Forest Fires, Phantoms, and Fender Benders, Oh, My!

Our rental by the sea!

Yesterday was our final day in beautiful Nag’s Head, North Carolina. All day Saturday, as I basked in the sun and ate a mermaid’s share of seafood, you could hear me whimpering, “I don’t wanna go home.” This phrase was accompanied by my saddest of pouty faces. Apparently, my occasional grumblings angered the vacation gods, because our Sunday was thick with woe, and this ever-so-long account proves it. Sit back; grab a beverage or a snack, and read my wretched tale. I find reading it with a pirate’s voice during some parts greatly enhances the story.

Our troubles started with a wind shift. Sometime, after midnight the winds began a SSW journey causing the smoke from an ongoing forest fire in Pain’s Bay to drift our way. At first it was tolerable, but sometime around 3:00 a.m. the entire third floor of the house, where hubby and I were sleeping, became hazy with the acrid smell. Never one to let anything disturb our slumber, the spouse and I drowsily descended the stairs to the second level where we crashed in the unoccupied children’s room. I had just settled into a top bunk, (for the first time since 4H camp 30 years ago), and was about to begin my second journey to Slumber land when I was jolted awake by an ear-splitting composition. “Who would be listening to Cradle of Filth at 4:00 a.m.?” I asked my sleeping husband. He snored in response. He was out cold, leaving me forced to investigate the unwelcomed cacophony alone. The small window in our room yielded only murky darkness and no partying college students, so I moved into the open hallway. The music sounded like it was coming from the first floor game room. The doors to our kids’ rooms were closed and the space beneath them was dark. Knowing that they all like their sleep WAY too much to be up at four in the morning listening to music, a creepy feeling swept over me as I slowly descended the stairs to the first level. Any sane person sleuthing down the steps might expect to catch rogue teenagers, who had jumped our fence and jimmied the door, playing pool or foosball and drinking the last of our beer, but in my smoke induced, sleep deprived brain, I fully expected to be faced with the ghosts of pirates or worse. “I’m coming down there!” I yelled with a shaky voice. “Leave while you can. I’ve got a gun,” I added. I quickly reminded myself that ghosts would not fear my imaginary gun. “I’ve got holy water, and I know spells, too,” I said hoping that a line from Harry Potter would be enough to ward away the evil that awaited me. I descended the last step that placed me in the dark game room. There, in the corner I met my foe. A monster was hissing, roaring and glaring at me with its large, green, glowing eye! Alright, it wasn’t exactly a monster, it was the stereo, and its green, lighted display proved it was on. Only slightly relieved, I pulled the plug, not wanting to fumble for the off button, but the music DIDN’T STOP! In a dark, dark basement, an unplugged stereo that refuses to silence its music can mean only one thing; GHOSTS!! This is when I full-on lost it and screamed bloody murder. Actually, I screamed “Help!” which is not always the best thing to scream in a houseful of sleeping people. Terrified, my groggy family rushed to my aid. My oldest daughter found the off button. My youngest showed me where the battery back-up was, and my eldest’s boyfriend said he must have accidentally turned on the alarm feature when he was figuring out how to turn on the stereo early Saturday evening.

I was pretty sure this dude was waiting for me! (photo via:

After a hearty laugh at my foolishness and a few reassuring hugs, I ascended the stairs for my third attempt at sleep, but the sandman would not find me. The smoke was intolerable and we decided to abandon our home by the sea a few hours early. Covering our mouths and noses we carried the rest of our belongings to our car and drove caravan style to the realtor’s office to drop off the keys. This is when the vacation gods decided to get one last lick in. As we pulled out of the realtor’s parking lot, my youngest daughter’s boyfriend somehow managed to rear end my oldest daughter’s car. Thankfully, the hit wasn’t hard enough for her airbag to deploy, but it was hard enough for my daughter’s neck to feel jerked out of whack. A quick (and, yes, I really do mean quick—props to Outer Banks Hospital’s emergency department) trip to the emergency room revealed a slightly sprained neck, but no serious damage. After many rest stops, some complaining and a wrong turn or two, we arrived home around 8:00 last night no worse for the wear.

