Elderly: What’s that mean?

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What’s that mean?

I was listening to the news the other day when the reporter commented that a woman in the story she was covering was “elderly”. I wondered what she meant by the adjective. What I found is that the definition is rather hard to pin down.

According to Merriam-Webster, elderly means “rather old, especially past middle age.”

So, then, what is middle age? The definition today is “between 45 and 65 years of age,” but that has not always been the case. Prior to the 20th century, human life expectancy in the US was 49, so middle age would have been about 25. (I wonder what today’s youngest millennials would think about that.)

When I asked my high school students what age they think is elderly, someone blurted out 24.

And then there’s this. My mom resides in an independent living facility. She mentioned  that she had recently met a woman. “She’s not elderly,” my 94-year-old mom commented. “She’s 82.”

So, clearly, the term elderly is confusing. And to some it’s downright derogatory. A story posted by NPR was titled “An age-old problem: Who is elderly?”  In it, Michael Vuolo, the co-host of Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast, was quoted as saying,  “Nobody likes to think of themselves as old, let alone very old. ‘Elderly’ often carries the connotation of feeble and dependent. Which is offensive if you’re not and condescendingly euphemistic if you are.”

Admittedly, I’m a bit wobbly at times, due to bad knees and a crumbling spine, but, geez, I can take care of myself. While I do ask my 22-year-old son to bend down and get things out of the lower cupboards, I would never categorize myself as dependent. Feeble? Call me that at your peril.

In Asian countries, older people have historically been valued and respected. Likewise, in the Mediterranean and Latin cultures. Sadly, here in the US, we live in a culture that worships youth, a predilection supposedly based on our Puritan forefathers who prized independence and a strong work ethic, qualities that apparently expire as we age. (One wonders how they measure such things.)

And here is where I confess that, on my next birthday, I will be 65. Six-and-a-half decades seems to be the “elderly” threshold, one where there is no longer any wiggle room for argument. So, I am soon to officially wear the “elderly” mantel.

I could, perhaps, smile and go with that overused adage, “You’re only as old as you feel,” but, truth be told, sometimes I feel like I’m pushing 100. Yet, at other times I find it hard to believe my wild 30s happened more than a few weeks ago. Sigh…

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Our lives may not get easier as we age, but apparently we do get happier.

A recent poll asked 2,000 Americans between the ages of 16 and 34 their thoughts on older people. The results concluded that, among other things, these kids believe we will  become an economic burden, that we are out of touch with technology, and that we are the worse drivers on the roads.

Balderdash!

Imagine how surprised those young whippersnappers – yes, I said whippersnappers –  would be to learn that the happiest decade of life is said to be the 70s. The second happiest is the 80s. While that certainly doesn’t mean getting older is easy, the idea of getting happier as we age is uplifting.

Now … if only I could get out of my chair.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

White Chocolate: a sweet faux pas

Collection of different chocolate sweets

Yum! Nothing is as tasty as chocolate.

I love chocolate, which does not make me special. Americans consume roughly 18% of the world’s chocolate stash, spending over $18 billion annually on the rich, creamy confection.

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I was a big girl in grade school, which led to my mother hiding sweets from me.

As a child, my mother fretted constantly about my waistline and hid sweets from me. In retaliation, I’d scour my dad’s Brooks Brothers suit-coat pockets for change and trundle through the woods to Ben’s Diner, which had a long, glorious rack of candy. Ben, a big man with a giant stomach encased in a white apron, never questioned my daily haul of candy bars – which were big suckers back then.

I’d sit by the brook with my collie Betsy and eat that candy – Snickers, Milky Way, Baby Ruth, Chunky, 100 Grand Bar, M&Ms, Heath Bar – every day.

My mom, exasperated by my girth, would defend herself to strangers. “It’s not my fault,” she’d tell people when she thought they were staring at me. “I feed her baked fish and salad with no dressing.”

I always wanted to say, “I’m fat, Mom, not deaf. I can hear what you’re saying.” But I never did.

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Chocolate? I think not!

The point is, I love chocolate, which brings me to the abomination: white chocolate.

I realize that some people like that creepy colorless confection. I also know that, lately, fancy chocolatiers have been experimenting with it in an effort to make it more hip. Still, the fact that white chocolate includes cocoa butter, which is derived from cocoa beans, does not make the substance chocolate. One needs cocoa solids to make actual chocolate. (Yes, I know the FDA claims white chocolate made to their standards is considered chocolate, but I’m not having it.)

