Omens of Ill Fortune



A bumper sticker told me I was going to get walking pneumonia.

Sort of.

Look, I’m not what anyone would call religious, mostly because I don’t belong to any religion. I also don’t think of myself as superstitious. I’m too contrary for it. As a kid I decided thirteen was a lucky number for me purely out of spite. But hey, my Brego was born on Friday the 13th so perhaps my contrariness appealed to the universe.

And that tends to sum up my set of beliefs. There are powers in the universe that respond to irony.

Well, I also believe in God but mostly as a benevolent force who finds it puzzling when we’re so mean to each other, especially on His alleged behalf. My belief about the universe’s enjoyment of irony extends to God as well.

Most of all, I think we sometimes get a heads up from the universe when something’s about to happen, good or bad. I know the human brain is engineered to see patterns even when there are none but I’ve seen too many tips of the hat from the cosmos for me to take it for granted. Anyway, I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be eccentric.

My mother was driving me to the airport when I saw the bumper sticker. I already knew the flight would be rough because it was a red eye to New York and then that morning I’d be registering for my senior year in undergrad. Before I could even go to bed I’d need to unpack a few boxes to get to my sheets. But I wasn’t too worried about it. You know, until we drove by a van with the bumper sticker that said, Pray for Kate.

Not encouraging, universe. Not encouraging at all.

I remember laughing at the time because explicitly ominous bumper stickers are kind of funny in the moment. Whoever owned that car probably chose that sticker as a sort of touching gesture to whatever Kate was in their life. But for the random Kate on the highway, it was unsettling.

Er, why do I need prayers? Is something happening? Someone know something I don’t?

The plane didn’t crash so that was a plus.

No, no. What did happen was the day after registration I woke up with a raw spot in my throat. Initially this didn’t seem important. I’ve been sick before and getting sick the beginning of the year wasn’t the end of the world. I’d probably picked a bug up on the plane, boo hoo.

That it was a very weird raw spot in my throat didn’t faze me. The strange, aching pain that would spear up my jaw into my left ear before returning to my throat was probably nothing.

And then my luck got worse. I’d been bumped from one of my classes, a thing that in itself wasn’t so much bad luck as consistent luck since I’d been bumped from a class every year of undergrad. Inevitably it would also be the one that was most important to me, in this case my writing workshop. So to my delight I got to frantically sprint around campus to get a replacement class.

You know that thing people say when they speculate as to how a situation could get worse?


Order up one New York downpour for the girl in the jean shorts and t-shirt, please!

Interviewing for a class soaking wet was just more fun than I can say. Who doesn’t love waterlogged sneakers?

After that, the cough was hardly a surprise.

Okay, I lied. It was a surprise to me since generally when a cold starts with a sore spot in my throat the next step is my nose running. The cough generally attends on the last days of the cold as a sort of herald of glad tidings. Like hack hack, congratulations! Gasp, wheeze you’re almost well!

That was when I cottoned on to the fact that this cold was behaving in a strange manner. So I got my bedrest, drank fluids, and tried not let my teeth clack too hard that one night it felt as though my bone marrow had been replaced with liquid nitrogen. But the cough didn’t get better. Even when I caved to the need for medicine and one of my very dear roommates bought me some Mucinex, it didn’t do the trick.

Then I had to spend my first class of the year alternately strangling myself to silence the coughing or hurrying out to the bathroom for water. On one such trip, after hacking into the sink, I looked up into the mirror and was struck by how pale my skin had gone and how red my lips were. It reminded me of what I’d heard about tuberculosis victims in bygone times, how they left lovely corpses.

Still, I didn’t want to go to the health center. There didn’t seem much point to me since I thought it was just an extremely bad cold and they’d only give me antibiotics, completely useless for a virus.

But then came the day I noticed I was coughing up green phlegm. Finally, it dawned on me.

This thing could be bacterial! I’d been sick much longer than was normal for me and with no improvement made I suspected foul play. After consulting Dr. Google the most likely culprit was walking pneumonia. The only way to know for sure was to finally involve an actual medical professional.

The doctor didn’t make a diagnosis, just prescribed antibiotics as a sort of ‘well, let’s see if that helps but it won’t if it’s a cold’. She made that pretty clear, actually. It was all she had to offer but it might very well not help. When she had me breathe as hard as I could to test my lungs she noted they were in good shape, but then I’d only had the thing a little over a week.

What would determine if I had what I thought I had was how the antibiotics worked.

