Finding Holiday Joy in Hell

The year was 2001.  It was my year from hell.  In January I watched as my mother died, right after New Year’s.  I lived in California at the time.  When I flew back from her funeral, we got the days wrong because I was a little out of it, in a fog actually-mentally, and missed our flight by an entire day.  They weren’t sure they could find us seats and I asked which one of my sons they wanted to keep.  We finally got home!

When I got back, both my oldest son Chip and I had terrible coughs.  They’d been horrible at the funeral service, all through our short stay in Wisconsin, and flying, we just thought we had bad colds.  I didn’t have insurance, so we couldn’t just go to the doctor’s office.  Finally, it was so bad, I insisted we go to the walk-in clinic…I’d pay out of pocket if I had to.  Chip had bronchitis and I had pneumonia.  No surprise there.  In fact, I’d walked in telling them I had pneumonia.  But, they wouldn’t just give us the meds unless I promised to come back.  After sitting there for four hours, I’d have agreed to anything.  It did make me think though, if it had been worse, it could have destroyed a lot more than my pocketbook.  So, I got insurance.  The only thing they wouldn’t cover was pneumonia, because, apparently, that can come back.

I decided to sell my house in Huntington Beach that I had bought with my mother at nineteen.  It had been a wise investment and while Mom was alive, she wouldn’t let me fix it up at all.  It really needed an overhaul.  Two little boys, various pets, and adults…it was well lived in.  I found a wonderful realtor who helped me hire a handyman.  He did a beautiful job.  I wanted to move back in it was so nice.

I also had a divorce to finish.  I’d started it six years before, but for many reasons, hadn’t concluded it.  Mostly it was because he asked for alimony, half my house, and half my businesses.  I was pissed.  By the time I got done with him, he got nothing.

Meanwhile, I was having trouble breathing.  It wasn’t from the pneumonia, that was well past, but now that I had insurance, I called the insurance salesman and asked if I could go for a wellness check.  After all, I hadn’t been in eleven years since my son Andrew was born.  I needed to go.  Going to the doctor’s appointment, I had my truck tuned up from a long and intense trip we had taken for business, the truck ran out of gas on my way!  They couldn’t get me in for several weeks.  I told them, I didn’t have several weeks, I was sick, and now.  They asked me to see a nurse practitioner.  I didn’t mind, she’d taken care of my mother too.

The diagnosis was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, type B, and it was pretty advanced.  If I did nothing, it was going to choke me to death in four or five months.  The boys were ten and twelve, I couldn’t do that.  I tell you, if I was alone, the depression I was dealing with would have killed me too.  However, normal chemotherapy takes twelve or more months.  The doctor said not only did I not have the time for that to work, but he had an experimental treatment out of Stanford that he’d like to enter me in a clinical trial for.  I figured I had nothing to lose but my life.  I asked that he just make sure I didn’t get a placebo.  He assured me it was the trial and I would get the meds.  I made out my will with my lawyer, finished my divorce, and sold my house…in that order.

The clinical trial started right away, thank goodness, right?  Within two weeks I was bald.  Those who know me, know my hair is to my waist most of the time, so you can imagine how this affected me as it came out in gobs and I finally shaved off the rest.  Bald is beautiful right?  No.  Not on all heads, as I do not have a beautiful head, it looked horrible and was very cold.  They offered me wigs, but it made me shudder at the thought.  Instead, I covered up with scarves and a hat.

Meanwhile, I had to take care of the boys.  The lawyer explained that if I died, that while my estate which at the time was worth more than a million dollars between the life insurance, the house selling, and my businesses, would go to my boys…the boys, who I wanted to go to my brothers, would be ‘given’ temporarily to their nearest relative…their father.  If their father knew that the boys were worth over a million dollars, they would never have been seen again, he is that type of man.  So, I decided I wanted to go back to Wisconsin where I grew up, so they would be safe from their other nearest living relatives and my brothers would protect them.

I traveled, against my doctor’s wishes, so I could find a house.  One that the realtor showed me, I kid you not, had a creek running through the basement.  The thought of molds, moisture, and other things being let in through this did not appeal.  I didn’t find a place.  Fortunately, my sister-in-law found me a place to rent up by her and we did eventually move there…but only after I had completed chemotherapy.

