After sending my two younger children off for the first day of the new school year, my wife and I (and my mother, who came down the night before) all went to my first visit with the radiation oncologist today. We drove over to Paris (the other one . . . no, the other one) and arrived at the Cancer Care Center just in time for my nine o’clock appointment.

The office is nice and the medical staff seems very friendly, two good things in a place accustomed to dealing with severe sickness and impending death. I’m not there for any of that, though, so I can appreciate the finer aspects of the place, such as it’s sea green roof and assorted cancer-related fund-raising items available to raise money for Relay for Life. Nothing like a captive audience, I guess.

Still, the import of where we were was not lost on my wife.

“I can’t believe we’re at a Cancer Care Center about to see an oncologist,” she said as we sat in the exam room.

“Well,” I replied, scooting just far enough away that she could not swat me, “he wouldn’t come to us.”

And that’s how it’s been through this entire process. Despite the scary disease and the almost-scarier treatments, despite the cramps in my hand from filling out so many medical forms, and despite being stuck by needles so many times that I feel like a bleeding pin cushion, I have worked very hard to maintain a sense of humor. In doing so, I believe I’m accomplishing several goals. First of all, humor is how I diffuse stress in my own life. I’m not an anxious person by nature, but I, like just about everyone else, have my share of stresses. To keep myself from worrying myself sick, I make jokes–sometimes tasteless, sometimes not very funny, but always with the intent of lightening the mood.

I’m also managing to help my wife and those around me deal with the reality that I’m being treated for cancer. It’s easy for me to be strong about it when I feel it’s necessary for those who care about me. Amy doesn’t always appreciate my humor, particularly in such cases as the above, but she understands that while I’m not taking the situation too lightly, I am trying to keep things in perspective. I have a very treatable cancer and I will go on from this and live a very long, happy, and hopefully profoundly wealthy life.

Finally, I’m dealing with doctors, nurses, and support personnel at these places who are used to people in a depressed state of mind. They may put on happy faces and talk about recovery, but a good many of the patients they see are not as fortunate as I am. Many of them are only prolonging the inevitable and that, regardless of how you deal with it on the outside, must be both mentally and emotionally draining. I can only imagine how difficult it is to put on that mask of hope every single day knowing that this patient may be receiving his or her last chemo treatment or that patient came in too late and will not live to see his or her children grow up. Oncologist offices are, by their very natures, places of despair, so if I can shed a little light on the people there with a self-deprecating joke or a bit of lively banter, if I can, just for a moment, dispel that darkness and bring life back into their daily regimen of death and sickness, then I feel I must do so. I am entrusting these people to take care of me and it’s only right that I, in whatever way I can, work to take care of them.

So, my treatment plan is set. I got to Jackson next Wednesday for the “pre-game walkthrough”–a few scans and x-rays to see exactly where they will be shooting the radiation into me. The doctor today told me that, unlike in the past, they now target the lymph nodes near the middle of the abdomen as seminomas tend to skip past the inguinal nodes farther down. Then, starting a week from Monday, I’ll go into the local office in Paris (no, the other one), get radiated, and be back out again in about 20 minutes. This will go on for three weeks–a total of fifteen treatments, with weekends off to rest and recover.

I asked a few questions at my appointment, the most important being whether or not I would be sick from the treatments. The oncologist was rather vague and I understand why–different people react differently to the same treatment, so there’s no real way of knowing if I’ll be sick or, if so, how severe it will be. There are other side effects to consider–skin irritation, fatigue, and insomnia are among the possibilities–but the main one I’m worried about is the nausea, which will make it very difficult to work either at my day job or at home on my growing novel. Luckily, I talked it over with my boss today and we have a tentative schedule that will allow me to work when I feel up to it without leaving my coworkers scrambling to cover my shifts if I miss. My doctor says I should be fine the first week, as the effects of the treatments are cumulative, and I hope he is right as I plan on working a full schedule that week, including two overnight shifts while work is done on our store. I have enough paid time accrued to take the full three weeks off, but I want to use as little as possible in case I run into complications down the road, or if another emergency arises. I do not plan on being sick, but I want to take every precaution so that, if I am, life around me continues on without a hitch and I don’t have to worry about what I’m not doing while I’m paying tribute to the porcelain throne.