Today when I look back on our “wretched” Sunday, I have to smile, because despite the smoke, the “spirits,” the fender bender and the lack of sleep, it really wasn’t the worst possible day that a family could share together. Perhaps the vacation gods were gently reminding me to not spend the last day of a nearly perfect vacation complaining!


Day 20: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty





Day #20 Question: The book that I read that has altered my perception of life is…


This is the question that I’ve had to put the most thought into. I am a voracious reader. Since January 1st I have read 32 books on my Nook and at least 10-15 non-electronic books. I feel like every book I read leaves me with something: a thought, a feeling, a lesson, an inspiration, or an answer. It’s really difficult to choose one book that embodies every qualification required to be life altering, BUT, since I have to pick just one, I’m going to choose, Hope Edelman’s, Motherless Daughters.

I read this book way back in 1994 shortly after it was published. At the time I read it, I had been motherless for nearly a decade. I lost my mother, when I was a junior in college, to a horrific disease called scleroderma. Returning to school after her death was a study in awkwardness among my mothered classmates who were unsure of how to address my loss. For years, I was unsure of how to address it myself. Outwardly, I remained my friendly, smiling, bubbly, responsible self, but on the inside I felt like an island with no bridges. In my early twenties, no one in my group of friends was motherless. I was an oddity, an outsider, who no longer had the gentle, guiding presence of a mother in my life. I smiled with eager, envious, interest as I listened to their tales of shopping trips, meals, holidays, and other excursions with their mothers. Those were things that were mine no more, and at times I burned with silent resentment, especially if they would forget and complain to me about some ridiculous fault that their mother possessed. To me, even a flawed mother was better than no mother at all.

Then one day, while browsing in the bookstore, I ran across Hope Edelman’s book, Motherless Daughters. Even before I’d finished reading the blurb on the inner cover, I felt my eyes brimming with tears. I bought the book, holed myself up in my bedroom for the day, and read the whole thing cover-to-cover. Edelman got me. Absolutely everything that I’d felt in association with my mother’s death was written on the pages of her book. Alone in my apartment, I think I cried to the point of dehydration that day, but when I was done I felt more whole, more healed and more understood than I had in years. I no longer felt alone; Edelman’s book built the first of many bridges that would reach my desolate island.

**On a more cheerful note: I’m heading to the beach tonight!!! I’ll be bringing my computer to check my blog, as well as my subscriptions. I may write a post or two if I have time. I might even post some pictures! I hope all of my readers have a safe and fabulous Memorial Day weekend and a wonderful week!


Day 15: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty





Day# 15 Question: If I had to spend an entire day as the opposite sex, I would look like _______ and I would spend the day doing…

I thought we had a good thing going. I can't believe you're NOT choosing me!

This question took a great deal of contemplation. Should I spend the day as the beautiful, talented Hugh Jackman, or as the equally gorgeous and super-hot Alexander Skarsgard? Though both would be dreamy to “wear” for the day, I think the man that I would most like to spend 24 hours as, would be my own very wonderful and very loving husband. Something magical happens when you love, and are truly and absolutely loved by, another human being. My husband’s love and kindness has made me a better, softer, more genuine person and my wish, while spending the day as him, would be to make his life a little bit easier. So, here’s my “To Do” list for my day as my husband.

1. Take care of a few uncomfortable situations at work: My husband is usually very happy with his job as one of the division heads of an engineering firm, but one thing he would rather avoid at work is counseling his employees when they exhibit not-so-stellar personal behavior. Though he performs effectively, he’s totally uncomfortable dealing with issues of a personal nature. Having spent the past 16 years as an educator, I’ve taken care of my share of unusual issues, so dealing with the next two problems would be a piece of cake for me!

a. Tammy and Jack: Tammy and Jack are two of my husband’s married employees. The problem is they’re NOT married to one another, BUT they spend their work days carrying on like they are. Last Wednesday they took their affair to the “next level” The problem is, that level was level #3 of the public parking area where their unsavory union in a company truck was witnessed by a mom and her twin toddlers. She hastily reported them to upper administration. Guess who upper admin has asked to counsel with a letter of reprimand this very morning? Yep, my poor awkward husband. Don’t worry honey—I’m on it!

b. John’s nut sack: (John is my husband’s employee) John is a fabulous engineer, but clearly not a fashionista. It has come to the attention of many, that John enjoys a commando lifestyle sans underwear. This would be all well and good if John’s pants fit him properly, but because his slacks tend to be on the snug side, people are complaining about the old trouser snake and his two very large companions. I have no problem with delivering the news that he needs to wear larger pants in order to not offend. Heck, I’ll even offer him the Kohl’s coupon that I got in the mail yesterday so that he’s guaranteed 15% off some new khakis.