White chocolate was first unveiled in the 1930s, a product of the Nestlé company in Switzerland. The theory goes that the substance was invented to utilize excess cocoa butter, but no one is really sure.

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White chocolate with broccoli? The whole idea would make even Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka queasy.

The Maya, who were the first people to cultivate cacao trees, probably would be stupefied to learn that their prized chocolate – the beans of which they used as a form of currency – is now offered in this pale, unrecognizable form.

And, even worse,  those trendy chocolatiers are doing unspeakable things to this white sweet. You can now purchase organic kale with mustard mixed into your white chocolate. And salted almonds with broccoli. Clearly, there are maniacal minds at work here. Confectioners who make Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka appear quite sane.

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I’ll concede that a little bit of white chocolate is pretty.

So, what are we to do with this sweet faux pas? Despite my misgivings, I don’t mind a bit of white as a decoration. After all, it’s pretty. But as a real chocolate substitute? Never!

So give me a dab of white chocolate, if you must, but please … hold the broccoli.

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compression socks: If those guys can wear them so can I

“Compression socks?” I squinted at the doctor. A picture burst into my brain. A little old lady, hair in a black-mesh net, heavy flat shoes, thick stockings rolled just below the knee: Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys on Laugh-in.

“You should wear them whenever you spend time on your feet.”

“But it only happens when I referee football games.” I gulped. “And I wear shorts. A lot.”

“I understand, but you should wear these socks all the time. I do.” The doctor lifted her pant leg and displayed her compressioned calf. Then she smiled. “Let’s see if that helps.”

Leg rash

Pretty icky, I know. But this is how my legs looked after officiating high school football games.

Compression socks. Yet another assault on my age. As if cataract surgery and high blood pressure meds and the never-ending visits to the physical therapist weren’t enough to remind me that I’m…um…getting older.

The red rashes that appeared on my legs after football games were certainly unsightly. In fact, I looked like I had some rare tropical disease. The blotches would fade after a few days, but as the season wore on the affliction got worse.

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Brett Farve spent 20 years in the NFL shredding defenses and was the first to throw 500 touchdown passes.

And so I was feeling rather glum. “I have to wear compression socks,” I said to my sweetie pie.

“Brett Farve swears by them.”

I sat up in my chair. “He does?”

“Jerry Rice wears them too.”

McDonald's Limited Edition 1993 NFL Gameday Collector Cards Sheet C 3 of 3

Jerry Rice is the best NFL receiver of all time.

My brain whirled. Jerry Rice: the best receiver in NFL history. Brett Farve, who led his teams to eight division championships, five NFC Championship games, and two Super Bowl appearances.

I was skeptical. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” Ryan shrugged.

So I dashed to my computer to see why two fabulous athletes would wear compression socks. I found what I was looking for on WebMD. “Some athletes … wear compression socks and sleeves on their legs and arms. The theory is that, during activity, better blood flow will help get oxygen to their muscles, and the support will help prevent tissue damage. And afterward, the beefed-up blood and lymph circulation will help their muscles recover quickly. They won’t be as sore, and they won’t cramp as much.”

“Ha!” I said to myself. “Compression socks will make me a better athlete.” But then I saw this disclaimer. “Studies show the gear has little to no effect on athletic performance, but some people swear by it. Maybe thinking they have an edge gives them one.”

I didn’t let that last part faze me, after all, if compression socks were good enough for Jerry Rice and Brett Farve, well, they were certainly good enough for me. I smiled, rose from my computer, and took two steps. Then, I stopped. I could have just left it alone, but I felt compelled, so a sat back down.

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NFL Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice is 57.

It didn’t take me long. There they were. Two of the greatest athletes in the history of pro sports, both of whom had passed the half-century mark. Which meant … they were old. Like me. (OK, I’m a little older, but you get the picture.)

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Quarterback Brett Farve, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016, is 50.

I pondered for a moment and again considered compression socks. I wondered if Farve and Rice meant they liked their compression socks now that they were approaching senior-citizen hood or when they were strapping young athletes.

Eventually, I decided the timing wasn’t important. If those guys could wear compression socks so could I.

And so, I do. And, magically, they work.