At this point, I’m just ready to get this all over with. I feel good now and I know that won’t last through the radiation, but I know I’ll feel better still once the treatments are behind me and I can go about my normal business again.

In other news, I’m still writing nearly every night now and am sitting one about 12,000 words on the new work. I still don’t have a title, not even a working title, although I will say now that it involves a conflict between a superhero and a supervillain, one that stretches back before they were super anything. I’ve even figured out a way I can work my treatments into the storyline, adding a little verisimilitude for my trouble. So far, the story has been very fun to work on and, more importantly, I seem to have found that groove again, that out-of-body feeling that I hadn’t been able to conjure while Mr. Seminoma was growing in my nether regions. My head is clear, for now, and I’m making the most of it before I start getting nuked. I may feel fine during the treatments and not lose any of my momentum, but I want to be sure that, if I do have to take some time off from the story, I have something fun and alive to come back to.

In other other news, I turned 33 on Monday, which is only significant if you saw me get pelted by a whipped cream pie at our local Mexican restaurant that evening. Other than that, my birthday was just another day–I worked and I wrote and I had dinner with my family. That–to be able to do all those things–was all the gift I could have asked for.

I went back to the day job on Saturday. The doctor has placed me on light duty for a few weeks, but there are a few things I can still do that fall within the requirements set by my physician and, more importantly, my wife. The problem is that, to some degree, I’ll have to look very hard to find them.

I’m used to doing everything at work, which is not to say that I don’t practice effective delegation–I do–but I’m always the dynamic one, the person who can get as much done as any other two people in the store. Right now, that’s not possible and I’m having to delegate even more out while I search for things that I can do without straining myself. Saturday was particularly rough. My job, though I’m not digging ditches or playing linebacker or anything like that, is a bit more physical in nature than some jobs. There is a great deal of walking, lifting, pushing, pulling, bending, squatting, climbing, and twisting that I normally do without thought or concern. Saturday we received our weekly shipment of merchandise from our warehouse and I was not able to do much of anything with that. Too many boxes over fifteen pounds, too many carts full of merchandise too heavy for me to push. So, I mostly walked around feeling useless and doing the few things I could to make sure things got done. All that movement, something I had not done much of during my week recovering at home, took a harsh toll on me and by the time I left Saturday night, I was in a fair amount of pain.

Yesterday, though, was better. I managed to pace my activity a little better, setting aside some tasks that I would normally delegate out because they would be easier for me to accomplish. Any heavy lifting–hell, any lifting at all–I gave out to the staff, although there is something very non-chivalrous about asking a 105 lb. girl to lift a box of detergent for you. Thankfully, my staff cares enough about me to understand what I’m going through and is not giving me too much grief over it.

I’m getting ready to head back to work now and, even a little sore, I’m at least glad to be back in some semblance of my normal routine. I get up, take a shower, get dressed, go to work, and come home to write, making all right with the world. The only added task to my day is the fifteen minutes or so where I have to lie down so my wife change get me bandaged up for the day, her chance to play Nurse Ratchet or Florence Nightingale, depending on her mood. She is taking good care of me, though, and for that I’m grateful.

I also have about 4000 words on the new new novel idea and I’m having a great deal of fun working on it, so this may be the project I stick with for a while. It’s not looking like I’ll have another book to submit to agents by the end of the year, with everything else going on in my life, but that’s okay as I haven’t really submitted my last one all that much. I’ll eventually get back around to submissions, but for right now I’m too busy rediscovering how much fun it is to create to worry about what to do with my creation.