After the first day’s dosage, I felt almost entirely recovered. That more than anything convinced me I’d been hit with walking pneumonia. With antibiotics, taken as prescribed, that bacteria was wiped out in no time flat and after the second day I was back to normal.

While I was sick, I didn’t think of the bumper sticker. It was only when I was recovered and wondering at how strange an experience it had been that I remembered I’d been given a warning.

Although how exactly I was supposed to get Wear a facemask on the plane unless you want walking pneumonia, Kate from Pray for Kate I’ll never know.

Maybe obtuse warnings from the universe aren’t as useful as they could be. What I like about them is the sense that someone out there is rooting for you. Even if you don’t know what they’re trying to say, there’s a force that wants to help.

Or a force that wants to say, “I told you so” after the fact.

It’s nice to think the universe has a sense of humor, even when the joke’s at your expense.

So keep an eye out for those signs! They probably won’t be the Powerball numbers but inclusion in the ineffable isn’t such a bad prize at the end of the day.


But if you’re listening, I’d also really appreciate the Powerball numbers. Please?

When Good Prompts Go Bad


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I don’t have much use for writing prompts.  If there were any indication in a class summary that prompts would be a feature then I avoided those courses like the plague.  Of course when you’re a writing student these things are sort of an inevitable side effect, like drowsiness or hives.

Or drowsy hives.

For many people prompts can be great!  For me, they are more like a minefield of potential disaster.  My brain is a boiling cauldron of stories yet to be written.  The last thing the cauldron needs is extra ingredients.  As an example, I once got a prompt to use the phrase “At the corner of A Street and B Street” and then go from there.

I got 100 pages into a screenplay.

My plot bunnies are sharp-fanged and blood-soaked.  They leap from the shadows at the barest provocation.  A writing prompt is basically attaching a steak to a fishing pole and dangling it over their den when I’m already being mauled.  Unnecessary.

So when in my first year of grad school one of my professors started giving us a prompt, I felt a tad uneasy.  Luckily the guidelines were stringent.  We were writing a letter in which we describe the classroom.  Cue a sigh of relief that came too soon.  After we’d gotten a ways into our descriptions the professor added, “Now you’re writing this letter to your sister.”

First thought: Susan survived?

Let me lend you guys some context.

I’m an only child so when I was little I pretended I had a lot of brothers and sisters.  Then it occurred to me that I needed a reasonable explanation to give people about why my supposed siblings were never seen.  So I decided they all must be dead.

I committed to this narrative.  I have a vivid memory of standing alone in my room, staring into my sock drawer thinking, “These were Susan’s socks.  She’s gone now.”  It’s not clear but I think Susan’s demise was supposed to be due to her falling over a cliff.

There was also an incident at Disneyland where I described to the train conductor in detail about how my little brother had been killed by a train.  He told my mother how sorry he was for her loss.  Mom then had to explain how there was no brother and no train.  They don’t really include how to tell strangers that your child invented deaths for her imaginary siblings in parenting books, do they?  Terrible oversight.

This also resulted in me sitting in a writing class decades later, suddenly writing an incredibly sinister letter to my presumed dead sister about how glad I was she wasn’t dead after all.  Maybe the sinister tone wasn’t necessary but, look, the circumstances had just gotten really weird.  In this prompt I was describing the room to just some anonymous person but then, twist!  Actually I’m writing my sister, who I’ve thought dead since childhood but I’ve now somehow tracked down so I could write about my classroom to her?

Also, all my siblings died in “accidents”.

And Susan’s been in hiding?  Yeah, in this scenario there really is no way for me to write to my sister without it being at least a touch sinister.

It didn’t help that my reaction was to basically write, “I’m so pleased you survived!”

But don’t worry.  It gets worse.

The professor then adds another layer to the prompt and tells us our sister has cancer or some presumably lethal disease.

“Well, I guess you almost survived me.”

Christ on a crutch but this got dark fast.  Now this letter isn’t just sinister but actively cruel and mocking.  Like my imaginary siblings hadn’t suffered enough, now one of them had been resurrected just in time to suffer a little more by being reminded of all their dead family and how they’d nearly died in childhood only to be stricken with a deadly disease.  Oh, and the person writing this letter?  Presumably the sibling who’d arranged for all the deaths and was now gloating about how the one that got away isn’t getting away for much longer.

And I took all her socks!

In the end I’m left sitting in class, staring at a letter from some horrifying sociopath and wondering what the hell just happened inside my head.  What a strange confluence of events.

In conclusion, sometimes grad school is weirder than you were expecting.  And sometimes it’s not the writing prompt’s fault that your brain is a bucket sloshing to the brim with strange.

