Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Up in Arms

          In Joniopolis there always seems to be both good news and bad news. Actually, if you scroll through these posts, I think you’ll see it’s mostly bad news, with occasional good news thrown in just to surprise me.
          This time the good news is that I got my port removed (no, I was not deported, you punsters). You may recall this weird little box that was placed in my chest. Nurses use them to access your veins and give you chemo, or to take out blood for lab tests.
          Only this time I was told not to use the arm on that side. No heavy lifting, especially.  But wait—I’m already under strict orders not to do heavy lifting with the other arm because of the surgeries on THAT side. So how do I carry my purse—in my teeth?
          What I need are minions. I can have them pour milk, make beds, lift laundry baskets, haul luggage if I’m traveling, even turn the pages of a book for me.
          Meanwhile, because we can’t stop there, I’m advised to engage in a bit of weight-lifting to build bone density. And how am I supposed to do this—with my feet? 
          It’s like being told to take medicine on a full stomach AND stop having a full stomach. Or to get rest and plenty of exercise. Or to stop worrying, at which point you worry that you’re still worrying.
          It reminds me of the old childhood joke that jellybeans are smart pills. Invariably the next line is, so Joe bought some and then complained that they didn’t make him any smarter. “See?” was the reply, “You’re getting smarter already.”
But you can lift a book, right? I recommend one of mine-- start with the lightest in weight, which also happens to be the newest: A Little Christmas Prayer. It’s perfect for anyone and costs less than a greeting card! (See all my books at jonihilton.com)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Falling for it Again

          St. Bob earns that title daily.  The latest thing I’ve asked him to do, which surely no man can enjoy, is to lift seven heavy bins labeled “Halloween” or “Autumn” from their shelves, so I can put pumpkins and fall harvest displays around the house.

          As I was pawing through one of them for seasonal decorations I mumbled, “Hmm… this could be cute in the kitchen. Wait. Maybe I could mix the acorns and the little wooden apples in the same bowl.”  Then I said, “How do men put up with women?”
          Bob glanced over. “What?”
          “I said, ‘How do men put up with women?’”
          Now he smiled. “That’s how.”
          Yes, he nearly got hit in the head with a gourd.
Lucky that guy provides ongoing material. Speaking of material, see if you can see Bob’s inspiration in some of my novels. You can find them all right here--and be sure to order my latest, a brand new booklet called A Little Christmas Prayer. It costs less than a greeting card! Perfect for everybody on your gift list!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Football Fakery

          On a recent flight I happened to sit beside a coach who was on his way to two football games. “Texas A&M vs. Auburn, then Cowboys vs Dolphins,” he said. I tried to carry the conversation but finally admitted I know absolutely nothing about these teams or players. I told him that when my husband is watching and says, “That was a terrible call,” I shout, “What is the MATTER with him?” Or, if one team trades a good player away I notice his dismay and say, “Can you believe that? What were they THINKING?!”
I even shared my collection of ideas with this coach, for how to improve various sports, which I blogged about here. It includes the brilliant (my own critique) idea for soccer, which is to eliminate the goalies and thus raise the scores. We were laughing away (he’d had a couple of vodka tonics, so I can’t claim all the credit for his ebullient mood), but then he had an idea of his own.
He said I should tell my husband that I found a new hobby: Fantasy Football. And he would even help me design my team.  DONE! I couldn’t wait. But I knew it would have to be a text because St. Bob would never let me run out my phony rope if I called him.
Here’s my text: I started a new hobby. I’ve joined a Fantasy Football League. See what you think of my lineup: Quarterback Mahoney, hook up with Kelsey from KC, Gurley as running back, also Barclay. Beckham for wide receiver, Kittle from SF, Zuerlain as kicker and then use the Chicago defense. And it only cost me $100 cash to join.
          St. Bob texted right back: Who is this really?
          Later he said, “You don’t even know which end of the football to hold.”  I didn’t tell him that these objects should be re-named, since they really aren’t in the round shape of a ball.        

          Then today he said “Drew Brees has to have thumb surgery.” 
          “Who is that? Do we know him?”
          He just stared at me. “You don’t know who that is?” Turns out he plays for St. Bob’s favorite team, the Saints.
          “Well, that’s HORRIBLE!” I said, a performance that deserves an Oscar. “Brew Dreeze definitely needs to use his thumb if he’s playing football!”
          “Brew Dreeze?”  
          Yikes. I quickly corrected myself, then asked, “What part does he play?”
          “You don’t know he’s the quarterback?” St. Bob was almost apoplectic.
          Hey. I once painted our bedroom Saints Pants Gold to surprise Bob. I’d be surprised if any of those players have a bedroom like that. So if you ask me, that’s a home run hit.
You know all that down time in football? You could read an entire book of mine in one game’s down time. Find ‘em all right here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

St. Bob or Sgt. Bob?

