I developed knee problems. I used an indoor Nordic Track ski machine for a few years, continued biking, using a stationary bike in bad weather. I did that up until about a year ago when I was diagnosed with back problems. I could still ride my bike, but not on hills; it hurt my back. Unfortunately where I was living then was a hilly area, so I just stopped biking.

I had already started walking my dogs daily. And walking is good exercise, but it still can't compare to a long brisk bike ride. I missed the biking!

Now that I'm back where I lived for 25 years, I have access to a park with a perfect biking path. I can ride to the park, and get in a good long bike ride almost daily.

As for the lawn mowing, I could never have mowed the huge yard where I last lived. Serious up/down slopes, tons of weed-eating around a chain link fence, curbs, etc. Plus, the Zoysia grass was a pain to take care of -- temperamental and thick. I even tried a riding mower, which I loathed. And I hated dealing with gas, ugh!

My yard now is modest-size, smallish and I am able to mow it with the Neuton Battery lawn mower. No bother with gas, and somewhat lightweight. Yet it IS good exercise, a real workout too. It was more difficult at first, but as the muscles in my upper arms and shoulders developed from the task, it has gotten progressively easier.

I do some gardening too, mostly vegetable gardening in the summer months. Yet I have to use caution in not hurting my back or knees due to bending/stooping for ground work. It's not really easy or pleasant, but I like the fresh veggies.

So this is a blog post in praise of exercise. I dread the day when I can no longer get serious, healthy exercise due to aging issues, but hope I have more years for activities I've come to love and need.

My only advice to those younger and able to exercise is find an activity you really enjoy -- otherwise you will never stick with it. If you're a gregarious person, there's lots of gyms, sports, groups to join for exercise. Or if you are somewhat solitary like myself and prefer being alone for workouts, there's biking, walking, hiking, gardening, etc.

I'll end with a few random pictures around here.

My antique British-made bicycle, a rare Raleigh Sports bike, love the ride!

Tomatoes/okra in my garden, looking wilted due to heat and lack of rain lately

Rambo rolling around in the yard -- he loves that!

In the stray cat post I had a picture of the limping cat, SorePaw; this is his litter mate. You can see by his expression he has no intention of being domesticated! LOL

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Flash Fiction Writing Exercise

I love writing challenges -- or exercises. Found this one on the web recently:

Tell a story in fewer than 101 words.

Use these words:

Raggedy Ann
double agent

Here's my story:


The former beauty queen looked peaceful lying on the bed, moonlight drenched. I saw a Raggedy Ann doll propped nearby, Miranda's good luck charm.

Heading out the door, I glanced back at Miranda; she still looked beautiful, except for the single bullet hole between her eyes.

Shrugging, I hurried outside, grabbing a thermos of coffee in the car. My regular job: double agent. I moonlight as a contract killer, love the razzmatazz.

The drive back to Jersey should be uneventful, moonlit roads. Billy, Miranda's husband, would be glad to get my call; old friends deserve a favor now and then.

----Word count: 100