Monday, January 27, 2014

Hallelujah … I’m sitting at my sister’s dining room table

I ain’t proud.

Not when my back is shrieking like a Halloween wind whirling through a forest full of skeletal limbs.

Since foolishly choosing to pick up a box of heavy coffee-table books two weeks ago, I’ve been a poor facsimile of a 90-year-old humpback witch concocted by the Grimm Brothers, a witch barely able to pick up her book of spells.

Don't try this or you'll end up like me.
The last few days have been hectic, although not always for me. There’s only so much a crippled back can manage during a weekend of packing up my Saturn Ion for my move to Las Vegas.

Priority No. 1 on Saturday was finding someone to help me dispose of a bedsprings and mattress. My initial choice – my longtime friend Jayne – had to work in the morning, so I had to quickly conjure a backup plan. My roommate Deb came through, convincing her friend Stuart to help me transport the mattress and bedspring to the landfill.

There was a time I could single-handedly move a mattress from a U-haul-it truck into a bedroom. But I had a healthy back by then. And I was 37 years old. This time around Stewart did the heavy lifting and I cheered him on as he heaved the bedsprings and mattress into the back of his pickup.

Jayne showed up about 11 a.m. ready to load the Saturn for me. Luckily I had packed most everything I intended to take with me – about 10 boxes – before I blew up my back. Earlier I had gone through two closets and given about half my clothes to Goodwill. I hadn’t touched the rest since the back catastrophe, so it fell on Jayne to pack the clothes in several heavy-duty plastic lawn bags. My plan was to just dump them in … she insisted we fold them; said the bags would not take up as much space.

I held open the house and car doors as she carried the boxes and bags out to the car and packed them just like an 18th-century stevedore packed cargo into a sailing vessel bound from the Old World to the New World. Amazingly I could see out the back window, although a couple of small boxes along the back edge of the right rear passenger window did block a smidgen of the window. It forced me to use my right side-view mirror. But all in all it was an excellent job of packing.

Breakfast and pain, anti-inflammatory pills -- the perfect combination.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my three-quarter antique bed. We couldn’t get it into the car and still be able to get all the bags and boxes in as well. But Jayne said she’d store it and try to sell it to an antique dealer and send the money to me. Then she decided she’d buy it, order a three-quarter bedsprings and mattress for it, and use it as the bed in the guest bedroom. The money will help me offset the cost of a HD TV for my new haunts in Nevada.

That night I slept on the living room couch and awoke at 6:30 a.m. with a slight backache. I didn’t want to take any prescription pain meds since they make me drowsy, and I’d be driving up to Ohio. So I went with off-the-counter medication and said goodbye to Jayne, Nance and my roommate Deb and her sweet pom Max, and aimed the Saturn toward I-40.

The back bothered me from the moment I backed out of the driveway, and it kept getting worse and worse. “How the heck am I going to do this for eight hours?” I thought to myself.

Storms and back pain are similar. Sometime it's better to seek shelter.
I discussed my dilemma with my sister Jody and with Sharon out in Nevada. Jody was going to keep me posted on weather conditions in West Virginia and Ohio; with worry in her voice, Sharon advised me not to take more than one pain pill and at the next rest stop get out and walk around to stretch the back.

Preoccupied with the pain, I missed the rest-stop exit. By the time I passed the Greensboro exits, I was feeling nauseous. In Yadkinville where I’ve gotten gasoline for years and years, I filled up and weighed my options. I’d gone 260 miles and had 300 miles still to go. An inviting Day’s Inn motel could be seen from U.S. 421. Like a sea captain sailing for a safe harbor ahead of a storm, I docked at the Day’s Inn. Safe in Room 124, I took a pain pill and let my back calm down, then took to the bed and got a good night’s sleep. In the morning, I ate a hotel breakfast of Frosted Flakes and a fruit-centered roll, coffee, and bulwarked myself for the journey ahead with a pain pill followed by an anti-inflammatory pill. This time my back behaved properly during the 4.5-hour ride up to Southeastern Ohio.