You see, the treatment, called the Stanford Five Protocol, then in its experimental stage, was essentially twelve months of chemo in twelve weeks.  Let me tell you, I’ve never been so sick in my entire life.  You are supposed to lose weight then, I bloated.  It was horrible.  When it was over, I vastly relieved.  Originally, I was only to have nine weeks, but the doctor changed his mind and wanted the full twelve weeks, that was when I got depressed from the treatment.  He wanted to continue with radiation right away, but I was so weak, I wanted time to heal…and move.

My divorce had come through in June.  I had to get a doctor’s note that I couldn’t go to the court hearing because I was so ill from the chemo.  The judge granted everything I wanted.  I don’t know if he felt sorry for the dying woman, but I was grateful.  A week after getting my court papers, my house papers came through and they tried to give half of the money to my ex-husband.  I was furious.  Thank goodness I had the papers from the judge, granting him nothing!  He deserved nothing for not paying a dime of child support.  He never has.

 

When chemo was done at the end of summer, August, I moved everything lock-stock-and barrel to Wisconsin and the converted barn that my sister-in-law had found for us.  I could work downstairs and live up in the loft in an apartment with the boys.  It was a good thing too, as I was too weak to work somedays, and it took me weeks, months really, to get the household in order much less the work space.  I had to work, it was paying the bills and rapidly using up the monies from the house that sold.  The sad thing about the move, the movers broke a lot of things, didn’t pay for them ever (not even insurance), and held my things hostage until they nearly doubled their price on the move itself.  I’d heard of such things on 60 Minutes, I was the victim of the scam.

The boys entered new schools, and I had to find new doctors.  Apparently, the oncologist I chose was very well-known.  His staff were the worst and they treated me very badly.  Radiation isn’t supposed to have the side effects I experienced, but I lost weight, got dizzy spells, and felt nauseous.

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Still, I managed to get to some milestones.  My thirty fifth birthday was that November…after I finished radiation.  I celebrated with my sister-in-law and a friend from college.  I was grateful to even be there as the five months were up.  My hair had started to grow back after chemo in August and by November was an okay length that I no longer needed the scarves or hat.  I was, however, bloated.  This is a picture of my third brother and I when it had started to grow.

Thanksgiving was celebrated with my brother and sister-in-law who lived nearby.  It was weird after all those years of being in California and having pizza on that holiday as a joke, to celebrate a traditional holiday feast.  I managed to put my foot in my mouth as they made mashed potatoes from scratch and my mother never had.  She used dried potatoes and we made instant.  I made a comment that I had never seen my mother make mashed potatoes from actual potatoes and my brother was furious for some reason.

That Christmas, was celebrated in style.  The boys got so many gifts, because I was so grateful to even be there.  I celebrated with one of my brothers and his family down in Milwaukee and managed to bring my sister back into the fold of the family and start a relationship that my niece enjoys to this day with that part of the family.  Being estranged they didn’t have it before, and I was grateful that I was the impetus for that.  It was a wonderful Christmas, despite the year I had just experienced.  Seeing family and being with them all.

That New Year’s we celebrated together.  It was nice, and the boys and I had a tradition, we’d play Monopoly into the new year.  I remember things differently than they do, of course, but I was just so happy to be alive, to be there and to put 2001 behind us.  Christmas and New Years aren’t happy holidays for me because my mother died around then, but that year, I had so much to celebrate…I had my boys, a new home, and I was alive.  I may have residual pain, complications, and such for the rest of my life from our little experiment, but I am here, and I can still remember that year from hell and remember the Christmas and New Years JOY!

I tell you this, not to depress you, but to tell you that no matter how bad it is, or was, you can get through it.

Merry Christmas!

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The Fireside Theatre

This last weekend I was looking for somewhere special to take my girlfriend for our weekend away in Milwaukee.  We were already staying in an absolutely beautiful hotel that we had stayed in a couple of times before (The Pfister) and I wanted something unique to do that we normally do not do, besides sight-seeing.  I looked up theaters (or theatres) and while the Pabst was right there, I wanted something even more unique and found a dinner-theater.  As neither of us had ever been, I called my girlfriend up and formally asked her out on a ‘date’ for this event.

Let me tell you, this experience was certainly unique.  The building itself looks odd from the outside, a hodge-podge of building in various stages, or, so it appeared.a61fd4576260a1a1ffb29133a9862c7b

We drove the 50 or so miles from Milwaukee, visited my niece who lives out in that area, and then went on to the theatre, through back roads, and on into the never-never.  Who would have thought that a theater (my spelling, not theirs), in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, would hold Broadway plays?  I really didn’t expect it.

