Category Archives: Tina Gerow

Snarky Even in Death – Confessions of a Writer @TinaGerow

grim-reaper4When I die I want to be cremated. I don’t want the guys to spend money on a funeral. I’d rather they have a big party.

BYOB and munchies and invite all of our friends and family. They can tell funny stories about me and remember me with a laugh rather than grief. They can drink and eat and have a good time and know that I’m there watching them have a great party!

And Darian Gerow has promised to dress up as the grim reaper, complete with scythe!  🙂  So hold him to it, everyone!  🙂  Full black hood and the whole deal!!

And I don’t want to sit on someone’s mantle somewhere in an urn so I have to be dusted. I told them to sprinkle me somewhere, or I saw an ad where you can be nourishment to grow a tree 🙂  How cool is that??

I’ve attended many funerals and they were sad and grief-filed and depressing. I want people to laugh and know that I’m off causing mischief on the other side plotting for my next life!

Now don’t think I’m planning on this any time soon. Hell, death has tried to get me a few times already and so far I’m winning the fight 🙂  Mwaaaahaaaaa! But I know someday it will finally come for me. I’m not scared of dying…although HOW I die does concern me a bit. I’d obviously rather go in my sleep peacefully.

When I was in my 20’s I always joked that I’d like to go having hot sex. But I don’t want to do that to poor Jon! How depressing to have your wife die during sex!!

Already passed the brain blowout so gotta find something interesting yet painless and possibly even funny so the people at my party will have something else to crack up about.  And they’ll know I would’ve enjoyed the jokes!

Just make sure there’s lots of butterscotch martinis flowing, Kayce Lassiter, Cheyenne McCray, Bev Petrone, Christ Eaton, Lisa Pietsch & K.T RobertsThe Butterscotch Martni Girls, can raise toasts to me and know I’m making snarky comments and toasting back!!

So there’s my weird confession. I know some people will think this is totally odd. But for those of you who know me well, you’ll probably nod and say, “Yup – Totally Tina”  🙂

Tina 

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Return of the Zombie Onion…

In order to write the ending to this story – the one with the Return of the Zombie Onion – I have to lead you to a previous blog that went out on my Cassie Ryan site but I don’t think too many of you saw…so here it is, reproduced, and after that – the ending of this very odd story…  So stay tuned…

When You Find an Onion in Your Bed:

August 20, 2013:

Welcome to my off the wall blog.  We had some excitement at the Gerow household last week and since it made my critique group laugh out loud I thought it might make good blog fodder….

My son, Darian has to feed his slithery (that’s snake for those of you not terrified of the things!)  Anyway, he has to feed it one live mouse once a week.  There’s a local reptile house that supplies them for $2 a mouse.  So no problem, right?

Okay – I’ve come to terms with that fact, after all, slithery (which is named Inconnu) needs to eat just like anything else.  It’s the circle of life.  We just don’t get attached to the mice.  Darian always gives them food names like banana, pickle, onion etc.  Well, last week on D’s 19th birthday he decided that he would feed Inconnu before we went to get his first tattoo.  No problem, right?  Slithery has been a very quick eater since he shed his skin several weeks ago, so Darian figured Inconnu would be digesting by the time we left for his appointment.

Well, apparently slithery wasn’t feeling up to eating on that night so we had to take Onion out of the tank – if you leave the mouse in there with a snake who isn’t up to eating him right then, the mouse can actually start to eat the snake. :(

So, Darian, distracted and excited about his coming tattoo appointment, put the mouse back in the little brown paper bag the reptile house put him in, stapled i shut and left it on his bed….yeah – you can all see where this is going…

When we got home, Onion had chewed his way out of the paper bag and was loose in the house somewhere…sigh…  I think Darian was more worried about telling us than about the mouse stalking around in his room somewhere.

We figured Nox (our black 4 year old cat) would make a snack out of Onion and all would be done, but we never found any “remains” or evidence that she’d found him.  After all, while she is a little predator with full claws and teeth, she’s never SEEN a mouse, so I wasn’t so sure how that was going to work out…

Several days ago Nox was acting weird when my husband, Jon, was getting ready for work, so he moved a box in the living room and Onion ran out and slipped under the refrigerator…sigh…

Nox would hang out in the kitchen trying to look under there but soon lost interest when Onion refused to make an appearance.

So a few days ago, Jon woke up at about 3am, jumping up because something was “crawling on him”   We turned on the light and found Onion on the bed and heading toward me.  I’m not usually squeamish about mice, but there’s something about finding one on your bed at 3am that just isn’t pleasant.  I’m just happy that I didn’t give in to a girly squeak or a scream – although I did jump up and encourage Jon when he  started to reach for Onion.

Anyway, Jon grabs him, and Onion promptly bites the shit out of him.  I opened the front door and Jon deposited him outside…okay, threw would be more accurate.

Yeah – I’m glad Onion is outside now, but I do sort of feel bad for the little guy.  I’m not sure if he found his way over to the cat’s food and water bowl over the previous week, but he was probably just scared, hungry and thirsty, and now we’ve released him into the cruel world where several feral cats live around the complex.  Yes, I know he was going to be food anyway, but like I said, the slithery is VERY quick about his meals normally, so it would’ve been over in seconds if he’d gone that way.  I was up for several hours after the “incident” trying not to be creeped out.  I kept reminding myself that there were no more mice in the house that could crawl on us in the middle of the night, but every time I thought I felt something crawling on the covers I flinched.  The poor cats were rattled for several hours after that too.  Especially poor Nox who was sort of jumpy. Probably because of all the commotion and because Daddy (she’s a total Daddy’s cat) was a bit rattled too, although I think he finally made it back to sleep.)

Anyway – that was our excitement for last week and I’m happy to say this week that “Pizza” met his demise within seconds and is NOT wandering free around our house.

October 8, 2013

Return of the Zombie Onion

Argh!!!!

I’m seriously gonna have nightmares now…

To preface this you need to know that for the last several weeks, Inconnu hasn’t been interested in eating.  So we’ve ended up setting the last three mice, Pocki, Cherry and Pumpkin in the greebelt outside our apartment complex.

Anyway – tonight I went to the Valley of the Sun Romance Writer’s monthly meeting.  My friend, Bev Petrone dropped me off at home afterwards.  It’s always murky by our front door.  There’s a light out by the sidewalk but you sometimes have to try a few times to get the key into the lock.  Anyway, I noticed something white on the brown welcome mat.  It fluttered slightly in the breeze and almost looked like a flower of some type??  I couldn’t imagine someone dropping a flower on our doorstep, but out of curiosity I nudged it with my foot – didn’t want to crush it if it DID happen to be a flower dropped there.

To my surprise it moved AND looked up at me.  Huh??  I stumbled back a few steps while my brain made sense of what I was seeing.  It was a mouse!  A small, white mouse!!  And it was looking at me pathetically.  Ack!!!!  It looked a bit drunk as it walked, not zippy and scared like mice are supposed to be, especially if you nudge it with your shoe!!