So here I am sitting at my sister’s dining room table composing a blog-post update detailing my grand journey to Nevada via Ohio and West Virginia. So tonight I get to sleep in my mom’s bedroom where 10 years ago she went to Heaven after months of coping with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s good to remember what she went through … it makes my back troubles look trivial.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I’ve a universe to explore – if my back stops hurting …

I’m officially retired.

I won’t hold back. It’s a bit scary. Yes, I have a grand adventure planned for the days and years ahead, but after nearly 45 years in college and the working world, I’m feeling just a bit squeamish.

I took early retirement. Instead of waiting until I’m 65 or 66, I chose to retire at age 62. No pussyfooting around for me. I went for immediate gratification.

Too many books equal back problems.
Well, not really.

By retiring at 62, I get only 80 percent of what I would have been entitled to had I waited to retire at 66. That comes out to around $13,800.

I figure I will soon be looking for part-time work to supplement by Social Security income.

Over the last five years, I’ve had to cope with a body that has been break down. Well, that’s not entirely true … it’s mostly been my brain breaking down.

In the winter of 2010, back covering sports and news for the first time since 1989, I tripped coming down grandstands at a girls’ high school soccer game and broke my hip. Less than a year later I made a bad decision at around 10 p.m. to walk down to the mailbox and get the day’s mail. Now that wouldn’t have been a problem during a typical Southeast North Carolina winter, except this wasn’t a normal one. It had snowed, and the snow had turned to ice. Perhaps if I had walked through the lawn down to the mailbox? Except I didn’t.

No need to create more tension. Most of you can guess what happened and be reasonably correct. I slid on ice and fell. I was grateful that I could rise to my feet even with nearly unbearable pain … it meant I hadn’t broken a hip. Instead, I screwed up my back.

Well, here we are … two years later, and the back still gives me problems. I can no longer take extra-long walks – too much pain. But it’s bearable – at least until last week. That’s when my brain again let me down.

They're selling a few books, maybe I can too later this year.
I decided not to rent a small trailer for my move to Las Vegas, NV. Instead, my plans are to pack a few boxes and plastic bags in the trunk and back seat and head west. That meant I needed to find a home for my books I’ve collected since the mid-1970s. I decided to donate 90 percent of them to the Wallace public library and ship the remaining 10 percent to my intended home in Henderson, NV.

The first box I packed full of books destined for the library I couldn’t even lift up from my bed. So I divided the books up and packed them in smaller boxes. Yea, I could lift them without a problem.

The process worked fine for several days of deliveries to the Wallace library. I was down to the final box of books. Those books were different, though, coffee table picture books, heavy books, books designed to cripple backs and mess up plans.

Again, you no doubt can correctly guess what happened. Yep, I picked up the groaningly heavy books and when putting them down, I strained my back. A week later, the back is still forcing me to take painkillers and muscle relaxers to survive. Not good. Not with me planning to start my trip this Sunday.

The Strip's lights draws me to my future and the completion of my WIP. 
I’m lucky that I have good friends who plant to help pack up the car. Most of the things I plan to take with me are packed up. Still have to pick up some coffee mugs and glasses, and I still have to mail four packages of books to my new address in Henderson.

Once I’m settled into my new home, my first priority is to finish Assassins’ Lair, the third book of my fantasy trilogy, Larenia’s Shadow. I’m leaving behind my computer desk, swivel chair, dresser and bookcases, so I will need to buy a desk, chair, dresser and one bookcase. Most of the furniture I’ve given to Goodwill, so maybe I can buy similar furniture at Goodwill in Henderson. Then I can finish the first draft and start the editing process.

Right now the first draft is only about 20 percent complete, so there’s a lot of work remaining to do. It’s been so long since I last worked on the manuscript that I will need to reread the novel and the outline.
But it’s not just going to be hard work for Mikey. My soon-to-be roommate has been plotting out plans to market my two published novels, The Emperor’s Mistress and Thief’s Coin, at festivals and conventions in Vegas. She’s looking forward to dressing us in 15th century garb and setting up a display of my novels at renaissance faires and SF/Fantasy/comic book conventions. I have to admit … I’m looking forward to those faires and conventions as well. Back when I was still a reporter, I never had time to attend any faires or conventions. Now I have a new “universe” that I can soon start exploring – as soon as my back stops hurting.