Tag Archives: humor

On Hairballs and the Writing Life

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I meant to get a lot of writing done today. I hadn’t necessarily intended to do a blog, especially after I spent the entire morning doing the state taxes for our businesses (mine’s writing, of course), but I wanted to get some work done on that 15th Anniversary Edition of one of my books that I’m revising. Which was supposed to be published in December 2015.

Missed that deadline by being Mommy to a doggie that had to get an emergency tooth extraction, to one of our kitties who was diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes and who had to be hospitalized (who’s now in remission), to another kittie who has FORLS — a dental disease found in 20% of Rescue cats which causes their teeth to break and expose the root — requiring two emergency tooth extractions, and to another kittie who has Stomatitis, an auto-immune disease in which the cat is allergic to the natural bacteria on its own teeth, causing its tongue, gums, palate, and throat to get inflamed and swollen, leaving the cat in great pain and unable to eat or drink. The only possible cure: complete extraction of all her teeth. But she still occasionally gets lesions on her lips, allergic lesions, which cause her great pain and prevent her from eating. So she has to get NSAIDs every third day, and get blood work every three months to make sure her kidneys are functioning properly.

As if that weren’t enough to keep Mommy from having any writing time over the last few months, the dreaded HAIRBALL Season has begun.

If you have cats, you know what I’m talking about. That horrid time of year when the weather begins to warm and cats’ hair begins to shed. Only it usually ends up in their mouths and digestive tracts from grooming before it gets a chance to be swept up by your vacuum. Last week, it was 50-60F every day. Shed-city.

And before we knew what was happening, Hairball Disaster Zone.

IMG_0576_1024 2Sascha is leading in this race to cover the house with slimy, disgusting, smelly hairballs. She’s hurled 7 of them just in the past few days, 4 of them this morning and this afternoon. None of them has been less than 5 inches long, and each is as wet as a dripping beach towel. I’m thinking of giving up washing the blanket I put on the couch to protect it. Water is a more precious commodity in the desert than a couch, even if it does get stained. Meanwhile, Sascha, who doesn’t think much of the hairball gel, is giving me the Evil Eye and the Arched Back from the top of the highest Cat Tree in the house.

Eli’s become a real pro at this Hairball Game. He can drag out a Hairball, leaving little gnarly puddles of food and… well… imagine it… all around the room in a circle before he finally coughs up one humongous hairball. His must be at least 6 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. It wouldn’t be so bad if he did it all in one place, like Sascha, but he prefers to try to cover as much ground as possible while discharging the hairball and all its accompanying contents. He’s only done 3 today, but when you have to clean the entire carpet in the room each time he hurls one, it makes it seem like so much more.

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Ling seems to be annoyed that the LongHairs are getting all the attention, so she dropped 3 in an hour today. And even though she likes the taste of the hairball gel, she made us chase her for half an hour before letting us get some into her. Then she stalked away and promptly ejected another gnarly mess.

Trixie just gave us the Evil Eye To The Max when we tried to approach her with the tube of hairball gel: I believe she feels she has “done her time” — for life — after being subjected to Blood Glucose tests, which require ear-pricking, and insulin shots for the past 2.5 months. Don’t tell her she might come out of remission: she might run away and join the circus.

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Sophie is totally simpatico with Trixie on the hairball thing, even if she does like the taste of the gel if she’s in the mood. Neither of them were in the mood today. And both of them like to expel their hairballs on the top of things like my computer keyboard, my desk, the book I’m currently reading, my iPad (cover closed, thank god).

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Baxter likes the gel, but not all the commotion. After depositing his slippery hairball gifts on the kitchen chairs today, he jumped up onto the top of the cupboards. I guess he thought it might be fun to see us climbing on chairs and ladders to try to catch him. We eventually surrendered to his High Ground, though I’m sure there’s a pile of hairballs up there by now.