It may also be a really good thing that I’m an only child.

…. as far as you know.

Jenny’s Splendiferous Fifty Shades Recaps Chapter Twenty-Six


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Wow, look at that.  End of the line.  For book one, at least.

I’ve had a lot of fun giving voice to Jenny’s recaps and perfecting the flighty whine that is Ana’s voice.  If I had the tech you know I’d happily dub over the Fifty Shades trailer but I think Ana’s actress is going to get more than enough grief so it’s just as well I don’t have that power.

So for the last time for at least a while, go check out Jenny’s blog to see the visual gags.

Jenny’s Splendiferous Fifty Shades Recaps Chapter Twenty-Five


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Here we are at the second to last chapter.  It’s potentially the last time I’ll be able to do my terrible southern accent for Ana’s mom.  I can’t remember if she has any more speaking parts in Jenny’s recaps.

Well, it was fun while it lasted Ana’s mom!

Be sure to hop over to Jenny’s blog to see all the pictures of the Situation.

Jenny’s Splendiferous Fifty Shades Recaps Chapter Twenty-Four


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You know, it figures that today I’d have yet another issue with posting these recaps.  Luckily this one is just mildly annoying and isn’t actually going to stop anything.  So for whatever reason, when I try to use the insert link button it just refuses to insert the link.  No error message, no hint of a problem.  Just a lack of a link.  I shall tinker with this later but for now, more recaps!

Also here’s where I’ll put the link to Jenny’s blog once I’m able to do that again.

Jenny’s Splendiferous Fifty Shades Recaps Chapter Twenty-Three


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Happy Friday the 13th!  And apparently all the Valentine’s Day advertising for the Fifty Shades movie was just to disguise the fact that the movie comes out today.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I’m amused by the appropriateness of the date.  On the other, I’m appalled because I’ve always loved Friday the 13th.  My baby Brego was born on Friday the 13th.  Thankfully the month was June so E.L. James hasn’t poisoned my horse’s birthday.  But still, it’s the principle of the thing.

I think I’m settling on offended as a reaction to this news.  So here is my reply.

It’s Fifty Shades Recap Day!  Get ready for a brief avalanche of recordings, my friends, because book one is getting done today.

While recording chapter twenty-three I kept getting caught on Ana enjoying that ‘Christian smell’.  It was one of the few times I really enjoyed Christian’s name choice because I was able to misunderstand Ana as saying she enjoyed the scent of Christianity.  What would that be?  Incense and communion wafers?

Be sure to run on over to Jenny’s blog to get the full experience.

Edit: Okay, for whatever reason it’s not letting me insert the link so here’s the physical address.

Edit 2: Fixed!

Jenny’s Splendiferous Fifty Shades Recaps Chapter Twenty-Two


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Aaaaaaaand we’re back!  We’re getting pretty close to Valentine’s Day so I’m drawing in to that deadline I set for myself.  Still, just four more chapters to go.  I think I can make this.

As always, be sure to pop on over to Jenny’s blog.  You’ll want to see the pictures for context and I don’t read her introductions and announcements.

It Was Love in the End


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So technically I know you’re supposed to do throwback posts on Thursday but hey, I am the Fairy Queen of my blog and if I decide it’s Throwback Saturday then it’s Throwback Saturday.

Plus I wanted to post this before I lost the courage.  I wrote this in a creative writing class in high school so consider that a disclaimer all on its own.  This is for Frances, the horse who we lost too young.

Continue reading

Jenny’s Splendiferous Fifty Shades Recaps Chapter Twenty-One


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So I mentioned this on twitter but I had a real tough time keeping a straight face during recording.  It’s one thing to read awkward dialogue during a Christian/Ana sex scene and another to say it out loud in my deep, ‘manly’ voice.  I had to cut out a lot of laughing.  And a few sneezes, too.  Maybe I’m developing an allergy to this stuff.

Dart on over to Jenny’s blog to catch all the pictures and other excellent content.

Jenny’s Splendiferous Fifty Shades Recaps Chapter Twenty


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Another Saturday, another recap.  As always, hop on over to Jenny’s blog so you get the full experience and extra content.

Something I notice the more I do Ana’s voice is that there are times where it becomes surprisingly sincere.  Almost as if there’s a ghost of character in Ana that’s been trying to claw its way out and call for assistance.  Can’t exactly blame her.  I’d be pretty desperate to escape 50 Shades if I ever found myself trapped inside.  Not before punching Christian in the nose, though.  Gotta have priorities.