My legs are much prettier now.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

Things we never told Mom: The kitten, the projector, and blackmail

When I was a kid, my mother was the only woman in the neighborhood with a job. She was way before her time. The bearer of a bachelors degree and a former reporter, she was smart, acerbic, and sometimes scary.  She was by no stretch of the imagination that sweet mom everybody went to for a hug. Understandably, we rarely crossed her.

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My mom had a projector courtesy of her employer: the Livingston New Jersey Board of Education.

But she possessed something that will loom large in this story: a projector. I didn’t know anyone in the early 1970’s who owned this particular piece of technology. My mom had the machine because she did public relations for our local board of education.

My brother, sister, and I would be called latch-key kids today, had we actually owned keys. Our house was never locked. New Jersey in the 70s was like that. What was abnormal was returning from school and finding no mom at home.

My brother Jeff, two years older, was on the football team, so our house was often overflowing with teenage testosterone. Perhaps, then, it should not be surprising that one day, after a quick bus trip into New York City, he arrived home with a package wrapped in brown paper. Turns out he’d paid a visit to 42nd street with the express purpose of purchasing some reel-to-reel porn.

Jeff had a plan to make some money. He’d invite his teammates over and charge them to watch those skin flicks. All he had to do was set up the projector, close the curtains, and unroll the screen, which we also had courtesy of the Livingston Board of Education.

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A kitty found a reel of film the perfect plaything.

What he hadn’t counted on was my sister Meg’s new kitten. The wee, gray-and-white cat was a fluffy ball of kitty mischief, who wandered into my brother’s closet, only to find the most fantastic “toy”. She  pawed at one of those spoked film reels, toppling it to the floor where it started to roll. That kitten chased the reel as it unspooled, leaving a trail of X-rated, Super 8 film as it went out the door and down the stairs into the living room.

As it happened, Meg – who was about 12 at the time – found that movie footage. She gathered it up and put it back in the box, but Jeff was far from off the hook. Meg was the smartest of the three of us. Even at her tender age, she understood Jeff would be in serious trouble if our parents found out. So she did what siblings have been doing to one another throughout the ages.

She blackmailed him.

I was never privy to their arrangement. Knowing Meg, she probably got a hefty cut of the gate. As you can imagine, our home became rather popular.

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My brother and his friends staged a photo shoot with a beer keg on our front lawn.

The funny thing is my mom and dad never had a clue that these X-rated parties were occurring in their living room. But leave it to my brother to push his luck. Because one day he and his friends came up with another smashing idea. They would purchase a page in the high school yearbook and take a “team” picture. So, they set up a beer keg on the front lawn of our suburban home, arranged themselves in orderly fashion, and waited for my brother to crawl up onto the roof, where he snapped some photos of the boys, no doubt using my mother’s board of education-provided camera.

How that picture got past the yearbook censors is anyone’s guess. But it did, and imagine my mother’s surprise when she turned a page and instantly recognized her own front yard and all those boys mugging with a beer keg.

I’d like to tell you that I recall the fallout, but I don’t. I steered clear of those events, hoping not to get caught up in the subterfuge. But Mom was not the forgiving type. I’m guessing Jeff paid a hefty price, while Meg got away with the spoils.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

Saying Goodbye

I’m sad.

Really sad.

Sadder than I expected to be.

No one is sick. Nor has a loved one died. I still have a job and a home and people who love me. But, now, something is missing.

Seems like a little thing, especially when you consider that I’m talking about sports officiating. I’ve been blowing whistles and throwing flags for four decades, an avocation that initially was intended to be temporary.

Coin Toss

I love the ceremony of the coin toss.

I only became an amateur sports official to try to convince a forward-thinking TV news director to give me a shot as a sportscaster, so I took five years and learned the games – football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball – by reading rule books. I’ve called youth sports, men’s and women’s leagues, high school games, and a few exhibitions, the most memorable a contest between the Triple A Phoenix Firebirds and the San Francisco Giants, a TV game where I worked the plate and got to kibbitz with skipper Dusty Baker.

That I did eventually land a TV sportscasting job – and four more after that – still surprises me sometimes. But even more shocking is that I never quit officiating.

Why? I’m not sure I can answer that. After all, we officials spend a lot of time being screamed at and second-guessing ourselves. We have to take exams and attend clinics and scrimmages and rules meetings and camps, none of which we get paid for. We are supposed to be right 100% of the time. (The job is so demanding that 80% of high school officials quit before their third year on the job.) On more than one occasion, I’ve been escorted to my car by police officers, wary of angry coaches and fans.

