Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #9

As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t always see blog photographs (whether mine or those of other people), or I see them and then they disappear. For some reason I still can't see Writing in the Buff’s pretend book cover for this week’s Book Blurb Friday. Horrors! Fortunately our beloved Southern hostess, Mizz Lisa Ricard Claro, was kind enough to send it to me personally so that I didn’t have to suffer. And I’m so glad she did, because I think this one is very close to my pretend book—that is, the one I pretend I am going to write someday. Here it is, three words under the 150 word limit including...ahem...the rave reviews.

~Rhoda’s Trip~

Once brilliant Rhoda Homewood of Grand Island, Nebraska had stuffed her wild side into a suitcase when she married, forcing herself to become the perfect wife, mother, and art teacher. Now her youngest child was leaving home, and Rhoda’s life was turned upside down by the discovery that her husband had been funding breast implants for a miniature golf instructor named Echo. Rhoda’s old suitcase flew open—and the conservative trip to Hilton Head that she had been planning with her husband turned instead into the road trip of a lifetime with her former high school best friend, now a radical librarian, and her neighbor, an accountant by day and female impersonator by night.

What this trio of middle aged misfits discovers along the way is almost as much fun as the trip itself.

“Saucy satire…absurd humor.” ~G. I. Journal
“Comic and absorbing…but with heart.” ~ Savannah Sun

When a woman steals your husband, there is no better revenge than to let her keep him. ~Anonymous

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stylus with Style?

I've always pretty much done my own thing style-wise—which means I’m not at all stylish—so imagine my surprise when Sioux of Sioux’s Page awarded me a Stylish Blogger Award.  I'm so flattered!  Thank you, Sioux!

Here were the rules:
1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 10-15 blogs who you think deserve this award.
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award.
Thank you again, and here are my seven facts:

1. I’ve loved writing as long as I can remember and was lucky to have had quite a few teachers encourage me. The question for me has never been if I would write, but rather if I’d try to get paid for it.
2. I worked for precisely one morning as a telemarketer selling tickets to a thing called “Clown Capades.” After making one humiliating phone call, I got to wondering if there really was such a thing as Clown Capades. I suspected—and still do—that it was a scam. So I sat around rearranging my file box until lunch and then escaped and never went back.
3. My youngest child was intentionally born at home.
4. We usually had the smallest family on the block with only three kids. The family across the street had 13 children. The one behind us had 12. I thought five children was average.
5. Everyone in my family was into art in some way. At one time my dad was a commercial artist, my mom taught him how to paint, and one of my sisters was a graphic artist. We all had our “thing.” Mine was portraits. The rite of passage at my house was when we got our first set of oils. For the longest time I thought all families did that.
6. I was a theatre geek in high school and did props, makeup, acting and directing.
7. In college I did product demonstrations over summer, and once wore a sash and handed out bread samples at an Italian festival. In the words of the bakery owner who hired me (you have to say it with an accent), “That’s okay that you’re not Italian, honey—you look Italian!” One of my sisters attended the festival and left in an uncharacteristically gleeful mood. I know her, so I frantically looked all around my little booth. Sure enough, I found a sign taped to the outer wall that said, “Ho: $10 $2 FREE!”

If you follow me, I pretty much think you’re the most stylish person ever. So I will do what others before me have done and pass this—and the coveted “Sisters of the Quill” from a couple of weeks ago—to all of you. Pretty much all of my friends write, so please take either if you are so inclined. Thank you again, oh stylish Sisters (and Brothers) of the Quill! 

I must be moved by what I write, if you enjoy it, we both win; but my words must touch MY heart first. ~Jules of Trying to Get Over the Rainbow

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Improper Poll: Improper All Over Again

It’s been a loooong week, so I’ve decided to reprint my Easter post from last year. It’s my all-time favorite. Do you have any entertaining suggestions on how to celebrate? And to help make up for my obnoxious sense of humor, I will end with a great quote. I wish you a holiday filled with peace and joy.

Back By Unpopular Demand! 10 Things for Losers to Do on Easter:

1. Try dying scrambled eggs instead. Practice making puking noises as you eat.
2. Put marshmallow bunnies in the microwave facing each other with little toothpick swords. Turn on the microwave and watch them blow up and stab each other. (See illustration.)
3. Make an ecologically friendly basket by recycling old margarine tubs. Use dryer lint for grass or better yet, go green by using real grass (and just pick out the ants and wood ticks). Substitute lima beans for jelly ones. I find that dried work better than canned.
4. For an extra special treat, hide the basket a year early so you really don’t remember where you put it.
5. As a creative and festive surprise for children, experiment with hiding other boiled proteins, such as crab legs.
6. All that candy spells u-n-h-e-a-l-t-h-y. Try filling baskets with less sugary substitutions for jelly beans, such as fish oil and flaxseed capsules.
7. On a budget? Instead of wasting eggs, experiment with dying other items in your refrigerator, like bologna.
8. For an amusingly ironic twist, fill children’s baskets with rabbits’ feet. For a REALLY amusing twist, add a sign that says, “Good luck, from the Easter BAHHHHHH!!!” Then sing, “Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hobblin’ down the bunny trail….”
9. Crash a little kids’ Easter egg hunt, shout “Gotcha, you sum’ bitch!” and club the egg thoroughly with a baseball bat. Hold up the remains and ask someone to take your picture.
10. Mount half an eggshell on a trophy plaque and hang it over your fireplace. Next time someone comes to your door to tell you about their religion, invite them in and keep interrupting with, “Want to see what I bagged on my last hunt?”

When one has purified oneself, by the grace of God, to the point at which one can truly love one’s enemies, a beautiful thing happens. It is as if the boundaries of the soul become so clean as to be transparent, and a unique light then shines forth from the individual….The effect of this light varies….The bearer of the light…most often will be unaware of these effects. Finally, those who hate the light will attack it. Yet it is if their evil actions are taken into the light and consumed….The process may be painful to the bearer of the light….This does not, however, signify the success of evil. Rather, it backfires. ~ M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #8

It feels good to get back to blogging with Book Blurb Friday, hosted by Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff! Each week, she posts a pretend book cover. The challenge is to write a blurb of 150 words or less to go with it. I really struggled with picking one quote this week...so finally settled on two.

And thank you so much to Sioux of Sioux's Page for the award! I hope to pass it along in the coming week along with Donna's "Sisters of the Quill" award, which I never got to pass along before my dog got sick.

Here's my Book Blurb Friday, at 139 words.

~Soul of Stone~
Annie thought she had married the sweetest man. But right after the wedding, it seemed as if her husband’s pleasant exterior crumbled. It wasn’t until much later that she realized appearances were all that mattered to this effigy of a human. Like a statue of Narcissus, the husband she had once loved knew only how to pose in order to manipulate others like chess pieces. Underneath it all, her husband was stone cold evil who never truly loved, but viewed others solely in terms of himself.

When she filed for divorce, Annie learned about the rest: the cheating, the tens of thousands of dollars he’d stolen outright, and always the lies he used to cover it all up. Yet again, he portrayed himself as the victim. She learned that divorcing a Narcissist means the worst is yet to come.

…most people are unsuspecting and are unaware of the degree to which they are being taken advantage of, used and abused. This unawareness is not due to a general lack of intelligence in people, but to their tendency to project their own range of normalcy onto others. Hence, their disinclination to suspect someone so profoundly depraved to be in their midst, carrying on an existence that is fundamentally and thoroughly alie (sic). But the character disordered conveniently regard this trait as evidence of intellectual inferiority and will take a twisted delight in the knowledge that they have so many fooled. ~Doug McManaman, “Narcissism and the Dynamics of Evil.”

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul, preducing holy witness,
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside a falsehood hath!” ~Shakespeare, Act one, Scene 3, Merchant of Venice

Thursday, April 21, 2011

…And it IS Happy

Today is Buddy’s official 15th birthday—at least the one we pretend is official, even though he probably turned 15 a while ago. Just two days ago, I wasn’t sure if he would make it.

Last week, I saw our dear dog crumpled and shaking on the floor and called a vet-who-makes-house calls. And then I lay next to him and sobbed my goodbyes.

But the vet—who called Buddy "beyond old"—said that what he has might not be fatal. Truthfully, we still don’t know. Since then, I’ve slept on the floor to keep him from hurting himself, cooked him special foods and then hand-fed them to him bite by bite, awakened every few hours around the clock to carry him outside in a towel (not so easy with a 60 lb. dog), run home during my half-hour lunch breaks to let him out, rearranged the furniture and rugs to help keep him from falling, kept records of his potty breaks, and cried with joy when he picked up a toy and barked out the window once more at a passerby. Yesterday he ate his first meal in almost two weeks.

And he’s been improving in tiny increments each day. He still has to be helped down the two stairs to the backyard and whines/barks whenever we try to sleep—I am beyond tired right now—but we’re hoping those too will improve. I apologize for having neglected your blogs these past two weeks.  Am hoping to start reclaiming my life.

Throughout it all I've been soothed by your prayers and good wishes. There are times I am certain I can feel them. I simply can't express how much that means to me.

I know that, no matter what, it’s only borrowed time. But the older I get, the more I realize it’s all borrowed—all of it. Now this one borrowed thing is all the more precious to us. As long as living isn’t a burden to him, we hope we have him around. When it’s time to give back our borrowed loved one, we’ll know we did the very best we could with what we had.

Now that’s a birthday gift.