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Shooter Tov — THE Alpha male in this household — not to be outdone by his little brother Baxter, who sometimes gets the privilege of playing Alpha Male if Shooter’s taking a nap, watched Baxter cover the cushions on the kitchen chairs, watched Mommy and Daddy sponge-sponge-sponge-ing them off, and then climbed onto the kitchen table and decorated it with a hairball that would rival any canvas of Jackson Pollock’s.

So, there.

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The only person who has NOT expelled a hairball today is Sadie-Doggie, but she’s been following the cats around as they do them because she loves the hairball gel and insists on getting some each time one of them does. Mommy’s trying to write and Sadie’s begging for more gel. I can just hear her asking, What does a dog have to do to get some yummy-yum-yum hairball gel around here? Cough up a hairball?

And I’ve just been told that Shooter is attempting to deposit a slimy gift in my bag, which I accidentally left sitting on the kitchen chair while I went to clean up Sascha’s latest offering.

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Ahh, the life of a Mommy.

I had to write this blog today to remind myself that I am actually also a writer.

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Filed under Cats, Humor, Philosophy, Real Life of a Writer

Love on the Tech Support Line

fairy-tale-1314678Having updated my computer recently, I needed some help recalling how to restore my files and information from the external hard-drive backup to the new computer. First, I called Apple. Since I use their Time Machine, I thought it would be a relatively quick and painless process. Though the average wait time was supposed to be “longer than usual,” my call was picked up relatively quickly. Maxwell said he could help me without any difficulty whatsoever. He asked me to verify my name. I did so.

“Wow,” said Maxwell, “Alexandria Constantinova. That’s a beautiful name.”

“Thank you.”

“I don’t think I ever heard a name so beautiful.”

“Thank you very much. I changed my name as soon as I was legally and financially able to…”

“And your voice… It’s so… beautiful…”

“Thanks.”

“And I just love your laugh.”

“Okay…”

“It’s really beautiful…”

“Maxwell, could we…”

“Alexandria Constantinova. It sounds like Russian aristocracy. Are you Russian aristocracy?”

“Yes. My real name was Anastasia, but it got too much attention, so I changed it.”

“Are you as beautiful as your name?” said Maxwell. “Do you look like a princess?”

naficeh-1432782Now, if I were about the age of the lovely princess fairy in the photo above, I might be flattered by the fact that Maxwell kept addressing me as “Princess.”

If I lived in a palace like this,

hluboka-castle-at-night-1-1486316or in a castle like this,

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I might even request that Maxwell call me “Princess.”

But I’m not a fairy princess, don’t live in a palace or a castle, and I had a lot of work to do. I needed to get my computer restored. I reminded him why I’d called. Coughing nervously, he again told me that he’d never heard of a name more beautiful or spoken to anyone who was Russian aristocracy before…

I began to wonder how long Maxwell had been drinking on the job, and whether his fellow tech support  unit could see him sitting at his desk, surrounded by fumes of vodka. I wondered if they were aware of his fixation on Russian aristocracy, which has not existed since the Tsar and his entire family were executed during the Russian Revolution.

Claiming I had another call coming in, I discreetly disconnected from Maxwell — who did not return the call, by the way — and called in to another tech, who led me through the steps without drooling over my name.

princess-1-1577494Next on the list was Microsoft. It’s changed the way it handles Office and Word, including Office for Mac, which I use in creating e-books and other documents. Now customers pay for a subscription, which basically means that for $99/year, you get unlimited phone, chat, and email support. Since I’d bought the new Office 365, with Office for Mac 2016, while my computer still on the FedEx truck heading for my office, I hadn’t downloaded the software.

Also, more troubling, I couldn’t find the product activation key anywhere, though I had all the purchase order numbers and emails verifying my purchase. And I’d paid for the small business package, so that I could load it onto 1-5 computers.

