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Just click your heels together three times and say, "There's no place like home." Unlike Dorothy, I do not possess red glittery shoes which once belonged to The Wicked Witch of the West. But if I did, I would probably use them to take me anywhere but home. My last few weeks consisted of:

Several Saturdays ago, my sons and I headed over to my daughter's on a whim, ended up watching NASCAR, eating pizza, and just hanging out. My sons did the trampoline-hockey practice-playing video games-uncle thing with the three young nephews plus a few of their friends and a cousin who practically lives there. I had one beer and ate Swedish fish while trying not to get vertigo again, as the race cars on the television were circling and colliding. My daughter went through her laptop photo album and we reminisced. Sometime around 8pm, I got a call on my cell phone from my mother; she was okay but her car wouldn't start. I said we'd stop by and take a look.

My older son had biked; my younger son had driven over to my daughter's so he and I checked out her car, in the dark, in the roar of cicadas and night time woods noise. My mother never has flashlights that work and ours were at our home, so we made do with a streetlight and our cell phones. The car was completely out of antifreeze, easy to remedy, since my father stocked up on the stuff before he died. I even found a tin funnel, so yeah, very Wizard of Oz.

We were about to head back to our house when my mother said, "Oh, that small coffee stain on the dining room rug has come back. Could you take a look at it while you're here?" We were feeling lucky until we saw the stain which had grown from a 3x5 inch stain to a 3x5 foot very soggy, definitely-not-coffee stain. As it was nearing 10pm, I decided we would come back the next day. I told my mother not to worry.

Both of my sons and I went back the next day. We suspected the dishwasher which has a few eccentricities. We ended up being right, which was little consolation, after also calling on my son-in-law, who carries every tool imaginable in his Jeep. A battery-driven screwdriver with a built-in flashlight saved the day, temporarily, as he took off one panel and found a loose pipe fitting.

Then my younger son began to use a box cutter to remove the soggy carpet, after I had lifted up the edge and saw more water, not yet rising to the surface because of a layer of padding, a layer of composite board, and a layer of vinyl tile. As soon as my son began cutting, my son-in-law said something about mold and opening the windows. The three of them moved so fast, cutting up carpet, tossing it into garbage bags. I was trying to keep my mother out of their way, while horrified to see the composite board was soaked through in about half of the room, and looked like it had turned into compost. Compost completely saturated with black mold.

My son-in-law said we might get sick, so he suggested spraying it with Lysol, covering it with plastic, and running the central air fan system. By then, I had decided my mother's homeowners' insurance would be getting their first claim from her. Suddenly we all had headaches, felt confused, and extremely tired. My mother's face was flushed and she began to panic, which is unlike her. Not realising these were symptoms of exposure to black mold, I ordered more windows open and we grabbed food she had in the refrigerator. We headed over to my house, car windows open.

At home, my mother took a nap while I started dinner and cranked up the AC in the room where we watch movies. Just happened to have gotten a Netflix DVD of the movie I was an extra in, so we had this plan to have a dinner theater experience. I knew the basic plot of the movie plus the rather long and confusing story of why it took so long for it to be completed. If you're interested, look up Margaret by Kenneth Lonergan on Wikipedia. I also knew only the scene I was in, an audience member at a New York Opera House. So when the R-rating explained sexual scenes, language, and gore, or something to that effect, we all rather nervously looked over my mother's white head at each other. I said to give it a try and we could always turn it off.

We should have turned it off. When I realised just how explicit one scene was about to become, I had my son stop the movie and fast forward it, while I whisked my mother out of the room for ice cream. When we returned, my husband was asleep which often happens after he eats. We resumed watching. It was not a redemptive movie, the characters for the most part became more annoying except for one gentleman who conveniently dies of a heart attack (the actor probably just wanted out of the whole sordid mess), and all I can say is my mother and I both felt pretty much the same, it certainly made us forget our own troubles for 2 and 1/2 hours.

My younger son had asthma as a child, and began having nosebleeds and throwing up. He checked online and next was hemorrhaging lungs and fever. I reverted to mother-of-newborn and didn't sleep well. He missed one week of work and we had to cancel our last week at the shore. To pass the time, we watched the extended director's version of Lord of the Rings, which is like thirteen hours or something.

In a whirlwind of events, I met with "the black mold remediation team", the homeowner's rep, took my son to the doctor, and my husband ended up going to his annual physical by himself.

His primary doctor called a day later and gave me his blood work results. He needed iron infusions again. I explained I had planned to accompany my husband but couldn't due to issues with my mother, then briefly asked did the doctor notice any mental changes. He curtly replied, "If your husband doesn't bring it up, I don't know about it." I relayed the info to my husband and his response was, " I already told you he gave me two neurologists to check for that disease you think I have." He hadn't told me, nor had the doctor remembered, so that was ironic, in an unsettling way.

I personally felt this was plenty to deal with, but the universe did not. My vertigo came back. I stopped writing. I let weeds grow up past the windows. I watched dust get thicker. My sisters came to town.

At some point, I said, ENOUGH!, entered some art work in two juried shows and was accepted for one. Added more to the rust garden, and chose not to respond to a request from someone who wanted a current biography to add to something I wrote three years ago for her breast cancer book. So, back to life, one day at a time, and Dorothy was right, "there's no place like home."

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