          Have you ever had a policeman tell you to stop being a policeman? St. Bob has. 

          We used to live near a high school where teenagers would go  speeding by after school, often running the stop sign on our corner.  Several times Bob would jump in his car, somehow pull them over (I wasn’t in his car, so I’m not sure how he did this), and tell them to obey the laws. He may or may not have threatened to tell their parents, as well.
          One time I was bringing him back from knee surgery for a torn meniscus when he literally got out of the car and shook his crutch at a kid speeding by.
          Another time (I believe it’s called a stake-out) he watched a “beggar” in a parking lot who approached various shoppers for money, each time with a different story. He finally approached her, SAID HE WAS AN UNDERCOVER COP, and that she had better get out of there if she didn’t want to get arrested.  What—for lying? And isn’t he caught red-handed in the act of lying, himself?
          Finally a very kind officer came to the house and explained to Bob that, technically, he isn’t really a policeman.  No kidding. Who else has to have this explained to them?
          The officer was even nice enough to acknowledge that Bob was just trying to do the right thing (what—impersonate a policeman?), but that he needed to stop now.  This is exactly how I would speak to the patients in my mother’s care facility when their Alzheimers would make them forgetful, and they would steal pastries from the dining room.  Okay, it was just her. But I tried to use the same patient, understanding tone of voice. It’s a voice that says, “I know you’re crazy, but I’m trying not to judge.”
          The other day we were on the freeway when a dreadful driver swerved in and out of traffic. Bob, at the wheel, was appalled. “Pull ‘em over,” I said. Hey. Plenty of people  go into retirement and then come out again— Garth Brooks, Cher, Joaquin Phoenix, Jay Z, Michael Jordan, Frank Sinatra. You’ll be in good company.
And every one of those people has ordered my books. Okay, that's a lie. I just didn't want Bob to feel as if he's the only fibber in today's blog.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Mud Makes You Happy

          Ding, ding, ding—stop the presses! Scientists now claim that dirt can prevent anxiety disorders.
          You think I’m kidding. Nope. In Neuroscience Psychology they’ve cited a study that claims a fatty acid in soil can lead to a “stress vaccine” and that people who like to garden are just happier, better people. Okay, I  added that last part about gardeners because I like to garden.
          But they’re dead serious about the mental health benefits of playing in the dirt. For years folks have believed the “hygiene hypothesis” that exposure to germs makes you more immune. Back in 1989 it was found that lack of exposure to microorganisms in childhood led to higher rates of allergies and asthma.
          But now they believe it impacts mental health as well. One study shows farm kids being more stress-resilient than pet-free city dwellers. (Like that’s the only variable, right? Could it be chores? Fresh air?  Lack of traffic noise? Gimme a break.)
          So I was skeptical. But then they found that a certain bacteria was like an antidepressant in the brain and even impacted PTSD. They’re looking into injecting this bacteria into first responders and others in high-stress careers.
          Meanwhile, it sounds like mud pies could be just what the doctor ordered. I do know that my gardening buddies all claim an unexplainable joy they get from getting their bare hands into the soil.  
          And taking a mud bath? Well… now you’re talking heaven in a bathtub, my friend.
Surely you wouldn’t dream of bathing without a good book to read, right? Find my latest and greatest right here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Think Before You Ink

          Ah, the things we can learn from tattoos.  The other day I noticed my supermarket checkout guy had a gigantic tattoo on his arm, of a girl’s name. Let’s say it was Doopsie, just because I don’t know any Doopsies.
          “Oh, is Doopsie your wife?” I  asked. 
          “No, no!” he said, leaving a string of exclamation marks in the air. “That’s my daughter.”  
And now, the TMI part. “I’d never get a tattoo of a wife’s name,” he explained. “’Cause tattoos are forever, y’know?”
I nodded.
“And my daughter, now she’ll  be my daughter forever. But with a wife, you never know.”
Indeed.  Those fickle wives, coming and going like the latest cell phones. 
By now I had my groceries, so I didn’t get to inquire for more information. Also, I didn’t want any.
But it got me thinking. First, why would you marry someone you weren’t sure about? Second, how many wives are we talking, here? I mean, there’s a lot of square footage on the average body. 
Third, what if you have six or seven kids? Then do you get equally gigantic tattoos for each child, lest one feel left out? Has he thought ahead about this? And he can protest all he wants about only wanting one or two kids, but we all know who’s in charge of efficient prevention, right?
Also, what’s his wife’s reaction to a lavish hearts-and-roses mural for Doopsie, but not one for her? And does the wife have a matching Doopsie tattoo? What happens when Doopsie grows up and then has a bunch of grandkids for this guy? Will they also be emblazoned somewhere?  And, by then, what places will be left?  Armpits? Buttocks? Who wants their name there? I’m just saying. A tattoo is forever, after all.
I suppose the pages of my books are tattooed with text. But it's doggone good text, so get started on your Christmas shopping here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Signs of the Times