Which reminds me—Chicken Soup for the Soul My Dog’s Life coincidentally came out last week just as we were dealing with Buddy’s illness. My story in it is called "The Last Gift."  If you are so inclined, please read the book and consider posting a review on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, and thank you!

And welcome to new blog follower Josh Hoyt!  Don't forget to stop by his blog and diagnose your characters.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. ~Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Improper Poll: Meanderings of a Muddled Mind

Thank you all so much for your kind thoughts and prayers for our beloved dog! They really mean so much. He ate a tiny bit yesterday, which we’re taking to be a very good sign.

This week’s medical crisis reminded me that I just don’t handle exhaustion well. Not only do I get clumsy when I’m sleep-deprived, I make mistakes. Weird mistakes. Once after way too little sleep, I sprayed Bactine in my hair only because it had a green top like my hairspray bottle. And I’m sorry to say that’s not the only weird thing I’ve sprayed in my hair by mistake. Let’s just say roll-on deodorant can be a good thing. And if my coffee pot didn’t have a timer, I hate to think how often I would make either waterless coffee or a pot of hot water in the morning.

Now that I often use eye drops when I wake up, I find that I must hold up a mental sign that says, “Check the label, Forrest!” Needless to say, I could never be a medical resident. Am I the only one, or have you ever done anything goofy when you’re half asleep?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #7...and Surviving

You know how it is when your normally hectic life gets a crisis added to it so that you go into Survival Mode? I've been in Survival Mode all week. Was sure our beloved dog Buddy was a goner with what I thought was a stroke. According to the vet, however, dogs do not have strokes. In fact, he’s certain that it’s an inner ear issue that he says has a chance of improving within the next week or so. In the meantime, Buddy can’t stand up or walk on his own without falling over or eat without throwing up.  It's been like caring for a newborn again—a really big, heavy, stubborn newborn. We could use your thoughts/prayers/crossed fingers that either the medicine kicks in or the motion sickness kicks out. I don’t know when I’ve been more grateful for a Friday in my life.

Which brings me to the beloved Book Blurb Friday, hosted by Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff! Each week, she posts a pretend book cover. The challenge is to write a blurb of 150 words or less to go with it. Here’s what I came up with last week at a skimpy 65 words.

~Quench: Poetry for a Thirsty Soul~

Just as a brook murmurs its song that refreshes the inner spirit, so does this marvelous collection of soul-quenching poetry speak to the thirstiest of 21st century readers. Prepare to immerse yourself in such poems as “Outcrop,” by T’Mara Goodsell, and “Exhaustion” by T. Powell Pryce.

Allow this marvelous collection of poetry to wash over you. It will quench even the most parched of spirits.

He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how. ~Nietzsche

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Improperness: Then…and Then…and Now

The other day, Donna of Donna’s Book Pub discussed some forgotten words and phrases for writers including scrivener, scribe, and quill driver in an interesting post entitled "Forgotten English Word for the Day." I gathered that some of these were considered vulgar and slang words in previous centuries.

When she mentioned “brother of the quill” as a definition, the “Sisters of the Quill” award was born. The phrase alone gives me shivers, and lo, Donna has bestowed this coveted award…upon me! I’m so honored to be a “Sister of the Quill!”   **shiver….**  Thank you so much to Donna, Sister-of-the-Driven-Quill Extraordinaire! 

The whole thing got me thinking about slang words and phrases that have gone out of style. Years ago I learned it was a huge mistake to explain the colloquialisms of my own era to my children. Something about the language shift automatically caused us to switch roles. The one I mentioned was the 1980s phrase, “Gag me with a spoon.” I think my two children were maybe in 6th and 3rd grades then. I honestly thought they would giggle until they fell off their chairs or something. Instead, they horrified me by being silent for a while, as if contemplating the stupidity of my entire generation.

“A spoon? Is that possible, to gag a person with a spoon?” one of them asked.

“It would hurt,” the other contributed. “Why a spoon, I wonder?” For a moment I swear I thought one of them was going to use the word, “indeed.”  Then they merely shook their heads in shared disgust.

Of course it would have been much less insulting if they had fallen out of their chairs laughing. So today’s Improper Poll question is: Do you have any favorite words or phrases from the past?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #6

Thank you to the lovely Lisa Ricard Claro for hosting Book Blurb Friday! Each week, she posts a pretend book cover. The challenge is to write a blurb of 150 words or less to go with it. Here’s mine, at 140 words.

~To the Ends of the Earth~
“Mack” Maconis and his wife Betsy spent the entire 42 years of their marriage planning a trip around the world. On the evening of Mack’s retirement party, just as all that they’d worked for was finally falling into place, Betsy unexpectedly died. The world that Mack had formerly yearned to see now seemed to crumble. How would he go on?