It’s been one week since I had my surgery and I went back to the urologist today for a follow-up visit. All things considered, I feel pretty good. I’m starting to get some of my old energy back and, though I’m still working on building up my stamina post-surgery, I don’t feel that extreme fatigue that I suffered before the operation. I’m itching to get back out and do things like tennis and even mowing the yard that I’ve been unable to do during my recovery. Also, thanks to the hair growing back in the area they had to shave for the surgery, I’m just itching. Worse, as the hair grows back around the incision, my bandages are sticking to the hairs, making my nightly wound care feel like someone pouring napalm on my lower abdomen.

Still, it’s better than having cancer.

Today, the urologist came in, checked that the incision was healing properly, and gave me the news I had been hoping for—I can take a shower again. A week of sponge baths is more than enough for me. He confirmed that what he took out was a seminoma, a rare, but highly treatable, form of testicular cancer. I was then scheduled to have a CT next week to make sure the cancer has not spread anywhere else and to see a oncologist the week after to discuss radiation treatment. Seminomas, I have read online, respond very well to radiation, so hopefully the duration of such treatment will be kept short and the side effects will be minimal. I was also cleared to go back to work tomorrow, although I’ll be on light duty—no more than fifteen pounds—for about three weeks, which may prove to be a problem in a retail environment where nearly everything I do requires lifting more than fifteen pounds. Part of me is anxious to get back to work, back to a routine that feels like a normal life. I visited my store yesterday and told the staff members there what I had surgery for—only the other managers knew before—and I’m sure everyone there will know by the time I get back tomorrow afternoon.

In other news, I thought up a new idea for a novel last night that I may start working on this evening. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve had the idea for some time, but I didn’t start fleshing it out until last night, running it by my wife while she changed out my bandages. I’ve been at a complete stop on the writing front for the past few weeks while I try to figure out how to fix the first part of Wielder and wonder about what project I want to work on the most. Most of all, I think I’m having a lapse in confidence, a little voice in my head that tells me no matter what I write or how good it is, it will be impossible to sell it in this economic environment. I find myself looking for the most commerically viable option, when what I should be doing is listening to whichever story speaks to me the strongest and writing that, no matter what happens after it is done. Still, as an unpublished writer today, I must take into account how sellable a manuscript is nearly before all other factors and keep an eye on what trends are out there. The most important thing I can do right now, though, is to force my ass into a chair for a thousand words a day, regardless of what I’m working on, so long as I’m working. I think returning to the day job, reclaiming that schedule, however irregular, will help me commit to more productivity on the writing front.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I will continue to post updates on my ongoing treatments and my hopefully triumphant return to the writing life. In the meantime, I thank everyone who has sent good wishes my way.

As of Friday afternoon, I am a cancer survivor. It seems a bit odd to be saying that, at 32 years old and feeling pretty darn good, all things considered, but it’s true.

I went to the hospital in nearby Paris Friday morning. The surgery was scheduled for noon, but I had to be there early to get ready and generally entertain the hospital staff with my off-color humor. My wife and I were led into a recovery room and I was told to take my clothes off by a young nurse that obviously did not know what she was getting into. After a few jokes about liking forceful women, she left and I changed into my hospital gown, almost tied in the back. I then threatened to start flashing people on the walkway outside before another nurse gave me the disappointing news that passersby could not see inside.

A few more nurses came into check my blood pressure and such, while another came in to “prep the area for surgery”. This involved shaving the hair off of nearly half my body for a five-inch long incision. I think she enjoyed it.

I waited. My wife and my mother sat nearby discussing restaurants, knowing that I had eaten nothing since before midnight. I read for a bit, then was about to take a nap when nurses came into move me to the holding area. I had to give up my glasses for this, leaving me virtually blind, but that did not stop me from making hand signals every time they turned my hospital bed.

In holding, they brought another guy in next to me who was there for a colonoscopy. He sounded considerably more anxious about his procedure than I did mine. After a short while, both the nurse anesthetist and my urologist came in and briefed me. The urologist held up a pen and said he was going to make me a marked man. I told him he was a bit late for that.

