Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Are You Kidney-ing Me?

           Just before my surgery for breast cancer we learned that a dear friend back East is facing final stage kidney disease. This means he needs a new kidney, or he will have to do dialysis day and night, at home. I was teaching a writing class when I got the sudden impression that I should offer him my kidney.
          So, after class, I left a voice message for his wife, then drove home and told Bob.  “I figure if I’m already under anesthetic, then it’s one hospital stay and one recovery.”
Bob just stared at me.  “They can’t do that—they can’t do a mastectomy and a kidney operation at the same time!”
“Oh, please,” I said. “People  come in all the time after a traffic  accident and they need five things done at once.  What are they going to say—‘We’ll fix your punctured lung, but those broken legs are going to have to wait’?  Of course they can do it.”
He asked if I had considered the risks and that maybe this should be a couples decision, not one I make by myself in an impulsive moment.  Ah. Okay, I forgot about that part.
          “What are they going to do,” Bob went on, “tape it up in a Styrofoam cooler and then if it doesn’t make it, come back for the other one?”
          I’m pretty good at smirking. “I’m sure they can deliver it.”
          “We don’t even know if you’re a match,” he said. “And you’ve had kidney stones twice!”
          True, this might become a deep discount kidney sale, given that my kidneys like to churn out stones.
          “And you’re a cancer patient!”  he continued.
          Okay, maybe I am not the optimal donor. But my “as is” kidney is still on the clearance rack if he wants it. 
          The next morning we had another biopsy, and the women who mails off the tissue samples met us with a rolling refrigerated case.  I nudged Bob. “I’ll bet a kidney would fit in there,” I said.  He explained my “hare-brained idea” to her and she laughed until she cried.
          And that’s when I know my work here is done.
Aren’t you curious about the kinds of books I write? Most are humor but some are straight-up whatever.  Check ‘em out here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Fanning the Flames

          You guys know that I do a bit of public speaking, right?  And I think I mentioned that in October I went to Nauvoo, Illinois with St. Bob, to speak to a big Singles’ Mega-Conference, right? (My topic: How to find humor in adversity—I have been preparing for this speech MY ENTIRE LIFE.)
          And I love Nauvoo. It literally glows with the Spirit of its history—an early Latter-day Saint settlement that became the jewel of the Midwest. Today it’s much like Williamsburg, a great place for families to visit where they can see yesteryear’s artisans at work.  And you get little freebies at every shop—the bakery, the printing press, the blacksmith, the brick maker, etc. Plus we have a gorgeous temple there. If you look closely, you can see us standing beside it.
          But of course this wonderful experience cannot go without a snag or two, since I take Joniopolis with me wherever I go. And during my second talk I suddenly got a hot flash.  A major downpour hot flash. An I-think-I-could-take-my-pulse-in-my-eyeballs hot flash. I’m instantly drenched and I’m sure my face is the color of a stoplight. 
          (I might add that these hot flashes are because I’ve been in a six-month clinical trial to reduce my breast cancer tumor, and though the injections have worked magnificently, the side effect is hot flashes.)
          Luckily I was wearing a jacket. So in the middle of my talk I said, “Okay, I’m having a killer hot flash. Sorry, but the jacket goes.” Thank goodness I wasn’t wearing just one thick sweater or something. Good grief—the things we do for the cause of science, right?
          I continued my speech, and then afterwards a wonderful thing happened: One of the women in attendance gave me her fan!  Her own, personal fan!  
          We laughed, we fanned, and I felt loved. It was such a generous, sweet thing for her to do. Believe me, I will never go on the road without it!
          You, too, can give a great gift to someone—I have books for everyone at wonderful prices, perfect for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Superman Never Said This

          I think this may be the ultimate example of adding insult to injury. Here’s the latest in my medical adventure. First, a bit of background. The pathology report of my lymph nodes came back with cancer in four out of the five they tested.  Naturally this means it’s probably in many more of them, and possibly racing through my body to attack some new, far more exciting venue than my armpit.
          So… we did a PET scan. No, they will not let you bring in your Chihuahua to substitute for you.
They will, however, share the radiologist’s long analysis of the even longer body x-ray. 
          The good news is that they didn’t find cancer anywhere else—yay!  On and on I read, seeing that my neck, my liver, my lungs were all clear.  And then I got to this line:
          Brain is grossly unremarkable.
          SERIOUSLY?  That’s how you choose to put it?  If you’re such a smarty-pants, why can’t you just say, “Brain is fine” which would only require four letters as opposed to 19?  Or better yet, “Brain is OK”? 
          I was telling our son, Brandon, that my brain was pronounced grossly unremarkable and he laughed, “Says you!” Right?
          How rude. Maybe someone has grossly unremarkable tact. Hey, Superman had x-ray vision, but he never disparaged people's brains. 
          Yes, I get it that this is medical terminology, but just like sports that need to be revised, maybe that language needs revision as well. AND DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY TIMES I’VE HAD TO POST ABOUT MY BRAIN IN THIS BLOG? I think it’s getting ridiculous.
          And then there’s St. Bob’s input, which was surprise and delight that there was even a brain in there to find. So there’s that.
On the other hand, Christmas is coming and you need to buy my books as gifts for people whose brains you would never insult.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Just a Little Kissy Poo