2. See an allergist: The Allegra isn’t cutting it. My husband has sniffed, snorted and sneezed since the onset of spring. After I go, as him, to my allergist, Dr. Matthews, he’ll be breathing better in no time.

3. Check out the ol’ poop shoot: My darling husband is 54. This means that he is past due for a colonoscopy by four years. No matter how much I prod him to just make an appointment and get it done, he doesn’t listen. So during my day as him, I’ll endure a scope up my ass out of pure love for my hubby.

4. Do hard math just for the fun of it: Okay, I’ll admit, this one isn’t for him, it’s for me. All my life I’ve struggled with all types of math beyond Algebra I. I’m going to get out my daughter’s calculus book and solve at least a chapters worth of problems, just to see how it feels to actually understand what I’m doing!

Well that’s my day as the fantastic Mr. Sprinkles! Readers, who would you choose?

Day 8: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty





Day # 08 Question: I wish I had never…

“… they won’t get married and they won’t have kids. That’s why your older brother’s disappearing from that photograph. Your sister will follow, and unless …”
Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future

Revisiting the past can change the future!

It’s very easy to pop off with an answer to this question, but anyone who has ever watched Back to the Future knows that erasing an event from one’s past is sure to have an impact on one’s future. It would be very easy for me to go with my first response to this question and say that I wish I had never met my first husband. Luckily, I don’t have to be Marty McFly to know that eliminating my ex from the pages of my life would probably also delete some chapters that I deeply treasure. Eradicating his presence from my autobiography would erase all of the lessons that I learned while I was married to him. Without those lessons, I might not be the resourceful, responsible, appreciative person that I am today. Would I notice all of the nice things my current husband does for me if I had never been married to a man who wasn’t so nice? Would I perceive the simple things that many take for granted, like central air conditioning, a washer and dryer or a dishwasher, as luxury items if I had never gone without them? Would having a car that runs, a roof that doesn’t leak, and money in the bank mean as much to me now if I hadn’t felt water dripping on me in the middle of the night or wondered if I’d have enough money for groceries before payday? What about the wisdom I gained from being married to my first husband? Would I lack that now? Would I still want to date the “bad boy?” Would I settle for less than I deserve? Would I let someone hit me or take money from my purse? Who knows? The one thing I do know for certain is that I wouldn’t have the only irreplaceable gift that he ever gave me; the gift of being a mother. Certainly, I could have had children with any man, but they wouldn’t be the exact same beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful children that I have today.  Never meeting their father would erase their perfect chapters from my life, making it a book not worth reading.  

You might catch me saying that I  wish I had never eaten that last piece of pizza, or that I wish I had never heard Rebecca Black’s Friday, but you will never catch me trying to eliminate the big events that have occured in my life , because they’ve all put me in the place I am today, and I have no desire to be  anywhere else!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there!! 🙂

Day 4: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty






Day # 4 Question: The worst thing ever to happen to me…

Let me preface this by giving you an update on day number 2.  A Tootsie Roll is no longer the most valuable thing I’ve ever stolen.  I am ashamed to say that I am in the act of thievery as I type.  Our area’s main internet provider, of which I am a subscriber, is out in the tri-county area.  My next door neighbor must feel pretty smug right about now for chosing the number two provider in the area.  I’m also very grateful that he made that choice because I’m stealing his signal to post this.  Sorry, neighbor, I’m only borrowing it for a minute! 🙂