I was then wheeled into the operating room, a squarish place full of cabinets and instruments and, in the center, a small table over which hung two massive light discs that resembled, to me lying beneath them, UFO’s. My view didn’t last long, however, as the mask was soon placed over my nose and mouth, the instruction to breathe deeply was spoken into my ear, and I bid goodbye to a part of me.

As I lay mostly unconscious back in the recovery room, the urologist told my wife that he was mostly sure that I had a seminoma, a very uncommon, but highly treatable form of testicular cancer. The surgery had gone well and, thanks to our coming to him so quickly, he believes he caught it in stage 1, not giving it time to spread elsewhere. Sometime after this, my wife and I had several conversations, none of which I remember, and she has since grown frustrated over having to repeat things she has already told me several times before. I learned that, sometimes, it’s better to not ask.

When I fully awoke, I felt surprisingly good. The nurses told me that I would have to use the restroom before I would be allowed to leave, so I got up and shuffled to the toilet. During that shuffle, that good feeling abandoned me and nausea rushed into replace it. My mother has always reacted poorly to anesthesia and, apparently, so do I. I retched the few sips of Coke I had managed to swallow and a fair bit of stomach acid before being helped back to bed by the nurse and my wife. My face, apparently, had gone quite green and the nurse rushed to give me something that would settle my stomach.

I slept again. This time, when I woke, I sat up slowly to see if the nausea would return. When it didn’t, I realized that I was alone in the room. My wife, tired of watching me sleep, had gone to see our next-door neighbor who had given birth that very morning in a fair example of irony considering why I was there. When she returned, I felt well enough to be wheeled out of the hospital, stopping by to see my new neighbor on the way.

Since returning home, I have felt moderately good. I went to church yesterday, surprising most by the speed of my getting up and about, but pressed a bit too much climbing the steps to Sunday school. Still, for the most part, I have relied very little on the pain medication and can now move about with little to no discomfort, so long as I go very slowly and take care in rising or sitting.

I go back to the urologist for a follow-up on Friday and will get the lab results from the surgery then. Hopefully, I can return to work on Saturday and not use up any more of my paid time off. I will also find out Friday if I’ll need to do radiation, another good reason to save my sick days and remaining vacation.

In the meantime, I’m reading a lot and, hopefully, can return to writing as early as tonight. Hopefully, that will help take my mind of things when the bills start rolling in.

Everything was planned out. We were leaving Friday night, driving to Kansas to see my father-in-law. On the agenda: sleeping late, eating well, and having a few laughs. We’d come back Tuesday or Wednesday, just in time for me to get ready to go back to work on Thursday.

Then I went to the doctor.

I mentioned a few blog posts ago how I thought I might need to see a doctor about some issues I’ve been having. So, last week, I did just that. I had some bloodwork done and a part of me checked out that guys normally don’t want anyone but their wives or girlfriends (or boyfriends, for my gay readers) checking out. I was referred to a urologist, who then schedule me for the very unpleasant-sounding “scrotal ultrasound”. I did that one today, after another round of bloodwork (the last one was a bit botched) and before another trip to the urologist for interpretation of the ultrasound. When I got to the urologist, I received the news I mostly expected, but didn’t want to hear.

A tumor. Most likely testicular cancer. Surgery scheduled for tomorrow.

Now, one thing those who know me well realize is that I use humor as a tool to diffuse stressful situations. Therefore, when I was given this piece of information, the jokes began. Soon, the urologist’s staff was laughing. They sent me to the hospital for some pre-op tests–more bloodwork, EKG, chest X-ray, SAT, English Literature final, Olympic time trial, etc. The woman in registration laughed. The admissions nurse laughed. The lab people laughed (she didn’t believe me when I said my name was Abraham Lincoln). The X-ray tech had jokes of her own and we both laughed. The EKG people, deprived of a sense of humor, did not laugh, but I do believe I heard one of them giggle once.