Eyeing the mouse nervously I fumbled my key into the lock and bolted inside, shutting the door behind me and locking it before looking down at the entryway to make sure he hadn’t followed me inside.

My hubby was already asleep since he gets up early for work, so I beelined for kidlet’s bedroom and waited for him to be astonished at what I had found.  Only he wasn’t astonished – it had been there when he got home earlier!!

ACK!!  Was this one of the three we had set free in the past few weeks?  Or was this Onion coming back to stalk us for tossing him outside into the cruel, cruel world?

Now I’m scared we’re being haunted by a tiny zombie mouse named Onion out for revenge!!  I just keep seeing that little pathetic face looking at me and I’m racked with guilt but I’m also scared I’m going to wake up and find that little guy climbing on me or Jon again…

Sigh…  So much for a good night’s sleep…

Why do these things happen to us??  Maybe so I can have good blog fodder?  I wonder if this is why Kayce Lassiter has hilarious online dating experiences – more great blog fodder.

This is why I need more Butterscotch Martinis…

And on that note, I’m going to bed to spend a sleepless night watching the shadows and hoping the cats will guard me – but knowing they didn’t do us much good last time!!

Help! I see pictures of dead people…

So sometimes truth is really stranger than fiction.  If I would’ve written the following story in one of my books people would say it was too coincidental to ever happen in real life.  To them I have to say, “You’ve obviously never seen my real life!”

About 7 or 8 years ago I caught the genealogy bug and signed up for a free trial long weekend on Ancestry.com.  Now, to be honest, I didn’t do ANYTHING that entire weekend but play on Ancestry and update as much of my family tree in all directions as I humanly could so that I could cancel my “membership” before they pulled their first extremely expensive monthly payment.  I love the idea of the site, but it’s pricey.

Anyway, fast forward to two nights ago.  I received a notification from Ancestry.com that I had received a message from someone.  The subject line was, “I have your family pictures”  That caught my interest so I headed out to the website to log in and read the message.

I hope she won’t mind me reproducing the note here, but it will save me time in summarizing it:

Hello,

I believe that I have your family pictures and artifacts. I have a box containing probably close to 1000 pictures, negatives, birth and death certificates, adoption records, enlistment papers and even baby shoes 🙂 I have been holding on to this box for YEARS in hopes of finding its rightful owners. I don’t want any money. 

I cannot remember exactly how I got it. I was an antique dealer at the time and am a photographer. I am naturally drawn to pictures, frames etc. at auctions so that is probably how I got it. I can’t be sure. I decided not to sell/use these items because it is an amazing, vast collection of someone’s family history. I also believed that I could in fact FIND this family and return it to them. 

Again, I don’t want money. What I want is assurance that I am in fact returning this box to the right family and that the person who receives these items will in fact keep them and treasure them forever. Ideally, I’d like to return these items to the direct descendants of Sarah and Herman Hatcher (hansard?). 

I know this is kinda weird.  I realize that this message may not reach you for quite some time but I plan to hold on to these items until I can return them to the family they belong to. 

VERY cool!  I couldn’t pass up the chance to see if these were really our family photos and documents, so I messaged her back and told her I was in Arizona and asked where she was located figuring I could see how much it was to pay for shipping.

A few hours later I received a response.  Excited, I read the note that told me her cross streets – which were actually less than a mile away from my house!!

My writer’s antennae immediately bristled.  I hadn’t told her WHERE in Arizona I lived, so I was immediately suspicious about how she knew those cross streets would even make sense to me.  So being the nosy person I am – AND a suspicious one I Googled her 🙂  I found out immediately that she was, indeed, a photographer and local.  I also found her Facebook page, and of course checked that out thoroughly as well. Yeah – we writers can stalk with the best of them when we need to…LOL!

As I was digging around on her Facebook page I noticed that we had two friends in common.  Since I have nearly 5000 friends on Facebook, it’s not unthinkable that we would have one or two in common, so I clicked to see who the lucky two were.

Bree & Mark who I worked with at Starbucks for three years!!!

Ah hah!  Progress 🙂  My snoop gene went into overdrive and I dashed off an email and a text to Bree to get the skinny on this woman.  I needed to know if she was legit, or a psycho in order to figure out if there was some type of nefarious angle here or if she truly was a good samaritan who was looking to return our family pictures and things out of the goodness of her heart.

Bree told me that she was a regular customer and a really nice lady.  Bree is awesome and reads people well so I was instantly relieved AND excited!  I had really hoped this wasn’t a scam of some sort, and now I was really dying to see what was inside that box!

I had arranged to call Aronda (the woman who had sent me the note) last night so we could set up a time/place to meet on Wednesday (today). But when I called her last night and we found out about our mutual Starbucks connection she asked if I’d just like to meet her up there?  So while it was still light out I dashed off to Starbucks to meet up with her.  She had told me that she would have a white box with her, and that it said, “Pictures of Dead People” on the side – which cracked me up!  That is something I can TOTALLY see several members of my family writing on a box like that – myself included!

Bree was right! She is a great lady and I stayed to chat with she and her daughter for nearly an hour before I came home with the box full of treasures.  I found out that she knew I probably lived in Arizona because several of the documents in the box had addresses on them – back when we lived less than I mile from where I live now, so she figured I might not have gone far.

As soon as I got home I dug into it and immediately found great stuff!  The first was an original metal social security card for my grandfather 🙂  I also found my grandfather’s birth and death certificates, a receipt from 1957 for my great grandfather’s funeral for $1037, and a newspaper clipping from 1943 with pictures of an Allied invasion force during the war.  Other treasures included my grandfather’s high school diploma, some baby shoes, my 2nd grade class photo and tons of pictures I either hadn’t seen or hadn’t seen in years.

Unfortunately most of the pictures didn’t have anything written on the back, and I didn’t know most of the people or the places.  So I called my Mom and sister to clue them in on the story and to ask my Mom to come over and help me with the box.

My Mom came by this morning, and after I bribed her with breakfast and a Starbucks black tea we sat on the couch with the box between us and dug in.  She wrote the names on the back of pictures she recognized and read off any information that I could add into Ancestry.com, and we made it about a quarter of the way through the box before both of us gave up.  We plan on doing several more of these sessions to see what else we can find, but after my quick perusal last night, I know there’s more great tuff in there.  But Mom knows more of the stories, more of the people and can recognize and help Darian and I put names to a lot of the faces.

It was really fun to see the family resemblance go back through so many people in so many branches of the family.  I found smiles, expressions and even stances that reminded me of my son’s or my sister’s daughter throughout that box.