One might think from reading other posts on my blog that the two worst things to ever happen to me would be the untimely death of my mother and my youngest daughter’s diagnosis of type II bipolar disorder. As tragic and unpreventable as both of these events were, the most catastrophic part of their occurrence was what manifested in me after-the-fact. Anyone who knows anything about the human psyche knows that a tragic event renders many emotions, and those feelings, if left unchecked, can fester and turn into one, or many, psychological conditions. My unchecked emotion was fear. After my mother died, and I was left to navigate the world on my own, I became extremely fearful. I was afraid that my brother, who drove too fast, would die in a fiery car crash. If my boyfriend was delayed in traffic, I was terrified that he was dead in a ditch somewhere. If I developed a rash, or a cough or even a muscle spasm, I was certain that I was dying from the same awful disease that my mother died from. While I consciously realized that all of these fears were irrational, I couldn’t seem to control them. I had always been a very happy, fun-loving person, but now I was living a life of caution and worry.  The terrible thig was that I was living this life clandestinely, because the thing I feared the most was that someone else would find out just how afraid I was. So, I hid it; I didn’t talk to anyone about how miserable I was feeling. I was my normal, joking, silly, cynical self and no one knew that I was terrified of nearly everything. Soon my fear turned into anxiety, and before long it had festered into full-blown generalized anxiety disorder.

For 18 years I didn’t seek help. Anxiety was my dirty little secret; my flaw.  I went about my day, known by others as the person with a usually cheery disposition who could handle nearly any situation, but by night I was an angst-filled insomniac praying for a few hours of worry free sleep. The cycle seemed endless, and between worry, work and home it certainly didn’t seem like my existence could get anymore stressful than it already was.  That’s when life threw me another curveball. My beautiful youngest daughter began exhibiting signs of mental illness.   Because she was unable to function in a normal school setting, I had to stop working.  With the help of a homebound teacher I kept her as caught up as I could with her studies, in between dozens of doctor visits. The psychotic episode had damaged her brain.  Her short term memory was affected.  Her deep depression rendered her nearly catatonic and doctors urged me to hospitalize her.  I couldn’t bring myself to place her in a psych ward.  I had taught children much younger than her who had been hospitalized for psychiatric illesses.  I knew how violent some of them could be.  I couldn’t imagine placing my daughter in a facility where she might be further damaged.  I was her round-the-clock caregiver.  This was especially difficult because without family in the area, there was no one to give my husband and I a much needed break.   It wasn’t until a year later, that we found just the right doctor, the right diagnosis and the correct combination of medication.  On lithium my daughter soon returned to her sweet, healthy self , but I was still a wreck.  I watched her like a hawk, waiting for the slightest symptom to return.  After coming to the realization that myanxious behavior was hurting her, far more than helping her, I decided to seek help.  Talking to a counselor was very hard for me, at first, because I was so used to holding in any of my negative feelings and used to always presenting a positive exterior to others.   The funny thing is, that all it took was talking to a professional for a few months to quell the beast that had tortured me for so many years. Now, I talk and write about the things that bother me, and I’ve learned not to think in extremes.  I’m happy pretty much all of the time and feel very hopeful about the future.  So, to answer the question (and believe me, I am blogging with the utmost honesty); the worst thing to ever happen to me was being afraid for 18 long years and knowing that  while I was waiting for the worst to happen, I wasn’t using the time that I had on this Earth to live my life to it’s fullest potential.  Now, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!

Googling Spiders

We are in the midst of a spider invasion. Last night my oldest daughter found two, super creepy, shriveled up, cream colored spiders precariously hanging above her bed in their own individual little web sacs. Anyone who knows my oldest daughter knows that this was an emergency of epic proportions. Although she will officially have a bachelor’s degree in biology on May 14, and despite the fact that she did her senior research project with an etymologist and doesn’t mind insects, she is super-duper freaked out by spiders. My very tall husband speedily came to her rescue wielding a rolled up magazine and a wad of tissues, but even after these awesome arachnids were pronounced dead and given a proper “burial at sea,” my daughter still continued to fret over the possibility of spider relatives coming to seek their revenge on her as she slept. Her litany of worries began with “What if there’s an egg sac hidden somewhere in my room waiting to hatch?” to “What if they’re poisonous?” I assured her that they were most likely the only two spiders in her room, but after remembering my own ordeal with a brown recluse bite, years ago, I decided that the best action was to Google the little beasts to see if they were capable of any real damage. The only problem was I had only seen them smooshed up and dead, during their brief tissue viewing before my husband flushed them down the toilet. My daughter attempted to describe them to me as I typed their attributes into the search box in Google images: cream colored spider, looks shriveled like it’s dead even when it’s alive, builds a little web sac around itself. My first search yielded many spiders that looked very similar to this one:

Not the one!