I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin and never made it to this part of the state.  So, it was with a bit of derision, I thought we had wasted our time coming this far out into the sticks to see this play.  Let me tell you, I was wrong, way wrong.

First, a traditional play is up on a stage and the audience out in the theater.  This one, was on a square and the actors going up and down the aisles to appear on stage, or to come up from the bottom of the stage.20151205-145435-001-largejpg

You wouldn’t think something like this would be packed, but it was and I had a HARD time getting tickets.  I finally tried a last minute technique that worked, got us two tickets, and we went.

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Our seats weren’t prime but we were able to see the stage without any problem and it was really worth the admission price (it was expensive, but I didn’t mind).  We could clearly see the stage from our seats behind everyone else, my only complaint, our seats were set in a way that didn’t allow our feet to touch the ground and that hurts after a long while of sitting, especially at my age!  Still, the actors were spell-binding and we were fortunate enough to watch their excellent rendition of Miracle on 34th Street.

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I was enthralled, shocked really, that a play of this magnitude would be here, in Wisconsin and in the middle of nowhere.  Madison yes, Milwaukee definitely, Chicago even, but Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin?  Who would have thought.  Apparently the Fireside has been a family-owned enterprise since 1964.  They’ve expanded it four times from what I read on their website.  It really is worth the drive and effort to go see a show there.

We read on their website that some people didn’t like the food, but let me tell you, it was a five-course meal before the play itself and definitely a good meal for anyone.  My girlfriend is a vegetarian and even she had too much to eat because of their fantastic offerings.  I myself had a steak and it was tender, juicy, and delicious.

Before and after the dinner, as we waited for the show to start, they had endless (and I do mean endless) shopping available along the side of their building.  It went on and on and had the cutest things!  Everything from glassware to knick knacks, and other things that would make great gifts.

I can’t rave enough about this experience, the actors were fabulous, very, very talented and I was in awe as I realized the enormity of what they were all accomplishing.  It was fantastic!

If you get to Wisconsin, Milwaukee or Madison, even drive up from Chicago, it’s worth it, trust me!

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I also had a weird experience that is worth retelling.  I have a set of mystic blue topazes I have purchased over the years.  I have the ring, the necklace, and a set of earrings.  Ring and necklaceI’ve always had trouble with the earrings as the backs aren’t very good and I have felt (as I did that night) one came off and landed in my bra!  That night, after removing my coat in the coat-check, I didn’t realize one of the earring studs had come out and I lost my earring!  It really made me feel bad!  I discovered it’s loss during dinner and had a couple of the people there looking for it, but to no avail.  We even went through the stores again, hoping to catch a shiny glimpse of it.  When we sat down and got to know our neighbors, the woman was ready to help us go look but I assured her it was insured and I was resigned at it’s loss.  Inside I was trying not to let it cast a pale over our wonderful evening.  At the intermission, when my aching body (from that awkward chair) was stretching…my wonderful girlfriend went and got me some advil and water (hurray for her!)  The lady next to us, was on a mission, unbeknownst to me.  She came back with the missing stud!  She had gone through the coat area, where I was sure it had come loose as I took off my coat, and found it!  What an amazing (and totally unexpected) experience.  I am forever grateful.  Really made the evening special along with the absolutely wonderful play we experienced together.  I can’t say how much I appreciated fate for sending that wonderful couple to sit beside us, me casually mentioning my loss, and her determination in finding it.  If I could, I would say to the powers-that-be, my guardian angels, and whomever may be out there helping guide my fate…a big THANK YOU, you gave me my own miracle that night!

A week or two away

I’m nervous and excited about my first foray into Science Fiction.  I wasn’t sure if I could tackle it.  This particular book was originally started in 2011.  I know, because I put the date at the top of the script!  I just didn’t think I could do a science fiction story justice because, after all, we are influenced by Star Wars and Star Trek.  As mentioned previously, I am a fan.  I didn’t want the innovations, dreams, and ideas to influence my own stories.

Then, I started reading Prudence MacLeod‘s novels.  I am also her publisher over at Shadoe Publishing.  Reading her wonderful Novan Series and talking to her, she pointed out there will always be coincidences, similarities, etc.  Her stories don’t FEEL like those epic shows and movies so maybe I could do this too.