The best we can figure out is that the box was my grandmother’s favorite/most treasured pictures and memories and when she died it probably went to my brother’s house (he was HUGE on keeping family pictures etc) and then when he died, his horrible wife got rid of it without passing it back to any of the family.  I call her horrible because she now says she doesn’t count being married to Jim because he’s dead…  Yeah – karma will be coming to bite her VERY Soon, I hope!  Not a very nice lady…

But moving right along…I’ve now vowed that I will find time before the end of the year to go through MY box of keepsake pictures from my life and write on the back of them so that some future generation will not have to write “Pictures of Dead people” on the side of my box because they don’t know who all those people are!  Although just for fun I might write “Pictures of Future Dead People” and the date on the side just to screw with someone someday 🙂

I can picture one of Darian’s kids sitting down with my box as well as the box my Mom and I are going through now, cross referencing the Ancestry.com tree I’m building and seeing all the resemblances and similarities we are seeing right now.

It’s been an interesting few days, and makes me nostalgic and itchy to find more information for my family tree, but right now both available time and available money are not abundant so it will have to wait.  But I DO plan on getting back to it and very soon!

And on that note, this makes the second day in a row I haven’t gotten any writing done.  Well…unless you consider this blog!  But my WIP hasn’t grown any.  So I need to take a fortifying nap and then dive back in to my actual work!

I just hope I don’t have creepy dreams about dead people tonight after looking at them for several hours today.  And yes, we did have some of those creepy pictures of family members in their coffins at the funerals…sigh…  I’m not sure why that’s such a Southern Baptist (what I was raised) staple, but we have lots of those, and always had food at EVERYTHING.  LOL…

Moving right along….I’m off to NOT see pictures of dead people for the rest of the day at least 🙂

My Akashic Reading

Today I did something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time.  I had an Akashic reading.

 

For those of you who don’t know what that is, an Akashic reading is a reading based on information contained in your Akashic Scrolls.  In the Bible this is known as The Book of Life.  (Psalm 69:28, Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15 and Revelation 21:27)  The record of your every thought and deed here on Earth as recorded by God and the angels.

 

And in some belief systems is also believed to contain information on your previous lifetimes.

 

As a paranormal author, this concept has always been fascinating to me.  The possibilities for stories arising from such a library for each person who has ever lived on Earth are unlimited and fun to explore!

 

So after a friend had her own reading and told me about her amazing experience, she introduced me to Simone Gers  and the rest fell into place easily.

 

If you’ve never had a reading there are dozens of great websites on the subject, including Simone’s above in the link.  The reading is entirely based on questions that you ask, and your guides and teachers communicate with the “reader” to answer your questions.  This isn’t a psychic reading, per se, as it doesn’t tell you your future, but helps you put what you want to be in perspective based on your past and present.  It can help you to understand why you end up repeating a certain pattern in your life – perhaps you always choose emotionally unavailable partners or continue to always be broke and sick…whatever your current challenges are, this is a great chance to gain perspective into yourself as well as finding out why those patterns may be repeating.

 

I found it extremely insightful and accurate.  And the book ideas for how to use this experience to make a great paranormal story are already perking inside my head!

 

Simone was a great guide for this process.  She sent me some tips for how to phrase questions for the best responses before our session.  Once the session began she explained how everything would work and talked me through at each stage making sure I didn’t have any questions on the answers I had received or about the process of the information exchange.

 

I came away from the experience energized, feeling light and ready to go to work to break through the roadblocks I’ve been struggling with.

 

There are many different fees out there for such readings (and there are also other types of related readings, check Simone’s web page for the ones she does).  Simone is very reasonable compared with a lot of the sites I saw, but everyone needs to choose someone they are going to be comfortable with.  Like I said, I really loved the experience and would highly recommend Simone from personal experience!  If you have or have had a reading, I’d love to hear your take on the experience.  I won’t ask you for the specific reading details because very personal information is reveled and discussed, but I’d love to hear others’ experiences with this type of reading.

 

Off to noodle my idea for a book based off of this…

 

Tina

Does SWAG really work for advertising books?

I’ve seen studies where they say that SWAG or giveaways other than actual books do very little for the most part to get readers to pick up your book.  However, I have bought and given out SWAG at most of the conventions I’ve attended.  Have I really seen a  Return on Investment?

To be honest, I don’t know.

But what I do know is what I’ve heard from others and what I do with SWAG when I get home.

 

When I come home from a conference or retreat I’m usually exhausted.  So the first thing I do is kick off my shoes, say hello to my guys and my kitties and then sleep!

 

I know, you want to know about the SWAG!  Well, to be honest – again – it really depends on how quickly I get around to unpacking my suitcase – or the box that I shipped home with all the “stuff” in it.

 

Sometimes that is a few days and sometimes it’s actually weeks.  Hey – I did tell you I’d be honest, right?

 

No matter when I finally get to it, things from there pretty much follow the same pattern.  If there is anything edible in the bag or stash of SWAG I sort through it and either eat it (if I didn’t already at the convention) or toss it.  Just don’t forget that if I ate it at the convention, the wrapper with your author sticker, website and name on it went into the trash as soon as I swallowed the food, and it will with most others too.  Usually those little butter mints are the first to go – I eat those almost as soon as I pick them up at the convention 🙂  Chocolate, believe it or not, if it doesn’t get eaten at convention, I usually toss it because it’s going to melt by the time I get home and I don’t want it all over everything.  Other types of mints, munchies, cookies, water bottles etc usually don’t even make it home –  so they get tossed.  Now that also means if the SWAG is on a “take it yourself” table, I just don’t take those.  But lots of convention goers take some of everything so a lot of those will end up in the trash.

 

Then I sort through for the “cool” stuff.  Mirrors, letter openers, alarm clocks, cool buttons, cool pens (I usually don’t take the boring ones or the ones I know I won’t use, but again – lots of people take some of everything offered, so you have to factor that in.

 

I know lots of people get those squishy things shaped like people or globes or whatever, and unless I think I’ll ever look at it again or it really makes me smile I’ll give it away at the conference or take it home for my son, sister, friends etc.  I don’t really have a desk anymore now that writing is my day job, so I don’t keep that stuff I have no place for.  If it just takes up space and doesn’t do me any good, I just don’t need it.

 

Then I look at what’s left – usually the paper products and magnets.  I have a ton of my own bookmarks, so unless I think they look really cool or they are for an author I really want to read – AND it looks cool – I don’t even bother to take them.  But several conferences make up the bags beforehand so I end up with a stack of paper to go through.  I usually use bookmarks for my own books when I read anything, but if there’s a cool looking bookmark and something I think my sister or one of my friends would like then I keep it, but if it doesn’t pass that test, it gets tossed.  As for magnets, if it has a fun saying or picture on it that I like and might smile at every time I see it, I’ll take it home and put it on the fridge.  Or if I think my sister, son, friends etc might like it, it might make it home.  But the rest get tossed.  Sorry…

 

But what about those little homemade books with excerpts in them?  Again – if I think my sister or one of my friends might like it, it might make the trip home, but usually those don’t make the cut either.  I just simply don’t have time to go through and read all those.  I know several authors swear by those, and maybe for them they work.  But in my experience as someone who looks through the stuff at the end, unless it’s from an author who I really want to get a “taste” of their work or a new book in a series I’ve read and loved, or something along those lines – it gets tossed.