But odd coincidences kept happening. Old love letters turned up. Tickets appeared where they shouldn’t be. And finally, a poem Betsy wrote years ago convinced Mack that she somehow still had plans for him to follow their dream and take the trip, anyway.

This moving epic novel follows Mack through the stages of grief and self-discovery as he takes a journey that is as spiritual as it is literal. What he ultimately discovers will make you glad you went along.

Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous. ~Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Can't Say I Wasn't Warned

It’s tornado season here in the Midwest. A few weeks ago, the sirens went off in the night. Tornadoes are supposed to come around dinnertime. It’s just common courtesy.

I have to get up at a time that qualifies as “night” in my book.  We also have a geriatric dog who occasionally decides that the bunnies under our deck require emergency, middle-of-the-night bed checks. So when I am awakened by yet another thing, I assume some sadist has devised more evil plots to keep me from sleeping. First I have to become coherent enough to figure out what the noise means, then I have to tackle the complex project of figuring out what to do about it.

What I did about it was what those legendary idiots do: I wandered out into the backyard to see if I could hear or see a tornado.  Then I turned on the TV to see if they really meant it. By that time my daughter had joined me in studying the map of the area that was painted in alarming swaths of color with a big red circle in the middle. “Why is it I feel like they keep drawing a big red circle over our house?” my daughter asked. It was because they were.

After consulting a while, the winds were picking up, so we decided to awaken the dog. This can be quite a project. When he’s not up conducting pre-dawn rabbit patrol, he is sometimes sleeping so deeply that I have thought he was comatose. This dog is no Toto; he’s a lab mix. After jiggling him for a while, we waved dog biscuits under his nose like smelling salts. This made him twitch and wag, so we had to stop and giggle a bit over those dog biscuit dreams.

After that entire process, which required more dog biscuits to lure him to the basement (because those old guys are experts at biscuit extortion), we remembered that we needed blankets and pillows….which were quickly usurped while we struggled with the ancient downstairs TV. Those old pups are also experts at finagling comfy places to sleep.

Thank heavens it wasn’t an actual emergency, because the whole thing took us about 20 minutes. They were giving the all-clear just around the time we were getting settled, so we hauled everything upstairs again…only to discover that it wasn’t the all-clear, after all, but a second round of tornadoes moving through.

The next day I discovered just before leaving for work that we had lost part of our fence. I found the dog standing on my neighbor’s patio with their newspaper in his mouth.

Sometimes that lab thing comes in real handy.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. ~ Sign I saw in a gift shop (Wish I knew the original author!)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Improper Poll: …and Putrefaction

Once again, Val Thevictorian anticipated this week’s Improper Poll topic. I mentioned this before in a St. Peter’s Journal column years ago, but when we lived in Savannah, Georgia, my daughter once informed me—via scream—that she’d found a mummified lizard in her bedroom. The clincher was that I had been carefully cleaning around it (this was back when I cleaned house) because I thought it was one of those rubber things you throw against a window to make it stick.

Also, here is a confession. I fairly recently blogged about our pond frogs. And I mentioned one of the original two just couldn’t figure out how to navigate the net I put over it in fall (I’d left a back way in). I wanted to believe he hopped away to someone else’s pond…but a couple of months ago, I found what appeared to be a frog-shaped piece of beef jerky sitting right outside the net. I keep thinking of Scarlett O’Hara’s line in Gone with the Wind right after she shoots the Yankee. “Well I guess I’ve done murder.” I truly feel awful about it.

Any more petrified critters out your way?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #5

Hooray for Friday, hooray for shortened days at school (especially when they fall on a Friday), and hooray for Lisa Ricard Claro’s Book Blurb Friday! Each week, she posts a pretend book cover. Our mission, should we accept it, is to write a blurb of 150 words or less to go with it. This week I tried to write a romance.  I really did.  But this is proof, I guess, that I am just not terribly romantic.  I counted 147 words.

Nonia Capreolata was a young lawyer who had just moved to a small town where everyone whispered murky warnings about the forest where she liked to go jogging. Yet no one could give her any logical reasons to stay away.

When she met a tall, handsome stranger named Acer while out on one of her runs, she was immediately and uncharacteristically besotted. Now on a regular basis they met in the forest, where he seemed to live without having any real home. Odd, she knew, yet here she was, running like a woodland sprite on fleet feet, her breath quickening at the sight of him, majestic in the clearing, tall and strong.

She wound her sinewy arms around him, their love like a red red flower. “I can’t let go,” she whispered. And that was when she realized she really couldn’t. She literally couldn’t free herself from his poisonous embrace….

And so evil is parasitic. Its host is always a good. And since evil is a kind of non-being or nothingness, pure evil is impossible. Pure evil would be completely nothing, and nothing is not evil; it simply ‘is not’. Evil is a privation that requires a subject in which to inhere.~Doug McManaman