I needed tech support. Irving came on the line. After I explained that I couldn’t find the download page, he, too, asked me to verify all my personal information, including the email I use with Microsoft. I did so.

princess-1-1434100Irving set up a “screen-sharing” session, when the Tech Support personnel can see what’s on your screen and guide you through the necessary steps. I’ve done it many times in the past, mostly with Apple, and I’ve used Microsoft Word and Office since 1989, so I was comfortable “sharing my screen” with Irving.

The major difference between Apple’s and Microsoft’s “screen-sharing” sessions, however, is that Apple can only point a big red cursor at what it wants you to click, while Microsoft can actually control your computer with its cursor.

Chatting merrily away, Irving got the download started, clicking Okay, Agree, and Continue to everything — which is what I would have done, of course, but then the cursor whipped across the desktop to a folder titled “Alexandria’s Books.”

“What’s this?” said Irving.

“What?”

“This folder here.”

“My books.”

“You write books?”

“I do.”

“Had any of them published?”

“All of them.”

princess-headwear-1-1424186Now, I have to admit that something similar to this part of the conversation has happened before, with various tech support personnel, from many different companies. Often, when I’m buying software or computers or upgrading said items, support personnel ask me what I want to do with the equipment and software.

When I tell them I’m an author, they sometimes ask if I’ve written anything they might have heard of. I usually tell them they probably haven’t, but I have had a few tech support people in the past who had heard of my first novel, for example — and some had actually read it — or of my Mastering Point of View (1st edition) because they wanted to be writers themselves.

They’re usually very excited to be talking to an author, and they do everything they can to help me get back to work as soon as possible.

“Oh, my god,” Irving suddenly blurted out while we were waiting for the installation of Office for Mac 2016 to complete. “Is that you?”

“I’m still here,” I said, not really understanding the question in the first place.

“No, I mean, is that picture you?”

I had no idea what Irving meant since no tech who “screen-shares” can see your desktop photo, and, in any event, mine is of Mads Mikkelsen.

“What picture?”

The Alexandria Papers,” said Irving. “Is that you?”

“Oh, that’s my blog. What’d you do: look me up on your computer while waiting for the download?”

“Is that picture of you?”

“The typewriter keys?” I said, trying to steer him away from any tangential conversation. “No, that’s just a photo of the kind of typewriter I learned to type on. You know, the manual kind. ‘Cause I’m lots older than you are, I’m guessing.”

“I mean, is that red-head you?” said Irving, not to be distracted by anything as trivial as my age.

“Uh, well, yes…”

“How recent?”

“About 2 weeks ago. Maybe 3.”

That red-head is you? Oh, my god…”

“You’re probably looking at the wrong page, Irving.”

“You’re so beautiful,” said Irving. “You look like a princess.”

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Irving sent me his email, his phone number, and his cell number — and I’m guessing Irving lives in India since it was an international number — in case I ever needed to get in touch with him about the download and the installation.

All of which Irving was handling just fine remotely, clicking away until everything was up and running.

I thanked him profusely and finally managed to get off the call after I checked my email, while Irving waited on the line, to reassure him that I had, indeed, gotten his email with all the pertinent information.crown-1181841

My last call that longest day ever was to Verizon since I’d decided to raise my data allowance. Despite Apple’s constant denials, ever since its Mavericks & Yosemite OS, and its iOS 7-9, the data drain has been enormous, especially if you leave your WiFi on, and even if your computer is asleep. I knew iOS9 was coming out, that the new El Capitan OS was coming, and I do have blogs to write, tweets to tweet, Facebook posts to post, for the remainder of the month, etc., and I didn’t want to go over my data limit.

Wilken was more than happy to help me adjust my monthly data allowance, while giving me a substantial discount for being such a loyal customer since 2008, with so many “unencumbered” devices (which means that I bought them elsewhere, so only one of my devices is under contract, and that one is only under contract for a few more weeks). Verizon is happy to give you a discount on each device that could be taken to another company without penalty, for up to two years, but you have to ask for it: Verizon doesn’t advertize this fact.