          SERIOUSLY?  Okay, here’s what has happened now.  I stopped in to visit an old friend who’s in an Alzheimer’s care facility. In the LDS Church we are assigned people to minister to every month, and even though this friend moved away years ago, I’ve stayed in touch.
          You would think such a visit would be pretty predictable, right? Aha. That is your first mistake.  I find my friend’s room and there she is, sitting in a wheelchair.  So I sit in the chair facing her, but no sooner do we begin to visit than she says in a halting voice, “Can I, can I kiss you?”
          Well, how sweet is that, right? What a doll. “Of course you can,” I say. And I stand up and bend over her so she can peck me on the cheek. 
          Then, just as I’m leaning over, closer and closer, and cupping her head in my hand, I realize she looks puzzled.  So I say, "Wait. What?" Turns out I heard her wrong.  What she really said was, “Can I have a tissue?”  And now I am two inches from her face, and she's probably wondering what on earth is about to happen. Is Joni going to kiss me? Good grief-- She's the one who should be in a care facility!

          Quickly I sit down again, rummage through my purse, and pull out one tissue for now, and one for her nightstand lest we go through this all over again. We visit, we reminisce, we catch up.  And for the first time in my life, I find I am grateful for short-term memory loss and I’m hoping she forgets my waay-too-close encounter and that her family members don’t file some kind of restraining order.
          This is what happens when your brain has an auto-correct feature that you didn’t even sign up for.  And my oncologist wants me to have chemo!  That creates chemo brain, you know.  And I’ve obviously already got it, and haven’t even had chemo yet!  I seriously cannot afford brain fog on any level. 
          So I’m off to MD Anderson in Texas for a second opinion.  I hope it goes, “Oh, y’all are too uptight on the coast. Just have some dumplin’s, honey, and everything’ll be fine.”  And hopefully they won’t ask me for a tissue sample.
While we’re waiting for the results of that adventure, you may as well curl up with one of my books.  Oh—and don’t forget you can do all your Christmas shopping there, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Three Blind Mice?

          I get it; everyone loves St. Bob. But why does this focus group have to include our cat, Simon? We got that wingnut out of a box of free kittens and he turned out to be a Chartreux, a cat bred in France to be a champion mouser.
          However, nobody said, “By the way, he’ll be bringing those mice into your bedroom at night.”  Or, “I hope you can do math, because if you can divide three into two, that’s how often he’ll be doing this.”
          Yes, over the last two nights he has brought in THREE mice, and has wailed at the top of his lungs to let us know.  Also, he’s been drenched because he doesn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain. He also brings in birds. And evidently dreams of them:
          But he will come in to present his gifts to Bob, his favorite human.  (I am just the Plus One who scrubs white carpeting with hydrogen peroxide to clean up after the murder.)
          “Just marry him and get it over with,” I muttered to Bob last night, after the third hideous episode.
          Richie, our eldest, says cats do this because they think we can’t hunt.  Really.  And what genius determined this? Did they interview cats to see how they think?  Did my tax dollars pay for a grant to talk to cats? Do hunters receive no little gifts of prey from their cats? I’ll bet you a gray Chartreux that cats do this just because they want to, and are not analyzing our weaponry skills or the meat we haul home.
          But if Richie’s right, and Simon knows we’re now vegan, we are in major trouble.
But here's the perfect thing to do when your cat wakes you up in the night: Read one of my books! And, dare I say, they make wonderful Christmas gifts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Stickler for Details