I remember THINKING, what would happen if a present day woman, at the time 2011, was taken by aliens and woke up 500 years later?  I decided later that 2015 worked out better and that ended up in the story.  The story took off from there.

My android/human in the story is plausible since we already put artificial things in human bodies and that’s what I was going for.  Not that Jeri Ryan didn’t do a FANTASTIC job as 7 of 9, or Brent Spinner as Data.   But…my Mercédès, pronounced Mur-said-dees looks nothing like those other two.

Mine is based on Vanessa Williams beauty, with blonde hair, and blue eyes.  I wanted a woman of color for this story.  I think, teaching a woman who had no idea about the human side of her sexuality, an intimate relationship, love with another woman, was a challenge for my other main character Ryley.

The book is in it’s final edits, the beta readers loved it, and I’m hoping you will too!

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Watch this space for my announcement about it’s release in December!  Meanwhile, check out my website for other great reads!  www.kannemeinel.com

 

 

It’s coming to get me!

I swear, I’m not paranoid…but, that being said, there is proof in the posting! 
I raise a lot of plants, probably because my father was a botanist with a degree in biology and a couple courses shy of being a zoologist.  I can’t tell you how many trees I’ve planted over the years.  Seeing those same trees 30 years later from the time when I used to jump over them as a child to an adult where I’d have to climb them (if I wanted to break something, not only on the tree but my body).  It’s awesome to know there is a living legacy growing out there, somewhere, even if we don’t own the land anymore.  My father grew up during the depression and helped after the great fires of northern Wisconsin to replant those areas.  After seeing what happened after Mount St. Helens blew, I’m sure Mother Nature would have re-seeded the areas nicely, however, the State of Wisconsin planted acres of trees, heck, more than that and now, eighty plus years later, they are tall and strong.  Personally, I don’t like neat little rows but prefer a variance, a natural look.

Well, back to the point of this blog, and there is one, I assure you.

It’s coming to get me, and here is picture proof.20171014_124101_Burst01

I grow a lot of spider plants, have a Christmas Cactus, and a few other odds and ends.  My aunt gave me a couple of cuttings of a purple passion plant last year when I was down in Arkansas and it survived the drive back to WisconSIN.  One of the cuttings died in the pot, but, some plants do not do well here in this house.  There is something about it, and no, I don’t have a black thumb but a green one.  But, one of the cuttings started growing crazily this year and as I type in bed because of my bad back, I gaze out the window and in front of the window are all my plants, all in hanging baskets, on a stand my son and I made.  I had to do it like this because when Kitkat was alive, she enjoyed mowing plants down.  Now that she is gone I could place them around the house, but, my window gets the most sun in my northern facing house and my window faces south.  The plants that do survive in my house include three varieties of spider plants that I really enjoy.  It gets pretty lush.

Maybe it’s because of what I feed them.  They don’t get straight water since the village puts chemicals in it, supposedly for our health (I don’t drink it either, shudders).  Instead, I feed my plants water from my fish tanks, the bottom water that I siphon out to clean my tanks.  This nutrient rich water is full of plant matter and fish droppings.  Sometimes I will filter THIS through a plant set up where it goes through nutrient rich dirt and into a bucket (what can I say, I’m a mad scientist).  My plants seem to love it.  Even the water that goes INto these fish tanks stands in a five gallon bottle for weeks until the chemicals dissaperate, or rather evaporate.

I don’t understand why some plants don’t like the aura of this house.  Personally, I no longer like the aura either but that is neither here nor there.  I moved here with a couple of absolutely HUGE succulents that were the sizes of bushes, jade plants to be exact and they BOTH died in this house.  I also moved here with a couple of display of Mother-in-Law Tongues, aka Snake Plants and sometimes called Sword Plants that had been cuttings from my grandmother and the plants were over 40 years old!  All died in this house and I was heartbroken.  I didn’t (then) feed them the water from my tanks but that was how I learned the water out of the tap was BAD!  As I said, the aura is bad and I need to move on, taking my ‘few’ plants with me.  My sword plants once were in one of those half wine barrels and I got them to bloom!  Apparently they bloom once every seven years but I had so many in that barrel they bloomed EVERY year, man that is the most sickening flower smell you ever want to smell!  Someone once offered me $400 for that half-barrel, but, we had a freeze that night before he could come pick it up!