          I’m walking through the hospital hallways to get a CT-Scan, and I see a door bearing this sign:
          I can’t help wondering how an alarm can be silent.  Does that not negate its very ability to sound an alarm?  Or does a mime burst into your office trying to look like the Silent Scream painting?
          What is it with facilities and their signs? You may remember one of my blogs from four years ago that featured this goody, again from my hospital:
          Seriously? We’re to respect rattlesnakes at a HOSPITAL? Why not just be honest, and post a donation box with a sign that says, “Saving up for an exterminator. Please contribute here”?
          And you may recall another of my blogs that featured this puzzling sign in a local office building:
          I can only assume it’s a lab we do not wish to know about,  where the animals have taken over, tied up the scientists, and are now roasting marshmallows over a fire made from lab coats and paperwork.
          I can’t help wondering what the office parties are like at sign factories. I’m guessing they have a contest to decide the craziest projects they’ve worked on. But you probably wouldn’t want to open that door, either.
Speaking of doors, St. Bob used to host Let’s Make a Deal, and would offer Doors Number 1, 2,  or 3 to contestants. But even the zonks were better than what I imagine hides behind some real doors.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Hot friends

          Do you have hot friends? How about hot in-laws? Well, try to top this. My brother-in-law’s truck burst into flames recently:
          A generator in the truck caught fire. Luckily he was nowhere near it. He and a hunting buddy had gone away for dinner, and noticed a giant plume of black smoke as they returned.  When they got there the flames were just reaching the huge stash of ammunition AND a propane tank.  They said it was like a war zone with one explosion after another.
          Then another friend of mine, who races cars (I am so jealous; you know that’s my spirit career), sent this shot of his car that also caught on fire. Luckily the driver wasn’t hurt.
          And then, at the same racetrack, ANOTHER truck burst into flames—and yep, it had a generator on board that caused the fire.
          Maybe it’s just as well that I became a mild-mannered (okay, a semi-mannered) writer who sits indoors, perfectly still, and stays out of the heat wave.
          But hot deals await you, my friend. Check out my books on my website here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Come One, Come All!

          I’m excited. I love teaching writing and on Saturday, September 14th I get another opportunity. I teach what to do, and I also teach what not to do. One of the nots is overwriting. Recently I came across an ad for a simple blazer, with this description:

          A crisply chic mandarin collar meticulously-constructs this eclectic overpiece, lending an individualistic essence that's immeasurably maximized. Rendering a dedication to craftsmanship in a figure-skimming iteration, this fashion-focused twill jacket is developed through time-honored techniques and tailored touches.

          I know, excruciating. A dense forest of verbiage that could choke the hungriest herbivore.  Or verbivore.
          Sometimes people do this to show off their vocabulary, always a bad idea. When you’re trying to stump your readers, you lose them.  Other times it’s because the writer lacks confidence. They think they have to expound, embroidering until all you can see is the thread. But simple and concise is not only more professional, it’s more accessible.
          Perhaps Mark Twain, who was often paid by the word, said it best: “'I never write ‘metropolis’ for seven cents, because I can get the same money for ‘city.’”
          If you live anywhere in the Sacramento metropolis, er, city, come join the fun in Roseville from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Here’s the link where you can register for this college extension class that will help anybody get organized and begin their novel, play, or short story. It’s called “Start with the Bones.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Join Today!

          Does your mind ever play tricks on you?  It must.  This is why we all enjoy optical illusions and close-up magic.  We marvel that we can stare at one thing and see something else.
          But does it ever happen with your name?  A friend of mine recently wrote, “I have to tell you, when I was in Chicago last week we were staying at the Chicago Hilton, and everywhere I looked there were signs inviting me to apply to be a member of the Hilton rewards program. The signs had just two words: Join Hilton, and I kept thinking I was seeing your name.”
          I’ve actually had the same thing happen—when typing my own name I’ve often transposed it to read “Join”  instead of “Joni.” Even worse, I sometimes write “XoXo” to loved ones, and occasionally I’ll check it before sending and realize that it actually says “SoSo.”
          But does your name spell something else if you mess with the letters? Think about St. Bob. His name spells Bob forward and backward, the lucky duck. But what if your name is Bart? Do you sometimes write Brat?  Did Burl Ives sometimes write Blur Eyes? 
          And sometimes we see what we want to see.  Anytime I see a sign that starts with “C” my mind wants to read, “chocolate.” 
           But usually it just says “Capital” something, since I live in California’s capital, Sacramento.  Naturally you find Capital bank, Capital cleaners’, Capital cafĂ©—all of which could double their business if they simply changed the first word to Chocolate.
          Sadly, the word “Chocolate” is not in any of my book titles.  But you can write it in if you prefer, for a more delicious read. Heck, you can even cross out “Joni” and write “Join”  if you wish.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Doggerel Days