          Quick quiz: When was Joni most likely to get caught breaking a law? Answer: When she took a Sharpie pen over to the local high school at night, and corrected the punctuation on a sign that said, SLOW STUDENTS AHEAD.
          So how can I possibly stay in a hospital bed beneath this sign?
          Why the arm is also a topography map escapes me.  But the more glaring problem is that the warning not to give injections or take blood pressure on the left arm has a misplaced apostrophe.  Sticks is plural. It is not a contraction and it is not possessive. Yet you see this all the time.  Slack’s on sale. Return shopping cart’s here.  Lower price’s. Free ticket’s.  It’s enough to put one in a straitjacke’t.
          Luckily our daughter, Nicole, was there. I asked her to find some white adhesive tape and cover the apostrophe.
          Finally the repair was made.  And then St. Bob found me a room with a view of Sutter’s Fort. Now that does have an apostrophe.
          Have you read Sisters in the Mix yet?  The main character has my same penchant for fixing signs. But she also has OCD, whereas I only have CPD (Correct Punctuation Desire).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Coming To

          You know I recently had a mastectomy. You know I find comedy in almost everything. And you know major surgery is usually done with anesthetic.  This, my friends, is the recipe for a very embarrassing cocktail.
          When I had my wisdom teeth removed at 19, I had a follow-up visit where all the nurses clustered around to tell me how hilarious I was under anesthetic.  This is never good news. 
          This time I recall just bits and pieces, so I can only imagine the parts I’ve forgotten.  Note to self: Never have surgery at that hospital ever again, lest you run into the same surgical team.
          Just gaining consciousness after the procedure this time, I noticed a young male nurse fidgeting with the wires and tubes attached to my chest.  “Don’t cut the green wire,” I said, “or we’ll all blow up.”
          I yammered on and on (this much I remember) and finally, a little worried, said to one nurse, “Am I the most talkative patient you’ve had?”
          She just looked at me, then said, “So far.”  What—in her entire career? Marvelous.
          Soon St. Bob and Nicole were ushered in.  The surgery had taken almost five hours, so they had gone to the hospital cafeteria for lunch. I asked them how it was and Nicole said it wasn’t great.  “Shocking,” I said. “You do know they have three Michelin stars here.” Well, seriously, this is a hospital-- what did you expect?
          In my room I dictated some notes on my phone to ask my surgeon when she came in.  But you know how auto-correct is.  So when I finally saw her, I scanned my list and saw, “Did you save Nepal?”  And, apparently she is a superhero in her spare time, because she definitely saved Nepal.
Whether you’re laid up in bed or running around, check out my books (and they make awesome Christmas gifts, too!)     

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Post-Halloween Irony

          Have you gobbled up all your Halloween candy, yet? (Note my Thanksgiving reference, now that it’s November.)
          First, I want to wish a Happy Birthday today, to Richie, my eldest son (now older than I am!). Note the shirt he's wearing.  I think it's perfect, because I find a bit of irony in Halloween. 
          For example, we give out “Fun Size” candies, when there is nothing fun at all in miniature versions of candy we love. Fun would be a giant candy bar (and for me, it would be vegan and sugar free! Another irony).  It’s like “Fun Run”—how can those two words be in the same sentence?
          Last week I saw the ad Crest Toothpaste has posted on Youtube and Twitter, telling kids to go ahead and eat candy, because they've got it covered. They gave the kids broccoli and beet-flavored "treats" and the kids were aghast. So this toothpaste company is urging kids to eat sugar.
          Irony is all around, of course, not just on Halloween. Have you ever seen someone post on Facebook that they wish people wouldn’t post such hostile comments, and then they get a stream of hostile responses?
          It’s like when someone says, “No offense,” but you know they mean, “I’m about to say something super offensive but I’m hoping you’ll be too oblivious to get mad about it.”
          I guess if you have to be an “-ic” it’s better to be ironic than moronic. Our dog is rarely ironic. On the other hand, she has the corner on, well, that other thing. But there’s only so much IQ you can cram into the head of a Chihuahua. She’s still lovable. Just saying.
And now that we’re officially in “the holidays” might I suggest my books? There’s something for everyone on your gift list!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


          This will be a short blog because you have candy to buy and trick-or-treaters to please.  I simply have to share a hilarious thing they do in Norway.  Inside the wrapper of their Kit Kat-like bar are hiking tips. Yep, hiking tips:
          Not that I went off my vegan diet to learn this. Okay, I was TRAVELING, which is like the free space on a bingo card.  
          Here it is (and the chocolate is creamier than ours). Kvikk Lunsj translates to Quick Lunch:
          I had to wonder how clever these tips would be. I mean, we all have common sense, right? (Yeah, I know, it’s not all that common.)  But we could, even those of us who aren’t avid hikers, compile a list that includes “stay on the trail” and “let people know where you’re going.”
          Well, apparently not, because Freia has taken the trouble to print those very bits of advice, lest you embark upon a wilderness adventure with candy but no brains.
          Some of these nuggets of brilliance include "take into account weather," "use a map and compass," and my favorite: "Turn back around in time; there's no shame in turning around."            
          And it got me thinking—why not dispense advice in ALL candy wrappers? Who wouldn’t love that, the same way we enjoy breaking open a fortune cookie to see what it says?  So, candy makers everywhere, I issue this challenge: By next Halloween I want to give out brilliant wisdom, along with chocolate, to my trick-or-treaters!
You could also give out my books! Imagine the delight of little four-year-olds! Okay, maybe not. Although they can be devoured.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ghost Story