The day I broke my back copy

In 1987, I was hit by three players and fractured my spine. Though I finished the game, I was unable to walk for several days and I’ve had back problems ever since.

And still, when I walked on the field last night for what was my final high school football game, I felt a loss I never expected. A degenerative spine and two bad kness have made continued on-field work problematic and dangerous. While I’ve never been fast – as anyone who’s ever worked with me can attest – I am simply unable to get out of the way. In an effort to avoid any further MRIs and X-rays, and surgeries, I have hung up my whistle.

What will I miss? The pre-game locker-room rituals where my crew mates and I polish our shoes and squabble over tricky plays. The sometimes surprised expressions when I introduce myself to coaches who still find it odd that a woman wears the white hat. The National Anthem, eyes on the flag, cap over my heart. The smokey smell of sizzling meat served up by booster clubs. The players who accidentally call me sir and blush in embarrassment. The ceremony of the coin toss. Marching bands and Arizona sunsets.

Crew 2019

Football Crew 2019: Alan “Doc” Richardson, Gabe Gutierrez, Thomas Graca, and Torrance Williams.

But mostly, I will miss the camaraderie. Crew members become a second family, people who share my peculiar predilection for wearing stripes, an oddity few others understand.

So, I’m sad, because I will miss them most of all.

 

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

The officials: an open letter to the NFL

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Officiating in the NFL is a grueling job, one that gets no respect. The zebras need some assistance and the league can help.

Dear NFL Folks,

I’ve noticed that your officiating crews have been, um … taking it in the shorts for quite a while now. I realize throwing flags and blowing whistles in your league is a thankless gig and that your zebras are frequently targets of disdain and, sadly, sometimes outright hatred. So, with that in mind, I have some suggestions that might improve your officiating problems.

First, recruit people who are as athletic as the players they are being called upon to officiate. Here’s how you can do that. Every year on cut day, have someone waiting at the door of every single NFL team. As the players who’ve been cut emerge, offer them a job. Make it a high-paying one, like maybe $250,000 annually. (Come on, you can afford it.) Inform said players that if they’d like to stay in the game, officiating would be a great way to do just that. Now, I understand that many players will laugh and walk away, the idea of being an official repugnant. But some might consider the offer, and the more physically fit and mobile an official is the better chance they have of being where they need to be to get that big call right.

Next, build a minor league system. (Again, you can afford it.) Don’t you think it’s way past the time you should be counting on college football to prepare your players and officials? Come on, look at Major League Baseball. Then, institute a lower-level of professional football, a place where players can get acclimated to the system and where budding officials can get more snaps. Because that’s what they need. And, gosh, I bet coaches might also boost their skills in an out-of-the spotlight league.

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Ed  Hochuli spent 27 years officiating in the NFL. All that time his professional designation was lawyer and his NFL job was part-time.

Then, hire your officials as full-time employees. It’s laughable that, until recently, your officials were not considered professionals. They were lawyers and teachers and doctors and police officers. Officiating was their hobby, making the NFL the only major sport with part-time officials. Right now, you have a few zebras who’ve been hired fulltime. It’s time to give them all that status.

Finally, pay your officials a decent salary, commensurate with the stress of the job and the crap they endure because of it. Currently, you pay your officials by position on a per-game basis. The highest paid officials, the referees, make about $70,000 annually, while those side, back, and line judges earn a piddly $25,000. (Yes, I know they make added income in the play-offs, but that’s bonus pay that is not available to all officials.) By comparison, NBA refs make $128,000, NHL officials earn $139,000, and Major League Baseball umpires bank about $141,000 in regular-season income. So, come on. Give your flag throwers a real salary with benefits like healthcare, because they get hurt out there too, injuries that – like the players – will stay with them a lifetime. Think about this. If you up the ante you might draw more of those young, fit, athletic types you’re looking for. And, while I hate to mention this again, I can’t help myself. You can afford it.

NFL Officials 1

The zebras won’t get every play right, but with a little help the the calls in the NFL will improve.

 Will these suggestions assure that NFL officials get every call right? Of course not. But they will certainly improve the situation. If you’re hesitant, just remember the league doesn’t need any more black eyes in regard to blown calls that cost teams the chance to advance in the playoffs. And what have you got to lose by spending a little more of your massive mountain of money to recruit, train, and retain officials?

Now, grab your checkbook.