          Doggerel is a word which means an irregular, silly, or badly written rhyme. I’m going to assume that its origins trace to my own dogs’ ancestors who were undoubtedly all three—irregular, silly, and bad.
          However, this does not mean I don’t love dogs; I do. They just need to attend I.Q. camp. You recall, of course, that one of my dogs literally did this damage to this book:
          He was also the one who kept barking at an old hot water heater before it was picked up for recycling.
          Today we are down to Mickey, so named because she sort of has a silhouette of Mickey Mouse on her back. The other day I saw her at the glass back door, barking at the porch.  I figured there must be an animal of some kind out there, and a scary one at that.  Nope. This is what had the nerve to be crouching on our cement:
          St. Bob had left a small Home Depot bag on the patio table, and it had blown onto—horrors!—the ground.  She also had a fit some time ago when a stray balloon found its way to the kitchen island: 
          And now, to share with you her latest hobby, it’s twirling in our curtains.


Occasionally she gets so wound up in them she can hardly find her way out.

Last week I was grocery shopping and saw a magazine called Inside Your Dog's Mind. How can there be even one paragraph of information on this topic, much less an entire magazine? I didn’t browse through it. I just assumed it would be photos of cobwebs. Maybe some doggerel poetry about dogs’ thoughts.
          But I adore Mickey nonetheless. After all, she thinks I’m hilarious.
The best way to endure the dog days of summer is to stay inside where it's cool and read one of my books. Find them all right here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Elephants, Zombies, and Bears—Oh My!

          “Elephants don’t get cancer.” This was my oncologist speaking, last year.
          “WHAT!” I gasped. “Why aren’t we injecting elephant something- or- other into people?” I am nothing if not a stickler for the intricacies of science.
          “We’re studying it,” he said.
          “Well, study faster,” I said. “I’ve got Stage 3 and this sounds like the cure.”
          Here’s the skinny, not to disparage any elephants who might be reading this blog: When our cells divide, as they constantly do, some get damaged and these damaged ones are more likely to cause cancer.
Most mammals try to repair the damaged ones. Not so with elephants: They have a “zombie” gene that just kills off the wonky ones.
 So while humans have just one copy of this tumor-suppressing gene called P53, elephants have 20 to 40.  And, while they can get cancer, only 1 in 20 of these majestic beasts will ever get the disease, whereas 1 in 5 people will. Hit first and hit hard seems to be their strategy, and it works.
          So where do bears come in? Well, really just to complete the Wizard of Oz reference. BUT… I did find one link to a claim that, while bears in captivity have been found to contract cancer,  it has never been found in a bear in the wild. Let me guess why: Because to test it you have to get very, very close.
          Hey—I just finished my final round of radiation! You can celebrate by enjoying one of my books, right here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Flat Out Amazing

          Most of you know that I spent a good hunk of my childhood in Utah. And one of the things Utah is known for is its famous Bonneville Salt Flats, where race cars of all descriptions have set land-speed records as they have zoomed across brilliant white fields of sparkling salt.
          And, of course, it lures the rest of us in, too. In one of the many trips we’ve made to Utah from California, we decided to take our family sedan on a spin or two across the famous terrain we’d seen on television.
          But wait. It’s not exactly what you think. First of all, while it is indeed 90% table salt, it’s not as if this is the soft stuff you keep in the kitchen, sprinkled across a glassy surface. 
          It’s crusty. It’s hard. It’s in globs. And your tires fling this stuff up into the undercarriage of your car where it will defy science for months.
          How does it do this? By never coming off. Even if you spray wash it, thinking salt will surely dissolve in water, it does not. It clings to your fenders and axle and everything else under there, until you chisel it off. Salt can accelerate the rusting process of the metal it clings to, so there’s also that.
          Oh, and should you decide to step out onto the flats, the salt will cling to your shoes like glue. Lumpy, crystalized glue.
          Another little-known factoid about these sneaky flats is that the surface can conceal huge mud quagmires that can engulf a truck. That’s right, a truck. The same thing happens in the Sahara Desert.
          Did I mention you should bring sunglasses? I know a thing or two about bright glare, having grown up skiing on Utah’s powdery ski slopes, and white salt is equally blinding.
          So there you have it. A tourism guide that can protect you from head to toe, and all your cars in between.
Here’s some cool info about the salt we actually eat—check out my Youtube Mom video here.