By any chance have you ever slept in a graveyard? 
I’m guessing no. But wait until you read how I happened to do this in Norway.
          Nicole has some friends from her mission days who are renting a home that overlooks an actual fjord. Seriously, the property is breathtaking. And they invited us to spend the night. 
          Also on the property is the landlord's larger home, a huge barn, an apple orchard, and another house.
Years ago the landlady at that time was told by the government that it needed to appropriate the land to build a road. This is called eminent domain here in the U.S.—the taking of land for the public good—and it happens all over the world.
          So she accepted her fate and the night before demolition she went out to dig in her garden.  Her spade hit a rock, making a clinking sound. So she moved over a bit and dug again. Another clink. Then another, and another.  It turns out she had discovered a huge oval of stones surrounding a 1,000-year-old Viking cemetery!
          Immediately the property became a protected historic site, and that’s how we came to sleep in a Viking graveyard!  When we arrived we asked to see it, but were told it hadn’t been excavated yet. Apparently they don’t have sufficient staff to unearth every exciting location in Norway.
          BUT… are you kidding me?  Do you not own a shovel? I would die of curiosity—and thus join the others—if I couldn’t get out there and dig up all those exciting artifacts!  And if it’s illegal, do you not own a spoon and a flashlight? I would be out there in the dead (no pun intended) of night, working feverishly and carefully to find every sword, shield, and helmet!
          I could hardly sleep. And leaving this work undone the following morning, well, what can I say? It haunts me even now.
          Halloween is coming up-- and that's the perfect time to read my books, while you wait for Trick-or-Treaters to ring your doorbell.   

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Danish Magic

          Think about going through the security check at the airport.  You’ve probably taken off your jacket, your shoes, stuffed them into a plastic bin, walked through a metal detector.  All the usual stuff, right?
          But have you ever been stopped so you could watch something entertaining?  Here’s what happened on the way to Denmark. The TSA guy (probably called something else there, and with a lot more letters) stopped me. “I’d like to perform a trick,” he said.
          A little bit random, right? I also have a flight to catch. But I like magic, so okay. St. Bob and I have recently been watching a magician on TV, so this should break up the monotony of boarding a flight.
          The fellow held out both his hands, palms up. Aha. I know this one. He’s going to make a coin appear.
          Or maybe a card.
          Then he motioned for me to do the same. I happily held out my hands. Then he swiped them with that litmus paper thing they rub over your luggage to see if you’re covered with bomb dust.
          And then it hit me. He wasn’t saying “perform a trick,” he was saying “perform a check.” Well, dang!  Get my hopes up and then accuse me of being a terrorist.
          HOWEVER, when we got to our utterly amazing place to stay, right on the shore of the Baltic Sea, 
it turns out there really was magic!  Down the beach was a place called The Magic Forest and it truly was:
          So, Mr. Airport Security Guy, I got to be part of something magical, after all.
          And, just like magic, you can click here to watch my YouTube Mom videos. There I am, right on your screen!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Taking Stock of Stockholm

          Am I lucky or what? Not only did St. Bob send me to Scandinavia with Nicole for my birthday (I told you he was a Saint), but my long-time Swedish friend, Marianne Carlsson, then treated us to a dazzling and delicious dinner at Stockholm’s Brasserie Godot, listed in the White Guide—which is like getting a fistful of Michelin stars.  We eat plant-based now, and look at the chocolate ganache/cherry sorbet/berry meringue dessert their chef came up with for us vegans (read more about that on my Instagram: @unlikely_vegan).         

But just to balance the scales—and because you can’t find these anywhere else in the world— we also had to sample McDonald’s McVegan (no Michelin stars here) and the new vegan Magnum bar.
A walk through historic Old Town is a must:
          Then I noticed a shop you’d never see in the U.S.—not because it refers to Sweden, but because its claim is so understated.  In the U.S. they’d announce that they’re the absolute best, anywhere.  But not in Sweden. Here they’re ultra honest, even humble in their self-evaluation:  
          I asked Marianne’s daughter, Linda, if this reluctance to brag was common in Sweden.  She said, “Probably.” 
So, if you want the absolute best book list ever, anywhere in the world, check out my website here.