Most of all, my wife Amy laughed. I knew the only way to keep her from crying tears of anxiety was to make her cry tears of laughter, so I bombarded her with jokes ranging from idle threats (“If my testicle shows up on eBay after this, I’m going to be pissed!) to asking the admissions nurse if, even though I can’t eat or drink after midnight, I could get completely drunk before then. Through it all, she laughed and shook her head and acted wholly embarrassed to be with me, even as she clung to my arm for support. Tomorrow, I’ll come out of surgery to go home and she’ll have to help me in and out of the car and into bed. Today, though, it was my job to support her.

I’m not overly worried or anxious about tomorrow’s outcome. Even if it is cancer, this type has one of the highest cure rates of any and I am confident in the doctor and staff who will be taking care of me. I should know in a week if radiation is needed, but until then, I’ll be able to catch up on some sleep and maybe, once my head clears, read and perhaps write a bit. I already had vacation scheduled for this week, after all, and at least I’ll be able to recover without too many worries about what I’m missing at work. Believe me, I won’t be missing it.

In the meantime, if you are reading this, please be sure to check out my flash fiction entry at The Clarity of Night. So far, the reaction to my little odd tale has been very positive. It would be nice to win, even if I’m too drugged over the next couple of days to know.

Until then, take care and let me know if you see anything of mine on eBay.

If a picture says a thousand words, then the words “Michael Jackson” say a thousand pictures. Whether it’s the young Michael, performing with his brothers as the Jackson Five, to his breakout solo performances like “Billie Jean” and “Thriller”, to his physical transformation and legal troubles in later years, Michael is an icon of our time and our culture. Close your eyes. You can still see him jamming with his brothers. Transforming into a monster in red leather. Moonwalking. The glove. Attending his child molestation trial in his pajamas. From Ed Sullivan, to MTV, to Court TV, Michael grew up before our eyes.

There is an entire generation that only know Michael Jackson as the “Wacko Jacko” of tabloid fame. Most of the people I work with, college-age kids who consider acts like Linkin Park “old school”, never saw Michael Jackson perform in his prime. There is still, thanks to sites like YouTube, evidence of the greatness that was Jackson’s career. The King of Pop was the most energetic and dynamic performer I have ever seen. Spinning and sliding, he moved in a way that was almost superhuman in its utter smoothness. To this day, I have yet to see another human being pull of a Moonwalk with the ease and fluidity of its creator. His concerts were to us what P. T. Barnum’s circus was to another generation—a cultural phenomenon that transcended race and class, an event that baffled the senses and went far beyond reasonable expectations of entertainment. The bestselling album of all time, dozens of number one hits, Neverland.

Then, as we all know, it went to shit. Paparazzi. Plastic surgery. Child molestation charges. More plastic surgery. More child molestation charges. The odd marriages. The three children. The masks and the sunglasses and the skin that lightened like a sick dawn. All of that was part of the story, but today we do not care.

There will be a great deal of debate over the legacy Michael Jackson leaves behind. To people my age and older, we will remember Michael the Performer, the peerless master of frenzied crowds across the globe, the most beloved musician of his age. To others, mostly the young, he will be recalled as Michael the Freak Show, the damaged ten-year old locked into a adult body that seemed to fall apart before our eyes.

I have my own theories about Michael Jackson. Raised from poverty to a level of fame and fortune that most of us cannot possibly imagine, Michael is the purest distillation of the American Dream. No one has traveled so far, so fast, along that path. Like a diver rising too fast from deep water, there were pains to be had from such a climb. Michael grew up in series of boxes—the first of his parents’ making, then one made from his stardom, and finally one of his own making designed to preserve the stunted life he was forced to give up at an early age. Michael Jackson, mentally and emotionally, never grew from the time he entered the public domain and we took possession of his soul. We, the raving masses screaming for his favor and his talent, we created the tragedy that played out over the last two decades of his life. As soon as we sensed vulnerability in the superstar’s mental state, we set up the 24/7 crazy watch, looking for more and more to justify our opinions that, somehow, we were better than this demigod we had ourselves made.

So, rest in peace, Michael. Hopefully, you are somewhere where there are no cameras and only music.