Sincerely,

Anne Montgomery

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

I can take care of myself, but it’s nice of you to care

Me Umpiring 3

I’ve had a number of jobs where I was the only woman around, like my stint as an umpire in a mens amateur baseball league.

I’ve had a few jobs where I was, on most occasions, the only woman around. I spent about ten years as a TV sports reporter, covering primarily mens sports. Back when I was a journalist, there were almost no other women working in the sportscasting ranks. For the past 40 years, I’ve been an amateur sports official, calling football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games. Today, I’m an Arizona Interscholastic Association high school football referee and crew chief. Again, on those occasions, I am almost always the only one representing my gender.

I bring this up because of struggles I’ve had dealing with what is essentially kindness. You see, some men want to take care of me. Sweet, yes? However – as women who have trod the boards in careers like mine surely know – those nice guys can put us in uncomfortable positions.

A case in point: Once, I was umpiring a men’s league baseball game, one of those strange situations where 40-year-olds think there are still scouts in the stands and that they might one day be called to the bigs. So, yes, they took those contests seriously.

All these years later, I can’t tell you why the coach was angry. I had the plate, so when he stormed out of the dugout waving his arms and screaming it was clear he disagreed with my call. As he approached, I noticed movement from the outfield. A quick glance told me the coach was in trouble.

Me and Don Baseball

My late partner Don Clarkson was a lovely man who sometimes felt the need to protect me on the field.

My umpiring partner Don Clarkson – a Green Beret war hero who did two tours in Vietnam – had both fists clenched at his sides. He headed for the plate, squinting at the coach, who – wide-eyed, spittle flying – berated me in front of the crowd.

“You need to back away, Coach!” I eyed my partner, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress and had hands the size of hams.

Ry and Baby

My sweetie pie Ryan might appear to be a gentle sort, but twenty years working security made him pretty handy in a fight.

Then, I caught movement by the backstop. My sweetie pie gripped the screen tightly. Let me say here that Ryan spent a couple of decades doing security for rock-and-roll bands, NFL and college football, Super Bowls, soccer’s World Cup, and other dandy events like MTV Spring Break and, my favorite, a long string of performances staring Michael Crawford in Phantom of the Opera.

The coach took another step toward me and we were  nose to nose. Don passed the mound. I raised my hand to stop him.

“Coach! Get off he field!”

I glanced at Ryan. He let go of the backstop.

“Back away!” I yelled, hoping all three men might heed my warning. The coach, who didn’t realize he was in danger, continued screaming. My brain whirled. Had I not been distracted by the vision of a blood-soaked infield, I would have ejected him.

I stared at Ryan. “No!” I hoped he would stay where he was.

I’m still not sure what made the coach back away. But he did, just in time.

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Every year, Ryan reminds my crew mates to take care of me. I guess I’ll have to get used to it.

Now, I don’t want to appear ungrateful. In fact, it’s comforting to know that a couple of big guys had my back. However, I think it prudent that I fight my own battles.

Today, Ryan agrees. And yet, every year when he meets my football crew at the beginning of the season, he can’t help himself.  He shakes their hands and says, “Take care of her.”

I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A run-in with the beach master

Me diving 2 smaller

It took me years to begin to understand how to behave properly in the sea.

Years ago, when I was a baby diver, I was on a boat off the coast of Mexico near San Carlos. I had just passed my dive certification and was pretty proud of myself. I thought my new license meant I was knowledgeable enough to stay safe in the sea. That the course and written and physical tests proved I knew what I was doing in that watery world.

I was wrong.

On this day, we were anchored off a small island where we saw a group of seals basking on a beach of tan sand. Dark, rocky cliffs rose behind the creatures, most of whom sunned themselves or snoozed, taking seal naps.

“The females are brown,” the dive master explained.

Later, that bit of information would prove vital.

“The males are darker. Almost black.”

As we were taking a break between dives, I grabbed my mask and fins and jumped in for a closer look. I half expected other divers to join me, but no one did.

“Be careful!” my sweetie pie called from the boat.

I swam toward the beach. Be careful? I I reflected on the creatures I’d seen in countless videos, swirling and playing, cute, jovial beasts, suitable for children’s stuffed toys.

The sea floor rose as I swam, my eyes fixed on the seals. Several reclined in a group. One large animal perched nearby. Then, I heard the bellowing, like a moose call. The larger seal, snout pointed at the the sky, called again.