While I was waiting for the final monthly bill figures, Wilken suddenly spoke, sounding strangely dreamy.

“Alexandria Constantinova,” he said. “What a lovely name. It sounds like the name of a princess.”

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Filed under Humor, Memoir

So, What’s Wrong with Lip-Sync-ing?

Emma Stone in her lip-synch battle with Jimmy Fallon ©

Lip-syncing. It’s caused quite a few outrages over the years, especially when famous singers lip-sync the National Anthem at some major event, or their  own songs during some Super event. I get the problem with lip-syncing if you’ve paid a significant amount of money to see a top artist in concert, and the artist simply gyrates the body while lip-syncing to his top song. If I go to a concert, I want to hear the performance live, even if the singer is playing his own voice in the overdubs. Annie Lennox, with her incomparable voice, does it. So does Lady Gaga. But the main song — those fine artists sing their songs in concert themselves. Lady Gaga even inserts some speaking or some variation in the recorded versions so that her audience know that it is, indeed, Lady Gaga live to whom they are listening.

Jimmy Fallon, of The Tonight Show, has been challenging his guests to lip-syncing contests. Each guest picks his own song, without the knowledge of the others, and then performs a part of the song, each trying to outdo the others. This ain’t no karaoke, and with some of these fine actors, lip-syncing has become a performance to outdo the originals. I’m not going to reveal the songs, since that’s part of the surprise, so they’re not in the tags either.

Apparently, Stephen Merchant “invented” this game with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. When Jimmy challenged Stephen Merchant and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, they rocked the stage like you would not believe. I’d pay to see these guys lip-sync. No one thought they could be topped. That video had over 20M hits on YouTube before it was taken down.*

And then came Emma.

Sweet, demure, lovely Emma Stone, while promoting her role in The Amazing SpiderMan 2, rocked the socks off the audience. Her video contest has over 83M views since it aired. If you can take your eyes off her, take a look at the expression on Jimmy’s face while she’s performing. Here are Jimmy and Emma, trying to out-lip-sync each other.


Jimmy Fallon’s Lip-Syncing Contests, however, ROCK the total awesome-ness! Jimmy Fallown graciously claims the “winners” are his guest lip-sync-ers. I say the audience is the big winner.

And hats off to all the fine actors who put as much work into their lip-syncing parts as some actors do into their entire movies. Watch out, Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman: your Oscar-nominated competition is on its way.

Bravo all!


* The original Fallon video of Stephen Merchant Joseph Gordon-Levitt lip-synching has been removed for some reason, and there are only snippets of it still remaining on the ‘Net.

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Filed under Actors, Contest, Humor, Music Videos, Music/Song

The Break-Up: How I Took Back My Own Hair

“You got 20 minutes, Girlfriend,” said Donald when I arrived on Friday.

“20 minutes? But you were rushed last time we got together…”

“What can I say, Sweetie? I’m busy.”

He sat me down and got me comfortable. At least, he got me physically comfortable. Inside, I was a jangle of mixed emotions. We’d been together nearly 5 years, and I’d been completely faithful, never even thinking of being with anyone but Donald, yet… yet…

Something was undeniably wrong.

I’d suspected it last time we’d been together, the way he rushed to finish, the way he didn’t ask what I wanted or needed, the way he didn’t even seem to care if I was satisfied or happy. The way I couldn’t reach him on his cellphone between the last time we’d seen each other and Thursday night, when he finally returned my call and said we could get together on Friday morning.

My doubts about his feelings for me intensified when he ran his fingers through my hair without taking his rings off, sighing loudly, “Girl, what did you do to your hair?”

That was when I knew, without doubt, that something bad was happening.

Donald had never talked to me that way before. He’d always complimented my hair: its color, texture, sheen, abundance. He’d always admired my hair, and often told me how beautiful it was. Nothing like that came out of his mouth on Friday, however, and I began to feel more than a slight chill in the room.

“You don’t like my hair?” I said.