I spent Friday and Saturday at the wedding of my wife’s best friend. This event has been a long time coming and I can happily report that the thing went off without any major difficulties. My wife, Amy, was the matron of honor, while my daughter, Devyn, was the flower girl and Nic filled in the role of ring bearer. He didn’t quite buy it when I told him he was the “ring bear” and had to dress up in a furry costume. Smart kid, that one. Anyway, there will be pictures at the end of this post.

One thing from the ceremony, though, gave me something to think about. The preacher was talking about marriage as a 50/50 partnership and said that no successful marriage could be that way. He went on to say that both people entering matrimony should be prepared to give more than they receive, more like a 60/40 split.

As it happens, I think that’s true.

It is possible for a husband and wife to only give 50/50, but that is a recipe for divorce. There’s no margin for error, no wiggle room for when someone feels down or tired or simply bored. Likewise, if one party gives significantly more than the other, frustration will eventually lead to isolation and separation. If both parties give 60%, you end up with an extra 20% over what contitutes a stable marriage. There’s room for variation, for one side to prop up the other side when times are tough and happiness is low. That extra 20% is where the love is. Two people can be married, true, relying on a 50/50 split, but the love and happiness and resilience that leads to a long life together only lies in that little extra. That extra twenty percent, given freely by both sides.

Now, I’m sure you’d rather see pictures than read about marriage, so here you go:

First up is Devyn, flower girl extraordinaire:

Here’s Nic, doing his Frodo Baggins imitation as the Ring Bearer:

Nic again, with Tim the Groom:

My wife, Amy, using an expression she usually saves for when I do something stupid:

Jennifer and Tim, the Bride and Groom (not nearly as cute as my children, but . . . . ):

My oldest daughter, Alex, in her natural position:

The only decent picture of my middle daughter, who decided to be camera-shy that day:

Finally, a nice shot of my three peeps in the wedding:

Sorry, no pictures of me. There are a few on my camera, but as they have me in them, they aren’t good enough to post. Maybe next time.

Yes, I realize that it’s been nearly a month since I last posted anything on here. Yes, I know I have repeatedly said that I would post more often rather than less often. Yes, I know I have done a few Twitter updates since my last LJ post. Yes, I know I’ve been a bad, bad blogger and that I should be punished.

I’m sorry.

Truth be told, I’ve been in a bit of a daze lately. I recently had my annual inventory at work, a pretty big deal that required a lot of mental and physical energy to prepare for properly. I’ve also had various family-type responsibilities from Girl Scouts to Cub Scouts to softball to t-ball to dinners and other assorted happenings. I just came back from a delightful camping trip with some friends from high school and managed to avoid getting bitten by more than a few mosquitoes. I also, on said camping trip, was reminded of how out of shape I am when I became winded walking just about anywhere beyond the perimeter of our camp. I am furthermore not quite convinced that I should not see a doctor about a few issues I’m having healthwise.

On top of all of this, I’m trying to work on a new novel and, only 20,000 words in, am starting to have some negative feelings about the work. I think I’ve identified the problem, and I think I know how to fix it, but I’m not sure right now if I have the energy to do it properly. I’ve also received a few rejection letters for Gifts of the Hirakee that, while still in the early stages of submission, have left me a bit down in the dumps. I’m in a rut and I’m taking a little time to dig myself out.

So, poor neglected readers, do not despair. I will return soon to blather on about a plethora of topics, but for right now I’m sorting some things out and trying to get my mojo back. When it does come back, I’ll be sure to post all about it on here.

For those of you who don’t live in the Plains states or the South, you really don’t understand how great the weather is here. Sure, New England has its colorful falls and mild summers. The Rockies have their snow-capped mountain glory. And, of course, the West Coat has fun, fun, fun ’til daddy takes the t-bird away. Still, we have one thing here in abundance that most parts of the country–the world, even–do not have.

We have tornadoes. Lots and lots of tornadoes. And I love them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do understand how dangerous these meteorological monsters are and how much damage they cause to life and property. Few probably know it better. A few years ago, a dear friend of mine and my wife’s was killed, along with her husband, when a tornado wiped their house clean off its foundation. About that same time, my father was nearly killed when a twister swept through the middle of the factory where he works. I’ve known several people over the years who have either been affected personally, or who knows someone who has been affected, by these violent storms.