Here’s where you can call me a dope. Because, I kept swimming toward the beach. Why you ask? Well, that seal appeared to be brown. So, no worries. I understood a male seal with a harem might be problematic, but I didn’t see any black seals.

Bull Seal 2

A large seal like this one – which I would later learn was called the beach master – perched by a group of other seals.

The large animal locked eyes with me and bellowed again. I instantly dropped my feet to the sand, my spidey senses on high alert. Then the seal waddled off the beach and plunged into the water.

That dark body came at me like a torpedo, barely submerged. My stomach dropped. There was no way I could out swim the beast. I thought I might be sick. Would the animal spear me or bite me? Either way, the confrontation would be ugly.

I braced for impact. But, when the seal was within about ten feet of me, he veered sharply to the right, and disappeared under the water. I stood frozen, wondering if he might attack from a different angle.

Nothing happened.

I waited.

Then, the seal roared up onto the beach, flipped around and bellowed again. I didn’t need a second invitation to leave. I turned and swam back to the boat, kicking as hard as I could, all the while wondering if the seal was on my tail.

“You’re lucky,” my sweetie pie said, as he helped me into the boat. “You could have been bitten.”

I was breathing heavily as I stared at the beach. The male seal – that I later learned was called the beach master, meaning the animal that owned and protected the harem – stood defiantly on the sand, still gazing in my direction.

Today, I realize that I will always be just a visitor in the sea. And, if I am to survive as a guest in that world, I must always be respectful and vigilant, or I might end up with some bite marks.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a home

Morgan Box 1

This kitty needed a home, but I was conflicted.

“Ms. Montgomery, there’s a cat outside.”

Two of my students stared at me.

“Go and get it,” I said, immediately rethinking that idea after they’d left the room. I hoped the cat wasn’t mean or scared and left the kids with bloody gashes. I tried to stop them, but they were gone.

A short time later they returned, sans cat. “We couldn’t catch it,” they said in unison.

“OK.” I was relieved, but just momentarily.

“It’s so hot out there and the cat is panting.”

I looked at the sweet girl who tried to rescue the animal. “Is it hurt?”

“I don’t know.”

Crap! I’ve had more kitties than I can count over the years. Strays and cats who’d wound up in shelters. But I didn’t want another one. I still had three furry felines – down from seven – most of whom died after long, pleasant lives. And a big cattle dog, as well.

The problem is, I’m getting older, and whenever I’m faced with a new pet I start doing the math. If said animal lives 15 years, how old will I be? What if I die? Who will take care of them.  While I know my sweetie pie is as devoted to our four-legged friends as I am, what if we both died?

“So, you think the cat might be injured?” I said again.

She shrugged.

“Let’s go.” I led my students outside and found a sleek, black, kitty with big gold eyes. The creature meowed and ran right to me. I picked him up and prepared to be speared with curved, pointy claws, but he just laid his head on my shoulder, clearly no feral beast.

As it was lunchtime, I put the young cat in my office and, as I ate, he jumped into my chair, curled into a ball and slept at my side. “Well, aren’t you a sweet boy.” I patted his head and he purred loudly. I squinted as he closed his eyes. “But I don’t want another cat.” He ignored me.

Later, the girl who found him appeared and said she wanted to take the cat home. “My mom said it would be OK.”

I looked at the kitty and he stared back at me. “Great!” I said, not feeling great at all. “Let’s find a box.”

After we placed the cat in the container, I waved and watched her walk away. I admit, I was a bit sad. Still, I’d done the right thing.

“We found a cat at school today.”

My sweetie pie peered at me over his glasses, then glanced around the room.

“You’ll be proud of me. I found him a nice home.”

He raised both eyebrows, and didn’t have to say, How unlike you to not bring it home.

Later, I thought about the cat and decided to call the girl’s home to make sure he was settling in. Her father answered the phone.

“I don’t want a cat!” he said, an edge to his voice. “I don’t like cats. I don’t want it in my house. If she keeps it, we’ll put it in a cage in the backyard.”

I sat up. It was close to 110 degrees in the Arizona desert that day. “A cage?” I jotted down the address. “I’ll be right there.”

An hour later, I released the kitty in my living room, and he quickly made friends with Westin, my deaf Bombay cat. And then I noticed the similarity. They were almost identical. They nuzzled one another and again I realized this cat was no stray. He belonged to someone. He blinked at me and meowed. “No, my friend. I can’t get attached to you.”