But what about the little temporary tattoo sheets that also have a sticker with your author name and website on them?  Once I’ve used the tattoos – that backing sheet with your info is in my trash can.

But what about nail files with author names, websites and book names on them?  I usually toss those in the bottom of my purse and fish them out when I need a nail file, but I don’t ever look at what’s printed on it beyond when I first pick it up.

 

Are you seeing a pattern here?  Most people, unless they are hoarders just don’t hold onto “stuff” unless it serves a purpose for them.  If it’s something that people are going to actually use AND read over and over then that might stick in their subconscious and make them connect that with your book when they see it on the shelf, but unless it really is something that they love and see and use daily, it probably won’t make them go LOOK for your book.

Does that mean I’ll never again bring SWAG to a convention?    Honestly – as money allows I’ll probably still bring stuff.  But I’ll chose carefully.  I’ve brought buttons to several of the last conventions that seemed very popular, but I’m not sure what happened to a lot of them once people got home.  Every now and then someone will mention that they still have my button on their cork board at home or on their “normal” conference lanyard, but no one has ever told me it made them run out and buy my book, so who knows.  I had “Got Gargoyles?” buttons for my Maiden series which were very popular.  BTW – I stole the idea from Brit Blaise who had a “Got Cowboy?” button to promote her Cave Creek Cowboy series, and told me I was welcome to “borrow” the idea. 🙂  Then when I had my first series out as Cassie Ryan I took bright pink “Got Seduction?” buttons which were EXTREMELY popular, but again – not sure how often they made people pick up my books even though all of those had my name and website on them as well as the saying.  I do still have a letter opener from Judi McCoy but I usually picked up her books because I knew her and really liked her AND her books.  I also have a few really cool bookmarks from Cheyenne McCray, but again – she’s a friend and I love her AND her books.  I’d buy a Cheyenne McCray book with or without the SWAG, same for Jennifer Ashley.  I do still have some cool pens and nail files in the bottom of my purse, but I couldn’t tell you which author they were from unless they are my own or one of my critique partner’s…  I also still have a small mirror that folds out that I keep in my purse.  It was displayed on an author’s signing table at RT one year and said “Vampire Self Test” – Cute and useful so I took one.  I don’t remember if I bought her book or not and I don’t remember her name – there’s no sticker etc on the back of the mirror for me to remember it, but I do still have and use the mirror.

As for free books I usually bring all those home unless one of my conference roomies want some of them.  My sister and friends get to pick from what I don’t want and the ones I keep go into my TBR pile….until I get to them…unless it really catches my interest or it’s by an author I love.  For me, historical or Regency romances get read first, then paranormal romances and then erotic romances – usually the paranormals first 🙂  Then everything else as I get time and as it catches my interest.  Anything in my TBR pile after a year gets offered to my friends and family or gets traded in at the used bookstore or donated.

I do have a FEW conference bags with people’s author names/conference names on them.  Most of them I give to my sister who is a huge reader and collects SWAG for authors she loves.  I’ll get new bags at most every conference so there’s no need for me to build up 20 different bags at home when I’ll never use them.  I do still have one that has Jennifer Ashley’s name on it because she’s a good friend AND one of my favorite authors.  I also have a few different lanyards – two from Cheyenne McCray, one from my critique group – The Butterscotch Martini Girls — and one from my Cassie Ryan pen name.  My main conference one is one of those black ones with the zipper and the pockets in back.  The front has a velcro flap that allows you to store business cards and such inside it and then below is the clear plastic thing to hold your “name tag” they give you at most conferences – this one is also from Cheyenne McCray.  When I use this one at pretty much every conference I go to I pack it full of my business cards, a few pens and that’s usually where my hotel key card goes so I don’t lose it or bend it from being in my back pocket.  I don’t carry my purse around conventions!

That’s about it.  So choose carefully when you decide what money to spend on SWAG and what to invest IN.  Something that won’t make it farther than the hotel trash can isn’t really going to give you any return on investment for your hard earned dollars spent.  And as you can see, a lot of the other stuff may not make it much farther than that.

So does SWAG really work?  I really don’t know.  The verdict is still out, but I have a feeling many authors will keep using it as a marketing vehicle regardless of it’s ROI.  (That’s Return on Investment for those of you not into my Corporate America acronyms…lol)

How I Got My Agent

I wrote my last blog post on A Query Letter and the NY Call  I referenced that I would write this blog soon to fill in the “rest of the story”, so here it is!

I first met Paige Wheeler (Folio Literary Management) at the Desert Dreams Conference held here in Phoenix by the local Desert Rose RWA Chapter (of which I’m a member)  I had heard great things about Paige and so when offered the chance to sign up for an agent or editor slot at the conference, I chose her.

However, I didn’t have any new work to pitch.  I was with the now defunct Triskelion Publishing at the time and was writing a series there – The Maiden Series.  But I knew I wanted to break out soon and make a run for a NY publishing contract so I needed to start “shopping” for agents soon.  So I did something pretty unorthodox…I DID sign up for an agent appointment with Paige, and I didn’t pitch anything!  In fact I told her up front that I didn’t have anything to pitch, but that I wanted to use that appointment as an opportunity to see if we would work well together in the future when I was ready for an agent.  Paige smiled and took it in stride, and we had a great chat about writing, books and working in NY.

Fast forward to the next year when Audrey LaFehr from Kensington gave me “The Call” to offer a three book deal (that became my Seduction Series).  As I referenced in my other blog, I did tell Audrey that I wanted to use this deal to get an agent, and asked if she had any agents she particularly liked to work with.  She countered asking me who my top choices were.  Paige was my TOP choice so I mentioned her.  Audrey said she LOVED working with Paige, and told me to let her know how if she would be working through Paige or directly with me.

So once I got home and recovered my wits a bit…I’d taken The Call at work in my cubicle…I called Paige and asked if she remembered me.  She did, since it’s very rare to have someone take an agent appointment and NOT pitch anything 🙂  I told her there was a three book deal on the table and that I’d love for her to be my agent on the deal.  She asked me to send her the manuscript so she could evaluate it to see if she’d be interested in representing me.  Okay, fair enough, so I sent it off (pretty much as soon as I hung up the phone!)  Well, hubby and I were at Chili’s when Paige called me back so I did have to wait until we finished dinner and I got home…snerk!

A few days later I received a call back from Paige.  She offered representation on one condition…that I be willing and open to receiving feedback.  My first internal reaction was, “Well, duh!”  Who wouldn’t want feedback from their agent???  But from what I know now, there are plenty of authors out there who DON’T want to receive feedback from ANYONE, so it was a fair point.  I agreed and we were officially a team – okay, there was some signing of contracts etc involved, but you get the idea!