My daughter is certain that this isn’t the right spider.

BUT, it also yielded this:

Not a spider, but super good!

Mm, I remember delicious ice creamy, chocolate chipity, Chipwiches from my childhood. They were the first ice cream novelty to break away from the traditional ice cream sandwich mold and feature chocolate chip cookies. (At this point my daughter shook me from the dessert-of-my-childhood reverie and reminded me that there was a potential killer on the loose.)

I tweaked my search: sac making spider, plays dead, cream colored. I ended up with this:


It’s definitely creepy, but still not the right creeper, so my cowardly daughter decided to sleep in the family room.

Late this morning she attempted to re-enter her bedroom, this time with her very brave younger sister holding a rolled up magazine, just in case. Before she could finish yelling, “OhmyGodMom! It’s another one!” and before I could yell, “Let me take a look at it!” her sister whacked it to death with a Woman’s Day.

So far the status is Spider 0/Humans 3, yet even after she thoroughly cleaned her room and inspected it for egg sacs, she’s committed to sleeping on the sofa again tonight. I, on the other hand, armed with a rolled up magazine and a digital camera, am on a quest to find out what type of spiders we’re dealing with! I promise to post pictures if I’m ever able to spy this elusive critter!

Happy weekend, everyone!

How J.K. Rowling Saved My Life!

When my daughters were little, we had a very specific evening routine.  After homework, dinner, and baths, we would pile on my bed for story time.  Ours was a televisionless household.  Not because I’m opposed to TV (heck, I love it), but because the cost of cable didn’t fit in with my tight budget as a divorced mom.  Story time was our evening’s entertainment.  After my daughters secured the perfect spot on my queen-sized bed, were shrouded in their favorite blanket, and were holding fast to their most prized stuffed animal, the stories began.  Sometimes we rhymed our way through Seuss, or climbed the Alps with Spyri’s Heidi.  On more adventurous nights we voyaged on the Hispaniola with Jim Hawkins in Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Treasure Island.  Some nights we laughed at the hijinks of Astrid Lidgren’s Pippi Longstocking.  Other evenings we’d have to pause the story to wipe away tears of joy as the old couple in Melmed’s The Rain Babies was rewarded with a child of their own.  No matter what the story, by the end we were all peaceful, contented and sleepy, as I carried, or walked, my girls to their beds for prayers and a kiss.

Six years ago my youngest daughter became seriously ill.  She had always been a happy child, and without apparent cause or warning she became paranoid. For several days she said things that didn’t make sense.  She accused friends of plotting against her, and admitted to hearing things that clearly weren’t audible.  Then, she slipped into a deep depression. For three long months she wasn’t herself, and for three months more she continued to change from my calm, sweet, jubilant girl to an aggressive, violent and unpredictable person that I didn’t recognize. Our home-life changed from peaceful and happy to little more than a zone of survival, as we met crisis after crisis. I went from being an active elementary school teacher to being a full-time caregiver who rarely left my house.  It seemed the only contact I had with the outside world was with baffled medical professionals in our rural area who offered little help with our situation.  My oldest daughter, who had always been a straight “A” student, left school in the middle of her senior year. She worried so much about what was going on at home that our family doctor advised that she finish school with a home-bound teacher provided by the school system.  My husband and I, who had always engaged in deep, interesting conversations, talked of nothing but our family situation.  How had we been reduced from what seemed like an ideal family to a group of dysfunctional zombies running on autopilot?  Besides the chaos, the worst part of it was the shame. Being a motherless daughter, I had always worried that I wouldn’t be as good of a mom as the mothered crowd. I also worried profusely about the ten years that I raised them alone when I was a divorced mom. These disadvantages had served to make me try harder than my peers in the mothering department.  Now it seemed that despite my efforts I had failed my children as I had long ago predicted.  I isolated myself from friends, and the little family that I had left. I couldn’t stand to answer their questions, or hear their accusations.  “Do you think it’s from the divorce?”  “Is it because you remarried?”  “So, your oldest isn’t in school either?” 