“Did you think I would?” he said, flipping a long strand away from my face. “Who are you trying to be?”

My heart almost stopped. Never had he spoken to me like that. All these years together. My absolute and complete fidelity, love, admiration, respect…

Was it all over?

Was Donald tired of me?

“20 minutes, Girl. You better tell me what you want. I got people waiting.”

“I want you. I don’t want anybody else.”

He looked at his watch. He chewed gum. He gazed at his fingernails. He looked at me in the mirror. I couldn’t breathe.

By the time I got home, I was weeping copious tears of regret and shame. What had I done wrong? Hadn’t I been loyal, generous, undemanding, flexible? Hadn’t I always been clear about my needs and desires? Hadn’t I been unfailingly affectionate, even, loving, to a fault?

All I’d done was trim my own hair.

Not liking it, I’d asked Donald to “fix” it for me.

Isn’t that what he was supposed to do?

When I looked in the mirror at home, I knew it was over. Donald hadn’t liked my hair, and he certainly hadn’t approved of the fact that, despite the fact that I’d cut my own hair for over 20 years before I’d met him, I’d dared to do something to my own hair myself. Clearly annoyed, Donald had spent only 20 minutes with me, practically bragging that someone else was waiting, not listening to how I wanted my hair to look, fixing it however he wanted it to be.

This was the second time in a row that we’d gotten together and that I’d been completely and totally unsatisfied. Furthermore, I’d left Donald feeling lonely, unhappy, sad. That isn’t a good way to feel in a relationship.

Just as I was wondering what to do, the phone rang.

“Donald? Is that really you?”

“Why you acting so surprised, Girlfriend? You act like I never call you.”

“You never have called me. Ever. Not once in 5 years. I’m the one who always calls you.”

“Well, you didn’t seem too happy this morning when you left. You feel better now?”

“No.”

“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”

“Did you want to get together…”

“Can’t, Baby-girl. I got plans. Just thought I’d call and see how you felt.”

“Miserable.”

“Okay, Honey. ‘Bye.”

I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept getting up and going into the bathroom, turning on its harsh light, staring at my hair and what Donald had done to it. He hadn’t done what I’d asked for.

Was this how I wanted to spend my life? Was this how I wanted to look?

In the morning, when I called Donald, he was not pleased.  He didn’t want to see me. He didn’t even want to talk to me. He said he thought my hair had looked just fine when I’d left him Friday morning.

I told him I was unhappy.

He said he had to go: he had things to do.

So, I’d been right. That was it. It was over.

We’d broken up without even saying it.

My years with Donald were 5 of the happiest years of my life. 5 years when, I admit, I’ve looked better than I ever have. Donald did amazing things with my hair, cutting and styling it into imaginative and compliment-worthy shapes, even dying it into strange and strikingly brilliant colors.

But they were always colors and syles which Donald had picked for me, not in consultation with me.

And now he had abandoned me.

All I wanted to do after I realized that it was over was to try to efface the damage Donald had inflicted: I didn’t like the cut or the color. I got in my Jeep and drove until I found a place that looked like it had someone who could help me. The red-and-white stripes on the old-fashioned Barber pole beckoned.

When I went in, only one person was there: Ricardo. He smiled.  He motioned me to sit in the large, padded chair. He listened patiently to what I wanted done with my hair. He nodded sympathetically when I asked if he could repair the damage Donald had done. Yes, of course, he said, he could help me.

Sighing, he reluctantly lifted the clippers to my head and shaved off the parts of my hair that were too bizarrely damaged to be saved, shaking his head continually, tsk-tsk-tsk-ing at what had been done to me.

“You are a very brave woman,” he said, in a tender whisper when he finished and he was sure that I was completely and totally satisfied. “And very, very  beautiful.”

Ah, Ricardo mio, he made me feel I could start again, my head held high.

updated August 2017

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Filed under Absurdity, Humor, Memoir, Things Wondrous Strange