From there we discussed pen names – she suggested I take one since my Tina Gerow “brand” was all about paranormal romance and this new trilogy would be erotic paranormal romance.  Don’t want to give “brand shock” to my readers.  It was up to me if I was very open that I was both names or not, but that way the readers would know what they would get when they picked up each pen name.  And for those of you who know me, I’m VERY open that I’m both Tina and Cassie, but I do have some friends who have to be “hush hush” about their second pen name for day job reasons etc, so I do understand the reasons behind their secrecy.  I just didn’t have to do any of that.  So I used every bit of advice I’d received from writers over the years about pen names.  I wanted to find something I wouldn’t mind answering to in public, something that was easy to sign a gazillion times, something that didn’t sound like a pole dancing name, something that had a dot com URL available, and something that would fall in a good place on the bookshelves…  So Cassie Ryan was born – which falls just after Nora Roberts on most romance bookshelves, by the way! 🙂  So I’m hoping I’ve attracted some impulse buys from her readers browsing the shelves even though we write different things 🙂

Audrey approved the pen name (I think they just want to make sure it’s not something totally stupid or obscene) and we were off and running!

That was several years ago and Paige is still my agent and we get along great.  I totally trust her guidance on my writing career!  She’s a very savvy lady and if she’s willing to have me, I’d love to keep her as my agent for the long haul! Because I plan on continuing to write until they pry the laptop out of my cold dead hands 🙂  Sorry for the cliché visual…but it seemed to fit 🙂

So that’s my “how I got my agent” story and I’ve never regretted any of it!

So now off to get back to writing!!

A 1st person bird’s eye view journey through 7 brain surgeries and back through recovery….

For me, November 17, 2010 started out pretty much like a normal day.  I had no way of knowing that it would end my life as I knew it for quite a while…

I woke up early and went to a chiropractor appointment, stopping by Office Max on the way home to print out several copies of a handout for the talk I was doing that evening at a book signing at a local Borders.  The day unfolded just like any other as I gathered my bookmarks, “signed by the author” stickers and other items I’d need for the signing.

I ate a light meal on the way out the door and hugged and kissed my son and husband goodbye, smiling as they wished me luck at the signing.  As is my habit, that night I left early and programmed the address into the GPS in my car.

I arrived about 45 minutes early, parking in the parking garage across from the entrance to the Borders Waterfront.  I armed my car alarm, noted where I’d parked and walked across the street with my “book signing” bag slung over my shoulder.  I quickly stopped at the front counter to ask for Jackie, the manager, to let her know I’d arrived for the signing.

Within minutes Jackie was there, guiding me over to meet the other author who was signing that night.  She introduced us, asked me what she could get me to drink and then left us to chat.

I asked the other author about her book, she asked about mine and I enjoyed the easy conversation that usually arises between two people who love the craft of writing.

Let me say now that at this point, I felt absolutely fine.  No headache, only that sense of anticipation deep in my gut that I always feel before I speak or do a signing – that anticipation of meeting readers and putting my work “out there.”

I’m not sure how much time passed, probably no more than ten minutes before Jackie returned with an iced chai and set it next to me.  I took a few sips and then sucked in a deep breath as the first wave of pain hit in my right temple and fanned out across my skull.  Confused, I glanced to my right convinced that someone had come up beside me and had started to chisel and hammer into my right temple.

I heard Jackie speaking to someone else – an employee?  Another customer was sick – possibly having a stroke?  She called 911 and I let the soft hum of voices wash over me as another wave of pain speared through me and my stomach began to roil.  I sat down hard in the nearest chair, and even the thought of taking another sip of chai made my stomach buck.  I swallowed hard to keep from throwing up onto the floor in front of me.

My skin turned suddenly clammy and I sucked in deep breaths in between the waves of pain that seemed as if someone was drilling into my skull from the inside out.

When Jackie finished her conversation and hung up the phone, she turned and I motioned to get her attention.

“I’m sorry, something is wrong.  I’m feeling like I’m going to throw up and I’ve got a horrible pain in my head – worse than any migraine I’ve ever had.  Something is very wrong, but I’m not sure what.  I need to call my husband to come and get me.”

I remember her answering, soothing words and soft questions.  She handed me a trashcan, and my stomach immediately responded.

I grabbed my cell and hit speed dial for my husband.  He answered and I told him I needed him to come and get me.  I filled him in, quickly telling him where I’d parked so he could find my car, and that I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but whatever this was it was my new ‘high’ on my personal pain scale and that something was very wrong.  He told me to hang in there that he was on his way and everything was going to be fine.  I hung up and looked up to find Jackie studying me critically.  I remember her telling me I was pale and sweaty and asking if she should call 911.

At first I recoiled at the idea.  It has been drilled into me that you only called 911 in an emergency.  Was this an emergency?  I wasn’t sure, and I was in too much pain to think straight.  Luckily she took it out of my hands.  She called telling the operator she had called a few minutes ago, but now had an author who was in great pain, clammy, and had just gone pale.  She mentioned that I had a history of migraines, but that this pain was off the charts and I let the words wash over me as the next wave of pain hit nearly sending me off the chair and to my knees.  I reached out for the trash can again as my stomach bucked in protest and I threw up again, the convulsions of my stomach making the head pain that much worse.

Time spun out having little meaning for me beyond the space in between times I threw up and waves of pain. I was dimly aware of the arrival of the EMT’s, and softly answered their questions about any medications I was taking—none–and that yes I’d had migraines in the past and had a prescription of Immitrex at home from my family doctor, but that I’d never visited a neurologist for them.

I have flashes of memory where they swung my feet up onto a stretcher, and then of being carried.  Then I was in a vehicle and it was moving.  I swallowed hard against another wave of nausea, calling out to the driver to warn them, but the waves passed quickly, unfortunately followed by another hard wave of pain in my head.  I know I moaned and clutched the right side of my head, rocking back and forth lightly to comfort myself.

I’m not sure how much time passed, only marked by large waves of pain and stomach clenching bouts of nausea.  But then, finally, I realized we’d stopped moving and I was no longer in the ambulance.  My husband’s deep voice sounded beside me and my tight muscles relaxed as I drank in the comfort that welcome sound brought.  He was here! He would make sure I was all right.  The fear that had begun to set in receded enough for me to think again, Then I remember only snippets – faces, lights, the sharp sting of needles in my arms, the cold touch of fingers encased in gloves against the skin of my face.  Impressions, sounds, smells…

Then the pain returned, consuming me.  My husband tried to calm me and kept telling me to be still.  I realize now that they were trying to do a Cat Scan, but that I wouldn’t hold still.  I begged him to make the pain stop.  He told me if I held still, they could figure out what was wrong and make the pain stop.  Irritated, I replied that if they made the pain stop that I could hold still.  I heard his quick huff of breath that told me my snippy comment was no more than he expected me to say and he murmured soothing nonsense words to me telling me that the pain would be gone soon.  His deep voice soothed me like little else could, but it didn’t stop the pain and I began lightly rocking to sooth myself again, ignoring the repeated requests to hold still.  I may have flipped him off, I don’t remember, but it seems like something I would’ve done at that point so I wouldn’t be surprised.