A few days later, the vet waved a hand-held machine over the cat’s shiny fur. My heart beat quickly. A chip would be good,” I told myself. I’ll take him back to his owners, who are surely missing him.

“No chip.” The vet said.

I exhaled, then stared at my new kitty, who the vet informed me was just a baby at ten months old. I started to do the math, then stopped. I realized it didn’t matter that I’d be pushing eighty when he reached 15. As much as I tried to deny it, this cat was mine.

He head butted my hand and stared at me with those huge gold eyes.

We call him Morgan.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t own a cellphone, but I’m running out of time

thHold onto your hats!

I do not now – nor have I ever – owned a cellphone.

Now don’t jump to conclusions and assume I must be an old technophobe. I’m well versed in both MACS and PCs. I can layout a newspaper in InDesign and use Photoshop. I am on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and have multiple e-mail accounts, a website, and a blog.

So why no cellphone? First, I’m a teacher who spends a great deal of time and energy trying to keep my students focused on lessons. Surveys show that teens 15 to 18 spend almost nine hours each day utilizing on-line media. Children eight to 12-years-old are logging about six hours daily. These kids are more anxious than their predecessors, with higher rates of suicide and depression.

th-1

Children are spending way too much time looking at screens.

Now let’s consider what these children might be missing with so much time focused on a screen. Other than the issues involved in falling behind in the classroom, many are not participating in sports and clubs, so social interaction is limited. I know people will argue that they are interacting with others on-line, but as a teacher of communication skills, I know in-person contact is much more important.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that children are addicted to their phones – as are many adults – are kidding themselves.

So, how do we get people to disengage? Dr. Michael Ungar wrote in Psychology Today, “(I)t would appear that at least part of the solution to our children’s cell phone addiction is to offer them equally stimulating and socially engaging opportunities to do things that produce the same brain rewards as … staring at a small blue screen.”

Ungar went on to say that the solution is “providing young people with lots and lots (and lots) of opportunities to stay engaged with each other, to participate in arts and sports activities, and to have safe spaces after school to hang out.”

Of course, we must get kids to buy into putting down their phones and, in my experience, that is almost impossible.

The other problem with phones is the damaging effect they have on relationships. Time reporter Mandy Oaklander wrote in her article How Your Smart Phone is Ruining Your Relationship, “Real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone, and the distraction a phone affords one partner doesn’t make the other person feel good.”

Oaklander says phones are interfering with our relationships, leaving us anxious.

“It didn’t matter much how much a person used their device, but how much a person needed their device did. People who were more dependent on their smartphones reported being less certain about their partnerships. People who felt that their partners were overly dependent on their devices said they were less satisfied in their relationship.”

th-5

What compells us to pick up our phones and ignore those we are with?

I think my aversion to cellphones is that I’m afraid of becoming like the people I see daily: heads down, consumed by the screen, unaware of what’s going on around them. Who hasn’t witnessed people at restaurants busily texting, ignoring one another? Or the mother, face in her phone, instead of talking with her children? Or, geez, those who feel the need to communicate from a bathroom stall?

I can’t help but wonder what is so urgent.

“Ms. Montgomery, how can you not have a cellphone?” my students often admonish.

“I’m not that important,” I say.

“What if there’s an emergency?”

“Call 911.”

“What if a family member is sick?”

“I’m not a doctor.”

th-1

It’s now impossible to get into an NFL game without a smartphone.

My biggest concern is that it’s getting more difficult to live without a cellphone. It’s almost as if there’s a secret conspiracy to require everyone to get on board. A few weeks ago, I discovered I can no longer go to NFL games. All tickets work only through your phone. No more paper copies will be accepted. The league is determined to get 100% of fans to use their smartphones at the gate.

I sense this line of thinking will creep into use at movies and concerts and grocery stores and restaurants, so, eventually, I will be on the outside of society looking in.

I know what you’re thinking. “Geez! Get a friggin’ phone and join the 21st century.”

I know my time is coming. Still, I wish I wasn’t being forced to join the crowd.

What’s peculiar is that when I tell people I don’t own a cellphone, there is always a beat of silence as they examine me for obvious flaws. Then, oddly, many say wistfully, “I wish I didn’t have one either.”

Think about that.

Now, turn off your phones. Breathe. Watch a sunset. Walk your dog. Have a real conversation. There’s a world out there you can smell and touch and people with whom you can make eye contact.

Try it. You might be surprised.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.