I don’t care. I love them anyway. I understand that there are forces on earth that do more damage, that dwarf the mere tornado in terms of scale and power, but nothing packs so large a punch in so small a space as a tornadic funnel. A good EF 4 twister, bearing winds of more than 200 miles an hour, can drive a two by four through a large tree trunk. A hurricane may look more impressive in a satellite or radar view, but to the naked eye, such a huge storm loses scale. It just becomes a very violent storm. With a tornado, you can see the damn thing coming for you like some twisting devil from Hell, tearing up all in its path. Even after the skies have cleared, you can follow the path of the tornado and tell how wide it was, how long it was on the ground and, with a little experience, how fast the winds were moving. Hurricane damage is impressive–look at the aftermath of Katrina–but it’s so widespread that it overwhelms the senses. With a tornado, the funnel may hit one house, skip over the one next to it, and demolish the house on the other side. There’s a level of unpredictability to a tornado, even in this day of advanced meteorology, that you don’t get from any other type of weather.

Now, at this point you are probably wondering if there is a point to this post. There is. At some point in the nebulous future, I want to do two things related to tornadoes. First, I want to spend a spring in Texas or Oklahoma chasing tornadoes. My wife thinks I’m crazy for this (well, not just for this) and is very reluctant to let me go, so I’m waiting for some time when I can sneak out and not be missed for a month or two. Second, I want to write a book where a tornado, or an outbreak of tornadoes, is not only important to the story, but is almost a central character, possibly even the antagonist. I know not everyone shares my fascination in this area, but I think the inherent drama of tornadic weather would lend itself to a great, great novel. Think of how The Perfect Storm translated from nonfiction to the screen and imagine that with tornadoes.

My question, dear readers (both of you), is whether/weather or not there are any novels out there like this already. I certainly don’t want to rehash what someone else has already done, so I need to know what’s out there. If anyone knows of a title or finds one that has tornadoes as a central device, let me know about it so I can look it up.

In the meantime, I just found out a few days ago that our normally-locked-down intranet at work can actually pull up weather radar through one of the weather sites. So much getting anything done at work when it storms. Ever.

Today would have been my grandmother’s 86th birthday had she not passed away in 1998. She used to live way, way out in the country in Breckenridge County, Kentucky, and I would often spend large chunks of my summer vacations at her house exploring the woods and cornfields, sleeping on a feather mattress, and catching up on my pleasure reading. I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy during a weekend at her house and still remember lying in bed at four in the morning, an oscillating fan providing the only noise, and getting lost in Middle Earth.

There are many other memories of that place as well. My grandmother sometimes grew strawberries and other assorted fruits and vegetables in her various gardens. Grape vines grew on a structure near her garage and I can remember checking them during every visit to see if the grapes were ripe enough to eat. Gooseberry plants grew near a shed on the other end of the house and I had to compete with the martins that nested near there for the berries. Usually I lost. I can remember the year the tornado picked the barn up and set it back down, in far worse condition, a few yards away. The first time I saw the Goodyear blimp in person was in the front yard there, flying overhead with its fans whirring louder, for a few minutes, louder than the cicadas. I fell in the creek near the house once in November while out with my dad and had to walk home shivering from the cold and listening to my father try to contain his laughter. There were long walks along the gravel road that led to the house, walks where I would invent stories of the fantastic not too far removed from what I do today.

Not surprisingly, that house is one of the places I return to often in my dreams. There is some connection that keeps drawing me back, some psychic link I’ve never fully understood and, for the most part, never really wanted to. Some places should stay the way we see them as children, full of laughter and imagination, and though I have been back to that house, at least driven by it, since my grandmother moved away nearly fifteen years ago, the place still remains as a haven of my childhood. I suppose that someday I will have to write a story about it, or at least set there. Why let a good psychic link go to waste?

So, happy birthday Mamaw!