Here my memory skips forward and I either heard someone say it or I realized that I’m coming out of surgery.  I have a moment of panic since I’m not sure what type of surgery I had or had even needed, but I hear my husband’s voice in the next room and the panic recedes.  He wouldn’t have let them operate if it wasn’t needed.  Then there are a montage of faces leaning over me, people asking me questions or demanding I respond in some way, and lights overhead as I’m moved from one place to another.

I keep expecting pain—after all, surgery means pain, right?  But from the sluggishness of my thoughts and the slow response of my body to my mental commands I realize there are still some heavy drugs in my system from the surgery.  My first reaction is relief that there is no more pain to bear, and then disorientation as I struggle to fill memories into the great blank block of time left behind in my personal timeline from the surgery and the drugs.

Suddenly my husband is next to me holding my hand.  I squeeze his hand in mine, drinking in the comfort that provides and basking in his familiar scent as I battle back fear over what had happened.  I try to speak to ask him what happened, but my throat hurts as if I’d yelled too much, and I swallow hard against the discomfort.

He lays a calming hand on my cheek and tells me to relax, that it is all over.

I open my eyes and look up into his face.  His expression holds relief, not fear, which calms my own growing panic.  He leans close and quickly explains what happened using words that flow past me like AVM, brain bleed and others that didn’t really register at the time.  He made sure to tell me that it isn’t genetic so I don’t have to worry about my son having it.  He said it is like a birth defect and that 1% of the population has it.  He mentions brain surgery and I study his face, expecting him to crack a smile at any moment and tell me he’s kidding.

There was no way I’d just had brain surgery…was there?

Then I was moving—possibly in a wheel chair or even just in a rolling hospital bed?  Lights flash by overhead and the scenery changes on either side of me.  I’m out of a hallway and in some type of foyer.  I glance to the right where there are three figures who seem out of place in a hospital.  All three are dressed in black jeans and denim shirts and have large, round skeletal heads that remind me of bone tumbleweeds.

I have a quick thought of “damn, those are some really good drugs they’re giving me, ” before one of the figures winked at me.  I looked closer look and realized they had elongated canines – i.e. vampire teeth.  The spurt of unease that had started to slip through me dissolved as I realized I recognized these figures.

The first was my brother who had passed away in 2001.  The second was my stepmother who I’d lost just the previous year, and the third was my grandfather who had passed away back in 1989.  None of these three would ever harm me, no matter if they now possessed vampire teeth or not.

Thin logic, but hey, the drugs still pumped through my system and my slow moving brain didn’t cry foul at my thin logic, so I went with it J

When I become aware again, I was in a hospital room on a hospital bed.  As if summoned by my eyes fluttering open, my door opened and a nurse entered.

Our gazes met and she flashed me an encouraging smile.  “How are you feeling?”

I take a moment to evaluate before answering.  “So hot, so thirsty.  And I have to get up and go pee.”  I winced as only a raspy whisper emerged from my sore throat.  I tried to clear my throat and winced against the sudden flash of discomfort.

“You had a ventilator tube down your throat for quite a while, honey, so your vocal chords are swollen and irritated.  Keep trying and your voice will get better.

“And you have a catheter in, so go ahead and pee when you feel you need to.”

A quick moment of concentration centered around the discomfort of the catheter confirmed her words.

Damn, but I hated catheters!  When I’d been admitted to the hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery just after my son was born, I’d left the hospital with a string of urinary track infections because of catheters.  I wasn’t a fan.

My other discomfort came back reminding me how badly I wanted a drink.  “Thirsty, so thirsty.”

“We need to clear you for ice chips or thin liquids, honey.  Can you cough for me and clear your throat?  If the liquid goes down the wrong way and you aren’t able to get it out, it will sit in your lungs and give you pneumonia.  You don’t want that do you?”

“I bit back the sarcastic comment that sprang to mind.  “Is there anyone who would answer yes to this question?”  But I obediently cough and clear my throat, ignoring the pain as she praises my efforts.

She set a cup in front of me and told me to only take a small sip.

“What is it? I push out in a painful, raspy whisper.

“Water.”

She helps me sit up and I look down at the cup.   A feathery web of something shiny sits just on top of the liquid.  “What’s that?”  I point at the water and touch a fingertip to the clear froth floating on top.

“It’s thickened water, honey.  If it goes down the wrong way, it’s easier for you to clear out thickened liquids.”

I wasn’t convinced, but I was still thirsty so I reached out until I was able to close my fingers around the small plastic cup.  I lifted the cup to my lips and took a small sip.  Cool water hit my dry tongue an instant before a glob of a slimy substance triggered my gag reflex.  I coughed and the nurse scolded me to be careful about swallowing, but I hadn’t swallowed anything yet.  I concentrated and moved the tiny sip of water back toward my throat.  I tried to swallow, but my throat responded slowly as if it had forgotten how to do this.  I winced as pain shot down my throat and the sip of water went down the wrong way.

I coughed until it cleared as the nurse patted me on the back and encouraged me to continue to clear my throat to get all of the water out.

I cleared my throat again, the vibration of my vocal chords awkward and uncomfortable.

“Good, very good. Here’s a little ice.”

I opened my mouth and she slipped a spoon with some ice chips on it between my lips.

“Don’t chew, just let it melt on your tongue.”

The next thing I remember is sitting up.  I’m not sure where in the hospital I was, but I was no longer in my room, and a different nurse sat to my left.  I smelled food so we may have been in the dining room where the patients gathered to eat and socialize.  I turned to face the nurse, glad to note the absence of any pain.  “What’s the date today?”

There was a slight pause before she answered, “December 14th, honey.”

My pulse quickened.  I’d lost a few weeks?  “It’s my birthday today.”

A male voice to my right said, “No, it’s not.  You’re just not remembering right because of all the meds and surgeries.

“It is my birthday,” I insisted to the man who I now realize was one of the aides.

“Check her wrist band,” came the voice of the nurse.

The man lifted my wrist and the gentle bite and slide of the plastic strips against my skin told me he was searching for the information.

“She’s right.  It is her birthday.”

I bit back a scathing comment at his condescending tone.

“Do you remember how old you are today, honey?”  This from the nurse.

The answer popped immediately into my mind and I winced even as I confirmed with my gut that it was correct.  When had I gotten this old??  “I’m forty-two today.”

I waited for them to tell me I was wrong or recheck my wristband again, but nothing happened.

“Happy birthday, they finally said in near unison.”

“Not exactly how I’d planned to spend my birthday, I plan to fire my travel agent.”