You have no idea how hard it is to find a psychiatrist who isn’t overbooked or burned out in an overpopulated area, in a state where the cost of malpractice insurance is nearly the highest in the country.  After droves of doctor visits, beginning with her first odd symptom, I finally found a psychiatrist who listened and asked all of the right questions. After nearly a year of hell, my daughter was diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder.   She was placed on a low dose of Lithium, and slowly, but surely, after two medication adjustments my old daughter began to emerge. While I was joyful to have her back, she didn’t return completely unscathed.  The psychotic episodes that she experienced before her depressions had damaged her short-term memory and affected her ability to be as organized, and attentive, as she had once been.  She started back to school in the fall struggling academically as her brain worked overtime to correct itself.  I spent hours each evening re-teaching her and trying my best to keep her caught up.  

The stress of the past year and my overwhelming responsibility of caring for my daughter began to take its toll on me.  When something is wrong with your child, all other things become insignificant.  I ate too much, worried too much, and watched my daughter like a hawk for any sign that her medication had stopped working.  My anguished tossing and turning at night made my husband and me both automatons the next day.  The lack of sleep exacerbated the worry, and it all became a vicious cycle until one sleepless night, while trying to calm me, my husband asked the pivotal question, “What’s your favorite memory of her from before all of this started?”  I started backwards in my mind recounting the pride I felt when she was in a community theatre production of Scrooge.  I went back further to academic awards she’d achieved.  I thought back to times when we had walked the beach with sandy hands full of shells.  All were comforting, but the memory that brought me the most peace was the one of us snuggled in bed with our books and blankets.  I hopped out of bed and practically ran to my overflowing bookshelves.  That night J.K. Rowling, in so many words, saved my sanity.  As Rowling’s brilliant prose, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone catapulted me to Harry’s world of witchcraft and wizardry, my racing heart slowed and my anxiety diminished.  Just as the sorting hat was about to determine Harry’s house at Hogwarts my eyelids fluttered to a close.  I didn’t stop there.  The next night I nearly finished the first book of the Potter series, and the next I made it to the third chapter of the second book before I drifted off. Soon I was getting full nights of sleep and functioning much better during the day.  

When I’d read all that Rowling had to offer, I moved on to Lemony Snicket‘s, A Series of Unfortunate Events books.  Klaus, Violet, and little Sunny Baudelair’s battle of wits with the wicked Count Olaf validated my need to see the underdog victorious over evil. I finished each short book with zest, and hungered for more.  I read old Nancy Drew books that I’d saved from my childhood.  I asked for Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s Little House series for my birthday, and devoured each page with more vigor than I had as an eight year old. My daughter’s fostered my new obsession by loaning me their well-worn volumes and offering their suggestions.  “You HAVE to read The Giver by Lois Lowry, Mom, but be prepared to cry,” said my now healthy daughter as she presented it to me before bed one night.  It was pure poetry, and I did cry all through Chapter 19 and at the end.  I went through the Twilight (by Stephenie Meyer) phase with both of my daughters, and even developed a slight crush on Edward Cullen, who I still must admit doesn’t hold a candle to my wonderful husband! 

Soon months passed, then years, and while I still indulge in a good children’s book from time to time, I’ve moved on to enjoying both fiction and nonfiction written for adults.  (Right now I’m going through a memoire phase!)  Throughout this time my daughter has blossomed into a beautiful, and healthy, young woman.  Her memory and attentiveness is back to normal, and the bipolar disorder is well controlled by lithium.  She has wonderful friends, a loving boyfriend, and is doing well in school.  Her future is so hopeful and bright.  The rest of our family is in much better shape, as well.

While I know indulging in literature written for children and young adults is absolutely no substitute for professional help when one is severely stressed (and believe me, our entire family sought help), I’ve found that it can be quite calming.  It takes me away to simpler worlds of clear-cut good and evil.  When life seems to offer uncertain resolutions, I can be sure that Nancy Drew will catch the culprit in the end, and Harry Potter will somehow keep Lord Voldemort at bay.  When life sometimes seems unfair I know I can find justice between the pages of a book, and when sleep won’t find me, the comfort of an imaginary world, free of my own worries, lulls me to slumber.  How do you deal with stress?  What’s your favorite children’s book that you enjoy reading as an adult?

Blogger’s note:  All afore mentioned stories and their themes are the property of their respective authors.