My dream home would have an arboretum, a sun room, or just fantastic windows to grow plants!  Btw, this is what a Purple Passion plant is SUPPOSED to look like, not the one vine reaching out to GET me!Purple-Passion

Meanwhile, I wait for this purple passion plant, the one vine is over seven feet long!  I can see it ‘hesitating’ in its growth of where it’s going to go.  In the evening it is leaning towards my right as it might head back towards the window it grew up, it’s vine thickening as it grows.  In the morning it leans towards my left and as if it is contemplating whether or not it will head towards me at the headboard of my bed.  It’s a smart thing too, it has now figured out it will get added support/strength by resting on top of the post that holds up all the plants (except for those hanging from the curtain rod).

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So, if I don’t appear on social media someday, you know, it GOT me!

Meanwhile, if you want to read about more interesting stories than my domestic ones, please click on the picture below:

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It’s off to Chicago I go for GCLS!

Has it really been a YEAR since Washington DC and GCLS?  Where has the time gone?  REALLY?  I traveled a lot since then, bought a few new computers, got a new SUV, wrote a few books (you didn’t miss THAT did you?) and here we are again!  Another event.  This year it’s in Chicago which is cool because it’s only 5 hour (depending on traffic) or so from the Northwoods where I hole up in my cave *depending on if I’m writing.  This hermit is coming out of the cave for this event.  Be sure to stop by the Shadoe Publishing booth as seen here from last year.20160707_124440

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Ask me for a Lesbian Membership card!  I laminated a few too for you die-hards who need a card!  lol!

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Oh, and I’m bringing PLENTY of books too, got the first loads in the back of my new SUV:

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Yeah, those are HEAVY…I will have to either get a bigger SUV or a trailer soon!

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All joking aside, Shadoe Publishing has two booths this year as always and we would LOVE to see you.  I’ll be on a panel with some very nice authors on Thursday, and, of course around for the author signings…or, if you can’t be there for that, buy a book and hunt me down with my red fedora or my light up shoes!

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Because, well, as you know, I don’t like to draw attention to myself, bahahahahahah!

C’mon, you know you want to give me a hug, get a picture, and I want to see you all there too!  Don’t be shy!  I don’t bite…hard.  BTW, if you post a picture of me and you on Facebook from the conference, I want you to tag me!  I’ll even consider GIVING you a book for doing that!

See you there!

K’Anne!

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The Northwood Lodge

I am pleased to present to you my FIRST non-fiction novella.  A biographical novella about my father and grandparents with plenty of pictures.

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In 1934, John Dillinger engaged in a shoot-out with the Division of Investigation, later called the F.B.I., at Little Bohemia in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin.  Next door to Little Bohemia was the Northwood Lodge owned by Ernst and Agatha Meinel, my paternal grandparents.

Buy Direct on my website

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And coming soon to these two retailers:

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27 Years ago TODAY!

How many of you can say you remember what you were doing that many years ago?  I do.  That was a rather rough week.  I was suffering from the flu, in and out of the hospital all week only to go back for more hydration in the form of an I.V. drip.  My doctor was sick of seeing me.

27 years ago today was a Thursday, and I remember it so vividly because of what happened that evening.  Since I’d been so ill, I had to be ‘careful’ about what I ate.  I felt so good that day that I craved lasagna.  A favorite still.  So, we got Stouffers and I got my lasagna.  Well, a few hours later I began to have stomach pains.  Chock it up to too much too soon?  Or should I mention I also happened to be very, very pregnant at the time?  When my husband at the time (Hey, yes I AM a lesbian NOW, but I was young and stupid and trying heterosexuality)….said, how do you tell the difference between flu cramps and being in labor?   Well, I was 23 at the time and I’d already had a baby so of course I knew it all!  That’s what I told him, I would KNOW!  Well, when those flu cramps got five minutes apart, he called the doctor.  I told them, I didn’t mind going into the hospital just as long as I didn’t miss my favorite show which was due on that night.  Those were the days when you had to wait the entire season to see what you missed in one night for a rerun…if you got that!  At the time my favorite show was L.A. Law…hello Susan Dey anyone?2120587  Well, I got my wish.  They got me into a room and I refused to contribute ANYTHING to the delivery of my son until I could watch the entire episode.  How’s that for a devoted fan?

A few hours later I was willing to get that baby out of me and I cooperated.  Not bad!  I think I’ll keep him.  Happy Birthday Andrew!  (He’s given the name I would have been given had I been a boy).  Btw, I’m STILL trying to lose that baby fat!