I winced as some of my pent up snark escaped.  After all, it wasn’t their fault I was here.

They both laughed, and relief slid through me that I hadn’t offended them with my sarcasm.

The nurse lightly touched my arm and I turned to look at her.  “Do you remember your name?”

“Tina Marie Gerow”

“Who is the President?”

“Obama,” I answered without thinking.

“Do you know where you are?”

“Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn,” I remembered my husband saying.  I suddenly wondered where he was, and resisted the urge to interrupt and ask.

“Do you know what kind of a place this is?”

“A hospital.”

“Do you know why you’re here?  Do you remember what happened?”

“I was at a book signing, I began, and then told her what I remembered as she smiled and nodded.

“You look like you have a question, honey.”

“Do you know where my husband is?”

She nodded and smiled again.  “He left for work about a half an hour ago.  He said he’d be back around four this afternoon.

Warmth spread through my chest and expanded.  He was here and I missed him?” Moisture filled my eyes and blurred my vision.  I blinked to clear my vision and keep the tears from falling.

“He’s here every day, honey.  Usually with your son and your Dad.”

At the mention of my son, Darian, my tear ducts went into overdrive and a few tears escaped to slide down my cheeks.  He was only sixteen.  How scary it must have been for him to watch me go through all this.  A huge unseen fist squeezed my heart and an overwhelming urge to wrap my arms around my son and reassure him that I was all right filled me.

It took a minute for me to register that she’d mentioned my Dad as well.

“My Dad?”  More hot tears slid down my cheeks to fall against my arms and the aide pressed a wad of tissues into my hand.

“Yes, your Dad.”

“But he lives in Ohio and this happened nearly a month ago.”

The nurse smiled and nodded again.  “It’s great to have supportive parents.  And you’ve got an entire family of support.”

The aide cleared his throat and I turned to look at him.

“Do you remember your profession?”

I smiled as the answers came readily to mind.  “I’m an author, and a part time Starbucks barista.”

The aide’s expression turned dubious.  “Is she hallucinating?”

His gaze was on the nurse and not me so I didn’t bother to answer even though I chafed at his condescending tone.  His fingers closed around my wrist.

I snorted.  “That’s not going to be on there.”

“She really is an author,” the nurse surprised me by saying.  “We went to her website and read some excerpts.”  She laughed.  “Talk about steamy!”

The aide laughed.  “Really?  You’ll have to show me when we get downstairs.”

The aide tapped my hand and I turned to look at him.

“You’re also a barista at Starbucks?”

I nodded.

“Okay, how do you make a caramel macchiato?”

“Hot or cold, and what size?”

“Does it make a difference?”

I nodded, irritated with both his questions and his still-condescending tone.

“Hot, Venti.”

I smiled as the familiar recipe came easily to me.  After all, in my two years working at Starbucks, I’m sure I’d made thousands of them.  “Four pumps of vanilla in the bottom of a Venti cup,” I began.

“Wait, don’t Venti hot drinks get five pumps of syrup?”

“Normally, but for caramel macchiatos, each size gets one pump less.”

He studied me critically and I pulled my wrist away before he could try to check the information on my wristband.  However, I was pretty sure he was going to check my answer at the earliest opportunity.

“Then you steam the milk and pour it on top with some good foam to float the shots on.  Two espresso shots go on top and then some drizzle of caramel sauce in a zig zag pattern.”

“It only gets two shots?  I thought it got three.”

“That’s in the Iced Venti.”

He nodded without any disbelief or condescension in his expression this time.

I held out my arm.  “You want to check my wrist band?”

He chuckled and shook his head.

Maybe there was hope for him yet.

Suddenly uncomfortable and very thirsty, I realized how dry and pasty my mouth was.  I bit my tongue to try to create some saliva, but to no avail.  “So hot, so thirsty.”

The nurse laid a gentle hand on my arm  “Would you like to try some more water, honey?”

At the thought of more slimy water inside my mouth I gagged and coughed.  “That stuff tastes like drinking someone else’s snot.”

The aide laughed and the nurse clucked her tongue.  “Do you remember what I told you about what would happen if it goes down wrong and stays in there?”

I bit my tongue hard against a sarcastic retort, “Yeah, pneumonia”, I remembered. But wouldn’t I end up dying of dehydration first?  I glanced down at my arms to confirm that there was no IV giving me liquids.

The next thing I remember, I’m lying in a darkened room, the weak light filtering in through the window enough to illuminate the clock face, but not enough for me to make out much else.  From the lumpy mattress, the rock hard pillow and the stiff sheets, I assume I’m in a hospital bed, which makes sense if I’d recently had surgery.

My body aches telling me I’ve been lying in one position for too long.  I roll to the right and am caught short as something yanks hard against my left wrist.  Pain flares through my wrist and up my arm and I twist my wrist, surprised to find some type of cloth biting into my skin.  I reach out with my right hand to explore what has me in its grip, but my right hand is caught short as well.  Frustrated, I kick my feet, but the motions of both legs are stopped short as well.

I’m restrained?  Disbelief spears through me.  After all, I’ve spent my life as a rule follower, what could I have possibly done to warrant being tied hand and foot to a hospital bed?

“You pulled out your feeding tube and slapped a nurse.”

I startle at my husband’s voice.  I hadn’t realized he was in the room, or that I’d asked my question out loud.  “I did what?”

“To be fair, she was pestering you trying to get a response.  After the surgeries, they turned off your sedation every two hours to get you to respond to stimuli.  During one of those sessions, you pulled out your feeding tube and slapped a nurse who was bugging you.  They learned quickly after that to just reduce the sedation, not turn it off.”

“That would do it,” I murmured to myself as I gently pulled against the restraints, irritation at being punished for something I didn’t even remember doing burning through me.  I understood their reasoning, but I didn’t have to like it.

I must’ve dozed off then because when I woke up, my husband was gone, my left wrist throbbed from the run in with the restraints, my bladder screamed that it was overly full and a searing headache galloped over the top and right side of my head.  I groped around until my hand closed over the remote for the nurse’s call button.  I pressed the button and then set the remote away from me, wriggling to try to find a more comfortable position to lie in with the limitation of the restraints.  I glanced up at the clock surprised to realize more than an hour had passed since I’d last looked.

I tried to relax and close my eyes, but the pain in my wrist and my head and the discomfort of my too full bladder made it nearly impossible.  I know they said I had a catheter in, but it obviously wasn’t relieving the pressure.  Or I’d gotten another “fun” hospital urinary tract infection that made me feel like I had to constantly go.  L

My head throbbed and I glanced up at the clock, surprised to see that forty minutes had passed since I’d pressed the nurse’s call button.  I grabbed the remote and pressed the call button several more times wondering if my repeated efforts were just as useless here as they were on an elevator button.  I let my eyes slip closed as the throbbing in my head went into overdrive and radiated down my right jaw.  I tried to reach up to touch my face, but was stopped short by the restraint.

Frustration and helplessness burned through me and I tried to call out, but only a weak, raspy sound emerged.

Nearly ten full minutes later, fifty minutes after I’d first hit the nurse’s call button, someone finally came to check on me.  She was a different nurse than I remembered seeing before and listened to me with a quiet compassion that I appreciated, and I made sure to tell her so before she left.  She returned a while later with some meds for my headache and my wrist pain and loosened the restraints, although we were both surprised to find the one on my right wrist totally off.  I didn’t remember wriggling out of it, but she told me with a quiet laugh that I probably had.  She said the nurses on the floor called me Houdini because I had a knack for wriggling out of well-tied restraints.  She also told me she would have my urine tested for a UTI, which might be the cause of my discomfort.

I thanked her for her help and for listening to me.  After so many people speaking to me as if I were a small child over the past several days? Weeks? This one woman treating me as if I were a person, and an intelligent adult made all the difference and I made sure she knew how much I appreciated it.  She apologized for the long wait to get someone to respond and promised she’d check on me in an hour or so after she did her ‘charting’, which I assumed was the nurse version of paperwork – after all, every job had their own version of paperwork, I knew hers was no different.

The pain receded until I was finally able to sleep and the loosened restraints gave me just enough room to get comfortable in my small environment.  When I woke, the nice nurse from the night before was back, smiling down at me and asking if I was ready for something to drink.

My parched mouth confirmed I definitely was and she and I went through the throat clearing and coughing drill until she was satisfied I could get any liquid out that went down the wrong way.  Thankfully she brought me a cold Sprite poured over ice, blissfully unthickened, and she helped me sit up and then sip it through a straw.

The cold liquid felt divine going down my abused throat and I vowed to ask for Sprite with extra ice the next time I was thirsty.

“Are you hungry?”  We’ve got you on a pureed diet, but some things aren’t so bad that way.”  She brought me the menu and I glanced over the offerings doubtfully.  French toast and eggs caught my eye.  Those might not be too bad, especially with syrup and butter.

She smiled seeming to agree with me.  “I’ll put in the order for you.  Breakfast should be up in about twenty minutes.  I’ll check back in on you soon.

I glanced up to find my husband standing in the doorway.  The nurse filled him in on what had happened with the restraints, the pending test for the UTI, the okay for thin liquids and the pureed food before she left.

I filled him in on the feelings of helplessness and the long wait or a nurse to respond, also filling in how wonderful the nurse who had just left had been to me both last night and this morning.  He was concerned about the long wait time and understood my frustration, but said that he really liked that nurse too.  She had always been really great when he’d spoken to her as well.  He said she’d mentioned that I would be moving to a real room soon and had asked him if he’d like to come up and spend the night with me sometime.  They could bring in a sleeper bed for him.

Excitement curled inside my chest at the idea and I asked him if he was thinking about it.  He said he was considering it on a night when my Dad and Darian didn’t need him at home.

He did come up and spend a night and it was wonderful.  I could reach out and hold his hand, although I know he spent an uncomfortable night on that horrible chair/bed on the floor beside my bed.  I missed my own bed and my own pillow and my aching muscles agreed.  My husband promised we’d both go get massages when we got home, and to hang in there.

I was soon transferred to a regular room where the days became a blur of meals, meds and visitors and I began rehab therapy sessions—physical, occupational and speech.  I liked all three of my therapists.  They were compassionate, made me feel listened to and like a person and not just another patient, and encouraged me toward my goal of “getting back home to my guys.”  They always treated me like an intelligent adult and were never condescending or belittling.

A few weeks later one of the therapists asked if I’d like to move to the rehab floor full time where I’d have three hours of therapy a day.

I had already seen the improvements that therapy had brought and knew that the increase in therapy sessions would help me get better than much faster so I gave a quick affirmative and outlined my reasoning which earned a smile and a nod from Simon, my occupational therapist.

The move to the rehab floor was more a change of scenery than anything, but it also brought some unexpected freedoms.  They removed the Foley catheter, but I still had to ring for a nurse to help me get up and use the bedside commode or go to the actual bathroom.  After a week or so, they cleared my husband to be able to help me up to use the restroom and also to wheel or “walk” me around the floor with my walker after meals.  We could also now have patio privileges, which included heading down to the cafeteria as a family if we liked.  These new freedoms along with finding more nurses and aides who actually treated me like a person, and my increased mobility from therapy did wonders for my morale and each of the three therapists told me how quickly I was improving at each session.  I was excited by the quick progress and whenever I was asked what my goals were, I was reiterate that I wanted to “get home to my guys.”  I had several visitors over the next few weeks, writer friends, family and other friends, as well as a few phone calls—all of which raised my morale and my commitment to get better and back to my previous self.

One day my occupational therapist came to get me just after breakfast and as we did often in his sessions, we reviewed my goal—to get home to my guys—and he said he thought I was ready, and asked me how I felt about going home.

This was everything I’d been working for, so I was excited by the prospect.  My husband worked during the day, but my Dad was still in town and came to visit daily.  He’s retired and willing to stay with us for as long as I need him, so I wouldn’t be alone.  My son is home in the evenings after school and very willing to help also.

Simon told me he’d talk to the doctors and other therapists and see what they thought and get back to me.

I thanked him, but was afraid to get my hopes and have them dashed if it didn’t happen, so instead I tried to take a nap.

Just after lunch I glanced toward the doorway to find my good friend and fellow writer Cheyenne McCray smiling in at me.  She came inside and we visited for quite a while before Simon walked past my door again and said, “How about Thursday to go home? We could do the family meeting on Wednesday with the family training right after that?”

“Thursday is great for me,” I called out as excitement and anticipation curled inside my gut.  I asked Cheyenne if I’d heard him correctly.  She confirmed I had and I grabbed the phone to call my husband who sounded just as excited as I felt.

Just like any other highly anticipated event, Thursday took forever to arrive, but it eventually did.

My wonderful husband took me to Olive Garden for my first “real” food outside of the hospital and even though nothing had tasted quite right since the surgery – Olive Garden lasagna was amazing!

I’ve been home for two weeks now, and I’m doing Outpatient therapy a few times a week.  I’m off the walker and onto a cane and I’m getting stronger every day.  I’ve lost a little peripheral vision on the left side, but don’t really have any other functional gaps other than that.  I’m very blessed and I’m thankful every day.  Looking back is still jarring.  I missed Thanksgiving, my birthday, my husband’s birthday, Christmas, and New Years, and I often miss my “old self” and my “old abilities”, but I’m determined to get back there and continue to work hard in therapy.

I took back boxes of signed books to the ICU nurses an the rehab nurses for being so great to me and will definitely go back and visit from time to time.

I’m so thankful for those men and women who were patient with me, compassionate and helped me on the road to recovery.  Portia, Christine, Kristin, Matt, Lisa, Manuel and many more. They made a very scary and horrible situation better and I’ll always be grateful to them.